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30 December 2014

Double Duty: Crock Pot Cocktail Carrier


Planning a New Year's Eve soiree (or a New's Year Day recovery party)?  Planning to serve a hot drink?  If so, consider using your crock pot.  You can mix the drink up, warm it up, and even serve it directly from the crock.  One dish clean-up, plus you don't have to worry about keeping an eye on the stove or warming up individual servings.

Mmm...tasty!

23 December 2014

Smart Swap: Flour


Rather than using only all-purpose flour in your baked goods, why not try adding some whole-wheat or nut flour?
  • You can substitute whole wheat flour for up to 1/3 of the all-purpose flour in pretty much any cake, cookie, brownie, or muffin recipe.  Keep in mind that you might have to add an extra tablespoon or two of liquid; whole wheat flour tends to absorb more liquid than all-purpose.
  • Trying substituting up to half of the all-purpose flour in a brownie recipe for a nut flour.  Try ground almond or pecan meal - it'll give the brownies a nutty flavor.
Mmm...tasty!

17 December 2014

Leaf Pile

One of my favorite things about Autumn is crunching through the fallen leaves.

PB110104_ew

Around my neck of the woods, though, we don't usually have many leaves that stick around to be piled up; the wind usually sweeps them away to parts unknown.

16 December 2014

Soften Up!


You're raring to bake cookies, only to realize you forgot to set the butter out to soften.  It's still in the refrigerator, but you want to bake now.  But, you know that nuking it in the microwave can result in melted butter, not softened butter, if you're not careful.  What to do?

Trying cutting the cold sticks of butter into cubes or smaller pieces.  This will expose more surface area to the air and will speed up the softening time - go with 1/2" cubes and it could be as few as 15 minutes.  That would give you just enough time to gather up the rest of your ingredients and utensils and get the oven preheated.

Mmm...tasty!


12 December 2014

'Tis the Season


It's the holidays!  As usual, I am not ready for them and probably still won't be after they have passed, but c'est la vie.  You do what you can and just let the rest fly right by, right?

Today's Favorite Find - Microplane zesters.  I own 2 of the classic series zesters and one of the citrus zesters and I love them all.  I use them mostly for grating zest, but they come in handy for grating fresh spices and even hard cheeses.  And, guess what?  The blades are made in the USA.  Gotta love that!

Psst!  Go ahead and "Read more"...there's a giveaway going on today!

10 December 2014

Pretty in Pink

Nope, we are not talking about the Molly Ringwald film today, which on a side note, I might mention, I have never seen from start to finish, just bits and pieces here and there.

I know, I know - classic John Hughes "Brat Pack" film - I have no good excuse.

Let's talk pink (the color) now, eh?

Pink with sparkles.

PB010037_cew

09 December 2014

Butternut Squash


Butternut squash, it's everywhere.

A few tips for choosing a good one:

  • For the sweetest/most flavorful, look for one that's hard with matte skin and a dried out stem.
  • Choose one with a greater proportion of neck to seed-filled bulb - you'll get more flesh that way.
  • A whole butternut squash can keep for up to four months in a cool dry place.  Once it's cut, it will stay fresh wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to a week.  You can also freeze peeled chunks for months.
Mmm...tasty!

02 December 2014

Chocolate Bloom


That floury finish you sometimes see on chocolate doesn't mean the chocolate is bad or unusable - it's just a reaction to changes in temperature and/or humidity.  The chocolate is still perfectly fine to use, once you melt it or warm it up the bloom should disappear.  No one will know the difference!

Mmm...tasty!

25 November 2014

Baking With Dark Pans


If you use metal pans to do your baking, opt for light colored ones when possible.  If your only option is a dark colored metal, reduce the baking temperature by 25°F and keep an eye on the time - your dish will cook (and brown) much more quickly.

Mmm...tasty!

18 November 2014

Fluffier Mash


Planning to make mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving?  Keep in mind that the drier the potato, the fluffier the mash will be.

Try this for fluffier mashed taters:  once the potatoes are cooked and drained, put them back in the pot, cover, and let them dry for about 2 minutes, drain off any additional excess liquid, then mash as you normally would.

A good variety for mashed potatoes?  Yukon Golds.  They have a buttery flavor, low moisture content, and absorb warm milk or butter easily.  Don't forget to add a little salt.

Mmm...tasty!


