Friday, March 29, 2013

The Joys of Cooking - Cooking With the Internet

Welcome back to "The Joys of Cooking."  If you are just now joining us you can catch up on last week's post here.  This week we are going to talk about how the internet can ease the stress of cooking, especially for new cooks.

How many of you have looked at "food porn (I know its a horrible term, but I didn't create it)" on Pinterest?  I know I do all the time.  Sometimes I'm worried that my keyboard may stop working from all of the drool.  Okay not really but some of that food looks seriously delicious.

Now how many of you have actually made any of those drool worthy treats or mouth watering meals?  No?  Why not?  I am guessing the main reasons are one of the following:  it looks too difficult, you are afraid to come out of your comfort zone, or you do not have the ingredients you need.  Guess what!  None of those are valid answers when you have the world at your fingertips.

Enter the internet.  We use this great tool for almost every aspect of our lives.  Why not use it in the kitchen too?  I know that I often have my laptop in the kitchen with me otherwise I end up running to the living room in the middle of cooking to look something up.  If you have never used your computer as resource in the kitchen then you definitely need to check out the following tips on how the internet can help you:

Find Recipes - This is probably the most obvious one, but you can look up recipes for any and everything on the internet.  Even if you don't know what you want to make.  Head over to and input what you have on hand, and they will tell you what you can make for dinner.  There are a ton of websites that offer this feature, so play around and see which one you like.

How To Videos - Don't know how to do something no problem.  When I was making Ginger Lime Grilled Shrimp that I told you about yesterday I had no idea how to handle fresh ginger.  I wasn't sure if I needed to peel it before I shredded it or if I could just shred it as is, so I pulled out my handy dandy laptop and googled it.  Guess what?  I found a nifty video on Youtube that showed me exactly what to do.  If you are wondering, you do peel fresh ginger before you grate it.  Moral of the story - if you don't know how to do something Google it, and more then likely the answer will be right at your fingertips.

Ask Questions - Did you find that recipe on a blog and the instructions were a little confusing?  Ask away.  I have found this to be a great help to me here lately.  Being new to Whole30/Paleo I sometimes am unsure of what ingredients they are using, and everyone I have asked questions to have been more then helpful.  *Note - I would recommend that you read through the other comments first because your question may have already been answered.*  Most (not all) bloggers will answer you within a day or two.  They love to help you make their creations.  Don't forget to give them feedback...especially if you loved it!  Everyone loves some good feedback, and if it didn't work out then they may be able to troubleshoot with you to help it come out better the next time.

Hopefully these tips will help to ease your anxiety in the kitchen.  Cookbooks are a great tool, but sometimes you just need some extra help.

Here is your assignment...go find something delicious on Pinterest and make it.  Then come back here and tell me how it worked out.  I would love to see a pic that I can drool over!

How has the internet helped you in the kitchen?  Do you have any additional tips on how the internet can help ease the stress of cooking?

Next week we are going to talk about making mistakes in the kitchen.  Everybody does it, but that doesn't mean your meal is ruined!

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Well Fed Review & Some of My Favorite Recipes

When I first started researching Whole30 I kept hearing about Melissa Joulwan, and her cookbook "Well Fed."  Once I decided for sure that I was going to do a Whole30 I hopped online and reserved a copy of her book at the library.  I thought that I was just getting a boring old cookbook with recipes in it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was wrong.

She starts the cookbook with a brief history of her and what led her to a Paleo lifestyle.  No, it is not pertinent to the cookbook, but I like the personal touch.  She also talks about what Paleo is and the rules that go along with Paleo eating.  The best thing is she really breaks everything down for you, so do not think, "I do not know anything about cooking."  That is not a valid excuse!  She makes everything super simple, and even tells you what ingredients you should have in your pantry.

My favorite thing in this book is the Weekly Cookup.  Mel shows you how to prepare most of your food for the week on one day, which is super helpful for people on the go.  Its also really great that first week when you are exhausted all the time, and have barely any energy.

