Sharpen Your Mind, Sharpen Your Knives – My Calphalon Set

There’s always so much emphasis around making sure you have sharp knives. Otherwise, you tend to put more force behind your cuts and are more likely to cut yourself. I’ve purchased knife sets in the past, but that was really before I had grown interested in cooking. My primary goal at the time was to just get a good deal. And similar to the pots and pans that Jake and I had when we moved in together, we also had a mixed bag of cutlery. As we began to cook more, we decided one Christmas not to buy each other gifts, but instead to buy a joint gift for ourselves. That gift was the 20-piece Self Sharpening Calphalon Cutlery Set. We bought it online at Macy’s. We may have waited until there was some sort of holiday deal or used a coupon. (Here’s the link to the set we bought.)

TL; DR – This is a nice knife set and I would recommend it. There are a couple of flaws, just like any knife set has. If you’re interested in learning more, read on…

This set has been really good so far. The assortment of knives and other cutlery has been great. Here’s the list of what’s included in the set, taken directly from the link above.

  • 4.5″ paring knife
  • 5″ boning knife
  • 5″ santoku knife
  • 5.5″ tomato knife
  • 6″ fork
  • 6″ utility knife
  • 7″ santoku knife
  • 8″ bread knife
  • 8″ chef’s knife
  • 8″ slicing knife
  • 8 steak knives
  • Knife block with built-in ceramic sharpeners
  • Kitchen shears

Pros

I find that for most day-to-day use, I use the 5″ santoku knife (top knife in photo below). It is the perfect size for cutting most produce. The 7″ santoku knife is great for cutting larger items; I’ve used it to cut acorn squash, spaghetti squash, watermelon, etc. (second knife in photo below). This may sound silly, but I really like using the 6″ fork when we have guests over and we are serving sliced meat. It makes me feel fancy (third piece in the photo below). Lately with all the fresh garden tomatoes that have been given to us this summer, I have used the tomato/bagel knife quite a bit, as well. It is a small serrated knife (fourth knife in the photo below.) We also use the steak knives quite often.

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From top left to bottom right: 5″ santoku, 7″ santoku, 6″ fork, 5.5″ tomato knife

I use the other knives on an as needed basis or if the knives I normally use are dirty and I’m feeling too lazy to clean them. The only thing that I feel is missing in the set is a filet knife. I’ve substituted with the 5″ boning knife in some of the cases I felt I needed a filet knife.

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5″ boning knife

The knives feel really well-made and haven’t really tarnished in the couple of years we’ve had them. Some of my old sets get a little rust over time. Nobody wants that served with their meal.

Cons

Frequency of Use

As I mentioned up above, there’s no “perfect” knife set in my opinion. They’re all going to have a flaw, mostly because people have different needs and uses, so it’s hard to get it exactly right for everyone. Here are the couple of things I’ve noticed with my set:

The flaw with the self-sharpening, for me personally, is that the knives we use frequently hardly ever make it back to the block before we need it again. For example, I use the santoku, wash it, put it on the drying rack. Then, the next night, I need to use it again. On the flip side, the knives that we don’t use often don’t get taken out of the block often, so they rarely see the benefit of the sharpening.

I suppose that sharpening every once in a while is better than never doing it. It also takes away some hassle of pulling out a sharpening block if it is something that you do normally. Lastly, if you’re a victim to the “frequency of use” challenge I described above and really need to sharpen your knife, just move it back and forth a few times in the block.

Knife Block

The other flaw in the knife block design is that the serrated knives don’t have the metal shield around the opening. That means if you miss the slot, you ding the wooden block. Below you’ll see a photo of the entire set – you can see the metal plate at the top for the non-serrated knives. This works great. 20180916_133136

Metal plate for the non-serrated knives

On the other hand, below, you can see the hole where the scissors usually go and the steak knives above it.

