12 Tips To Make You One Smart Cookie

kitchen hacks

This year my daughter and I are starting a Girl Scouts troop! I am so excited! I seriously cannot wait for graham cracker milk box gingerbread houses, Thanksgiving volunteering, and of course cookie sales!! I was always one of the top sellers in my troop because I had an uncle that would buy them for all his clients.

So many kids these days don’t really know where their food comes from. This will be a very important lesson in the troop. I want the girls to garden, learn fruit and vegetable seasons, and of course learn to cook. I also want to teach them, and you, how to become a “Smart Cookie” in the kitchen! To learn more about all the fun experiences girls and volunteers have at Girl Scouts, visit www.girlscouts.org/join.

 Here are twelve “Kitchen Hacks” that will either enhance your food or make your life easier! 

coffee mate

1. One of my favorite solves is Coffee-Mate® Girl Scouts® creamers because now I can enjoy all the delicious cookie taste, all year long! Flavors come in Girl Scouts® Caramel & Coconut flavor and Girl Scouts® Thin Mints® flavor, and are both equally delicious!

butter pasta

2. To make a delicious and creamy homemade spaghetti sauce, throw in 4 tablespoons of butter right before serving the sauce over the pasta. This makes the sauce smooth and decadent. 

3. Cook pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with sauce.

shredded meat

4. To shred beef, chicken, or pork quickly, put slow cooked roast in your electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and turn it on slowly for about 30 seconds. Then voila- perfectly shredded meat! frozen tomato paste

5. The next time you open a can of tomato paste, don’t throw it away! Freeze extra tomato paste, pesto, or chicken broth in freezer ice cubes to avoid waste.

frozen meat

6. If your recipe requires thinly slices meat (think stir fry) freeze your meat for about 10-15 minutes before slicing. This makes it much easier to slice!

herbs

7. Store lettuce, herbs, and all other greens in a damp paper towel. This keeps the moisture in the greens and fresher for days.

cookie dough log

8. The next time you make cookie dough, make a double batch and freeze ½ batch in a log. Bring to room temperature and slice, bake, and serve. These logs will stay good frozen for up to 3 months.

cake flour

9. The next time a recipe calls for cake flour and you are out, make it yourself! Simply measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and then remove 2 tablespoons of the flour. Replace with 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Sift flour and cornstarch together to create cake flour!

buttermilk

10. Homemade buttermilk is easier than you think. Substitute it in pancakes, muffins, waffles or any baked good! Pour milk into a 1 cup measure cup, leaving about 1/4 inch space to the top. Pour in 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. Gently stir and sit for about 3 minutes…then you have buttermilk!

brownie mix ins

11. The next time you make brownies or a cake and want to add some mix-ins, coat the mix-ins with a little flour. This will keep the mix-ins from sinking to the bottom of the pan!

bread in a bag

12. To keep cookies fresh for days, place in an airtight container or bag with a slice of bread. The bread will absorb all of the air in the bag and will become hard as rock, leaving the cookies as soft as the day you baked them.

For more fun tips, activities, or recipes visit Nestle® Coffee-mate®  on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also find more information about the Girl Scouts of the USA here.  Also, make sure to follow me and Nestle® Coffee-mate® on Pinterest as we pin a ton more Kitchen Hacks!

Do you have a favorite “Life Hack”? Would you like to win a $100 Visa gift card? Simply comment below with your favorite “Life Hack” and you will be entered to win!

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Be sure to visit the Coffee-mate brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

 

Brioche Buns

Brioche Buns

Have you ever heard of the saying, “Good things come to those who wait” or “It’s a blessing in disguise”? Well we experienced both of those this past month…twice. Once after making these Brioche Buns and again a couple of days before our family vacation (one that I had been planning for a year now). Right before we left, we found out that our rent was going to be raised an astronomical amount. Considering our place was already too small for our family of five, we decided that we would be moving. We had 60 days to find a place before our rent was increased. Well, the day before we left I found something on Craigslist. I didn’t have time to go and see it, so I sent my husband. He liked it and put in an application (along with 75 other people because rentals are in high demand right now). Well, out of the 75 we were picked!!!

brioche burger buns

What this meant was that we would have to cut off part of our trip in order to get home and move. With a little help from friends, we were able to pack everything up and complete the move in 3 days…and I was moving into a place that I had never seen! Luckily, after almost 13 years of marriage my husband knows me well and I love the place!

