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Category: Kitchen Tips

  1. Friday, September 26

    How to Make an Airplane Birthday Cake + Friday Show and Tell

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    Okay, so there’s a lot of “mom stuff” I don’t do. I’m not crafty. I don’t make baby food from scratch. I am a terrible gardener. The list goes on and ON. But I do absolutely love making my kids’ birthday cakes. Every year they tell me what they want and I figure out a way to make it happen! For Owen’s 3rd birthday he requested Ripslinger from the movie Planes, or as Owen put it, “the green bad guy plane.” I was a little nervous but I pulled it off! The best part was Owen loved it and today he’s asked multiple times to see pictures of the cake. (That splash sound you hear is me turning into a puddle on the floor.)

    how to make a kids airplane birthday cake by @janemaynard

    how to make a kids airplane birthday cake by @janemaynard

    This cake was one of the easier ones I’ve done, so I have to share the step-by-step with you. Here’s how to make an airplane birthday cake!

    • Bake a 9″x13″ standard cake. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe (which you can find in this linked post) and it made for a nice tall cake, which gave the plane more height. I doubled the frosting recipe in that same post, which gave me enough frosting for the crumb coat and final coat with a bit left over.
    • After you bake the cake, freeze it. Once it’s frozen, make one cut as shown in the diagram below, then flip one of the pieces so it lines up with the other piece perfectly when you stack them.

    template for cutting a 9x13 cake for an airplane shape by @janemaynard

    • The fat end of the triangle you created is the front of the plane – the smaller end is the back of the plane. Shape the front to round it off. Once the cake was done, I wished I had also angled the back end of the plane down a bit so that the entire plan had an upward slant towards the front of the plane, instead of just parallel to the ground (know what I mean?). Feel free to play with the shape or just keep it super simple like I did.
    • I used one of the pieces of cake I cut off the front when shaping the nose of the plane to create the cockpit on top.
    • Frost between the layers, and then follow the directions in my cake-making guide post for frosting (freezing cake, crumb coat, etc.) The beauty of this cake is you only need ONE COLOR OF FROSTING! Save a bit of white for the window, but other than that you can just make all the frosting one color.
    • For the wings and things, I used cardstock! Just cut them into the shape you like and then stick the shaped wings and things right into the cake. You can get colored cardstock or just color white cardstock with a permament marker the color you want he wings to be. (Since I was making Ripslinger, I also made the flames out of cardstock colored with permanent markers and stuck them to the side using frosting as glue.) Don’t worry, no marker transferred to the frosting anywhere!
    • The propellors were 2 popsicle sticks colored with black Sharpee marker, broken in half and then stuck in the front. I should have put a black circle of frosting or a Junior Mint on the front in the middle of the propellors. I didn’t, but you can!
    • White frosting and black piped frosting made the window in the cockpit, and chocolate chips, stuck pointy side in, served as the eyes.

    Show and tell time! I just have one quick share today. I put together a really fun post for Babble of CRAZY stuff my friends’ kids have eaten. It’s pretty awesome. Be sure to click through and check it out!

    As usual, feel free to share anything you like in the comments, it’s show and tell after all!

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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. Tuesday, August 5

    S’Morritos! a.k.a. S’Mores on the Grill! a.k.a. The Best Way to Serve S’Mores to a Crowd

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    The last night we were in New Hampshire this summer we were planning to build a fire and make s’mores. But then we got lazy and didn’t feel like doing the whole fire thing. But we did still feel like doing the whole s’more thing, especially since we had amazing chocolate bark and homemade coconut marshmallows from the Granite State Candy Shoppe that needed to be s’morified stat.

    s'morritos aka s'mores on the grill by @janemaynard - a great way to serve s'mores at a party!

    I was suggesting that maybe we just microwave a few s’mores. This does not make for the very best s’mores in the world but the technique works when you find yourself in a s’more emergency, which I’m sure happens all the time. My sister-in-law Hannah, however, suddenly had a stroke of genius, and that genius was quickly named the S’Morrito (she’s good with words like that). The grill was still fired up from dinner and she figured wrapping s’mores up in foil (s’mores that look like burritos…s’morritos…get it?) and throwing them on the grill should work pretty well. It actually worked great.

    s'morritos a.k.a. s'mores on the grill from @janemaynard - a great way to serve s'mores at a party!s'morritos a.k.a. s'mores on the grill from @janemaynard - a great way to serve s'mores at a party!