12 November 2014

Because I Know You Love It

Love what you ask?  Those moments when I share failed baking experiments on the blog.  Don't worry, I get a kick out of them, too.  At least after the initial anger at the fact the recipe didn't work out subsides, then I have a good chuckle, tell myself "never again" for that recipe and onward we go.

Well, today, I have a Halloween goodie "fail" for you.  Yes, I know Halloween was a couple of weeks ago, but I'm behind schedule.  It's all good, you'll still enjoy it.

Here's what it was supposed to look like:

By Happy Food Healthy Life,
click here for the instructions.

11 November 2014

Perk Up


Did you know you can revive a rubbery carrot by cutting a piece off the end and placing the trimmed side in cold/cool water?  Within a few hours, it'll be snappy enough to eat!

Mmm...tasty!

10 November 2014

Clansperson Commissioning

It's tradition that for their birthdays, my immediate family members (Madre, sisters, nieces, nephews, etc) get a cake or other confection of their choosing from me in lieu of a wrapped gift.  They get to choose the flavor and suggest a theme, then from there I get to design to my desire.

Several of my nieces have birthdays that fall in quick succession, so we celebrated their birthdays with one large party this year.  Their choices this year:  animal print, Frozen, and a toad.  Variety...it's the spice of life.

04 November 2014

What's the Difference? Onions


The onion family is a pretty big bunch.  No matter which you choose, look for ones that feel heavy and firm with little odor before peeling.  Also, regardless of variety, they can be stored for several weeks in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.

So, which variety should you choose?
  • Yellow Onions - the all-purpose, workhorse onion.  You can use these in just about any recipe calling for onions.  Keep in mind that they tend to become sweeter as they cook.  Spanish onions, a type of yellow onion, are slightly sweeter and more delicate.
  • Red Onions - aka purple onions.  These have a strong bite that is perfect for salads and sandwiches.  To reduce their bite, try soaking in ice water for 20 minutes before serving.
  • White Onions - another good all-purpose onion.  Though white onions do tend to have a sharper flavor; they are also more tender with a thinner skin.  You can typically use white onions in any recipe calling for yellow onions.
  • Sweet Onions - these lack the sharp flavor of other onions and can range from white to yellow in color.  Vidalia and Bermuda are popular varieties.  This variety tends to be more perishable than the others, so use them within a few days of purchase or store in the fridge to extend their shelf life.
Mmm...tasty!



29 October 2014

Cupcakery

Cupcakes!  Cupcakes for all!  Though today's examples do show a preponderance towards baby showers.

PA070108_cew

28 October 2014

Halloween Recap


Halloween is Friday...  Do you have your costume picked out?  Treats for the kiddos ready to go?  If you're still in need of some ideas, I've rounded up a few I've done here on the blog the past few years, maybe they'll help inspire you!

Mmm...tasty!



21 October 2014

Spice Lineup



I have a lot of spices in my spice cabinet...they just seem to multiply.  And, it doesn't help that the cabinet I keep them in is rather deep, meaning there are jars of spices in the far back reaches as well as stacked two deep.  I got tired of not knowing what was in the cabinet and of having to take all the spices out only to find that the one I was looking for I, of course, didn't have.

My solution?  A list of spices in the cabinet, typed up, alphabetized, then taped to the inside of the cabinet door.  

Now, I can simply check the list before going on a hunt for the right spice.  And, if I use a spice up, I simply mark it off the list.  Or if I add a new one, I write the name at the bottom of the list.

Yes, it requires a little upkeep from time to time, but it's not that bad.  Save it on your computer, then just add and delete as needed.  It's a lot easier than emptying the cabinet every time!

Mmm...tasty!


17 October 2014

Fall Funzies

It's Fall!  And...we've actually had more than two days of beautiful Fall weather.  It's super exciting since we usually seem to transition directly from summer into winter.

Additional bonus to the coming of Fall...football is in full swing and the weather is perfect for tailgating and cheering on your favorite team.  (Please note, the cake below is not my favorite team.  If you've been reading the blog for any length of time you know I cheer for the Pokes.)

PA040060_cew

This cake's final destination was in Clinton.  That's just a piece down the road, but happy to report it arrived with no mishaps and the client was exceptionally pleased with it.  *happy dance*

14 October 2014

Ingredient Substitution: Shallots


My local grocery stores (all two of them) never seem to have shallots on hand.  Oh, occasionally, I might see them on the shelf, but that's always when I don't have a need for them.  Isn't that always the way?

