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  1. Tuesday, September 30

    Kitchen Tip: How To Perfectly Cut the First Slice of Cake

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    I am SOOOOO excited about today’s post for two reasons. Reason #1: how gorgeous is my birthday cake? (In case you’re wondering, the cake is from Extraordinary Desserts and is called The Viking. Nate buys this cake for me as a gift every year and it is the reason I live for my birthday.)

    my favorite cake in the WORLD - the viking from extraordinary desserts (from @janemaynard)

    Reason #2 I am excited about today’s post: I have a spectacular new kitchen tip for you.

    When Nate picked my cake up last week at Extraordinary Desserts, they told him to use a hot knife to cut the cake, a tip we already know and love (simply hold the knife under hot water for 45 seconds, dry it off and then cut – smooth as silk!). But they also taught him how to perfectly cut the first slice of cake, and it’s so simple! Here’s what they had to say on the subject:

    “Use two knives to cut the first piece.”

    how to easily and perfectly cut the first slice of cake from @janemaynard

    Why we were never given that tip before I’ll never know, but I’ll tell you what. BEST. TIP. EVER. Nate mentioned their comment as we were about to cut the cake and were both like, “Two knives? Huh?” And then we tried it and WOW. It’s just so easy to slide that first slice right out of the cake when you have two hot knives simultaneously pulling it out. Amazing.

    perfectly cut first slice of cake

    Just one more reason to love Extraordinary Desserts, as if I needed another! I will never be scared to cut into a cake again!

    Side note: You can make this cake, the recipe is included in the book Extraordinary Cakes by Karen Krasne, the pastry chef behind Extraordinary Desserts. The cake involves six recipes…you’ve been warned!

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  2. Thursday, September 18

    Beginning My Quest! {Plus a Giveaway!}

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    Have you ever undertaken a quest? I have not. I’m not a huge goal-making kind of person. I like seeing what opportunities arise in life and just going with it. Nate once asked where I saw my career in 5 years and I felt like hyperventilating! Making plans and goals is not my thing.

    setting goals and review/giveaway for "the happiness of pursuit" - from @janemanard

    That said, I’ve decided to fight my natural instincts and undertake a quest. Set a goal. Accomplish a monumental task that I have actually planned on accomplishing ahead of time. And, to be honest, it’s a little scary. And telling you about it is making it even scarier.

    I have a literary agent. She is fabulous. To not work with her on a book would be a crime, so I’m totally going for it. Except, I’ve been going for it for 4 years. She is very patiently waiting for my book proposal to hit her Inbox while I’m off having babies (done!), moving a few times (done!) and going through about 20 different ideas for a book, none of which I liked. But the stars are finally aligning. My agent and I have settled on a theme for the book that we are both really excited about. I am in a place in life where I can carve out time for writing a book. I’ve done a lot of the groundwork with my blog that I need to do before an agent goes out to sell my book. Basically, it’s time. I’m starting my quest.

    My quest is simple…well, simple to describe, at least! I am going to finish writing my book proposal. It needs to happen. I need to know I gave it my all and then see where it takes me, see what my agent can do with it. Whether or not I end up as a bestselling author is beside the point. I want to know I tried, that I took advantage of this opportunity placed before me.

    Today’s post is sponsored by Random House in support of the new book The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau. Chris had a quest – to visit every country in the world by the time he was 35 years old. Chris’s book talks about his quest as well as the quests of many other people he met on his journey, people he calls strivers. As I’ve read through the book and seen what makes these strivers tick, it’s been great food for thought. Bonus: his thoughts and suggestions are making me feel less scared of the journey!

    Do you have a quest you’ve been putting on the backburner? Have you completed one? Are you still finding your quest? Please share your thoughts with me. I need moral support!

    One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Happiness of PursuitComments must be posted by Wednesday, 9/24 at Midnight PT, one entry per person, and the winner’s book must ship to a U.S. address. Good luck! Can’t wait to hear about your quests!

