Monday, April 30, 2012

Wire wall rack--wish I had this in my closet!

I found this wire wall rack mounted on the wall of the dressing room at Nordstrom.  It's sturdy, and held so many clothes!  I wish I had this in my closet--talk about maximizing space!  Hmmm...maybe I can find something that would work at Home Depot?  Or maybe I could just mount my Williams Sonoma cookie cooling rack?  (Looks and feels like my cookie rack.)  Just kidding...I'm not that desperate.  Not Yet.  :) 

Garlic peas, Wasabi peas-a tasty snack!

Love this snack...garlic peas!  Yummy, wrapped in small size packages, and even the kids love it! Wish I knew the brand name, but I can't read the writing, so look for the packaging.  I've found them at CVS, Don Quijote and Marukai.  Easy to carry in pocket, purse, or for school snacks.  Also comes in wasabi green peas flavor.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stainless Steel Cleaner--quick and easy!

I love stainless steel refrigerator and appliances--love the look, but hate the fingerprints and smudges that inevitably end up all over it.  Well, I found a liquid cleaner that is super easy to apply, and takes those fingerprints and smudges away quickly! 

It's by ELCO.  I got mine at Sears.  I can't remember how much it cost, but it wasn't that much.  Super easy to use--just put a little on a cloth (I use paper towels),wipe on...then get a dry cloth/towel and wipe off.  Easy!  It also removes dirt and grease, and helps prevent fingerprints.  If you have stainless steel...this is a must-get!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tiger sports water bottle-best ever!!

Cold and refreshing water on the go!
Dry skin? Headaches? Tired? Want to lose weight? Seems the answer is always, "drink more water!" (It's like how "stress" seems to be the cause of many health issues...but that's another post.)  Okay...I drink water...and I think I drink a lot of it--but I get busy, drink half of a cup, forget about the cup, so I use another cup...and over the course of the day, I really don't know how much water I've consumed.  Plus, I hate it when the ice melts and the condensation goes all over the place.  Then I have to dump out the cup, and start all over again.  Too...much...effort. 
I found an awesome sports bottle that will keep your water (or drink) cold all day long.  (Seriously, maybe well into the evening too!)

It's the Tiger brand sports bottle.  It has a pop-top lid, with lock closure.  It even comes with a holder with strap!  I bought the 1.0 liter size, but there are smaller versions too.  Now, I always have cold water ready to drink, and I can keep track of how much water I'm consuming throughout the day!

Note: Tiger makes a 2-way version, that comes with a cup on top.  I didn't buy that one because it wasn't as convenient to drink from the bottle.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Easy Chicken Pesto Recipe

Chicken pesto

I'm always looking for a quick, simple, and tasty chicken recipe.  Here's a recipe that is super easy, is yummy, and people will think you worked harder than you did!

Easy Chicken Pesto Recipe
Chicken breasts
Pesto sauce (1/2 cup for 4 chicken breasts, increase accordingly with more chicken)
Mozzarella or provolone cheese
Fresh mushrooms
Pepper to taste

Flatten chicken, brown chicken*.  Top with pesto, cheese and mushrooms.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 min. until juices run clear.
*If you are short on time, you can pan fry the chicken in a little EVOO, top with remaining ingredients and cook until juices run clear.  I've done it this way when I needed dinner on the table quickly. 

Note:  You can make your own pesto sauce, but I'm always in a rush and fresh basil is rarely on hand, so I often use the Kirkland (Costco) Pesto in the jar.  I also use provolone cheese from Costco.  There's a lot in the pack, but it has a long shelf date, and I also use in other dishes (look for these recipes to come), and top my burgers with it too.  Note my tip for keeping mushrooms fresh, as well as chicken breast tip in previous post under "Kitchen and Cooking."

Chicken Pesto Penne Recipe

This dish is quick, easy, yummy, and will help you use the rest of the Pesto sauce you have.