Luckily, red onions make a suitable substitute for shallots, and I can always find those.  The substitution?  

Use half (1/2) of a small red onion for every large shallot.

Mmm...tasty!


06 October 2014

"P" is for Pie


Looking for a fun, easy way to dress up the top of baked pies, say for instance, a pumpkin pie?

Try using cookie cutters to cut out shapes and/or letters from a round of dough.  (Maybe the word "PIE" or a pumpkin shape for example.)

Put the cutouts on a baking sheet, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, then bake at 350°F until golden, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.  (Feel free to bake these while the pie is baking!)  Place the baked cut-outs on the finished pie after it cools.

You can make cutouts with just about any kind of cookie cutter and can then use them on just about single crust pie.  Get creative!

Mmm...tasty!


03 October 2014

Army Battle

My nephew's birthday was a few weeks ago, and as is tradition, I made him a cake.

He started giving me details about the cake back in August.  His original plans included:

  • A rectangle cake that was half brown, half green
  • Bunkers
  • Army men made from Rice Krispy treats, one of which had to be throwing a grenade
  • A landing strip
  • Helicopters
  • Tanks
  • MUST be chocolate (His exact words when I asked him what flavor of cake..."umm...duh, chocolate.)
I vetoed the krispy treat soldiers immediately.  He didn't mind though, since I told him he could keep any extra army men toys I didn't use on the cake.

01 October 2014

Sweet & Simple

Fancy, intricate cakes and confections are always challenging and entertaining to plan and execute - not to mention they get plenty of "oohs" and "aahs" upon delivery.

But...there's something to be said for simple creations as well.  For one, you don't have to worry or feel bad about eating the "work of art."

P9230074_cew

30 September 2014

Buy in Bulk


Want to buy in bulk but always see your savings go into the trash when you can't get all the produce used up in time?  Or maybe you're one of those who plants a garden and then finds yourself with more bounty than you can consume or give away?

If so, keep in mind that you can freeze carrots, onions, peppers, celery, okra and other hardy vegetables.  Simply cut the vegetables down to the desired size (freezing whole is not recommended), spread in a single layer on baking sheets and freeze until solid.  Transfer the frozen vegetables to resealable plastic bags labeled with the date and store in the freezer.  When ready to use, thaw under cool water then pat dry with paper towels.

Mmm...tasty!


24 September 2014

Sayonara, Summer

Well...it's official.  Summer is over; Autumn has begun!

Time to put away the swim gear; brush the sand off your feet. Instead, find the jacket and boots, maybe the gloves and scarves, too!

P8190008_ew

23 September 2014

What's the Difference? Chicken Broth vs Chicken Stock


Chicken broth.  Chicken stock.  What's the difference?  And can you use them interchangeably?

If you're making homemade versions, there's a difference - chicken stock starts with more bones, chicken broth starts with more meat.  The bones make the stock richer and possibly a darker color if the ones were roasted before using.

But, when you buy in the store, there may not be much of a difference between stock or broth.  Your best bet is to try different brands.  

When utilizing the two in recipes, choose a mild tasting broth for soup, rice, and potato dishes; opt for a richer, more assertive stock in sauces and gravies.

Mmm...tasty!


19 September 2014

Hotsy-Totsy

Roaring 20s/Gatsby themed cakes have been popular for a while now, but up until recently I hadn't had a chance to create any.  These two birthday cakes remedied that!

A flapper theme for her.

P8090126_cew

16 September 2014

Vegetables: Fresh v Frozen


So, which are better and more nutritious- fresh or frozen vegetables?

This may surprise you, but frozen vegetables can often contain even more nutrients than fresh, especially if the fresh veggies have been sitting in your fridge or at the grocery for a few days.  Freezing locks in nutrients before they start to deteriorate, keeping the vegetables at their peak.

"Better" is an interpretative term; after all it's hard to beat the taste of fresh picked produce!  The ideal way to get the best and most benefits from fresh vegetables is to buy local and produce that is in season.  If you aren't sure what's in season in your area, you can find seasonal food guides over at Eat Well Guide.

In short, frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh, just-picked produce, so don't pass them up!

Mmm...tasty!

