Monday, February 29, 2016

{A Few of My Favorite Things...Part 2}

Welcome back to Part 2 of my series on a few of my favorite kitchen items!
If you didn't see last week's post, you can check out Part 1 HERE!

This week is all about cook-wear, bake-wear, and containers.

Stainless-Steel Skillets and Saucepans:

I have always used stainless steel pans for saucepans. But only recently have I started using the skillets. We were getting pretty sick of replacing our skillets multiple times a year, because the Teflon would scratch off (that's kind of gross to think about). However, I was very used to that type of pan, and very comfortable using it, and was pretty skeptical of the stainless steel pans. Either people love them or they hate them...there doesn't seem to be any middle ground!
First, I have to say that they are wonderful!
Second, I have to say that they do take some getting used to.
I started out by seasoning them, because that's what "everyone" says to do.
Skip that step. It wears off after the first use, and they just don't need it.

-It's a very even cooking heat
-Because these don't have any rubber type of anything on the handle, they are oven-safe as well.
-After just a few minutes of soaking in some hot, soapy water, they are very easy to clean. You can't use any kind of abrasive sponge or anything, but we found this awesome cleaner that is fabulous! I'll share that with you in a separate post very soon.
-You MUST use the pans over a lower heat. NEVER put them on a burner that is turned on high. I never use them on any heat higher than medium - no matter what I'm cooking. Stainless steel gets much hotter than other pans, so if you have them on high, your food is going to burn almost instantly. And so is your pan. Low and slow is key!

Pyrex Baking Pans:

If there was a single item in our kitchen that we have the most of, and use the most often (besides drinking glasses or forks), it would 9x13 baking pans....with lids!
I seriously use them for everything, all the time! 
For instance, we have 8. The good news is that we only need cabinet space for about 3, because that's usually the maximum number not being used!
I make cakes, brownies, lots of different kinds of desserts, casseroles, jello salads, dips for chips, etc., etc., and etc. I store cookies, muffins and biscuits in them, all sorts of leftovers (like pizza), use them as a nice long veggie tray. I mean, really, you name it, and you can probably use a 9x13 pan for it!!  
I bake things in them, I freeze things in them, I store things in them.
They travel well, they stack well, they store well.
As you can tell from the picture, the top pan is slightly smaller. I'm not sure what the exact size is, but it's a little shorter, and much narrower than a 9x13. It came in a set with another 9x13 pan, and I use it just as much...especially for half batches of different things.
And the lids as well. I rarely use a pan, and not the lid.
You can find this style of pan (maybe different brands) in a variety of places.
We have gotten them as gifts (and they make a fabulous gift, by the way), from Walmart, TJMaxx, Ross, Amazon...pretty much any place that sells kitchen items.

Small Serving Bowls:

These might seem a little strange to some people, but I LOVE these silly little bowls!! 
And they are tiny!! The large ones on the left hold a half cup. 
The small ones on the right hold a quarter of a cup.
I think technically they are small serving bowls. 
We use them for dips, for keeping jello salads and other things like that off your plate and separate from your other food. For all sorts of little things.
And for baking/cooking as well. You know on cooking shows and things like that, how the chef's have all the different ingredients all measured out and ready to go? Yeah, I do that all the time. And these bowls work amazing for that! It helps keep me organized and on track, and I just love it!
I'm sure you can get them other places too, but we honestly got them at Dollar Tree (I love that store). The small ones come in packs of 4 (correct, 4 bowls for a dollar), and the big ones come in packs of 2 or 3, I can't remember exactly.

Custard/Baking Cups: 

These are pretty much up there with the 9x13 baking pans, and just about as useful.
You can bake in them, you can freeze in them. We do both.
Plus use them for leftovers, dips, measuring out ingredients like the other little bowls listed above, freezing small portions of meals, flipping them over and tracing around them when you need a circle of paper that size for something (lol!)....again, you name it!! They are generally the answer to my "small" problems!
They come in a variety of sizes. Pictured here are the one-cup and two-cup sizes.
These were both purchased at Walmart, but again, I'm sure they can be found at any kitchen-specialty store, Amazon, etc., and there are several different brands (Pyrex, Anchor, etc.).

