cooking · Uncategorized

Choose the best bakeware for your recipe

If last year’s holiday breads and cookies didn’t turn out exactly as you hoped, don’t blame it on your oven — at least not yet.

The type of bakeware material you choose affects cooking results; some are better for browning and crisping than others, for instance.

Consult this handy guide of bakeware recommendations from Whirlpool so you know what to expect when using different pans and sheets.

Light-colored aluminum:

Light golden crusts and even browning. Use temperature and time recommended in recipe.

Dark aluminum and other bakeware with dark, dull and/or nonstick finish:

Brown, crisp crusts. May need to reduce baking temperatures 25°F (15°C). Use suggested baking time. For pies, breads and casseroles, use temperature recommended in recipe. Place rack in the center of the oven.

Insulated cookie sheets or baking pans:

Little or no bottom browning. Place in the bottom third of the oven. May need to increase baking time.

Stainless steel:

Light, golden crusts, uneven browning. May need to increase baking time.

Stoneware:

Crisp crusts. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Ovenproof glassware, ceramic glass or ceramic:

Brown, crisp crusts. May need to reduce baking temperatures 25°F (15°C).

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Easy fix for water in the basement

As all Minnesotans were sweating during this weekend’s extreme high temperatures and dew points, so was my cool basement and probably yours too.

While doing laundry last night, I noticed water in my basement where the concrete floor meets the wall. Then I found some water in a storage closet. Then I saw that my basement bathroom was wet.

Surprisingly, I still have to learn the necessity of dehumidifiers the hard way.

If you don’t yet have a dehumidifier for your home, I strongly recommend one to prevent mildew and mold cause by buildup of too much moisture. They start at $159.95, which is a pittance compared to water damage.

I’ll be plugging in my new Frigidaire dehumidifier tonight and using a simple garden hose attachment to help it drain directly into my laundry tub (note: the dehumidifier must be elevated, as the water won’t drain “up”). Otherwise, these portable dehumidifiers are better than your last one, with a carrying handle and a no-splash design.

Take note that dehumidifiers are seasonal items not widely available throughout the year, meaning that supplies run low at most retailers during hot, humid periods of the year. Don’t wait till you find water in your basement; call any of our 7 home appliance stores to confirm stock of your desired size (25 pint, 50 pint or 75 pint).

They’re still not whisper quiet, but certainly, they’re quieter than yours was growing up.

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Counter depth refrigerators or full depth: Which do you need?

There is no “standard” size in appliances and certainly not in refrigerators.

Knowing the maximum height, depth and width of your opening is crucial in selecting a new refrigerator. In fact, size is the No. 1 factor in narrowing down your options.

Most refrigerators today fit either a 30″, 33″ or 36″  wide opening and a 66″, 68″ or 70″ high opening. You should also also allow 1″ of clearance on each side of the refrigerator for breathing room.

But because refrigerators have become deeper within the last 10 years, you also should consider the depth of your space. Manufacturers have added more insulation to retain temperatures in the refrigerator to keep up with increasing efficiency standards, which has increased the overall depth of today’s refrigerators by 2″-4″.

Which means your fridge will stick out even more from the edge of your cabinets. Solution? Cabinet depth refrigerators.

Cabinet depth (aka counter depth) refrigerators give your kitchen a more sleek look. The 24″ depth allows your refrigerator’s cabinet to align with the surrounding cabinetry, creating more of a “built-in” look for your kitchen. Cabinet depth styling is most commonly found in side-by-side models, but can also be found in top freezer models, bottom freezer styles and French door refrigerators.

So why doesn’t everyone have a counter depth fridge? Basically, price versus capacity. A French-door counter depth refrigerator is going to offer fewer cubic feet of food storage for the money than a full-depth French-door refrigerator.

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Buying a refrigerator: Which style is best for you?

If you’re looking to buy a refrigerator, the last time you researched your options likely was years ago. Well, a lot changed in the last decade.

