Tag Archives: cooking and baking tips

6 Clever Uses for Sauce Packets

It’s inevitable.  You order Chinese take out for one and they give you a lifetime supply of sauce packets.  They sit in your fridge until you finally convince yourself that it’s okay to toss them…but these little guys can be put to good use!

1.  Toss the sauces…together, that is.  Combine 2 packets duck sauce with 1 packet soy sauce and 1 mustard packet.  Use this sauce to marinate chicken or pork…or use it to dip your home made summer rolls.

2.  Sweet and sour sauce is also an amazing addition to grilled pineapple.  Grill whole slices or chunks on a kabob and glaze with sweet and sour sauce.

3.  Season noodles or ramen with hot mustard or a sweet and sour packet.

4.  Know someone heading off to college?  Throw some sauce packets in a food basket with Ramen noodles and other easy dorm foods.  When the going gets tough, the “college kid” will find a way to use them.  😉

5.  These little packets are awesome for trying out new recipes.  If you’re experimenting with hot mustard, soy sauce, or duck sauce, save some money by using these little packets instead of buying a whole jar of sauce.  Granted, the quality of these sauces isn’t awesome–but in a pinch, they will get the job done.

6.  Having a potluck or a picnic soon?  Throw some packets of whatever you have on the table (oriental flavors, taco sauces, etc.).  Cook your meat with salt and pepper so guests can experiment with different flavors.

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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5 Fun (and Practical) Kitchen Gadgets

When my boyfriend and I go to Crate and Barrel, it’s like two kids in a candy store…especially when we’re playing around with kitchen gadgets.

Granted most gadgets on the market are kinda pointless, since they often have one useful job that can be done just as easily with something you probably already have in your kitchen…but here are some gadgets I came across that are not only fun, but practical.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t practical, but come on!  How cute is this?!  This doggie tushies hold towels in the kitchen or bathroom and are just innocent enough to not be gross.  BUY!

These are brilliant.  These 5-blade shears allow you to quickly and easily chop herbs and spices for cooking and garnishing.  And with 5 sets of blades, your chopping is done quicker and looks professional.  BUY!

I love this cutting board!  I often use the same board over and over if I’m cutting lots of fruits and veggies and stuff always gets in the way.  With this prep bowl board, you can chop onions, garlic, and more and easily set it aside so you can move on to the next thing.  BUY!

Nothing like a glass of freezing cold iced tea in the summer…and with these nifty spider webs, you can enjoy your cold beverage without having blocks of ice hit you in the face as you tip the glass.  Keep your drink nice and cold till the very last sip.  BUY!

Here’s another “grate” gadget.  This Grate n’ Store is a measuring bowl with 3 attachable grating lids, plus one solid lid for storage.  Prevent messy cheese grating and ensure proper measurement with this fun little gadget.  BUY!

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 Use a Slotted Spoon to Prepare Herbs

Hand-picking herbs off their stems is a tiresome task.  However, you can save time and patience by grabbing that seemingly useless slotted spoon.

Simply stick the stem through one of the holes and pull through.  The leaves will come off easily and will remain in the spoon.  This works great with thyme and oregano.

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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4 Clever Uses for Salad Spinners

Almost everyone has one of these seemingly useless utensils hidden away in the depths of their kitchen:  the lonely and forgotten salad spinner.  I’m guessing you take it out maybe two or three times a year to dry off some lettuce leaves; however, this strange contraption can be put to use in several other ways…so don’t pitch Grandma Millie’s kitchen toys yet…

1.  Obviously the salad spinner is a pro at drying things…so bring it out to help you dry eggplant (damn that salt sweating process!) and potatoes before frying.  This utensil also works great at drying veggies before you dump them into your stir fry.

2.  Rigatoni and penne pasta tend to store water in their little curves and crevices.  Drop your cooked noodles into a salad spinner and give it a couple twirls to remove that extra water.

3.  Not a veggie muncher?  Use your salad spinner to dry your delicate hand washables.  Silky smooth undergarments can get a jump start on drying with a few twirls around this nifty contraption.

