Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tips and Tricks

I get some great questions via text, email, comments, IRL: How do I do it all?
First, I must be gracious, and say thank you.
Now, I must be honest, and say, I really don’t get it all done. Not even close. Trust me.

I make a rough outline of a weekly menu and a grocery list. I match coupons with sales. This is a tad time consuming, but I’ve streamlined it and found what works for me (and what works for me may, or may not, work for you!). I find that the time planning is much less (long term) then standing in my kitchen every night trying to determine what to make, and make 3 trips to the store for ingredients a week. That’s a huge waste of time. That’s not to say I’m perfect. Just last week I rattled off a dinner for A to make (he was home first) and he called needing me to pick up milk! It happens. But not often. My store triples coupons about once a month, so I stock up on staples (fiber one bars, baking items, spaghetti sauce). I shop early in the morning to get the discounted meat. The stores can’t freeze their fresh meat, but I can (and you can too). I’ll take it home, repackage it, label it, and toss ‘er in the freezer. Hello bargain. On an index card stuck to the refrigerator is where I list the possible dinners. It doesn't say: Tuesday tacos, Wednesday: Zucchini Italiano, but it does say the various meals I have the stuff to make: Tacos, Zucchini, Shredded Chicken.

I’ve also picked up some tricks to SAVE time. I’m all about SAVING TIME.

Numero uno: Cleaning the microwave. When I lived by myself, I cleaned the microwave twice. Once when I moved in and once when I moved out. However, somehow my microwave now needs cleaned more frequently. They’re tight spaces and the food is baked on. Yuck. Grab a large glass bowl or dish. Fill ½ to ¾ full, add a splash of lemon juice and place the dish into the microwave. Let this heat up for about 15-20 minutes. Use hot pads to remove the hot dish and water. The hot water will condensate and steam the interior of the microwave and you can wipe away the crud with a sponge and it will have a nice lemony smell. Easy. For an added bonus, when you’re finished pour the hot lemon water down the garbage disposal. It’s a good cleansing. I do this at work when 1) I’m having a bad day and need to clean something or 2) It’s too disgusting to ignore it and I want to use the microwave!

Numero dos: Clean up as you cook or bake. I know it sounds trivial, but while the water is boiling or the kitchen aid mixer is doing its thing – rinse the bowl, dispose of the egg shells. It’s multitasking and it’s golden baby. If you have a nasty George Foreman grill, while it’s hot and UNPLUGGED, splash some water on the grill surface (I wring out my sponge to get the vertical surface). The water will simmer off the debris, saving you the majority of the scrubbing time. This works if you grilled something in a skillet and it’s stuck. Add some water, turn on the stove for a bit and let the hot water loosen the food from the pan.

Numero tres: Before you start any project, get all the ingredients out. Then you’ll know instantly if you don’t have enough cocoa powder for the recipe. You don’t want to be in the middle of a recipe and have to stop for an ingredient. None of us live in Mayberry where you knock on your lovely neighbors’ door and ask for a cup of sugar. You’ll find things go quicker when you have everything out at your fingers reach. One big trip to the pantry is better than 7 small trips. Plus time between ingredients can be used for cleaning up (see #2), not gathering the next ingredients.

Quatro: Know when to cheat and when not to cheat. If the crust isn’t the focal point (maybe in a delicate cheesecake), use a store-bought crust (especially if you purchased it on sale and it cost you 25 cents). I have found a 35 cent coupon regularly appears. On triple coupon days at my store this is worth $1.05. Graham or Oreo crust at my store are usually on sale for $1.29. Score. NO ONE WILL KNOW! (Just don’t tell my mom!)

Cinco: This isn’t a time saver, but you’ll thank me all the same; crack your eggs in a separate bowl before adding them. If you get shells, you’ll now have an opportunity to get the shells out.

Let me know if you have questions, I'll post random posts similar to this one.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Hi friends. A yummy cookie today! Man oh man these are soft and WONDERFUL.