The recipes in here are beyond amazing.  Even my parents who are not Paleo or doing the Whole30 have enjoyed the meals that I have created for them out of here.  I think my absolute favorite thing in the cookbook is the Olive Oil Mayo.  I know it sounds weird for this to be my favorite, but let me explain why.  It is the perfect mayo.  It is light and creamy and really highlights the flavors of the food you use it as a condiment with.  I love to eat tuna salad and chicken salad for lunch, and this mayo is perfect in them.  I really cannot say enough good things about it, but make sure you follow the instructions carefully and do not rush it.  Good mayo takes time, and think of it as a great work out for your shoulders...holding that cup of olive oil up for 3-5 minutes!

My next favorite recipe is the Ginger Lime Grilled Shrimp.  They are quick and easy.  I come home and throw them in the marinade and then I throw them on George (a.k.a. The George Foreman Grill we are on a first name basis though) and bada bing bada boom I have a delicious dinner in under 45 minutes.  Plus 20 of those minutes are marinating time, so I'm off doing whatever I want during that time.

My third favorite are the Caramelized Coconut Chips.  I just like to make the original ones.  They are salty and a little sweet and the perfect crunch for when you are having a snack attack.

A few other notes on the book.  She gives you ideas of what sides to put with each meal, so it really is a no brainer.  She also tells you different spices you can add to make a completely different meal, and she encourages you to experiment in the kitchen, which has helped me to make some pretty amazing things. She also tells you if you do not like something then leave it out, and I had to do this with the Ginger Lime Grilled Shrimp not because I did not like something but because I was out of cilantro.  You know what?  It still tasted delicious.

I highly recommend this book if you are wanting to do the Whole30 or you live a Paleo lifestyle.  I think you will find some great recipes.  You can also find more great recipes on her website.  If nothing else go and borrow it from your library to get a feel for what this great book has to offer.

If you were wondering what the brightly colored pieces of paper at the top of the book are they are the tags to all of the recipes that I like to make.  Since this is a library book I will sadly have to return it, and probably just go and buy my own copy.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Cleaning - Organizing

Well Spring has officially sprung, even if the weather does not agree.  I do not know about where you are, but the highs this past week have been in the high 40s to low 50s, which is unusually cool for us.  Just a couple of weeks ago it was 82!  Mother Nature can be so cruel.  I was so excited for warm weather and the clothes that go with it, and then she came and snatched it all away.  Replacing it with rain and ice and doom and gloom.

However, even though it does not feel like it Spring has arrived, and brought with it Spring cleaning.  I know I can already hear you groaning.  Have no fear, I am not saying to pull out all of your cleaning supplies and clean from the ceiling to the floor, although that may not be too bad of an idea.  I am saying it is time to organize and make your life and house a little more clutter free.

This is a great time to go through all your piles of mail and random papers and give them all a home.  It is easy to pile everything up and ignore it or just cram it in a junk drawer.  Why not take a couple of hours one day this weekend to organize everything?  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Sort Everything Out - First go through all of your piles and put them each into a category.  Trash - anything that is safe to throw out i.e. mail circulars, old magazines, etc.  Shred - This is anything that is not safe to throw out as it i.e. paid bills, anything with private information, etc.  File - I am sure that you have heard this before - If it is worth keeping it should have a "home."

Shred & Trash - Once everything is sorted throw out the trash and shred the items that need to be.  Tip - Check around to see if anyone does free shred days.  My credit union offers free shred days a few times a year, and you are allowed to bring up to 3 boxes of items to be shredded.  This can save you time and money.

File - Now you should be left with you file items.  There are a multitude of ways for you to file and store your paperwork.  I personally use different systems for different things.  I use binders( for my blog, recipes, and workouts I have printed offline), hanging file folders(for my budget and previous years taxes), and accordion filing systems(for pretty much everything else).  I find that these work best for me, but it is different for everyone.

I will tell you this.  I went through and organized all of the paperwork on my desk(and let me tell you it was pretty much a mountain), and my room looks much better now.  Not only does it look better, but I feel better.  I no longer walk in my room and feel doomed and overwhelmed looking at my mountain.  I also like the fact that I can now find things without an avalanche occurring.  Over the next month I am planning on revamping my filing system, so once I get that done I will share it with all of you.

