Benefits Of Using A Toaster Oven In Your Kitchen

If you have a kitchen cabinet full of small appliances that you never use, then considering buying another one may not seem all that appealing. However, if you do not yet own a toaster oven then it may be worth a second look. Many of the modern appliances also tend to have overlapping functions. Take, for instance, a conventional wall oven, a microwave oven and a toaster oven. Only an evaluation of their merits can help pick the most helpful appliance. Here are a few advantages of using a toaster oven that make it such an essential kitchen appliance. No matter what zip code you happen to be in, you can take full advantage of everything that using a toaster oven has to offer.

Some Advantages of Using A Countertop Oven

The name “toaster oven” may be a little misleading, as most of today’s models currently available can do a lot more than just toast bread. You can make pizza, cook a whole chicken, broil fish or steak, bake cookies, and a whole lot more. The top convection countertop ovens of 2017 offer exceptional convenience without sacrificing cooking performance. Most owners find that they use their full sized oven a lot less as a toaster oven is able to do exactly what they need. Below are some more of the benefits of using one of these small appliances in your home.

Convenient Size

Space is always an important factor when purchasing new kitchen appliances, especially in cramped quarters. A toaster oven is small and light and can usually fit nicely on most countertops and has a tremendous advantage over conventional ovens and microwave ovens. A larger toaster oven can adequately replace a conventional oven without taking all that space.

Convection Cooking and Baking

A number of today’s modern toaster ovens come with a convection cooking feature. This uses a fan to circulate the hot air around the inside of the oven for even cooking. Because of this function, food is done faster and thoroughly on both sides. They beat microwave ovens that often make food hard and chewy. Although full sized convection ovens have a similar ability, a convection toaster oven will end up requiring less energy.

Energy Efficient

A toaster oven will save you money on electricity bills. It uses about 1200-1800 Watts which is about half of what a conventional oven consumes. Why cook a small meal inside of a big oven and waste all of that energy. Counterop ovens also have the added advantage of pre-heating a lot faster.

Versatility

You can use a toaster oven for different options. Most toasters have a wide temperature range. Some have robust cooking abilities that can handle a wide range of dishes. They may have touch screens and rotisserie hooks. Other levels may come with an additional heating element on top allowing you to cook and warm simultaneously. A quality oven should easily be able to handle your warming, defrosting, boiling, toasting, broiling or baking needs.

Browning Capabilities

Toasters are also better at browning food. Their broiler component ensures an even browning of your food. Microwave ovens do not have broilers and, therefore, cannot be used to brown food. A good countertop oven can also brown food faster than a conventional oven making the former a better purchase.

Save Money and Time

A toaster oven costs less than a traditional oven. Apart from the purchase price, you can also save money on electricity bills. A toaster oven being a small appliance does not overheat your kitchen. Minimal heat energy is lost, and, therefore, your kitchen stays cooler.

Easy To Use and Clean

It’s relatively easy to use a toaster oven, although kids should always be supervised while trying to operate one. No stick interiors and stainless steel construction also make wiping up spills and messes more of a breeze.

A toaster oven is a multi-functional kitchen appliance. It does not cost as much as a conventional oven but can in many ways outdo it. It does not give you soggy, chewy and hard food like the microwave oven. A toaster oven can therefore comfortably replace the microwave and the wall oven. If you have never considered getting one of these for your kitchens then you do not know what you are missing. Add convenience, use less energy, and spend less money on perfectly cooked meals for you and your family. Today’s toaster ovens have a lot of the capabilities of a full sized range but without the higher prices.

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen making sure that your family eats right, do yourself a favor take a closer look at what one of these small appliances can offer you.

Lemon Bars That Hit The Spot Any Time Of Year

The other day it hit me as I stepped outside just how close winter is. The weather was scraping the bottom of the 50s and I knew that windy frigid days were just around the corner. The doom and gloom of short winter days made me wish for something that reminds me of summer to keep me warm. That is when it hit me. I need to make something that really leaves me with a feeling of a warm Charleston summer day. There is nothing like good food to transform your mood.

So when I wrote out my grocery list that day, it was full of fresh, summertime food that would be at home on our little charcoal grill. Asparagus, meat for burgers and chicken for grilling were at the top of the list. For dessert, I wanted something equally refreshing to ring in the new season. I decided on the sour-sweet, sunny flavors of lemon bars, and then wanted to add blueberries, which I thought would add a nice tart burst of flavor. So, I had planned to do a nice grill-out for our Sunday evening dinner, and follow it with the lemon bars for dessert.

I love lemon bars – they’re so easy to make, and they have a nice, clean flavor that gives you the sweetness of dessert without the overwhelming flavor of heavier treats with chocolate, caramels or creams (not that I don’t like them!)

