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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 02/21/12

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

10 MULTIPURPOSE KITCHEN ITEMS THAT WILL MAKING COOKING AND BAKING EASIER!

   The kitchen can either come with great amounts of pleasure or great amounts of stress. Luckily, with a few great kitchen tools that have multiple purposes, you'll be able to fret less and whip up many more delicious meals. These 10 affordable tools are essentials in any kitchen, and you probably have several of them in your own. Read on to find out the many uses for each tool and share your tips in the comments!


Silicone Spatulas

Silicone Spatulas

   Silicone spatulas come in pretty colors that brighten up your kitchen, and they come in very handy while baking, but I like to use mine for frying or scrambling eggs. They're delicate on the egg and help keep things from sticking to the pan too much.


Pastry Scraper

Pastry Scraper

   Typically, pastry scrapers are used for handling pastry dough. This handy tool is also incredibly useful when it comes to transferring chopped vegetables from your cutting board to your pan.



Microplane Zester/Grater

Microplane Zester/Grater

   One of my very favorite tools in the kitchen, the Microplane zester/grater is perfect for zesting all kinds of citrus fruits, as well as for grating garlic finely, which brings out excellent flavor. You can also use it to grate whole nutmeg and hard cheeses.



Mandoline

Mandoline

   This simple handheld tool speeds up prep work by a lot. I use mine for evenly and thinly slicing onions so that they're more palatable, and all different fruits and vegetables to get great texture in dishes. I particularly love using my mandoline to slice vegetables for pizza toppings. You can also slice up salami and cheese for great presentation. It's not as bulky as some of the other mandolines on the market, and it's a cinch to clean.



Cheese Grater

Cheese Grater

   Grate all the cheese you could ever want on this sturdy grater, but don't forget to try grating onions as well! Grated onions imparts a lot of flavor into recipes without adding texture, making it a great base for soups and stews. I also love to grate carrots for salads using my cheese grater.



Pyrex Baking Dish

Pyrex Baking Dish

   I can't sing the praises enough of the Pyrex baking dish. I'm convinced that it plays a role in roasting up a deliciously moist chicken, and I am a huge fan of how it evenly bakes sweets. I use my Pyrex dish on a daily basis. Roast vegetables, meats, and bake up all kinds of sweet recipes in yours.



Pyrex Measuring Cup

Pyrex Measuring Cup

   The clear glass cup makes for easy measuring, but I use mine primarily for mixing up salad dressings. You can adjust your measurements along the way and easily pour your homemade dressing all over your salad. It's also incredibly useful for pouring eggs out one at a time, which many cake recipes call for.



Cast-Iron Skillet

Cast-Iron Skillet

   Once you start cooking with cast-iron pans, it's very difficult to go back. This heirloom pan comes in all different sizes and it ensures even cooking. A number of recipes can be cooked using cast-iron, including bread, pizza, cakes, meat, and they will all turn out with excellent flavor.



Mason Jars

Mason Jars

   From vases for fresh flowers to more traditional jam or pickle containers, mason jars are one of the most useful containers you could ever own. Use yours to store leftovers easily in your refrigerator or bring meals to work or school (salads, soups, rice bowls, smoothies, etc.). They are easy to clean and last forever. Never again taste the undesirable flavor that comes from plastic containers in your food.



Mesh Strainer

Mesh Strainer

Dust powdered sugar on your chocolate soufflé with a mesh strainer, or rinse rice and beans before cooking. Strain stocks and soups or position it on top of a pot of boiling water to steam vegetables.

MINI CUPCAKE POPS!

   This diy/recipe comes from www.comeonilene.com .  Enjoy these tasty little treats!




For my friend Jane’s bridal shower, I volunteered to make cupcake pops. After seeing cute pictures floating around on the web, I’ve been dying to try it myself and Bakerella makes it seem so simple. It must be easy for the normal person, but I am clearly anything but normal and this project took a lot longer than I thought. Don’t attempt to make these unless you really love the person you are making them for. It took me over 8 hrs from start to finish, not including the time it took to make the stand. (I this idea directly from Bakerella’s website.)

Ingredients:

1 13X9 baked cake (from a box cake mix or from scratch)
1 can cream cheese frosting (or about 2 cups equivalent from scratch)
1 flower shaped cookie cutter
1 package chocolate melts
1 package white chocolate melts
gel food coloring
5″ lollipop sticks
m&ms and sprinkles




1. Bake a cake from a mix or from scratch and cool completely. I used a boxed red velvet cake. At this point, my husband spied the cooling cake and started lingering, hoping for a bite. I shooed him away.
2. Add can of cream cheese frosting or homemade frosting.
3. Blend thoroughly using a spoon, pastry cutter or hands. At this point the cake is starting to look pretty disgusting and my husband, seeing the mushy mess and my red stained fingers, quickly lost interest and left the kitchen.
4. Roll cake mixture into 1.25″ – 1.5″ size balls and lay on a lined cookie sheet. Chill in refrigerator for several hours or you can speed things up by putting into the freezer for about 15 minutes.





