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July 25, 2014

7 Bakery Secrets for Perfect Cupcakes

Valuable Chef's Tips 

Raise your hand. Have you ever had a batch of cupcakes that failed miserably?

Grin. Even if you're the queen of cupcakes, Trophy Cupcakes (Seattle) shared some pointers, and I think they're brilliant. Hopefully, you'll receive some fresh insights to perfect your technique, and really Wow your guests.

Who knows? You might just decide to open your own cupcake bakery in the future!

1. In order to ensure uniform incorporation, make sure all the baking ingredients are at room temperature (e.g. butter, eggs, flour, milk).

2. Use the highest quality ingredients. Real vanilla extract, farmer's market eggs, and imported chocolate will elevate your cupcakes beyond the mundane.

3. When mixing the batter, remember to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula—not the just sides. Unmixed dough leads to inconsistencies in the cupcakes during baking.

4. Measure the batter when filling your baking cups. For example, if you use a cupcake batter dispenser (or 1-1/2 ounce ice cream scoop) all your cupcakes will be similar in size and will bake more evenly.

5.  Remove your cupcakes from the oven shortly before they're done. They should be springy to the touch, but not wobbly or shiny. You want to ensure that they're moist and not too dry, since they'll continue baking even after they're away of the heat.

6.  Buttercream frosting made of equal parts powdered sugar and butter, results in a perfect frosting that's not overly sweet. Whip the frosting until it lightens in color and expands to 1-1/2 times its original volume.

7.  Below you'll see five cupcakes and the baking tips used for decorating them. The two most commonly used decorating tips are a 
large round tip and a large star tip.

Via Cupcakes and Cashmere

Photos: jennebergstrom, yeasaris, SugarDaze, seelensturm (Flickr)


July 24, 2014

Gardener's Aprons + Other Garden Gifts

Rose Print Garden Apron

Herb Print Garden Apron

7-Piece Garden Kit with Apron

Sloggers Polka Dot Garden Boots

Sloggers Pansy Print Garden Shoes

Black Waterproof Apron

Pink Floral Waterproof Apron

How to Make Aprons ~ Vintage Patterns

Danica Studio Tea Towel (Set of 2)

Household Lovers Striped Aprons

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July 23, 2014

DIY ~ 10 Foods You Should NEVER Refrigerate

Why Chilly Temps Aren't Always the Best

If you're like me, when you burst through the door with your bags of groceries, the first thing you do is make sure all the perishable items are safely stashed in the refrigerator. We're all accustomed to thinking that colder is better. However, the experts say that's not necessarily so.

I've been in the habit of keeping the following common items chilled. However, I've noticed that textures and tastes can degrade rather quickly. I'm learning it's better to store these foods at room temperature away from the refrigerator, in a place like a pantry or kitchen cabinet.

1. Bananas
If your bananas are green, you'll definitely want to leave them out to ripen. If they're yellow, and you want them to last, you can refrigerate them to prevent over-ripening. (The fruit is still good, even though the banana skins turn black.)
I like to pop an entire bunch of unpeeled bananas in the freezer for smoothies. Ten seconds in the microwave thaws a banana just enough to peel it before use.

2. Melons
The rule of thumb with melons is to keep them at room temperature when they are whole. However, cut melon pieces should be stored in the refrigerator.

3. Bread
Bread goes stale more quickly, and becomes tough and chewy in cold temperatures. On the other hand, properly wrapped bread stored in the freezer retains its moisture and can easily be thawed in the microwave.

4. Potatoes
Potatoes become sweet and gritty in cold temperatures, thanks to the fact that the starch is breaking down and converting to sugar. It's better to store your potatoes in a breathable paper bag in a cool, dark place like a pantry.

5. Onions
When onions are left in the refrigerator too long, they tend to become soft or moldy. Also, cut onions tend to infuse everything nearby with their smell--including a well-used wooden chopping board! 

5-Blade Herb Scissors

  6. Honey
Did you know that honey is a naturally preserved food? Unseal a 100 year-old jar of honey, and it will be as fresh as the day it was harvested. Putting honey into the refrigerator will cause sugar crystallization, and makes the honey difficult to pour or scoop.

7. Tomatoes
When tomatoes have been stored in the refrigerator too long, ice crystals begin to form making their texture quite mealy. When you store tomatoes at room temperature (or pick them fresh off the vine), both their flavor and texture are superior.

8. Coffee
Whole bean or ground coffee is great for absorbing unwanted smells. (For example, have you ever been to a perfume counter and sniffed coffee beans between fragrance trials?) On the other hand, it's sponge-like property means that when it's stored in the refrigerator, coffee will absorb all the scents around it. Also, the cooler temperature causes coffee to dry out, taking the flavor right out of the beans. However, coffee can be safely stored in the freezer.

9. Garlic
Garlic can grow mold or go rubbery-soft when kept in the refrigerator. (Always a disappointing discovery when I'm cutting up veggies for Asian stir-fry!) It also has a tendency to contaminate other foods with its flavor. Better to store garlic in a dry environment and out of direct sunlight to prevent sprouting.

10. Avocado
The trick with avocados is to buy them just before use. That way, you can select them when they are perfectly ripe, and not worry about waiting for stone hard avocados to soften. If you are buying unripe fruit several days ahead of serving, refrigerating avocados is counter-productive, because you will arrest the ripening process.

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Photos: GmanViz, CarlosSottovia, Caro'sLines, Chiot'sRun, Chiot'sRun, Cokul, JennuineCaptures, MaplessInSeattle, mightykenny, photofarmer, realitysadream (Flickr)

Via Lifehack


July 20, 2014

Recipe | Five-Star Party Guacamole

Ina Garten's Ode to the Avocado 

Who doesn't love dipping a handful of red, blue or yellow corn chips into fresh guacamole? We also enjoy it on hamburgers and hotdogs, with cut-up veggies and ... right off the spoon!

In her beloved classic The Barefoot Contessa's Cookbook, Ina Garten recommends using Haas avocados from California. (They're the ones with the nubbly thick brown skin, not the thin green-skinned variety.) Ina explains that they're much easier to peel, and the fruit is superior.

I've slightly adapted Ina Garten's recipe below, which has earned her five stars at the Food Network.


4 ripe avocados
Juice of two freshly squeezed limes (3 Tbsp)
8 dashes hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground
black pepper
1 medium ripe tomato,
seeded and diced


Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. With a large spoon, scoop the flesh out of their shells and into a large bowl. Using a sharp knife, slice up the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the lime juice, hot pepper sauce, red onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Add the diced tomatoes and mix well. Yield: 3 Cups

New Cookbook ~ Make it Ahead

Did you know that Ina has a brand new cookbook coming out for the holidays? "If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in front of the stove at your own party, scrambling to get everything to the table at just the right moment,  
Ina is here to let you in on her secrets..." Click link to learn more about an #1 Best Seller Make it Ahead.

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 Photos: jennandjon, jlaceda, dabblelicious, blmurch, justjenn (Flickr)