Category: Kitchen Tips
Friday, December 6
Happy Friday! To celebrate the weekend I have TWO awesome Gifts & Giveaways posts for you today. Let’s start with a couple of wild and crazy…kitchen gadgets!
I was recently introduced to the company Dreamfarm. Dreamfarm is all about solving problems and creating products that do just that! They have lots of fun items and I have been trying out a few of their kitchen products for the last month or so.
I’ve been using the Chopula (it’s great!), the Clongs (work great, sits off your bench), the Garjet (you seriously have to go watch the video, this garlic press is cool!), the Supoon (love it, it’s great! also sits off your bench), and the Scizza. Let’s talk about the Scizza for a moment, shall we?
Years ago I wrote a post about how scissors are the best pizza cutter because, well, they are! So as soon as I saw the Scizza I knew I had to give it a try. Scissors made just for cutting pizza? It’s like a dream come true! You should definitely click through to watch the Scizza video and see how cool it is! It is hands down my favorite thing from Dreamfarm.
If you’re looking for a cool holiday gift for any cooks in your life (or even for yourself!), Dreamfarm is a great option. Very fun and original products that are definitely gift-worthy.
Time for the giveaway! One of you lucky people will win a set of Dreamfarm products, including the chopula, clongs, garjet, supoon and the beloved scizza (total retail value of $111.75).
Here is how to enter the giveaway! (Comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Thursday 12/12/13. Prize must be shipped to a U.S. address.)
- Simply leave a comment, any comment, on this post! That’s it! Although, if you want to tell us which Dreamfarm product is most appealing to you, we’d love to hear about it!
- Bonus entry: Like This Week for Dinner on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
- Bonus entry: Follow me on Pinterest and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
- Bonus entry: Follow me on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
- Bonus entry: Like Dreamfarm on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did!
- Bonus entry: Follow Dreamfarm on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you did!
I was given a sampling of Dreamfarm products to review for this giveaway. All opinions are 100% my own.
Tuesday, October 29
You know what I’ve always wanted? A tortilla warmer. I’ve frequently looked for them in stores but have had a hard time finding them. (Side note: I don’t know why I never looked on Amazon, but whatever.)
My wonderful neighbor Ari (who is from Mexico City and shops at a Mexican market nearby) knew I was on the lookout for one. She knocked on my door the other day, tortillas and tortilla warmer in hand! She’s a very good neighbor and she knows how to make me very happy!
So, yeah, tortilla warmers are great. You should get one. You can heat up your tortillas, put them in the warmer as you go, then serve all the heated tortillas at once. It’s awesome. (Now that I think about it, my warmer will come in handy for Swedish pancakes, too!)
Thursday, October 24
About a billion years ago, I mentioned on the blog how I love using a garlic press. My friend Lindsay commented saying she doesn’t like using a garlic press because she feels like she loses so much of the garlic in the process. I responded that I just “re-moosh” it a lot and don’t care that much about the waste. (I know. I’m a total garlic waster. Quelle horreur.) Then someone else named Misty commented saying that she loves her garlic press, too, and that she puts the whole clove in, paper and all. And then Lindsay was like, “That is genius!” and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t really get what Misty was talking about, which was dumb because when I went back to find the comments this week I realized Misty totally linked to a post about her trick and I could have learned this a billion years ago. (Did you follow all that? I think multiple episodes of The Vampire Diaries last night may be having an impact on my ability to communicate like an adult.)
I finally figured out Misty’s trick this week and I LOVE IT. It also inspired another trick that I want to share, which isn’t quite as cool but still handy.
Misty’s Garlic Press Trick: When you use a garlic press put the WHOLE CLOVE, paper and all, into the press and then push it through like normal. Remember all that waste that Lindsay was so worried about? The paper becomes the waste that gets stuck in the press and almost every last bit of garlic gets pushed through. It’s like magic. Vampire Diaries-worthy magic. The other really cool part of this trick is that the garlic press is easier to clean when you use it this way. The paper doesn’t get all stuck in the bumps and grooves like straight-up garlic does. It’s so much easier to clean up!
