Another busted plate – bone china dinnerware in my future

broken plate
The bottom of this chipped plate says “China” but I have a feeling that’s where it was made not that it is bone china.

For some reason I don’t know, plates just don’t last around my household. About two years ago, I bought new dishes. It was a inexpensive set. I bought a 32 piece dinnerware set. Each set included 8 dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowl, and mugs. By buying two, I knew there would be spoilage, and I knew we needed enough when company came over. After two years, I did not expect I would have two plates left out of the 8, and those two plates are even busted up. One of the plates has a chip; the other plate has a crack through it.

Now the dinnerware was not top of the line. It was cheap stuff I bought at a big box store. It did get abused from time to time, so I am not placing the blame on the product. (It was probably the users of the product.) I do need different dinnerware. I am trying to find something that will last a little longer, and I did a little research on different types of dinnerware.

From what I found, there are a few different types, such as earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, and bone china.

Earthenware has a non-porous surface — similar to glass. Made from unrefined clay, earthenware is fired at 950 degrees centigrade.

Stoneware uses a more refined clay and is fired at 1100 degrees centigrade and is chip resistant.

Porcelain has a nonporous surface — like glass — and is fired 100 degree higher than stoneware at 1200 degrees centigrade.

Bone china is more translucent than porcelain. It is fired twice at 1250 degrees centigrade.

From what I read, bone china is the most durable but has a delicate appearance. I am going to get this this time around with the intent that it lasts longer.

I looked on Amazon for bone china and was a bit overwhelmed. Sites that list fine china brands and what to look for when buying fine china are helpful.

I did come across a few other good tips as well. I will admit I am guilty of this one in the past: Buy dishes that fit your cupboards and dishwasher.

My first set of dishes did not fit in the cupboards. They were these big 12″ diameter dinner plates. They had to go back.

Another good thing is to just buy open stock items. This is one I might do this time around. Buy a one 16 piece set and 4 more dinner plates. The dinner plates are what are used when entertaining.

I have been thinking about buying a cheaper set for regular use and one for formal dining. This is what my parents do but they rarely use the formal china and it seems like a waste. I am not convinced about this yet and doubt I want “heirloom” dishes.

A neutral color is the way to go. As much as I like the bright orange plates, they are not very classic or timeless. A good neutral color would fit well with any kitchen, even after a remodeling job.

Beer and Steak — Yeah, Buddy!

Photo Bernt Rostad
Photo Bernt Rostad, CC BY 2.0

I have written about steaks before. I like me a good steak. Yeah, who doesn’t, right? Well, I like a good beer, too. So … what kind should I drink with my steak? That is what I am thinking right now.

From what I have found the darker the better. I read on Beer Advocate that a Belgian Strong Dark Ale and / or Belgian Strong Pale Ale goes really well with a steak.

I am definitely going to the store this weekend and giving it a try.

I have also been looking into getting a fridge for the garage. I figured it would be good to store cuts of meat from the butcher and house the beer and wine collection.

I do not think a full size is what I need. I have been looking at the those little dorm fridges. I have found lists of good beer fridges, but I am more inclined to look on my local craigslist and just buy an older one for $25 bucks or so. The ones on that site and on Amazon are just so pricey.

Oh well, I think I should worry more about the steak at the moment. A nice medium rare steak sounds so much better than this chicken and vegetables in teriyaki sauce I’m eating at my desk right now.

We need herbs — eh, wrong kind mate!

Many home wannabe cooks, myself included, don’t have an extensive understanding of kitchen herbs their use makes it easy to vary the flavor and therefore the overall essence of any dish.

But my friends tell me that by simply adding a few herbs you can take your meal from ordinary to extraordinary. So some research was needed and a list created.

These 7 herbs should be in everyone’s kitchen cabinet. While not all encompassing or exotic, they will heal the culinary blahs and brighten your dinnertime adventures.

Suzette - from Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Suzette – from Flickr, CC BY 2.0


Basil comes in several varieties but the most common is sweet basil. Basil is used in Italian Pesto’s along with Parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. If you don’t have Pesto on hand or pine nuts in your cupboard, you can make any pasta glow with just a little basil and olive oil.
In France, a similar sauce is called Pistou. Pistou is made the same way without the nuts and sometimes other cheeses are substituted for the Parmesan. Pistou is often used to flavor soups. You can find a hundred recipes for Pistou soup online.


You are probably familiar with dill pickles but dill has been used to flavor dishes since ancient times. It goes nicely with vegetables,including cucumbers. Traditionally, many fish dishes, especially salmon, include dill in their seasonings. Herbed cheeses and cold savory yogurt sauces are improved dramatically by the inclusion of dill. Add a pinch to your omelets or potato salad for a refreshing change.