Chicken Pesto Penne Recipe
3-4      cloves garlic, chopped
1/2      Onion, chopped
            Fresh mushrooms
            Chicken breasts
1/2 c.  Pesto sauce
            Penne pasta, cook separately. Reserve about 1-2 c. starchy cooking water
            Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (may substitute peccorino romano cheese)

Brown garlic and onion in extra virgin olive oil.   Add chicken. 
When chicken is almost done, add mushrooms.  Combine remaining ingredients.  Add starchy cooking water to help ingredients stick to pasta.  Top with parmesan reggiano cheese. If you wish, you can add red pepper flakes, chopped parsley for garnish.

Note:  You can change it up by substituting shrimp, chicken sausage.  You can also also add other vegetables like bell peppers (I like red, orange, yellow), asparagus, broccoli, etc.
I buy parmesan-reggiano cheese from Costco, as I use it in many dishes (more easy recipes to come).
(Photo shown is chicken sausage pesto penne)

Slow Cooker Easy BBQ Ribs Recipe

Ribs have never been so simple, and tasty!

Slow Cooker Easy BBQ Ribs Recipe
3-4 lbs.    Pork or Beef Ribs (remove membrane)
                  Bottle of your favorite BBQ Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray's or Bull's Eye)
1                Onion, quartered
                  Salt and Pepper
                  Garlic (I use Granulated Garlic powder)

Lay onion on bottom of slow cooker.  Top with Ribs.  Add salt, pepper and garlic.  Top with 1/2 bottle of BBQ sauce.  Cook on high for 5 hours, low for 7 hours.   Remove from slow cooker, finish on grill or in oven at 325-350 for 20 minutes.  Baste with sauce.  Top with sauce before serving.

Note:  I use slow cooker liners for easy clean up.  I've also used my BBQ sauce recipe (see earlier post) with tasty results.  You don't have to finish on the grill or oven, but I like the crust that forms by doing so.  You can serve straight from the slow cooker, but make sure to top with extra sauce as much of the sauce mixes and washes off with the oil from the ribs.

Tip: Roll aluminum foil into balls, place on bottom of slow cooker so oil from ribs will fall to bottom and your ribs won't sit in oil while cooking.

Slow Cooker Easy Beef Stew Recipe

I like this recipe because it involves very little prep, many of the ingredients you probably have in your kitchen, and its quick, simple, and tasty.  Leave and it!!  I will post a picture soon, but every time I make this stew, my family eats it too quickly to get a photo!

Slow-Cooker Easy Beef Stew

3-4 lbs Stew cut beef, seasoned well with salt and pepper
1          Onion, quartered
3          Large Carrots, cut in half
3          Large Potatoes, cut in thirds
3          Celery stalks, cut in half
1          Onion soup packet*
1 can   Mushroom soup*
1/4 c.  Milk*
½ can  Beef broth (may substitute chicken broth)

After seasoning beef, lightly toss in flour.
Add onion, meat and vegetables to the slow-cooker. 
Combine soup packet and can of mushroom soup.  Add to pot.
Cook on high for 5-5.5 hours or low for 8 hours.

*Other variations:
Variation A:
1 can tomato paste
1 can brown sugar (use the tomato paste can)
1 can shoyu (soy sauce)
½ can beef broth

Variation B:
1 packet aus jus seasoning
1 packet Good Seasoning salad dressing
1 can Beef Broth

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Peanut Butter Noodles Recipe-quick, easy and tasty!

This is yummy, easy, and uses ingredients you probably have in your kitchen.  You can use any protein (I've made with chicken, shrimp), or do with other vegetables. 

Peanut Butter Noodles Recipe
1/2 c.            Chicken broth
1 1/2 Tbsp.   Ginger, minced
3 Tbsp.         Shoyu (soy sauce)
3 Tbsp.         Peanut butter
1 1/2 Tbsp.   Honey
2 tsp.            Chili oil
3 cloves        Garlic, minced
1                    Red bell pepper, sliced
1/4 c.            Green onion (optional)
1/4 c.            Chopped peanuts

Combine ingredients.
If you are using protein, stir fry in oil and garlic--add sauce and finish cooking.  Serve hot over noodles.

