Sunday, 9 December 2012

Metal lids VERSUS Glass lids

When you are purchasing cookware, there are options. MANY options: non-stick or stainless? Silicone handles or metal handles? Induction suitable or not? Which line is the best for YOUR ability? The questions and answers are endless. Before you starts, please consider:
-Are you a beginner or advanced cook? (Generally, beginner cooks like non-stick and advanced cooks like stainless steel.)
-The types of food you enjoy cooking and cook the most.
-Do you have an induction cooking range or will you upgrade to one in the future?
-Do you dishwash your pots and pans?
-What types of utensils you like using when cooking? (Metal versus silicone versus wood.)

 One very important option to consider is: the choice between glass lids or stainless steel (AKA "metal") lids.

The low-down on glass lids:
-Glass lids are preferred for beginner cooks because you "visually" see what you are cooking.
-Less costly to produce, thus less cost.
-Dishwasher safe!
-The downfall? If you accidentally drop it, it may shatter, break, or crack.
-The edges of the lid are difficult to keep clean over time.

Overall: I recommend glass lids for beginner cooks since they enjoy "seeing" the food cooks!



The low-down on stainless steel lids:
-Perferred for people who want a "polished" and professional "look" to their cookware.
-Stainless steel is more costly to produced, thus a higher price.
-Dishwasher safe. It is easier to keep clean around the edges versus glass lids.
-If you accidentally drop a metal lid, it will not break or shatter like glass lids, it will slightly dent.
-The downfall: You are unable to "see" what you are cooking, this is hard for beginner cooks or when you are cooking a new dish.

Overall: I recommend metal lids for more intermediate-advanced cooks or people who want a true professional "look" for their cookware.




Also, when you are purchasing glass lids, make sure they are 'TEMPERED."What is a tempering? Is is a process that includeds extreme heat and rapid cooling to make tempered glass 5x stronger than standard glass. Thus, temepered glass lids will not break once heat is invovled.
Do you see a small "air" pocket in your glass lid? That is a bad thing....a very bad thing. Why? It means the glass lid was not tempered properly, thus it could shatter or break once exposed to constant heat when cooking.


Be sure to check your manufactures warranty, and retail store returning policy, regarding lids before purchasing!

Happy Cooking,
Kimm

Monday, 3 December 2012

Vanilla: The most over-looked flavor. Honestly.

I love, LOVE vanilla. And by vanilla, I mean the REAL deal. No imitation, liquid-mess for me. Pure vanilla beans or extract add a subtle hint to your baked good. It acts how salt does to savory food:  brings out the most pure and true flavor of the ingredient you are baking with.




I often get a "shocked" face when I tell people I enjoy vanilla and it ranks as one of my favorite flavors. "Why?" They always ask,  "You're a foodie, you cook and bake for a living! Vanilla is so...blah." Not to me, vanilla has been washed down with imitation flavors and ingredients. I saw a white cake recipe with no vanilla extract!!! Oh why! People often see, if it a white, pale, or yellow color baked good, it MUST be vanilla flavored. Nope. There are small differences between white cake, vanilla cake, and yellow cake.

Knowing vanilla beans are costly, I use them sparingly. I go for real vanilla extract. Be sure to make sure the label says "REAL" not "IMITATION." What exactly is imitation vanilla? It is byproducts of wood and contains weird chemcicals. Gross. If the bottle says "vanilla flavoring," that is a combination of real and fake vanilla extracts.

http://www.thevanillabeanblog.com/ <-- and="and" anilla="anilla" baking="baking" bean="bean" blog="blog" by="by" check="check" delightful="delightful" her="her" is="is" out="out" psst="psst" sarah.="sarah." strong="strong" sweet="sweet" the="the" truly="truly">

I always use vanilla extact in my cookies, cakes, and frostings. It adds a soft richness that you, and your taste testers, will notice. Don't over look it the next time you want to bake something delicious: vanilla bean pound cake, vanilla shortbread, vanilla cream cheese frosting, vanilla-chocolate sauce....

Happy Baking,
Kimm AKA Vanilla lover!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

3 tips to make holiday baking...a breeze!

Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is officially finished. We can put away the extra candy and finally polish off all the delicious leftovers from the Turkey Day feast. What is next on everyone's baking and cooking agenda: the holidays!

Besides a cheerful spirit, be sure to bring something sweet and homemade to any party, event, or social gathering you attend. Why? It is so much SWEETER to bring a homemade delight versus store bought. Are you afraid of trying something new? Don't be! Follow my very easy tips to make your holiday baking easy and simple.

Tip #1: Stick to what you are good at!
This rule also follows to most things in life: do what you can do exceptionally! Love scones? Bake a dozen perfect. Can you whip up the perfect sour cream coffee cake? Then do it! Have you always been the go-to for homemade brownies? Bake some and share!
Please avoid attempting anything brand, BRAND new. Save a new recipe for a rainy afternoon when you have extra free time.

Tip #2: Don't be afraid to use your freezer!
Freezing extra cookie dough or pie crust is a sneaky way to save you time. All baked goods, raw or baked, freeze great if they are stored properly. Make sure you use an air-tight container that seals shut.
-For example, when freezing raw cookie dough: You can bake frozen cookie dough just like raw cookie dough, just be sure to calculate for extra baking time.
-Are you short on time for the party? Don't be afraid to freeze baked goods like brownie and bar cookies. Be sure to let them defrost, outside their container, at room temp for about 2 hrs.
-I love making pie and tart crust ahead of time. I roll out the dough and shaping it into its proper pie/tart shell, then freeze it. Freezing crusts also helps shrinkage of the pie crust!

Tip #3: Plan it out!
Make a schedule of your baking prep. This helps you carve out time to properly bake you sweet treat and double check your ingredients list.
Make sure you answer these questions after you plan out your baking treat:
-Will I have enough time to make, bake, and cool my baked good?
-Do I have all of my ingredients on hand? Extra, in case I mess up?
-What will I bake (or bring) if I mess up? Do I have enough time to bake something different, if I do?
-Do I have the properly baking equipment for my baked good (pans, mixer, bowls, etc).

Remember, the holiday season is meant to bring more cheer and sweetness to your community! Plan your baking spree ahead, and it will sure be a success.

Happy Baking,
Kimm

Monday, 19 November 2012

S.U.M: A fun, secret, and DELICIOUS food event!

Last Saturday evening in Seattle's SODO District, it was rainy. Grey. Miserable. But, outside a large abandoned warehouse, there were colored paper signs that said "SUM -->." Inside, long lines of  hungry foodies eagerly wait for a sample of one of Seattle's new, upcoming, and popular restuarants and catering businesses.

Exactly what is S.U.M? It is Seattle's Underground Market, a pop-up foodie event that happens monthly, all over the greater Seattle- area and Eastside. Did you know Underground Markets happen all over the USA? Yup, S.U.M. was inspired by San Franciso's Underground Market.
Eveytime the location changes, making it a true way to explore the city I live in! How do you know where the location is? Sign up to become a member and you will receive email updates before an event happens.

With a small entry fee ($10), and bites costing $1-$3/per plate, it is easy to sample a large variety of cuisine under $20.00. Chefs, restauranteers, and bakers unite to show off their best of the best for the community. From a small dessert catering business, to a popular asian restaurant, and a fresh squeezed juice bar, there are many offerings to delight your palate.

Sign up to become a member, FOR FREE:
http://www.seattleundergroundmarket.com/Home_Page.html

"Like" their page on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/SeattleUndergroundMarket?ref=ts&fref=ts

What did I try and LOVE? The POP-shrimp were golden delicious-ness of popcorn and deep fried shrimp. The seared ahi tuna was one of the most popular offerings! Chiptole braised pork and corn pudding offered comfort food to the crowd in the stormy weather. Plus, the Mexician Coffee kept my hands warm!

I can't wait for another S.U.M!

Happy Cooking,
Kimm

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

What makes a pot and pan handle STAY COOL!

Not only should cookware preform well and deliever delicious meals, it should accent your kitchen and easy to handle and maintain! One of the most popular questions I get from customers and friends about pots and pans is: "How do I know if the handle stays cool when cooking?" This is key: you do NOT want to injury your hand because your cookware handle was not properly constructed.

For truly "stay cool" handles, I recommend two material types:

1) Silicone handles (usually combined with stainless steel)

OR

2) Cast stainless steel

Why?