Do you have any good tips for organizing?  How do you file your important documents?

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Came, I Pinned, I Created - Fabric Headband

I don't know about you, but I love Pinterest.  I love to pin all of these amazing things that I am going to make or cook or work outs that I am going to do one day.  The only problem is I pin and I pin and I pin, but rarely do I actually create or make or do any of these things that I pin.  I am sure that many of you have the same problem, so I have come up with a solution to this problem.  Are you ready for it?  I created a board that I have cleverly titled "I came, I pinned, I created."  On this board I put all of the things that I have actually created, cooked, or done from Pinterest.

I decided to create a series with the same name here on the blog.  A few times a month I am going to share with you the tutorials/recipes that I have done/cooked.  I will let you know how they worked out for me, and if I think they are worth your time.  I will also share pictures of my own fabulous creations.  Make sure you follow me on Pinterest, and let me know if there is something that you would really like for me to create, cook, or do.

I found this tutorial from Happy Together Creates for a double sided fabric head band a while ago.  One look at how cute they were I knew I had to make some.  This is the first one that I made (I like to call it a prototype), and since I am still new to sewing I knew it would not be perfect and chose to just use one fabric for both sides.  I will definitely try a double sided one next time.  I just need to pick out what fabric to use.  Any suggestions?

I made a few adjustments, and this did lead me a little astray.  I decided to alter the pattern all on my own.  This was the second or third thing I had sewn and my first attempt at changing a pattern.  Quick side note...I get everything ready (i.e. cut out my patterns) before I go to my friend Tina's house for my sewing lesson.  This way we can get down to sewing right away.  Anyways, I was so proud of myself because I had changed the pattern all on my own and I showed Tina and she thought I had done a great job.  You are probably wondering what I changed.  Well, I have a small head and I just knew that the pattern she had made would be waaaayyy to big for me.

Mine is the one of the left and hers is the one in the middle.  Here is a better look at how much smaller mine is.

Everything was going great until it came time to attach the elastic cover piece.  You see, I did not completely pay attention to things when altering my pattern and the elastic cover was too big to fit into my headband.  Alas, Tina was able to make a few changes and cram it up in there.  Lesson learned.  You cannot change one part of the pattern without seeing how it will affect everything else.  Needless to say I am going back to the drawing board to alter the pattern a little more.  We cut off part of the headband piece to make the opening bigger for the elastic cover, which actually helped it to stay on my head better.  I am telling you I have a small head.

I am still proud of how it turned out and would highly recommend this tutorial.  Please ignore my messy hair.  I just wanted to slip it on, so you could see how the headband actually looks on.  I really do love it, and cannot wait to get the pattern perfected.  Once you get the hang of it these babies are super quick to make, and you can even use scraps that you have laying around.

You can get the free pattern along with detailed instructions to make them in the tutorial.  If you have any questions let me know, and I will try to help you or at least lead you in the right direction for an answer.

If you make one please come back and share your pic with me!

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Money Saving Monday - The Library

This is a new series that I am trying out.  Every Monday I will give you a tip on a way to save money.  I figured Monday was a good day since you probably spent all of your money going out over the weekend, and if you didn't I am sure that you still would not mind saving a buck or two.

This week's money saving tip is - Use the library.  This is probably a no brainer for some, but hopefully this will be helpful to a few.  I am sure that most of you know that you can borrow books from the library, and I am sure that most of you have done it.  Did you know that the library has a whole lot more to offer then just books?  If you didn't then keep reading, and you might be surprised by what you find out.

DVDs - I'm not just talking about educational ones that you have no interest in.  The library has some great movies, tv series, and even workout DVDs.  When I lived in Florida I was able to borrow "Lost."  The most recent tv series that I borrowed from my library here in Oklahoma was "Downton Abbey."  Oh how I love that show.  The selections will vary depending on your library, but its definitely a cheap date idea if you can find a movie or show that you would like to watch.