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  3. Thursday, September 11

    Inside the McDonald’s Machine

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    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    This post is sponsored by McDonald’s. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

    In May, McDonald’s flew me to Chicago to visit their headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. I sat down for 60 minutes of discussion with some of their leadership team, including the senior directors of marketing and management. McDonald’s understands that they have a polarizing brand and they are making efforts to reach out to people who have neutral or negative opinions about the company (people like me!) to engage in a dialogue. When they first approached me about potentially doing a sponsored post on my blog involving an interview with members of the leadership team, in all honesty my initial reaction was “no way.” But I thought about it a lot and decided that this could be an excellent opportunity to talk with decision-makers at the company, ask them direct questions and hear what they had to say (as well as maybe get a chance to share my thoughts around their business).

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    I feel strongly that what we do in the kitchen has a strong impact on Mother Earth. My New Year’s resolutions always involve an environmental goal that’s directly related to how our family eats. I also try to cook at home as much as I can to feed my family a nutritious and balanced diet. But guess what? We also go to McDonald’s. Not all the time, but we go. Cate doesn’t like McDonald’s and normally doesn’t order anything (she’s well-versed in the concept of monoculture farming but also does not enjoy the food). Anna and Owen, however, love McDonald’s, and it’s a special treat for them when we go. That said, on the occasions that I visit McDonald’s, questions and concerns about sustainability and our food system are constantly swirling in my head.

    *

    When my girls found out that I was going to interview people at McDonald’s, I asked if they had any specific things they wanted me to talk about. They both said they wanted me to ask McDonald’s to please put baby carrots in the Happy Meals. I shared our family’s wish with Chef Jessica, so I’ve done my duty. Even though McDonald’s does not accept unsolicited advice – “Jane Maynard’s Requests” was not on the “How a Product Is Developed” infographic they shared with me – if baby carrots ever do appear in the Happy Meal, the girls and I are totally taking credit!

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    On to the interviews! Here are the folks that I had the chance to talk with, both in person and over the phone:

    • Justin Ransom, PhD, Senior Director, Quality Systems, Supply Chain Management
    • Erik Gonring, Manager, Global Government Relations & Public Affairs
    • Chef Jessica Foust, RDN, Director of Culinary Innovation
    • Cindy Goody, PhD, MBA, RDN, LDN, Senior Director of Nutrition
    • Darci Forrest, Senior Director Marketing, Menu Innovation Team

    In my discussion with Justin and Erik, we talked about food sustainability and supply issues, which have always been my biggest concerns with McDonald’s and other big food brands. I learned from talking with Justin and Erik that when McDonald’s looks at sourcing, there’s a triple bottom line that’s defined by three Es: ethics, environment and economics. Those three factors drive how the company sources their food. One interesting takeaway that I learned – and something that I honestly hadn’t thought about before – is that McDonald’s wants to get their food from sustainable sources, because they need those supplies to not disappear.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    Erik gave the example of the Filet-O-Fish, an iconic McDonald’s item. At one point, the company learned that they were contributing to the depletion of the cod supply off the Atlantic coast. This problem had ethical, environmental and economic implications. McDonald’s knew they had to make a change, especially since they needed a long-term fish supply in order to continue serving the beloved sandwich. After years of work, McDonald’s USA has reached a point where all of the whitefish they use is sustainably harvested, and McDonald’s was the first national chain to serve whitefish sourced from a Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable fishery.

    I also inquired about organic and local sourcing. Justin said that 14,000 restaurants using local and/or organic ingredients is a challenge. Taking into account their high standards for quality, safety and consistency, McDonald’s has to minimize risk in their supply chain, which makes organic and locally sourced foods difficult to implement. I understand this on a logical level, but it’s still a concern for me. I asked Justin if he was at all optimistic that, in the future, we could source foods in more sustainable ways at this scale. Justin said he is. Honestly, I don’t know that I am, but I’m glad someone is.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    We also discussed waste. On the customer side, I asked about recycling and compost bins in restaurants. Erik said that when there is infrastructure to support recycling and composting, typically they get on board: restaurants in cities including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Austin have recycling bins, and many of those markets also compost organic waste behind the counter. But he also stressed that customer behavior is the biggest challenge when implementing these systems. On the supply side, I learned that the bulk of the waste at a restaurant happens behind the counter. McDonald’s recycles their corrugate and cooking oil in many restaurants, which makes up to 40% of that behind-the-scenes waste. The company is also taking actions like phasing out polystyrene coffee cups and joining the How2Recycle label program to make it easier for customers to recycle away from the restaurant.