Before, most refrigerators for sale were just the standard top-freezer refrigerator. Now, there are four major styles to choose from, not to mention refrigerator drawers, columns and compact options — which I’ll save for another post.

Top Freezer Refrigerator

The classic top freezer refrigerator remains  among one of the most popular styles in the market place today. The freezer is at eye-level, which is good if you use frozen food most often. Plus, the refrigerator has wider shelves than a side-by-side refrigerator, making it easy to store large trays of food and allow easy access to things stored in the back of the refrigerator.

If you have space constraints, you’ll likely end up with a top freezer, because some models in this style fit a smaller footprint. And from a budget perspective, top freezer refrigerators are an affordable style that boast convenience features such as factory-installed icemakers, chilled water dispensers (on some models) and glass shelves. Plus, top freezers are the most energy-efficient style, and are rated to last the longest.

Side by Side Refrigerator

On a side by side refrigerator, two compartment doors wing out from the center; the freezer compartment is located on the left side and the refrigerator compartment on the right.

If your kitchen has a narrow walkway or an island, you’ll like the side-by-side refrigerator’s smaller door swing clearance.

Many side by side refrigerators have the option for a filtered ice and water dispenser. And if you’re looking for lots of storage, most side by side refrigerators are
23-26 cu. ft., which is more overall cooling space than most top freezer refrigerators.

Bottom Freezer Refrigerator

The bottom freezer refrigerator is the most popular refrigerator style. Heck, I have one!

Because most people access the refrigerator compartment 9-10 times more often than they do the freezer, bringing the refrigerator section up to waist or chest level offers the most accessibility.

Many brands offer a choice of either a swing-door freezer or pull-out freezer drawer. The drawer design allows for easier access to the back of the freezer by minimizing the amount of bending and crouching needed. From a budget perspective, bottom freezer refrigerators are becoming more affordable as most brands now make them.

French Door Refrigerator

French-door refrigerators (I’ve also heard them called “3-door refrigerators”) combine the best of both worlds.

The refrigerator compartment is at waist and chest level like a bott0m-freezer, but the refrigerator has French doors (side-by-side) opening from the center, which means symmetrical styling and less door clearance is needed if a walkway or island is involved.

But the two doors open to the same, sole refrigerator compartment so you still have wide refrigerator shelves to accommodate large party trays or oblong dishes. Similar to the bottom freezer style, French door refrigerators feature a freezer drawer design. Many models also offer the option of an ice & water dispenser on the freezer door or an internal water-only dispenser.

Cabinet depth refrigerators

 

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Celebrate Your Independents: It’s not a typo; it’s a movement

I’ve already received two messages since we started running commercials encouraging viewers to “Celebrate Your Independents.”

That is — of course — because the Fourth of July is Independence Day, not Independents Day.

(God love these people; these are my people. I commonly contact businesses to bring their attention to possible errors [though I generally do it with a large dose of sensitivity as I am keenly aware that fellow local businesses squeak by on fewer resources than their national counterparts].)

But we aren’t asking you to buy from us because it’s July 4 on Monday. We want you to understand the value of independent businesses, so we’re participating in the Celebrate Your Independents promotion.

During the month of July, select local, independent retailers and restaurants have teamed up to provide money-saving offers and a chance to win $1,250 in gift cards in exchange for your support and your ear. We want you to know the importance of buying local!

Multiple studies have shown that dollars spent at local, independent businesses generates at least three times more direct local economic benefit a dollars spent at absentee-owned chain businesses. Plus, these are the retailers, restaurants and service providers that lend support to your childrens’ schools, your places of worship and our neediest nonprofits because it’s their communities, too.

So among all the picnics and patriotism of this holiday weekend, take care to Celebrate Your Independents, as well.

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HOW TO: load your dishwasher properly

(Yes, I get the irony of writing this post with a full sink of dirty dishes.)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever rearranged dishes in a dishwasher that someone else loaded.

Me too.

Because there is one right way to do it, did you know that?

And it’s found in your use & care manual. Each dishwasher comes with its own “right way” to load it for optimal performance.

