6/28/12

5 Sugar Cookies for July



My family, friends and neighbors love this sugar cookie recipe and use every holiday as an excuse to enjoy them!


With just a few tips, these cookies are easier to make than ever.  Rolling and cutting them out is super quick and frosting them is even quickerWilton Patriotic Mix sprinkles add just the right festive touch.

Enjoy your Fourth of July with this family favorite!



6/26/12

8 How to Eat Chocolate


I was invited with a group of bloggers to attend Chocolate 101:  Introduction to Fine Chocolate held at Tony Caputo's in Salt Lake City

We all love chocolate, don't we?  I was sure this would be an easy class, right?

Yes, it was easy, but it opened up my eyes and tastebuds to a whole new world of chocolate.

First, we were given a brief history of chocolate and where we get our chocolate.


Next, we were given some small samples of chocolate to taste. 

Before we could taste it though, we had to:

Look at the chocolate.

Smell the chocolate.

Pop it into our mouths and let it melt.  No chewing allowed.

Then we had to breathe in through our mouth and out our nose to get the full flavor(s) of the chocolate.

Try it sometime.

It will change your world.


What is quality chocolate?

Not all dark chocolate is considered quality chocolate, so be careful...

Fine chocolate should not smell like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.  It should smell like cacao.

It should melt in your mouth.

Breathe in the flavors while breathing out through your nose.  You should be able to detect earthy tones, lavender, coffee, citrus or any other components of the chocolate.  


These classes are taught monthly by Matt Caputo, a self-made chocolate connoisseur.  He samples chocolates from all over the world, eating anywhere from 1/4 lb. to 1 lb. of chocolate daily.  How does he do it?  Matt explains that you don't need a lot of quality chocolate before it becomes filling.


Did you know that one of the top chocolate makers is here in Utah?  Amano Artisan Chocolate is located in Orem Utah, producing quality chocolate for Tony Caputo's and many other establishments around the world.

At the end of the class, we sampled this chocolate cake....this is a half slice.  It was so moist and I could tell the icing had notes of lavender in it.



Next, we sampled this:


 Oh my.  My heart stopped.  My mouth wanted this moment to last forever...

Flaky layers of pastry sourround a mound of chocolate ganache in the middle, encased in  a crunchy, crispy, caramelized top....

What is this incredible pastry, you ask?


This French pastry (pronounced "Queen Ahmaan") is worth the trip to SLC.

While you're there, pick up a couple of bars of chocolate and sign up for a chocolate tasting class!


Worth reading:

Fine Chocolate Does Not Come From Beligium, by Janet Thaeler, organizer of this event!

Caputo's Chocolate Class, by Cariann of Sweet Basil

Want to buy some chocolate online?  Caputo's Fine Imported & Gourmet Chocolate Bars

You can follow Caputo's on Pinterest  , Facebook  and read their blog.


6/23/12

13 Me? A News Anchor?


A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to join the KSL news team and a group of Utah bloggers for a meet and greet.


As a blogger, I try to take every opportunity to step away from my computer and interact with real live people.  It is always fun to meet other bloggers in person and socialize.  It also helps me step outside of my comfort zone.

When I read the "fine print" at the bottom of the invitation stating that all bloggers will get a video of them anchoring the news, my heart skipped a beat.

Maybe my heart stopped, I don't know.  You see, getting a video of me is nearly impossible.  I don't like being in front of a camera.  I'd rather be behind the camera, taking photos.

Should I accept?


Should I delete the email?

I waffled back and forth, torn between meeting a fabulous group of bloggers, getting the meet the KSL news team in person, and ... gulp ... doing a newscast??

I read the invitation several times.

Then I saw that not only would we get an opportunity in front of the camera, but we would be on the radio talk show.... LIVE.

My mouth went dry.  Gulp.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and dove in.

In other words, I opened up an email, accepted the invitation and clicked, "Send."

Spots were limited.  Maybe I wouldn't get in.

A couple of days later, I got an email confirming my spot.

Yikes!

Sometimes, we need to step outside our comfort zones and jump in both feet first.  Me, I have an itty, bitty, small, comfort zone, and I'll tell you why.

I can't hear very well.

I was born with a severe (not profound) hearing loss in both ears and was fitted with hearing aids at a young age.  You can read my story on my other blog, Hard of Hearing Mom.

Needless to say, living my life is always a challenge and it is easier to stay away from people, conversations, and speaking in public.  I wear one hearing aid as the other ear is pretty much deaf.  I have learned that I need to take the initiative when it comes to conversations, introduce myself to others as someone that doesn't hear very well, which is a difficult thing for me to admit.

I try to slide this fact into the conversation naturally and most people take it in stride.  As long as I am looking at you, I am a fabulous lipreader and can understand most everything you say.

Unless you have an English accent.  That takes practice.

Here, Kevin Eubank gives us some tips while watching the first pair of bloggers.