4.  If you’re using a dry rub on your meat, drop the meat in the spinner to help dry it off.  This will insure that your spices stick to the meat and not your hands.  You can also drop floured meat in the spinner before frying to get rid of all that extra flour.

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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5 Common Cooking Clamaties and How to Fix Them

We’ve all been there…grease splatters in the microwave, food explosions on the stove…luckily the solution to these common kitchen problems is as easy as overcooking your rice.



Not to worry.  Bust out a package of powdered drink mix (like Kool-Aid) with 2 quarts water.  Let it sit for 10 minutes and then wipe down the microwave with the rough side of a sponge.  Look for mixes that include citric acid, which is a grease fighting super hero.


Okay, just calm down.  Grab a handful of Cheerios and grind them up in the machine for about 30 seconds.  You could also place a charcoal briquette in the grinder and cover it with a paper bag.  Let it sit overnight so the porous surface of the charcoal can swallow the smell-causing agents.


For a quick clean up, fill the pan with water, bring it to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes, and then drain, coaxing off any stubborn food with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.  You could also coat the pan with vegetable oil and let it work its magic overnight.  Mop up the mess/oil with paper towels or a clean cloth.


Simply fill the pan with hot water and toss in a fabric softening dryer sheet and let it sit overnight.  The softening agents in the sheet will help the rice separate from the pan.


Not to worry.  Sprinkle some mustard powder on a wet board and rub it in with a sponge before washing it as normal.  Mustard is an awesome odor eater.  Yellow mustard can help remove the garlic smell from jars, too.  If you purchase pre-chopped garlic and want to recycle the jar, just place about 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard in the jar and fill with hot water.  Stir/shake for 30-60 seconds and then rinse it clean.

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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8 Common Logos and What They Mean

Everyone nowadays is trying to be organic, green savvy, healthy, energy efficient, earth friendly, super human environment saving heroes…and it can be exhausting!  There are so many organizations and companies out there trying to convince buyers that they’re all about chemical free and earth friendly products.  But how can you be sure?

I came across this list about a month ago and thought it would be great to pass along.  Here you will find a few of the most trustworthy eco-certification stamps that check out as being legit…for the most part…

The US Department of Agriculture

 The US Department of Agriculture:  You’ll find this label on various food and personal care items.  When you see this label, it means the product is free of hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers, and most synthetic pesticides.  According to their rules, if a product bearing this label has multiple ingredients, at least 95 percent of them must be certified organic.  HOWEVER:  Some products still may contain certain synthetic pesticides.  There are loopholes in everything and many farmers can use certain chemicals on their products and still get the USDA seal of approval.

Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance:  You’ll find this symbol on various food and produce.  The Rainforest Alliance is a nonprofit organization that “works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods.”  This label shows that various companies take actions to reduce water pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, and waste.  If the RA finds out certain pesticides were used, the company may be disqualified.

Energy Star

Energy Star:  Energy Star is a branch of the EPA, created to reduce energy consumption.  You’ll find this symbol on appliances, electronics, and many lighting fixtures.  Seeing this on your product means that a third-party agency has tested the product for energy efficiency.

Green Electronics Council

Green Electronics Council:  This nonprofit organization brings “focus to the special issues of electronics and sustainability.”  This logo is found on electronic devices, such as computers and monitors.  Products bearing the EPEAT logo must help in reducing toxic materials and must have a long life cycle.  Products are awarded a gold, silver, or bronze seal based on their efficiency.

Marine Stewardship Council

Marine Stewardship Council:  This organization creates standards for sustainable fishing and traceability, so naturally you’ll find this on seafood packaging.  This label means your food comes from fisheries that don’t contribute to over fishing or environmental degradation.  HOWEVER:  The factors that determine what “sustainable fishing” is have been criticized for being too broad and general.

Forest Stewardship Council

Forest Stewardship Council:  The FSC dedicates their efforts to the responsible care and maintenance of forests.  Various paper and wood products will bear this symbol.  Seeing this means the paper or wood company are acquiring their goods from suppliers that use sustainable forestry practices, such as erosion control and habitat preservation.