    The biggest takeaway from my discussion with Erik and Justin is that McDonald’s won’t compromise on their final product. The McDonald’s fry is a good example of this. Justin said that the taste of McDonald’s fries must remain consistent around the world. This means that McDonald’s only uses a handful of potato varieties from specific regions of the world. I was told that identifying new varieties is a long and arduous process and McDonald’s would never allow customers to notice a change in their fries. For me, this is a perfect example of how our demand for one specific product leads to problematic farming practices. If there were more room for variation, we wouldn’t need to farm such limited varieties of potatoes. When there is such a high demand for just a few crops, those plants are susceptible to pests, which in turn necessitates the use of either GMOs – which McDonald’s made clear that they do not use – or pesticides. Industrialized monoculture farming, where you grow un-diversified crops, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our demand – what we will or will not buy – directly impacts how food is grown.

    *

    In my discussion with chef Jessica, nutritionist Cindy and marketer Darci, we talked at length about the menu, how it’s developed and efforts around nutrition. Here are four key takeaways from that discussion:

    • When a new product is rolled out, it takes anywhere from nine months to four years to develop, from conceptualization to finally being sold in restaurants.
    • McDonald’s has reformulated a long list of their ingredients, from the Big Mac bun to nuggets, to contain less sodium.
    • McDonald’s is working on a set of initiatives for their top nine and top 20 markets to be fulfilled by 2020 that include, among other things, increasing the amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables that are served, as well as offering more salads and produce as options with meals.
    • Taste is key. McDonald’s won’t sacrifice when it comes to taste and is completely focused on serving customers what they want and will buy.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    The Arches, a full-service McDonald’s restaurant in the corporate office building.

    A lot of the issues that I have with McDonald’s and our food system in general map back to the consumer. For instance, I asked Darci why McDonald’s peels the apples in their Happy Meals. (I really wish that the apples were not peeled so that my kids would at least have the option of eating better.) Darci explained that McDonald’s serves apples that way because it was the best balance they could find of serving a product that parents would feel good about giving their kids but also one that the kids would eat, based on testing prior to the product launch. Corporations as large as McDonald’s have a social responsibility and should take a leadership role, but purchasing power is also incredibly important when it comes to effecting change.

    *

    So did I learn anything new through this process? Yes. Did I get some answers that weren’t completely satisfactory? Yes. Did I get some positive answers I wasn’t expecting? Yes. Could I have asked questions all day long? You bet. And do I still believe that we, the consumers, are at the root of the food system and that we can make a difference? Yes!

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    Let me know in the comments section below: if you could ask the McDonald’s team one question, what would it be?

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  4. Friday, September 5

    Friday Show and Tell

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    Happy Friday!

    favorite sandwich bread from @janemaynard - trader joe's half-baked panini rustic rolls

    When I started this blog nearly 8 years ago, I was constantly sharing my favorite Trader Joe’s finds, much to the chagrin of those readers who didn’t have a Trader Joe’s near their home. I backed off a lot over the years, but I recently found an item that I am loving and have to tell you about. If you don’t have a TJs, my apologies. The Half-Baked Panini Rustic Rolls are AWESOME. We’ve used the rolls for pesto chicken salad sandwiches and for a variation on our caprese paninis. The bread is perfect for sandwiches, with a nice crisp exterior and chewy interior. The big bonus is that, magically, the sandwich fixings don’t squeeze out as you eat the sandwich. We LOVE this bread!

    On to food links!

    That’s all from me today…what do you have to share?

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  5. Thursday, August 28

    A Visit to Tillamook, and Happy Cows Don’t Moo

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    Earlier this summer I received an email from Tillamook, inviting me to visit the Tillamook cheese factory in Oregon as well as see one of their dairy farms. After a little “please pretty please can I ditch our family for three days” begging with Nate, I promptly emailed Tillamook and said YES to the invitation. We love Tillamook around our house. From the time I was a wee thing my mom taught me that Tillamook cheese was the best. Not only do I think their products are great, but I always love getting a peek into food production, so I couldn’t wait for this trip. (I want to add a little something here, copying and pasting one of the comments from one of my mom’s best friends, Jona, who is the source of our family’s loyalty! “Your mom was indoctrinated by me when she was 17, Jane. So glad you loved Tillamook and beyond. I hope you saw my grandfather’s picture in the Cheese Factory. He was one of the earliest cheesemakers back in the early 1900’s. I am so proud of that heritage.”)