Put the whole clove in, with paper.
Push it all the way through.
Voila! Only the paper is left behind.
My Related Garlic Press Trick That’s Not Quite as Magical: Okay, so, you can also use your garlic press to get the paper off of your clove easily. Once again place the whole clove, paper and all, into the press. Then push, but not too far. Just enough to crack things up a bit. Remove the clove from the press and you should be able to easily peel the paper off the clove. Alternatively you can just smash the clove under the flat-side of a knife to get the same effect, which is what I normally do, but the press works great, too!
Put the whole clove in, with paper.
Press about half way, remove the garlic clove, then pop off the paper!
Happy mincing and de-papering of garlic!
Please note: Garlic was harmed in the making of this blog post. In fact, I wasted one entire clove just for a picture. I didn’t use it for anything. I am a true garlic waster. I’m surprised I even care about this cool garlic trick at all.
Tuesday, September 24
I love making my kids’ birthday cakes. The tradition stems from my childhood. I remember so many of the cakes my mom made for me and I also remember being sooooo excited for each of those cakes. They made me feel special and like my mom could work magic. My brother and I have both continued the tradition with our own children. It’s one of those things that I really love to do for my kids.
Each time I make a cake I share it on the blog (let’s be honest, I like to show them off!), but I never get around to explaining how I put the shapes together. I thought I’d give a quick rundown of how I assembled the Little Blue Truck cake.
First and foremost, be sure to read through this post to get lots of tips for successfully decorating cute cakes. The instructions below mostly focus on how to create the shape of the truck, but the tips in that post are just as important!
I decided to make Little Blue just a day or two before Owen’s party, so it was pretty last minute. I was planning to do a 2-dimensional cake in the shape of Little Blue as he appears on the cover of the book. While the cake was cooling, Anna found a 3-dimensional truck cake in our favorite book Cakes for Kids and plans changed!
In Cakes for Kids, the truck cake utilizes loaf pans to create the shape, but since I had already baked a standard square cake for my 2-dimensional version, I went with my own design. It actually worked really well, so here’s what I did!
- Bake an 8-inch square cake. (When I am baking cakes to cut into shapes, I like to use a pan with very straight, right-angled edges. Also, use cake strips so it cooks flat.)
- When cake is completely cool, cut it into three pieces as indicated by this diagram:
- Find something to use as a “lift” for the cake – I used four blue duplo legos (I should have used white or black). Cut a piece of cardboard that is just a smidge smaller than the largest piece of cake. On your cake board (the final board the cake will be displayed on), line up the legos (or whatever you’re using as a lift) underneath the cardboard cutout so that the legos are near the edges and placed where the wheels on the truck would go. Set the cardboard cutout aside, then secure the legos to the cake board using frosting. Freeze so frosting gets hard and legos stay in place.
- Put a dab of frosting on the cardboard cutout, then place the largest piece of cake on the cutout, lining it up so you can’t see the cardboard. Frost cake with crumb coat then freeze.
- Place one of the smaller pieces on top of the frosted cake, where the cab of the truck would be, making sure to use frosting to attach it to the cake below. Spread a layer of frosting on top of the small piece you just placed, then add the second small piece on top. Shape the two small pieces using a knife so it’s narrower at the top. Apply crumb coat of frosting and freeze.
- Frost cake with the pretty layer of frosting.
- Use white rolled fondant to make the windows, bumper, headlights, license plate and grate. I added a smidge of black food coloring for the bumper and grate and a smidge of yellow and orange food coloring for the license plate. Windows and headlights stayed pure white. I used a black edible pen to draw in the eyes on the headlights and lines on the grate.
- To get the right size and shape for the windows/etc, I held up a piece of cardstock to the cake, estimated the size for each piece, then drew out the pieces and cut them out of the cardstock. I adjusted the templates where necessary then traced the shapes on the fondant with a knife, then cut the pieces out. Be sure to roll the fondant out quite thin or it will look too bulky on the cake (some of my windows were a little thick!).