WaterSense:  WaterSense is an EPA program that promotes water efficient products, programs, and practices.  Water fixtures will bear this symbol if the fixture helps save on water costs.  HOWEVER:  Ironically, WaterSense partners with KB Home, a housing manufacturer that the EPA fined for violating the Clean Water Act.

Green Seal

Green Seal:  Both products and companies can bear the Green Seal logo.  Paper, paint, restaurants, hotels, and many other goods and services bear this symbol.  What it means depends on the product or service, but Green Seal has been helping organizations learn to be green…whether it be through energy efficient means or using less chemicals in products such as soap and paint.

Courtesy of Sierra Magazine.

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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8 Common Spatulas and How to Use Them

If you’re like me, you have tons of little gadgets in your kitchen…but little to no knowledge about what they’re actually made to do.  Today, we’re going to take a closer look at spatulas…one gadget that has completely taken over my little kitchen.  Not all spatulas will get your job done…so take inventory and use this list to help determine what stays in the kitchen and what can be flipped into the box marked “good will”.

for spreading…


These spatulas look like long knives with a rounded tip at the end.  They are very flexible and are long and rectangular in shape.  These spatulas are awesome for frosting a cake.  They are also handy to help level off ingredients in a measuring cup and removing edges of a cake from a pan.

for serving…


The pie spatula looks like a triangle and is often made of very thin metal, to allow for some flexibility.  They can also be made of plastic, wood, or glass, but these are often less flexible.  Some may have a serrated edge to help cut through pies or cakes.

for scraping…


Rubber or silicone spatulas are awesome to have on hand.  They come in tons of sizes and shapes and are best used to help scrape the sides of mixing bowls.  They are also great for folding ingredients or mixing fragile ingredients together (folding in egg whites, for example).  I also use these to mix sauces on non-stick pans to prevent scratching on the pan.  They’re great for omlettes and stir fry, too.  If you bake a lot, have plenty on hand, including some small ones to mix ingredients in smaller bowls.

for mixing…


Not to be confused with the rubber spatula, the spoonula is a rubber or silicone spatula with a concave head.  This design allows for easy mixing and folding.

for frying…


This weird lookin’ flipper is great for controlling very fragile ingredients.  While it’s designed for delicate fish filets, it can also be used for other breakable foods, like crepes, eggs, and other foods you might fry (since the slotted design allows for easy draining).

for wok cooking…


The wok spatula is specifically designed to be used with a wok.  It’s rounded shovel like appearance helps keep ingredients moving fast around the big bowl and helps “shovel” ingredients out for easy serving.  While it would be hard to use this spatula for much else other than wok cooking, it can be used as a serving tool for veggies, fruit, or other foods being served in bite sized pieces.

for flipping…


These spatulas are often wide and thin.  They can be made of metal, plastic, or wood.  They are designed to slide under round items, so this spatula is also perfect for making pancakes, hamburgers, fried potatoes/eggplant, onions, and so much more.

for stirring…


The great thing about these is that wood is a poor conductor of heat, making this gadget perfect for mixing things at very high temperatures (pasta sauces, for example…or stir fry).  However, keep in mind that wood retains flavor…so keep your wooden sauce utensils far away from your wooden dessert tools.  As you shop look for hardwood spatulas, like beech, cherry, or boxwood.  Stay away from pine (which splinters easily) or lacquered woods.

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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8 Clever Uses for Butter

In preparation for tomorrow’s book review, I thought I’d talk about the many helpful and crazy uses for butter…not that you’re going to have to find many other uses for it if you are a strict follower of the woman discussed tomorrow 🙂

Everything’s Better with Butter!

1.  Like it’s peanut butter cousin, regular butter can help remove glue from your hands and gum from your hair.

2.  Rub you knife down with a little  butter before slicing into sticky items, such as dried fruit or pies.  Butter (and shortening) also works great if you’re making rice crispies or anything with melted marshmallows.  Simply coat your spoon with butter and just dare something to stick to it!  🙂

3.  Hate to say Mary Poppins was wrong, but a little touch of butter does help the medicine go down.  If you’re unable to swallow pills, try rubbing them with a little butter to help them quickly glide down your throat.

