Brown Sugar Bear
I’ve wanted one of these little guys forever, and the other day Mr. J surprised me with two. You can soak them in water for 20 minutes to keep your brown sugar from getting clumpy. It’s made out of terra cotta or something similar so it soaks the water right up. According to the package you can do a lot more with it than keep brown sugar fresh. You can dry it out in the oven to keep moisture out of herbs and electronic equipment. Isn’t he cute?
Check out their website for even more uses.
Tucker on Top
Oscar on Top
Bonus: In the snow
Muffy and Puffy are my parents, and the long dogs love to visit there.
Decorating my cake
Last Saturday I enjoyed a cake decorating class at Sweet Wise given to me by Mr. J for Christmas. I really loved it! We were given pre-baked rounds of cake to work with and delicious buttercream. We stacked them up with icing in between and gave the outside a quick crumb coat. Also called dirty ice, this layer locks in all of the crumbs that could sneak out and ruin the beautiful finishing coat of icing.
While we waited for this layer to set, we filled our bags with colors. We gave our cakes a thick outer coating and gave the sides a texture. It took me a couple of tries, but I finally got a texture I liked. While this layer set, we watched the instructor go over the techniques. We learned a several types of borders, stars, drop flowers, leaves, vines, and even a fondant rose. I loved making the rose. It was so easy and turned out so pretty!
Once the icing was set, we used parchment paper to smooth out the top of our cake. It was a neat trick that worked very well. You’re supposed to work from the bottom to the top as you decorate so that you don’t hit anything with your hand as you work. It’s important to work with small batches of icing in your bag or it will begin to melt as you work. It is BUTTERcream after all. My icing did begin to melt because my bag was too full, but it was ok for practice. I started off my decorating with a shell boarder. It’s very important to have control and get your wrist movement just right. Practice is definitely important to learning this one.
After I made it all the way around the bottom, I placed 6 drop flowers in pink around the top of my cake. The yellow centers are Sixlets. Those are very tasty! Next I started placing the grape bunches or hyacinth looking designs around in between the drop flowers. These were made up of lots of little stars.
When those were in place, I added leaves and vines by changing out the tips on the dark green. I practiced writing with something silly and placed my roses in the void. The class was so fun, and I’d definitely take a few more. I don’t care for fondant covered cakes, but I’d love to do more with flowers. I bought some fondant at the store next door to practice with. The store had a great selection!
I served the cake at my Super Bowl party the next day, and it was DELISH! I couldn’t take any credit for the taste, but it was to die for. I’d love to have the recipe for my collection.
Pioneer Woman is giving away custom-painted KitchenAid Mixers. I think it’s beautiful, and I hope that I win!
Check it out: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/02/special-edition/
P.S. I’m currently watching American Chopper…it’s fate!
I found this at the store yesterday and enjoyed it for breakfast this morning. It’s definitely better than any other packaged oatmeal I’ve ever had. It tasted fresh and wholesome. It had little grains in it that I’ve never seen before.
One of my favorite parts is the packaging. You can see from the picture that the box contains 5 tube-like pouches. But, the best part is that after you dump out the oats and fruit, you can measure the water right in the pouch. Genius! That is so handy for whipping up breakfast at work, in the dorm, or anywhere you don’t have a full kitchen of tools to work with. The portion seemed small, but it kept me full until lunch.
This review is brought to you by me and only me. I just wanted to share a tasty product with you. The folks at Better Oats have a new fan!
One of my first self-taught lessons in the kitchen was how to brown ground beef.* This is a key ingredient to most of Mr. J’s favorite dishes so I had to master it right away. At first, I was scared of the package. I didn’t want to touch it or have it contaminate anything (it wasn’t pretty when I first had to make hamburger patties AND TOUCH IT, and even worse when I cooked chicken the first time…ha!).
Ok, the deal with ground beef is that it has to be used pretty much right away, or put in the freezer. Since I like to plan ahead, I usually end up freezing some so I’ll tell you how to start from fresh (A.) and frozen (B.) product. They both end with the same steps (C.).
A.) For fresh, take the meat out of the package. Make sure to discard the package liner that keeps all the juices in their place. Place in a skillet, and turn up the heat to med-high. I like to add a little water at this point. The fancy schmancy chefs on Food Network say that this gives you grey beef instead of browned beef, but I don’t care. It keeps everything from sticking and helps wash away the extra grease. I’m usually going to throw it in a recipe anyway so it really doesn’t matter what color it is (except for pink, which means it’s not done).
B.) When I start from frozen, I’m usually dealing with two scenarios. For one, I have remembered to put the frozen package in the fridge the night before, and it’s well on it’s way to being thawed. You want to be careful how you thaw things for food safety reasons. It’s best to plan ahead the day before and do it in the fridge (not out on the counter or other ways that encourage bacteria growth). The second case is straight from the freezer, which is what happens most of the time because I forget. I add water to my skillet just like with fresh, but I have to take a little more time and attention now. First, you’ll have a little bit harder time getting it out of the package and prying the liner off. A dinner knife usually does the trick. Now, you’ll hafta hang out with it for a while, using the spatula to flip from side to side and scrape off the thawed/cook parts as you go. Keep flipping and scraping until the center is broken up into little pieces.
C.) At this point, you want to take a spatula and break everything apart to finish off the browning party. I like my pieces to be really tiny so I jab, jab, jab while it cooks. You’ll want to flip and stir as it goes, and keep an eye on it. Keep breaking it into smaller pieces, and cook it until all the pink is gone….then cook it for a few more minutes, just to be sure. Turn the heat off, and prepare to drain. My draining method includes turning on the hot water, grabbing an oven mit, and locating my strainer. The strainer I use for this purpose is also called a splatter guard. I dump out the liquid, rinse with water, and drain a couple of times. Now, your GB is ready to go in your favorite recipe.
*By self-taught, I usually mean several Google searches and 20 calls to Mom.