I didn't know until recently that you could get workout DVDs at the library as well, and I really love this feature.  In fact I just borrowed some new ones this past week.  This way you can add some variety to your workouts without draining your bank account, or if you are thinking of purchasing a new workout DVD you can test it out first.  That way you are sure you love it before you shell out the cash for it.

CDs - Most libraries have a great selection of CDs to borrow.  I know CDs are kind of out of date now that everyone has MP3 players, but hey maybe you want to listen to them in your car.

Audio Books - My library has a great selection of these, and I love to listen to them while I am driving to and from work.  I have a 45 minute commute, so I can slip in a few chapters here and there.  I usually only listen to them during my commute or when I am doing long distance driving.  Otherwise, I am normally rocking Mumford and Sons or Lumineers (you get the idea).

eBooks - Yes they even have books that you can download to your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or whatever you have.  The selection tends to be a little more limited, but there are still some great books.  Some libraries will even let you borrow eReaders.

Computers and Printers - If you ever need to get on a computer you can use one at the library, and if you need to print something off you can usually do so for a minimal fee.

Classes - There are a variety of classes that you can take at the library.  They offer everything from arts and crafts to tax preparation to computer classes.  They even have story time for children.  Some libraries even offer online language courses through Mango.  Mine offers this, and I have used it a few times.  It is a pretty fun resource.  They usually have class schedules that you can check out online or posted around the library.

Clubs and Activities -  They also have book clubs and meet ups.  Granted a lot of these are geared towards older people, so you will have to check the schedule at your library to see what looks good to you.  My library recently had speed dating for people my age.  No, I did not attend.  Maybe next time, but probably not.  Speed dating just isn't my scene.

The best thing that I can tell you to do is visit your library or their website, and get a library card.  They are free.  What are you waiting for?  I think you will be amazed at what all the library has to offer.  It is no longer just a place to get books.

Remember though that it is only free if you return things on time.  My library charge 10 cents per item per day for late returns, and I have had a few here lately, which adds up to a whopping 40 cents.  If you are bad about due dates check with your library to see if they send reminders.  Mine sends reminders via e-mail and text message.  Unfortunately for me I changed cell phone carriers and forgot to let the library know.  Hence the late fees.

Does your library have any cool features?  What resources do you use at your library?

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Weekend Roundup

Happy Monday.  I hope that your weekend was as great as mine.  I not only had fun, but I was also very productive.  Saturday I got up early, which has gotten very easy thanks to my Whole30, to go to my hair appointment.  I just got a quick trim.

After that I ran to the mall to return some things, and ended up buying a few new things as well.  Isn't that how it goes?  You go to return something and you end up spending more money.  Oh well I love my new purchases, and luckily the return helped to offset the price of my new purchase.  I then went to Whole Foods and Sprouts to pick up a few groceries that I had missed on my weekly shopping trip.  Then I headed to Staples to get some book plates for a project that I found on Pinterest, and am planning to do.  I will post about it as soon as I'm done.

Next on my list of things to do was to go and visit my friends Tina and Tera.  Tina is teaching me how to sew, and we had a very productive day.  I created 3 things that I had found on Pinterest:  a coffee cup cozy,  a tissue pouch, and an infinity scarf.  The tissue pouch and infinity scarf came out great.  I have a few adjustments that I will make next time I do these projects, but I am very happy with the way they turned out for a first try.  We made a little mistake on the coffee cup cozy.  I put the elastic the wrong way, so you can't use it to hook on to the button.  Oh well now I know for next time!  They were all super easy to make, and I will be posting more about them as part of my "I came, I pinned, I created" series.

The rest of the night I just hung out at home and watched some "Sex and the City."  I love that show.  Luckily I own all of the seasons, and about once a year I will watch all six seasons (I especially like to do this after a break up.  It always makes me feel better for some reason.).  I am currently on season 6 part one, so sadly I am nearing the end.

