Tip: You Don’t Need A Piping Bag

Psssst!! Don’t tell anyone! I don’t own real piping bags. I mean, I did, once. But they were kind of a mess and hard to clean. I know, I know, you can buy disposable ones. They’re definitely the way to go. But what’s a gal to do when she doesn’t have even disposable piping bags!? She uses…a sandwich bag.

When I needed to stuff the squash blossoms I used a sandwich bag. Not only was filling the little suckers easy, it also made clean up a snap. All you need to do is put a sandwich bag in a glass, like this:

And then fill it up with your filling, icing, etc….

Remove the sandwich bag from the glass, snip off a bottom corner  of the bag with scissors and voila! A piping bag!

You’re clean, your counter is clean, you can pipe to your heart’s content and you can throw it away when you’re done!


Tip: Pitting a Cherry

Oh. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could all have enough kitchen drawer space for fancy, unitasking tools like this. The beloved cherry pitter?

Well. I don’t. And I wasn’t gonna go buy one just for my cherry almond cake! Que…The Kitchn. A wonderous, useful blog. A daily read for me. Chock full of kitchen porn and tips and recipes.

A long, long while ago I came across this post on using a pastry bag tip to pit cherries and it never left my mind. I have a memory like an elephant, or, if you’re talking to my mother, like an Apache. (True story, my Great Grandpa on my mom’s dad’s side was 100% Apache.)

Anyway. Let’s put it this way…the cherries didn’t have a chance.

To summarize The Kitchn’s post…snap the stem off (aaaah!), center the top of the cherry on the pastry bag tip (where the stem used to be…muahahaha) and push (*gurgle*eeeeee!).

Best-case scenario the tip pushes the pit right out. Worst-case it ruptures the cherry in half…ish. Either way, the cherry has been split open so you can extract the pit with your hand, and slice/chop the cherry if needed.

This method is definitely not as clean, easy or effortless as the cherry pitter pictured above. But hey. Those of us living with 4 square feet of counter space and one 9×15 inch kitchen drawer have no other option!

Tip: Pitting an Avocado

Making guacamole is fun, but pitting an avocado can be un-fun if you haven’t learned this easy trick.

Pretty much you’re gonna cut your avocado in half. Then you’re going to take your knife – preferably a sharp one – and you’re gonna hack it right into the side of the pit. Like this:

And then you’re going to gently wiggle your knife around a little, thereby loosening up the pit…and then you just pop out the pit using your knife to push the pit away from the avocado half! Look! It’s a pit!

Pretty easy! Yeah? I was impressed with myself when I figured this out a few years ago. But, that’s just me :)

Tip: Keeping Asparagus Fresh

It’s asparagus season! Some of us are going a little more nuts over this than others. (Yes, I’m talking about myself. I’m going nuts over it.)  I want to grill them, roast them, slice them and dice them. I’d rather snack  on the ‘gus than one of those scary baby carrots!!

But. How to keep them fresh? How many times have you bought a bunch over the weekend only to watch them wither and shrivel up as the week goes by? No more!

Put them stalks in water like they’re flowers! It looks silly in the fridge, but consider this: at the farmers market, most of the time, they’re hanging out in a tub of shallow water. Well, if it’s good enough for the farmers…it’s good enough for me.

While we’re at it, here’s a few yummy asparagus recipes for us to try:

Zuchini and asparagus strata from The Kitchn

Spring Pad Thai from Adventures in Shaw

Asparagus tart from Crumpets and Cakes

and if you’re feeling fancy, a Weaved Asparagus Salad from Food Mayhem


Perfect Cheesecake Crust

Yesterday I shared how to make the candied lemon peel garnish for the (trumpets, please) goat cheese cheesecake (which, coworkers gave an overwhelming thumbs up), but today I’m getting back to basics with the perfect cheesecake crust.

I don’t know about you, but I love a strong graham cracker crust on my cheesecake. Something crunchy, buttery…rough almost…to offset the heaviness cheesecake can often bring to your mouth. Personally, I think a classic graham cracker crust is the best way to go, and this particular Ina Garten crust has never failed me.

First, a tip for crushing the graham crackers (or those Teddy Grahams if you’re in a pinch). Most will tell you to put the crackers in a ziploc bag…then put that bag in another ziploc and go to town on it with a rolling pin. Well you know what! That still leaves me with a mess on my counter, so screw that! Plus it ruins two ziploc backs!!

Put the crackers in one bag, and put that bag in your mixing bowl. Grab a heavy-bottom glass (nothing that’s gonna break too easily) and pound the crap outta those crackers.

Mess contained. Graham crackers crushed. Capisce!!

Now that you have your crumb, follow the recipe (after the jump) to make your crust…’cause this is where we get down to brass tacks.

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A Few of My Favorite Things

I was doing dishes last night and realized how often I wash my Mom’s wooden spoon. I use it for something nearly every day! Whether it’s to clean the coffee grinds out of my french press, to saute veggies or to stir a muffin batter…I love that spoon. Which got me thinking about my other favorite kitchen things…

…those infamous cookie scoops I wax poetic, and sometimes obsessive, about.

And the juicer. Ah the juicer. It was an impulse, “I deserve to get something  nice for myself gift.” And wow did I love it when I was making that lemon curd.

Finally, my Bodum french press. A Christmas gift from Mom…it fuels me daily. I love the ritual of boiling the water, grinding up my beans (Zabars right now, thank you sir!) and then slowly pressing them down, making the bean juice.

What are your favorite kitchen tools right now?

Tips: Lining a Cake Pan

So I just finished making a really lovely plum cake (post coming soon) and part of the prep calls for lining the bottom of the cake pan with parchment. To experienced bakers this is a pretty common thing, but when I first tried this out it was a mess! So here’s an easier way to do it.

  1. Fold a piece of parchment into quarters (top left)
  2. Place the corner of the parchment in the center of pan (top right)
  3. Cut the parchment along the outer edge of the pan (bottom left)
  4. Check that out! It’s like a slice of pie (bottom right)
  5. Open your pie slice and place it at the bottom of the pan (center)
  6. Ta da!! Your cake or whatever you’re making won’t stick to the bottom of your pan now!