- Place truck on top of legos on the final cake board, securing with frosting.
- Dab a bit of frosting on the edge of an Oreo cookie then stick to the sides of the cake, covering up the legos from the side, for wheels. If a little frosting squishes out around the edge of the Oreo, use a toothpick to clean it up.
- If I had planned ahead a bit more, I could have filled the back of the truck with animals, but I didn’t, so Little Blue had a light load that day!
There are some fancier Little Blue Truck cakes out there that are sooooo cute (you have to check out this one - thanks for the link, Hillary!). But my simpler version worked just fine and Owen was ecstatic about his cake, crying out “Little Blue Truck!” every time he saw it. Plus, it is a pretty generic truck so you could make whatever color truck you want!
A quick note on the big green toad cake: I simply cooked an 8-inch round cake and then cut a few pieces out around the edges to make a shape of the toad’s head, with fondant for eyes. Super simple!
My various birthday cake links if you’re interested!
- Click here for tons of tips for decorating birthday cakes, as well as the buttercream and chocolate cake recipes that I always use and love.
- Giraffe Cake
- Princess Crown Cake
- Hello Kitty Cake with Cat Cupcakes
- Elephant Cake
- Ghost Cake
- Spiderman Cake (my first successful cute cake!)
- My first successful layer cake (boring but cute)
- My first birthday cake post on this blog that shows just how far I’ve come and proves anyone can make cute cakes!
Thursday, September 5
One of the very best features of our new house is the back patio. The landscaping in the yard is beautiful, complete with lighting at night, and the patio is large with a beautiful pergola, from which I will be hanging twinkle lights.
Ever day I count my lucky stars that we ended up getting this home. The previous owner lived here forever and took such good care of the home, looking out for every detail. Once such detail that we discovered a week or two after moving in was the gas line wired out to the patio. How cool is that?
The gas line comes up on the left side of the patio, near the post you see on the left in this photo.
I never thought a gas line could look so beautiful, but it does!
Over the next few months we are going to be working with Lowe’s to put in a grill and an outdoor shower in our fabulous new yard. We have started the planning process and I am really itching to get the grill installed!
I started browsing the Lowe’s website yesterday to see what’s available before we hit the store, and I honestly felt a bit overwhelmed. I figure if I feel overwhelmed, other people must, too! And I know that some of you have knowledge and opinions about gas grills that would be very beneficial for the clueless ones among us.
So, we’re doing a Call for Recipes, except there are no recipes involved! Today we are calling for your tips and advice when shopping for a gas grill! Which features are “must-have” and which are not so important? What do you love most about your grill? What do you hate most about your grill? Any and all tips at all different budget levels are welcome!
Tuesday, September 3
Do you have an instant-read thermometer with a probe and an oven-safe cord? If the answer is no, then I want you to put this item on your “to-buy” list immediately!
Before I had my thermometer, I didn’t realize how much I needed it. Nate was the one who bought it and I am so grateful he did! I use it ALL THE TIME, especially when cooking meat. If I use the thermometer when cooking meat of any kind, the end result is always juicy and tender but still cooked through. The thermometer is helpful in many other situations as well, such as the ever-important task of cooking doughnuts.
I was thinking the other day that I should write up a quick tribute to to my thermometer, especially since it decided to keep on trucking even after I burned it on the stovetop and thought for sure it had bitten the proverbial dust. Amazingly, it came back to life. I think it must love me as much as I love it!
I can’t find my exact thermometer online anywhere, so I am unable give you a link to buy the one I have. I did a quick search on Bed Bath and Beyond and found many great options, ranging in price from $20-100. Mine was most certainly on the $20 end of the spectrum and it has served me faithfully year after year. I recommend finding a thermometer with an oven-safe cord, so that you can leave the probe in the food throughout cooking if desired.
