Beyond the Meat and Potatoes…menu planning for your discriminating family

Food, menu planning, basic kitchen organization and household tips

Conventional or Convection…what’s your pleasure?

This is identical to my oven

With the holidays approaching, it is probably  almost guaranteed that you will use your oven a lot more.  Are you using it to its maximum potential.  As of recently, I have been using my convection part of my oven.  Prior to this I only owned a conventional oven. Using this new appliance has forced me to research the oven and all its offerings.  I thought I would pass some of this information.

Here is how the Convection Oven works:
A convection oven is actually quite scientific.  I don’t understand it all, but this article will give you the general idea.
A convection oven uses a fan which is usually located on the back side. The purpose of the fan is to force the heated air inside and circulate it around the item being cooked. The heated air is constantly pushed over and around the food, and therefore a convection oven cooks food much faster than a conventional one. Not only does a convection oven cook food more quickly than a conventional, but it can also thoroughly cook food at lower temperatures.
The average amount of time saved when cooking with a convection oven is about 20 percent of the food’s normal cooking time. If a recipe calls for you to cook an item for 60 minutes, I set the timer for about 45 minutes and begin checking it periodically. Also, if the temperature is 350 degrees, I generally set it for 325 degrees. Convection ovens are speedier and more efficient than conventional, and therefore may be more expensive.
Since the air circulation in a convention oven is the same throughout, food will cook at the same rate no matter where it is placed in the oven… on the top or bottom rack or near the front or back; hence, no “hot spots”.  This is particularly useful if you have multiple items to cook,   It will allow you to place multiple items on racks without interfering with the cooking process like in a regular oven.

a description of how the convection oven works

Conventional Oven
It is pretty safe to say that most people are pretty comfortable with a convection oven. Afterall, we have been cooking with them for years and they are pretty straight forward.
Conventional ovens are similar to convection ones in that they both cook food using heat. They both have the ability to use either gas or electricity, depending on the hook-up in a home. Some may have the versatility to use either gas or electricity simply depending on what is plugged in to them, and some are made to be either gas specific or electricity specific. As a side bar–my oven is gas.  I prefer a gas cooktop (which I have) with an electric oven.  The cooking is so much more even with electric in the oven.  However, I am slowly adjusting to this feature.
The most obvious difference between conventional and convection is the fact that in conventional, air is not forced throughout the oven on a constant basis with the aid of a fan, as it is in convection. In a conventional oven, the heat circulation in the oven can become blocked by pots and pans inside of the oven (hot spots). The blocking of the heat can cause uneven cooking. Uneven cooking is especially noticeable when both the bottom and top racks in the oven are being used at the same time. The items on top will cook faster because heat rises to the tops of conventional ovens and when there is a lot in the oven, the heat gets trapped there.
There are pros and cons to both conventional and convection ovens. Conventional ovens have been serving people for years and years and food has been cooked successfully in them for many decades.
Convection ovens have many followers and fans, but these types of ovens can be hard to get used to… especially for novice cooks.  Conventional ovens are viewed as more of a “sure thing.  Find what you like and use it, and learn to use it well.  In my very limited experience, I have found that baking is really good in “convection mode.”  If you are an experienced ; or even quasi experienced convection oven cooker, I welcome the comments, tips and suggestions. What’s cooking in your kitchen?

How green it is…..Ripening an Avocado Quickly!!!


I just purchased some avocados that I need to have ripened by Saturday.  They are not even close to being ripe.  It can take a good 5-7 days for an avocado to ripen.  I googled some information on ripening avocados so these gems can be ready for Saturday.
  • Place your unripe avocados into a brown paper bag. Add an unpeeled banana, or apple into the bag with them. Bananas and apples let off ethylene gas which help the avocados to ripen faster.
  • Fold or crumple the brown paper bag so it is completely shut. Place it on a flat surface in an area with a temperature range of 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Leave the avocado undisturbed for two days. Open up the brown bag after two days and gently squeeze the avocado–if it feels hard or stiff to the touch, add it back into the bag for another day or two. Avoid adding another banana or you risk exposing the avocados to too much ethylene gas, resulting in over-ripening.

  • Transfer the avocados into your refrigerator once they are ripe and discard the banana and the brown bag. Consume the avocados within three days of refrigerating them for the best texture and flavor.

    Do not put an unripened avocado in the fridge.  This will just slow down the “ripening” process.  


Avocados are not a vegetable, but a fruit and part of the berry family
They are also a good meat substitute in either a vegan or vegetarian diet.   
An avocado is always picked on the tree before it is ripe.  It will not ripen on the vine.  
1/5 of an avocado contains 4.5 grams of fat and roughly 50 calories, but they are packed with a bunch of great things.
For more information on preparing avocados and nutritional information, check out this site:


1 Potato 2 Potato. All “eyes” are on the carbs.

I am making a disclaimer on this blog: I am not a nutritionsit. I got my information from various nutritional web sites. The information I wrote appears to be factual based on my research. It is a broad example and not a comprehensive nutritional guide.
POTATOES– They get such a bad rap; but for the wrong reasons. We say potatoes and everyone thinks CARBS. Let’s discuss….
Potatoes are a great vegetable because they are nutritious, easy to prepare, and very versatile. Potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates. This supplies energy to fuel your body. The potatoes are low in calories, fat and protein; yet high in vitamin and minerals.

