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Category — tips

Halloween Spiderweb Cake

Today we are going to revisit a Halloween favorite around these parts – my Halloween Spiderweb Candy Cake with 7-Minute Espresso Frosting. Click the name of the cake to link to the very explicit directions on how to make this fun cake with many instructional photos.

I thought I would use this opportunity to remind you that there is the “Complete Recipe Index” over there on the left side of the page – near the top, under the “Pages” tab.

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October 10, 2012   1 Comment

Auntie B’s cake

Today is Dave’s birthday. Connor came home from school for the weekend and HE, not I, made Dave’s birthday cake! All I did was take the action photos. Dave’s cake of choice is always his Auntie B’s Chocolate Cake. My mother-in-law sent me the recipe even before we were married so that I could make it for her boy who had moved so far from home.

Dave remembers the anticipation of The Beloved Cake when he would see a measuring cup full of milk, covered with a towel, sitting near the heater under the front picture window of his childhood home. You see, the recipe calls for sour milk. That old method of souring milk is no longer recommended since milk that is soured naturally may contain toxins. A safer, quicker, and much easier way to sour milk is to add 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of 2% or whole milk and leave it sit on a counter for 15 minutes before using. All that being said, everyone in Dave’s family is healthy and happy after consuming many of Auntie B’s cakes that were made with naturally soured milk.

Happy Birthday, Dave! xoxo

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October 6, 2012   5 Comments

my very first instructional iMovie!

Now that I am a pro at shooting, editing, downloading, and posting iMovies – as you know, I’ve done three of them now – I figured it was time to post my first “Cooking Tip iMovie.”  Hopefully it won’t receive horrid reviews from you … and end up being my last “Cooking Tip iMovie.”

Before you have the privilege of feasting your eyes and ears on the actual video, I have to give shout-outs and props to a few awesome folks:

Firstly, huge props and thanks to my friend and neighbor, Amy (that would The Amy – as in Amy’s Famous Taco Soup) who so sweetly turned me on to this super cool tip.  Amy sent me a video of a Chinese dude doing this technique. But since the video is in Chinese, without subtitles, I decided to demonstrate it myself, in English, instead of linking you to the original.

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August 27, 2012   9 Comments

silly Shirley

Ten days ago today, was my 3rd Blogiversary and I put up my 1000th post. On that momentous day, I included this picture.

Yesterday, I found this picture of a painting by artist Sarah Ashley Longshore, on Facebook…

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August 26, 2012   1 Comment

new easier taco salad

Initially, I was going to label this “new and improved” taco salad. But after going back and looking at the original taco salad I posted in November, 2010, I determined that it isn’t improved, just different, and a whole lot easier!

I love this dressing, it is so smooth and creamy. Feel free to add whatever else you’d like to the salad toppings; black beans, diced red or green onion, and pickled jalapenos are just a few things that come to mind.

I used the multi-grain Tostitos Scoops as my chips of choice. Connor thought that was a waste of the perfectly formed Scoops, so I dumped out the package and picked out all the broken pieces, so we wouldn’t waste a single “Scoop”!  Then I had the brilliant idea of making Individual Taco Salad Bites as a party appetizer. If you decide to make these cuties for your next party – be sure  to chop the lettuce finer, place the shredded cheese in the “Scoop” first, then the rest of the ingredients and fill at the last minute to keep them from getting soggy too quickly.

I used some of this delicious Jalapeno Olive Oil that I’d bought last year at The Olive Press store which was located inside the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma, California. But any olive oil you have or prefer will do nicely.

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July 20, 2012   1 Comment

pop pop

This is the final entry of my quick and easy party food ideas for the week… and it may be the easiest of them all. Only four ingredients that take only minutes to assemble and bake.

Get the kids to help and put them together, assembly-line style, and you’ll be chowing down on these puppies in less than 20 minutes. 

Tip: I always keep cooked bacon pieces in my freezer. Anytime a recipe calls for bacon that is chopped and cooked crisp, I will cook up a full pound, use what I need, and place the rest in a freezer-ziplock bag. Then when you need a small amount, such as for these poppers, you just pull out what is needed.  Perfect for a quick omelet any morning of the week too.

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July 18, 2012   2 Comments

table setting

Every week of summer cooking classes we take time out of the kitchen and gather round the table in the dining room to learn how to set a proper table.

Each student is given a Dinner plate, Salad fork, Meat fork, Dessert fork, Dessert spoon, Meat knife, and Soup spoon, Bread plate, Napkin, and Water glass (actually it holds lemonade each day).  

Sometimes one or two students (usually returning from a couple weeks prior or sometimes as long ago as last summer) get it perfect as show above.

I use this mnemonic to help the kids remember how to set a proper table: The word “Right” has five letters, as do the words “spoon”  “glass” and “knife”. So remember that the spoons, glasses, and knives all go on the right of the plate.

Likewise, the word “Left” has four letters, as does the word “fork”. Therefore forks go on the left of the plate.

