Monday, August 30, 2010

Kitchen Tip: buttering a baking sheet

Do you like buttering baking sheets and cake pans? I hate it. I hate getting gunk under my (fairly short) fingernails, and I always have to stop what I’m doing so I can wash my hands. It’s a pain in the butt. DSCN8354
Maybe I’m just a clean freak, but if you feel the same way, I have an easy tip to share. Put your hand in a plastic baggie before you touch the butter. Swipe your bagged hand through the butter dish, then rub it on your baking sheet. When you’re done, turn the baggie inside out as you take it off and throw it away.
Ta dah! No more greasy hands or yuck under your fingernails.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kitchen Tip: organize your baking supplies

I love to bake. Since moving into our current house, I’ve been thrilled to have just a little more space to work (we actually have countertops now) and so I’ve been going crazy baking this and that. A couple weekends a month I get all domestic and engage in “Kitchen Therapy,” turning out cakes, cookies, casseroles, crock pot successes (and disasters), and bread.
There are some ingredients and tools used more for baking than any other type of recipe. Over the past few months I have figured out that if I can keep the storage and access to these items handy, I can cut my prep and clean up times in half. It’s so simple, you could put this together in 10 minutes.
DSCN8352Place the following types of ingredients in a cake pan (like in the picture):
Baking soda
Baking powder
Corn starch
Cocoa powder
Powdered buttermilk
Yeast packets
Powdered egg whites
If you don’t have something on the list, you don’t have to go out and buy it, just gather together the ingredients you pretty much only use for baking.
Now grab your measuring spoons and add them to the cake pan as well. Oh – don’t have an extra cake pan? You can buy one for about $2 or $3. For the time you’ll save when baking, it’s worth it.
Do you have a couple of favorite recipes that you make all the time? If you use a recipe each time, write it out on a recipe card and stick that in the cake pan, too. Mine are to the right of the baking soda and cocoa.
Next time you bake, take out your cake pan and you have everything you’ll need in one place. No more hunting through the cupboards for the little boxes and cans. I don’t bother to wash the measuring spoons after each recipe if I’m only using them for baking powder/soda/salt. I just toss them back in the cake pan for the next time. There’s no cross contamination to worry about. Actually, I don’t use measuring spoons for cocoa or vanilla; I just eyeball those amounts, since those ingredients don’t affect the chemistry of baked goods like soda/powder do. Those do need to be measured for best results.
Clean up is simple. Just put the cake pan away. I keep mine in the cupboard under my stovetop.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tortellini Ham Salad



I love pasta salads. Give me a bowl of tuna pea pasta and I’m a happy camper.

As far as hot pasta dishes go, one of my favorites is tortellini. There’s something very satisfying about those little round packages of parmesan. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods. Luckily, my favorite grocery store offers dried tortellini in their bulk section, so I pick up a pound to have on hand for when the mood hits. 

It hit this afternoon and I decided to try a cold tortellini pasta salad. Not bad. Here’s the recipe I made up:

Heat a large pot of salted water. When it starts to boil, add a pound of dried tortellini. Cook until the tortellini floats, about 8-10 minutes. Drain. DSCN8357  (I use a perforated pasta insert to keep the tortellini from breaking up as it drains.)

While the pasta cooks, dice about a pound of ham. Add the ham to the drained pasta along with about 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese. If you like your food spicy, add dried chili flakes to taste.

Add equal amounts of mayo and sour cream until the salad has the creaminess level you like. I used about 1/4 cup of each because pasta salads always taste better the next day, and the moisture from the dressing absorbs into the pasta. I discovered that if I initially make it a little too creamy, then it’s perfect on the second day.

One note – this was my first time using canned ham. Blech. Too salty and too similar to Spam. Not that Spam is bad (I admit it, I’ll eat the stuff) but this salad would be much better with natural ham.