Category: Kitchen Tips
Thursday, May 16
Apparently I have a problem. I don’t update my spices regularly enough!
Today I have another example of my problem! Cayenne pepper. For months I’ve been thinking that we were out of cayenne pepper. Every time I’d go to use it I’d look around the cupboard, only to realize AGAIN that we were out. Well, I finally remembered to buy some last week. The next day I went to use it and, much to my surprise, I found TWO bottles of cayenne pepper in the cupboard! Only one of them didn’t look so much like cayenne pepper anymore.
I find it funny that I actually picked the cayenne pepper up countless times looking for cayenne pepper but not even bothering to read the label because it looked nothing like cayenne pepper! I mean, it’s BROWN.
So, I have a question for you today. Do you update your spices regularly? Do you have a good system for doing so? Or are you like me and forget about your spices until you actually need them and find they are totally useless?!?!
If you happen to do a good job of keeping your spices up to date, please share tips, resources with info that you like, or anything you’ve got about keeping the spice cupboard fresh!
Tuesday, April 23
As you know, I repeated the same new year’s resolution for 2013 as I had in 2012 because I did such a terrible job of cutting back on plastic and disposable items the first time around. It was a surprisingly difficult resolution! I’ve made a few specific goals to help me be more successful this year. One of the goals is that when I run out of paper napkins and plastic baggies, I’m not allowed to buy new ones and have to start using cloth and reusable containers. A couple of weeks ago I ran out of snack baggies. That day I went to Facebook for suggestions on good reusable lunchbox containers. I was flooded with ideas, on my blog’s Facebook page as well as my personal page.
Today I wanted to share two of the products that I’ve tried out so far and really like!
Little Green Pouch: I love the convenience of the applesauce pouches that have popped up in recent years and my kids love having them for snacks. BUUUUUT…the packaging is incredibly guilt-inducing for me. Those super-handy pouches are the perfect example of one-time use items that can’t be recycled, exactly the type of thing I’m trying to eliminate from my life. Enter the Little Green Pouch! I am beyond excited about this product. They are reusable pouches that are free of BPA and pthalates, freezer safe, and dishwasher safe. They’re perfect for storing and freezing homemade baby food, applesauce for snacks, and even yogurt (frozen overnight and thrown in the lunchbox for later that morning). I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about these pouches! You can order the pouches here.
LunchSkins: One product that was recommended by many of you over and over again was LunchSkins. I love them. They are dishwasher safe, free of BPA, lead and pthalates, come in three perfect sizes for various lunch foods, and they’re cute to boot! You can order LunchSkins online. Target has also started carrying LunchSkins2, which includes 1 sandwich and 1 snack bag.
P.S. I have many more products to try and will keep you posted on what I think!
P.P.S. Big thanks to Little Green Pouch and LunchSkins for sending me product to try out. They may have given me the product, but all opinions are my own and I really do love their stuff!
P.P.P.S. Stay tuned for some giveaways!
P.P.P.P.S Be sure to check out my article on Babble yesterday fitting in with today’s theme: 11 Ways to Green Your Kitchen TODAY
Thursday, April 18
I just finished my annual task of making strawberry freezer jam for the upcoming year! I ended up with twenty-two 2-cup containers, but I’m worried that it might not be enough jam. I’m probably going to have to make more since, apparently, I’m raising a wild pack of rabid jam eaters.
I write about my jam escapades every year and I find that I’m constantly finding new little tips that help out with the process. This year is no exception! You know how you’re not supposed to puree the fruit because then it won’t gel properly? (If you don’t know that, true story.) My least favorite part of making strawberry jam is smashing the strawberries. They’re tricky little buggers. I noticed in the directions this year, though, that it said you could use a food processor. You simply process the fruit to a fine chop, but do not puree. Since I finally have a food processor, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
Yes, that container is almost empty! It’s been two days. These kids are rabid, I tell ya. RABID.
Using the food processor worked beautifully. The whole process went SO MUCH FASTER and I liked the final texture of the jam a lot. The fruit is more uniform in size and there aren’t any of those giant berries floating around in the jam. (I’m sure some people like the giant berries in the jam, but I’m not a fan.) So, that’s this year’s tip! Don’t be scared to use your food processor — just make sure you don’t process too much and you’ll be good!
