Grams to Pounds

When I started this site it was mainly aimed at expats living here in Thailand so measurements for meat, pasta, cheese I give in grams as that is how we buy it here. Smaller liquid and dry measurements are given in cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons.

To remove any confusion I use the following for meat, cheese, and pasta, think of the following when you read a recipe that states, say 500 grams of beef:

500 grams = 1 pound (actually it is 1.10 pounds, no one will complain).

Once you think like that, easy to remember, the recipes are much easier to follow.

For baking of pastries and bread, weight measurements are more accurate than cup or spoon measurements and may be listed by weight, I have a digital scale for this.

Cooking and Baking

Cooking – think making a skillet dish, an omelet, baking stuffed bell peppers, that is using a recipe.

Baking – think dinner rolls, hamburger buns, breads, pastries, this is using a formula, and there is a difference between a recipe and a formula.

Stated often in the recipes I have listed here on this site is what I call variants, things you can to change up, optional items. And as I state many times, recipes are not set in stone and can be changed on the taste of the user or with what is available or on hand at the time.

Cooking, just volume measurements are adequate and perfectly fine.

Baking, one can get away with volume measurements, but the preferred method is by weight. Digital scales are very reasonable in cost and very accurate. If you have a pastry or bread formula in weight and volume, use the weight measurements if you have a digital scale.

With baking formulas, unless one is a very experienced baker, always follow the formula, reducing one ingredient may have serious affects on another ingredient, and these affects are never good and the end product you are making will not turn out well.

Information provided courtesy of good friend, Garland Davis, US Navy Cook (Ret).
United States.

Stock or Broth?

Odd question that I never really gave any thought to, what is the difference between stock and broth? This was brought to my attention today by a good friend and respected cook, there is a difference.

I made a chicken pasta dish yesterday, 8 Dec 2016, and I mentioned I boiled the chicken quarters then returned the bones to the pot to simmer longer. As it turns out, I made what I will call chicken broth stock.

Broth is from simmering meat, such as chicken thighs and legs.

Stock is from simmering bones, such as the thigh and leg bones I put back into the pot.

Tesco sells chicken carcasses for the sole purpose of making stock which is used in many Thai soups. Chicken carcasses are a common item in Tesco and other grocery stores. In the large cities, one can get pork bones at Tesco also for the purpose of making pork stock.

Anytime I boil chicken, and it is often, I pour the water used through a strainer and reserve the liquid in the fridge for use in recipes, if I have the time, then I continue to simmer the bones for several more hours as well. When I list chicken stock as an ingredient on this site, it will be noted as fresh or from the powder for this very purpose. But what I have been calling stock is actually broth, but for the sake of this site and the recipes listed here, I use the word stock mostly, but feel free to use broth or stock, both are flavorful additions to the dish being prepared.

For the pot of water, I normally just add a onion cut in half and peppercorns, feel free to add some carrot, celery, etc. If you are going to simmer chicken, then skin on and bone in to get the most flavor.

Information provided courtesy of good friend, Garland Davis, US Navy Cook (Ret).
United States.

Electric Meat Grinder

I ordered an electric grinder through Lazada (lazada.co.th) and I am more than happy with it. Where I live, ground beef is not available (I can get large chunks of beef, just not ground), I can get pork but it just minced meaning a larger grind, and ground chicken, just unheard of. I used a manual grinder when I was growing up, used it to grind a lot of deer, make hash, and even ground up some fish. Since I do not have a counter that I can clamp a manual grinder to or even a table that I can do that with, I went with a counter top electric model, and I am more than impressed. When my wife seen it in action, she was impressed as she is used to mincing pork with a cleaver. The grinder I have now is rated at 1 kilo per minute to grind with the smallest die.

This will be a very welcome addition to the kitchen, now we can buy pork loin or shoulder and grind ourselves, we can order beef and grind ourselves, and the same with chicken.

There is a few things to keep in mind however when it comes to using a meat grinder at home.

1. Most important step you can do is the sterilize the grinder parts before each use. Even if you have washed all the parts the day before, sterilize the parts before you put it together and use again. Since the grinding process creates heat, not a lot, but there is heat, that becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. With a properly sterilized setup, you minimize any bacteria from your grinder, nothing we can do about airborne bacteria. Best way, and I know a lot of you will cringe at this is to use 3-4 liters of water (drinking water, not tap water) and 1/4 cup of chlorine bleach. (Yes, your kitchen may smell like a swimming pool for a few minutes, this is perfectly safe to do.) Add the parts of the grinder that you can remove and add to the water/bleach for at least one minute, then you can remove the parts, rinse with drinking water, rinse completely, dry the parts, then you can assemble the grinder and you are ready to use.

2. Never bring home a sack of meat from the store or market and expect to grind it right then, the meat needs to be prepped and chilled, and the grinder parts sterilized.

3. You need to cut the meat into strips or chunks in order to feed into the hopper, and all silver tendon removed from beef or pork. Once you have the meat ready, place back in the fridge to keep it cold until you have sterilized and assembled the grinder.