If you’ve lost your use & care manual, try Googling it (like I did; it’s now a bookmark on my smartphone).

In lieu of your manual, here are some dishwasher loading tips, adapted from Whirlpool Corp.

1. Scrape, don’t rinse
Remove leftover food and hard items from the dishes, though it is not necessary to rinse the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Repeat, rinsing your dishes is unnecessary.If you’re not going to run your dishwasher immediately, simply run a rinse cycle to keep dishes moist. It will use far, far less water than you and your faucet will.

2. Don’t mess with the rotation
Load dishes so they are not stacked or overlapping. Make sure that tall items, such as pan handles and cookie sheets, don’t get in the way of  spray arm. And for best drying results, water must be able to drain from all surfaces.

3. Stay on top

Cups, glasses and plastic items should only be loaded on the top rack, otherwise they could get damaged. Only load cups and glasses in the rows between the rack tines, as putting them over the tines can lead to breakage and water spots.

Small bowls, pans and other utensils can be placed in the top rack. Load bowls in the center section for best stability. Don’t let stemware touch anything else, or else it could break.

4. What should lie beneath

Load plates and soup bowls between the rack tines; plate edges can be overlapped for large loads, but don’t nest bowls because the spray won’t reach all surfaces.

Large items like cookie sheets and cake pans should go along the sides and in the back. If you have a super dirty pan or casserole, load it face down in the rack.

5. Don’t be a basket case

Load some utensils in the silverware basket pointing up and some pointing down to avoid nesting — especially if you eat a lot of peanut butter 🙂 Sharp-edged items should always be loaded pointing down.

Small items like baby bottle caps, jar lids and corncob holders should go in sections with hinged covers.

Appliance Design · Budget-wise · Food · Refrigerator · Uncategorized

5 ways to preserve food longer

With the opening of the Mill City Farmers Market last weekend and the start of many people’s summer CSA shares, the perennial topic of food storage becomes fresh again (see how I did that?).

Numerous ways to extend the life of fresh fruit, veggies, meat and dairy exist, but here are the 5 I could think of.

What do you do to try to make your food last longer?

1. Use your crisper

Those clear drawers in your fridge aren’t just for convenience. Many models allow you adjust the humidity of your crisper drawers to suit their contents. Consult your use & care manual for specifics on your model, but in general, set humidity to high for green, leafy vegetables and low for fruits and vegetables with skins.

2. Pick your spot

Brands might create the perfect space for gallon-jug storage on your refrigerator door, but consider how quickly you will use highly perishable foods before storing them here. Why? Consider the temperature fluctuations of this region of the refrigerator.

If you go through a gallon of milk every couple days, then maybe it doesn’t matter, but those of use who just use a sprinkle in our coffee should definitely select a cooler spot, like the back of the fridge, which is less affected when the door opens.

Accordingly, produce like broccoli, asparagus and apples benefit from colder temperatures located near the rear, while corn and berries — for example — benefit from the warmest spot in the refrigerator, so choose those for the front.

3. Use a paper towel to keep your greens…green

I love making big salads, but we all know that greens (especially leftovers) quickly become yellows and browns.

I arrange washed greens between paper towels to absorb excess moisture and seal them in punctured plastic bags. I’m not sure how “official” this is, but it’s allowed me to eat salad leftovers for two days before.

4. Don’t pass gas

Ethylene gas, that is. Foods like apples, peaches and pears produce ethylene, a gas that kick-starts ripening, which can cause premature aging in some fruits and damage in others. Avoid storing ethylene-producing foods near others sensitive to it (see list here) or keep them in a plastic bag to contain the gas.

5. Know what NOT to refrigerate

Sometimes the refrigerator can do more harm than good — as in the case of avocados, bananas, tomatoes, pineapples, mangoes, potatoes and squash — which should be stored at room temperature. Cold temperatures can dehydrate and damage these foods.

Plus, I think that refrigerating tomatoes sucks all the flavor out, doesn’t it?