Maple Garden's Eggplant with Hot Garlic Sauce Recipe

This recipe is quick, easy, and you can substitute different vegetables and protein with good results.
I always triple, or quadruple the recipe as the sauce cooks down, and my family likes a lot of sauce.

Maple Garden's Eggplant with Hot Garlic Sauce Recipe
1  tsp.            Minced ginger
1  tsp.            Minced garlic
1  tsp.            Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp.   Shoyu (soy sauce)
1  tsp.            White vinegar
1  tsp.            Minced fresh red chili pepper or 1/4 tsp. dried chili pepper flakes
1  tsp.            Cornstarch
1/2-3/4 lb.     Eggplant, peeled and cut into 1" long strips
1/2 c.             Pork, cut into strips
                      Oil for stir frying

In a small bowl, mix together ginger, garlic, shoyu, sugar, vinegar, chili pepper and cornstarch.  Set aside.  Heat oil in frying pan or wok until hot.  Add eggplant and fry until the pulp is brown, but not burnt..  Place eggplant between paper towels and lightly press down to extract excess oil.  Add pork to pan and fry about 1 minute, until pork is cooked.  Remove pork and drain oil.  Heat sauce in pan until near boiling, add eggplant and pork.  Mix together until thoroughly heated.  Serve hot with rice.

Note: I also make using chicken, shrimp (or together).  If you don't have eggplant, you can use other vegetables like red, green, yellow bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, celery, etc.

Neely's BBQ Sauce Recipe (adapted by San)

This sauce is tasty, uses ingredients you have in the kitchen, and is easy to make.  I always double the recipe to ensure I have extra for dipping (and drenching)!

Neely's BBQ Sauce Recipe (adapted by San)

2 c.           Ketchup
1 c.           Water
2 Tbsp.    Onion*  (can also use 1/2 Tbsp. onion powder)
1/2 c.       Cider vinegar (if I don't have, I use white vinegar)
8 Tbsp.    Brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. Pepper
1/2 Tbsp. Ground mustard
1 Tbsp.     Lemon juice
1 Tbsp.    Worcestershire sauce
                 Red pepper flakes

Combine ingredients, bring to boil, simmer for 1 hr. 15 min, stirring frequently.
*Brown onions prior to adding remainder of ingredients.
Note: First time I made this sauce, I cooked the entire 1 hr. 15 min. time.  Then I got lazy and did for 20-30 min.  I couldn't tell the difference.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eggs--how to tell hard-boiled from raw

This happened this past Easter, but if you ever find yourself wondering whether the egg is hard-boiled or raw, here's how to tell the difference:

1)   Turn the egg on its side.  Lay on a hard surface like the counter or cutting board.
2)   Using your index finger and thumb, spin the egg.
3)   If the egg spin quickly and evenly, it is cooked.  If it spins slower and wobbles a bit, it is raw.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Manoa lettuce and Sweet Basil grows again!

This isn't a tip...but WTH?!? The girls and I planted some vegetables and herbs a couple years ago, harvested the manoa lettuce, and in a short period of time, killed the sweet basil.  Well, I was out in my yard this afternoon weeding (No, this isn't the "WTH" part), and we noticed the manoa lettuce and sweet basil had grown again!  No joke!  I swear it was just dirt in the planter for two years with no sign of life.  It actually looks pretty good and almost ready to harvest.  Has anyone ever heard of this?  Can roots and seeds remain dormant and sprout/grow two years later?

Update 4/16: Posted photo. Lettuce looked much nicer before the twins "weeded" between the lettuce yesterday.  Can't see well in photo, but there are three manoa lettuce in right planter and basil and one lettuce in left planter.

Update 3/13: I read in several articles that plants and seeds can hibernate and will grow later when soil, weather and other conditions are conducive to growth.  I get this...but growth after two years? Wow!

How to keep cut apples from browning

I've tried all the suggested ways to keep cut apples from turning brown--from squeezing lemon (orange, lime) juice on them, pouring lemon-lime soda on them, or storing them in a non-clear plastic container immediately after squeezing lemon juice on them.  Nothing worked well, or at least, consistently.  I got this tip from my hubby's cousin who says they use this method at her school. 