    Not only is this a great way to make s’mores, but it’s an especially great way to serve s’mores at a party. Here’s what I recommend:

    • Set up a s’mores bar, complete with graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, as well as a bunch of pieces of aluminum foil and a Sharpee marker.
    • Everyone then makes their own s’mores, wraps the uncooked s’mores in foil and puts their initials on the foil with the marker.
    • Put all of the completed s’morritos on the grill and, voila, s’mores everyone can enjoy at the same time!

    s'morritos a.k.a. s'mores on the grill from @janemaynard - a great way to serve s'mores at a party!s'morritos a.k.a. s'mores on the grill from @janemaynard - a great way to serve s'mores at a party!

    As for the taste, I’m sure some of you have questions. Yes, s’morritos taste good. Yes, the warmed graham cracker is actually totally and completely wonderful. Yes, the marshmallow gets a little browned on the edges even in the foil. Yes, your s’mores will be totally gooey but who cares because they’re supposed to be. Yes, the marshmallow and chocolate heat very evenly. Yes, I may never make s’mores the old way again. (Fair warning: the s’mores are hot and super gooey when you first take them off the grill. If you let them cool for 5-10 minutes, they become less so.)

    s'morritos a.k.a. s'mores on the grill from @janemaynard - a great way to serve s'mores at a party!

    S'Morritos!
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    S'Mores on the Grill - a great way to serve s'mores to a crowd!
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • Graham crackers
    • Chocolate of your choice (I've stopped buying Hershey's bars and we use Dove chocolates now - it's just that much better. And, if you really want to go gourmet, buy some super fancy chocolate like we did in NH. It's kind of amazing.)
    • Marshmallows
    • Foil
    Instructions
    1. Heat grill on low. (If you want to try this in your oven, go for around 400º F)
    2. Place graham cracker on the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Layer with chocolate then marshmallow then another graham cracker. Wrap carefully so you don't break the crackers inside.
    3. Place on grill chocolate side UP, close grill lid and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Open grill, flip s'morritos then cook for another 2-3 more minutes. (Experiment with the time based on how hot your individual grill gets.)
    4. Remove from grill, unwrap and dig in.
    5. The s'morritos are especially gooey when it comes to s'mores since everything is warm and melted. You can dig in right away, but you've been warned. If you let them cool for 5-10 minutes, they may be a bit more manageable. If you decide to eat them hot off the grill, be sure to lift them out of the foil by lifting from the bottom so as to avoid squishing all the good stuff out before you even take a bite!

     

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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. Friday, July 4

    Drying Your Own Basil + Friday Show and Tell

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    Right now I’m visiting my parents in New Jersey. My brother and his wife had TONS of fresh basil from their garden, so they decided to try drying it in my mom’s old food dehydrator.

    drying basil with a food dehydrator by @janemaynard

    Drying the basil was easy and very hands off, BUT here are a few things we learned:

    • A LOT of fresh basil makes just a LITTLE dried basil. The basil you see in the photos is all the dried basil we got from 8 large trays of fresh basil.
    • It takes a looooooong time for the basil to get completely dry. We followed the instructions and cooked the basil at 105ºF. The dehydrator was running for about TWO days. It’s an old deyhdrator, so maybe a new one would be different, but holy smokes it took forever!
    • If you already have a food dehydrator or know someone who has one, it’s definitely worth drying basil if you have a whole bunch because it’s so easy. However, if you’re only planning to make dried basil with your dehydrator, it’s definitely not worth buying one. At least that’s what we think!

    drying basil with a food dehydrator from @janemaynard

    Here are my posts on Cosmo this week!

    Show and tell! Feel free to share whatever you like!

