Cutting boards & Knives

Below are some things I have come across to make mine and your food preparations easier. I will be sharing lots of videos on this blog since I am a visual person.

Knife Skills

In my first weeks in Norway, Ole handed me a knife during dinner prep to find I had no proper clue how to use one. Of course I had cut some veggies before.. but only on occasion. We had a small, extremely sharp pairing knife at my parents house that I was terrified of since it always niched me. So Ole had some teaching and convincing to do. We had two chefs knives and a bread knife. Ole taught me to cut paprikas, onion, cucumber and set me free. Since then I have bought a few more knives for our collection, and am still in need of a sharpener.

Knives are an investment, they are something that if you do your homework and buy right should last for years. My grandmother used the same knives for years. This is a true case of ‘you get what you pay for’, but if you are only paying for it once or twice in your life – spend big! I just read a great article that said jokingly but in all seriousness, ‘the knife is the most used kitchen utensil besides the wine glass’. Read reviews, test them for feel in stores. I bought what I thought was a great knife on sale, it is an off brand and I did not do any research into it. It was in a box and I though I could not resist the offer. The way to hold it is with your pointer finger resting on the upper of the blade pulling away from the handle. Why this should not be a problem, the edges there are sharp enough to give me tiny cuts in my finger and make it painful. Lesson learned: save up to buy a quality knife.

This video below is a great overview of how to use knives properly and protect your fingers.

Cutting Boards

This is one area I would like to improve on, but we have what we need to survive – the designer in me comes out and I want matching sets and more then we need. We have a large wooden block cutting board that is used only for our bread. In Norway fresh baked bread is the normal, so every few days we buy a new loaf and slice off a piece when we want some. When it comes to meats and produce, we have 2 plastic boards – small & large – as well as a small Epicurean board. The Epicurean board is my favorite. I find that it slides around less and I feel I do not damage it.

I have been so upset recently when trying out my semi newly attained knife skills, because I feel that I am chasing the board all over the counter. I never had this trouble while learning, but I was also moving at a snails pace then, now I can finally chop semi-fast! I have been thinking that I needed to get a thinker heavier board, but that is not the case. Check out this video with Jamie Oliver below for a good tip!

Food Storage

When I moved to Norway, I was in total shock at how small the fridges were here! I could not understand how they managed to live. I now realize that fridges do come in American size here, but now I see it at pointless. We currently have a small dorm size fridge (pictured), it is hip tall and besides wanting more freezer space we are fine with it. I would prefer a deep freeze to pre make meals and freeze meats when I find them on offer. We shop everyday except Sunday’s, because the stores are closed (gasp!). We buy what we need for that days dinner and the next days breakfast, lunch and snacks. We are not very strict to this, if there is something on offer that we normally eat – we buy it!

I have learned since moving here not to have 50 different types of condiments and cook what we need to avoid days of leftovers. Unlike before when I lived in the States, I remember as a teen having the chore of cleaning out the fridge once a month – whew! we wasted so much food! Another thing that I am currently learning is that fruits and vegetables are to be kept in fresh air.. not in the frigid cold fruit / veggie drawers in the fridge. They did not have fridges 1,000’s of years ago and survived just fine. Now I do not plan to go back in time, I want to keep my milk, ice cream, beer and such of course. I have learned that if you store your potatoes in a dark place with apples on top of them that the apples ethylene gas will keep the potatoes fresh longer. Keep onions away from potatoes though, they make them go bad. I have learned that storing root vegetables, such as carrots, in sand so they can stand vertically (like they grow) will make them last longer – and you just add a small amount (2tbs) of water to the sand daily. Other fruits and vegetables stored over a water dish keeps them fresher longer. All these I have learned from Jihyun Ryou, she has dedicated much time to learn about this process of keeping produce alive and healthy. I have not yet built a sand box or a potato apple container… but I plan to in time! I have however stopped putting my veggies and fruits in the fridge.