Take a medium plain baked potato (about three inches in diameter) it has about 130 calories. That same potato has about five grams of fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive tract. So don’t worry about the calories and carbs for a potato. They are super healthy. It is the toppings that can add a crazy amount of extra calories.

Baked potatoes contain more potassium than any other fresh vegetable in the produce department – even more than bananas. One potato has almost 800 milligrams, which is about 20 percent of what you need every day. A banana has 450 milligrams. Potassium is an electrolyte that helps to balance the fluids in your body, which is important for healthy blood pressure.

Baked potatoes also contain substantial amounts of vitamins C and B6; both are vital for blood clotting, wound healing, creating a strong immune system, normal nervous system function and for converting the food you eat to energy.

Now let’s talk the “C” word…no, no, not that one, but CARBOHYDRATES. A Medium baked potato with skin has 21 grams of carbs. A medium apple has 19 carbs. Almost the same, yet no one talks about how “bad” an apple is for you. Both are quite satisfying, but a baked potato is way more filling.

Now that you know the basics of a potato, there is no reason not to have one.

The list of potatoes goes on and on. Todays potatoes come in such a huge variety. You can buy Idahos, Yukon Gold (great for mashing due to the thin skin), purple potatoes, fingerling, and let us not forget sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes have almost the same nutritional value as a regular potato. In fact, they have less calories. However, they are not that much better for you than people think. Either one is fine.

Let’s compare a white potato to a sweet potato. Were talking medium sized-plain


White Potato: 128 calories

Sweet potato: 108

Fat: 0.2 g white potato; 0.2 g sweet potato


White Potato: 3 grams

Sweet Potato: 4 grams

Soluble Fiber: 1 g white potato; 2 g sweet potato

Soluble Fiber is estimated to lower LDL cholesterol 1% for every 1-2 grams consumed daily.

Glycemic Index: 85 (high) white potato; 54 (low) sweet potato

The glycemic index is simply a measure of how quickly a food (particularly carbohydrates) raises blood sugar levels.

Potassium: 738.3 mg white potato; 541.5 mg sweet potato

Vitamin C: 13.25 mg white potato; 22.34 mg sweet potato

Vitamin B6: 0.43 mg white potato; 0.33 mg sweet potato

Lutein + zeaxathin: 41.4 mcg white potato; 0 mcg sweet potato

This nutrient is linked to eye health

Bottom line; potato, pa-ta-to. It makes no diference. They are both about the same. Choose whatever it is you fancy for that day. Just be careful to watch the toppings and keep it healthy.

True to form, I need to leave you with a cooking tip.

There are many ways to cook a white potato. Here’s how I make mine. This is the BEST way in my opinion.

First off, you will never find me microwaving a baked potato. I think that is just about the worst way. They become shrivelled and dry. The oven is the only way I go. The downside is it takes an hour for a really good quality tasting potato.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, wash and scrub your potato. You can do them in a convection oven as well. Set the oven to 425 degrees.

Don’t forget to pick them. You don’t need a lot of picks, just about 3 with a knife tip is sufficient. Failure to do this will result in an exploding Potato.

I put the potatoes right on the middle oven rack. Please; don’t put the dreaded foil on. there is no purpose, and you won”t have the right results.

Let them cook for an hour. The outside will be so nice and crispy; like you deep fried them. How do you cook yours?

An “egg-cellent” topic: How to cook an egg:

Here is an article I found on how to scramble eggs.  Personally I do not eat eggs, but I know a lot of people do.  If you are going to scramble an egg.  Be a “good egg” and do it right.

I realize that when I make them for my kids, I am doing it wrong.  I guess my brain is “scrambled.”

The article is courtesy of Bon Appetit & Yahoo

They’re an everyday breakfast staple, but scrambled eggs are no piece of (pan)cake. What’s supposed to be a creamy, delicate breakfast often turns out spongy, grainy, browned, and overcooked. It’s okay; most people don’t know how to properly scramble an egg. And it’s no wonder–there are so many variables. Do you use high heat or low heat? Add cream, water, or neither? What kind of pan is best? To get some clarification, we asked the staff of the BA Test Kitchen how to correct some of the most common mistakes home cooks make. Their advice, below.

1. “Don’t be wimpy with your eggs. Whisk well and be vigorous about it–you want to add air and volume for fluffy eggs. And whisk the eggs right before adding to pan; don’t whisk and let mixture sit (it deflates).” —Kay Chun, Deputy Food Editor

2. “Don’t add milk, cream, or water to the eggs. People think it will keep the eggs creamy while cooking, but in fact, the eggs and added liquid will separate during the cooking process creating wet, overcooked eggs. Stir in some creme fraiche after the eggs are off the heat if you want them creamy.” —Mary-Frances Heck, Associate Food Editor

3. “Don’t use high heat. It’s all about patience to achieve the soft curd. Whether you want small curd (stirring often) or large curd (stirring less), you need to scramble eggs over medium-low heat, pulling the pan off the heat if it gets too hot, until they set to desired doneness.” —Hunter Lewis, Food Editor

4. “Don’t overcook them! Take them off the heat a little while before you think they are done. The carryover heat will keep cooking them for a minute or so. Also: Use a cast-iron or a nonstick skillet. If you don’t, there will be a rotten clean-up job in your future.” —Janet McCracken, Deputy Food Editor

And last but not least, ditch that fork! Scramble your eggs with a heat-proof spatula, a flat-topped wooden spoon, or for the perfect curd, chopsticks.

Have you been cooking them right?  What is your best egg tip?

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