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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ten (Somewhat) Essential Kitchen Tools

I wanted to put together a quick list of some of my favorite kitchen tools. There are so many gadgets out on the market that promise to change your cooking world but let's be honest, how many times do you buy one of these "must haves" only to lose it in the depths of your Tupperware cabinet? I own and frequently use all the items below and have found them to really make a difference in the kitchen! Happy Cooking!

  1.     Hand juicer. Fresh citrus is always the better option. 
  2.   A microplane, a.k.a. a zester. Use it for citrus, cinnamon, and finely grated cheese.
  3.  Stand mixer. This one is a little on the spendy side but worth it's weight in gold! I don't know how I ever survived without it.
  4.     Mortar and pestle. Great for seeds and spices.
  5.   Progressive International GPC-5000 Cherry-It Multiple Cherry Pitter  Cherry or olive pitter. More time at the BBQ
  6.    Progressive Housewares 8050L 11-in Jumbo Steamer Basket   Steamer basket. Steaming veggies maintains their color and flavor.
  7.   Rabbit corkscrew. Save your strength! 
  8.     Silicone muffin pans. An easy no-mess baking tool.
  9.      Mango corer. I haven't found a better way to get the fruit off that stupid, oblong pit!
  10. Cheese slicer. Buying block cheese and slicing it yourself is an easy way to save "chedda"  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bánh mì Goodness

If you've never tasted the amazingness that is Bánh mì, you are seriously missing out! I highly encourage you to find your nearest Vietnamese restaurant and try them out, or better yet, make them yourself.  Bánh mì is basically a french baguette filled with your choice of meat or pate and topped with pickled veggies, cilantro, cucumber, mayo, and chili sauce. 
Bánh mì ready to be assembled and DEVOURED!
I recently hosted a group of ladies at my house and wanted to provide a snack that would not only be delicious but also give some of them the opportunity to step outside the culinary box.  Bánh mì fits the bill. Savory chopped pork is the perfect base for the tangy-ness of the pickled veggies, while the cucumbers and the cilantro lend their distinct flavors and textures. Top it off with the heat of the sriracha, you've got yourself one craveable sandwich!

The pickled veggies are a breeze to make and you'll find yourself adding them to everything. For this recipe, I sliced up radishes, jalapenos, and carrots in the food processor. Aside from the flavor of these three, which are totally yummy, the color combo is divine! Traditional Bánh mì uses daikon radishes and carrots, I went with regular radishes, carrots and jalapeno for a little extra kick. 

I love the colors!
Once you slice up your veggies, pickling them is a snap. 1 part cider vinegar, 2 parts water, about a tablespoon of sugar, and salt to taste. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or two so the veggies can soak up the mixture.

I based my pork recipe on this (looking at their page REALLY makes me envious for a new camera!) but instead of using pork belly, I went with two pork loins. I cubed, seared, and seasoned them the same way as the recipe.   After they cooked, I strained the meat out and ran it through the slicing blade on my food processor. It shreds up nicely and really soaks up the juice once you return it to the Dutch Oven. The Vietnamese caramel is a little on the tricky side and it took me two times to get it right. Here's a tip, once you put your sugar in the water, swirl the pan, do NOT stir it!!! Stirring the caramel will cause air bubbles and cool the mixture and it won't caramelize. Instead, it will turn into a crusty mess. Once I mastered the caramel sauce, I added it to the shredded meat. Then I let it simmer on low for a couple hours while I prepped my house for guests.
The smell coming out of that pot was to die for!
After your meat has simmered for at least 45 min., you're ready to rock! Slice up some French bread, slather on the mayo and sriracha, top it with the meat, pickled veggies, thinly sliced cukes, cilantro, and BAM you've got yourself one tasty sammy!!!

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of an assembled sandwiches but I can assure you, they were as pretty as they were scrumptious and  a HUGE hit with my ladies!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Basic White Bread

 As a wedding gift, my husband bought me my first Kitchenaid mixer. Some women want diamonds on their wedding day, this woman wanted a Kitchenaid stand mixer in boysenberry (ok, duh, I wanted diamonds too!!)! I consider it to be my "woman card" and it's one of my most prized possessions. So, to start off my blog, let's go with a recipe from the Kitchenaid instruction booklet,  Basic White Bread, page 61.
Here she is in action! 
It's really important to pay attention to the temperature of the water when you mix up your yeast. This recipe calls for the temperature to be between 105-115, if  it's too hot, you kill the yeast, too cold and it won't grow. I used a meat thermometer and that worked just fine. Side note, if you don't have yeast in your pantry, go buy it, NOW! It lasts forever and the packets make it super simple to whip up a yummy loaf of bread whenever.

Another handy trick I learned while baking this bread was a way to keep your dough warm so it can rise properly. All you need to do is pre-heat your oven to 400 for 2 minutes, turn it off and then place your towel-covered bowl on the center rack for the proper raising time. It worked great and I didn't have to hunt for sunshine to set the bowl in!
The rising dough
The recipe was easy to follow and the bread is delish! It turned out light and fluffy with a slightly crunchy crust. I think next time I make it, I'll throw in some fresh herbs from the garden or maybe try the cinnamon variation from the booklet. I hope you try it out and let me know what you think!!! 
I topped a still warm slice with butter and my homemade Jalapeno Jelly (I'll do a post on that soon!) SO good!

First Post!

Hiiii, welcome to my new blog on everything and anything to do with being a woman! My goal is to document my progress on projects around the house and let you join in on the fun. I'm going to "take on" recipes, sewing, home decor ideas, gardening, along with any other blog-worthy things that come my way! I want to inspire you to get out there and get your hands dirty, make things from scratch, and embrace doing it "the old fashioned" way. Being able to look at a finished project and say 'I made that.' just feels GREAT and I want you to experience it too! I'll include tips and short-cuts wherever possible to help you out because I want you to feel empowered to try new things. I'm so excited to get started and for you to join me in the adventure!!

~Mrs. B