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    Two weeks ago I flew to Portland, OR, where I arrived at what appeared to be the set for Portlandia. Oh, wait, it was just Portland. Portland IS Portlandia, in case you were wondering. I loved Portland and had a wonderful afternoon exploring and eating my way around town. A delicious lunch at Tasty n Alder, dessert at Voodoo Doughnut, and a large portion of my very short time spent at Powell’s Books, which is now on the list of my most favorite places on the planet, made for a pretty perfect day.

    A Quick Visit to Portland, OR by @janemaynard  #blog2farm

    Let’s get down to the business at hand, shall we? Cheese! I have so much to share about Tillamook it’s almost overwhelming, so I’m going to let my pictures from the trip guide me through this post.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard  #blog2farm

    We headed west from Portland to Tillamook, OR. The drive was unbelievably picturesque and you can’t miss the factory once you reach town. There I am in front of the GIANT Tillamook sign with Stephanie from 52 Kitchen Adventures…she is wonderful, btw.

    tillamook factory #blog2farm

    We of course were given a tour of the factory. Anyone can visit the factory for tours and to shop in the store, so if you’re ever in the area be sure to stop in! We also had a chance to go behind the scenes and see where the cheese is aged and stored. The facilities are quite impressive.

    A visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    Have you ever noticed a boat on the Tillamook logo? Well, there it is! The ship Morning Star was used in the early days to deliver cheese up and down the coast. Obviously it’s a little landlocked now but it is just as beautiful as ever.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    Part of our tour was lead by Dale Baumgartner, Tillamook Head Cheesemaker (a.k.a. the Head Cheese…that joke is irresistible). Dale has been working for Tillamook for for over 40 years and he knows his cheese. It was fascinating learning how the cheese is made today, but maybe even more interesting hearing about his early years at Tillamook. I always love talking with people who truly love their work and are such experts at what they do. It’s inspiring to me and something, quite honestly, I can’t imagine.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard  #blog2farm

    Want some fun cheesemaking facts? Here you go! (I stole these from the signs on the tour.)

    • Each of the eight stainless steel cheese vats holds approximately 53,500 pounds of fresh milk. On average each vat makes three batches of cheese per day.
    • It takes 10 pounds (1.16 gallons) of milk to make 1 pound of Tillamook cheese.
    • More then 1.7 million pounds of milk arrive at the plant each day. Approximately 167,000 pounds of cheese are made each day.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    In addition to learning all about how the cheese is made, we also spent part of our day with Jill Allen, Manager of Product Quality. Jill leads the sensory team, which spends all day every day tasting every single batch of everything that is made at the plant, from butter to yogurt to cheese to ice cream to sour cream. Jill was equally as fascinating to listen to, plus she let us taste all kinds of delicious things. And, in case you are wondering, her team expectorates everything they taste so that their tastebuds are as ready to go on the first bite as they are on the last. Bottom line, after everything we learned about sensory, I would absolutely not want to be on that team! I’m glad other people are up for the job!

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    During our session with Jill, we taste tested Tillamook products alongside leading competitors. You can even tell from this crappy indoor photo how different Tillamook’s cheddar is compared to other brands – the difference was night and day! Many factors play into this, from the quality of the milk to the water content or the cheese to the smaller blocks of cheese that are made. Great care is taken at every step in the process, making for a higher quality final product.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    I think one of my favorite things we tasted that day were the cheddar cheese curds. The curds is what the cheese looks like before it’s compressed naturally into blocks. Sadly you can only buy the curds at the Tillamook factory store, which was, by the way, awesome.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    That evening we drove west, where we had a view of the amazing Oregon coast.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard  #blog2farm

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard  #blog2farmStephanie, Deseree, Me and Anita – I’m kind of in love with all three of these ladies

    We stayed at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, where my hotel room looked out on this:

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    I didn’t want to leave. But they made me, which wasn’t too hard since they gave me cute yellow boots and told me I could go look at cute baby cows. Sold!

