Tag Archives: Fruit

Secrets of Success when Cooking with 5 Ingredients

5-Ingredient Waldorf Salad (link to download the recipe)

5-Ingredient Waldorf Salad (link to download the recipe)

Five seems to be the magic number for the number of ingredients we want in a recipe. This excludes such common ingredients as salt, pepper and water. While researching recipes for a workshop on 5-ingredient cooking, I found the recipes I chose had at least one of the following qualities. See if these criteria help you find quick, easy, tasty recipes too!

  1. Use the best-tasting ingredients whenever possible. It’s hard to hide a poor quality ingredient when there are only five of them. For example, freshly ground black pepper tastes much better than pre-ground.
  2. Try to include at least one high intense flavor ingredient. Examples include:
    • Mustard (consider Dijon)
    • “Sharp” cheeses (you can use less because the flavor is more potent)
    • Lemon juice or lemon zest
    • Onions, garlic, celery
    • Olives
    • Capers
    • Vinegar
    • Nuts
    • Pickle relish
  3. Use some pre-prepared foods that can take the place of several ingredients. Compare the labels on the various brands and varieties as the sodium level can vary significantly. Examples include:
    • Salsa
    • Sauces: spaghetti, pizza, marinara, enchilada
    • Commercial salad dressings (flavorful, lower-fat varieties)
    • Low-fat granola
    • Pie dough, graham cracker crust, pizza dough
  4. Consider seasoning blends. Examples include:
    • Italian seasoning
    • Salt-free blends – sample in the smallest container-size the first time.
  5. Keep on hand ingredients that can be used several ways. Some of my favorites are:
    • Vanilla and plain Greek Yogurt
    • Diced tomatoes (no-added-salt)
    • Canned beans (no-added salt)
  6. Refrigerate some mixed foods (like dips) at least an hour, to allow flavors to blend.
  7. Roast meats and vegetables until “caramelized” or browned. This brings out the flavor.
  8. Thickening a soup without making a white sauce:
    • Remove some of the soup solids and liquid and puree in a blender. Cooking Light magazine (March 2003) warns when blending hot liquids to use caution because steam can increase the pressure inside the blender and blow the lid off. They advise filling the blender no more than half full and blending in batches, if necessary. And, while blending, hold a potholder or towel over the lid.
    • Sprinkle on some instant mashed potato flakes at the end and stir. Add more until you get the consistency you want.

Things on My Kitchen Counter

Bananas on Kitchen Counter

Recently we had new kitchen counters installed at our house. In taking everything off the counters, I began to re-evaluate what I was going to put back!

What was really important to me and would help me cook quick, healthy meals? And (this is an important AND!) … would make my kitchen a pleasant environment for cooking.

Kitchen organizers recommend only keeping items you use several times weekly or a daily basis on top of your kitchen counter. Here’s what made the cut and stayed on top of my counter.

Two-Tiered Fruit Stand

Several fruits continue to ripen at room temperature. This inexpensive 2-tiered  fruit stand (shown above) offered an attractive counter-top storage space. Fruits that benefit by room temperature storage as they ripen to perfection include avocados and tomatoes (botanically, they are fruits), kiwifruit, nectarines, peaches, pears, bananas, and plums.

Place a counter-top fruit stand in a clean, dry, well-ventilated place, away from direct sunlight and away from areas where meat is prepared.

Canisters for Garlic, Onions, and Potatoes

It’s recommended storing garlic, onions, and potatoes in a well-ventilated area in the pantry. Protect potatoes from light to avoid greening.

But what if you don’t have a pantry?

I found some storage canisters on the Internet that allowed ventilation and prevented light from reaching the potatoes. And … they looked attractive on my kitchen counter.

There also are several brands of decorative cloth storage sacks that provide ventilation and protect from light. Some of the sacks can even be hung from the wall. Individual plastic or wire baskets work well in a pantry.

The holes in these canisters provide ventilation for my potatoes, onions, and garlic.

The holes in these canisters provide ventilation for my potatoes, onions, and garlic.

Oh, Grill of Mine!

Research by Washington State University found the best method of safely grilling meats is using a double-sided (clam-shell) type grill that cooks both sides of the meat at once. These grills also are one of the fastest and easiest means of grilling meat. And, they are easy to clean … especially nice when someone else in the house helps by cleaning up after you cook!

An added benefit of a clam-shell grill is the ease of taking the temperature of thin cuts of meat from the side. According to an U.S. Department of Agriculture study, 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown in the middle before it reaches a safe internal temperature. Using a food thermometer is the only way to assure a safe temperature. Check this USDA chart for safe minimum internal temperatures.

It is easy to insert an instant read thermometer into meat on a double-sided (clam-shell) grill to check its temperature while it is cooking.

It is easy to insert an instant read thermometer into meat on a double-sided (clam-shell) grill to check its temperature while it is cooking.

Dish rack

At our house, there are almost always dishes in the dishwasher; dishes waiting to go in the dishwasher in one of our sink basins; and the other basin is in use cleaning fruits and vegetables, rinsing items. etc.

At the same time, there are items that need to be hand washed for various reasons. Our dish rack was always out.

Then, I discovered on the Internet several decorative dish racks that actually look attractive sitting on your counter-top.

If your dish rack has taken up permanent residence on your counter top, it's possible to find one that is both functional and decorative.

If your dish rack has taken up permanent residence on your counter-top, it’s possible to find one that is both functional and decorative.

Mixer and Food Processor

There are some items, such as my mixer and food processor, that are too heavy to keep lifting in and out of storage.

Along with my counter-top make-over, I gave them an update also. They are now protected from dust and have their accessory parts conveniently located in pockets with these covers.

An Internet search for “mixer cover” or “food processor cover” will locate several options for these items.

Covers for heavy counter top mixers and blenders help keep them clean and dust-free. There are lots of colors, so you can match them to your kitchen decor.

Covers for heavy counter-top mixers and blenders help keep them clean and dust-free. There are lots of colors, so you can match them to your kitchen decor.

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section what you keep on YOUR kitchen counter!