I accidentally left my lemon bars in the oven about 2 minutes too long. At first I was worried when I saw them, but the top layer actually got this really delicious meringue like taste (the part that is toasted and a little crusty), and below was the traditional creamy lemony goodness, with the addition of sunny, fresh blueberries.

I definitely recommend trying them – they’re delicious – even in the dead of winter.

Ingredients

  • 1 c. butter @ room temperature
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • 3 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp. rosewater
  • 1 c. blueberries

Directions:

  • preheat oven or toaster oven to 325
  • combine butter, 2 c. flour, salt and powdered sugar in a stand mixer
  • press dough into greased 13x9x2 pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown
  • while crust is baking, beat eggs in a large bowl, and add all other ingredients except blueberries
  • stir until thoroughly combined, then gently fold in blueberries
  • remove crust from oven, and pour lemon mixture on top of crust
  • return to oven and back for another 25-30 minutes, until mixture is “set” (2 minutes or so more if that meringue topping appeals to you)
  • cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar
  • eat!

While they won’t do anything to take the chill out of the air, having something that reminds me of warmer days helps to remind me that this weather is only temporary. That is the great thing about food. Whether it is a smell or a taste, it can take you to a different time or place and bring back wonderful memories and feelings that make today seem not so bad. For me, lemon bars are what do the trick, hopefully they can help you too.

Treat Yourself With Some Greek Desserts

greekdessertsThe ancient Greeks left behind a rich culinary legacy of varied foods that the world has loved for many years. From the delicate and fragile to crunchy and chew, Greece is known for its delicious easy to make desserts.  If you can’t travel to Greece then the next best thing is to bring it to yourself.  Recipes are a fantastic way to travel the world without leaving the comfort of your own kitchen.  So why not treat yourself to some of the finer delicacies that the world has to offer. Here are some traditional Greek desserts that you can prepare for your family.

Baklava

When you talk about a Greek dessert, this is the dish many people tend to think about. This food is not only good for people who love Greek food, but also people who prefer nuts in their desserts.

Ingredients

1/2 lb almonds, 1 lb coarsely ground walnuts, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 2 cups of water, 10 whole cloves, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, lemon juice, 1/2 lb unsalted butter (melted), 1 lb phyllo pastry sheets.

Preparation

Mix the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and almonds in a bowl. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Carefully remove he phyllo roll from the plastic sleeve. Many packages come in 12 *18 inch sheets when fully opened. Use a pair of scissors to cut the sheets in half. To prevent drying, cover one stack with wax paper and damp paper towel while working with the other.

Use a pastry brush to brush the bottom and sides of your rectangular pan. Start by layering 6 sheets of phyllo making sure you brush each with the melted butter.

Add half of the nut mixture in an even layer. Flatten the mixture using a spatula. Continue layering another 6 sheets of pyhllo and then add the remaining mixture in an even layer. Top with remaining phyllo sheets.

Before you start baking, score the top layer of your phyllo to enable easier cutting of pieces later. Place the pan in the freezer to harden the top layers and then use a serrate knife.

Bake in a 325 degrees oven for 45 minutes. While the Baklava is baking, prepare your syrup.

Prepare the syrup by mixing water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Add some cloves and then simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove the heat and discard the cloves. Stir in the lemon juice and allow the syrup to cool.

Ladle the syrup into the pan when the baklava is ready.

Risagalo

Greek rice pudding is thick, creamy and very delicious. The Greeks call this ‘glace’ and it resembles Arborio rice. You can try this recipe with either long or short grain rice, depending on what you prefer.

Ingredients

2 tablespoon butter, ¼ pinch of salt, 1 quart milk, 3 inch strip of lemon rind, 1/3 cup of rice, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and ground cinnamon for serving.

Preparation

Start by melting the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add milk and salt and then let it boil.

Add rice and lemon rind and let it boil for about 25 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of your pot. When the rice is cooked, remove the lemon rind and stir in the sugar.

Add the warm milk mixture to the beaten eggs to temper them and prevent them from curdling.

Reduce the heat and add the eggs-milk mixture into the pot. Stir well and continue to cook until the mixture thickens. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let it cool.

Dust with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Enjoy your dessert at room temperature or chilled.

Halva

This dessert has Arabic origins but has been adopted by the Greeks and is widely served during the fasting periods. This is because the dessert has no eggs or dairy products.

Ingredients

2 cups of coarse semolina, ¼ cup olive oil, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup pine nuts, four 1/2 cups of water, ¼ cups raisins, two 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup honey, three 4 whole cloves, 2-inch piece of orange peel, 3 small pieces of cinnamon stick and ground cinnamon for dusting.