4. The grinding process does create heat, so unless you are going to take fresh ground beef as soon as it is ground and cook something, place it back into the fridge to cool it until you are ready to use. I use large zip lock freezer bags and place 500 grams of ground meat in a bag and freeze it for later use.

Now we only buy pork, beef, and chicken from the local market, no need to go into town as we can not only grind the pork, but we can now grind beef and chicken as well. Remember, the more times a product has to be handled (such as grinding the meat for say Tesco) the more it adds to the cost. Buy the meat in large chunks for pork and beef, and you just saved money.

Non Stick Cooking Spray

Many recipes call for the use of a non stick spray for baking dishes, slow cookers, etc. The most common would be PAM. PAM is mostly canola oil and some other ingredients that will leave a reside on dishes.

You can make your own cooking spray, which is done by many chefs, all you need is three items: a food safe spray bottle, olive oil, and water, that is it.

1 part olive oil
4 parts water

Shake and use, it is just that simple.

Egg Noodles

dscn4048I lived in Phuket since Dec 2005 and I was always trying to find Egg Noodles, to which I could never find, but always found some wide flat Italian pasta and have always used that. Today, I was doing some research on the brand of pasta I buy, and come to find out, they are in fact, egg noodles, it is Fettuccine from Italy, and this is the brand that I buy at Makro. There is a wide version and a narrow version.

This pack is 250 grams, and surprisingly inexpensive. The pack has 6 spirals of pasta, about 40 grams each. I normally use 2-3 spirals for 2 servings.

Next visit to Makro I will get a price for this. I am also going to try out making home made egg noodles then I can compare the prices between ready made and home made.

Update 1 Sep 2017, I have successfully made egg pasta (used in homemade ravioli) and my next batch, I will cut strips and dry them. If that works well, store bought egg noodles will be a thing of the past for me.

Another use for a slow cooker

In my house, we remodeled our kitchen and installed a gas hob instead of electric. Electric costs a lot more then LP gas so we opted to use gas instead, which is a step up from what we were using, which was a wood fired pot to cook on. The gas hob, double burner, works great for nearly everything except a low simmer, like for cooking dry beans. I just cannot get the temp low enough and I actually burned a pot of beans once.

So I turned to my slow cooker, not to make a slow cooker dish in, but to use it to simmer things where I need a low temp without burning. Since a slow cooker cannot burn anything, it is perfect in this application. For instance I have a great sounding white bean and pork recipe, I use a pot to bring the beans to a boil, then carefully transfer that to my slow cooker as it needs to simmer for 3-4 hours, which I just cannot do on my gas hob. So in essence, it is not a slow cooker dish, just a slow cooker was used for some assistance. I foresee more use from my slow cooker from now on.

Scrambled Eggs to Cups

Yep, this is a strange topic but I had to look this up for a recipe that stated cups of scrambled eggs, not how many eggs to use. So I figured this might come in handy for someone.

1 cup scrambled eggs = 3 large eggs

1 cup scrambled eggs = 4 medium eggs

How to Cut Apart Chicken Wings

I have a wing recipe that I am going to post, needs chicken wings, not whole wings, but cut into sections, the drumette and the middle, the tip, just boil for your dog.

Thais will use a cleaver to cut wings (they will use a cleaver to chop up a whole chicken), not recommend as it can leave bone chips in the meat, and that is not fun when you are enjoying good wings!

Using a sharp knife, just a paring knife will do, hold the middle section with the tip section pointing down, use your finger and feel on the joint for a soft spot, start a cut at that soft spot and cut part way through (this separates the tendons holding the joint together), now turn the wing around so you are holding the middle section with the tip section pointing up, finish cutting through, no bone chips, easy. Now repeat this for the middle section. Hold the drumette in one hand with the middle section pointing down, start a cut, you are doing the same thing here, separating the tendons connecting the joint. Turn the wing around and hold the drumette with the middle section pointing up and continue the cut to separate the two. Done.

I am looking at the Tesco site right now, prices for whole wings: 91 Baht/kilo, middle sections: 126 Baht/kilo, drumettes: 70 Baht/kilo. Buy the whole wings, you get two pieces for you and a piece for dog food.

Fresh, Canned, and Frozen Vegetables

I had a great chat with a very good friend of mine in Phuket, we were discussing the nutritional values of fresh, canned, and frozen vegetables. His research showed minimal change, and I did some research today, same results, minimal change, and there is actually a very good reason for that. And canned does not necessarily mean processed, it means prepared.

For instance, if you take a bag of dry beans and cook them, add some tomato sauce and spice, you have baked beans, the same as a can, you prepared that, just like a cannery did. Major difference is the salt added. Canned corn is just cooked corn with salt added, nothing more.

For the difference between frozen and fresh. Frozen, the veggys have to be blanched which does reduce some of the vitamins, but this with quick freezing, that locks in the majority of the nutrients.

Fresh veggys on the other hand, normally are harvested before they are mature, and they mature on the way to the store or on the shelf, if the veggy is not mature, it also is missing some nutrients. Fair trade off.

Canned veggys are a good item to stock in case of emergencies such as loss of power for extended times, downed power lines, unrest preventing travel, frozen is good for a few days only unless you have a local ice supplier.