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard  #blog2farm

    Before we flew home, we spent the morning at one of the Tillamook dairy farms, owned by Ryan and Wendy. Tillamook is a cooperative, so the farmers all have a stake in the business. There are less than 150 farms in the co-op and they are all within a fairly short distance of the plant. And, from what we witnessed, the cows on those farms are living good lives as Tillamook employees.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    Here’s the deal. We did not hear one “MOO” the entire time we were on the tour. Wendy said that cows only “moo” when they are discontent or warning other cows about something, so if they’re quiet, it pretty much means they’re happy and content.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    Wendy and Ryan were gracious hosts and taught us all kinds of interesting things about being dairy farmers. I think what struck us most is how much work it is and how tied they are to the farm. It’s really hard for them to ever get away and I think they said it’s been 2 years since their last vacation. Heavens. And Ryan is up before 3:00 AM every day. I can’t even imagine.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    They explained that it costs more to make high-quality milk but that Tillamook incentivizes the farmers to make high-quality milk, so it’s worth it. It is amazing how much goes into the process of milking cows twice a day. This particular farm has around 400 cattle and it costs $7/day/cow just for feed. Ryan is a 4th-generation dairy farmer, so he knows what he’s doing. He and Wendy were both incredibly relaxed and happy.

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    The whole crew! Liren, Glory, Dorothy, Jesseca, Heather, Lizzy, Anita, Stephanie, Deseree, Rachael, Lisa and Yours Truly

    Needless to say I had a fabulous time, surrounded by wonderful people, delicious food and cute cows! I learned a lot and am so appreciative that I was able to be a part of the trip. Also, we had the chance to taste a new Tillabar flavor that is coming out next year and it is AMAZING. I’m not allowed to tell you what it is, but I’ll be sure to let you know when it hits stores!

    A Visit to Tillamook by @janemaynard #blog2farm

    Thank you, Tillamook!

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  6. Wednesday, August 27

    Parchment Paper Sheets are the Bomb

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    Today I have a quick kitchen tip, which involves sharing yet another awesome find from my recent unexpected shopping spree on the King Arthur Flour website. In fact, today’s item is what started the whole shopping spree to begin with!

    parchment paper sheets from king arthur flour by @janemaynard - you need these!

    I love my silicon baking mats and use them multiple times every week. (Side note: if you don’t have one already, hop to it!) As much I use my SILPAT, I do still use parchment paper for various projects, including when I make granola bars each week. (Side note #2: I cook granola bars on parchment paper, then tear the paper into small pieces to place between the layers of granola bars in my storage container. Works great!)

    parchment paper sheets from king arthur flour by @janemaynard - you need these!

    I don’t remember the details, but for some reason one day on Facebook two of my food blogging friends Barbara and Diane told me about flat parchment baking sheets. I had always just bought parchment paper in a roll at the grocery store and didn’t even know flat sheets existed. Diane and Barbara told me how awesome the sheets were so I decided to order some on the King Arthur website (along with many, many, many other wonderful items I didn’t know I needed but totally did).

    parchment paper sheets from king arthur flour by @janemaynard - you need these!

    Anyway, the bottom line is that I love the parchment paper sheets just as much as Diane and Barbara do. Those ladies were so right. The flat sheets are much easier to work with than the rolled up paper, which tends to curl easily when you’re trying to lay it out, and they fit perfectly in a cookie sheet. The flat parchment sheets are also easier to cut down to different sizes when making cakes. (Side note #3: You can also buy 9-inch and 8-inch round parchment paper sheets if you really don’t want to ever have to cut parchment paper yourself again.) One last benefit is the sheets that I got at King Arthur are also reusable. They’re pretty much magic.

    parchment paper sheets from king arthur flour by @janemaynard - you need these!

    Barbara lives in Utah and gets her parchment paper sheets at Orson Gygi. I am not fortunate enough to have a wonderful restaurant supply store near where I live, which is why I ordered mine online from King Arthur.

    Happy parchment papering!