Rubbermaid Storage Containers:

Tupperware is wonderful, don't get me wrong. 
But I have to admit, I may just love these little containers even more. 
We have several different styles of storage containers, but these are by far my favorite.
First, the fact that they are square, makes them so practical for storing in a refrigerator or cabinet.
Second, they stack really, really well. And so do the lids. They basically clip together, which keeps them from getting lost.
They are great to freeze things in, but I do not recommend using them in the microwave, as they can melt and then, you know, they just don't look very good after that.
They come in a variety of different sets. I love the set we have, because it has lots of different sizes...from large to extra small. And I use them ALL!
These came from Walmart, but I have seen them just about everywhere...from Dollar General to Sam's Club, BedBath&Beyond, Amazon...they're everywhere.


Hope to see you again next week for Part 3!!!

Monday, February 22, 2016

{A Few of My Favorite Things...Part 1}

So, as I was in the kitchen recently (we all know that doesn't happen very often, lol!!!), putting away dishes, etc. I found myself thinking 
"Oh, this is my favorite kitchen tool." 
Or, "I definitely want one of these when I have my own kitchen." 
And "Oh, maybe this is actually my favorite kitchen gadget."

Let me just be upfront and honest here...I have a LOT of favorites!!!!!!
I could live in one of those kitchen-gadget-specialty-shops!

I'm sure everyone has their own list of favorites...that's what makes everyone and every dish unique!!
But I thought it might be fun to share some of mine!
So over the next couple of weeks, I will be showing you some of my favorite tools, gadgets, cookware, appliances...even a couple of cleaners that I love to use in the kitchen!

I hope you enjoy!
And I would love to hear what some of your favorites are as well!!

Glass Measuring Cups

I love these things! I use one of them every, single day! 
Pictured here, I have an 8-cup, 4-cup, 2-cup, 1-cup, and the two smallest ones measure ounces, tablespoons and teaspoons.
I use them for cold and hot ingredients.
I use them for measuring, I use them for mixing, I use them for heating something in the microwave.
They may be one of the most practical pieces in a kitchen! 
They can be purchased almost anywhere that sells any type of kitchen stuff. We have found ours in various places - 
Walmart, Kitchen specialty stores, Pampered Chef, even TJMaxx, Ross and Amazon.

 Measuring Cups and Spoons
Okay, so I have to admit that this is not our only set of measuring cups and spoons! 
We actually have 4. 
And I can not tell you the number of times, when most of them are ALL dirty! At once! 
It's crazy!
This set, however, is my favorite. It's a clean and simple little crevices anywhere, and that's why I like it. The handle is pretty much even with the cup, so it makes it easy to use a knife to level off flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, etc. 
Again, measuring cups and spoons are not hard to find.
These were purchased from IKEA.
(Ah, if you are a kitchen-gadget-loving-person like myself, and have never been to IKEA, first I will have a moment of silence for you, and then I would tell you that if you ever have a chance to go to an IKEA....don't pass it up!!!)

 The Wonder Cup
First off, I don't know what this is actually called, but it says wonder cup on it, so I just used that for the title. Honestly, never once have we ever said "please hand me the wonder cup" but I'll get to that later, because it technically has nothing to do with anything!
So, this thing looks crazy, but it's an absolute life-saver, let me tell you!
As you can tell, we use ours....maybe too much!!!
If you are unfamiliar with this gadget, the yellow part is flat on the top. It moves up and down inside the clear part that is marked with measurements for cups, tablespoons, teaspoons, ounces...and other measurements that I'm pretty sure most people in this country do not use and therefore I don't even know what they are!
Anyways, lets say you are measuring 1 cup of honey. So you push the yellow part down to the one cup line, add the honey, and push it right out into your mixing bowl, all the while leaving not one spec of it behind!!!!
It's just "wonder-ful"! 
A life-saver for honey, peanut butter, BBQ sauce, ketchup...anything of that consistency. We honestly mostly use ours for peanut butter (because we use a ton of that), and so it has been affectionately dubbed "the peanut butter cup" (our creativity just blows me away)!!
I do not have the slightest idea where ours came's just always been around, I think....since Adam, by the looks of it!
However, I know that at one point, Pampered Chef had something almost identical to this, and I'm sure other company's probably make it as well.
In fact, I just googled it for you, and yeah, turns out they're not hard to find!!


