Supplies for Baking

supplies-for-bakingThere are a seemingly, endless number of supplies that you can buy for baking, but which ones are worth investing in? Depending on how much baking you do – and the size of your recipes – there are certain items will absolutely last longer (and work more efficiently) if you go for quality materials. Below are our list of best supplies for baking, some of which have multiple uses in the kitchen.

Best Apron: Hedley & Bennett
Former line cook Ellen Bennett designs simple, sturdy aprons made from canvas, denim and linen for restaurants from Michael Voltaggio’s ink in Los Angeles to Michael Schwartz’s Michael’s Genuine in Miami.

Best Cutting Board: Tableboards by Spinella Bread/Pastry Board
This large surface is perfect for kneading bread dough, rolling out pizza or pie dough, working with pastry dough and many other tasks. Reversible with 1 1/2″ lip on both sides to hold board in place when kneading or working with dough. The handcrafted durability of this kneading board will be valued for generations.

Best Rolling Pin: Fletchers’ Mill French Rolling Pin
This tapered pin rolls dough more efficiently than handled pins, works well for rolling both pies and cookies and is one of the easiest to clean. It’s also posh looking and sturdy enough to last a lifetime.

Best Butter: Plugrá European-Style Butter
This slow-churned butter makes your pastries flakier and sauces unbelievably creamy. Plugrá Butter contains less water than average table butter. Lower moisture helps you create cakes that rise higher and cookies that crisp more evenly.

Best Kitchen Napkins: Williams-Sonoma All-Purpose Kitchen Towels

Made of top-quality ribbed cotton terry, our kitchen towels clean like a scrubber and absorb like a sponge. The towels are ideal for lint-free drying of glassware.

Best Cake Mix: Betty Crocker SuperMoist Golden Vanilla Cake Mix
Sometimes, we cannot all be Betty Crocker, so why next be able to grab the next best thing – her cake mix. 😉 This mix makes a cake with a delightful light and fluffy texture.

Best Cake Stand: Bed Bath & Beyond Everyday White® Large Footed Cake Server

Presentation is everything. In pristine white porcelain with wide rims, this cake stand makes every cake or cheese tray special. Always posh, it adds a classic element to your table, whether used on its own or mixed with your favorite dinnerware.

Best Pie Pan: Emile Henry Pie Dish
A good pie, which melts in the mouth, needs to be cooked evenly and gently, without drying out. The secret is the earthenware dish. It can go straight from the freezer to the oven, which is helpful because we often freeze my fruit pies before baking them.

Best Pie Carrier: Pyrex Portable Pie Carrier
The indentation in the bottom of this carrier keeps the (included) pie plate from slip-sliding away. And the five-inch-high domed lid allows full clearance for your loftiest creations.

What will you be baking this week? 🙂

#Mangover Bacon BBQ Pizza

One of the ways that I show my love to my family is by making fresh and delicious food, like this BBQ Bacon Mango Pizza. This pizza is inspired by The National Mango Board, which they sent along with a shipment of beautiful ripe Keitt mangos. It instantly reminded me of a sweet and savory Hawaiian pizza, only substituting the Canadian bacon for regular bacon and the pineapple for mango. Brilliant and definitely a crowd-pleaser!
Mango Bacon We love the sweet, tropical flavor of mangos and their ability to transform any dish – whether it’s breakfast or a midnight snack. Not only are they delicious, they are packed with more than 20 vitamins and minerals, including 100% of your daily vitamin C in just one cup!
Mangover Bacon BBQ Pizza Ingredients
1 pizza crust
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
6-8 strips Petit Jean Bacon, cooked crisp and coarsely crumbled
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 Mango, peeled, pitted and diced (Watch the video below on how easy it is to chop a mango!)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place pizza crust on a large baking sheet. Heat small pan over medium/medium-low heat. Add the onion. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the onions are tender, sweet and lightly golden.

Spread a thin layer of the BBQ sauce over the pizza crust. Scatter most of the bacon, mango and onions over the sauce. Top with the shredded cheese. Scatter the remaining bacon, mango and onions on top. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until hot and cheese is melted. Let it cool slightly, then cut into wedges.