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  7. Tuesday, August 12

    I LOVE My Bread Box (a.k.a. Expandable Bread Keeper)

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    About six months ago I needed to order some parchment paper sheets from King Arthur and then proceeded to get totally sucked in and bought way more stuff than I was planning on (like the tulip baking cups). I had been wanting a bread box, mostly for when I make homemade bread. I had done some research but hadn’t found anything that I thought would work well.

    why I love the expandable bread keeper from king arthur flour from @janemaynard

    Then I noticed this expandable bread keeper on the King Arthur site. It caught my eye for two reasons. First, it’s expandable. Second, it had an air vent. The biggest complaint I found with other bread boxes was that bread would go moldy. The vent seemed like the answer.

    why I love the expandable bread keeper from king arthur flour from @janemaynard

    So, I bought the expandable bread keeper, got it in the mail, and then stuck it in a cupboard and forgot about it. Like, my-friend-Debbie-texted-me-one-day-and-asked-if-I-had-a-bread-box-and-I-told-her-no forgot about it. When we got home from vacation this summer, I stumbled on the bread box, broke it out and started using it. AND I LOVE IT.

    why I love the expandable bread keeper from king arthur flour from @janemaynard

    The vent works great and has two settings, depending on how humid your climate is or if your bread is warm. I love that it can expand to different sized loaves, and it’s really tall so you can fit a lot in there. And there is also a little mini bread board inside, making it really easy to slice off the bread you need and then put it away.

    why I love the expandable bread keeper from king arthur flour from @janemaynard

    This bread keeper is great for homemade bread but I do also use it for breads we buy at the store that come in paper bags (like fresh French and Italian breads). I’m using less plastic bags AND the bread keeps better. We even stored leftover muffins in there and it worked great – since the bread keeper is so tall, I just stacked two layers of muffins inside.

    I had a loaf of crusty bread go moldy the other day, but it had been in there for a whole week, so, you know, obviously it went moldy. And it actually stayed UN-moldy much longer than when it’s in a plastic bag.

    So, there you have it. I love my expandable bread keeper and I’ll never forget its existence ever again! If you’re in the market for a bread box, I know it’s not as cute as some of the metal retro ones out there, but I think the function on this far exceeds the need for a glamorous bread box. Just sayin’.

    Anyone have any bread box advice? Do you have on you love? Tell us about it!

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  8. Friday, August 8

    Friday Show and Tell: The Kupp’ & Back in Birks

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    Before I get to food links, I have two things to share with you that I’m loving.

    review of gizeh birkenstocks by @janemaynard (they rock!)

    First off, I started wearing Birks. As in Birkenstocks, specifically the Gizeh sandals. I received them as a gift last fall at a Ladies’ Home Journal event but didn’t start wearing them, despite my sister-in-law Hannah who works in fashion in NYC telling me that people were totally wearing them again. Then I bought a standing desk and my feet started hurting from standing so much and then I pulled out the fancy new Birks and THEN I FELL IN LOVE. Just thought I should let you know. My feet never hurt when I wear these. Plus, they’re actually kinda cute.

    review of the kupp' by @janemaynard

    Second, a new company started by a mom contacted me about trying out their product, the Kupp’. My kids are absolutely loving it! I love that they are made out of glass, given my goal to phase out plastic as much as possible from our lives, but the silicone sleeve makes them very kid-friendly. And my kids love having their very own cup to be responsible for. They basically haven’t used anything else for two weeks!

    Here’s my post on Babble this week. My kids and I were supposed to try a Disney recipe out and report on how it went. The popsicles are made from non-fat, plain yogurt, bananas and blueberries with just a bit of honey. I honestly didn’t think my kids would like the popsicles that much, but I was so wrong. They loved them! This is a great recipe for kids:

    And food fun on Cosmo:

    As always, please share anything you like!

