3 Reasons to Use an Amazon Echo in the Kitchen

Amazon Echo Dot

I love food, but I also love technology. Ask my wife. My two most visited sites from my phone, laptop or desktop normally consist of a Primal site and a tech website. So consider this post a slight departure from our regularly scheduled programming – sorta. This will read like a product placement, but trust me Amazon didn’t pay me to post this about the Echo. I just thought this would be a good post to identify my top 3 reasons I love using an Echo Dot in my kitchen, and when Apple releases something similar I’ll probably consider it as well. So below I’ve identified my top 3 uses for using an Amazon Echo Dot in the kitchen.

1. Timers

This sounds basic, and believe me it is. But man, a hands free way of telling the Echo to set a timer really comes in handy. So how often do I use it to set timers? ALL THE TIME. The main reason for setting timers is actually to get our toddler into her chair to eat a meal. We started out by telling our daughter to get in her chair because breakfast/lunch/dinner was ready, but as toddlers do she began to resist and get an attitude so we started a new method by having Alexa set a timer for us to get our daughter in the chair. So we now can tell our daughter to go to her chair when she hears the timer. This has evolved to where we use it to convince her of nap time and bed time as well. It’s great and really has worked for us. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Can’t you just use your phone for that?” Yes but no. My iPhone 7 has become much more capable at picking up “Hey, Siri” commands than my iPhone 6, but it’s still inconsistent, and when I’m dealing with a sassy toddler I don’t have time for inconsistent. The Echo is consistent. It hears me no matter if the TV is loud, the stove fan is going on or if I’m frying up some bacon for my brussels sprouts and bacon recipe. It always picks up my request to set a timer. Now besides using it as a brainwashing technique for our daughter I still love to use it for setting hands free timers for cooking, which is great because it can handle multiple timers unlike my iPhone. I have to say using it for a timer is our number one used function of the Echo.

2. Shopping List

The second most used function of my Echo is for adding grocery items to my shopping list hands free. This is HUGE. Once again yes I can use my phone for it but my phone is inconsistent and it doesn’t always pick up what I’m saying to add to a list – which is terrible when I’m standing at the grocery store looking at my iPhone list and it says “eight” instead of what I really meant was eggs (no I’m not making this up). Alexa on the other hand handles all my hands free shopping lists requests quite well. I really love this ability because it really does come in handy while I’m cooking and I remember in the moment I need more cumin or some other can of tomato sauce but my hands are full or dirty and I can just shout to Alexa what I want. Now the way I do my shopping list for the grocery store is actually in the regular notes app on the iPhone. I like keeping it real simple when I make my grocery list every week. So I have a reminder set on my phone every week to check the Alexa app’s shopping list. Then after I look at what I’ve shouted to Alexa throughout the week then I add that to my main shopping list in the notes app.

3. Measurements

The third most used function of my Echo is having Alexa convert measurements for recipes. First, I’m really bad at math and second I’m just not good at converting the measurements in my head. I look at so many different recipes online and in books and I always have trouble with things in grams, ml, cups, teaspoons and tablespoons. I’m terrible at getting this stuff straight! Any home cook would appreciate this feature. It sure does beat trying to look at some paper reference card taped to your cupboard, or trying to google the conversion while you have raw chicken on your hands.

There are a few more things I wish it could do. Two things I keep thinking in my head that I wish it can do are control my TV with just my voice and for it to somehow display recipes. Amazon recently updated their Amazon Fire TVs to be controlled with Alexa devices but this still doesn’t entirely control the TV the way I would like. I would need something more like a Harmony Hub for something like this, but I digress. For displaying full recipes Amazon now has the Echo Show, but I have no idea how well that displays recipes and responds to your voice. Hope all this technobabble helped.

tl;dr

You should buy an Echo Dot.

Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

My buddy was trying out my recipe for a simple stir fry in a skillet but I failed to mention in that recipe that I make that particular portion size in a 12” Lodge Cast Iron. So as he was going to do the recipe he realized it all didn’t fit in the skillet he had. So he did what any level headed person would do – he bought a larger cast iron skillet.

 

Seasoned the new #castironskillet

A photo posted by Scott Dreger (@scottdreger) on

Now whenever you buy a new cast iron skillet it says they’re already seasoned in their factory, which is true but it’s always a good idea to give them a really good seasoning again yourself. Cast iron skillets will still take a while to break in, you’ll have to cook with them a lot and not use soap to clean them for them to really turn into awesome non stick pans. However, the starting place is to do an initial seasoning of your own.

Now, I’m not reinventing the wheel here, nor was my buddy who offered to take photos of him seasoning his own skillet. He followed Nom Nom Paleo’s guide, so the directions listed below are just following Nom Nom’s guide with the exception of doing the seasoning at 350°F instead of 400°F because a lot of the people’s comments said 400°F smoked like crazy.

1-Before
Brand spanking new skillet from Amazon.

2-Preheat the Oven
Preheat oven to 350°F.