That's sugar in the top left and flour in the top right. Cinnamon sugar in the oblong bowl on the right.
Here's the Cream of Tartar. It's the secret ingredient in these cookies. And I get this from my favorite Amish Market!
Whip the SOFTENED butter around. It'll help the consistency of your cookies.
Add the sugar.
I make a habit of cracking my eggs in a bowl before dumping them into the mixing bowl (just to be certain I don't get a shell!). I'm not dirtying another dish (that'd be crazy), but rather I'm using the bowl I just emptied the sugar out of. Confused yet?
In the eggs go. ONE AT A TIME. Always add the eggs one at a time. Beating well in between.
See how light and fluffy this butter/sugar/egg mixture is?
Add some baking soda. Make sure your baking soda is FRESH. It's less than $1 a box. Get a new box frequently. I'll get a new box before I start the holiday baking!
Slowly add the flour. And I'll be honest, I rarely sift my flour. So maybe that should read, "Slowly add the unsifted flour."
Here's the dough with everything added. Yummy.
Because we have to roll this into balls, I'm going to COVER and place in the refrigerator fora couple hours. Let it chill so it's easier to work with.
Roll a teaspoon (or tablespoon if you like bigger cookies) dough into a ball. Roll in the cinnamon sugar.
Place about 2-3" apart on a prepared cookie sheet.
Yummmm, there they are. 8 minutes away from being in my mouth!
Take them out and let them sit for approximately 3 minutes. THEN you can remove them from the cookie sheet.
Gently place on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Buckeye Bars

Tonight is a very big night for us Ohio State Fans. I decided I needed to whip up Buckeye Bars for nurishment during the game. This is super quick and easy and you have plenty of time to get these made before kickoff!!

Let's get started!
The bars only take a couple ingredients.
If you read other posts on here, I usually adamently tell you NOT to melt the butter, use softened butter. However, here you MUST melt your butter. Melt one stick and dump into the large bowl.

Add 1-1/2 cups Brown Sugar.
Stir around a bit.
Add 1-1/2 cups Peanut Butter. I use the smoooooooth stuff.
Stir around. Add 1 Tbsp. Vanilla and 2-1/2 cups Powdered Sugar. Stir and mix. After about 1-1/2 cups, I give up using the spoon and moosh with my hands (that's why there isn't a photo of this step!)
Smoosh into a clean 9"x13" glass dish.
Add one stick of butter and 12 oz. chocolate chips into a microwavable bowl. Heat in the micro. for 30 seconds.
Remove and stir around. Return to micro for 30 additional seconds. DO NOT try to skip a step, you'll get a better consistency of smooth chocolate by heating, stirring, heating, stirring. My microwave needed 15 more seconds for all the chocolate to be melted.
That's a good smooth mix.

Pour and spread over the peanut butter "crust". I keep this treat in the refrigerator (it's in there right now setting up!).


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rolled Oats Cake

Can I tell you this is my most favorite cake? It really is. Make this cake. Make it today. And if you don't like it, call me, I'll come over and eat it ALL. This cake is wonderful and fall-y and spicy, and oh, I want a piece right now! It's better the second day because the frosting starts sinking into the cake, instead of sitting on top but rarely can I wait that long to dig in.

Here are all the goods you'll need for the cake. The frosting ingredients are below. I'll note here that I rarely, rarely ever add salt to anything I'm making. My butter has salt in it already. So if you're using the unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp. salt.

Boil 1-1/4 cup water to boil on the stove and add the oats.

I know, this is a bit strange, but trust me! Give it a little mixy-mix and let this COOL. This is important.

Cream together vanilla (barely seen in the photo), sugar, brown sugar, and butter. The butter isn't melted, but rather room temperature so it's nice and soft.

Add the eggs. One at a time, beating well in between. Anytime you add eggs, add them ONE AT A TIME. If you need, I can be an engineer and explain to you why this makes a difference. Notice I've already cracked them in a separate bowl before adding them. You'll notice I always do this. Just incase a bit of eggshell gets with the eggs, I have time to get the shell out before its too late.

Add the COOLED oats to this your bowl.

Here is the cinnamon and baking soda. Add this and beat well.

Lookin' good!

Slowly add the flour.

Pour into a well greased 9" x 13" pan glass baking dish. Something preferrably that has a lid. Bake and wait.

FROSTING: Here's all the goodies. This all happens over a a medium flame in a saucepan.

Melt the butter.

Add 1/2 cup of evaporated milk.

It'll look like this.

Do you have one of these? You need one! Quick, add it to your Christmas list. It's from Pampered Chef and it's the greatest nut chopper I've found. A couple of pushes and the nuts look like....

This. Perfect.

Add your nuts. Add the coconut (do you know I don't even like coconut, but I love this frosting!)

Maybe I love it because of the brown sugar. Don't forget to add the brown sugar.

Yummm. You only have to get it all mixed up. This doesn't have to cook - just get all the flavors quickly fused together.

Pour it over the warm cake. Be gentle.

Place the frosted cake under the broiled until brown. About 3-5 minutes. That's all it takes. Then will yourself the patience for it to cool or you will burn the roof of your mouth and that's no fun.