Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Snack Tips and Tricks

Healthy Travel Snacks

We are off to beautiful Hawaii! I can’t believe this trip is finally here! photo

We have a long flight ahead of us, so I knew I had to pack lots of snacks to hold us over until we land in Maui. This girl can’t handle being cooped up on a plane with a hungry belly…and let’s be honest — plane and airport food usually suck, so I prefer to always be prepared with snacks I love to eat.

 

What I packed:

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Blue Diamond Raw Almonds

Banana and Justin’s Maple Almond ButterJustin (whoever you are), you have my heart. Your almond butter tastes like heaven. I love these little squeeze packs for traveling!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Zing Bars – We’ve loved these bars ever since we sampled them at Whole Foods a few years ago. The are Gluten-Free, Vegan, Non GMO, and they taste DELICIOUS. They also have 4g of fiber and 10g of protein! They aren’t the cheapest, but luckily they were on sale this week, so I snagged a few for our trip.

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein Kind Bars – noticing a trend here? Think someone is a little too obsessed with nut butters?

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I prepped my Overnight Oats in an almost-empty Justin’s Almond Butter jar to eat on the way to the airport. I threw in a handful of frozen blueberries that should thaw by the time I eat this in the morning. This is a perfect meal to pack on-the-go because I can just throw away the jar and the plastic spoon once I am done. Hopefully this protein and fiber packed breakfast will hold me over for a few hours, but even if it doesn’t, I know I am prepared.

Posts will be limited while I am away, but I will have lots of updates when I return! Aloha!

 

Slow Cooker Tips and Tricks

Three New (to me) Kitchen Tools I Love

When Travis and I moved in together about one year ago, we discovered that we had double of almost everything. Both of us had very well-stocked kitchens on our own (spices, vinegars, knives, pans, cutlery, and kitchen tools), so when we moved in together we ended up choosing the “better” of all of our duplicates and putting the rest in a big box of storage.

Even though I thought I had almost everything kitchen-related I needed, we’ve still acquired a few things over the last 10 months that make me wonder what the heck I ever did without them. I wanted to share with you my top three new kitchen tools that I LOVE.

 

1. Hamilton Beach Set and Forget Programmable Slow Cooker

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The first on the list is my beloved slow-cooker. Dear Dave and Morgan: THANK YOU for the most perfect gift. I use my slow cooker at least once a week now. One of my favorite ways to use it is to throw in 2 chicken breasts (seasoned with S+P) with 1 cup of chicken broth and cook it on high for 3 hours. After cooking, the chicken is so tender that it falls apart with a touch of your fork. I use this juicy chicken all week long for lunches I pack for work. I just love being able to put something into the slow cooker and walk away for hours without a care in the world. The delicious smells probably torture our foster dog, Bessie, while we are at work during the day!

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2. Joseph Joseph Rocker Garlic Crusher

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My dad bought me this awesome garlic crusher when I was home for the holidays last year. He already had one and I was amazed by how quickly he could mince multiple cloves of garlic for a pasta dish we were making together. Being the incredibly thoughtful guy he is, my dad went out the next day and bought me the same garlic crusher for my kitchen back in LA. Now, I know garlic crushers are nothing new, but I just love this one because it is easy to use and clean. It is perfect for any dish that requires numerous gloves of garlic. It is also great for those of you who hate getting the smell of garlic all over your hands (I, personally, love the smell though!)

 

3.Cuisipro Herb Keeper

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I can’t give this herb saver enough praise. I am kicking myself for not buying it sooner. For months Travis and I talked about ways we COULD better save our herbs based on tips we read online and in magazines. For example, some people chop them up very small and store them in an ice cube tray in the freezer with a little bit of water. When you need fresh herbs you simply defrost a few cubes. The idea sounds great, but I knew I would never have the patience to do that.

After wasting way too much cilantro, basil and parsley over the last few months, I finally had enough, so I browsed Amazon and found this herb saver. It had very high ratings and now I know why! It is so easy to use: all you do is fill the base with water and place your fresh herbs in the large insert. You’re supposed to change the water pretty frequently, but honestly we forget and our herbs still last up to three weeks! YAHOO! We can fit two large bunches of herbs in here without any issues. If you use fresh herbs often in your cooking, I cannot recommend this product more.

 

Note: This post is not sponsored in any way and is simply a list of some kitchen tools I happen to love. Some affiliate links are included and I sincerely appreciate your support!

