Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

We love to eat salad around here.  Even the kids like it (well, most of them...).  In an attempt to keep things simple, however, I am in favor of making one big salad that we can serve throughout the week.  It beats incessant cleaning and chopping and slicing every night at dinner.

Here are a few tricks to keep that salad fresh all week long.  

1) Always store your salad in a ceramic bowl (not plastic!!).  I am sure there is a good reason for why this works, but I don't know it...   It keeps my salad fresh, so I do it.  

2) Place a slice of bread on top of the salad.  This one I understand!  The bread draws the moisture from the salad and keeps your lettuce and other veggies from getting soggy.  (Incidentally, this also works when storing cookies.  Storing them in an airtight container with a piece of bread will keep them soft).  No need to replace the bread - I can often use the same piece for up to two weeks.

3) Avoid adding high moisture veggies until you are ready to serve.  For example, I never keep chopped tomatoes in my salad.  Cucumbers also can create a big soggy mess.  If you cut the seeds out of them, they will last much longer in a week's worth of salad.

When you are ready to store your salad, cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge.

You will eat more salad if it is always ready and on-hand :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

I enjoy cooking and baking, but I don't pretend to be professional or even an expert.  Basically, I cook to keep my family fed (ok, maybe a bit more than just that...), but I bake for fun.  I enjoy it.  And I especially enjoy learning techniques that make the baking / decorating experience fun rather than frustrating.  Because, seriously, no matter how good the end result is supposed to taste, an all-out-battle with a layer cake can seriously ruin my appetite.  

I realize there is a good chance that most of you have happened upon these techniques before.  You may already be using them.  Like I said, I don't claim to be any kind of cake decorator or pastry chef.  Still, I am grateful for the little things I have picked up along the way and thought someone else might be, too.  

So, for the past 5 years, I have made this cake every year.  For my Grandma.  Grandma loves lemon anything, so when I stumbled upon Paula Deen's recipe for Lemon Layer Cake, I knew I had to give it a go.  And, boy, was it worth it.  This cake is amazing... but it is labor intensive and uses a whopping dozen eggs from start to finish (yikes!).  The good news is that my neighbor keeps me stocked with fresh eggs and all the work with the double boiler combined with zesting and juicing lemons gives me a great upper body workout.  

I love the idea of displaying a great cake on a cake stand, but I hate it when the cake stand or plate is messy by the time the cake is decorated.

So, I use 4 pieces of wax paper like this...

You don't want to cover the plate with one big piece of wax paper, for two reasons.  First, you can't get it off the plate when you're done.  And serving your cake on a plate covered with wax paper is about as aesthetically pleasing as sitting in Marie Barone's living room.  Secondly, if the plate is covered in wax paper, you can't do this...

That little dot of filling helps to keep your cake from shimmying around the plate as you decorate it.   Now, here is the partially assembled cake.  This cake has filling in between each layer.  But, notice that each layer is not even.  It is important to consider that as you assemble - alternate your layers so that all the thinner parts are not on one side.  Then, be sure to place your final layer on upside down - it gives you a flatter surface to decorate.

The filling then covers the entire cake...

And then the cake is frosted.  This frosting is amazing.

See how the filling and frosting have left a mess on the plate?

Well, when you gently pull those pieces of wax paper out from under your cake, you are left with a very clean cake stand!  

And then you can focus on the perfect finished product, instead of the mess underneath.

This beast of a cake barely made it under the cake dome.  Whew!

It made it safely to our Mother's Day dinner at my sister's house.  And it was so good.  And so worth the 4 hours it carved out of my Saturday.  Grandma loved it, and I am enjoying the fact that some of it is still in my kitchen...

Friday, May 6, 2011

They make me a mom

These are the ones who make me a mom... not all of who I am, but a very big part.  

Patrick's arrival into my life 9 1/2 years ago changed everything.  But he made it so easy.  Low-maintenance, low-drama,... but this kid is anything but ordinary.  I love his passion for learning and for doing what is right.  Of all my children, he is the most like me, and I yearn to protect him from "our" weaknesses.  I'm realizing he will have to discover and overcome them for himself...

My Chloe Joy.  She is such a wonderful person to have around.  Although her people-pleasing nature is something she will have to learn to use in moderation (rather than let it control everything), she really does desire to keep the peace.  I love watching her so effortlessly strive for excellence in everything she does.  Never have we had to "encourage" her to do a better job.

Lucy is the least like me... but none of my children has taught me as much about myself as she has.  She is full of life and excitement over the simplest things.  She is passionate about everything she encounters, whether it be people, fun, food, or sleep.  Sometimes I get tired just watching her go.

And then there was four.  Tucker completed our little family like the period at the end of a sentence.  He  seemed to add everything that was missing - including a strong-willed personality.  I embrace his all-boyness, even as I am trying to teach him to how to control it.  He is turning into a man by leaps and bounds.

Ok, so obviously, he's not my kid.  But, let's face it, I wouldn't be a mom without him.  I love Chuck for the husband he is to me, the father he is to our children, and the man he is, regardless.