To help remember which way the dessert fork and spoon face, just place them on the sides of the plate they naturally go on (spoon with 5 letters on the right and fork with four letters on the left) and slide them from there to up above the plate and they are naturally facing the way they belong.

Finally, if you have trouble remembering which bread plate and which drinking glass are yours at a crowded table, just do this:  Make a lower case “b” with your left hand and a lower case “d” with your right hand.  Hold them up in front of you. Your bread plate “b” is on your left. Your drink “d” is on your right.

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June 27, 2012   8 Comments

good to know

You know how it is when you know something and you just assume others know it too?  Then it dawns on you that maybe not everyone knows what it is that you know.  For instance, did you know that the PLU numbers on produce stickers hold more information than just the price of the item? Important information, that can help you make more informed and conscious buying decisions.

There you have it!  Check it out the next time you go grocery shopping.

I have a “Tip Index” over there on the left, under the “Pages” heading. The first year or two of the blog, I was ultra-diligent about updating the index every time I posted a tip in a recipe. I’ve been way too lax about it recently. So, I thought I’d share with you a couple good Cooking Tip sites. They make for an interesting read and even if you already know 98% of the tips listed, it might be that other 2% that makes cooking a bit easier and more enjoyable.

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June 25, 2012   1 Comment

angel food cake

I don’t know what my record high is for the number of photos in one post, but this may top them all.  Why would such a sweet, innocent, plain-Jane-looking, and in fact, angelic cake need so many (14) descriptive pictures? Because when we’re talking about angel food cake, we’re talking all about the “Incredible Edible Egg.”

Eggs truly are incredible!  Perfection in a shell.  Magical, if you will.  They are the workhorse of the kitchen, providing the strength to bind ingredients, the power to rise and puff souffles, and the delicacy to act as the wings of an angel food cake. Simple egg whites whipping up into soft, fluffy, light as air, clouds of creamy goodness.

Egg whites are mostly protein and have no fat.  When whipped, they hold air and their volume increases by up to 7 times. When whipping whites, what you are looking for is “peaks”. With soft peaks the bubbles are a little more pronounced, and when you remove the beating whisk, the peaks tip over. Stiff peaks stand up straight when you remove the whisk. Egg whites whipped to this stage are used in meringues and cakes when sugar is added.

Plus, once the sugar is added, you won’t need to worry about over-beating, and the meringue can be whipped almost indefinitely… but only once the sugar is in there, otherwise it is quite easy to over-beat the whites. They will become dry and separate into clumps. Once that happens – they are ruined.

A most important note: Egg whites simply will not whip in the presence of fat. Egg yolks contain all the fat in an egg, so if you drop a little bit of yolk into your whites, carefully remove it by scooping with a bit of egg shell, this works because the shell attracts the yolk (same is true if egg shell gets into your cracked egg -shell also attracts to shell).  If there is more than a drop of yolk in the whites, just toss that egg out and start over.  And always whip with a sparkling clean whisk and bowl.

Ironically, fresh cold eggs are easiest to separate but older room temperature eggs whip quicker and can achieve a bit more volume. Personally, I separate my eggs when they are cold and don’t worry about how fresh they are or even wait for them to come to room temperature, it is what it is!

The reason recipes often call for cream of tartar or lemon juice is because acid makes beaten whites more stable.

And the reason angel food cakes are inverted as they are cooling, is because this cooling method keeps the cake from collapsing or deflating once it is removed from the oven.  (I think my photo of the cake inverted on a wine bottle looks like a table lamp… but maybe that’s just me.)

Hopefully all this is more than you ever wanted or needed to know about the wonderful egg  -  now on to the main attraction – The Cake!

Oh wait, one more thing… real quick… I had to make a cake ahead of time, then the kids made the cake in class.  They frosted my cake and tomorrow I will show you what we did with the cake they made – Oh my word, you will L-O-V-E IT!

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June 20, 2012   6 Comments

summer’s super soup

Dave does not like cold soup. Something about it just seems wrong to him. Seriously?!  I mean, it’s gazpacho, what’s not to like?!

  1. First off, it’s soup, for goodness sake. Soup = Love!
  2. It’s full of tomatoes. Tomatoes = Yum!
  3. It’s over 100 degrees outside: Cold Refreshing Soup = Smart!
  4. It’s called gazpacho = Fantastic word to say, especially if you say it in your sexiest Antonio Banderas voice!

Obviously, I love gazpacho!

I made it for the last class of my series and brought home a container of leftovers.  At dinner the next night, I made a bowl for myself and said to Dave, “I’m having gazpacho, would you like a bowl?”

“No, thanks”, he replied.  I went about putting together our plates and as I was doing so, he suddenly noticed that there was shrimp topping my soup. “Oh, I’ve changed my mind, I’ll have a bowl”, he said.

Really? All it takes is a couple  little shrimp for you to change your bad attitude over cold soup?  He ate the entire bowlful. Whatever, men are exasperating!

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May 19, 2012   2 Comments