GIVEAWAY: The National Mango Board is giving one lucky reader a MANGO STARTER KIT with a sampling of mangos, a paring knife, fruit scoop and dish towel. The total value of the prize is $50 and the giveaway is open to US residents only. To enter, follow me on Twitter along with Mango Board. Tweet the recipe! Giveaway ends October 11, 2013.

Dreams Came True with Rick Bayless & Mexican #FoodieChats

IMG_7059 Almost ten years ago, I was introduced to Chef Rick Bayless in my living room. It was a Saturday afternoon, back in the days when my husband and I were childless and the weekends were low-key. We were struck by this show called Mexico: One Plate at a Time because it was more than just a cooking show, it was a travel show with a deeper look into the Mexican culture through its cuisine. “Good food, served well, is an emotional experience,” and after one show, we were fans of Chef Rick Bayless. Fast forward to last week, when I was given the opportunity to meet Chef Rick Bayless, see him prepare a Mexican dish and learn some tips through #FoodieChats and Negra Modelo. I have to say I was as giddy as my daughter when walking through the American Girl store. It was truly a dreamy day and an item on my bucket list that I can scratch off.
SeattleTacos First, the day started off with #NegraChefChallenge, where Seattle’s Chef Tom Douglas welcomed Chef Rick Bayless to his city to cook some Mexican food. I have to be honest, when I think of Mexican food, I do not think of Seattle, BUT my opinion has quickly changed. I never thought about taking some of the great local Seattle foods like wild salmon and turned into tacos seasoned with an ancho glaze. I was in awe of the creativity of Dungeness Crab used as a spicy salsa inside a black bean soap or on top of your guacamole. My taste buds were dancing all day long with this unique flavor combination.NegraModelo One of the great things about attending chef challenges is all the interesting facts you discover, such as how they use food and why they prepare the dishes that they do. Chefs tend to be more relaxed when they are with others like them. I learned a couple of new things about Rick Bayless at this event. He started visiting Mexico when he was 14, loved the place and returned annually throughout his school years. Later, he began cooking with locals to learn traditional Mexican techniques and flavors. He returns to Mexico at least once a year, studying different regions each trip. I also learned about Seattle’s own famous Chef Tom Douglas. He owns 16 restaurants in Seattle, yes 16! He makes a point to go into every restaurant a week and taste that they are all up to his standard. The constant banter between Tom Douglas and his friend Thierry Rautureau (the Chef in the Hat), who emceed, made this enjoyable event even more fun. The chefs approach each situation with their own unique perspective.
IMG_7066 Each of the chefs made a signature dish for us and Thomas Douglas’ team provided several other menu items for our lunch. Rick Bayless approached his recipe with his typical use of authentic Mexican techniques to build a dish with flavors both enhanced by the Negra Modelo included in the recipe. He created Smoky Pulled Pork Tacos with Roasted Tomatoes and Negra Modelo. Bayless Tip: when roasting tomatoes, do it on top of foil, so you do not ruin your pans. If you want a smokier flavor in your sauce, keep the char on the tomatoes. Tom Douglas added a Northwest twist to a Black Bean and Ham-hock Soup presented with Dungeness Crab with Avocado-Tomatilla Salsa. Douglas tip: Your kitchen should have a hand blender. It makes it easy when preparing soups and sauces in your kitchen, and they are inexpensive. Both were delicious, as were all the other dishes we ate during the presentation. The outcome? The audience won!
IMG_7118 The day continued into the evening where I attended my first LIVE #FoodieChats with Chef Rick Bayless and the #FoodieChats Founder Steve Green and other bloggers and food lovers. I was quite impressed with Rick Bayless’ involvement in the chat. He was actively tweeting and he thoroughly enjoyed all the pictures and tweets coming in to him. It was refreshing to see that he see the power of twitter. If you have never join a #FoodieChats, you should do it…like this next Monday. It is hard to describe all the amazing and diverse people who join, BUT I always have a takeaway – a recipe, a tip or a new friend.
IMG_7120What would a LIVE #FoodieChats be without food?! As the #FoodieChats sponsor, Negra Modelo ordered some AMAZING dishes to add to the experience at one of the best Mexican restaurants in Seattle, Poquitos. We enjoyed Kusshi Oysters (pictured above) with salsa negra, shallots and lime; Scallop Tiradito (pictured below) with fresh jicama, cucumber, green apple, shallot, chile, lime and cilantro; Dungeness Crab Guacamole with chipotle, onion, lime and cilantro; and, Local Albacore Tostadas with Albacore ceviche, tortilla crisp, avocado, lemon, shallot, chile, garlic chips and cilantro.

