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How To: Store Fresh Herbs

30 Jul

Last week, I made Maple-Lime Chicken Skewers for dinner.  I bought a bunch of cilantro as a garnish.  There is no substitute for fresh herbs in cooking as far as I’m concerned.  The problem is that when I buy herbs, they go bad so quickly.  Since I abhor being wasteful, I sometimes just skip buying herbs all together.

While I was cleaning up from dinner I decided to find a better way.  I pulled the cilantro leaves away from the stalks and filled up my ice cube trays and added water:

cilantrocubes1

The next day, I emptied the frozen cilantro cubes into a freezer bag and marked the date:

cilantrocubes3

When I need some fresh cilantro, now I just have to defrost a cube or two at a time and voila!  Fresh herbs that will be available to me for months.

CilantroCubes2

Do you have any tricks to keeping your herbs fresh?

 

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Halloween’n Part 2: Ghost Meringues

29 Oct

Let the Halloween festivities continue!  These meringues are just a basic meringue with eyeballs.  It literally couldn’t get any easier and you don’t need any special ingredients!

Ghost Meringues (yields approx 8-10)

3 large egg whites
1/2 t. cream of tartar

3/4 c. sugar

black royal icing (hopefully you saved some from your Franken-Pops!) or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Prep:  Preheat the oven to 200°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 1:  Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium, just until frothy.

Step 2:  Add the sugar, but kick the speed up to high.  As with any meringue, you will want to beat the egg whites until you get stiff peaks (about 5 min.).

Step 3:  Place the meringue mixture into a pastry bag with a large tip (I used Wilton#12); pipe ghosts onto the baking sheet.

Step 4:  Bake around 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the meringues have set and are dry.  I let mine cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

Step 5:  Using either black royal icing or melted chocolate chips, pipe eyeballs onto your ghosts.

Step 6:  EAT ALL THE GHOSTS.

Next time, I might even use smaller versions of these ghosts as cupcake toppers!

Halloween’n

28 Oct

Its my favorite time of the year – fall and Halloween!!

Lucky for me, two of my amazing friends decided to throw a Halloween party.  Immediately, I suggested a few things I’ve been wanting to try and they were on board.  These treats are great for kids because they are spooky and cute, but also great for adults because they are fun, creative, and easy to make.

I’ll go through a quick tutorial for the marshmallow pops, but here are the treats:

So cute, right!?  They were almost too cute to eat!

It helps to get into the spirit first!  Here are some of the decorations from the party:

 

 

Marshmallow Frankenstein Pops

1 bag white chocolate chips
Americolor gels: Black and Leaf Green
royal icing *recipe below*
1 bag large marshmallows
sticks (halve & pointy ends removed)
Styrofoam or florist block

These were my favorite treat for a few reasons: they are extremely inexpensive, they allow you to get really creative, and they are so easy!  I let my friend pipe the faces on because it was his party, after all.  He got really creative and used some of the chocolate imperfections as facial features.   They turned out cuter than I thought was possible.

Step 1:  Skewer the marshmallows with the kebobs to make them into “pops.”

Step 2:  Melt the bag of white chocolate in a double boiler.  (I used a Pyrex dish over a pot of boiling water.)  Then, add in the green Americolor gel and stir until evenly colored.

Step 3:  Dip the pops into the chocolate and coat evenly, letting the excess fall off back into the chocolate.  Stick the pops in a piece of Styrofoam to set (approximately 1 hour).

Step 4:  While the chocolate is setting, prepare some black royal icing*.

Step 5:  Dip the tips of the marshmallows into the black icing, again, allowing the excess to drip back into the icing  Return to Styrofoam until stiff (approximately 30 minutes).

Step 6: Place the remaining icing into a piping bag and with a size 3 tip, pipe on the faces and neck bolts.

Its literally that easy!  The hardest part is finding something to do in between decorating steps.  I highly recommend spending that time making ghost meringues and cupcakes!

Royal Icing With Egg Whites (from Joy of Baking)

 

 

How To: Iron-On Letter FAIL

29 Apr

I occasionally endeavor into crafty things, like say for example, my girlfriend is coaching little league and forgot to order me a shirt…

So to the old (and I do mean old) craft bin, where I happened to find some iron-on letters circa 2003.