Cookies Tips and Tricks

Mom’s Best Baking Tips

I’ve mentioned this plenty before, but my mom is a fantastic baker. I’ve learned so much by watching her mix, stir, roll, ice, and slice in the kitchen. My mom would admit she is a total perfectionist, and I think that is what makes her such a great baker. I, personally, don’t have the same level of patience,  so I don’t follow everything she does (e.g. all of her cookies are EXACTLY the same size  – madness!)

In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend, I am sharing five of my mom’s best baking tips:

Tip #1

Baking is a science. You must be precise. Use the back of a knife to level dry ingredients in measuring cups. Scrape off the excess ingredients.

My mom's best baking tips for guaranteed perfect results.

 

Tip #2

This tip goes with #1. Place a piece of wax paper on a cutting board. Measure all of your ingredients over the cutting board (NOT your mixing bowl). The dry ingredients that spill onto the wax paper (from tip #1) can easily be scooped up and poured back into their respective containers. This makes clean up a breeze and you end up wasting so much less.

My mom's best baking tips for guaranteed perfect results.

My mom's best baking tips for guaranteed perfect results.

 

Tip #3 

1 cup milk + 1Tablespoon white vinegar = 1 cup buttermilk. Learn this equation. Memorize it. I use this one ALL the time, especially for pancakes. I never, ever buy buttermilk because I can make it so easily with this simple substitution. Simply add 1 Tablespoon of white distilled vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Then pour milk (nonfat and lowfat are fine) into the measuring cup until it reaches the 1 cup mark exactly. Give the mixture a quick stir and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Then use as you would buttermilk. Easy peasy!

My mom's best baking tips for guaranteed perfect results.

 

Tip #4

When making multiple batches of cookies, always let the baking sheet cool before adding more raw cookie dough. A hot baking sheet will cause the cookies to bake unevenly. If you want perfect looking round cookies, allow the baking sheet to cool for about 10 minutes before adding your next batch.

My mom's best baking tips for guaranteed perfect results.

 

Tip #5 

You can never be too generous,” my Mom says.  Whenever family and friends come over, my mom always bakes their favorite treat in preparation of their arrival. My aunt is hooked on her ginger snaps. I always request her carrot cake and my brother loves her Bailey’s Irish Cream cake. Growing up, my friend Ben loved her congo bars. No matter how busy she is, my mom always makes sure to bake these treats for us whether or not it is a special occasion. This year on Passover she sent me a surprise package with lots of homemade Passover goodies. It felt so special having a little piece of home all the way across the country in Los Angeles with me.

I’ve really tried to embrace this value and bake for those I love whenever possible. Even our foster dogs get homemade treats from me now:

My mom's best baking tips for guaranteed perfect results.

Growing up I have vivid memories of my mom baking late at night for my school bake sales. I was really good at letting her know about the sales well in advance (NOT!), but despite working a full-time job, my mom always managed to stay up late the night before and bake the best treats.  I know lots of other moms would have just run out to the store  and picked up something for the bake sale, but not my mom – she insisted on baking something every time. And it was worth it, because her baked goods sold out immediately at each sale!

Looking back on it now, I realize she always has been “SuperMom” and I am incredibly lucky. I wish I appreciated these little things more when I was younger (like how she would take me to shop at Hollister, even though she hated it because it was pitch black and the music was blasting).

I love you, Mom. Thank you for your endless love and support. And, see – I will always remember your tips no matter how silly they are!  I am so looking forward to celebrating Mother’s Day at home with you this year.

My mom's best baking tips for guaranteed perfect results.

 

Has your mom taught you any special baking tips?

Tips and Tricks

Greek Yogurt Face Mask

You see a lot of Greek Yogurt on here, don’t you? I just love the stuff. It is so healthy and packed with protein, so it keeps you full for a long time. I use Greek Yogurt in my kitchen in so many ways.

Recently around here you’ve seen it served with my delicious Cardamom Granola.

How to Make a Homemade Greek Yogurt Facemask

And also in my yummy Curried Yogurt Dip!

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But did you know that Greek Yogurt actually makes a fantastic face mask!?

I am sure you’ve seen body washes in the drug store that boast “yogurt” as a main ingredient. That’s because the lactic acid in the yogurt can do wonders for moisturizing and exfoliating the skin. The zinc also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling and redness from acne or irritation.