Because we didn’t eat enough this day ;), we celebrated a successful #FoodieChats at another amazing Mexican restaurant called Barrio at Capitol Hill. I highly recommend the empanadas (pictured below) and Cazuela de Camarones when you go there. Yes, you really need to put this restaurant on your list as it has a great vibe and delicious food for the Northwest. Suffice it to say, I fasted the next day, BUT oh the great memories I made on this dreamy day!IMG_7123

After spending the day with Mr. Bayless, or Rick, since we’ve met ;), here’s my takeaway. He is very kind, even though I’m sure he tires of people like me enamored over him. He is just like what you see him on TV, approachable and knowledgeable. I also love how much he shares his passion of cooking and Mexico with his daughter, so much that she is a part of Mexico: One Plate at a Time and written a cookbook with her father! But, there’s more! He’s also been married to his wife Deann forever, and they work together!
IMG_7122 Disclosure: Negra Modelo provided me with airfare and lodging in Seattle. All opinions are mine and may not reflect those of the company. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” All photos are mine and subject to copyright.

It was also great to meet Toni from Food Just Sayin’ and Samantha from The Little Ferraro Kitchen in real life after exchanging recipes and tips online over the years. By the way, be sure to join me this next Monday for #Foodiechats from 7PM – 8:30PM CST, as I am a co-host! Follow @Foodiechats on Twitter. I guarantee you learn something, meet interesting people and want to eat better. I hope to tweet you there!

How to Use BBQ Rub and Enjoy Some Grub

While Kenny’s Smoke House is really a full service dining establishment that happens to serve great smoked meats and barbecue, now they are celebrating the availability of meats by the pound for takeout, too! Yesterday, Chef Kenny Bowers invited me into his restaurant and shared some of his tips to create a great rub and his menu favorites to dine in or take out for your family.

A barbeque rub is simply a way or adding extra flavor to meat before you grill to enhance the finished product. Here are some of Kenny’s tips.

    • Start with a room temperature cut of meat and then prepare the rub.
    • For a dry rub, Kenny mixes 1 cup chili powder, 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup black pepper, 1 cup onion powder and 1 cup granulated garlic.


  • Lay the meat out on a large plate or in a wide bowl. Spray the meat with oil. Yes, that is correct – cooking oil. It helps the spices stick to the meat. Add your spices by rubbing them into the meat with your hands.
  • Ideally, you let the spices sink into the meat for at least an hour to add more flavor to the meat.

If you do not have time to smoke your meat or just need an excuse to get out of the heat and enjoy some BBQ, then here are some of Kenny’s favorites for the meat lover at Kenny’s Smoke House.

Jalapeño Cheddar Sausage

Jalapeño Cheddar Sausage

Smoked Brisket Stuffed Jalapeños

Smoked Brisket Stuffed Jalapeños

Kenny's "Hammered" Smoked Brisket, marbled (left) and lean (right)

Kenny’s “Hammered” Smoked Brisket, marbled (left) and lean (right)

Beef Ribs

Beef Ribs

Kenny’s Smoke House
5760 Legacy Drive
Plano, Texas

Pairing Drinks with Girl Scout Cookies

Everyone has their favorite Girl Scouts cookies, whether it’s the classic Thin Mint, the peanut buttery Tagalongs or some fresh tasting Savannah Smiles. It is this time of the year where we are greeted with a smile from their sweet girls in front of the grocery store asking if we’d like a box of cookie.

Selecting a beverage whose qualities complement Girl Scouts cookies can kick up subtle elements of flavor that you didn’t even know existed. But how do you get started? The trick is in identifying the key flavors in the cookie and pairing it with those in your beverage. This can take some practice, but to get you started, here are the Girl Scouts cookies and drink pairings that I highly recommend.