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Scratches on the wooden block where there is no metal plate

Overall, I really like this knife set. It’s sturdy and it helps me feel like I’m “adulting”. I don’t regret paying a few hundred dollars for it because we’ll likely have it for a long time. Plus, I’m not sure there’s really that much better out there in an affordable price range.

Hope this helps anyone looking for a new knife set!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

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Cooking with Copper

I apologize in advance because the introduction to this post is a little lengthier than my others, but I wanted to walk you through how we got introduced to copper. When Jake and I first met, we were both living in apartments. We had each accumulated pots and pans over time – some of which we inherited from our parents as young college-grads living on our own for the first time. The rest we bought piece-meal over the years as we needed it. When we finally decided to move in together, we were forced to look at our hodge podge inventory of cookware. Certainly not all of it would fit in the kitchen. Plus, we had so many of the same pieces and much of it had been stretched as far as it could go. At the time, we just consolidated and moved on.

Warning: The following is going to seem like I’m getting paid by Gotham Steel to advertise their products, but I am not. I simply use and love their cookware!

For Christmas 2016, Jake’s Grammy Lois (aka: G. Lo) had gifted us several presents, including a large copper baking pan. It had one of those “As Seen on TV” stickers. We graciously accepted her gift and put it away. We decided to give it a whirl a few days later. And from then on, we were hooked. Soon, my birthday in 2017 came around and my brother asked me what I wanted. At the time, I was debating between a new slow cooker and a 2-pack of copper baking sheets. Happily, I received the copper baking sheets.

Gotham Steel Nonstick Copper Cookie Sheet and Jelly Roll Baking Pan 12″ x 17″ – 2 PACK

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Gotham Steel Baking Sheet Set (photo from Amazon)

Fast forward to Thanksgiving. We don’t typically do any Black Friday shopping, but as I perused Amazon that day, we came across a 15-piece Gotham Steel copper cookware set. Ding, ding, ding! We knew that we liked that brand since the few copper cookware items we had were of that same brand. The set was originally almost $160. That day, we snatched it for $109.

Gotham Steel 1752 Ultimate 15 Piece All in One Chef’s Kitchen Set with Non-Stick Ti-Cerama Copper Coating – Includes Skillets Stock Pots, Deep Fry Basket and Shallow Square Pan

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Gotham Steel 15-piece Cookware Set (photo from Amazon)

The Pros

  • This really is non-stick, making it easy to cook and clean
  • The pots and pans (and obviously the baking sheets) can go directly in the oven, up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The sizes and options are perfect for all types of cooking needs

The Cons

From my perspective, this very short list of negatives are non-issues. 🙂 However, they may be important to some, so here we go:

  • There is the slightest raise in the middle of the pans. This wouldn’t be noticeable, except when Jake tries to make omelettes. He gets frustrated that he can’t cook the egg as a single layer (in preparation for piling on the filling and folding in half). He usually reverts back to one of his old pans. Below is a photo of one of my copper pans straight on. You can see that there is a slightly different color in a circular shape right inside the pan. This is because the lights are reflecting off it differently due to the uneven surface.

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  • This next con probably applies to many types of cookware. I was afraid that the copper would get more easily scratched than other types of pots or pans, so I ended up getting a silicone utensil set. It was inexpensive, but was still an unplanned, added cost. (Secret pro: I had an excuse to get the cutest colorful utensil set and holder.)

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I rarely ever use anything other than copper when cooking these days. Here is an example of a shepherd’s pie (using vegetarian beef) that I cooked in the skillet. I made the mashed yellow/sweet potato separately. Once that was done, I used the pan to cook up the “meat” and vegetables. I then simply layered the mashed potatoes on top and stuck the whole thing right into the oven. I know you can do this with other types of cookware, but this really did work well and there was no stuck on food at the end.

Here’s one more dish using the baking sheets. I love that they are a generous size that I can do one-sheet meals very easily without worrying about the post-dinner cleanup.