-Silicone is naturally heat-safe to 400 degrees F. For a cookware handle, silicone should be "wrapped" around a stainless steel bar for longevity. Look for a thick, strong, and sturdy handle!




-Stainless steel is appealing because it attractive and it last forever, yet it still conducts heat....poorly. That is why GOOD stainless steel handles should be "hollowed" out in the middle to avoid any sort of heat conduction. Look for the words "cast stainless steel handles." Also, with stainless steel handles, if there is a "triangle-shaped" part on the exterior of the pan, that connects with the long handle, it is a GOOD THING! Just like hollowing the handle, that shape breaks down the heat conduction (from the pan to the handle) for a guaranteed stay-cool handle.







Please avoid:
-Pure, solid metal handles with a rubber or silicone grip over it. This means the handle was not hollowed out and to make it a "less expensive" stay-cool handle, the company just put a cover on it.
-Plastic handles or plastic-blended handles.
-Pure rubber handles.

Key questions to ask about handles when you are purchasing:

If it is a stainless steel handle:
1) Is the center of the handle hollowed out? (Correct answer: Yes!)
2) Is the stainless steel casted? (Correct answer: Yes!)
3) Are these guaranteed to stay cool while cooking on the stove top? (Correct answer: Yes!)

If it is a silicone handle:
1) Is this pure silicone over a stainless steel bar? (Correct answer: Yes!)
2) Is the silicone area, 100% silicone or is it blended with other products like plastic? (Correct answer: Yes!)
3) Are these guaranteed to stay cool while cooking on the stove top? (Correct answer: Yes!)

No matter if you choose a gorgeous stainless steel handle or comfy silicone handle for your cookware, it should stay cool while cooking up your favorite meal. Also, double check with the retail store's return policy, just in case there was a defect.

Happy Cooking,
Kimm

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

My FAVORITE baking and cooking blogs!

Reading other blogs inspires me: what topics to write, how I should sound, and it gives me inspiration for my personal baking and cooking adventures. Luckily, I am part of the Girl Power Hour (http://girlpowerhour.com/) Blogging Community, which gives me access to LOTS of different female bloggers in different industries.

Blogging is simple, that is why I started one for SC. I get to post amazing photos of the cupcakes I bake, interview fellow bakers and bloggers, geek-out on cookware, and tell all my readers all the fun foodie events that happen in the greater Seattle area.

I love reading unique, interesting, and well-written blogs. Check out my top blogs and see if any of your favorites are also mine!

Cupcakes+Cashmere
http://cupcakesandcashmere.com/
Emily, living in LA, writes about "things that inspire her." Food, wine, and clothing are often topics on her blog. My favorite? All the very in-style fashion outfit photos she posts.

Half-Baked: The Cake Blog
http://www.thecakeblog.com/
Written by Carrie and fellow bakers, it is THE blog for anything wedding cake related. Want fun, new, and fresh ideas for cakes? This is the blog to read and be inspired from.

Bakerella
http://www.bakerella.com/
Another sweet baking blog, mainly focusing on small bites like cake pops, cupcakes, cookies, and brownies.

Order in the kitchen
http://www.orderinthekitchen.com/
From fellow social media pal, Lynn, "Order in the kitchen" is a cooking tale while trying to destress from law school. Ever since graduating from school, she is now one obsessed foodie, blogger, and cook.

Smitten Kitchen
http://smittenkitchen.com/
One of the most popular cooking blogs out there, it is KNOWN for gorgeous photos. Deb writes and blogs from a tiny kitchen in New York to give the foodie community recipes worth drooling over.

Bella Cupcake Couture
http://bellacupcakecouture.com/blog/
Carrie, owner, is the creater of unique cupcake wrappers known as "Bella Cupcake Couture." Her blog is dedicated to anything wedding or event-related. Check it out for helpful decorating and holiday planning tips.

Bake or Break
http://www.bakeorbreak.com/
This blog is great for a beginner baker! The author writes about her test baking batches in her NYC apartment.  Plus, the recipes are simple and easy.

17 and Baking
http://17andbaking.com/
Elissa, now 18, started her baking blog at 16 while living in Seattle. She is a baking addict writes about her new hometown, Boston, delicious recipes, and new travels in her life. (PS: I love seeing young people starting a blog!)

The Plastic Free Chef
http://theplasticfreechef.com/
Mary Kat, only 17, is trying to make the world greener and less plastic! She has currently made her kitchen...plastic-free. She blogs about "plastic free" recipes she creates and how you can reduce the amount of unneeded plastic in your life. Wow!

Do you have a favorite blog? Let me know in the "comment" section or email me personally: kimmmoore63@gmail.com

Happy baking and blogging,
Kimm

Friday, 26 October 2012

5 ways to use Halloween candy in your sweet treats!

Halloween is right around the corner! This means: a true excess in overly sweet candy at your finger tips. Instead of consuming all of the sweetness at once, try adding it to your next baked good to make it extra special and unique.





5 uses for Halloween candy:

1) Candy corn: Add it your next batch of rice krispie treats! Now, are you worried that it may be too sweet? Try adding chopped nuts for a salty-bite to it.

2) Halloween-colored M & M's: Add it to your next cookie recipe, like chocolate chips. My personal favorite? Double chocolate with coconut.

3) Tootsie Rolls: A nice, gooey center for your cupcakes! When you are baking cupcakes, fill the cupcake liner half way with cake batter, then add a small piece of tootsie roll, and finally more cake batter. The filling will be soft and sweet, very similar to a ganache filling.

4) Mini chocolate-candy bars: I love chopping them up in bite-size pieces and adding them to my brownie or blondie recipe. Be sure to save a few for the topping as an easy garnish.

5) Chocolate bars: Since Halloween means fall has arrived, I love making homemade hot cocoa with leftover chocolate bars! Warm your favorite milk of choice in a small saucepan, break up your chocolate bar into small pieces, add it to the warm milk, and stir. Enjoy!






And, what is the best solution for leftover candy: consume with a friend! (My #1 choice!)

Happy Halloween,
Kimm

Monday, 22 October 2012

Why I LOVE non-stick cookware!

Yes, I love non-stick cookware.
Cookware comes in three mediums: nonstick, stainless, or cast iron. Most people have a favorite, and least favorite. I truly love my non-stick. Want to know why? My top 3 facts are.....

1) It requires little maintaince: A little dish soap plus a sponge equals my pans clean up minutes. No use of special cleaners, polishers, or seasoning is required. Now, some non stick pans are dishwasher safe, making it even more convientent for busy people.

2) Little fat is needed: This is the main reason why non stick pans where created in the 60's. The demand for a healthier style of cooking that will require very little or zero oil. Many health freaks, people on diets, and newbie cooks love this feature about non stick cookware. I can cook a chicken breast with zero fat!

3) Beginner cooks can use it with ease: I always stress any level of cook can use non stick cookware versus stainless or cast iron. That is why it is the choice to have when living in a large household with multiple cooks!
 
Remember, non stick cookware has greatly improved in the last 5 years. It has become stronger, safer, and more durable than 10, 12, even 15 years ago!

To make your non stick pans last longer, please:
-Avoid aerosol non stick sprays!
-Hand wash only.
-Pre-heat your cookware before adding your food.
-Medium heat only.
 
Here are my top 5 answers to my most commonly asked questions about non-stick cookware:
 
1) What makes a non-stick pan different from one another?
A: The patent. Thus, every cookware line owns their own non-stick "recipe." That recipe is held top secret so no other cookware company can copy it.
 
2) How safe is non-stick cookware? I heard it causes cancer and illness?
A: No proven cancer/illness case has been linked with non-stick cookware. Cookware companies have to follow rules given by the FDA before we can selling it to the domestic market.
 
3) What is PFOA? I heard it is horrible for you and your body!
 A: Perfluorooctanoic acid is a synthetic chemical compound, made from DuPont.
FACT: Good non-stick cookware is naturally PFOA free if the coating is applied correctly and at a very high heat.
A sad FACT: About 98% of us have PFOA in our blood stream because it is found in pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, take-out containers, frozen food boxes, carpet and house hold cleaners.
 
4) What is all this buzz with ceramic cookware? I heard it truly is chemical free!
A: Yes, it is truly chemical free. The down fall? Ceramic-base coatings are naturally soft and weak. Thus, they tend to wear down faster than a non ceramic coating.
 