P.S. Those berries got JAMMED. (Please, someone, get the joke! Here, maybe this will help…) Those berries got retro-jammed! (Now? Anyone?)
Thursday, April 4
There are many things I do in the kitchen that I can specifically remember my mom teaching me. One of those things is chopping green onions. Every time I put a knife to these white and green beauties, I think fondly of my mom.
Tuesday, March 5
The other day on Facebook I asked if anyone had a biscuit recipe to share. Responses came POURING in (click here to read them). I now have more “this is the best biscuit recipe” biscuit recipes than I can shake a rolling pin at! I’ve already made two batches of biscuits. I’ll just keep it up and let you know what ends up being my favorite recipe!
So, anyway, as I was making all these biscuits, I realized I should do a post about my Tupperware rolling mat a.k.a. pastry sheet a.k.a. pastry mat. My Grandma Blomquist gave me this rolling mat when I got married. I grew up watching both she and my mom use the exact same mat. And, I have to be honest, I didn’t really use mine much until recently.
I think I always just used the countertop or one of my cutting boards when I was rolling stuff out or working with dough. But I’m discovering that the rolling mat is actually pretty awesome. Here are the various reasons that I am fast falling in love:
- The rolling mat is easier to clean up than a messy countertop, especially if you have tile counters.
- It’s bigger than a cutting board, so you have a larger working area. The surface is also textured perfectly for working with dough.
- It has measured circles and a ruler along the bottom. This is incredibly handy!
- If you own a rolling pin, it won’t take up any extra storage space – just roll it up around your rolling pin for storage.
- Every time I look at it I think of my grandma. (Okay, maybe this isn’t as helpful for you, but you can think of me thinking of my grandma and that might make you smile, right?)
There you have it. Rolling mats a.k.a. pastry sheets a.k.a. pastry mats are great!
Oh, and this biscuit recipe from Homesick Texan was pretty darn yummy! More biscuit love to come…
Thursday, February 28
Remember the Favorite Things gift exchange I attended last December? (If you don’t, it’s worth checking out!) One of the ‘favorite things’ shared at the party was the Whirley Pop. I was not the recipient of that particular gift. I filed it away in my brain as something to get one day. My 5-year-old Anna loves popcorn more than Orville Redenbacher, so I figured it would be fun to have around.
Serendipitously, my awesome sister-in-law Jess gave it to us for Christmas! Score! We’ve used the Whirley Pop a few times now…and…
…the verdict? We love the Whirley Pop! It’s a fast, easy way to make popcorn from scratch. It takes about as long as microwave popcorn but is completely free of scary chemicals. You cook the popcorn over the stove while constantly turning a crank, which keeps the kernels from burning. It works beautifully and the popcorn is delicious, fluffy and crisp!
Parents, just so you know, kids get sick of turning the crank after about, oh, 10 seconds. You’ll end up doing most of the heavy lifting, but I’m pretty sure you can handle it.
My friend Linda in the Bay Area is a fellow Whirley Pop lover and recommended Crown Jewel Popcorn as a great source for buying kernels. They have all kinds of gourmet popcorn to choose from, with pretty names like Blue Sapphire and Fiery Garnet.
And, just so ya know, the Real-Theater popcorn kit that comes with your Whirley Pop…it’s not good. So, don’t waste your money buying any of those. Stick with straight-up kernels and then add your own butter!
And, for the record, even though this post sounds all pitchy, I have no connection to Whirley Pop whatsoever. We just love it and I wanted to tell you about it!
When we make popcorn with the Whirley Pop, we do a full batch with 1/2 cup of kernels and 1 tablespoon of canola oil, topping with 4 tablespoons of melted butter when done, along with a sprinkle of coarse salt. Buttery and delicious!
In case you were wondering, Anna is in popcorn heaven.
Wednesday, February 6
Brace yourself. Today’s post is pretty, pretty, pretty exciting. It’s not for the faint of heart. We’re going to be discussing…oven thermometers! Woohoo!
For years I’ve been planning to try out the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day technique and am just now finally getting my act together to give it a go! One of the “must-haves” in the book is an oven thermometer.
