Sunday, February 17, 2013

What Every Kitchen Should Have: Spices

Here at Living Well, if you don't already know, I make a lot of dishes homemade.  I even go as far as inventing some, which turn out really, really well.  So, in order to do this, I have my favorite go to spices in my cabinet.  Now, I'm not going to go and tell you what you absolutely have to have, but what you should have according to the cuisine that you cook most often.

So, where to start?  Let's start with the basics, and go from there.

1) Salt - not only for flavor, but for baking as well.
2) Whole Peppercorns (and of course a pepper mill) - I enjoy the pepper mill so much more than ground pepper.  I use it on all my recipes, and never, ever, buy ground pepper again.
3) Different Salts: Onion Salt, Garlic Salt, other specialized salts.....that you may want to add to this list.
4) All in one seasoning - Season All and/or a Mrs. Dash seasoning.  
5) Paprika
6) Chicken & Beef Bouillon cubes or packets.
7) Rosemary
8) Poultry Seasoning
9) Pumpkin Pie Spice, and/or Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves & Allspice
10) Cream of Tartar 

And that about sums it up for the basics at least.  Since I tend to do A LOT of Italian cuisine as well as an occasional Spanish inspired dish, I also keep the following:

1) Red Pepper Flakes
2) Cumin
3) Chili Powder
4) Oregano
5) Basil
6) Bay Leaves
7) Mediterranean Blend

Now, your spice rack is yours to customize as you wish.  This, is however, just a brief list of what I maintain on my spice rack, and an idea of what you should have on yours.  

Now, get out there and continue to Live Well. 

Coming up Next Week:  Take that Dream Vacation!
Coming up in Two Weeks: What Every Kitchen Should Have: Baking Ingredients

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blog Update

Hello followers.  

I know that this was supposed to be a recipe for chicken and dumplins, but if you haven't already realized, I've changed my blog design.  That is because I wanted to have a separate page just for recipes, and the home page will be for most everything else.  Here's why:

1) I'm always cooking up something good, and I want to be able to post recipes any time.  I don't want you to have to wait for all my yummy goodness.  I want to be able to share them with you any time I invent something new and exciting.

2) With all the recipes on 1 page, you'll have a centralized location in order to find your favorites.  I hope to get better at this blog design, and eventually move toward a more professional look, with more professional results.

3)  I hope to be able to expand to more pages, as more and more ideas come to mind.  I can do this better and not clutter up my main page.

So, please continue to enjoy my blog, and my recipes.  I promise to continue to help you live well, on a Military Budget.


Next Week's Blog:  What Every Kitchen Should Have: Spices.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why You Should or Should Not Purchase a Keurig.

When I returned from Afghanistan, I purchased a Keurig.  I did not go into the purchase lightly, but gave it much thought and consideration before my purchase.  I did a pro and con list, asked my friends which single serve coffee maker I should buy, and did days and days of research.  After all the careful consideration, and weighing all my options, I decided to purchase one.  Here's exactly how I came to my decision.

Why you should not buy a Keurig:

If you are a moderate to heavy coffee drinker (more than 2 or 3 cups a day) then you should not buy one.  The individual k-cups can get quite expensive over the course of a month.  Stick to a traditional coffee pot.  You'll get more for your money with a traditional coffee maker. 

Another reason why not:  if you have hard water, you'll have to use bottled water.  Since I live in Germany, the water is quite hard here, and we use bottled water anyway, so there is not a cost difference for us.  However, unless you are already not purchasing bottled water, or have a filtering system already installed, then it can get quite expensive.  There is a filtering system that you can purchase for the Keurig. 

Unless one or two of the above statements apply to you, then you should consider purchasing a Keurig, and here's why:

For my husband and I, we only drink 1 cup of coffee each, so there is no need to make an entire pot of coffee.  When we were making 1/2 a pot, about 1/2 of that was going to waste.  This was not economical for us.  It was actually costing us more money to make 1/2 a pot at a time, and having to discard what was left over.  With the Keurig, and a k-cup of Folgers Black Silk Coffee (a nice dark, rich brew) we pay about 50 cents a cup.  Add a little sugar and cream (which we both do) and it may cost as much as 63 cents a cup.  With a more expensive brew such as Starbucks, Caribou (which is my favorite) or Dunkin Doughnuts, you are looking at 60-65 cents a cup. That is if you are purchasing the k-cups from the store!  (Recently, I've scored coupons for Starbucks k-cups!)  Which, brings me to my next point.

Starbucks and Dunkin' Doughnuts drinkers: You can make your speciality brew at home, depending on the model of Keurig that you purchase.  Yes, that's right.  Instead of paying upwards of $3 for a regular cup of coffee (forgive me if that's not the price, I'm not a regular at those stores), you can get a nice cup for about 50 cents.  If you take the time to learn the ingredients of your favorite Starbucks drink, you can easily make those at home.  With the Keurig, you can brew a Starbucks k-cup on the espresso setting, throw that into the blender with some vanilla soy milk, caramel flavoring and ice to get a custom Frappuccino, for a fraction of the cost and without all the additional sugar.

For those of you who love having different flavors of coffee around, you can definitely do that with the Keurig system.  You can purchase (or order online) several different flavors, and store them all on a cute little carousel right on your kitchen counter.  So, if you drink regular caffeinated coffee, and your spouse drinks a half-caff or decaf, you can both have your own flavors readily available.  Why, you may ask?  Because there are over 200 different varieties of coffees, teas, and hot chocolates.  What you can't find in the stores, you can order online, and many times, email deals show up in your inbox.  

To save even more money, you can purchase a filter cup that uses regular coffee.  You can completely customize how strong you like your coffee.  We have one, and we use it with regular Starbucks, or Dunkin Doughnuts whenever we run out of the k-cups.  It tastes just as good.

If you are one of those persons who love a hot cup of tea, the Keurig brewer quickly warms a cup a water to a perfect 190 degrees for a quick cup of tea, or hot chocolate.

Keurig is a quick single cup brew.  After the initial warming of the water (about 1 minute), you'll have a cup of coffee in about 30 seconds.  Much, much quicker than a traditional coffee pot.  When I come home from PT (Physical Training), I can brew my cup of coffee, and have time to enjoy it before going back to work.

Not only does the Keurig deliver a quick brew, clean-up is quick too.  No pots to empty and wash, no filters to throw away, no monthly maintenance with a vinegar bath.  You do have to use vinegar to clean the system, but not as often.  It will tell you when you need to clean your system, and I've had my system for 7 months now, and haven't had to clean it yet.  To clean, open the k-cup holder, throw away the k-cup, and presto, you are ready for your next cup of coffee.  About once a week, I wipe down the outside, clean the drip tray, and use hot, soapy water to clean the water reservoir.

Here at Living Well, we enjoy our Keurig, and wouldn't trade it for any other coffee maker.  We DO save money using it, even after the initial purchase of the machine.  There are several models available, one for every budget.  Do your homework, ask around, and then decide if it's right for you.

Coming up next week:  Cooking Like the Cracker Barrel: Chicken and Dumplins.

Coming up later this month:  What Every Kitchen Should Have: Part II, Spices.