Makin’ bacon, the first BLT sandwiches of the season

There is nothing like the first BLT of the season made with homegrown tomatoes. Among the veggies in our garden this year, the Early Girl, Mr. Stripey, Cherokee Purple, Beefmaster and Roma tomatoes are the most welcome. Our spring and summer have been unseasonably cool, and tomatoes like hot days and warm nights. They do their magic during those warm nights. We’ve had an abundance of rain this season, though, so much that I’ve only watered our veggies and flowers a handful of times the whole season! This week, the tomatoes finally began to ripen.

Last night and today, BLT’s have been dinner, along with chunks of a particularly succulent and sweet seedless watermelon.The results were, well…Just take Emma’s word for it.

Picture of dog panting and drooling for BLT sandwich

Yeah, baby! It is time for fresh tomatoes plain or with Tzatziki Sauce (we get ours from GFS, Gordon Food Services), a splash of balsamic vinegar, light Italian dressing, or served up on sandwiches. Miracle Whip is our condiment of choice for the latter.

I cooked the bacon in the microwave the second time around, because it is less messy and the grease is absorbed as it cooks. Just layer a few paper towels on a plate, arrange slices of bacon side-by-side on the plate (no overlapping) and cover with another few sheets of paper towels. Cook on high for 4-6 minutes and let cool a bit. If your microwave doesn’t have a turntable, you will probably need to turn the plate part way through to make sure it cooks evenly.

There are also some great microwave bacon cooker kitchen gadgets if you want to save on paper towels and lessen the amount of bacon grease you consume. Nordic Ware makes one that’s both a bacon cooker and meat grill. There’s also The Original Makin’ Bacon Microwave Bacon Rack, which suspends the bacon during cooking, letting the grease drip down into a reservoir below. I’d like that one myself, since it lets you cook more pieces at a time, certainly more than I could using a plate and paper towels.

What’s your favorite thing to do with an abundance of fresh garden produce, especially tomatoes? We are going to have a BUNCH of Roma tomatoes coming ripe at once and I want to use them up. I don’t know if I want to bother with canning, but I might try it. It would be good to make some tomato sauces for later. Hmmmmmm. At least it’s been a cooler summer so canning wouldn’t be so doggoned hot. I thought about setting up a hotplate out under our gazebo and putting my big Ball 21-quart waterbath canner out there so it won’t heat up the house.

How to cut onions without tears

Through the years, I’ve read all kinds of suggestions for making the process of cutting onions less tearful. People suggest everything from running the onion under cold water while you cut it (Hello! Awkward!)  to freezing it first. Some suggest slicing it only in a certain direction.

None of those methods worked for me. I really can’t stand cutting raw onions. Even when my husband’s cutting them in the kitchen while I’m in the living room, the pungent odor gives me fits. I cry, my eyes burn, and my nose hurts. I’m a wimp!

This method, though, really works! Honest and for true, pinky swear.

I first learned of it from this video. I was skeptical. But my recipe called for caramelized onions and I knew I had a lot of onions to chop. It was the perfect time to test out his claims. These were cheap, strong, yellow cooking onions…The real stinkers.

It worked!

Tonight I planned on making homemade pizza for my folks and us, this very pizza as a matter of fact:

We like onions on it, so it was to be another fun-filled, onion-intensive session in the kitchen. I didn’t want to use my old standby the food processor because it would cut them too finely. At the last minute, I grabbed my camera and set out to document the process for my blog.

To begin with, you need to work with the root end of the onion. In the center of an onion, coming up from the root end, is a bulb. It’s this bulb which contains that strong-smelling onion gas.

You want to cut the root end of the onion.

The trick is to cut the root end out, and with it, the bulb inside.

To do this, you should cut around the root end, about 1/3 of the way out from the center of the onion. Cut in at an angle so you’re making kind of a cone shape. Think of how you angle the knife when you cut a top off a Halloween pumpkin.

Cut about 1/3 of the way out from the center, slightly angled in to form a cone.

Ideally, you’ll end up with this. See that center part, joined to the roots? Throw this away. Yes, it feels wasteful. But do it, because this is one nasty, stinky little bulb in your hand. This is the cause of all that misery.  Don’t put it down your disposal, either! I’m telling you, you’ll rue the day you were born.

Ideally, you should end up with something that looks like this!

But what happens if that bulb doesn’t come out neatly in one piece? What if you chopped right into it? For the love of all things holy, what will you do? What if it looks like this one I did?

Oops, sometimes you don’t get the bulb out like you hoped.

No worries! Look deep into that rogue onion. See the little whorls that look different from the rest of the rings? Those are the parts you need to remove. Sometimes a developing bulb will split into two or three separate points. That’s what happened here. Sneaky little suckers.

No worries! See those little guys in there?

Just take the tip of your knife and gentle pry each of those little guys out of its hole. See? They come right out!

Pry those pieces out with the tip of your knife.