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Additionally, we’ve used the fryer basket to make fried chicken for a couple of chicken dishes. We’ve also used the steamer basket to make steamed vegetables. I can’t wait to try it for Chinese pork buns (bao)! I had also mentioned in my Air Fryer post that the air fryer basket is copper and that I use it for almost every meal now. Enough said!


Please let me know through a comment what your favorite cookware consists of!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

My Air Fryer: Convection Perfection

As Seen On TV –

A few months ago, I decided to purchase an air fryer. Up until then, it was only one of those “as seen on TV” gags. I was sure no one had any use for it in real life. However, my husband, Jake, and I really wanted to start eating healthier. We tried all sorts of things. We counted calories, did intermittent fasting, cut down on meat, etc.

The air fryer was another one of those “things” on the list. It started to look appealing because advertisements showed fried foods that didn’t require the typical unhealthy amounts of oil and fat. As it crossed my mind with increased frequency, I started to notice the weekly Bed Bath & Beyond coupons I usually ignore in my e-mail. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link and searched for air fryers. I found one that had a decent number of positive reviews. Plus, I could use the extra 20% off coupon. I decided to go for it. I didn’t know if it was something I was going to like or use a lot, so I didn’t want to invest a lot of money. I ended up paying $76.49 for the Gourmia® Fryista 5-Quart Air Fryer in Black/Stainless Steel from Bed Bath & Beyond. I think this model may be a bit older and not sold anymore.

A breakdown of my costs:

Air Fryer……..$71.99 (after 20% coupon)
Shipping………..Free
Sales Tax………$4.50
TOTAL………..$76.49

 

 


What To Cook?

This is the best purchase I have made in a long time. I use my air fryer as often as possible (sometimes every night of the week). Now I wish that I had bought a nicer one with a digital display! I seldom use it to actually fry foods. I use it more so as an easy way to bake, sautée, and pan fry. Here are just a few of the foods we have cooked so far in our air fryer. The photos below include chicken wings, mini frittata cups, bacon, french fries, coconut shrimp, fried rice, tofu, and sweet peppers.

(By the way, bacon coming out of the air fryer tastes so much better than when it sits in its own grease on the stove. It is also much easier than trying to balance a baking sheet full of grease while taking it out of the oven.)

 

 

We’ve also tried jalapeño poppers, steak, bacon mac and cheese balls, and bacon wrapped scallops. Some other foods that I cook in the air fryer regularly are fish, kale, green beans, mushrooms, onions, and chicken. In fact, below is a simple weeknight dish I made. It has sweet peppers and onions cooked in the air fryer, as well as haddock with blackening seasoning cooked in the air fryer.

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Next on the list will be to try cookies, cakes, and breads!


Regrets Are For People Without an Air Fryer

Following Recipes

You’ll find a lot of air fryer recipes out there, but my advice is not to follow those. The air fryer is easy to set in terms of time and temperature, but I often just pull the basket out, shake the food around, and use my own judgment on if it’s done or not. I also find that I can cook most foods on the highest temperature (400°F). I convinced my parents to purchase an air fryer and they’ve had trouble getting foods to turn out right because they’re too reliant on following recipes to a T.

Less Dishes, More Relaxation

Overall, I end up needing to wash less dishes – YES!! Here’s how:

  • The grated basket comes right out of the base part and can double as a colander.
  • The air fryer is not always completely an oil-free endeavor, but most of the time I can get away with spray oil on the food when it’s already in the basket. This means no separate mixing bowl or utensils to cover the food with oil.
  • I’ll generally use the air fryer to cook multiple parts of a meal on a given night, so I don’t end up with multiple dirty pots and pans.

For The Love of Copper

We are a huge fan of copper. We have copper pots, pans, and baking sheets. Needless to say, the copper in our air fryer works well for us and is easy to clean.

If in another few months we continue to use the air fryer frequently, perhaps we’ll consider an upgrade and/or purchasing some accessories. I would love to get pan inserts or racks for double-layer cooking.


Hopefully this got you thinking about air fryers. Good luck with any purchases you make!

Sincerely,
Fu’d