Hot Tea and Savannah Smiles

Hot Chocolate and Trefoils



Dulce De Leche

Thank U Berry Munch


Thin Mints

What drink and cookie pairing do you like?


Healthy Breakfast for $2 or Less

Would you like tasty recipes that are easy on the wallet and the waistline? Me, too! When I recently stumbled across these hearty healthy recipes that match my family’s needs and my pantry’s contents, I was thrilled. Mighty Bowls of Goodness, tasty recipe suggestions from our Whole Food Market’s Health Starts Here program, are filled with nutritious foods and cost less than $2 a bowl for breakfast.

The recipe is easy: 1 part grain (such as quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats or millet) + 1 part heated liquid (move beyond water with almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk or coconut milk) + fresh or dried fruit (like apples, cranberries, bananas) + topping (try spices, seeds and nuts).

There are weeks full of healthy breakfast options to fill you up without emptying your wallet. If you’re looking to add nutrition, flavor and convenience to your morning routine without added costs, try these Mighty Bowls of Goodness breakfast combinations:

Almond Rice
1 cup cooked brown rice heated with 1 cup almond milk. Top with a sliced banana, an ounce of chopped raw almonds and a chopped date to sweeten.

Cinnamon Apple Oats
1 cup cooked rolled oats heated with 1 cup almond milk. Mix in shredded or chopped apple and cinnamon. Top with chopped pecan.

Peach Quinoa
1 cup quinoa cooked in 1 cup water, 1 cup coconut milk. Stir in a chopped or sliced peach at the end of cooking. Toss in ground flaxseed, a sprinkle of dried coconut and a dash of nutmeg.

The breakfast possibilities for Mighty Bowls of Goodness don’t stop there, of course. What’s already in your pantry, fridge and freezer? Oh, I spy pecans and frozen blueberries. No need to waste your money with over-sweetened, artificially flavored cereals when you have Mighty Bowls of Goodness.

What Mighty Bowl of Goodness recipe will you be cooking for breakfast? Share how you are warming up your morning without burning a hole in your wallet.

How to Choose Smart Menu Items

Today was a hard day. It was the first day since I started Whole Food Market’s Health Starts Here 28-Day Challenge that I had to eat out, and man, it was quite a challenge. It was the first time that I saw the disgusting fat and additives put in our everyday menu items at restaurants. When I asked if they had any vegetables without it cooked in oil or butter, I received a blank look. It was today that I realized that, we, Americans, eat A LOT of processed foods. I know that I am not alone in this experience. I know there are those of you who are wanting to improve your health, but have hit the same wall. As I sit down at my computer, I want to share with you what I learned from the experience, so that you can enjoy eating out as much as you do eating in. 😉 Here are some tips and suggested meals:

  • Avoid bread items such as rolls, breadcrumbs, tortillas, pasta, breading, crusts, etc. Unfortunately, even if something is called “whole-wheat,” it is rare to find items that are ONLY made with 100% whole-wheat (unless the restaurant can confirm the ingredients for you).
  • If the waiter/chef doesn’t know (and can’t find out) the ingredients of an item, then they probably don’t make it fresh in house, which means it likely has all sorts of stuff (like sweeteners and preservatives) in it that you don’t want or need.
  • If they don’t know where the meat came from, then I can guarantee it is not from anywhere special (like a grass-fed local farm).
  • For children, do not order off the kid’s menu! The kid’s menu is almost always processed foods or foods made from processed ingredients (like pasta from white flour, factory made chicken nuggets, corn dogs, french fries, etc.). Instead attempt to put together a plate of adult side items that you think your child would eat (like a baked potato, fruit, vegetable, and nuts or cheese you see offered on a salad).
  • Always ask questions when it comes to sauces, and ask for them to be left off when appropriate. It seems as though everything (including lots of sugar) can be hidden in the most surprising places when it comes to sauces, dressings and marinades.
  • If time allows do some research and look at menus in advance to help you make the best restaurant selection and menu choices.

Fortunately, there are restaurants that are offering Smart Choice menus, such as La Madeleine Country French Cafe. La Madeleine offers more than 15 satisfying and delicious Smart Choices selections for all meals year-round, including Chicken la Madeleine, Mediterranean Paella, Smart Choices Omelette, Smart Choices Salade Sampler, Shrimp & Tilapia Provençal and Tilapia Rustique. Only available until March 19, 2013, the Salmon and French Lentils –  a roasted salmon fillet paired with French lentils, seasoned with celery, thyme, kale, tomatoes, onions and roasted garlic – is a healthy and satisfying option.