5) Non-stick coatings can go in a stainless steel pan or hard anodized pan, which is better?
A: Non stick in a hard anodized pan. Hard anodized aluminum is very porus, thus the coating attaches itself better than a super slick stainless steel pan.
Overall, pick a cookware line that uses and advertises a great non-stick patent. Check with the manufactures directions about proper care and use.
 
Happy Cooking!
Kimm


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Cooper cookware: the pro's and con's!

Cookware can be created from 4 different materials: Aluminum, stainless steel, cooper, or iron. For your best heat conduction, a combination of the metals deliever superior and even heat for your food. Let's focus on the most expensive metal to make for cookware: cooper.




Cooper has a classic and professional "look" to it and delivers optimal heat control out of all the metals. Used since historic times, cooper is well-known for controlling heat throughout your pot or pan. Today, it is rare to find 100% cooper pans. Now, cooper is only lined at the bottom or exterior.

The facts:

Pros:

-Controls heat the best.

-Cools down the fastest, thus reduces "warpping" (AKA: dented/uneven) at the bottom.

-You only need a small amount of cooper to get its benefits.

-Very attractive in your kitchen.

Cons:

-Expensive, especially if the exterior is fully lined with cooper.

-Tarnishes (AKA: discolors) over time. Polishing is required on a regular basis.

-True, full cooper pans are heavy and hard to find.


Cooper cookware comes in two main forms: Combined with stainless steel and aluminum (AKA, "clad") or combined with hard anodized aluminum. Both constructions distribute heat evenly.

-Clad construction: Multi-layers will provide a well-heated pan, but may be costly in the end. Also remember, cooking on stainless steel will require more oil/fat, "elbow grease" when cleaning, and attention in the cooking process.

-Hard Anodized Aluminum (with a non-stick coating over it) : Hard Anodized aluminum is just a stronger, more durable aluminum. A protective coating goes over it so cooking is fast, easy, and less oil is needed.




When cooper is combined with the two constructions, your cookware is automatically going to heat more even! Think: evenly cooked chicken breast, tender stir fried veggies, and perfectly scrambled eggs. Delicious!


Are you just an every day, basic cooking chef with a busy life? Then fully lined cooper pans are not for you. I always recommend buying cookware for: your cooking ability, lifestyle, and schedule. Cooper core cookware is an excellent choice for serious cooks/chef who enjoy cooking gourmet meals and love to entertain. Looking to experiement with cooper cookware? Buy a small skillet and test out your culinary skills on it.


Happy cooking!
Kimm

Sunday, 16 September 2012

MORE SWEET SUCCESS: Tea-party inspired cupcakes!

I love doing weddings and bridal showers! It lets me create unique and one-of-a-kind treats for a their special day. No matter what the theme or decor is of the shower, I always "play" and "decorate" my cupcakes accordingly.

The host was throwing a baby shower ,for her sister-in-law, that was "tea party inspired." Delicious appetizers and small bites were being created for the event. I was very impressed by the decor, it matched the theme perfect!

I created three cupcake flavors with three different decor!




Lemon cake with raspberry and vanilla buttercream.

Chocolate cake with white chocolate chunks and caramel buttercream.


Peanut butter cake with chocolate buttercream.




Overall, the cupcakes were a hit! The host, mom-to-be, and guest loved them all. This was another example of sweet success.

Happy Baking!
Kimm

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Theo's chocolate tasting with Google Plus Local: sweetness in your community!

If you know me, I love a new foodie event and meet fellow people in my community. Thus, that is why I am avid attendee of Google Plus Local events in the Seattle-area. Google Plus is a social media site where you and mix and mingle with current and new friends, globally! Google Places is a rate and review app (download it now in your smart phone!) to help you choose the right business for your needs. All the reviews are done by customers, not paid writers or editors.

On Sept. 5th, Google Plus Local hosted a very sweet chocolate event with theo's chocolate factory in Fremont, a hip Seattle neighborhood. Theo's chocolate is "proud to be the only Organic, Fair Trade, Fair for Life certified Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Factory in North America. " Growing since 2006, they are dedicated to making delicious, safe, and real chocolate for nation.
From "Spicy Chili" chocolate bars, to "Grey Salted Caramels," and the classic "Coffee" chocolate, there is a sweet treat to delight anyone's taste buds.



Theo's Chocolate - Retail Store in Fremont (Seattle, WA).
Wondering through the sweet smelling chocolate factory, it was amazing to see how the chocolate is carefully mass produced for the public. Every detail is considered and not left out. The host gave us a brief history about theo's mission statement and chocolate.

Inside the lecture room at theo's chocolate factory.


The best part of the tour? Making our homemade chocolate bark with theo's own dark chocolate. One of the pastry chefs gave us a demo on how she personally makes chocolate bark for the retail store.

The special tempering machine for the chocolate.

The Pastry Chef lightly "taps" the tempered chocolate, on the baking sheet, to remove any air bubbles.



 Theo provided us with chocolate and toppings to make our own homemade chocolate bark to take home and share. Working in teams of three, everyone had more than enough chocolate to go around!

Our chocolate bark: Half sesame candy and half dried banana-strawberry.


I love going to these events because I meet new foodie friends in the community!









Overall, the event was a sweet success: I ate too much chocolate, saw the inside of a real chocolate factory, and have my chocolate container FILLED at home. Thank you again to Google Plus Local, Google Places, theo's chocolate, and Charles Koh for hosting the event.

For more infomation on theo's chocolate: https://www.theochocolate.com/about-theo
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theochocolate (@theochocolate)
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10100292210395080&set=pcb.10100292212615630&type=1&theater#!/theochocolate ("Like" Theo's chocolate)

For more information on Google Plus Local:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoogleSeattle
Newsletter sign -up: https://services.google.com/fb/forms/seattlenewslettersignup/

Happy Baking!
Kimm








Thursday, 9 August 2012

Heart-shaped sweet treats? Yes, please!

Through social media, I am lucky to meet new bloggers, fellow foodies, and discover new baking products. While reading my tweets one day, I stumbled upon a company called Mastrad, which sells unique baking pans and kitchen supplies. After conversing on twitter, they read my "cupcakes and cookware" blog, loved it, and sent me their heart-shaped silicone baking cups to "test" and try out.



They arrived in a plastic container, which is VERY helpful for storage and making sure they stay organized in my pantry. The heart-shaped baking cups are made of silicone, which has its benefits over other bakeware mediums: dishwasher safe, super easy to clean/maintain, and heat safe to 480 degrees F.



Why heart shaped? Why not? I can see myself baking cupcakes and brownies, with my niece and nephew, with these cups! Plus they make it convenient for a "one size serving." No extra time is needed for greasing pans or cutting brownies. PERFECT for a busy parent, beginner baker, or a special holiday treat.





My "test" drive? Baking homemade brownies in the cups. Six of 'em fit perfect in my 9 inch round cake pan. I let them cool 100% before unmolding them. Having heart-shaped homemade brownies is such a treat!
Overall, I am pleased and happy with my Mastrad baking cups. They are easy to use and clean, which is always a bonus. I look forward to using more of their products in the future and recommending their bakeware for fellow bakers and cooks
For more information on Mastrad and their products, check out:
facebook: "Like" Mastrad, Inc http://www.facebook.com/MastradUS
twitter: follow @mastrad https://twitter.com/Mastrad



Happy Baking,
Kimm

Monday, 6 August 2012

What SALT does to your baked good!

When I first started blogging, I wrote a post titled: "SALT- The most important ingredient!" Yes, I am a lover of anything "salty-sweet" or made with a flavored, coarse, unrefined sea salt. But, what EXACTLY does salt do to your chocolate chip cookies, chiffon cake, or lemon-blueberry muffins? Salt has many functions and actions in the baking and culinary field.

First off, salt naturally adds flavor to sweet and savory dishes. It is a necessary and key ingredient in the kitchen! Along, with black pepper, it is staple to have a salt jar right next to your cooking range.

Salt has many purposes in cooking, here are my top three reasons!

1) Enhance flavor!
No matter what you are cooking, it balances and enhances the dish/food you are cooking. Pre-package foods contain LOTS, AND LOTS of sodium due to the lack of natural flavor and to have a longer "shelf life" than non-packaged foods.