Teriyaki Burgers

So about the two sayings above, this move was both a blessing in disguise because we know have a much larger home and a huge huge huge yard. Although we are a bit on edge about the impending water bill, we have waited a long time for this and are over the moon!

You kind of have to think this was about this recipe. This may take a bit of time between the rises, but it is soooo worth the wait. Homemade Brioche Buns make one killer burger. If you are hosting or attending a party this weekend, make these the day before. The will for sure be the hit of the party!

I made them with some scrumptious teriyaki burgers that I will be posting on Thursday.

homemade brioche buns

Brioche Buns

Yield: makes 15-20 buns

Brioche Buns

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup warm whole milk (100- 110 degrees F)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, separated
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter 12 tablespoons)unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg slightly beaten for basting
  • Sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or a large bowl, combine warm milk and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add egg, sugar, salt and ONE cup of flour to the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
  3. Sprinkle the remaining one cup of flour over the yeast mixture. Cove with a cloth and allow to rest in a dark corner of your kitchen for 40 minutes.
  4. When done, flour on the dough will looked crackled.
  5. Return your bowl to the mixer and fix with the dough hook (unless kneading by hand).
  6. Begin by kneading in one egg at a time, until you have added all four.
  7. Add the 1 and 1/2 cups of flour and knead on medium high speed until dough no longer sticks to the sides (this could be up to 15 minutes).
  8. Add butter and knead on medium high speed for another 5-10 minutes on or until smooth again.
  9. Place in a well greased bowl, cover and place in a dark spot in your kitchen for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
  10. Once doubled, punch down, and refrigerate covered, for 6 hours-overnight.
  11. Once chilled, begin to form the rolls.
  12. Cut dough into 15-20 equal pieces.
  13. Roll into balls and place on a lightly greased or lined cookie sheet spaced about 4 inches apart.
  14. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to double in size.
  15. Once doubled, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  16. Gently baste each bun with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  17. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden.
http://theseasidebaker.com/2014/08/25/brioche-buns/

BBQ Peach Cobbler #marshmallowmonth

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Like I said in my last post, we are on a rather long family road trip. When all is said and done it will have been 3 weeks. About half of the trip will have been spent camping. After our first 2 nights of camping, I quickly realized that camping is a blast…for one night. After that I want a bed, toilette and shower. I am totally cool with cooking all meals on the BBQ and bonfire though!

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That’s where KOA comes in. KOA is an awesome campsite that offers campsites, RV sites, and cabins. Not only is the property beautiful and clean, there are a ton of activities for the kids from a heated pool to massive jumping pillow trampoline and train rides. Basically something for everyone! My kids had a blast staying at the KOA in Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay.

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They most important thing KOA offered was free wifi. I am not sure why but my phone has decided it no longer enjoys rural coast settings and I have been virtually internet less this entire trip. Having a campsite that offers wifi is huge for me! My Instagram photos aren’t going to post themselves!

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The cabin we stayed in was perfect for my family of five. The two younger kids slept in a room with bunk beds, my son slept on the pull out coach bed in the living room and my husband and I had our own room. There was a small dinning room table, kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen had a full refrigerator, microwave and sink as well as all the cooking essentials. I was finally able to make a good gourmet meal on the BBQ! We picked up some fresh caught fish and clams at the Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey and ate like kings while the kiddos raced around on bikes.

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For dessert we made BBQ Peach Cobblers. I used the freshly picked peaches we picked in Pismo Beach, dipped them in melted butter and sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon and sugar and grilled them. I then roasted a marshmallow on top and finally sprinkled it with granola. It was like eating a peach cobbler and ice cream! Soooo good!!!!

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If you get a chance, plan your next trip to a KOA. They are located all around the US and Canada. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for great camping tips, recipes, and locations! When your there, make these BBQ Peach Cobblers. You won’t be disappointed!!!!