A Mediterranean native, sage is usually found in pork breakfast sausage, and stuffed in Turkey along with the bread cubes and choice vegetables. Sage can be overwhelming when over used but a light sprinkle over brown rice creates a savory side that is delightful with fish, chicken or pork.


Rosemary, another Mediterranean herb- has a woodsy, pungent fragrance and flavor that is distinct and uplifting. Rosemary works well in marinades, tomato based sauces and in glazes for all sorts of meats and vegetables.

Summer Savory

As the name suggests, summer savory is filled with savory flavor. Savory can be used in any number of dishes with much success, it combines well with other herbs and stands alone


Thyme is irreplaceable as a winter herb. It warms the body and compliments many cool weather dishes. It is especially fine in soups stews and poultry dishes. Try adding a little thyme with butter to your side of corn next time. You won’t regret it

I have seen a lot of debate lately about whether Bay leaves are even worth keeping in the pantry. It seems that a lot of cooks don’t know what the point when it comes to bay. It is true that if used correctly, the flavor is not over powering and blends into the dish as if it were there all along.
The point, however is that it was not there all along. The complex flavors imparted by Bay leaves can make or break a dish. Adding bay to your pot roast or slidding a couple of leaves in the skin of your holiday turkey will add that something special you always knew you were missing but couldn’t quite put your finger.

The trick is to use only a couple of leaves for a whole pot of food and only use bay when the dish requires at least a half an hour simmer time. It takes that long for the flavor to infuse. The leaves will never break down, remove them before serving your meal.

The use of herbs as flavorings for food is an ancient tradition. When humans weren’t eating them raw or making medicines out of them, they were tossing them in the cook pot to see what happened to the stew. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new combinations. Ou never know when you might stumble on your new favorite recipe.

Is my meat done yet?

I’ve never known how to order my steaks. Do I get it medium? Do I get it rare? Who knows. I started reading about meat doneness and here’s some info for us both.

Benjamin Horn from Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Photo by Benjamin Horn from Flickr, CC BY 2.0


Most Steakhouses won’t serve a truly raw steak to you. There is some fear of contamination with uncooked meat and more importantly, the fear of legal repercussions keeps owners from serving what you want. If you want a truly raw meat meal, you can find them in many ethnic restaurants. Raw beef is eaten in all corners of the globe. American steakhouses just haven’t gotten the memo yet.

Here are some dishes that are prepared using raw beef:

  • Steak Tartare (France)
  • Kitfo (Ethiopia)
  • Kibbeh Nayyeh (Lebanon)
  • Carne’ Apache (Mexico)
  • Basashi (Japan)


If you are lucky enough to find a steakhouse that will do it, a steak that has been barely heated on a warm skillet is called blue. Really, the only difference between raw and blue is that raw never sees the skillet and blue only gives it a quick visit. Blue should be warmed on the outside and cool on the inside.


Technically, rare beef is heated to between 120 to 125 F. Visually, it should be gray-brown on the outside with plenty of blood seeping through. When you cut into it, the rare steak is still blood red and cooler than the outside. It takes only one to two minutes to cook a rare steak.

The difference between blue and rare is that blue still has the consistency of raw meat while a rare steak has become soft and and easier to chew.

Black and Blue

If you want a bloody rare steak but can’t find a restaurant that will serve it, you should consider opting for the black and blue instead. The black and blue is a steak that is seared in a very hot skillet for a short period of time- usually just long enough to seal the meat. As the name implies, the steak is usually blackened on the outside. The pan is so hot, however that the inside of the steak is still raw and cool.


For all intents and purposes, the Pittsburgh is the same as a black and blue. The name “Pittsburgh”, “Pittsburgh Rare” or “Pittsburgh Blue” is a carry over from the days when the Workers in the Pittsburgh Steel Mill would bring raw meat in for their lunch and cook it on the still hot metal. The metal was so hot it would sear it to a charred black within seconds.

Medium Rare

The medium rare steak differs from the rare in that the meat will be browned on the outside and warmed through. Instead of bloody raw center, the meat will be pink with a little red in the middle and with only a hint of blood when you cut it. Technically, the medium rare is 130 F. in the center. This is accomplished by cooking it on high heat for two or three minutes maximum per side.


The center of a medium done steak is completely pink. It’s not cooked through yet, but there should be no red. The outside should be dark brown all the way around but not blackened. At high heat, this effect will take between five and six minutes and should result in a finished product that is 145 F in the center.