Yes, we were the second group ~ I really, really wanted to do this and get it over with.

Isabelle, Jackie, Kevin, and I


 Before I knew it, it was time to step up and put on a mic.  My partner was Jackie, who was beautiful and poised the entire time.

Me?  I look a little worried .... a deer caught in the headlights ?   Augghhhh.....



No practice, no second chances,  here we goooooooooo......



Imagine the big sigh of relief when we were done!!  

It really is a lot harder than you think folks.   I don't know how they do it day in and day out ... LIVE!  I guess you have to roll with the punches and be very aware of your surroundings at all times.

Oh, and pay attention to the gal with the headphones in front of you, pointing and gesturing to LOOK AT THIS CAMERA!!

Oh. 

Yeah. 

I think my face turned the same color as my shirt.

Can I just duck under the desk and hide?

Too late.  It's done.

Time to eat cheesecake, courtesy of Le Croissant Catering!  That's right ....  I'm all about the food!


Whoops.  I'm not done yet.  Jackie said, "Let's go over and do the radio show!"

Gulp.

Dive in.  Keep on swimming.  You can do it.

Here, Jackie and I pose with Alex Kirry, a really funny guy on The Nightside Project 1160 AM, 7-10 PM.  He knows how to keep the show rolling....and his audience rolling.  Alex's radio partner, Ethan Millard, jumps right in and keeps the conversation going.  They are a great team!


The radio spot was short, brief and fun. I made it a point to introduce myself to Alex and Ethan BEFORE the show started, saying that I'm hearing impaired, but "as long as you are looking at me, I am a fabulous lipreader."  They took it in stride and included me in the conversation.  This was a lot easier than being in front of a camera!  We introduced ourselves and the names of our blogs.

Other bloggers made it more fun to join in the conversation.  All we needed to remember was to hold the big fuzzy microphone very, very close to our mouth while speaking.  Basically, you need to be kissing it.


All in all, I'm glad I did it.  It was a confidence builder for me and I had a great time!  I got to see behind the scenes of KSL News and Radio ...


... and get star struck meeting the KSL news team!  I even chatted briefly with Nadine Wimmer, a gorgeous, petite and professional working mom of two young kids. 


Special thanks to everyone who made this event so fun!

Me?  A news anchor?  I'd rather be in my playground, the kitchen, baking up some bread or cookies.

How about you?  What is something that you have always wanted to do, but were afraid to do?

Come on, take a giant step outside of your comfort zone and tell us!




These pictures were gratefully taken by the KSL studio photographer.  In my rush to get to the studio on time, I remembered my camera, but forgot my memory card.  Thank you!

6/21/12

68 Cool Kitchen Tool: OXO Salad Spinner Giveaway! **CLOSED**

 

I love my OXO salad spinner.  It is very easy to use: rinse, push and brake.

Yes, you heard right.  Brake.

OXO has included a brake button to stop the spinning.


I like how it dries my lettuce and helps keep it fresher longer.



OXO is always improving their products.  The latest update on this salad spinner?  

The lid comes apart for easy cleaning.  




Score!

This qualifies as a Cool Kitchen Tool in my book!  (See Tab at top of blog for more favorites!)

Did you know that you can use this for MORE than cleaning lettuce?  


  • Rinse and dry fresh herbs
  • soak potato slices to remove starch and rinse dry
  • use as a colander (drain pasta, ice bath to cool hard boiled eggs, etc.)
  • Drain and clean leeks (gets ALL the dirt out!)
  • Dry fresh produce (stays fresher in the fridge)
  • cleaning lettuce, of course!

Want to win your own OXO salad spinner?

Please follow both steps to be included in the giveaway! 

Step 1:  Put your answer to the following question as a comment to this post:

                   What is your favorite salad dressing?

Step 2:  Click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter.  All you need is a Facebook name or email address to enter.  All info will be kept confidential and used for the purpose of this giveaway only.


a Rafflecopter giveaway




This giveaway is proudly sponsored by OXO, creator of many cool kitchen tools.  I was given a sample of said product to review with no monetary compensation.  All opinions are 100% mine and not influenced in any way.  Giveaway is open to all US readers and will end at midnight, June 28, 2012 EST.

CONGRATULATIONS TO CARLYN, who loves Italian Dressing!

6/19/12

6 Kitchen Tip: FAST Shredding Pork & Chicken


We smoked a pork shoulder for Father's Day and served them on homemade French bread hamburger buns.  We have always used heat resisant gloves to shred the meat by hand, but I found a new way:

In the Kitchen Aid mixer.  If you have a Bosch, use the wire whisk attachment.


Remove the bone from the meat and any large pieces of fat.  Attach the flat beater to your mixer.

Start your mixer on low, then increase the speed, shredding your meat to the desired texture that you want.


This was so fast, and so easy.  No more handling hot meat with forks or gloves!


Think of all the recipes you can use for shredded meat:  Tacos, tacquitos, enchiladas, or BBQ chicken pizza...