BBQ Peach Cobbler

Ingredients

  • 2 peaches, cut in half and pit removed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup granola

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill on medium heat.
  2. Melt butter and dredge peach halves in butter.
  3. Combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle all over peach halves.
  4. Gill until slightly soft, starting with pit side about 5 minutes.
  5. Place marshmallow on top and close grill. Cook for 2 minutes or until marshmallows have melted and browned.
  6. Remove from grill, place on plates and sprinkle with granola.
  7. Serve immediately.
http://theseasidebaker.com/2014/08/12/bbq-peach-cobbler/

I received a 2 night stay at KOA in exchange for this post however all opinions are my own.

Mickey Mouse Party

mickey mouse party

Baby Ben- the last of three children. The child that gets all the hand-me-downs, pictures that never get printed, and store bought birthday cakes. Don’t get me wrong, he is definitely spoiled and knows that he is the baby and knows how to work us!

Baby Ben and his Mickey Party

I had been itching to throw a party for a while  I wanted to do something fun for  baby Ben and his friends. Since he is really really into Mickey Mouse, I knew it would be the perfect theme. I had a wonderful time on the Party Pail website ordering items for the perfect party!

mickey caramel apples

Ever since visiting Disneyland last January, I have wanted to make the Mickey Mouse Caramel Apples. They were a huge hit at the party and relatively easy to make. The biggest tip I have for making caramel apples is buy organic apples. Organic apples are not covered in wax and therefore the caramel will not slide off. For the Mickey Mouse Caramel Apple recipe go here.

cake pops

We also made cake pops, popcorn, hot dogs (sing it with me- hot dog hot dog hot diggity dog!) and served fabulous Disney themed donuts from Donut Bar San Diego.

mickey donuts

If you are planning a party make sure to check out Party Pail for all of your party needs! Visit their Facebook for awesome party ideas!

party favors

 

Neapolitan Marshmallows

neapolitan marshmallows

Sorry it has been so quite over here. My family and I are currently on a road trip traveling up the California Coast. It has been pretty awesome so far! If you want to follow us on our trip up north, head over to our instagram!

homemade marshmallows

We have spent a few of the nights on our trip camping. While I enjoy camping, I have come to realize that I like my bed more. One night of camping is great and enough to give me the experience, but more than that is just too much with small children, for me at least.

neapolitan s'mores

We did stay at a KOA cabin (I’ll share more about this later) a few nights ago that was PERFECT! We had the outside fire pit, BBQ and mosquitos with the luxury of going inside and sleeping on a bed and taking a shower. Some would refer to that as glamping, but whatever you call it, it is perfect for me!

s'mores

Anyway, S’mores are a must have during camping, but we get bored with traditional marshmallows. These Neapolitan Marshmallows were delicious! We also made some of these peanut butter marshmallows and served them with chocolate graham crackers and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

vanilla, chocolate, strawberry marshmallows

Allow it looks like there are a lot of steps because essentially you have to make the recipe 3 times, marshmallows are really pretty easy to make. It is your mixer that does most of the work! This recipe makes a ton of marshmallow too! You will have enough for at least 24 S’mores!

Oh yeah and happy #NationalMarshmallowMonth!

Neapolitan Marshmallows

Ingredients

    Vanilla Layer
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Strawberry Layer
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup strawberry puree
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Chocolate Layer
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Generouslly grease 15x10in dish or a deep cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Vanilla Layer
  3. In a small bowl, combine unflavored gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water. Mix and set aside.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of hot water. Bring to boil over a medium high heat. Cook, without stirring, for 9 minutes
  5. Remove from heat and add the thickened gelatin and stir to combine. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, beat your egg whites, and vanilla (with whisk attachment) on high until stiff peaks form. Reduce the mixer speed to slow, and slowly pour in the sugar syrup in a steady but slow stream. Once all incorporated, turn your mixer on medium high and beat until it has doubled in volume.
  7. Pour into your prepared dish and allow to set, uncovered.
  8. Strawberry Layer
  9. To make the strawberry layer cook on medium heat 1/2 cup of strawberries and 2 tablespoons of water until strawberries are soft.
  10. Puree strawberries and bring to room temperature.
  11. Once puree is room temperature, proceed with making the marshmallows following the directions and ingredients above.
  12. Simply replace the 1/2 cup cold water with 1/2 cup strawberry puree. Add gelatin and follow the rest of the directions.
  13. Pour over vanilla layer.
  14. Chocolate Layer
  15. Follow vanilla marshmallow ingredients and instructions.
  16. After marshmallow mixture has doubled in size (after adding the syrup to egg whites and beat) add 1/4 cup cacao powder.
  17. Mix to combine then pour over strawberry layer.
  18. Allow all layers to set, at least 4 hours.
  19. Once set, cut into whatever shape you please. Traditional marshmallows are dipped in cornstarch to avoid stick with others, but you can also use sugar or powdered sugar.
  20. Dip each square into the sugar or starch and enjoy!
http://theseasidebaker.com/2014/08/07/neapolitan-marshmallows/

New STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars

Growing up I used to love STARBURST™ candies. I would always start with the pinks, move on to the reds, slow down at the oranges, and give the yellows to my little brother. I still will comb through my kids’ halloween bags and open all of the little packs in hopes there will be two pinks or a pink and a red!

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So now you can understand my excitement when I came across the new STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars. The STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars gives consumers the taste of a STARBURST™ strawberry fruit chew in a cold and refreshing sorbet bar with only 70 delicious calories! Perfect for a hot summer day by the pool! I must admit, when I ran out of Margarita mix I blended one of these sorbet bars with some tequila and had a pretty stellar STARBURST™ margarita!!!!

New STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars pack an exhilarating burst of strawberry flavor in a light and delicious sorbet bar that is perfect to enjoy any time. So whether you’re enjoying a weekend at the beach or just need a little time to yourself to recharge, Starburst Sorbet Bars provide you with a cool, refreshing and enjoyable treat.

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Available in 2.6-ounce 4-Packs for $3.99 and 2.6-ounce singles for $1.49 each, STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars are a crowd-pleasing favorite.
Multi-packs of the STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars are available in the refrigerated ice cream case at Wal-Mart and select grocery stores nationwide. STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bar Singles are available in many convenience stores nationwide.The new STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars rounds out Mars’ popular ice cream portfolio, which also includes DOVEBAR®, TWIX® and SNICKERS® Ice Cream Bars.

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Are you interested in trying some of these delicious strawberry sorbet bars? Leave a comment by August 8th, 2014 telling me what your favorite STARBURST™ candy flavor is and you may win two free coupons! Winner will be chosen by random and emailed on August 11th, 2014. Bonus points if you follow Starburst on Twitter and Facebook (simply comment telling me you did it).

Good luck!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Dulce de Leche Swirled Ice Cream

ice cream sundae

July is National Ice Cream month! What better to celebrate than with creamy dulce de leche?!?

homemade dulce de leche ice cream

Our friend’s over at Oxo wanted to celebrate National Ice Cream month too! The sent us all the essentials to make this delicious concoction.  I personally loved the stainless steel ice cream scooper, mini beaker measuring set, and of course this nifty sugar dispenser that is perfect as a sprinkle dispenser! Oxo has everything you need to make the perfect homemade ice cream!

ice cream scoop

We are big fans of dulce de leche here. Whenever I decide to make some, I also make as many cans that will fit into my crockpot. No sense in using 8 hours of low electricity on just on can, right?

sundae

Make some today! Not only will you cool of from the ice cream, but you will be in heaven after one spoonful!

Dulce de Leche Swirled Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. To make dulce de leche either remove the paper from around the can, or open the can and pour the sweetened condensed milk into a canning jar (i.e. a 8oz Ball jar) and close tightly.
  2. Place jar or can in crock pot and fill with water about 1 inch above the can or jar.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. Jar or can may look a bit rusty, but it is ok.
  5. Remove can from crock pot when finished and carefully open with can opener.
  6. If cooked in can, and not used right away store in a reusable container, covered and refrigerated.
  7. For the ice cream:
  8. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl until they turn a light lemon yellow color, about 3 or 4 minutes. Set aside.
  9. Combine the whipping cream, milk and the remaining sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan.
  10. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot.
  11. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks, whisking constantly until well-blended and smooth.
  12. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and continue to cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to form a film or coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
  13. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  14. Halfway through the churning add 3/4 can of dulce de leche.
  15. Serve immediately or freeze into air tight container.
http://theseasidebaker.com/2014/07/31/dulce-de-leche-swirled-ice-cream/