Medium Well

A medium well steak only has a thin line of pink still visible. The steak will be firm and the outside should be well browned with a little charring on the top and bottom. To achieve best results, the steak should be seared on high heat for one minute on each side and then transferred to medium heat for five or six minutes on each side to bring it up to 155 F.

Well Done

Steak enthusiasts often dislike well done steak, but still some people insist on fully cooked meat. That’s accomplished easily enough with just a little time and patience. There should be no hint of pink in a well done steak. The outside should be well browned with dark char but not burnt. The well done steak will feel firm with little give and will register at around 165 F. Well done steaks are cooked on medium heat for 10 minutes. Longer cooking times on lower heat is the key- not to low or you will dry out the meat but low enough to prevent burning. If you want a moister steak, try splashing a little water or wine in the pan and covering it.

How well do you know your ‘shrooms?

Mmmmm. Mushrooms. Yummy little bundles of fungi. Not all mushrooms are created equal though. I’m finding this out now that I’m cooking more and more with mushrooms.

Each variety has it’s own unique flavor and it’s own place on the plate. If you expect a button and find a portobello on your plate, you may be a little disgruntled. Don’t worry though Protobello’s are yummy too!

I put together a helpful little guide to knowing some of the more common mushrooms found in restaurants around the world.

Bev Sykes from Flickr | CC BY 2.0


If you are in the US, chances are you are familiar with the button mushroom, also known as the champignon in France. It’s found on Pizza, in steak sauce and on the salad bar. These little gems are delicious raw or cooked. The Button mushroom is mild and crisp when raw. Cooking turns it more meaty and really brings out the flavor. It’s generally small, smooth, rounded and off white in color.


Chanterelle are usually harvested wild and if you are lucky enough to find them in a restaurant, you should most definitely give them a try. They are a rare treat. You’re most likely to find Chanterelle on the menu of a fine French restaurant although you may find them in any American restraint where the chef frequents the farmers market. Although the flavor is all mushroom, the fragrance is reminiscent of fresh apricots.
Chanterelle have firm flesh and a graceful appearance. They look like small trumpets when they are fresh.


The cremino is a young portobello mushroom. It’s often labeled with the cutsie name of a “baby bella.” Until recently, the Crimini were most often used in Italian dishes. Since their popularity has sky rocketed over the past few years, you can now find them on the menu in a variety restaurants. They are often used in place of button mushrooms to give the meal a fancier appearance. The flavor of the cremini is stronger and more earthy than the button. These are a little bigger than Button mushrooms with light brown caps.


The Enoki is a mushroom found in East Asian cuisine. Traditionally, these mushrooms are used in soups, spring rolls and stir fry’s but recently, they have been cropping up in unexpected recipes, like the bacon wrapped Enoki. This might be too much for the Enoki lover to bear- with it’s mild, fruity flavor, the enoki could be easily over powered but it retains some of it’s crunch even after light cooking so the possibilities are endless. The enoki are delicate white and grow in clusters of long, slender bodies with tiny caps.


Oyster mushrooms are found in many Chinese and Japanese dishes. They have a sweet odor that mirrors their mild flavor. The meat delicate, smooth and as soft as velvet. If you get a king oyster mushroom, it can be chewy but not tough. Oyster mushrooms come in a wide variety. they can come very big or small and range in color from decidedly blue, to pale gray, to an earthy brown.


A portobello, or portabella is what happens when you let cremino grow up. It retains it’s deep earthy flavor and hearty texture. In fact, it may even improve with age. The portobello mushroom is often used as a meat substitute in vegan recipes and can grow rather large. They are great for stuffing or slicing and grilling over an open fire. The portobello is large, brown, with deeply colored gills.


Porcini are a type of bolet mushroom. That means that instead of gills, they have pores on the underside of their caps. Porcini are popular in French and Italian dishes but in the US, they are rarely found fresh. If you find a porcino on a menu, chances are it was dried and rehydrated for cooking. Porcini are chewy and flavorful with a woodsy addition to the earthy mushroom base.


Shitake grow on old oak wood. They are cultivated in Japan and prized for their smoky flavor that’s reflected in their fragrant aroma. Shitake has a chewy texture that adds depth to any recipe. The stems of these beauties are usually tough and inedible so they are removed prior to cooking. Shitake are small, light brown with thin, tough stems.

First post!

Yada, yada, yada … I hope that’s not going to be the theme around here. It’s may turn into one of those Seinfeld shows, where the cook complains about the respect of the diners and decides, “no soup for you!”