Happy thermometer shopping!
And, if you DO have a thermometer and love it, please tell us about it and why it is so great! Links are helpful, too! Thanks, everyone!
Tuesday, August 20
This Kitchen Tip Will BLOW YOUR MIND and Give You the Power to Tackle Any Plastic Wrap or Foil In Your Path
Nate’s Aunt Linda shared today’s kitchen tip with me last week on the Cape. She saw it on Facebook recently and everyone she’s shared it with since has had the same reaction I did: “DUH! How did I not know that?!?!”
Are you ready for this life-changing, super simple, we-all-should-already-know-this kitchen tip?
You know how when you need to dispense aluminum foil or plastic wrap from the box you kind of have to hold the lid closed just the right amount so that you can still pull the plastic or foil without pulling out the whole roll and it’s always kind of finicky and annoying? (I think Virginia Woolf would be very proud of that amazing run-on question. 10 points for liberal arts majors!)
Okay, look at the ends of the box and you’ll notice a little spot that says something like “Press here to lock roll” or “Push tab” or something like that. Guess what? You just have to push those tabs in on both ends and that holds the roll in the box for you. VOILA! No more battling the roll! I’m thinking these tabs have probably been around FOREVER.
How many of you already knew about these handy tabs? How many of you were just as clueless as the rest of us?
You better believe I’ve pushed all the tabs in on my boxes!
Thursday, June 20
Hey everyone! It’s looking like I’ll be able to share our fun news with you tomorrow! Which is one of the reasons I’ve been missing from the blog this week. Things to do! Things to do!
Until then, I want to share a little trick I just discovered. Oprah would call it an “A-HA!” moment, but I think it can more accurately be described as an “OH, DUH!” moment.
Okay, so I have kids who won’t eat the crust on their sandwiches. It drives me batty. They all started out as people who ate their crusts, but all three of them, at some point along the way, just stopped eating crusts. I think it’s such a waste and I hate it, but there’s not much I can do about it! Since there’s no fighting the no-crust-eating around here, I always cut their sandwiches into four triangle, which results in straight crusts. If the crusts are straight, they end up eating a lot more of the actual sandwich.
My one problem has always been when they just want half of a sandwich. I always cut squares for half-sandwiches. When you try to cut rectangular-sized bread into a triangle for a half, the edges don’t line up.
As a result of all this, I hate giving my kids half sandwiches because I feel like they are hardly getting any sandwich at all with those dumb cornered crusts.
And then, the other day, as I was making a half sandwich, it finally hit me. We CAN have half sandwiches AND straight crusts, too! (PS…I’m pretty sure this is what Marie Antoinette actually said.)
Cut the bread in half diagonally, into two large triangles.
Then, flip one of the pieces over, like so. (This is the secret to success here!)
Look at that! The long edges line up with the long edges, the short edges line up with the short edges. All is right with the world!
The result? A half sandwich cut into two triangles with straight crusts!
When I was photographing the bread for this post yesterday, Cate asked, “Do you think other people don’t know this?” She makes a good point. You may all have already figured this out, but if there is just one of you in the “OH, DUH!” boat like me, then it’s worth writing the post!
Happy non crust half sandwich eating, spoiled children of the world!
Thursday, May 23
About every other year I decide I really want to grow tomatoes. And every other year I enthusiastically post a photo of our beautiful little tomato plants. And every other year I report back at the end of the summer that I killed everything. I am cursed.
This year is going to be different. I know I’ve said that before, but really, it is! I bit the bullet and invested in two Earth Boxes. My friend Natalee has used them the last few years and has amazing success. The beauty of the Earth Box is that you cannot overwater the plants – they always have just the right amount of water. You can use the boxes forever and you get about 8 growing seasons before you need to replace the soil. The woman at the garden center said she also loves the Earth Box. I really really really think this year is going to be different, folks.
What’s that? Locusts in my backyard destroying my tomato plants? Figures.
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!