No wonder all the shirts I made in college looked like crap.

So, this is Michelle’s Guide to Crafting:

(You should see what the inside of my brain looks like, its even scarier than this.

The instructions said: hold iron on letter for 30 seconds, then release.

Cool.

Yeah I figured it woldn’t be that easy.  See how the “Q” looks like someone’s been nibbling on it? The “I” did too, so I tried to reapply the iron but forgot the wax paper in between.  Ooops.  But lesson learned: (30 seconds = not enough time).

So I amped my time up to 45 seconds.  But, not having learned in attempt one, that the letters have to peeled away from the paper just so…resulted in this:

Lesson 2 and 3 learned: (Peel slowly and deliberately + find the side that wants to come up) + (Don’t think you can just push it down with your hand and it will adhere to the shirt).

So I persisted..

Really? I even tried putting the paper over it and letting the iron sit for another 10 seconds, but not this stubborn little guy.

The best I got?

Not enough confidence from this experiment to think the word “BLUEJAYS” is going to be coherent on my shirt.

BOOOOOO.

This was mostly just for fun, I’m not a very crafty person to begin with and these letters are really old; I don’t even know the brand name.

Has anyone else ever tried to make a shirt for America’s favorite pasttime?

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Empanadas

16 Feb

Things have been nuts lately!  She♥ and I are really working hard on our cloth diaper service to make sure out website is amazing.  So far, it is looking great!!

I thought tonight would be a great time to re-focus by doing a little empanada tutorial.  (That and I am trying to lure you back to my blog feed!)

What you will need:
2 cups flour
salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 egg
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. cumin
1 T. ground acho chili powder
1 poblano pepper
1/3 cup chopped green onion
2 T. cilantro
1/4 tsp. salt
 

First, make the dough by combining the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg and then add the canola oil and 1/4 cup water.  Pour the oil mixture into the flour mixture gradually.  Combine until a soft dough forms.  Cover this dough in plastic and refrigerate it for 1 hour.  While the dough is setting, I usually prep the empanada mix.  By this I mean, I pop the sweet potatoes in the microwave, chop the green onions and rinse the beans.  I also prep the poblano pepper.

Intimidated by peppers?  I was too.  She♥ is Spanish, though, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Spanish and Latino foods.  I’ve even had the experience of buying tamales from a little girl who was selling them door-to-door out of a wagon (for her abuela of course).  Anyway…back to the poblano.  This usually takes about 25 minutes, so keep that in mind as you are timing your prep out 🙂

How to:  Poblano Peppers

Preheat your broiler.  Place the poblano on a foil lined broiler pan and broil for 8 minutes.  After 6 minutes, turn the pepper over.  You are trying to blacken the pepper.  In fact, you will know it is finished broiling if the skin bubbles up and turns black:

Then, pull your poblano out, place it immediately into a paper bag and seal it tight. (No, I am not crazy.)  This is usually when I turn my broiler off and preheat my oven to 400°F. After 15 minutes, pull the pepper out and just pinch the skin.  It comes right off.  Discard this skin along with the guts of the pepper.  For the empanadas, the pepper needs to be chopped up.

Mix all your filling ingredients and spices into a large mixing bowl and mash them all up until almost smooth.

Don’t forget the sweet potatoes!

Once the hour has passed, grab your dough out of the fridge and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Separate it into 10 equal balls of dough.

 

 

Roll each ball out into a 5″ disc.

Then, spoon about 3 T. of the filling onto the empanada dough. Brush the edges LIGHTLY with some lightly beaten egg white.  If you put too much egg white onto the dough, it will be too wet to seal shut.

Fold the dough over and seal shut – I usually pinch it with my fingers and then fold it up a little bit.

Place your 10 empanadas onto a foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed (I use canola oil cooking spray).  I cut three slits into each empanada to ventilate it like a pie.

I give them a little egg wash before I pop them into that pre-heated oven (400°, remember?) for 17-25 minutes.  They will be golden brown and crispy when done.

¡buen provecho!

 

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