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  8. Thursday, June 26

    What to Do with Ripe Avocados That You Can’t Use Right Away

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    We’ve all been there. You have beautiful, perfectly-ripe avocados ready to be used…but you’re not ready to use them! Oftentimes it is simply because all of the avocados get ripe at the same time, but you don’t need all of the avocados at the same time. I do this frequently – I stock up on avocados when they’re on sale and then, suddenly one day, they are all ready to go but I just don’t need them all at once. kitchen tip: how to store ripe avocados from @janemaynard Never fear, just because the avocados are ripe and ready to go doesn’t mean you have to use them right away. You have two options. I use both of these techniques all the time and they both work great! 1. Refrigerate the Avocados: I learned this trick on Good Eats over ten years ago and do it all the time. If you’re planning to use the ripe avocados within a week or so, just put them in the fridge, whole and uncut. The cold will essentially freeze the avocados in time, preventing them ripening further but keeping them nice and yummy for eating. This is perfect if you know you’ll want to use the avocados within a week or so and the avocados will work whether you plan to use them as chunks/slices or in guacamole. 2. Freeze the Avocados: That’s right you can freeze avocados! I learned this trick from my friends at California Avocados. This works great if you are not going to be using the avocados relatively soon and if you plan to use them in mashed up form (i.e. for guacamole). I recorded a little video for you to show you how to prep ripe avocados for the freezer! Also, in case you missed it the first time, this is hands down the best way ever to cut and pit an avocado. Life changing. Happy avocado eating and storing!

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  9. Tuesday, June 24

    My New Favorite Kitchen Gadget: Avocado Masher

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    The 4th of July is the biggest sales time of year for avocados. Avocados are in season and, well, apparently we like guacamole on the Fourth! In anticipation of us all using a lot of avocados over the next week, I thought I’d do a couple avocado posts. Today I am going to share with you my new favorite kitchen gadget: the avocado masher!

    avocado masher

    When I visited the California Avocado groves last month, they kindly gave us all a goody bag, which included this masher. It’s essentially a mini potato masher, about 6 1/2 inches long. I’ve always used my beloved pastry blender to mash up avocados and thought that it would be my favorite tool for the job from now until the end of time. I was wrong. My new pint-sized potato masher is PERFECT for mashing up avocados. It’s just the right size and works beautifully. Plus, it’s easy to rinse off and clean, with no tiny holes, seams or hinges to deal with.

    avocado masher

    The tag on my mini masher actually said “avocado masher” on it. I looked around online and couldn’t find the exact one that I own, but there seem to be lots of good options if you do a little googling. This avocado/mini masher on Amazon is 8-inches long, so just a smidge bigger than mine, but I’m sure it would work great, too. When you’re out and about shopping, just keep an eye out for your perfect avocado masher. I’m sure you’ll love this little gadget as much as I do!

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  10. Wednesday, June 4

    Why You Need Melamine Serving Trays and Platters

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    Until a few years ago I had zero serving trays or platters to my name. For some reason, I didn’t get any as wedding gifts and then never thought to buy any. I finally acquired a few white ceramic serving platters. They’re nice and all but, honestly, I hardly ever use them. They just aren’t very versatile and are too heavey for easy, everyday use. And, even with those few platters, I still didn’t own any actual trays.

    montecito melamine serving trays from q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    montecito melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    montecito melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynardThe trays pictured above are from Q Squared NYC’s Montecito line. These are the trays we probably use the most. Nate was especially happy on Mother’s Day when they had a tray to bring me breakfast in bed!

    A few months ago when I started working with Q Squared NYC, they sent me several serving trays and platters. Suddenly I was flush with melamine serving trays in different sizes and shapes, and every last one of them was completely adorable.

    kids' melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    kids' melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynardThese fun kids serving trays have come in especially handy for snack time during playdates! My kids think they’re super cute and I don’t have to worry about anyone breaking anything!

    When I first discovered Q Squared, I was mostly excited about their dishes and flatware. Little did I know my most favorite items would be the serving trays! The longer I have them, the more I realize how much I was missing out all these years. They come in handy all the time, both for everyday use and when entertaining. I really love that they are made of melamine. The trays and platters are so much lighter than something made from ceramic, so I actually pull them out all the time. They’re easy to carry and perfect for taking outside. Basically, I can’t live without them now!

    heritage melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    heritage melamine serving platter by q squared nyc by @janemaynardThis serving platter is from the beautiful Heritage line. 

    If you don’t have any melamine serving trays or platters, I highly recommend getting one (or two or three!).

    montecito melamine serving platters by q squared nyc by @janemaynardMore from the Montecito line, this time the serving platters.

    Three cheers for serving trays! Hip, hip, hooray! (Yeah, I’m a little crazy, but I really am in love!)

    This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

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