How to keep cut apples from turning brown:
I gave it a try, and it worked well for me:
1)   Start with fresh apples.  If your apples are old, it won't turn completely brown, but it will still show a tinge of color.
2)   Soak cut apples in salt water for a 3-5 minutes.  Don't soak too long or apples will taste salty.
3)   Rinse, drain.
4)   Apples will remain a pretty color for hours!
 (Note: I've read that pineapple juice also works, but I haven't tried it.  I'll update my post when I do.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easy Easter Carrot Cupcakes Recipe

Carrot cake cupcake

I made carrot cake cupcakes for Easter.  It's my normal carrot cake* recipe, but I made it into cupcakes and decorated with my cream cheese frosting, dyed shredded coconut green for grass, and added Reese's eggs on top.  It was a big hit at our Easter celebration/egg hunt!

*Carrot Cake recipe is the easiest, and tastiest recipe I've found to date!  If not making cupcakes, simply pour into 9x13" greased pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 min.  Yum!

Yummy Carrot Cake with Pineapple Recipe
2 cups   flour
2 tsp      baking soda
1 tsp      salt
2 tsp      cinnamon
2 cups   sugar
4            eggs
1 cup     oil
2 cups   grated carrots
1 can     crushed pineapple (8 oz), drained
3/4 cup chopped nuts

Combine dry ingredients. Add sugar, egg, and oil. Mix well. Add carrots, pineapple, and nuts. Bake in greased 9x13" pan at 350 degrees for 35-40 min.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fresh Basil--how to keep it fresh

Fresh basil is so yummy in many recipes--but it would always get black, mushy/slimy or dried out in the fridge vegetable bin before I could use the entire bunch.  Then I heard about different ways to keep fresh basil--from cutting up, putting in ice trays, filling with water and keeping between damp paper towels in a ziploc bag in the fridge.  I haven't tried either of these methods--because honestly, who has the time to do this?  I got tired just thinking about filling up those ice cube trays.  Then I found a simpler way to keep basil. 

Treat basil like a flower and cut about 1/4-1/2" off the bottom, keep it in a cup with about 1" of water away from sunlight, and it will stay fresh and ready-to-use for up to two weeks! Every 2-3 days trim the bottom again to aid water absorption.   

Note: You can also grow your own herbs as I know some of you do, but this tip is for those of us who don't have green thumbs.  :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tiger brand stainless steel thermal commuter mug-keeps coffee hotter longer!

This is the BEST commuter mug to keep your coffee hotter, longer!
Don't you hate when you don't have time to finish your coffee and then it's too cold to drink?  I've tried several commuter mugs...from Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, to numerous others.  None worked well--they leaked, cracked, and didn't keep my coffee/tea hot for longer than 2 hours.  Well, I found the BEST commuter mug. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eggs--how to know if it is still good

Okay, we all know there is a sell-by date on the egg carton...but if you're like me, you still may find this helpful to know.  How do you know if your eggs are still good (even past the sell-by date)?

How to make the perfect hard-boiled egg

No more ugly green/grey ring around the yolk, rubbery white, and reduce amount of cracked eggs!  Here's how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg:

How to make the perfect hard-boiled egg
1)   Put eggs in pot; make sure not to crowd eggs, leaving space between eggs.2)   Cover with cold water, fill 1" above eggs.
3)   Turn on heat to medium-high (depending on your stove).  As soon as it comes to a rolling boil, cover pot and turn off heat.  Leave standing for 10 min.; eggs will continue to cook.
4)   Empty pot and put cold water in pot to cool eggs quickly.  (This will avoid the ugly green/grey ring)
5)   Voila!  Perfect hard-boiled eggs every time!

Note:  Crack eggs while running under cold water and shell will slide right off!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Prevent your butter from burning while cooking

Add a little extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to your the butter in your pan and it prevents it from burning.  Better yet, skip the butter and cook with EVOO instead.  ;)

Keep these in freezer to keep fresh, save time and money!