2) Strengthen gluten strands!
Salt naturally helps gluten strands become nice 'n' strong to create a solid structure for your baked good. This is key especially in French-type breads. Forgot your salt when you are baking bread? The dough will become very "slack" and "wet."

3) Give color!
Salt aids in browning. (Secret tip: I like to add a pinch of salt when I am making egg wash for my morning pasteries!) It gives crossiants, breads, and muffins a nice, golden color. Forgot your salt? Your sweet treats and bread will come out pale.

Salt's three main forms:

1) Kosher: A coarse salt, perfect for "every day" cooking. I like using kosher salt when I am brining, salting water for rice/potatoes, and roasting proteins.

2) Iodizied : A fine salt that I love using for baking anything sweet. Why? Since it is a fine grain, it tends to blend into the batter or dough perfectly. Since coarse salt, like kosher, have a larger diameter, it can leave tiny, "salty bites." Stick with a fine grain salt when baking...always!

3) Sea salt: Yes, salt from the sea. The "most pure" salt flavor you have! Go for "unrefined" sea salt and use it when "finishing" a dish. Example:  A few pinches on your grilled steak, seared salmon, in your homemade balsamic dressing, or quinoa, it adds flavor without adding a calories or fat. Many gourmet shops are now carrying flavored sea salts to cater to your homemade meals and tastes.

I have all three at home! Just need one? Go for kosher salt and add more to your collection in your future.

What is the most important tip about salt I can give you? NEVER forget it! Salt to cooking and baking, is like breathing: we need it. Avoid pre-packaged foods, which are drowned in sodium, and cooking your own veggies and meals with your favorite salt.

Here are my favorite salts to use when cooking and baking:
http://waldenlanegourmet.com/category/34-best-gourmet-salts.aspx
(The Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt is one of my faves!)

Happy Baking!
Kimm

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Sunday, 29 July 2012

STAINLESS STEEL COOKWARE CONSTRUCTION...explained!

Hence my blog name, "cupcakes and cookware," I wanted to do a post dedicated to the 2 types of stainless steel construction cookware. Stainless steel has a great rank among other types of cookware: long lasting and professionally used. Like most people, I have a mix of all three types of cookware and enjoy cooking on all types. Read more to find out the differences between the two stainless steel construction cookware on the market.

Remember, cookware comes in 3 main materials:

1) Non-stick (aluminum-material base)


2) Stainless Steel (usually a combination of stainless steel and aluminum)


3) Cast Iron

First off....why stainless steel over the other two types of cookware?

Answer: Stainless steel has a wonderful reputation for lasting forever, being non-reactive to all foods, and the ability to take high heat, from a stove or oven, without damaging it. Sound too good to be true? In some ways, yes. Cooking on stainless steel is, well, tricky. You will have to add more fat (olive oil, butter, etc), food will STICK, and more "elbow grease" is needed when cleaning and polishing. ( FYI: You will become best friends with polishers!)
I cannot stress this enough: cooking on non-stick is 100% different than cooking on stainless steel.

Then, why do professionals love it?

Answer: In a professional setting (Yes, I do have experience!) you use super high heat, at a very fast pace, with a dishwasher that is super hot with strong soap. Over time, even stainless steel pans wrap and damage. Remember, professionals have more experience and training in cooking, thus they are able to use any types of cookware without a problem.

FACT: Stainless steel naturally heats uneven. Yes, it is strong, durable, and attractive, but 100% pure stainless steel will not heat in an uniform matter. Aluminum is a decent heat conductor, very abundant, and easy to manufacture. Thus, it is usually combined with stainless steel cookware.

Now, to the two main constructions:

1) Aluminum encapsulated base

-Basically, the bottom has a layered base of: stainless steel-aluminum-stainless steel. The sides are pure stainless steel.

-This construction is lighter in weight and feel.

-These pans will heat decently.

-Perfect for someone who does not want to spend a ton of money of expensive cookware.

2) Clad construction, also known as tri-ply (Clad means layers, a bonding of two metals together.)

- Basically, full layers of: stainless steel-aluminum-stainless steel on the bottom and sides of pans. This will conduct heat better than an aluminum encapsulated base pan.

-Clad construction can get pricey. I recommended clad construction for serious and advanced cooks who do not mind spending extra money.

- Clad construction is getting very popular among consumers, many cookware manufactures are coming out with clad-lines.

-My recommendation? Find a good clad/tri-ply line that you personally like with the right price.

-Overall, "clad construction" is the same within cookware lines. Just find one you truly enjoy!

There are also 5-ply and 7-ply lines, which have more layers of aluminum, stainless steel, and possibly cooper. Why more layers? Unsure. But I do know the more layers you add, the pricier and heavier the cookware gets. My advice: stick to a good tri-ply lines for your best value.

Tips for buying stainless steel :

-Perfect for advance cooks. (Are you a beginner? Or just hate spending extra time cleaning/polishing? I recommend a good non-stick pan.)


-Always have a budget! Go in know you either want a tri-ply or aluminum-encapsualted base cookware.


-Interested in cooking on stainless steel but never have? Buy a small skillet and test out the difference!

Overall, the mass majority of people have a combination of all types of cookware and use them accordingly to the recipe and lifestyle. I recommend cooking on all types of cookware and seeing which ones you personally like and enjoy!

Happy Baking!
Kimm

Thursday, 26 July 2012

What Bikram Yoga has taught me about baking.

When I am not working, baking, blogging, or tweeting, I am practicing Bikram's (pronounced "Beek-Rim") yoga. Now, exactly what is Bikram yoga and how does it differ from other types of yoga? Answer: Bikram is a guy. A hardcore yoga guy who created a series of 26 set postures and 2 breathing exercises.

Bikram yoga is a type of Hatha yoga, also known as hot yoga. Yes, it is always done in a hot, heated, and humid practice room. Why? Heat helps your muscles relax, therefore you can stretch better, and it makes you sweat.....buckets. Sweating is a naturally way for your body to cool itself down and detox any nasty stuff that is inside your body. Bikram's yoga tends to be more difficult, disciplined, and well, harder than other types of yoga out there today. (Now, don't be scared to try it! There are many life dedicated Bikram yogis in the community. Remember you are never too old, too sick, or too injured to START.)

Time for the lessons...



When I am taking class, the teacher always speaks the same dialogue...over and over again. Really? How can taking the same class teach me anything new?

Welcome to lesson number one:

I must try and never give up. Giving up lasts forever, trying does not.

In life, especially in baking, we need to do things over and over again until we have mastered them. Did my first brioche loaf turn out golden and delicious? Nope. How about my chocolate chiffon cake? Nah. Even my first attempt at French buttercream turned into a sweet, soupy mess. See, in life, we learn by attempts, fails, and mistakes. Yoga taught me if I fall out of a posture, I must grab my leg again and try, and try, and try.....


Every day is different. What affects my daily class? The weather, season, class size, teacher, how much water I drank, time of day, what I ate throughout the day, etc. The list goes on and on.

This brings me to lesson number two:


I am unable to change what I cannot. I may not be able to change the environment or situation I am presently in, but I can change my mind about it.

If I forget to order a special ingredient, prep my pans properly, buy enough cupcake wrappers, or preheat the oven correctly, there is not much I can do to 'un-do' my mistake. But, I can adjust my actions accordingly and make sure it comes out a sweet success. Yoga taught me if I can change my mind, I can change my life.


The Bikram series is meant to be an intense and hard workout. This is why athletes and "tough peeps" dig it. If you managed to master all 26 postures, which is a very difficult task to complete, there is an advanced series with even more challenging postures.

Finally, lesson number three:


Too good is no good!

In the beginning of my practice, a teacher said, "Kimm, too good is no good! You are sitting too low!" Is it really possible to sit too low in the first part of awkward posture? Well, I managed to do it. Same in triangle, my hips are too open and I often sit wayyyyyy below what is recommended.

Same with sweet treats. You never want anything too sweet, too salty, too dry, or too moist. At the end of the dessert, you always wants to crave one more bite, instead of feeling too full to move. I thought I had most pastry techniques mastered, until I met someone better, I read a book that taught me something new, or someone asked me a pastry question I was unsure how to answer. Overall, in baking and yoga, there will always be someone better and another technique to be learned.