Make a Smoke Packet for your Propane Grill

How to keep your meat hot for up to 4 hours

Recipe for Smoked Pork

Smoked Pork in Jalapeno Poppers

Smoked Pork in Tamales

6/15/12

3 Win Free Yogurt for A Whole Summer!


One of the fun things I get to do as a food blogger is try foods in different establishments.  Who can turn down frozen yogurt?  Not me!

Yogurtland is in Orem, Utah ~ I love driving down into Utah valley ... it reminds me of my college days, which, coincidentally, is where I had my first frozen yogurt, ever.

Back then, in the dark ages of frozen yogurt, you only had a couple of flavors to choose from.  At Yogurtland, there are  at least a dozen flavors to choose from, some are tart, and some are sugar free.

You get to choose how much yogurt or come up with your own special blend!


Back in the dark ages of frozen yogurt, there were not any mix-ins or add-ins.  All you got was flavored frozen yogurt.

At Yogurtland, the toppings and amounts are endless:

Cookies, candies, or nuts .... oh, those frosted animal crackers take me back to kindergarten ... and give me some of those vanilla wafers, please.


Pretzels?  Cereal?  I bet your kids would love this section....


The fruit they offer is fresh and varied...


Ummmmm.... Someone snuck in the cookie bites in the fruit section ... You get to put as little, as much, or as many different combinations as you want!


When you are done with your creation, you put your yogurt on the scale and pay by weight.  That is way cool.

Do you like receiving info and discounts by text?  Here's a deal for you:


Are you hungry yet?

How would you like to win FREE yogurt for the entire summer?


All you need to do is go to Yogurtland's FaceBook page, like the page, and enter through the giveaway tab.

Cool, huh?

I'm not done ...  here's a coupon for YOU to try this amazing yogurt.  Buy one, and get a child's yogurt for FREE!  But hurry, it only lasts for a short time ~ print the coupon and bring it with you the next time you visit.


I had a great time creating my own yogurt.  The yogurt was creamy, not too sweet and the perfect compliment to all my yummy toppings ~ I hope you give Yogurtland a try!



I was invited with a group of bloggers to try this yogurt.  I was given a free sample and not compensated in any other way for this post.  All opinions are entirely mine.

6/14/12

4 Kitchen Tip: How to Ripen an Avocado


I needed an avocado for my slider burger bar the next day.  Browsing through the avocados, they were all firm and black.  It will usually take 4-5 days to fully ripen an avocado at room temperature, but I only had 24 hours...

Ripen an avocado:

in 3-6 days: put avocado in a paper sack, in a cool, dark place.

1-2 days:  put avocado and a banana in a paper sack in a cool, dark place.

1 day: put a room temperature apple with your avocado in a paper sack.

According to my son, who took a culinary chemistry class last year, the apple emits more ethylene gas than the banana does.  If you put an apple and a banana in a paper sack together, the banana would ripen first.


When your avocado is ripe, put it in the fridge to halt the ripening process.  They will keep for up to five days in the fridge.  Any longer, and they will lose their flavor.


What do you like with your avocados?

 

6/12/12

2 Cupcakes for the Golfer in Your Life!


My neighbor asked me if I could make some cupcakes with "grass" topping.... you know, green and spiky looking...

She had this great idea for her future son-in-law's birthday ~ to put a chocolate golf ball on top of a golf tee and stick it into this cupcake.  Isn't that a great idea?  The perfect cupcake for the golfer in your family!

She was short on time and came up with an equally great idea for the golf balls:  large gumballs! See, I told you she's smart.

You could mold some white chocolate and make your own golf balls if you are super ambitious...

Making the grass icing was a lot easier than I thought.  Just watch.

It started with my favorite buttercream frosting.  Use the maximum amount of powdered sugar listed in the recipe to make this on the stiff side.  Don't add too much powdered sugar, or it will taste too much like powdered sugar and won't have that buttery-creamy texture in your mouth.


Next, to get a deep green color, I used Wilton's concentrated paste in Kelly Green.  You can find this at a Michael's or JoAnn's craft store.

The key word is concentrated.  You will want to use a toothpick for this ...


Dip the toothpick into the paste and add it to your frosting.  Keep adding/mixing until you get the color you want.


That looks like the right color!


I am forever in debt to thekitchn.com for this video.  No more washing out my decorating bags ~ and it is so easy to change into another color!



I just happened to have the Wilton #234 grass tip.  It worked like a charm!


To decorate the cupcake, you will want to start on the outside.  Trust me, it is easier to do it this way.

Holding the decorating bag at 90° near the surface of the cupcake, squeeze, pull up, and when your grass is about 1/2", stop squeezing and quickly pull away.


Here is my finished project, ready to give to my neighbor!



This recipe will frost two dozen cupcakes with this technique.

Do you think this is a great idea for Father's Day?




Buttercream Frosting
(4x6 printable recipe) (full page recipe)



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