13 September 2014

Snickerdoodle Blondies

I love snickerdoodle cookies.  But, for some reason I don't make them very often...it's a shame really.  After all, how can that love be true if I'm more often than not whipping up chocolate chip cookies?  The snickerdoodles probably think I'm cheating on them; maybe that's why they don't appear in my kitchen very often...

I know what you're thinking - the title says "blondies" which are not cookies at all, so why is she telling me about cookies?  Well, I thought you might enjoy a little background on what drew me to try this recipe out.  But, umm, how about we just move on to the recipe, eh?

10 September 2014

Monikers

I see lots of names and plenty of different spellings of the same pronunciation with this little hobby of mine.  And, I live in fear (okay, maybe not FEAR, but constant concern) of misspelling some one's handle.  If you ever order a cake from me, and I verify the spelling 5 or 6 times, just roll with it.  It's what I do.

09 September 2014

Let's Sweat


What in the world does it mean when a recipe says to "sweat" vegetables?  Should you take them for a few laps around the kitchen?  Nope...no need to run laps around your kitchen; at least, not when it comes sweating vegetables.  

To "sweat" vegetables means to cook them over low to medium heat so they release some of their juices without browning (i.e. sweat!).  You'll often encounter this cooking instruction when making soups, stews, or sauces - onions and other aromatic vegetables are often sweated to release more flavor.

Be sure to stir the vegetables frequently and adjust the heat to prevent browning.  Also, make sure you have enough butter or oil in the pan to keep the veggies from getting dry.

Mmm...tasty!


02 September 2014

Microwave Magic: Corn on the Cob


I've been eating corn on the cob for years.  Love the stuff!  What I don't love?  Standing over a pot of water, waiting on it to boil - it takes forever for only a few minutes of cook time.  Plus, unless I'm cooking a mess of ears, boiling seems like a lot of labor and waste.

The solution?  Microwave those babies!  I can have up to 4 ears of corn ready to eat in mere minutes; here's how to do it:
  • Place 1 to 4 ears of corn in the microwave (leave the husks on!).
  • Microwave for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave and the number of ears you are cooking.
  • Allow to cool before serving.  Leave the corn in the husks until ready to serve, this will help retain heat/keep them warm.
When you are ready to shuck the corn, try trimming off the bottom of cob, then pull the ear of corn free of the husk (and silk).  You may need to use a kitchen towel to hold the silk and husk, as it may still be warm.

Alternatively, shuck per your usual method.

Mmm...tasty!



26 August 2014

Household Hint: Rubber Band


Today's tip isn't "tasty" in the sense of food, but it's still a handy one to have in your knowledge bank.

Ever encountered a stripped screw that seems impossible to remove?  If so, try getting a better grip on the screw by placing a wide rubber band flat between the screw and the screwdriver, then apply firm, but slow force while attempting to turn the screw.  If you're lucky, the rubber band will fill the gaps, give you extra grip, and allow removal of the screw!

A couple of things to keep in mind with this tip:
  • Always use a screwdriver, don't attempt this with a drill - you'll just end up stripping the screw even more.
  • This works best on screws that are only lightly stripped; if the screw head has really been ground down, you'll most likely have to move on to more extreme measures.
Mmm...tasty!



22 August 2014

Nando's Peri-Peri Sauce


I blame my world-travelling sister and brother-in-law for my craving of this product - it's all their fault!  They introduced us ("us" being the family) to Nando's Peri-Peri Sauce a year or so ago when they came home for a visit...I don't know if anyone else, besides sis and BIL, took to it, but I definitely enjoy it!

20 August 2014

Western Flair

I have to admit, I really like this cake.  I think it's the western feel to it; I'm a country girl born, raised, and still living it, so that probably explains a lot.

Though I was even receiving messages and texts asking me for pictures of this cake the same day of the event.  That really very seldom happens, so it mus have been a hit with others as well.

19 August 2014

Double-Duty: Ramekins



Have a set of ramekins languishing in your cabinets?  (Because, seriously, how often do you really make creme brulee?)  Good news - they can be used for more than just that blowtorched dessert, like this quick breakfast sandwich:

  • Mist a ramekin with non-stick spray or olive oil, add an egg and microwave in 15 to 20 second intervals until the egg is set (or cooked to your liking).
  • Scrape around the edge of the ramekin with a knife to remove the egg; serve on an english muffin with additional toppings (cheese, bacon, etc).
Mmm...tasty!