Yoga and baking have one very important thing in common: Both strive for perfection. The perfect pâté brisee, pana cotta, buttercream rose, or semi-freddo to the perfect locked out knee, standing bow pose, backbend, or waiting for the day to finally see your feet in floor bow.

From my baking career to my yoga practice, the journey has been greater, and sweeter, than imagined and expected. Even in tough and difficult situations, I am able to breathe through the storm to sweet success.
 
Namaste. Happy Baking.
-Kimm

Monday, 23 July 2012

HOW TO BAKE....On a budget!

Yes, I am a dedicated foodie, cook, and baker. I save money for a brand new cake pan, search websites for a killer deal on spatulas, and am willing to eat instant noodles for a week to try out a new restaurant on the weekend. But, I know many folks are not like me. They enjoying cooking, trying new dishes, and want to do it within their budget.

This is a common questions I get asked on a regular basis: How do you cook and bake wonderful meals and treats without going broke? First off, save all of that fancy-schmacy stuff (like black truffles, saffron, beef tenderloin) for special occasions or high-end restaurants.

Here are my 5 basic tips for cooking and baking dishes...on a budget!

TIP ONE: Buy in BULK!
This is one of my greatest finds: the bulk food section in your local grocery store. Buying in bulks help you reduce the cost per pound. For example, on a recent grocery store tip, I saw a one pound of bagged brown rice cost $1.79. I headed to the bulk food area, and brown rice was on sale for $0.99 per pound. Not only does it save you money, you will only buy what you need, now!
I also buy in bulk when needing a special baking ingredient: a speciality flour, oats, nuts, or sea salt. All are found, and much cheaper, in the bulk section. Then, I can get the correct amount I personally need without letting any extra go to waste.

TIP TWO: Plan AHEAD!
Set aside a set time and afternoon for food shopping. Write a list of what you need and stear clear of any crazy bargins the store is promoting. It is much cheaper to shop once a week versus five days a week! Planning ahead helps when planning meals during the week. Write down what you meals you are cooking at the beginning of the week. This is help reduce daily stress and last minute stops to the grocery store.

TIP THREE: Shop at warehouses!
Think: Costco, Sam's Club, and cash and carry-type stores. Larger stores will have higher volume creating a lower price for you. Also, remember my tip #1: buying in bulk saves money!

TIP FOUR: Buy all-purpose foods!
What is an all-purpose food? Food that can be used in many dishes and preperations. My favorite are: onions, garlic, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, green onions, beans, qunioa, rice, tofu, eggs, and chicken. With these items I can create: Mexi-scramble for breakfast, bell pepper-onion quinoa, garlic tofu/chicken, and veggie rice and beans. Not only are these foods multi-use, they are naturally filling since they contain fiber and lots of natural vitamins and minerals.
When I am baking, I always have these items on hand: all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, unsalted butter (I like to buy 'em in bulk and store them in the freezer when needed), and eggs. Any special nuts, chocolate, dairy, or dried fruit I buy when needed. Another good trick? I like baking a batch of cookies and storing them in the freezer. Thus, throughout the week, I can snag a homemade cookie when I am craving one!

TIP FIVE: Use all-purpose cookware and bakeware!
Just like your food, your bakeware and cookware should serve more than one purpose. With my round, sqaure, and rectangle-shaped cake pans, I use them to roast potatoes, chicken breats, and veggies. Remember to throughly clean 'em after each use! When you are cooking, I like 2-3 large skillets for sauting, stir frying, and browning proteins.

More helpful advice:
-Keep your dry baking ingredients store in an air-tight container, located in a dark drawer/pantry to lock in freshness.
-Store your nuts in the freezer, in an air-tight package.
-Store butter in your freezer. Thaw in the microwave and/or room-temp when you need it!
-I like to buy frozen fruit and use it when needed.
-When it comes to seasoning, I like using: sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and cayenne for my cooking. Spices do add up quickly, thus only buy what you constantly use on a daily basis and truly enjoy the flavor of!
-Other great all-purpose ingredients I love: soy sauce, olive oil, seasame oil, rice wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar.

Overall the best I advice I can give: is to plan! Plan your grocery store stops, meals for the week, and the spices/seasonings you will use.

Happy Baking,
Kimm


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

LATEST INTERVIEW: With fellow baker and cupcake lover, Jenni Liu, from "Jenni's Sugar Shop."

As you know, I love meeting new people through social media, networking events, and foodie gatherings in the Seattle area. I constantly talk to Jenni, on twitter, about food, baking, and cupcakes. We find out we have TONS in common: we both are avid attendees of Google Plus Local events, love cupcakes, and live a busy lifestyle since we both have a small dessert business and work full time.

Below is my interview with Jenni Liu:

Brief bio on Jenni's Sugar Shop:

Jenni's Sugar Shop is an online dessert catering company that specializes in cupcakes, french macarons, and other sweet treats. I started it because I love baking and have always dreamed of opening my own bakery someday. I love baking and bringing joy to others through my sweet treats.
http://jennissugarshop.wordpress.com/


Questions:

1) You seem to love baking for others, what was the "spark" that made you create Jenni's sugar shop?

I have always loved to bake for friends, for family, and for coworkers. However, over time, buying new equipment and quality ingredients really adds up. They had encouraged me to open my own shop for several years, but a storefront is a huge risk and a lot of overhead. With Jenni's Sugar Shop, since it is online-based, I get paid to do what I love -- it's a dream come true.

2) What are your most popular treats?

My most popular treats are my s'more cupcakes, carrot cake, "crack pies", and french macarons.

3) You live a similar lifestyle to me: we both work but also have a side business. How do you balance it all?

Sometimes it is difficult to manage all the things I do, but having a great support system through my family and close friends is key -- they keep me sane! Plus, playing sports and walking my dog are great stress relievers.

4) You are also a big foodie, what is your favorite restaurant in Seattle?

That is a tough question! There are so many good restaurants in Seattle. I would have to say that it's a tie between Harvest Vine and Nishino.

5) What is some advice you learned that you can give to others wanting to start a dessert business?

I think it's best to start small. Try it out and make sure it is something you love to do and want to pursue, then dive in.


From my conversations with Jenni, she is TRULY a sweet young woman with the confidence to balance a busy lifestyle. Plus, her macarons are devine!

Check her out:
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/JennisSugarShop "like" Jenni's Sugar Shop
twitter: https://twitter.com/jennissugarshop @jennissugarshop
blog: http://jennissugarshop.wordpress.com/

Happy Baking!
Kimm

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

5 different people...5 different cookware NEEDS!

Cookware needs depend on your: lifestyle, cooking ability, and budget. Take those three factors and apply them to which pots and pans fits your life. Too many people watch competitive cooking shows and think, "If the pros use 'em, I must also use them!" WRONG. Your cookware should be different than your friends, family members, and professionals.

Below are 5  people/couples with different lifestyles, cooking ability, and budget: All of these scenrios are examples of people I have helped!

SCENRIO #1:
A brand new college student needs a few pots and pans for his/her dorm room. S/he needs pans with multiple use that are not too pricey.
-Some young teens grow up cooking, but most do not. And, if they do, it is basic food: pasta, protein, rice, and potatoes. Thus, they are just learning how to cook.
-Basic cooks do great with a strong, dishwasher-safe non-stick cookware.
-It is rare that you need an entire set of cookware right now.
Go for: What you need is a two non-stick skillets: one medium (10 inch) and large (12 inch) to do basic sauting and stir frying. Also, a medium non-stick size pot (about 5-7 quarts) to do any boiling or simmering. Make sure it is all dishwasher safe since most college student don't want to spend their free time scrubbing and polishing cookware.

SCENRIO #2:
A young couple is about to get married! The couple is choosing cookware for their registery. They are having a tough time deciding since most of it is "mix and match" from college days and both want something different: She wants a good non-stick set and he wants a clad-contruction stainless steel set. But, they do want their cookware to be budget-friendly for their guest.
-Remember, non-stick cookware is great for ALL cooking abilities: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
-Stainless steel is "different" to cook on especially if you have never EVER cooked on it. It also requires more time scrubbing and polishing, unlike non-stick cookware.
-In reality, most people have both types of cookware. (Like me!)
Go for: Non-stick set AND individual stainless steel pans. Too many times I have seen couples do the opposite: Stainless steel set with a couple non-stick skillets. Why do I like the "the other way around?" Non-stick is very user-friendly and easier to clean/maintain than stainless steel. Remember, this couple is young and still leads a busy social and professional lifestyle. Plus if they are planning on having children, they will have less time for maintaining their cookware.