3-Washing the Pan
Give the pan a good scrub with hot water to remove any weird stuff that could’ve collected on there from Amazon’s warehouse. Note: Scott’s brush is terrible, I suggest using these to “clean” your skillet after you’re done cooking with them. Just don’t use soap.

4-Coconut Oil
Nom Nom says to use refined coconut oil, but Scott just used what he had on hand. No worries, the idea is just to get a good saturated fat on the pan because saturated fat has less of a propensity to oxidize like a mono or polyunsaturated fat. Some argue that the oxidation is what you want on the pan so they use canola oil, but I don’t like the idea of even buying death canola oil. It’ll just take a little longer for the saturated fat to oxidize in the skillet I guess.

5-Oil in the Pan
Then throw in about a teaspoon or more of your fat of choice and rub it all over the skillet.

6-Place in the Oven
Place the skillet upside-down in the oven after it reaches 350°F. Make sure you have a foil lined baking tray in the bottom to catch anything that drops and to prevent smoking in the oven. Leave it in the oven for about an hour.

7-After
After the oven and skillet cool, you can enjoy your re-seasoned cast iron skillet! Now remember stuff will still stick for awhile, you’ll just need to keep using it and it will get better with time. Like a good pair of raw denim or natural leather.

8-Ready to Cook
Finally, Scott can fit my skillet recipe in his skillet.

Photo credits: Scott Dreger

Kitchen Essentials

Kitchen Essentials

When I got married my wife and I got a bunch of wedding gifts for the kitchen that we thought we would be using all the time. As it turns out, we didn’t end up using all the gadgets we got for our wedding all the time. Some of it yes, but most of it no. I really only use a handful of all the gadgets we got from our wedding. Along the way in this Primal journey I’ve picked up a few more kitchen essentials that I use everyday. Listed below are my top kitchen essentials:


Cutco Santoku

Chef Knife & Pairing Knife

You really only need 2 knives in the kitchen. A Chef’s knife (or Santoku, whatever your preference), and a pairing knife. Other than that, I’ve really never needed any of those other knives that come in the kits you get for a wedding gift or that you see in the big box stores. I got these Cutco knives as a wedding gift and I love them. They’re made in the USA by the same company that makes the knives for our marines: Kabar. You can check out their site to learn about picking them up from a Cutco representative. Otherwise I suggest this Wustof santoku and pairing knife. Cutco link.


Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

I use this skillet all the time. Sometimes it’s annoying when trying to clean it because it’s super heavy. But it’s nice to have another made in USA product that I use in the kitchen all the time. Most dishes can be cooked in this from bacon, eggs, brussels sprouts, etc… My wife has a hard time using this because certain foods still stick and because it’s heavy. So to make it easier for her we use this skillet from time to time. When the non-stick coating wears out (which is probably what causes cancer) we’ll just buy a new one. Amazon link.


Baking Sheet

Baking Sheets

You may need a couple of these for roasting veggies. We roast a lot of veggies tossed in butter, olive oil, lard or coconut oil. We do use the steamer from time to time and add butter after steaming, but roasting is different. It brings out a whole different flavor, but most importantly you can set it and forget it (until the timer goes off). It’s also easy to clean up if you use aluminum foil. Amazon link.


Microwave Steamer

Microwave Steamer

For when you’re really in a jam to have a side of veggies for dinner and don’t have time to warm the oven you can use a steamer and add fat and spices after they’re done steaming. Super easy cleanup after and it’s a fast way to add more veggies to your plate. We use this a lot with broccoli, cabbage or carrots. Amazon link.


Meat Thermometer

Meat Thermometer

I never understood the beef hand pressing doneness technique people do. I don’t trust chicken that could potentially be undercooked and Pork temperature is important to watch so you’re not chewing on a brick. So, that’s why I use a meat thermometer. I like to make sure my chicken is up to 165° and everything else I can cook and serve at whatever doneness people desire. Amazon link.


Julienne Peeler

Julienne Peeler

We ate a lot of spaghetti before going Primal. This tool and a zucchini plant in our garden at home has allowed us to continue to feed that spaghetti craving (addiction). Using this tool to make noodles out of zucchini is super easy. For each meal we use about 2 medium sized zucchinis per person. After we make the noodles we just put them in a covered microwave safe container and microwave for 2 minutes and you’re good to go. Amazon link.


Food Processor

Food Processor

This was an expensive kitchen essential that we got as a wedding gift and we use it all time. Primarily when making cauliflower rice, which we do a lot. But I use it for nut butters, slicing jerky and a variety of other recipes. We don’t have some gnarly expensive blender, but this one does exactly what we need it to do. Amazon link.


Bonavita

Bonavita

I have a lot of ways to make coffee at home from a Chemex, to the Aeropress, to the Clever Coffee Dripper. But the Bonavita is what gets used the most. I just measure out my coffee with this scale, grind it up and brew. Makes a great cup of coffee without having to be too hands on. Amazon link.