Its time for another edition of Karri’s Favorite Things.

                In this edition you may find that things look a little different. I always add a picture of the item I am discussing but now there it will be an Amazon link. I received an ad on Amazon Associates and I applied for the program. So just heads up, if you are interested in the product I am talking about and use that link to purchase it….I make a tiny drop of money. But hey, little drops add up, right? Also, they ask  us to NOT post the price on my blog because prices change all the time. I’ve never made anything on any of my blog entries. I just thought, I am writing it either way so why not make a couple dollars?

OK, back to our show…..

ThermPro TP03 Digital Instant Read Thermometer

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            For me one of the most difficult part of cooking is trying to figure out if the food is done. The next hardest thing is getting everything to be ready at the same time, but that is a another subject. I started to use a thermometer this year. I’m a pharmacist. I just cant help looking for data to solve my problems. I had two traditional food thermometers in the house and they read totally different temperatures. So, for a long time I just picked out one thermometer and used it for everything. I found that for most veggies it doesn’t really matter. Hot is good. Its meat that I needed help with.

            I like beef medium rare. I have friends that will only eat well done. I’ve read about how chefs push on a steak with one finger and they explain that different temperatures feel different. Well, to me it all feels like partially cooked steak. So, forget that. Then I started using a cast iron frying pan. They get really hot and retain that heat much longer than a Teflon type frying pan. I was just winging it and it was not going so well. Having the accurate internal temperature of your meat is vital when you are cooking chicken, pork or hamburgers. I would never want to make anyone sick.

            I turned to the source of all solutions. Amazon.  I searched up Digital Thermometers, checked the reviews and hit purchase. I love this thermometer. It has magnets on the back so I can keep it stuck to the refrigerator. (I live in a house where we stick as much on the fridge as possible) Now I check the temperature of everything I cook and lived happily ever after. I just wish it came with a cheat sheet with the appropriate temperatures for different food products. (maybe on a frig magnet?)

            This thermometer was very inexpensive and I use it almost everyday. It’s one of my best purchases.

Baker’s Signature Parchment Paper Sheets.

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            I bought some parchment paper a while ago because some recipe called for it. I tried using it a few times on baking trays. It curls up. Big time. I tried folding the ends of weighing down the corners with food but it was always a pain to use. When a recipe called for it I would groan to myself. Ugh! Parchment paper!

Instead of being in a roll, this parchment paper comes in nice FLAT sheets. It comes in two sizes. Half sheet and full sheet. I threw out my roll and made room for my sheets. Now I use it a lot. Cakes, bacon in the oven, chicken, basically anything that goes in the oven. Easy clean up. Nothing sticks. And it makes me sound all fancy when I share recipes.

What is special about parchment paper anyway? And why doesn’t it burn? 

I have no idea.

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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I take Olive Oil very seriously. These are my rules. It must be in a light proof container. Light accelerates the breakdown of Olive oil. It must have a Use By date. Obviously, you don’t want oil that has been sitting around for years. Am I buying oil to cook with or using it as a condiment? If you are using it to dip bread or to dress a salad, you want the good stuff. The cheap stuff is for cooking.

 FYI: Never use Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cook especially at high temperatures. It is a suspension of little pieces of olives. At high temps, the particles will burn and ruin your food.

For cooking, you want filtered oil.

The problem with Italian olive oil: Italians.  They grow these wonderful olives and squish them into beautiful olive oil. Then the cut that oil with crappy stuff to sell to us and save money. Americans can’t tell the difference; Those Italians keep the good stuff for themselves. Commercial buyers could taste and amazing pressing and order it for their store. When it arrives, it is bottled and labeled for sales in the U.S. The retailer would have to open all the bottles and taste them to notice the difference. That’s why in the gourmet olive oil stores, you taste the oil right out of the barrel. Then they pour it into the bottle right in front of you.

You may be thinking, I just want some nice oil without spending a fortune. I used to spend way too much time in the olive oil section of my grocery store. What kind of olives do I want? Where were they grown? How much do I want to spend? How is it packaged? It can be overwhelming. I have the Karri answer.

Buy California Olive Oil.  Specifically, I like this brand. Because it is an American product, they must follow U.S. laws for correct labeling the contents of that bottle. California has a similar terroir to Italy. The olive trees in California are mature and producing really nice oil.  The price is totally reasonable. You can find this brand in most grocery stores (at least here on the east coast) but I noticed that Amazon has their entire line of products. They have Everyday Oil, Rich and Robust, Mild and Buttery and more. My link goes to my go-to version. I buy at Shoprite or Amazon. The easiest way to get their other versions is Amazon.

PS. If you can find it, Kalamata Olive oil from Greece is really good too.

I love Garlic. Good garlic.

Please, never ever use chopped garlic in a jar. Whenever you do, an Italian Nona cries.

 If possible, don’t buy that white supermarket garlic from China. You know that stuff that comes in a little mesh bag? It is bleached white and sprayed with chemicals to keep it from sprouting. By the time it hits your supermarket, it is often over a year old. I don’t care for the taste either. It is often described as spicy, and pungent. I find if I add a substantial amount of it, the dish becomes hot with garlic and often that is NOT what I am going for.

My solution is…don’t buy it. In California they grow lots of garlic. Sometimes its even organic garlic. There are two categories. Hard neck and soft neck. If it has that hard stem in the middle, its hard neck. Hard neck garlic general has more complex flavor. Soft neck can be stored for a longer time. Both come in lots of varieties.

I buy garlic from California when it comes into season. I peal it and put it in my food processor with olive oil. Then I put the garlic in silicone ice cube trays. Then pop them out once they are frozen. I put then in a ziplock and use them for months. OK, this is a bit of work, but I really like garlic.

If that is too much work, consider checking out your grocery store’s organic section. It is more expensive than the Chinese stuff but totally worth it. Just say no to Chinese Garlic.

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In a garlic emergency, I use Dorot frozen garlic cubes.

FYI: They also make Ginger, Basil, and Cilantro.

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Wine

            This one is a crowd pleaser. Sweet but not too sweet. Fruity but not overwhelming. I served this at Jolene’s 50th birthday party and everyone wanted to know what it was. One guy even added it to the bar at his wedding! It’s French and made with  Chenin blanc grapes. Best of all it is very inexpensive. This one is really easy to like. Different vineyards make Vovray with varying sweetness and fruitiness.  Vouvrays can exhibit notes of honeynutsgingerfigapples and flowers. Its just plain good. Great with almost anything or just straight up. I especially like it with Chinese food.

Trader Joe’s Bath Soap.

            I love fancy soap. Especially fancy French soap. Trader Joe’s sells this Lavender soap that is wonderful. It has a great scent and a light exfoliant. Other people must love it too because it is very often sold out. I buy it on Amazon now because I am tired of being disappointed when I get to the store. It is labeled as Triple Milled. I Googled that. It means that they squeeze the water out of the soap 3 times. It makes the soap harder and dryer. Harder and dryer means the soap lasts longer. And yes, it really does last a long time, especially as compared to Dove or Oil of Olay. Those two bars melt faster than the evil witch of the Wizard of Oz.  

If you enjoy My Favorite Things According to Karri, please let me know if you want more.

 I have opinions on everything.