SCENRIO #3
A young single professional loves to cook and entertain for his/her friends and family. Often, s/he likes menu planning social dinners and Thanksgiving. Also, s/he is an avid viewer of all the cooking shows on TV!
-A young professional will demand a higher quality cookware than in scenrio #1 and #2. This person comes in with consumer reviews in hand and ready to ask questions about the differences in cookware.
-Since this person is single and probably living on his/her own, they do not mind spending extra money on nicer pans.
Go for: A clad construction stainless steel set with two non-stick skillets for everyday use. Why? They have extra time and money for it. Also, experienced cooks "know" how to correctly cook on stainless steel and often do not mind spending extra elbow grease cleaning it.

SCENRIO #4
A full family of 5 needs basic, every day cookware. With young kids and teens, the parents need something quick and thrifty to use, cook on, and clean. The parents wants a "reasonable" price without losing quality of the pans.
-If both parents are working, some of the young kids may be helping out in the kitchen, too!
-The parents want healthy dishes for everyone in the family.
-Dishwasher safe is a plus!
Go for: Non-stick, dishwasher safe, set. The true benefits of non-stick cookware, versus stainless steel, is: little or zero fat when cooking, easier to clean, and great for all cooking levels.

SCENRIO #5
An old retired couple needs some new pans. They have some beat up ones from the past when they were raising a family. Now, they are cooking just for two instead of five.
-They are experienced cooks from cooking for their family all those years!
-They do have extra time on their hands versus in the past.
Go for: If they like healthy dishes, go for some non-stick staples (like in scenrio #1). If they do not mind spending extra time cleaning, let them choose some great stainless steel pans.

I constantly inform people, not every cookware fits everyone. There is a style and price-range for everyone. Half the battle is finding the right cookware type for you, and next is maintaing it.

Simple tips for choosing cookware for your lifestyle:
-Non-stick is great for beginner cooks, healthy dishes, and people who do not want to spend extra time polishing their cookware. People constantly say, it is more convient cooking on non-stick when you lead a busy life.
-Stainless steel is great for advanced and experienced cooks. It does take more oil/fat when cooking and extra time scrubbing. Yet, like cast iron, it truly last forever.
-In reality, most people have a combination of both. They like cooking one dish in one type of pan, and another recipe in the other. That is fine, in fact, I encourage people cooking on different styles of cookware. It is a lesson all its own!
-Always: set a budget, read consumer report reviews, and check reviews online.

Happy Baking!
Kimm

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Is your cookware dishwasher SAFE?

"Is this cookware safe to put in the dishwasher?" One of the most common questions I get from customers. Why is it a concern? In the dishwasher, the water is hot and the soap is strong. Plus, pots and pans tend to "bang around" while being cleaned. You do not want those factors killing your brand new pans.

How does a cookware manufacturer determine if a pot or pan is dishwasher safe? It comes down to the metal, also known as the "vessel." Are you concerned about non-stick coatings? Most of them are OK to put in the dishwasher, you just have to worry about the metal.

*Remember: We need some sort of heat conduction from a metal when cooking. Stainless steel, by itself, heats uneven. It is lined with aluminum because it is abundant, conducts heat well, and pretty easy to mold. Or, we can cast, stamp, or hard anodize aluminum and line it with a protective coating.

WHAT IS SAFE TO PUT IN THE DISHWASHER:
- Stainless Steel cookware (Even with non-stick coating in the exterior)
- Hard anodized aluminum non-stick with a protective exterior (like non-stick or color coating) and base (like a stainless steel or rings.)
-Glass lids
-Stainless steel lids and tools
-Nylon/Silicone-handled tools

WHAT IS NOT DISHWASHER SAFE:
-Hard anodized aluminum (if your non-stick pans have zero protection on the exterior or bottom, you cannot put these pans in the dishwasher.)
-Cast aluminum cookware/bakeware (Cast aluminum needs to be treated and seasoned like cast iron.)
-Pure/Straight aluminum cookware/bakeware
-Full cooper or cooper-lined cookware (Even if there is a small amount of exposed cooper on the pan, it is not dishwasher safe.)
-Procelain enamel-exterior/lined cookware

Q: So, what happens if you put your "not dishwasher" cookware in your dishwasher?
A: You just voided the warranty. Remember you have to follow the cookware manufacture's direction to keep their warrany valid.
-Cooper: Will tarnish and turn blue-grey.
-Hard Anodized aluminum: Will turn bright white. (This is most common!)
-Cast Aluminum and Pure Aluminum: Discolor lightly and eventually warp.
-Procelain enamel: Dull over time.

What is your best bet? HAND WASH. Use regular dish soap with a soft yellow or green sponge. Please avoid metal scrubbies (they also void cookware warranties).

Here are some simple tips for cleaning your cookware:
-With stainless steel: In your pot/pan, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar. Let it simmer for 15 minutes. Pour out the mixture and let cool. Use a polish to detail any stains.
-With non-stick: Make a paste with water and baking soap. Rub it on your pan, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Wash as you would. Repeat if the stain is bad.
*Note: Remember when you are cooking, you are exposing some sort of metal to direct heat. It is natural for the bottoms of  your cookware to discolor fast. I recommend polishing your cookware (with my tips above or a cookware polish) once a month.

Happy Baking,
Kimm

Monday, 25 June 2012

How to properly "prep" your baking pans!

Picking the right pan size and "prepping" it for baking is a lesson all its own. Get the correct pan size and your delicious baked goods will come out even and uniform in size. If you do not have the right baking pan size, or you did not prepare it correctly, your baked good will come out mishaped.

Look the photo above. Two banana bread loaves baked in the exact same size loaf pan. The difference? I "prepped" each pan differently.

In the top pan: I lightly greased the inside with soft butter, cut parchment paper in long strips, and layed the paper over the buttered surface.
Notice: full, uniform, and perfect loaf size.


In the bottom pan: I only buttered the inside of the pan. I did not use parchment paper.
Notice: a slighty edge on the sides. 

Results? The top loaf is, overall, more uniform in size, thanks to the butter and parchment paper. The bottom loaf still has a loaf-like shape, but since there was no parchment paper to "help" the loaf grow while baking, the sides slid down causing its mishape. THIS is why I like to prep my pans with butter and parchment paper. (Please forgo aersol, non-stick sprays! My avid readers know how much I dislike them!)

Prepping your baking pans is simple and easy! I love baking with a thick-gauge, non-stick bakeware because it is super easy to clean, bakes evenly, and afforable.
Step One: Using about 1/8 teaspoon of soften, unsalted butter, I rubbed it inside my pan with my hand. Make sure you get the edges and sides!


Step Two: Cut parchment paper to the pan's size. In a standard loaf pan, I first cut a long rectangle-shape and place it down the middle.
Step Three: I cut two more large pieces of parchment paper and lay it over the long sides. Ta-da! You are finished with your pans. Be sure to have all of your pans ready-to-go before you start baking. Thus, once you are done making your batter or dough, all you have to do is pour it in your pan and bake!

Happy Baking!
Kimm

Sunday, 10 June 2012

MORE SWEET SUCCESS: University of Montana Cupcakes!

Sharon wanted to do something extra special for her daughter. She was about to graduate from high school and attend the University of Montana in the fall. Sticking with basic chocolate and vanilla cake and buttercream flavors, I created "extra special" decor for the cupcakes. Using red, black, and white fondant, I made the "UM" logo, paw print, and graduation cap. The result? One-of-a-kind cupcakes for a special graduation party. Sharon and her family loved them!

I loved working with Sharon, she made her decision about cupcakes simple and quick: U of M cupcakes using the colors and logo. Perfect, a baker's dream!

Happy Baking!
Kimm

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

When you are buying cookware: My TOP 5 questions you must ask!

Buying new cookware or bakeware is tricky...currently, there are many options for you to pick. There is the pricey, moderate, and well, cheap-o-stuff. One of my co-workers asked me for advice: She wanted a couple new pans but did not know where to start. I am please that she asked me and I am always happy to help and answer any questions!