I never used to be big on freezing anything more than frozen pizza, chicken, and ice cream.  But, there are some items that freeze well and having them readily on hand is convenient.  (Not to mention save money--when there is a sale--stock up!)  

Here's just some of the things I keep in my freezer:
1)  Butter--butter freezes well.  I buy it by the pound when it goes on sale and put the entire box (no need to wrap) in the freezer.  I try to keep two boxes in the freezer and one in the fridge.
2)  Nuts--It's the oil in the nuts that make them go bad sooner than you can use them.  Put them in the freezer, in separate bags, and they will always be ready for all your cooking/baking needs.
3)  Ginger--I keep fresh ginger in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  I just grate what I need, no need to thaw.
4)  Ground beef, chicken, turkey--I buy the family size from Costco and freeze in 1 lb. portions.  You save over a $1/per pound by doing so, and not having to run out to the store is so convenient.
5)  Individually quick frozen (IQF) chicken--I love the Kirkland (Costco) brand as each piece is individually wrapped in plastic.  Thawing is quick and easy, I soak the chicken (in the plastic pouch) in a large bowl.  No more defrosting in the microwave and risking cooked edges!

Dish drying mat--another great find!

Sometimes the rack just isn't big enough, you have an over-sized pot, or need space to keep things until you get a chance to put them away.  It's soft enough to rest fragile or glass items, durable, machine-washable, and so absorbent--I've never had water seep through to the counter! 

I found this dish-drying mat at CVS.  I also saw it at a kitchen outlet in Vegas, and at Bed, Bath, & Beyond, so I'm sure it will be easy to find.  It comes in several colors--beige, blue, green.

Dishwasher-dishes clean or dirty?

Never wonder whether the dishes in your dishwasher are clean or dirty ever again.  I got this tip from my grandpa.  Put a cup face up on the top rack corner of your dishwasher.  If it has water in it, your dishes have gone through the cycle and are clean.  Note: If you're like us and don't get around to putting the clean dishes away, don't dump the water in the cup until you have put away all your dishes...

Get rid of coffee stains in your mug!

Got coffee stains in your cup?  No problem!  Just add a tablespoon of bleach, fill with cold water, and in 5 minutes...voila! Your cup will look like new!  Note: Wash cup thoroughly before using.  I like to run through the dishwasher.

Scoop colandar...Multi-purpose kitchen gadget! A great find!

Kitchen gadget
Update: This is a scoop colander by Joseph Joseph is by far, THE BEST kitchen gadget I got in a very long time!  It's made of silicone, so it is durable, won't burn, and cleans easily.  I use it to scoop and drain pasta, fry gyoza (pot stickers), fry chicken, use as a colander or strainer...right from the pot or pan...or to grab a lot of food at one time.  It comes in three colors--black, green, and red.  It's dishwasher safe too!  If you use a Macy's coupon, it costs around $8-9.  I use it for so many purposes, I'm thinking about throwing away a few other kitchen gadgets and just use this!  Get won't regret it!

Celery--keep it fresh for two weeks!

Put aluminum foil over the top of your celery, keep in vegetable bin.  Your celery will last for two weeks!

Fresh Mushrooms--keep them fresh for over a week

No more mushy, slimy mushrooms!  Transfer mushrooms into a brown paper bag and store away from anything with moisture.  I keep them in my vegetable bin, but away from other vegetables that have a lot of moisture.  Remember moisture will deteriorate mushrooms quickly so

Potatoes and Onions--keep them fresh longer

Potatoes and Onions don't belong in the refrigerator.  It's too cold, will encourage sprouting, and the gases emitted by them will reduce the lifespan of your other produce quicker.  Keep potatoes and onions separate

Ped Egg...the best pedicure ever!

If you have dry, cracked skin on your feet and heels...try the Ped Egg!  It really works!

No more scrubbing pots and pans!

Make clean up quick and easy!  After cooking, put water in your pot or frying pan, leave on stove on medium-high.  The heat and water will lift up any remaining grease and food stuck on the bottom. Also works for pans in the oven.