5. Find a flower shaped cookie cutter. Mine is about 1.25″ wide and came in a package of other mini cutters. They are the perfect size for these cake pops.
6. Take the chilled ball and roll it into an oval shape and then slide into cookie cutter. Push it into cutter until about half fills the cutter and the rest sticks out of the top, use yourpalm to create a round mound.
7. Then push the shaped cupcake carefully out of the cookie cutter.
8. Set right side up on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Continue with remaining balls of dough. Cover and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. Or if you’d like to dip the cupcakes the next day, you can cover and chill overnight in the fridge.





9. Melt chocolate in a bowl in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. The candy melts that I used took about 60 seconds to melt all the way. Dip the bottom part of the cupcake in the chocolate
10. Turn upside down on a lined cookie sheet and insert lollipop stick halfway into the cupcake while the chocolate is still wet. Its nearing midnight so I beseeched my husband to come back and help stick the lollipop sticks in before the chocolate hardened. I realized later that husband was sticking the lollipop sticks all the way through to the other side of the cupcake. Oops, they fell right through the stick when I turned them over! Groan. Let chocolate harden and ban husband from doing any further damage in the kitchen.
11. Melt white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. I made some cupcakes with white “frosting” and some with purple “frosting” by adding a few small drops of purple gel food coloring into the white chocolate. (note: do not use liquid food coloring, any amount of water or liquid will ruin the consistency of the chocolate) Dip the top part of the cupcakes into the white chocolate.
12. Set pops upright into a stand to let dry. You can poke holes into a styrofoam block to make a quick, cheap stand. I made mine out of an extra piece of 2×4 pine. (see tutorial here.) Add sprinkles while the “frosting” is still wet and and M&M on top:





Package them prettily in small cellophane wrappers and tie with a ribbon:




Allow my husband to have one as a treat!

SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL FROM JAPAN!!!




    The Sapporo Snow Festival is a famous festival held annually in Sapporo, Japan, over 7 days in February. Currently, Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome are the main sites of the festival. The 2011 Yuki-matsuri dates are February 7th to the 13th.
The festival is one of Japan's largest and most distinctive winter events. In 2007, about 2 million people visited Sapporo to see the hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures at the Odori Park and Suskino sites, in central Sapporo, and the Satoland site. The festival is thought to be an opportunity for promoting international relations. The International Snow Sculpture Contest has been held at the Odori Park sit since 1974, and teams from various regions of the world participate.





    The subject of the statues varies and often features as event, famous building or person from the previous yer. For example, in 2004, there were statues of Hideki Matsui, the famous baseball player who at that time played for the New York Yankees. A number of stages made out of snow are also constructed and made out of snow are also constructed and some events including musical performance are held. At the Satoland site, visitors can enjoy long snow and ice slides as well as a huge maze made of snow. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of regional foods from all over Hokkaido at the Odori Park and Satoland sites, such as fresh seafood, potatoes and corn, and fresh dairy products.







    Every year the number of statues displayed is around 400. In 2007, there were 307 statues created in the Odori Park site, 32 in the Satoland site and 100 i the Susino site. The best place to view the creations is from the TV tower at Odori Park. Most of the statues are illuminated in the evening. The Sapporo Snow Festival Museum is located in the Hitsujigaoka observation hill in Toyhira-ku, and displays historical materials and media of the festival.






History

    The Snow Festival began in 1950, when 6 local high school students built 6 snow statues in Odori Par. In 1955, the Japan Self-Defense Forces form the nearby Makomani base joined in and built the first massive snow sculptures, for which the Snow Festival has now become famous for. Several snow festivals existed in Sapporo prior to the Sapporo Snow Festival, however, all of these were suspended during World War II.
    During the Energy crisis of 1974, snow statues were built using drums. This was due to the shortage of gasoline which caused many of the trucks that were used to carry snow to the site, were unavailable, due to the shortage and rationiong of fuel. In that same year, the International Snow Statue Competition started and since that year many snow statues built by teams from other countries have been featured; especially from some of the sister cities of Sapporo, such as Munich Germany.






   In years when the accumulated snowfall is low, the Self-Defense Force, for whom participation is considered a training exercise, brings in snow from outside Sapporo. The Makomanai base, one of three main sites from 1965, hosted the largest sculptures, with a emphasis on providing play space fro children. Use of the Makomanai site was suspended in 2005 and moved to the Sapporo Satoland site located in Higashi-ku in 2006. In 2009, the Satoland site was moved to the Tsudome (Sapporo Community Dome) site. The Tsudome, located close to the Sapporo Satoland, is a dome for multiple sport events.
    Nakajima Park was established as one of the festival sites in 1990 however, it was removed as a site in 1992. The thrid site, known as the Suskino Ice Festival, is situated in the night life district of Susukino and includes predominantly ice carvings. The site was approved as one of the festival sites in 1983. Every year, the IcSuskino Queen of Ice, a beauty contest, is held at this site.