But, there is no need to go out and buy a fancy yogurt wash, when you can make your own Greek Yogurt face mask at home. And all you need is just three simple ingredients! I have sensitive skin, but because the ingredients in this mask are all-natural, they don’t irritate my skin at all.

 

Greek Yogurt Face Mask

How to Make a Homemade Greek Yogurt Facemask

Simply combine 1 Tablespoon of Greek Yogurt, 1 teaspoon of honey and a squeeze of lemon (optional for extra exfoliation) in a small bowl or dish. Using your fingertips or a brush, apply the mixture to your face and leave on for 15 minutes. Afterwards, rinse off the face mask with warm water and pat dry with a washcloth.

That’s it! My face feels so clean and soft afterwards.

 

What is your favorite way to use Greek Yogurt? Have you tried it on your skin before? 

Dessert Tips and Tricks

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

You may remember from a few weeks ago that I made Travis Dark Chocolate-Covered Strawberries for Valentine’s Day.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

Over the last few years, I’ve made these strawberries numerous times and they are secretly SO easy. Even though Valentine’s Day is over, there is no reason you can’t make these for another occasion – that is why I wanted to share them on the blog today.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

I love Chocolate Covered Strawberries because are a relatively  healthy dessert and this version is made with just TWO ingredients, so they come together in no time!

The biggest trick to perfecting your strawberries is all in how you melt the chocolate. For years growing up I watched my mom melt chocolate in her fancy glass double boiler.

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(Stock Image)

In college she bought me my own double boiler, but when I was packing up my things to move across the country to LA, I decided it was just too big and not worth shipping. I’ve survived the last year and a half without one because of one very nifty trick that I will show you today.

The purpose of a double boiler is to melt chocolate slowly without burning it. If you melt it too quickly (i.e. in the microwave or directly in a pot on the stove) then you will run the risk of nasty burnt bits that won’t look very appealing on your strawberries. With a double boiler the steam from the simmering water below the chocolate is what causes it to melt, as opposed to direct heat.

If you don’t have a double-boiler at home, here is what you do:

First, find a small sauce pan and a glass dish. The base of the glass dish must be large enough to SIT ON TOP of the sauce pan without falling in. Fill the sauce pan with 2 inches of water, place it on the stove and bring the water to a boil.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

Once the water boils, bring it to a simmer and place the glass dish on top of the sauce pan. Put the chocolate in the glass dish and stir the chocolate constantly until it is melted.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

Constant stirring ensures that the chocolate closest to the bottom of the dish does not burn. Your goal is velvety-smooth chocolate.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove it from the heat immediately.

You must move quickly here because you cannot let the chocolate harden, which will happen if you allow it to sit for awhile untouched.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

Next, pick up your washed strawberries by their stems. Dip them in the chocolate, twisting in a circle as you remove them to ensure that the chocolate coats all the way around the strawberry. Lay the dipped strawberries on a large plate or dish lined with wax paper.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

That’s it! Then you just let the strawberries cool and harden at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Good luck waiting. They sure are tempting…

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

Store the strawberries in the fridge so they do not melt. I think they taste delicious cold!

Perfect Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

You can make these strawberries for someone special or you can make them just for yourself! Everyone needs to spoil themselves once in awhile, am I right?

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 20-25
Ingredients
  • 20-25 medium Strawberries (washed and dried)
  • ½ cup Dark Chocolate Chips (or 1 bar of good quality dark chocolate)
Instructions
  1. Wash and dry your strawberries thoroughly with a paper towel. The chocolate won't stick if they are wet. Put aside.
  2. Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate until it smooth and velvety, stirring constantly. Immediately remove the chocolate from the double boiler.
  3. Pick the strawberries up from their stems and dip them in the melted chocolate, twisting as you remove to ensure the chocolate coats all sides. Place the dipped strawberries on a large plate lined with wax paper. Allow the strawberries to cool and harden for 30 minutes. Store in the refrigerator.
 

 

Breakfast Tips and Tricks

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins

Holy Moly, I just made the best darn granola.

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins Recipe

Basically every day at work I snack on Greek Yogurt. Usually I just add some berries with a pinch of stevia and cinnamon to sweeten, but recently I’ve been craving some crunch.

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins Recipe

After scouring the web for new granola recipes, I wasn’t finding anything that suited my needs. I wanted to keep this version low-sugar, but not lose a lot of sweetness and flavor.