See you next week for Part Two!!!!

Monday, February 15, 2016

{Garlic Parmesan Potato Wedges}

We eat a lot of potatoes in our house, so I'm always on the lookout for another creative way to fix them. I've always loved potato wedges, but my family is not usually too enthusiastic about them.
However, they all loved these, and I was so excited!! 
They were actually really fast and easy to make, which is another huge plus!!
I think you could serve these with just about anything and everything...dressed up or down! I mean really, it's potatoes and garlic and Parmesan cheese...what does that not go with!
I hope you try them out and enjoy them as much as we do!

3 pounds potatoes (approximately)
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Line 2 baking sheets with foil, and coat lightly with cooking spray. Place in your oven while it pre-heats to 400 degrees.
Wash and dry potatoes thoroughly; cut into wedges (I just quarter them) and place in a bowl.
Drizzle with oil, and stir until all the potatoes are evenly coated.
Add cheese, and mix well.
Stir in seasonings and mix until everything is well combined and evenly coated.
Remove pans from the oven, and carefully place potatoes in a single layer between the two pans.
Bake for 30 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork, and starting to get lightly golden brown.
I prefer them to be crispier, so once they are cooked, I place them under the broiler for 7-8 minutes, flipping about every minute, until they reach desired crispiness!

-You can use shredded or grated Parmesan, it doesn't really matter. I just prefer the grated for this recipe.

Monday, February 8, 2016

2 Ingredient, 3 Minute Chocolate Fudge:

I am not a huge fan of fudge. I mean, I like it, but it's just usually SO, SO sweet.
I enjoy Peanut Butter Fudge like once a year or something, but other than that, I can definitely take it or leave it and not think twice about it.
It can be a tricky thing for me to make, too. Sometimes it turns out good, and other times, I ruin it!
I ran across this recipe, and thought it was most likely too good to be true.
2 ingredients?
3 minutes?
Yeah, right!

So glad I was wrong! I may be a new-found fudge lover!
This recipe makes some of the very best I have ever had!
SO easy, SO fast, SO smooth and's just awesome!!!
I hope you try it out!

1 (12 oz.) package chocolate chips
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Lightly coat a square baking dish with cooking spray. Line pan with wax paper; set aside.
Place chocolate chips and milk in a microwave safe dish. Heat on high for 1 minute. Let stand for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Pour into prepared pan, and spread out evenly. Chill for at least 2 hours, or until firm. Remove from pan and discard wax paper. Cut into a squares. Serve, or place in an airtight container. It can be refrigerated, or left at room temperature.

Monday, February 1, 2016

{Easy, Cheesy Muffins}

Served with salads, soups and stews, spaghetti, lasagna, scrambled eggs and omelets, steak or grilled name it...these muffins go with EVERYTHING!
Basically the texture of an extremely light, fluffy, airy biscuit,  and really fast to make!
My entire family loved them!
I hope you give them a try!

1 & 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 & 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, optional
3 cups shredded cheese
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, and garlic powder. 
Stir in cheese.
In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg and butter.
Add to dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Batter will be thick and sticky.
Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray, and divide batter evenly between 14 muffin cups.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
Let rest in muffin pans for 5 minutes, run a table knife around the edges to loosen, and place in on a serving plate!
Best served hot!

-You can use whatever cheese you have or like. I like the mozzarella because it melts well, and makes a stringy, cheesy texture that I love. And cheddar adds great color! But as long as you have 3 cups of some type of cheese, that's all that matters!
This is what I love to use:
1 & 1/4 cup mozzarella
1 & 1/4 cup cheddar
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan