Category Archives: every day tips and tricks

Every day tips and tricks for making life a little easier.

The Difference Between Popular Flours

Let me paint a scene for you…you run into Target for a bag of flour so you can satisfy that late-night craving for chocolate chip cookies or chocolate cake and you find yourself overwhelmed, no, BOMBARDED with 8 billion types of flours…what’s a amateur baker to do?!

Between rows of almond flour and buckwheat flour you search the shelves for just simple all-purpose flour…then feel like a shlumb for not even having the courage to just give whole wheat flour a try like the yoga-pants-wearing mom that just threw 3 bags of it in her cart…

Well, worry no more! Today I’m breaking down the 11 most popular types of flour…what makes them work, what they can be used for, and what makes them different from their other cousins on the shelf.

The main difference between most wheat flours is the amount of proteins they contain, which directly correlates to the ability of the flour to produce gluten. The higher the protein, the more gluten it can produce. So higher protein flours, like bread flour, are great for dense baked goods, like breads and pizza crusts…while low protein flours, like cake flour and pastry flour, are great for light-as-air muffins, cookies, cakes and pastries.

Several flours can be mixed together for different flavors and to add nutritional value to whatever you’re making. So next time you make a run to the grocery store to stock up on flour, take a chance and give whole wheat flour a try! After reading this, you’ll have the “flour power” to be creative in the kitchen!

popular flours

The Differences Between Popular Flours

Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

This is the workhorse of all the flours. You can use it for pretty much anything and everything, unless your recipe tells you otherwise.

Bleached All-Purpose Flour

In essence, bleached flour is the same as unbleached, but it’s chemically altered with bleaching agents (benzoyl peroxide or chlorine dioxide) to whiten flour and speed up production. Due to the processing, bleached flour often has less protein than unbleached, making it good for flaky pastries.

Bread Flour

Bread flour is high in protein, which allows for more gluten development when combined with water. Gluten allows dough to expand so, naturally, bread flour is great for making bread (go figure!). You can also use bread flour to make pizza dough, puff pastry, and even some cookies.

Whole Wheat Flour

Since whole wheat flour is made by milling the entire wheat kernel, whole wheat flour can be slightly darker, nuttier and higher in nutritional content than all-purpose flour. The bran in this flour makes it difficult to produce gluten, though…so whole wheat flour is often used in combination with another flour to make bread or other baked goods. It’s versatile and can be used for most recipes to add nutrition to whatever you’re making…just make sure to adjust the water amounts as necessary.

Cake Flour

Cake flour is milled from low protein wheat strains, yielding minimal gluten development. This makes cake flour amazing for baked goods like angel food cake, sponge cakes, biscuits, and muffins.

Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour is pastry flour that also contains baking powder and salt. This flour is great for flaky and tender biscuits, muffins, pancakes, and some cakes. Most recipes that require self-rising flour will call it out as such. If your recipe calls for self-rising flour, you can also make your own by combining 1 cup pastry flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Pastry Flour

Pastry flour sits comfortably between all-purpose flour and cake flour in the protein spectrum. It strikes the ideal balance between flakiness and tenderness, making it perfect for pies, tarts and many cookies. You can also make your own pastry flour by mixing all-purpose flour with cake flour.

Spelt Flour

Though spelt is technically a form of wheat, it’s often an alternative to wheat flour because it’s easier to digest. It has a mild nuttiness, natural sweetness and can be used for most breads, pizza crusts, or cookies.

Buckwheat Flour

Buckwheat flour is naturally gluten-free and it absorbs a LOT of moisture, making this flour great for pancakes, noodles and dense cakes.

Rice Flour

Rice flour has a granular, coarse texture and is also naturally gluten-free. It can be combined with other flours for a more workable dough. It’s great to use for sponge cakes, noodles, and light fry doughs, like fritters or tempura batters.

Nut Flours

Simply made from pulverized nuts, nut flours are very powdery and naturally contain no gluten. Of all the nut flours, almond is probably the most popular. These can be combined with other flours if desired for added flavor. Their flavor and texture make nut flours great for cookies and tart crusts.
Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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Hygge Week: How to Hygge in 10 Simple Steps

Happy Hygge Week!

For those just joining us, we’ve been embracing hygge (Hoo-gah) all week this week, and today, I’m going to help give you the basic steps you need to bring the hygge lifestyle into your home.

As I’ve said before, hygge is not something to define, it’s something to be felt…so any number of things could really contribute to a space feeling “hygge”.  A cozy fire on a rainy afternoon – very hygge.  A stew cooking on the stove as you read a mystery thriller under the covers – very hygge.  Hosting a game night with wine and cake – very hygge.  Stressing over tomorrow’s meeting while texting your friends and ordering nasty food on GrubHub – not so hygge.  Make sense?  Hygge is about setting an atmosphere for comfort and relaxation.

So here are a few things you need for a proper “hygge” night.  And feel free to improvise here.  Don’t have candles or a fireplace?  Dim the lights or use soft lighting to help set the mood.  Don’t like knitting?  Scrapbook or read…whatever helps you to turn your mind off and relax.

How to Hygge in 10 Simple Steps

Image result for hygge illustrations

  1. Light candles
  2. Get cozy with a big blanket or homemade scarf
  3. Cultivate closeness with the people you love
  4. Be present (turn off your phones and the TV)
  5. Eat cake
  6. Learn to knit
  7. Read or write
  8. Drink something warm
  9. Invest in cozy wool socks
  10. Bring the outdoors in with houseplants

Want to learn more about how to embrace the hygge lifestyle?  Stay tuned tomorrow to learn more about how my husband and I converted and how we’re never, EVER going back.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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20 Next Level Baking HACKS!

Up your cake decorating game with this collection of 20 Next Level Baking HACKS!  Whether you want your boxed cake to taste like it was professionally made or you need a replacement for sugar or butter, this assortment of tips, printables, charts and more will help your cakes, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes look (and taste) better!

baking-hacks

20 Next Level Baking HACKS!

Want to make a boxed cake taste better?  Add one more egg than listed on the box, replace oil with melted butter and double the amount, replace water with an equal amount of milk, then mix and bake according to package instructions.  If that’s too much work, just combine all the listed ingredients and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Image result for boxed cake mix ingredients

Keep this list of baking swaps handy for last-minute changes.

Simple Baking Swaps

Use toothpicks to attach bread to a sliced cake to keep every piece nice and fresh.

Keep cut cake fresh with sliced bread. Learn more + cake recipe at TidyMom.net

You can also use a slice of bread to keep your freshly baked cookies nice and soft.

1. Dip cookie cutters in flour first before cutting dough to help cookies retain their shape.

When using a hand mixer, use a paper plate to prevent batter from splattering your kitchen.

Brilliant Baking Hack | Avoid Batter Splatter: Poke the ends of your mixer's beaters through the middle of a paper plate before attaching them to the mixer to act as a shield.

Are you terrified to write on a cake?  I AM!  To limit the stress, use a toothpick to outline your lettering or design before piping.

Edible Obsession: The Easiest Cake Lettering Tutorial Ever | LaurenConrad.com

Keep chocolate chips suspended in your cookies by rolling them in flour first.  You can also keep berries suspended in cakes or blueberries suspended in muffins by rolling them in flour as well.

how to stop chocolate chips from sinking 2

Use unflavored dental floss to evenly slice a cake in half.  I LOVE this hack and use it all the time!  Just place toothpicks evenly around the cake to help guide and line up the floss.

How to Cut a Cake Layer in Half with dental floss: Goodbye, Fear of layer cakes! This was so flipping easy, even I could do it!

Flip a muffin tin over to make edible chocolate chip cookie bowls.

OH, MY!!!!!  -

Create the ultimate non-stick release by combining flour, shortening, and vegetable oil.  Find the exact recipe at ifyougiveablondeakitchen.com.

Never worry about broken cakes again. This magic cake pan release leaves no crumb behind and you can store it at room temperature for up to three months. | www.ifyougiveablondeakitchen.com

Use a piece of masking tape to help level off cocoa powder.

Here’s a helpful chart with conversions on how to change metric to standard.

Get room temp butter lickety split by pouring boiling hot water into a glass.  Dump out the water and flip it over your stick of butter.  Let it sit for a few minutes and your butter will be softened in no time.

butter

Here’s a helpful chart for replacing sugar with honey in your baked recipes.

Use this helpful guide to create a perfect circle of parchment paper for your round cakes.

parchment paper

One cup sifted all-purpose flour does NOT mean the same as on cup all-purpose flour, sifted.  One cup sifted all-purpose flour means you sift the flour BEFORE you measure it.  One cup all-purpose flour, sifted means you sift the flour AFTER you measure it.

Speaking of flour, the perfect cake and cookie comes from measuring your flour correctly.  Avoid scooping flour out of the bag with your measuring cup.  This often results in getting more flour than you need.  Instead spoon the flour into the measuring up, then level off with a knife.

Image result for spooning flour

Spray your measuring cups with non-stick spray before measuring out sticky substances, like honey, syrup, and molasses.

Image result for spray measuring cups

Here are some great cookie substitutions.  Replace 1 egg with 1 banana or 1 cup butter with 1 cup apple sauce.  You can also replace 1 cup butter with 1 avocado for chocolate cookies, or 1 cup butter with 1 cup Greek yogurt.

Image result for substitute egg with banana

Here’s a list of temperature conversions if you need to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit or visa versa.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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11 Awesome Backyard Games for Summer

I grew up in a small Chicago suburb among a slew of other young kids with young parents.  We all lived in a small condo complex that circled a huge courtyard and budded up to a small man-made lake that housed a snapping turtle (or so legend says!).  I remember running home from school with my friends only to throw our stuff on the porch and play outside until the sun went down.  In the summer, we’d often be out until 9 o’clock at night, playing tag, making crafts, or just sitting outside amongst the bugs and the dirt.

Now as a 30-something with a growing family, I rarely see kids playing outside, if at all.  Most kids I see at the mall or at restaurants are on a phone or tablet.  Kids I see at the bus stop all have their faces buried in their electronic devices and, come 4 or 5 pm, the streets of my suburban Chicago neighborhood are EMPTY.