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins Recipe

In one recipe, I spotted cardamom on the ingredient list and thought that was very unique. Most granola recipes stick to the usuals: maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I love cardamom, but I find it stays in my spice cabinet more often than it should, so I decided to pull it out for this batch of granola.

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins Recipe

I like my granola chunky, and I recently learned a great tip from America’s Test Kitchen to help keep it that way.

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins Recipe

Don’t stir the granola! Every granola recipe I see says to stir the mixture once or twice throughout the baking time. ATK says for chunkier granola clusters, don’t stir the mixture and just wait to break it up once it is completely done baking.

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins Recipe

ATK, you’re a genius…again! My granola turned out chunky – just the way I like it. Now I get spoonfuls of delicious granola clusters with every bite, which is a great contrast against the smooth Greek Yogurt.

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins Recipe

It is also packed with spice from the cardamom and cinnamon, so I don’t find myself missing the added sugars that you see in typical packaged granola.

I hope you try this granola. It could quite possibly be the best I’ve ever tasted.

 

Cardamom Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, and Raisins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw, unsalted almonds, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw, unsalted pistachios
  • ⅛ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt*
  • ¼ cup real honey
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup raisins (or any other dried fruit)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the oats, almonds, pistachios, sesame seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. In a small microwavable bowl add the honey and heat it in the microwave for 15 seconds. Add the olive oil and vanilla to the honey and stir to combine. Pour the honey mixture over the oat and nut mixture. Stir so that honey coats the oat mixture.
  3. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes until the edges brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then add the raisins. Carefully stir the granola a few times to break it into desired sized chunks. Allow to cool completely and store in an air-tight container.
Notes
*If you only can find salted nuts, omit the salt from the recipe.
 

Tips and Tricks

4 Uses for Agave Syrup

Agave Syrup is amazing. If you don’t use it already, you will soon. I use it in both my cooking and baking – it is incredibly versatile.

Agave comes from the same plant that makes tequila.

Ya, now you’re listening.

Agave is used by health conscious and calorie conscious individuals alike. Agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, so you can use less of it, and it has a very low glycemic index (about 30, as compared to most sugars which have above 60).  So why not just use Splenda or other artificial sweeteners, you ask? While Agave does have some calories, it is all-natural, as opposed to the other stuff, which is all chemicals and you-don’t-even-know-what. Need I say more?

You can find Agave Syrup at any gourmet food store, most grocery stores, and I even found this bottle at TJ Maxx! It comes in both dark and light forms. Dark is less filtered than light and tastes similar to maple syrup.  Light agave has a more neutral taste and can be used more freely in the kitchen. Therefore, I buy Light Agave.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use agave syrup:

1. Coffee

I use agave in my coffee every morning as a substitute for real sugar or Splenda.  It gives a sweet, distinct taste that is delicious with any brew.

2. Plain Greek Yogurt

I love Greek Yogurt. I eat it every day.  However, I find that some of the flavored options are very high in sugar.  Therefore, I like to buy plain Greek Yogurt and sweeten it on my own. I add about one tablespoon of agave to 3/4 cups of yogurt.

If you are a Greek Yogurt lover, too, try it!

3. Roasted Carrots

If you like cooked carrots this is a must! It’s so easy.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. On the stovetop, heat one tablespoon of olive oil (or vegetable) in a skillet. Add baby carrots to the pan and sprinkle with agave syrup. (The amount of syrup you add depends on how sweet you like your cooked carrots. I would suggest about 1.5 tablespoons per 2 handfuls of baby carrots). Saute the carrots in the pan, stirring occasionally, until the carrots begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Then, spread the carrots on a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Roast the carrots in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring them halfway.  Roasting times will vary depending on the size of your carrots.

4. Margarita

Margarita = tequila = same plant as agave = make your own margarita. YEAH.

Personally, I find most margarita mixes to be way too sweet and REALLY high in sugar. But, with agave you can make the perfect homemade margarita so easily!

Just combine 2 oz. tequila, with 1 teaspoon of agave nectar (light or dark), the juice of 2 limes, and shake (or stir). Add some ice and salt. BAM. You just made a margarita.

Agave is an great item for any kitchen. If you are a beginner or casual cook, definitely go get yourself some agave. You’ll be amazed by how much you use it.

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