Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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A Green Knife Wins Me Over

August 31st, 2009 · 1 Comment

Here is the ugly truth: I really hate home parties. I’m a reluctant shower attendant, and cringe openly when I’m invited to those many sales parties. I attend, if at all, out of true friendship for the person hosting them.

I usually always call first and find out how many people have said yes — if enough without me, I bow out. I’d rather rotate my tires, so help me.

pamperedchef-logoFor several years now, various friends and acquainances have been trying to get me to a Pampered Chef party – and I’ve even babysat unruly brats to get out of it. It seems a natural for me, cookware and kitchen stuff to buy, so I’m tapped every couple of months or so for one of these.

But to say I’m overstocked is putting it mildly — I could open my own cookware/bakeware/serveware shop out of my kitchen alone – nevermind my garage. (I’m the one with 46 sets of dishes, remember?)

Plus, I’m all about quality, and usefulness — I’m over the impulse stuff pretty much. I still buy interesting but useful vintage stuff, but new cookware or serveware has to earn its place in my kitchen.

Resistance to the point


Paring knife

But last month, a friend asked me to a PC party, and I couldn’t come up with an excuse why not. Plus, I really like the one thing I already own from them — a paring knife that’s as sharp as it was several years ago when I first got it as a gift.

 I hadn’t planned to like it, but it became a mainstay for doing everything you could with a sharp object, mostly at work where I eventually kept it in my top drawer. I peeled and sliced apples and pineapples, cut hard cheeses, spread jam on delicate crackers and used it as a box opener. Still sharp.

Most famously, I used it at the Lake Worth Oceanside Farmers’ Market where I made the popular Tropical fruit salsa as a demo dish. It cut through, peeled and chopped every ingredient in it to make a couple of gallons of the stuff. (Here’s the recipe for the salsa if you missed it.)

Another knife and a stone pan

So last month, I went to Annette Jones’ party out in YeGod City — a house halfway to Naples on the western edge of Royal Palm Beach. By the time I got there from my house on the Intracoastal, I was starved and thirsty. Good thing they had plenty of good food, all made, of course, with the tools and cookware from Pampered Chef. Mimosas didn’t hurt.

The representative, Cindy Wilson, had been with P.Chef for several years and done hundreds of these parties. She was savvy to the group that wanted to cut to the chase. She demo’ed a few items and explained alternative uses for them — a big plus where most of us are concerned. Haven’t we got enough silly gadgets that do only one thing? I rail against those and want something that I’ll use – preferably for many tasks. A spoon better double as a garden spade if nothing else — or it’s outta here.

Stoneware baking pan

Stoneware baking pan

After eating a roll-up egg casserole and seeing it bake so evenly on a stone pan, then thinking of all the pizzas, flatbreads and other things I can make on it, I ordered the rectangle stoneware baking pan ($26.50). I like the shape — I can make a round pizza on it, but also square flatbreads, and use it for several other dishes. I can roast veggies to a crisp, thin eggplant slices for my eggplant-green tomato lasagne, and a dozen other things. The stone’s even cooking surface, plus the fact that it will be seasoned in no time and become non-stick, is another bonus for me.

Another great knife

Santoku knife

Santoku knife

Then, in the catalog, I found another knife — a Santoku knife ($17.50, and a Japanese design) that matches my green paring knife. I was in heaven – this is exactly the right size for many of my kitchen tasks — a 6-inch blade and perfect heft makes it very comfortable in my hand. Small indentations in the blade keeps food from sticking — moist carrots and potatoes, notorious for clinging to a chef’s big blade, slide off at every cut.

It makes thin, beautiful slices of raw beef for carpaccio and cuts through chicken leg joints and down the backbone — to save me money in buying an already trimmed bird. (I’ve never understood why people buy chicken pieces for twice the price of a whole chicken. )

I have a dozen or so other chef’s knives, parers and utility knives – all have good uses. But this is one I have already used a dozen times for cubing beef, chopping, peeling, slicing and dicing.

Still a hand-chopper

Maybe I’m just a cook at heart: I still do most of the cutting and chopping by hand – because I’m very fast at it, and it’s easier than getting out the chopper and having to clean it. Theraputic, too –all the frustrations of the day are gone after one onion or pepper.

The other neat thing about this knife: I use flexible silicone cutting mats for chopping, so I can replace them often when they get too cut up. After they’re used a while (both sides) I put them down as pet bowl placemats, and get new ones, since they’re relatively cheap.

When I’ve cut my veggies or meats on this mat, I can pick up the mat and curl it slightly, then use the back of the Santoku  knife to swipe the foods directly into my cooking pans or a bowl. This knife is curved and fits my mat perfectly — a one-swipe motion is all it takes. (Efficient – and I’m all about that, too.)

Cutter a multi-use gadget


Cut and Seal

One other tool that I may go back for is one that I’m sure parents of small kids would like –  it’s a cut-and-seal tool. You can buy those frozen, crustless peanut butter-jelly sandwiches from a major manufacturer and shell out a lot of bucks. Buy one of these tools and make your own for pennies instead – with organic peanut butter.

The tool ($9) which cuts and crimps the edges of dough with one motion, also would make great party hors d’oeuvres and other filled-pastry foods.

Ideas: Use wonton skins to make easy homemade Chinese dumplings or Italian ravioli or even fortune cookies. Use  puff pastry or filo sheets to make cheese, crabmeat or sausage pastries, or Jamaican beef patties or Canadian meat pies. Make individual chicken pot pies with them, or mini calzones.

I can keep going, but you get the idea — seal up some kind of filling in some kind of raw dough. Bake or boil or fry – and then add a dipping sauce. Whammo — dinner’s on.

Nothing for me in this

I’ve already told the representative I’m not interested in getting anything out of this, other than getting credit for my friend Annette Jones — the original party-giver. But I had to schedule an actual “catalog party”  in order to make these products clickable on my site for you to buy directly – just in case you readers like what I do. While other friends have bought a dozen other products and use and like them, these are the ones I will personally stand by.

So, if you’re interested in these products or seeing others they have available, click here and look around. If you order something, put my name in the order form somewhere and I’ll see to it that any gains from the orders go to the Daily Bread Food Bank. Note that this is the August catalog — new specials are available from the catalog starting in September, if you want to check those out.

And if you want to give your own party and take home the benefits (they give you money off on sales and all kinds of other things) you can talk to them about it. Just please don’t tap me to attend — I have to rotate my tires.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Kitchen Show Wannabe // Apr 22, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I am looking to do pampered chef kitchen shows, are they profitable?

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