The Oven Mitts Saga

Many years ago, I purchased a pair of oven mitts that seemed to last me almost forever. Well, not quite forever, but a good long time – as in many years. But with much use, the did eventually get worn out and I had to purchase new ones.

In four years, I am now on my fourth pair… which seems a bit ridiculous to me, knowing that I got very good use out of a pair that were purchased many years ago.

When they did finally wear out, I went to a local kitchen supply shop and was sold on silicone oven mitts. They were pricey, but I was told that they were the “new thing” and could handle the heat. I was a bit surprised at how thin they were, but decided to try them out.

They could handle the heat – and quite a bit of my baking is done at temperatures of 450 and 500F. I could feel some warmth when removing the cast iron dutch oven after it had bread baking in it at 500F, but nothing that was bothersome.

Until one day… I reached into the oven to pull out the dutch oven and felt searing heat against bare skin! Of course, I immediately lurched my hand out of the oven and upon inspection, discovered that the stitching along the side of the silicone oven mitt had broken.

This exposed part of my hand! Not a very good design for an oven mitt at all.

After the silicone mitts, I went back to the more traditional style. I have no idea what the brand was, but sadly it had no where near the quality of the original pair that I owned, had. They lasted perhaps 6 months before they became worn. Mind you, I do quite a bit of baking – but not really anymore than I did previously.

It was a bit of a pain to sort of adjust my grip when using them, until I could get out and get a new pair. This time, I decided to settle on a recognized and trusted brand and purchased a set of Cuisinart Oven Mitts, with a silicone grip.

The mitt is not 100% silicone, rather just in the grip area, while the rest of the mitt is of a different material. Inside the mitt, there is some lining with an insulating material.

At first, I was quite happy with these. They fit nicely and even my son could wear them on his much smaller hands and still be able to grip things while adding or removing from the oven.

But how long did they last? All of two months! After about two months of use, the lining inside had torn apart with the insulation being worn away. Another “Ouch!” moment when removing anything hot from the oven.

To say I was disappointed in these Cuisinart Oven mitts would be an understatement. You would think that a product with their name on it would be a high quality product, but these are definitely not of high quality. In fact, I’d say they are very poor.

Some time ago, I needed to order some office supplies and generally use Staples.ca. Curious, as I knew they sold some baking supplies online, I checked for oven mitts and discovered they carried a number of different styles of heat resistant gloves – not only for baking, but also for other uses where protection from high temperatures is required.

The brand they sold were “Superior Glove” (website here). I had never heard of them, and decided to order a pair.

The model I ordered from Staples was the TBMOB 17″ Terry Oven Mitt with Oilbloc.

When they arrived, I was a bit puzzled as it seemed I had received two left-handed mitts. I inquired of Superior Glove’s customer service and received a reply: “The TBM is an ambidextrous mitt and can be worn on either hand.

Well.. they can be worn on either hand, but are most comfortable on the left.. they don’t really seem to be totally “ambidextrous,” – but that is my only minor complaint with the mitts so far.

They are actually a really high quality product and have been well used since I received them.

I’d like to help you get a pair, but unfortunately they seem to be only available in Canada at this time.

Here is the link to the actual product I purchased on Staples.ca:

http://www.staples.ca/en/Superior-Glove-Works-TBMOB-17-Terry-Oven-Mitt-with-Oilbloc/product_1639741_2-CA_1_20001

If you do a lot of baking and have a favourite oven mitt brand, let me know!

 

A Summer Salad Dressing – Mediterranean Style

I love salads in the summer, and often will make them so large that they are a meal onto themselves.  Often, I won’t follow a particular recipe, but certainly enjoy a “Greek” type of salad with lots of feta cheese crumbled over lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion… and anything else I might have.

I like to whip up my own salad dressing as well – and a dear friend of mine from Greece says it’s pretty similar to what she would do for a salad dressing. Often, I don’t measure the ingredients very precisely but after enjoying salad with the dressing, my son asked me for the recipe so he could duplicate it. So… the next time I made it, I decided to precisely measure the ingredients.

This is an oil and vinegar dressing – there is supposed to be a precise ratio of oil to vinegar but I can’t recall what that is.  Of course, vinegar and oil don’t mix well together unless you add an emulsifier, which helps to bind the oil and vinegar droplets together. The molecules are still not really “mixed” together, but instead the emulsifier works as a surfectant. And emulsifier for oil and vinegar (or water) have opposite sides, one of which is attracted to water and the other is attracted to the oil droplets.

For an emulsifier, I like to use mustard powder because it works well and also provides a taste I enjoy.

So, here’s the ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced (Yes, We love garlic!)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Himalayan Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon White Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/8 Teaspoon White Pepper
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Mustard Powder

I combine all the ingredients and then use an immersible blender to mix it all up together.

Drizzle over your salad. Enjoy!

Blueberry & Kale Smoothy

blueberriesBlueberries! Ever since I was little, I’ve loved blueberries and try to find ways to incorporate them into our regular eating. My son absolutely adores blueberries and I can remember times when he was little, after a big bowl of blueberries sat down in front of him, his lips and fingers would be stained blue.

The blue colour, according to the Ontario Blueberry Grower’s Association is due to the “high levels of anthocyanin” in the berries. Anthocyanins have a known high anti-oxidant value, but it is debatable whether they provide much value to humans after digestion. But regardless, blueberries are a healthy snack and we find them delicious!

Combined with kale, we’ve been enjoying a smoothy including the main ingredients of blueberries and kale. I don’t particularly like raw kale, but I know it has many health benefits.  And at this time of year, kale is in abundance at the local Farmer’s Market, and quite inexpensive.