Ta-da! There are the troublemakers. And here they thought they could get away! This onion was way past its prime, by the way. The green you see is sprouts forming within the onion. This is not a good thing in garlic; it makes the garlic take on a bitter taste. I haven’t noticed this with onions so much, but the outer layers were beginning to go a little soft.

Those would have been troublemakers.

But I digress.

Once you’ve removed the bulb and any sneaky sidekicks that tried to hide, you’re ready to peel the outer layers off your onion and slice it up however you choose. You will be shocked at how little you smell that pungent onions smell — maybe not at all. If you do start tearing up, it means you didn’t quite get all the bulb out.

Flexible cutting mat with chopped onions

Were it not for this technique, I could not have done this without much discomfort!

But what happens if it doesn’t come out in one piece? What if you chopped right into it (like I did on this one)??picsYes, you will “waste” some onion. But if you’re like me, highly sensitive to the gas from raw onions, it’s more than a fair trade off!

I want to give a shoutout to Jack and his site The Best Sauces. He has a YouTube channel, Cooking with Jack: A Cooking Show for the Average Joe with lots of good videos about cooking!

Gruesome breads

It’s no secret that some of the world’s most colorful pop culture phenomena hail from Asia. This man’s hobby is no exception. These gruesome bread creations of severed body parts just might turn me off of baking.

Nah. But they’re still really gross. In deference to those with weak stomachs, I won’t include a thumbnails of the “loaves” themselves. Just click through if you’re curious: Thai Artist Shares Little Slices of Life (how’s that for a title?).

Review: Progressive International measuring cups and spoons

A few weeks ago I was browsing the kitchen stuff on Amazon and saw this Progressive International 19-Piece Measuring Set and snatched it right up. As regular readers know, I enjoy cooking and have recently begun baking bread at home, too. I’ve been using this set several times a week since they arrived and I am so glad I got them!

What’s unique about this set is, it’s not just the standard dry measures you see in typical sets of measuring cups. Oh, no, kids —  This one has handy oddball measures, too! Check them out:

Measures included

Spoons Cups  
1/32 tsp - Smidgen (.15 ml) 1/8 cup (30 ml)  
1/16 tsp - Pinch (.3 ml) 1/4 cup (60 ml)  
1/8 tsp - Dash (.6 ml) 1/3 cup (80 ml)  
1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) 1/2 cup (120 ml)  
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) 2/3 cup (160 ml)  
1 tsp (5 ml) 3/4 cup (180 ml)  
1/2 Tbsp (7.5 ml) 1 cup (240 ml)  
2 tsp (10 ml) 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)  
1 Tbsp (15 ml) 1 3/4 cups (420 ml)  
  2 cups (480 ml)  

The entire set is made out of a tough, hard plastic.  Yay, no rust and no weird oxidation and powder on aluminum. They wash up great in the dishwasher. And did I mention they’re in The Ohio State University colors – scarlet and gray –  plus white? This matters more to Howie than it does me, but I’m just sayin’.

Wide range of sizes

Those odd-sized measuring cups are proving very handy to me as I measure stuff out for baking. With my little kitchen, space is at a premium and I try to keep my work area as neat as possible as I measure out my various ingredients. A lot of my bread recipes seem to take 3 1/2  cups of flour. I love how I can measure that out in two steps using one 2-cup measure and one 1 1/2 cup measure. It makes the job go faster.

The form factor

Not only that, but the cups are broad and shallow, making all but the 1/8 cup measure stays upright when put on the counter. I find myself using the cups as ramekins for my yeast, spices, and other ingredients. Anything that does double-duty like that is a winner in my book. The cups also nest very well, nice for storage.

Unlike the cups, the spoons lean toward being deep. If you’ve used old-style, nearly-flat metal measuring spoons, you know deep spoons work a lot better for both liquid and dry measuring. I keep the spoons hanging by their loop inside my cupboard door. Speaking of the loops, these snap together with a simple reclosable clasp. It makes the spoons a snap to separate from one another.
Stamped, not printed

Another thing I like about this set is, the labels are molded into the handles rather than just printed on them. Additionally, as you can see in my table, the measurements are expressed in both fractions of cups and milliliters. They’re accurate enough for everything I’ve made using them; every recipe I’ve made has come out great.

The only thing they’re not good for. Heh.

I did figure out that these are not good for melting butter. It was actually my fault since I let the microwave go for too long and that butter got really hot. The cup is fine, but you can see where the hot butter was in it. I know to use glass receptacles for melting butter in the future!

The lowdown

Anyway, if you want a really versatile measuring set for your kitchen, these are a great bet. They’re a super value for the price. When you buy your own, grab a set or two for giving as gifts. They’ll make great Christmas gifts, but would really rock as part of a wedding present or for anyone just setting out on his or her own for the first time. They’ll last a lifetime. I’d buy them again in a heartbeat!