11-backyard-games-for-summer

I’m often reminded of this George Carlin skit when I’m driving home most days and see the sidewalks completely void of any demarcation of childhood.

As a kid who grew up with a stick in one hand and an earthworm in the other, I plan on being outside with my family as much as I can, and these fun outdoor family games are a great way to get kids out of the house…especially when the weather gets warmer!

If you have older kids, have them help you construct these games.  Many of them are easy to assemble and even older kids and adults will have fun playing this huge game of Kerplunk! with their friends.

Also great for summer BBQ’s, graduation parties, or 4th of July picnics, these 11 Awesome Backyard Games for Summer are sure to give you quality time with the people you love!

11 Awesome Backyard Games for Summer

DIY Backyard Jenga
jenga

Large Connect 4
connect 4

Yard Yatzee
yatzee

Tic-Tac-Toe
tictactoe

Backyard Bean Bag Toss
beanbag toss

Ring Toss
ringtoss

Large Kerplunk
kerplunk

Flamingo Ring Toss
flamingo ring toss

Garden Twister
twister

DIY Cornhole Boards
cornhole

Backyard Bananagrams
bananagram

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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How to Upgrade Your Bathroom Cabinet in Two Seconds

The thing that sucks about renting or not owning your living space is that you have to think of creative ways to upgrade, update, decorate and polish up your home. For apartment dwellers like myself, decorating and upgrading my kitchen and bathroom prove difficult when I really can’t do much of anything without the landlord’s permission.

But there are ways around it. Can’t paint a wall? Try this no paint wall color technique to add a pop of color that’s easy to take down when it’s time to move.

Can’t hang pictures on the wall? Shop around for some cool wall stickers. They are easy to apply and come off with no problem whatsoever. These are great for areas with lots of empty wall space and can also be used to help you divide up one large room into two smaller ones.

That’s all well and good, but what do you do about a nasty bathroom medicine cabinet? I mean those cabinets that they’d have in dorm rooms and old apartments that were built in 1969. Those take a little more creativity to upgrade…but you can do it for less than $5.00!

Here’s a pic of what our bathroom medicine cabinet looked like when we moved in. This is after 3 cleanings with bleach, mind you. That stuff just wasn’t coming off. I hated looking at it every time I had to open the cabinet, so if it wasn’t going to come off, I was just going to have to cover it up.

I took 2 sheets of scrapbook paper and simply taped it to the back of the cabinet…that way it’s easy to come off and I don’t have to look at that nasty background every time I open the cabinet.

This easy technique can also work for covering messy drawers, the backs of bookshelves, and even hiding ugly markings on the wall.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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How to Do a Mani/Pedi at Home

Nail salons are a thing of the past…like Spandex workout shorts and colorful sweat bands.  Today’s working woman is all about DIY…so here’s how you can rock beautiful fingers and toes without smelling like methyl methacrylate.

DIY Mani/Pedi’s!

Step One:  Soften Your Skin

Soak your feet in warm water for 10 minutes to soften calluses and relax cuticles.  Use a foot file or pumice to scrub problem areas on your feet.  Try to stay clear of callus shavers or graters, since they can tear your skin and have been known to make calluses grow back faster.

As for your hands, soaking them in water causes your nails to retain moisture, which slows down the drying process when you paint your nails.  If you want smooth hands, try applying a heavy-duty lotion to your hands at night.  Put on some cotton gloves and wake up with wonderfully soft hands.  If your cuticles are a disaster, rub some hair conditioner on them and put the cotton gloves on.  By the next morning, your hands should look beautiful.

Step Two:  Cutting and Filing

I speak from experience here…cutting nails  on an angle can cause painful hangnails or ingrown nails, which are maybe the worst things ever.  Instead, cut your nail straight across the top for length, then use a file to shape and smooth corners.

Step Three:  Cuticle Care

Using a cuticle cutter or shaver is a thing of the past.  These can easily remove the viable protective skin instead of only the dry dead part of your cuticle.  Instead, use a cuticle solvent to help loosen the dead skin that needs to be removed.  Because these solvents are meant to exfoliate, some may even lift stains and whiten yellow or stained nails!

Step Four:  Polishing

We all love that thick awesome hand moisturizer; however, it can make it harder for the polish to stick to your nail.  Don’t rule it out, though.  Moisturizer is essential in helping your nails from peeling and looking ragged.  After applying your moisturizer, use a cotton swab soaked in polish remover to “clean off” your nails before you paint them.  This allows for the moisturizer to stay on your hands while giving you a clean and clear nail bed.

Every girl has a method in polishing her nails.  Here’s what the “pros” recommend:  “Apply thin layers of base coat, polish, and top coat, using this technique:  Hold the brush close to, but not touching, the cuticle in the center of your nail, and swipe to the end; then apply on each side.  Next, lightly run the brush across the tip of the nail so the polish wraps over the edge.  This will help protect it from chips.”

Top your color with two coats of lacquer and let dry for 15-30 minutes.  Just because the top feels dry doesn’t mean you can’t get scratches…so pop in a movie and enjoy taking it easy!

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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