First off know:
1) What type you want: either non-stick, stainless steel, or cast iron cookware.
2) Your budget. Cookware can get expensive. Set a limit!
3) Read consumer reports and customer reviews. Know the "big players" in the game.

Here are my top 5 questions to ask when you are going to purchase your cookware:

1) Does this cookware line get returned for poor quality?
Why: People will return cookware for poor quality. It might chip, flake, or warp. I have seen pans get returned after 6 months of use!

2) What cookware line never gets returned for excellent quality?
Why: Ask this to an experienced salesperson. They will see what gets returned and what never gets returned.

3) Is it OK to return cookware, even after 5, 10, 15 years of use?
Why: Good retail stores will let you bring back cookware, no matter how long you had it. They still want you as their customer! And since cookware is always changing and improving, your old line could of easily be discounted and a new and improved line took its place.

4) If it is a pricey cookware line, ask "Why is this so expensive?"
Why: Manufacturing in the USA and over-seas (mainly in Europe) will "up" the price. Is this a negative quality? No, I am all for jobs in America and over-seas, but they tend make cookware pricey and unaffordable for my lifestyle. Ask yourself, if it is worth it.

5) What would YOU (to the salesperson) buy?
This is very important. Why? A retail store can have MANY, and MANY, options for cookware. But a personal opinion goes ALONG when selling, trust me I know! Also, ask them if they would spend "x-amount of dollars" on this cookware.

Overall when selling cookware, I like people who do personal research before buying. I highly recommend doing this for yourself. Have any questions? Details? Comparison questions?
Ask: kimmmoore63@gmail.com Put "Cookware help" in the subject line, please.

Happy Baking!
Kimm

Monday, 4 June 2012

ALL ABOUT FOOD SAFETY: My top 5 rules for safe food!

A HUGE part in cooking and baking as a profession, is the safety of the food. The public relies on professionals to properly handle, cook, and prepare food in a SAFE matter. FACT: Most restaurants and other food business will fail their health inspection. Why? Some "food rules" are very strict, causing a decline in the "delicious-ness" of the food and work enviroment.

I think of cooking and food rules similar to driving and driver's ed class in high school. Most Americans drive and we took a test to get our licence. Now, after the class and test we:  drive fast, others slow, and some people drive while texting, talking on the phone, and eating. Most of us break driving laws on a daily basis. As long, as we "avoid" the big driving mistakes, we are OK...right?! (Depends on your point of view.)
This "theory" can be applied to food: There are a TON of food laws, which vary state-to-state, country-to-country, and your personal sanitation standards.

Read my top 5 "personal food" rules you can apply to your daily cooking and baking life:

1) If food is meant to be hot, KEEP IT HOT.
How do we define "hot?" By law, hot is 141 degrees F or higher.  How can we keep food hot? In a professional kitchen, we have equipment that keep food hot for long periods of time.
In a domestic setting, your baking/cooking pans will keep your food hot. Thus, if you are serving anything that is meant to be hot (think: rice, proteins, veggies, poatoes, etc), it needs to STAY at 141 degrees F or higher.
In reality: Your hot food will drop below 141 degrees F. That is OK, most of us have consumed "some what" warm food. Your corrective action is to re-warm the food (put it back in the oven or re-cook it on the stove top). That also brings us to rule #2....

2) Toss out food if it has been sitting at room temp for over 4 hours.
Bacteria likes to grow between 41-141 degrees F (AKA: danger zone). Thus, if your potato salad is sitting outside, it is probably at 100 degrees F....a nice breeding ground for bacteria and making you feel no-so-great. My rule? If I have ANY type of food, with the exception of dairy-free baked goods, I toss it out after 4 hours. This "rule" mainly applies to buffets, dinner parties, and BBQs.
In reality: According to "food law," food can be in the "danger zone" a total of 4 hrs, accumulative. So, if your potato salad was only left outside for 1 hour, if you re-chilled it (to below 41 degrees F), you still can eat it and have 3 more "danger zone" hours on it.  Overall, if I have food that has been outside all day in the warm sun, I would rather toss it than consume it.

3) If food is meant to be cold, KEEP IT COLD.
Just like hot food, we define cold as 40 degrees F or below. How do we keep out? In professional kitchens, we have equipment that keeps our food COLD. In a domestic setting, you have your fridge and homemade ice-baths to keep your food nice and cold.
In reality: I find it "annoying" to ice-bath everything that I make that is meant to be cold. Most of "us" (professionals) go back to Rule #2....food can be in the danger zone for 4 hours, accumulative. Thus, we can set out a tray of crudite, salads, fruit trays, and dressings without an ice-bath. You will see this a lot in buffets and BBQs.

4) Keep your eye out for PHF.
What is PHF: Potentailly Hazardous Foods. What makes a food, PHF? Any food that can bread bacteria, causing people to become ill, and requires time temperature control, like I mention in the previous 3 rules.

Here is the big list of PHF from the FDA:

Meat (beef, pork, lamb)

Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck)
Fish
Shellfish and crustaceans
Eggs (except those treated to eliminate Salmonella)
Milk and dairy products
Heat-treated plant food (cooked rice, beans, or vegetables)
Baked potatoes
Certain synthetic ingredients
Mushrooms
Cut Tomatoes (when pH is 4.6 or above)
Cut Leafy Greens
Raw sprouts
Tofu and soy-protein foods
Untreated garlic and oil mixtures
Cut melons, including watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.

SO:  PHF List + rule #1, #2 and #3 = What you really need to worry about. (esp. in a professional setting)
It is OK if your food, that is not on the list, stays at room temp over 4 hours, or "is inside" in the danger zone for hours. (Don't worry, my chocolate chip cookies don't last long that 2 hours when I bake 'em!)

5) Cool foods 100% before storing.
This is a biggie: When we store leftovers in containers, the food itself needs to be 40 degrees F or below. Most of us do not. This is easy to do: put your leftovers in a shallow pan (like a brownie pan) for a couple hours before storing it in a container.

Remember:
-Keep PHF out of the danger zone as much as you can!
-The only "real" way to know the temperature of a food, is to purchase a kitchen thermometer and temp your food! Most of us, even myself, rely on time, touch, and visual appeal of the food to tell us if the food is done cooking. Example: If I am cooking chicken breast at home, and it has been in the oven for over one hour...it is probably done. If I am cooking chicken breast in a professional setting, my thermometer will "tell me" once the food is done, even if it has been in the over for over one hour.
-Yes, we will eat food that is not truly "hot or cold." We cannot avoid that.
-Cool foods before storing!
-If you have PHF, that have been sitting out all day, you need to toss 'em for safety sake!

Overall, food and safety laws can get confusing. The best way is to familiar yourself with YOUR state's and county's food laws. See what which laws applies to your cooking and baking and how you can apply them. Am I saying every home cook needs a super pricey thermometer and starting a temp log and journal? Naw. Just be aware of your food and how you are serving it.

Happy Baking!
Kimm




Friday, 1 June 2012

MY TOP 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO STOP DOING IN THE KITCHEN!

I love giving hints, tricks, and tips about baking, cooking, and cookware. Most of the time, I need to tell people to STOP doing a bad "habit" in the kitchen. These 5 tips on what NOT to do in the kitchen will help you in the long run...

1) STOP using non-stick sprays on your bakeware/cookware/glassware:
Here is why: Non-stick sprays (anything in an aersol can) contains an ingredient called propellent, which is a nasty chemical that leaves a caramel colored firm on top of your bakeware. That film is very difficult to clean and remove from your pan.
What to do now: Line your bakeware with parchment paper. If needed, wipe a paper towel with soften butter or canola/veggie oil, and "grease" your pans that way instead of using the sprays.

2) STOP using constant high heat on your cookware:
Here is why: Constant high heat kills almost any cookware. Leaving you with warpped, clumsy pans. What is constant high heat? Think 8-10 on " the dial," daily.
What to do now: Preheat your pans correctly, so you won't have to blast your pan on high. Here is the proper steps: Put pan on stove top, turn burner on (probably 5-7 on "the dial), wait 3-5 minutes (this "waiting time" will depend on your cooking range) and start cooking. Want to know if your pan is warm enough? Drop a teaspoon of water in your pan, it should sizzle.

3) STOP using fake fats:
Here is why: They taste...like nothing. Real butter, oil, and fat bring flavor to any dish. Plus, your body digests real fat better than fake fat any day.
What to do now: Subsitute your fake fat, for real ones. Toss your "butter-wannabes" and exchange it for real butter.