Also, Chili’s offers Lighter Choices menu items. The Mango-Chile Tilapia and 6 other menu items complete the Lighter Choices menu – three of which are new – with the bold, Southwestern flavors you’ve come to expect from Chili’s entrees.

In North Texas:
Spiral Diner & Bakery, Ft. Worth and Oak Cliff
Company Cafe, Lower Greenville
Seasons 52, Dallas and Plano
Have any restaurants you recommend for healthy dining? I’ll add them to the list!

Batch Cooking Saves

It’s hard to find the time to cook healthy meals when you’re balancing a household full of activities. For me to survive this 28-day challenge, I going to start the week by batch cooking and storing in grab-to-go containers. It will save me precious time and money.

When you have already prepared meals in your freezer, getting dinner ready is as simple as throwing something in the slow-cooker in the morning before work, or popping it in the oven or microwave when you get home.

Preparing food in bulk is extremely efficient. If it takes 15 minutes to prepare one meal, it only takes about 17 minutes to prepare eight meals of the same recipe. You’ll save money when you always have prepared meals on-hand because you’ll be less tempted to get take-out or go to a restaurant.

Here are some tips to prepare for your batch cooking session:

  • Shop the day before you batch cook. Call your meat order in ahead of time and see if the butcher will divide your meat into the exact portions you need.
  • Use a weigh scale. They’re inexpensive and handy to have around when working with a lot of ingredients.
  • Try to prepare at least three or four portions of the same dish, and freeze the rest for later. For smaller families, pick four recipes and prepare them on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It only takes a few hours and you’ll have 16 meals prepared for when you need them.

28-Day Challenge

Last night, I decided I need some change in my life – a challenge. I have joined Whole Foods Market’s Health Starts Here™28-Day Challenge. It should be noted that I have bi-yearly physical, and I am in good health. I enter this challenge not because a doctor said that I need it, but because I realize that I need to look at food in a new way for me and my family.

I will follow Whole Foods Market’s four pillars of Health Starts Here™ for the entire month beginning Monday.

  • WHOLE FOODS: Eat unprocessed foods and put an emphasis on local, seasonal and organic. (That means I will pick brown rice instead of white rice, use no processed sugars, and use whole grain flours instead of white flour).
  • PLANT-STRONG™:  A plant based diet with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits. I will still have lean meats and avoid all dairy products. (Tillamook Cheese, this means we are on a “break,” BUT I don’t think we have broken up. ;))
  • HEALTHY FATS: Nuts, seeds and avocados will be my main sources of fat. This means using no oils for the month.
  • NUTRIENT DENSE: Choose foods high in nutrients when compared to their caloric intake. Using the ANDI scoring system works great for this, but remember to eat a wide variety of colors to get a wide variety of nutrients.

First things is first. I need to remove everything out of my pantry that is NOT allowed for the month. I don’t want any temptation, and the fact is there are many food banks that could use this food.

All month, I will be posting recipes that I’m cooking if you’d like to join the challenge with me. If you join, please comment below, as I will enter you into a giveaway! Can’t start today? That’s ok! Follow my posts and start when you can. Here’s a video to understand the importance of this journey.

Tips on Carving a Pumpkin

My family loves to eat pumpkins…in everything from soups to pies to breads. This year, we bought a pumpkin so that we could carve and make our favorite goodies. Here are few pumpkin carving tips from our family to yours.

  • Choose large pumpkins that do not have bruises or moldy stems.
  • Pumpkins with a lighter color tend to be softer and easier to carve.
  • When cleaning the pumpkin, save the seeds.  Toasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy, tasty snack (Click here for recipe!).
  • Use a large, heavy metal serving spoon or ice cream scoop to scrape the insides.
  • Use a long serrated knife or a pumpkin-carving knife with teeth to cut through pumpkin flesh. 
  • Use a sawing motion and take your time cutting along the outside edge of the marker lines.

Have fun carving!