Menu Banner
  1. Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Fast and Easy Trick for Tender Chicken: Stick a Fork In It!

    One of the first things I learned in the kitchen in my early 20s was that it is really easy to cook tough, hard-to-chew chicken. The first time I baked a chicken recipe I was so disappointed with the outcome. The chicken was not tender and delicious at all and I hated that. I quickly mastered the art of pounding chicken, which always yielded tender, evenly-cooked chicken. I’ve used that technique for years and still love it.

    FAST and easy trick to truly tender chicken from @janemaynard

    BUT…my mother-in-law Pat shared another trick with me that is equally as magical and beyond easy. She got the tip from a kid in town who worked in a restaurant and it’s great! Just stab the you-know-what out of your uncooked chicken breasts with a fork on both sides. Like, lots and lots of stabbing. Like, you-really-need-to-vent-some-frustration-so-you-take-it-out-on-the-innocent-chicken lots of stabbing. You end up with tender chicken and a little mental therapy to boot!

    I like this method because it’s less messy. When you use a mallet, you need to get a cutting board dirty, there’s the yucky plastic wrap to contend with and, of course, the mallet also needs to be cleaned. With this method you just need a fork and you can stab the chicken right in the dish it will cook in. Easy peasy! This technique is also good for marinade…lots of little holes to soak it all up!

    Happy stabbing! (Chicken stabbing, people.)


  2. Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    My New Favorite, Totally Random Kitchen Gadget: Onion Saver

    I made an impulse buy at the grocery store this week: a Hutzler Onion Saver.

    onion saver review by @janemaynard (spoiler alert: I love it!)

    Here’s the thing. I never know how to store leftover, raw, unchopped onions, which I often have because I tend to only use half an onion at a time. I don’t like to use plastic baggies because of my goal to use less one-time use plastic. But the onion is usually kind of bulky, so I have to use a larger storage container than I really need that takes up space in the fridge. Basically, this is a very difficult problem to have and my life is hard. (Insert sarcastic emoji that doesn’t exist but should.)

    onion saver review by @janemaynard (spoiler alert: I love it!)

    Hence, my impulse buy of the onion saver. And, I LOVE it. Granted, I’ve only used it for 2 days and have no idea if it will last forever or whatever, but, so far, so good. It stores my onion well, doesn’t take up tons of space in the fridge, and traps in the onion odor so the fridge doesn’t get stinky.

    Happy onion storing!


  3. Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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

    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!


  4. Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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

    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!


  5. Thursday, July 31, 2014

    My New Favorite Cupcake & Muffin Liners: Tulip Baking Cups

    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!


  6. Thursday, July 24, 2014

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

    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!


  7. Thursday, June 26, 2014

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

    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!


  8. Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    My New Favorite Kitchen Gadget: Avocado Masher

    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!


  9. Tuesday, May 6, 2014

    Pitting and Cutting Avocados the Awesome Way and More Avocado Fun

    I just learned a tip for pitting and cutting avocados that will change your life. Seriously. It’s amazing and yet so simple, I really can’t believe I never figured it out before now!

    pitting and cutting avocados from @janemaynard

    Last Saturday I had the chance to learn all about avocados and see the entire growing and packing process. The California Avocado Commission invited me for a day of touring a nursery, a grove and a packing facility as well as a delicious, avocado-packed lunch. It was such a fun day and I met all kinds of interesting people, from other bloggers to food service and restaurant professionals to registered dietitians for grocery stores. During the lunch, Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD from Fiber is the Future did a recipe demo for the group and shared this marvelous tip for cutting avocados.

    visiting an avocado tree nursery with the california avocado commission by @janemaynard

    Here’s how I’ve always cut and pitted avocados: I would cut the avocado in half, whack the pit with a sharp knife, twist and pull the pit out, then scoop the fruit out with a spoon. I think, quite honestly, the most dangerous part of this process was getting the pit off the the knife once it was out of the avocado. Scary stuff. Despite the high level of danger, I was pretty good at it and thought it was the best way…until now!

    Katie shared the following technique. I used it last night when making guacamole and I can’t even tell you how awesome it is. The avocado pieces come out beautifully and no dangerous knife throwing is involved. Also, the pits are a cinch to remove. Are you ready? Here we go! I even made a VIDEO for you. Yes, video. I’ve been resisting forever, but decided to finally bite the bullet. Here goes nothin’!

    Here’s a quick recap, with photos and the steps written out:

    pitting and cutting avocados by @janemaynard

    • Cut the avocado into QUARTERS. Slice the knife through to the pit lengthwise, then rotate 90º and slice through again, so that the avocado is cut into four pieces but still remains attached to the pit.
    • Hold the avocado in your hand and twist. The pieces should start falling away from the pit quite easily. The last piece will hang onto the pit for dear life, but just twist the pit a little with your hands and it should pop off pretty easily.
    • Peel away the skin – no spoon or scooping required!

    Voilà! Perfectly pitted avocados, ready for you to slice and cut to your heart’s content!

    I thought I would also share some photos from the big avocado day because it was really cool.