4) STOP using pure aluminum cookware, bakeware, and tools:
Here is why: Aluminum is a decent heat conductor and very abundant. But, pure aluminum warps very easy, reacts with acidic foods (your lemon curd will turn gray), scratches and strains easily, and is known to be associated with serious diseases. The only way aluminum is safe when cooking or baking, is to buy hard anodizied aluminum with a safe non-stick coating inside and outside the pan. What does pure aluminum look like? It is light gray in color, lightweight, and soft. You could bend it pretty easy!
What to do know: Toss it out. Buy new cookware and tools.

5) STOP worrying if a recipe does not work out correctly:
Here is why: When you are cooking or baking, you might mess up. Actually, YOU WILL MESS UP. I have made many baking and cooking mistakes in my life, that is what I like passing along helpful information to others. With any new skill, practice is needed to become successful.
What to do now: Keep a recipe log, journal, or blog. Write down recipes that you and any modifications that you made during cooking/baking process.

Overall, enjoy your cooking and baking life! It is meant to be enjoyed, just like life.

Happy Baking,
Kimm

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

MORE SWEET INFO: Mary Kat, "The Plastic-Free Chef" Blogger, gives advice for a more plastic-free bathroom!

Previously, I posted about Mary Kat, a young and smart blogger in the Bay area. Her blog "The Plastic-Free Chef" gives advices and tips on how people can live a "less plastic" kitchen life. Why less plastic? She explains in her blog (http://theplasticfreechef.com/) and in my interview with her (see previous post). Overall, plastic hurts the enviroment and your body.  We, Americans, are very wasteful when it comes to plastic.

This made my mind THINK: what about the bathroom? I stared in my shelves, filled with plastic-filled lotion and potion bottles, make-up containers, and dental care items. What is a girl to do? Well, think outside the box. I asked Mary Kat for advice, and her is what she told me:

Mary Kat:
Personal care is pretty difficult. I'm still working on it. The easiest thing you can do is replace plastic bottles of hand soap with bar soap, and use bar soap in the shower instead of body wash. You can try using bar shampoo instead of liquid shampoo. There's also the "no-poo method" where you use baking soda to wash your hair, but that didn't work for me. It worked for a few days, but then a nasty residue started building up in my hair- yuck! My mum uses that method though and it works for her. Another thing you can try is bar conditioner. I got my conditioner bar at Lush. I use it to shave too. I make my own deodorant with this recipe:
http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/2009/03/quick-stick-deodorant.html


Dental care is probably the most difficult. I use a Preserve toothbrush. They're made from recycled plastic. For dental floss I use EcoDent. It comes in a paper box instead of a plastic one, but the floss itself is nylon. I've also tried Lush Toothy Tabs, but the baking soda in them made my gums and my mouth hurt. There's also tooth powder. I bought it from this place once and I liked it: http://store.aquarianbath.com/index.php/herbal-products-salves-tinctures-flax-seed-neck-wraps/tooth-powders-natural-toothpaste-alternative-toothpowder.html

Right now I'm using a combination of tooth powder and Tom's toothpaste, which comes in a plastic tube. But you can send the empty tubes back to them and they'll recycle them for you. For mouthwash I use vodka diluted with water. I use one part vodka and three parts water.

This place sells a bunch of plastic-free makeup:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/twinkbeauty?ref=shop_sugg
I haven't bought any but I'm going to get some soon. Another thing you can do is use coconut oil to remove eye makeup. You can also use coconut oil as moisturizer. For face wash I use facial bar soap from Lush.

Thank you Mary Kat for your wonderful "plastic-free" tips!
 Be sure to check out her blog: http://theplasticfreechef.com/

Happy Baking,
Kimm

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

SWEET INTERVIEW: Mary Kat, blogger of "The Plastic-Free Chef," talks about reducing your use of plastic and living a HEATHIER life!

Not only do I live a sweet life, I try and live a better and "more green" life. This is fairly easy to do in the greater Seattle-area. We recycle. We carpool. We walk. We compost. We re-use anything we can. One day, I stumbled upon a fantastic blog called "The Plastic-Free Chef." Mary Kat, the San Francisco-area blogger, is only 17 years young, but lives in a "plastic-free" kitchen and blogs about tips and tricks anyone can use in their busy life.



My latest interview talks about her plastic-free life and why she is encouraging everyone and anyone to be more conscience of what they use, especially in the kitchen.

Brief bio: My name is Mary Kat and I'm 17. I love food. I've been cooking and baking for as long as I can remember. Last year I started trying to live without plastic, and the kitchen was the hardest place for me to eliminate plastic from. So I started my blog to share the tips and recipes I had compiled.

1) Your blog focuses on living a "plastic free" life. What made you want to start living a plastic free lifestyle?


My plastic epiphany happened in the toilet paper aisle of Safeway one night last summer. "Look at all this plastic-wrapped toilet paper!" my mum said, "This is so wasteful." I looked at all the toilet paper wrapped in plastic that was made to go straight into the landfill and I thought, "Wow. This is kind of crazy." My mum and I always used reusable bags and we never drank bottled water, but I suddenly realized that we needed to be doing more. We produced tons of plastic waste every day and I realized that it wasn't sustainable. So when we got home, I went online and read about plastic. I learned that it never breaks down, that it leaches chemicals, that its accumulating in the ocean and that animals are eating it, which is killing them. So I decided that to the best of my ability, I would try to live without disposable plastic. I started looking for plastic-free alternatives to the plastic-packaged items I was using every day. My favorite resource for plastic-free alternatives is MyPlasticFreeLife.com, a blog started by a woman named Beth Terry who tries to live a plastic-free life.


2) Why made you start a blog about living plastic free? And, how long have you been blogging?

The kitchen has been the hardest place for me to cut down on disposable plastic. I figured out it was probably difficult for other people to cut down on disposable plastic in their kitchens as well, so I started a blog to compile all my plastic-free tips and recipes. My goal is to share with my readers my plastic-free tips and recipes and inspire them to give plastic-free cooking a try. As of a few days ago, my blog is six months old.

3) Your blog gives tips on how to "change" your plastic-using ways. What are the 3 easiest things people can do to reduce their use of plastic?

Using your own reusable cloth shopping bags and produce bags instead of disposable ones will help you cut down on plastic waste a lot. Using a reusable glass or metal water bottle instead of buying bottled water will help you cut down on plastic waste a lot too, and it will also save you a lot of money! Some bottled water costs up to 1000 times more than the stuff from your tap! The other easy thing you can do is buy things from bulk bins instead of buying them prepackaged. I use cloth produce bags, glass jars and metal tins when I buy things in bulk.

4) Why should people care about living a "more plastic free" lifestyle?

Plastic is a material made from fossil fuels and chemicals. Fossil fuels are some of our most precious resources, and yet we're using them to create single-use plastic packaging. Once we throw our plastic away, it often ends up in the ocean, where the sun and waves break it down into smaller and smaller pieces. You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There are five large gyres in the ocean created by the way the Earth spins on its axis. These gyres sweep up ocean trash and create toxic plastic soups. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest one. Since plastic is designed to last for centuries, it doesn't fully biodegrade for a very long time. The pieces of plastic in the ocean are ingested by marine life who mistake them for food. When the animals consume too much plastic, they die. Another problem with plastic is that the chemicals in it have been found to leach out, which is concerning when you consider the fact that so much of our food is packaged in plastic. Two of the most infamous chemicals used in plastic are bisphenol-a (BPA) and phthalates. BPA and phthalates are both endocrine disruptors. A recent study showed a link between BPA and breast cancer. A few studies have linked phthalates to liver cancer. Although plastic may seem harmless, its actually very problematic and harms people, animals and the planet.

5) You are an avid cook and baker! What is your favorite dish you have cooked?

That's a really tough question! I think my favorite recipe of all time is my triple layer chocolate cake. Its my favorite cake. Everything about it is amazing! I haven't made it plastic-free yet, but as soon as I do I'm putting the recipe up on my blog.

For more info about "The Plastic-Free Chef" check out:

http://theplasticfreechef.com/ <-- Her wonderful blog!

facebook: Like "The Plastic-Free Chef"
twitter: @PlasticFreeChef

Happy Baking! -Kimm