Preparation

Add water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, honey, orange peel and cloves to a medium saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes and then lower the heat. Simmer gently and then remove the clove, cinnamon and orange peel.

In another bigger saucepan, over medium heat, add oil and heat until shimmering. Add coarse semolina and continue cooking. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Cook until the grains start to toast and turn a deep golden color.

Remove the pot from the heat and add hot syrup to the semolina mixture. Stir in the raisins, walnuts and pine nuts. Continue to cook until the semolina absorbs all the liquid. Cover the pot and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into a pudding mold. Allow your pudding to cool to room temperature before serving. To serve, sprinkle with some chopped nuts and cinnamon.

Let’s Cook Greek

greek-recipesGreek food can be both extremely tasty as well as a healthy alternative to daily fast food diets. Mirroring its rich architecture and history, Greek cuisine is nothing short of iconic. Experiencing different cultures through food is a great way to expand your horizons and give the family something different. Below are some recipes that you can try to help spice things up a bit.

If you are in the mood to cook Mediterranean food or experience the Greek way of life through their cuisine, you can try this classic appetizer Moussaka, one of the most widely recognized Greek dishes. It can be served as both an appetizer or as part of the main course.

Ingredients you will need:

4 lbs. eggplants
1 lb. potato
2 large onions (finely chopped)
1 and 1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 cup tomato (pureed)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups breadcrumbs
8 egg white (lightly beaten)
1 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)

Ingredients for the Bechamel Sauce

1 cup butter (salted)
1 cup flour
4 cups milk (warm)
8 egg-yolk (lightly beaten)
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Directions

Start off by peeling the eggplants partially (leaving stripes of 1 inch wide peels around the eggplant). Slice the eggplants into 1/2 inch slices. Then salt the eggplants generously to get rid of the bitterness. Put it in a colander to remove excess water and cover it properly. It’s best to leave it for an hour but if you are in a hurry, you can let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the eggplants are in the colander, peel the potatoes and bring them to a boil. When the potatoes are slightly done remove from heat, drain the water and slice into 1/4 inches.

Add a splash of water to the egg-whites and lightly beat them. Next, rinse the eggplants and dry with a paper towel. Dip them in the egg mixture and coat all the eggplants with breadcrumbs.

Spread the eggplants on two lightly greased baking sheets lined with aluminum foil. Put them inside a preheated oven and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn each of the eggplants and bake for another 15 minutes.

In a large pan, fry the ground beef until the pink flesh turns brown. Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent and fragrant (It will take you about 5 to 6 minutes). Next add wine and the rest of the spices (parsley, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, tomato puree and sugar). Let it simmer for 15 minutes. When it turns dry and chunky add salt and pepper and remove from heat.

For the Bechamel Sauce melt butter at low heat. Add flour to the butter while whisking continuously until it turns into a smooth paste. Add warm milk to the mixture. Simmer over low heat until it thickens. Lastly, add a pinch of nutmeg and stir in the egg yolk . Return the mixture to heat and stir it until it thickens to a creamy consistency.

To assemble the Moussaka, sprinkle breadcrumbs on a lightly greased lasagna pan. Place a layer of the sliced potato on it. Then layer it with the eggplants. Add meat sauce and shredded cheese on top of it. Repeat the previous steps with another layer of eggplants. Lastly, pour the Bechamel sauce over it. Top it off with shredded Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Greek Cream Cheese-Stuffed Chicken

It’s an easy dish that is commonly served as the main course. It’s made with common kitchen ingredients and it’s a great way to add a foreign flavor to your regular chicken dish. It is loved by many for its creamy texture and nostalgic Greek flavors.

Ingredients

6 chicken breasts (boneless and skinless)
8 ounce whipped cream cheese
3/4 cup crumpled feta cheese
1 tomato (diced)
6 ounce black olives (chopped)
1/4 onion (chopped)
1/4 cup spinach (chopped)

In a bowl mix tomato, olives, feta cheese, cream cheese, onion and spinach to make a cream mixture. Cut each chicken breast from one side in the middle and spread it open. Take a spoonful of the cream mixture and spread it on one side of the chicken breast. Fold each of the chicken breasts and secure them nicely.

Preheat an outdoor grill on medium high heat and lightly grease the gates. Place the secured chicken breasts on an aluminum foil. Cook them on the grill for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat when the center is no longer pink, or when the juices are running clear. If you use an instant read thermometer then check the temperature of the meat in the center, it should give a reading of 165 degrees. Serve fresh with a glass of wine.

Video Recipe

Here is an additional recipe that you can try. This video demonstrates how you can prepare tradition Greek stuffed tomatoes in your kitchen.