    Our first stop was at the Persea Tree Nursery in Fallbrook, CA, where we saw the growing process from pit to tree! First, the pits are planted in a greenhouse where they sprout and grow and grow and GROW.

    growing avocado trees at persea tree nursery in california by @janemaynard

    Then those sprouts are cut down and the type of avocado you want is grafted on, up to four grafts per sprout. This is the point in the process where the variety of tree is determined. We had the chance to watch two women actually graft the trees, which was fascinating.

    grafting avocado trees at persea tree nursery in california by @janemaynard

    As the root systems grow and mature, the grafted “trees” are then cut off from the original sprout and planted, giving you a little avocado tree! It’s amazing how fast the trees grow (the tree in the second photo below is only a few months old). The trees will start to fruit in a year and you’ll have your first harvest in two years.

    brand new avocado trees at persea tree nursery by @janemaynard

    At this point the growers buy and plant the trees in their groves. The visit to Sierra Pacific Farms target=”blank” was equally as interesting and the groves were beautiful. A few things we learned: avocados must be harvested by hand, the trees are pruned to about 12-14 feet tall but will grow forever if you let them, a good grove has a thick ground cover of leaves, avocados do not ripen on the tree and can be stored there for quite some time until the farmers are ready to harvest, and the irrigation at a farm like this one is incredibly high tech and sophisticated. We also ate lunch in a beautiful spot among the groves, with food created by the chef from Sorrel Restaurant/Bistro in Temecula.

    sierra pacific farms avocado grove by @janemaynard

    As avocados are harvested they are placed in these bins which then travel to to a facility to be packed and shipped.

    avocado grove by @janemaynard

    We visited West Pak Avocado in Murrieta, CA. A few key takeaways: the process is very efficient, fast and high tech, the people who work at West Pak are equally as efficient and fast, and I can’t believe how many avocados they can pack in one day! The woman pictured below was adorable. She was all smiles until she got back to work, and then it was all business. The way she tossed the avocados from one hand to the other for packing in the box was lightning fast.

    west pak avocado packing by @janemaynard

    It was a great day and I learned soooooo much. I am also now bound and determined to grow an avocado tree in our own yard!


  10. Thursday, April 3, 2014

    Jamie’s “Divine List” of Jane’s Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets

    Two weeks ago my cousin Jamie was in town with her family. While they were here we cooked a few meals and, the entire time, Jamie was keeping a running list of must-have kitchen gadgets in my kitchen that she didn’t realize were must-have kitchen gadgets until she used them. She calls it the “divine list.” I know for a fact she’s already bought a few of the items and I don’t doubt she’ll have them all before the month is out!

    This is not an exhaustive list of all the things I love and couldn’t live without in my kitchen, but all the items that Jamie added to her divine list are some of my favorites that we use all the time, so I figured it would be fun and helpful to share her list! You know, in case you feel like shopping today, which I’m sure you do because when doesn’t one feel like shopping?

    dreamfarm scizza pizza scissors | thisweekfordinner.com

    The Scizza
    I wrote about the scizza last December and proclaimed my love then. Jamie simply caught a glimpse of the scizza and was excited about it. Once she actually used it, she was officially in love. You can get it from Dreamfarm. Jamie was also impressed with Dreamfarm’s garlic press, the garject, but the scizza is what really stole her heart.

    margherita pizza on wood pizza peel from @janemaynard

    Wood Pizza Peel
    While Jamie was here, what started as me throwing some pizzas together turned into a mini class for Jamie. I didn’t realize I have so many little tricks when making homemade pizza. Jamie is trying to convince me to do a video showing how to make pizza. Maybe one day if I actually get some makeup on I’ll think about it. Until then, one of the secrets to cooking great pizza is having a wood pizza peel to transfer the pizza to the stone in your oven. (That sentence alone opens up a Pandora’s box of pizza baking tips, but I’m resisting the urge to go into more detail. I promise to share more another day!) Anyway, I love my wood pizza peel. One of the reasons it’s so great is because it has a rough, unfinished surface. The cornmeal spreads so evenly over this surface and it’s a cinch getting your pizza into the oven. It also has a nice-shaped tapered edge (see photo). I’m not sharing any links for where to buy a wood peel because I can’t really tell what the surfaces are like from looking at photos online, so get out and do a little shopping to find your own perfect peel.

    tortilla warmer from @janemaynard

    Tortilla Warmer
    I love my tortilla warmer. Jamie loves my tortilla warmer. It’s the best. Read more about it here.

    manual glass juicer from @janemaynard

    Manual Glass Juicer
    This is a timeless kitchen gadget. I love my manual glass juicer, perfect for when I need to juice something for a recipe quickly. The little ring of knobs in the center catches all the seeds and the juicer itself catches all the juice, which you can easily pour. I received my particular juicer as a wedding gift. There are tons of these out there, just make sure you get one with the little knobs.

    le creuset butter crock from @janemaynard

    Le Creuset Butter Crock
    I will not rest until all the world owns a butter crock. Butter Bell makes a nice version, but I love Le Creuset’s even more. Read more about it here.

    That’s it! Jamie’s divine list! Happy shopping!