Here’s the deal with me and cooking. I am not very scientific about it. I rarely get out my measuring spoons. I take shortcuts left and right. I’m surprised that the baking I do is successful, actually. My last oven cooked VERY unevenly and it ran cool and was basically a complete mess. Did I ever bother to get an oven thermometer, to get a better idea of what I was dealing with? Nah, I just sort of felt things out. And, most of the time, it was fine, but I’m sure I would have had much better success with that oven if I’d at least known the temperature!
Now that I will be attempting more baking AND since I’m using an oven I’m not familiar with, I’m going to stop messing around and get serious here! I bought an oven thermometer at the store yesterday and tested things out this morning.
I set the oven for 350 degrees and let it preheat for a good half hour. And my oven was surprisingly accurate! It clocked out just under 350 degrees. Of course when I finally get a thermometer, the oven is actually pretty much right on. I am finding, though, that if I want the oven to be 350, I need to set it to 360. Interested to see what the higher temperatures will be like!
Today’s homework, if you haven’t already done so, is to get an oven thermometer! They carry them at the regular grocery store, so no excuses! And when you DO get your thermometer, report back and let us know how your readings come out!
Here’s to happier baking!
Thursday, December 20
I finally made a ton of cinnamon sugar and chocolate candy cane biscotti for our teacher and friend gifts, thanks to help from my sister Anne. They turned out very cute and, more importantly, very delicious!
The day before I made the biscotti I was at Cafe Borrone and I noticed that their chocolate-dipped biscotti was dipped lengthwise. When I dipped biscotti with my friends a few weeks ago, we dipped the ends into the chocolate, which looked totally cute. But lengthwise is also cute and, more importantly, more delicious! You get chocolate in every bite. Boo-yah.
Anna was with me for all the dipping. We kept chanting, “Dip and drip!” It was super cute.
Happy dipping and dripping!
Wednesday, December 5
When my friend Erika was teaching us how to make biscotti last week, a lot of us couldn’t visualize how to cut the biscotti until we actually saw her do it. Someone asked that very question with yesterday’s first biscotti post, so I’m just going to do a little drawing. Hopefully this will help!
Basically you form a long log. The width sort of depends on how you are going to cut it – straight or angled. Most recipes give you a guide for what size to make the log. The fun thing about biscotti is the world is your oyster! The flavor possibilities are seemingly endless, as are the sizes and way you cut them. I personally like an angled cut, so the biscotti looks a little oblong-angle-ish, if you know what I mean. Square or angled, big or small, it’s delicious any way you cut it!
More biscotti recipes coming…stay tuned!
Wednesday, November 7
Last night we had honey goat cheese and caramelized onion pizza for dinner. This is one of my FAVORITE recipes, so if you haven’t tried it, hop to it! Anyway, as I was caramelizing the onions yesterday to prep for the pizza, I was thinking of maybe writing a post about my technique. We had a couple of friends over last night and one of them mentioned that whenever she tries to make caramelized onions, she burns them and it makes her so mad. That sealed the deal…I decided a post was in order!
I have made a few batches of caramelized onions that go the way of burned onions myself. I had tried techniques from reputable sources, but always ended up burning some of the onions. After much trial and error, I finally have the process down and they come out GREAT, not a burned onion to be seen! I am no longer scared of caramelizing onions…yep, I was scared of them before.
- 2 onions
- Olive Oil
Cut off the ends of your onion and remove outer layer. Cut onion in half (so the cut ends are facing out on the sides when you do the cut) and lay the large cut sides down on your cutting surface. Slice onions very thinly, starting from one of the small cut outer edges and going straight across the onion.
Heat about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick, wide pan (that has a lid) over medium heat. Add onions. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir and cook onions until soft. Reduce heat to medium-low. If the pan surface seems a bit dry, add a little bit of olive oil and toss to coat. Put lid on the pan and let onions cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Total cook time will be about 20-30 minutes. Go head, do other stuff, just remember to lift the lid and stir periodically. Cook until onions are a nice dark brown color and have reduced in volume significantly.
Here is why I do what I do. I like to add a bit of sugar to help with the caramelization. I use a non-stick pan, which has worked better for me than stainless steel. The lid being on the pan during the long cooking portion of the program is key. By keeping the lid on, enough water stays in the pan to keep the onions from drying out and burning. Please note that I don’t think this is the traditional way to cook caramelized onions, but I’m a busy mom who can’t mess with high-maintenance onions…I need a foolproof way to cook them without burning them and this works for me!
Voilà! Caramelized onions!