Another thing that I have been noticing and hearing alot is to keep eggs on the counter, not the fridge. This I have been having trouble with for a few months now… but the next box of eggs I buy i’ll leave on the counter. I have seen this much from my Norwegian and British friends – but in America it is a no-no. I think more plays in here as well, In the States the food are bleached, cleaned and shipped across the huge country. Here my eggs occasionally come with feathers on them – which tells me they have not been cleaned like a hospital – and the shells are much thicker then in the States. I know the reason we are encouraged in the States to keep the in the fridge is to keep salmonella from developing – which sadly seems to be everywhere in the States. I would not personally keep my eggs on the counter in the States unless they were organic or free range or local farmer bought – but in Norway I will. I am on the hunt of a nice way to store them on my counter, I am not to ken on having a bright pink box out. Also, another thing I learned from Ryou is that eggs are very porous and should be allowed to breath.

These are my recent ‘ah-ha’ moments, ill share more as they come!

Recommended Documentary: Taste the Waste

Taste the Waste
Will start broadcasting in October 2010. Between plough and plate we waste almost as much food as we eat. Lettuce is thrown away every second, for example. Reducing waste would help combat climate change and hunger. This situation has to change, and change quickly.

Taste the Waste is a television documentary linked to an international campaign via the internet that will allow us to monitor events across the globe.

Welcome to Mint&Chilli

Mint&Chilli is where I, Fonda, am going to share about (1) relearning food. I grew up in America, where we are extremely disconnected from where our food comes from. I had a good foundation in my childhood of what was good wholesome food, then as a teen I ignored it. During the whole of my teens I was on crash diets and I am now paying the price for that. When I was 20 I moved to Norway, since then I have been introduced to more food varieties and a healthier lifestyle and outlook on food.

For me it is time to go back to my foundation of eating whole food from the earth – not processed foods from a box. Mint&Chilli is where I am going to (1) relearn all that I can about food – safely grown, sustainably packaged and cooked well, (2) educate myself on how to live sustainable – ie limited waste, consumption and consumerism and (3) hopefully along the way extend my longevity and help the environment.

Here is just a little more about me, so when I reference things they make more sense. When I was younger we lived in Arkansas- myself, daddy and Mema. Mema is my dad’s mom – I attribute most of my health food ‘hippie’ ways to her. Mema was always concerned about the chemicals in products, us eating a wholesome and well balanced meal and me being able to just be a happy kid. Mema made her own cleaning products or bought ones that were all natural – most of the chemicals in say cleaners for example irritated her asthma. So baking soda and vinegar to clean, vinegar as fabric softener, baking soda or all natural toothpaste (I was not allowed to use fluoride till I was a teen), crystal deodorants, no sugary breakfast cereals etcetera etcetera etcetera. I loved it, I never thought that we were weird or strange. When with Mema, we ate very healthy, we still had dessert – but it was wholesome. Mema passed away in 2007 and we miss her so much – My dad and myself often find ourselves saying no lets do this that way when it is with food or cleaning, it is how Mema would have done it.

We moved to Oklahoma when I was ten, soon after my dad remarried and my little sister was born. My dad, step mom and sister now live just outside Fort Collins (such a great and eco friendly city), they live in the Rocky mountains. My dad is working to become sustainable; solar panels, limited trash production, gardening, having some chickens (more animals to come), and building a log cabin to live in from local trees.

I moved to Stavanger Norway in the summer of 2008, to be with Ole. I was super excited to ‘come back to my roots’, you see Mema’s dad was 100% Norwegian. I had many culture shocks to come; we cooked every day, we shopped everyday but Sunday (stores are closed), and I walked or bussed everywhere during the day (we drove in the evenings if long distance). I suddenly could not rely on a chain restaurant for my dinner. I had to learn to cook more then the little I knew how, I knew the basics – but that gets boring after awhile. I had to learn to cut fresh vegetables – I had terrible knife skills. Not only have I greatly expanded my cooking skills, but I am eating so much healthier food then I was in the states. We eat fresh foods, not loaded with fat or preservatives. Overall, I am much healthier and happier! I am working toward my Goals, you can see them here.

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