Some of these listed benefits include:

  • Enormous amounts of Vitamin K
  • Rich in important minerals
  • Lots of fibre (helps to reduce bad cholesterol)
  • May be a cancer preventative food

So, we try to get good amounts of kale into our diet on a regular basis. And I’m pretty lucky a my 13 year old son doesn’t mind trying new things and enjoys a wide variety of vegetables – but raw kale does have a taste that is not pleasant for everyone. The answer to that is to mix in a good handful of blueberries into the smoothy, which takes the edge of the raw kale taste. It actually tastes great when served very chilled on a hot summer day!

We’ve been using the recipe (more or less) found over on the HHB website. It’s one of my favourite websites as they investigate claims about health foods and supplements, and look for the science, if it exists, to determine whether or not there is any basis for any number of health benefit claims.

Some suggest that fresh blueberries are the best, and while that may be true if you are able to actually go out and pick them and then consume them within a day, you may want to consider the idea of purchasing frozen ones from the grocery store, instead of the ones in the fresh produce section.

The reason for this is that when commercial growers pick their blueberries, they are frozen immediately, thereby ensuring the quality. On the other hand, blueberries found in the fresh produce section may have been picked several days before they arrive at the grocery store or supermarket, and have lost some of their quality in the days between being picked and when available for sale.

But fresh picked are definitely wonderful, if you can get your hands on them!

If you’ve had problems with the taste of raw kale, but know you should be adding more of it to your diet, consider the kale blueberry smoothy. Perhaps add a few drops of stevia as well, to sweeten it up.

Here’s the recipe from HHB.

Our Wee Garden

small garden plotYears ago, I had a quite large vegetable garden in which I grew a wide variety of things including tomatoes, peppers, horseradish, various types of lettuce, herbs, onions and much more. I loved gardening, and I had so many tomatoes each year that there was no need to purchase any tomato based products from about August to the following April. I made tomato sauces and preserved them as well as froze tomatoes.

In the summer time, it was awesome to also just go out and pick lettuce for salads anytime our family wanted. However, over the years circumstances being what they are sometimes, I had to move from that property and ended up living in places where gardening was impossible. Even now, although I live in a house, it has no backyard and it is simply not feasible to try any vegetable gardening.

However, this year, the town that I live in, made some small garden plots available in a “community garden” to residents of the town. There are not many plots, so I consider myself lucky that I discovered that the town was offering these plots earlier in the spring.  In addition to there not being very many, they are also quite small; much smaller than the vegetable gardens I used to have. Each one is only 14′ X 4′. Not big enough to have a wide variety of vegetable plants growing, but large enough that my now 11 year old son and I can have a nice time, walking over and watching as what we planted grows and begins to produce.

Because this is my first year in probably more than ten years putting in a vegetable garden, I was not well organized and hopefully next year will have a much better plan. As well, I was a bit late in planting – while others were planting at the end of May, I was concerned because we were still getting frost some nights right into the first week of June.  Unfortunately I was very busy for the next couple of weeks so I had a lot of catch up to do once I had time.

The first couple of rows are 8 tomato plants, probably planted too close together – but at this point, they are producing with many small tomatoes growing on them all as well as many more flowers continuing to bloom.  The first row of four are “Glamour Tomatoes” and the second, “Better Boy.” The next two rows are 4 each of Chile Peppers, which depending on the yield, I’ll dehydrate and use later in the winter in my chili dishes.

The fifth row is a lettuce variety that I can’t recall the name of at this time, then two rows of carrots followed by another row of lettuce, “black seeded Simpson.”

My son absolutely loves oregano and after reading about the healthy benefits of this herb at “Healthy, Happy, Beautiful,” he wants to have some every day, added to some dish or salad.  While growing a full row of oregano is not something I would normally do (and I’m not 100% sure it will grow well in this particular garden plot), David convinced to give it a try so that we could dehydrate and have our stock of of this very healthy herb.  So, we do have a row of it planted from seed. The biggest problem is that oregano seeds are so tiny and it was actually quite difficult to sow them.  Quite a number of the seeds ended spilling out of the package in the middle of the row and it was virtually impossible to see them and re-sow them.  I am hoping that when they get bigger, I’ll be able to thin out that section and replant them.

Following the row of oregano, we planted a couple of rows of “Little Marvel Peas.” At the end of our little plot are some tomato plants that I found at the local farmer’s

purple beauty pepper

Purple Beauty Bell Pepper

market after I had started planting my garden. They looked interesting to me and include 2 “Celebrity” tomato and 1 black cherry tomato plant.  All of these are also appearing to produce well.

Lastly, I planted a “Purple Beauty” pepper – a bell pepper that already has one nice sized fruit that is indeed.. a very dark purple!

It’s been a rather cool summer and so it does seem that things are a bit behind in what I would have expected, but I think we should be able to start harvesting lettuce, the purple peppers and maybe some tomatoes next week!

Do you enjoy gardening? I especially enjoy cooking – and using food I’ve grown myself! My son is really enjoying this experience as well.

 

Dad’s Recipes

I love cooking and entertaining others even though I’m a guy. I’m not bragging (ok, maybe I am) but my kids say that my cooking is better than their mom’s!

The thing is, I was single for quite some time but I enjoy food. I also hate paying too much for good food, so for me to eat what I wanted, I had to learn how to cook. I love experimenting with different spices, learning how they are used in other cultures cuisine, and playing around with them myself.

I don’t have a favorite really, although just about any lamb dish is a weekly dinner in my kitchen. Many people think too that Irish cooking is rather dull, and in the sense that not many spices are used, this is true. However, I do enjoy the fish and potatoes that was regularly eaten in my native land.

I wanted a place where I could share some of my recipes with my kids, two of whom are now grown into adults and want to learn some of my cooking methods.

I hope you will try some of my recipes and let me know how you like them!!