4.  Butter is a great treatment for minor skin irritations.  Rub a generous amount of butter on sunburn, dry skin, and minor burns twice a day.  DO NOT pull a Kramer and cover yourself in butter before going out for a tan.  😉

5.  If you’re in a pinch for hair conditioner, use some butter!  It provides amino acids to fine hair and is a great way to get a healthy shine!

6.  SAVE YOUR CHEESES!  Coat the cut edges of hard cheeses with a little bit of butter to prevent them from getting hard and moldy.  You can also rub the cut side of an onion to keep it fresh longer.

7.  Love cooking fish but hate the leftover smell?  Rub some butter on your hands and wash them with warm soap and water and your hands will be odor free (and smooth!).

8.  Use butter to help remove those water stains from your wood furniture.  Rub about 1 TB butter on the mark and let it sit overnight.  Wipe away excess with a soapy sponge.

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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5 Clever Uses for Buttermilk

Don’t you hate how you have to buy one frickin’ liter of buttermilk for a recipe that only calls for 1/4  cup of it?  What do you do with the extra, besides quadrupling whatever recipe you’re making?  😉

Look no further.  Here you will find a whole bunch of ideas to put that extra buttermilk to use.  While it does assist in making the most delicious biscuits, pancakes, and waffles, it can also be incorporated into tons of other recipes to help add flavor and depth.


1.  Like biscuits, pancakes, and waffles, buttermilk can turn your common baked goods (cakes, muffins, scones, and more) into rich and moist delicacies.  It can replace the milk and most of the butter in any given recipe, also helping to cut out some extra fat.

2.  Here’s a way to use up those frozen chicken breasts, too.  Combine 3-4 cups buttermilk with dashes of salt, pepper, and a little hot sauce.  Marinate 2-3 skinless chicken breasts in the buttermilk mixture for at least 1 hour.  When done, place on a baking pan and sprinkle them with seasoned bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, or until done (slice the chicken and if the juices run clear, the meat is done).

3.  Reinvent eggplant or chicken Parmesan by marinating eggplant or chicken in buttermilk instead of regular milk.  Bake them instead of frying them.

4.  You can also drink buttermilk (it’s a bit tangy) and it freezes well…so if you’re not going to reuse your leftovers for a few weeks, pour it in a container and freeze it until you’re ready.

5.  Add buttermilk to mac and cheese for richer and much more comforting treat!

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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9 Clever Uses for Marshmallows

I love marshmallows.  They’re one of my favorite snacks.  I especially love the ones with toasted coconut on them.  HEAVEN!  But the little marshmallow can do so much more than satisfy a sweet tooth…

Clouds of Delicious-ness

1.  Sooth a sore throat with 2-3 marshmallows.  The gelatin in the marshmallow helps take care of that irritation…just be sure to chew the marshmallows first.

2.  Summer is coming and it’s time to get your first pedicure of the season.  Out of cotton balls?  Hate those stupid toe-separating torture devices?  Use marshmallows!  They’re soft and will separate your toes without causing major discomfort.

3.  Use melted marshmallows as an edible glue.  It can help hold decorations on cakes or gingerbread houses.

4.  Throw one or two marshmallows in your sugar canister to help get rid of those pesky sugar clumps.  This works for brown sugar, too.

5.  Decorate them with food-safe markers!  Great rainy day activity for kids.  Look for the extra large marshmallows for more decorating fun!

6.  Summer also means ice cream.  Stop annoying drips by placing a marshmallow at the bottom of the cone before you add the ice cream.  If you’re a Popsicle person, slide a marshmallow on to the bottom of the Popsicle stick to stop drips.

7.  Hate waxy birthday cake?  Stick birthday candles in marshmallows and then put the marshmallows on your cake.  The wax will drip onto the marshmallow, which you can simply toss without ruining your beautiful birthday cake.

8.  Have a photo shoot!  Marshmallows come in tons of varieties, flavors, sizes, colors, shapes, etc.  Assemble them into creatures with toothpicks and edible marshmallow glue and create some very unique photos!  By the way, The Washington Post has an annual PEEP photo competition for those who are photographically minded.  Check out The Peep Show for more info.

9.  They are also just a great snack!  I love mine with pretzels and chocolate chips.

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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