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  9. Thursday, July 31

    My New Favorite Cupcake & Muffin Liners: Tulip Baking Cups

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    A couple years ago I started noticing really cute muffin liners at coffee shops that sort of stuck up on top. I had been keeping my eye out for them at the store but never found them anywhere. Then, one day when I sent on a mini shopping spree on the King Arthur website, there they were. Tulip muffin papers. I of course put them in my cart immediately! Imagine my delight when I found them a few months later at Target. Yay!

    tulip muffin liners

    Tulip baking cups are my new favorite baking cups, a.k.a. muffin papers, a.k.a. muffin liners, a.k.a. cupcake liners, a.k.a. they have a lot of names, apparently. Whatever you call them, they are wicked cute and I’m loving them!

    tulip cupcake and muffin liners info from @janemaynard

    Here’s why I like tulip liners:

    • Tulip liners are really easy to separate when you’re putting them in the pan. Makes them a bit quicker to set up than traditional baking cups, which I almost always accidentally double up a few times per batch.
    • No batter spillover on your pans! I think this is my most favorite aspect of these liners.
    • They’re purrrrty.
    • If you’re in a pinch and find yourself without cupcake liners, you can make your own tulip liners using small squares of parchment paper. Just Google “diy tulip cupcake liners” and you’ll find a plethora of tutorials.

    tulip cupcake liners

    A few more notes for when you use them as well as where to buy them:

    • You can cook cupcakes as well as muffins in these liners, although I have yet to make cupcakes myself. If you make cupcakes, you’ll need to pipe on the frosting.
    • If you make muffins with these liners, you’re not really going to get a “muffin top.” The tops still get the same texture as a normal muffin, but they don’t have that classic muffin top shape. In fact, it’s pretty much stump central. (When Nate and I realized I was making muffin stumps, it made us laugh so hard. It’s safe to say Elaine would not like these muffin liners.)
    • When filling the liners with batter, do so carefully. If you drip or accidentally get batter on the upper part of the liner, it will bake to a dark color so you’re liner will have ugly spots. Not the end of the world but something to keep in mind.
    • Like I mentioned, I recently found PaperChef tulip baking cups at Target. You can also buy tulip liners online at various sites like the King Arthur website and Amazon. Please note if you order them from somewhere online, depending on how they are packaged when shipped they may arrived “squished.” I was able to straighten mine out after some careful bending. Customer reviews on Amazon mentioned the same problem with some of the liners you can order there.

    Wow. I had no idea I had so much to say on the subject of tulip baking cups.

    Happy baking!

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  10. Thursday, July 24

    Why You Need a Pampered Chef Scoop and Not Just Any Old Scoop

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    Friends, I need to do a follow-up post about scoops because I didn’t realize a little something about my scoops until now. My sister-in-law Cora said that I needed to do a follow-up!

    medium and large scoops web

    Three years ago I wrote a post about how you absolutely need a scoop (or two) in your kitchen. I still firmly stand by that advice. HOWEVER…I learned this summer that there is a second bit of advice that I should have also included that I didn’t know was important. Not only do you need a scoop (or two), you need a Pampered Chef scoop.

    Here’s the deal. When I went to New Jersey this summer I made cookies at my mom’s house. When I went to make the cookie dough balls, I got out the scoop that I had given her last year, a scoop that I had purchased at Michael’s and was not cheap, by the way. As I pulled it out of the drawer, my sister-in-law said, “Ugh, I’ve gone through three scoops since you wrote that post about scoops. They always break on me!” I was stunned to hear this.

    And then I started scooping dough and the scoop kept getting jammed and the little swivel thingy kept getting pulled into the wrong place. It was basically the biggest pain ever. Cora was aboslutely right. The scoop could not handle a batch of cookie dough. It kinda blew my mind.

    I have NEVER had any issues whatsoever with my Pampered Chef scoops. They are in the exact same condition as the day I got them, they never get jammed, they have never broken and I can make a billion cookie dough balls with no issues. Cora and I realized that my advice to “Get a scoop” really should have been “Get a Pampered Chef scoop.” I had no idea that it made such a difference!

    Pampered Chef sells three sizes of scoops:

    • Large Scoop (~3 tablespoons): perfect for making pancakes and filling muffin tins.
    • Medium Scoop (~2 tablespoons): perfect for standard-sized cookies
    • Small Scoop (~1 tablespoon): also good for cookies, just smaller ones

    If you’re only going to get one scoop, go with the medium, especially if you’re getting it specifically for making cookies. It’s a great size.

    This post is in no way sponsored by Pampered Chef. I just needed to tell you how much better their scoops are! And also apologize if you, like Cora, have been feeling frustrated the the scoop you may have gotten based on my advice.

    Also, as usual, I love your feedback! If you have another brand of scoop that is equally as awesome as my Pampered Chef scoops, please share it with us!

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