Sunday I got up early again (I just can't seem to sleep in anymore, but at least I get a lot done on the weekends), and took Bella to get her nails trimmed.  They were getting pretty long (to be honest she pretty much had talons and I was fearing for the safety of my eyes), and I was tired of getting scratched in my sleep.  After that I came home and started my Spring cleaning.  I cleaned my dresser and my desk in my bedroom, and boy does it look a lot better in there now.  Originally, I was planning to switch out my winter/spring clothes, but then we had a crazy cold snap and I decided I better wait another week.

After the cleaning I did some cooking for the week.  I made home-made mayo, asparagus, chicken salad, sweet potato hash browns, and banana nut porridge.  Everything came out great!  I especially loved the banana nut porridge.  It will be so nice for the next couple of days when it is a little chilly out.  I sure have missed my oatmeal on the Whole30, and yes I know it is probably SWYPO, but this close to the end I think its okay.

Lastly I caught up on some writing for the blog.  How was your weekend?

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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Joys of Cooking - Clean As You Go

Earlier this week, I shared with you how the Whole30 has reignited my passion for cooking.  I know that cooking can be intimidating for some, and have decided to do a series on cooking and how fun and easy it can be.  I know, I know, I can already hear some of you groaning.  Believe me I am a modern woman, and I by no means think a woman's place is in the kitchen.  In fact if you can find a man to cook then more power to you.  On a side note, this reminds me of a chef I used to work with at Disney.  His wife told him that she married him because the sex may fade, but you always will need to eat.  Since we are not all lucky enough to marry chefs, and we all need to eat we might as well know how to fend for ourselves in the kitchen.

I think that part of the reason why I used to hate cooking was because of how messy it was and how many dishes were always left in the sink.  The last thing I want to do after a day of cooking is clean up a bunch of dishes.  However, I picked up on a neat little trick, which really is not a trick, and probably common sense to most people.  Are you ready for it?  Clean up your mess as you go!  I know your world was probably just shaken to the core by that profound statement.

Now I know you may be wondering to yourself, "How do I do that?"  Well here are some of my tips and tricks to keeping a clean kitchen while you cook:

  1. Use a trash bag - This a tip that I picked up from Rachel Ray.  She always uses a trash bowl, but I went one step further and use a bag.  I tend to use the little plastic bags that your produce comes in from the grocery store.  While I am prepping, cutting, and cooking it sits on the counter and I throw all of my trash in it.  Then when I am done I just knot it up and throw it in my big trash can.  I find this to be a great time saver too because I am not constantly making trips to the trash can, and it helps to keep my cutting board/counter free of trash and clutter.
  2. Use wipes to clean your counters - Each time you are done with a task (or if you spill something) just pull out a cleaning wipe and wipe down the counter, and then throw your wipe into your trash bag.  This keeps your counters clean, and it's just easier to wipe as you go.  You do not have to worry about scrubbing layers of sticky, random cooking juices later.  I personally do not like using sponges to wipe counters with because they tend to spread bacteria and germs, but if you must then you can use a sponge.  Here is an extra money saving tip:  When you are out of cleaning wipes do not throw your container away if there is still liquid in the bottom.  Instead dip a paper towel in it and wring it out to create your own wipes.  This will help to stretch your dollar a little.
  3. Rinse your dirty dishes immediately - Rinsing the dishes while they are still a little warm will help to keep residual food from sticking to your pots and pans.
  4. Load your dishwasher as you go - I always like to cook with an empty dishwasher, especially when I do a cooking day.  That way I can just load the dishwasher as I go.  It is so much quicker plus you are not struck with the dread of seeing a sink full of dishes at the end of the day.  
  5. Put your hand-wash dishes in the sink with care - I know this sounds a little weird, but bare with me here. Instead of piling all your hand-wash dishes in the sink nilly-willy place them in the order you plan to wash them.  This way you are not pulling things from the bottom, and everything else is crashing down into the sink below.  Trust me, your dishes will thank you, and you will keep from breaking things this way.  
Once again, none of this is rocket science, but hopefully you learned something new or came away with a useful tip.  I really have found that cleaning as I go has made my cooking much more fun and relaxing.  Next week I am going to tell you how the internet can make you a better cook!

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