Tag Archives: every day tips and tricks

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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Toilet Paper Roll “Speaker” and Phone Holder

I don’t know about you, but I love jamming out to my favorite tunes when I’m cooking.  Maybe some Sinatra if I’m making pasta…maybe some bluegrass if I’m making some down-home stick-to-your-ribs comfort food…or, if all else fails, I’ll just pop on Pandora and hit shuffle!

But sometimes it’s hard to hear the phone speaker when I have pots and pans moving all over the place…and I always lose my phone under some towel or cookbook, only to find it when it ultimately falls on the floor…

So instead, I’ve found a crafty way to keep track of my phone AND hear my music better when I’m cooking!  The solution, funny enough, lies in your bathroom.

IMG_0377

Yes, I’m talking about toilet paper rolls.  Love em or hate em, these buggers are pretty useful around the house…and this little DIY Phone Speaker is a clever way to use it to your benefit.  All you need is some paper or Washi Tape to dress it up!

Make sure you put your phone or device into the holder speaker side down, which will help pump out the sound so you can jam to Dr. Dre when you’re cooking, cleaning or just chillin’ on the couch.

Toilet Paper Roll Phone Holder

Materials:

  • Toilet Paper Roll
  • Pencil
  • Craft Knife or Scissors
  • Washi Tape or Patterned Paper
  • Glue Sticks
  • 4 Push Pins

Instructions:

Place your phone on top of the toilet paper roll and trace around it to measure how big your hole will need to be.  Use a buddy to hold the toilet paper roll or tape it to your desk to prevent it from moving around.

Using a craft knife or scissors, cut out the hole.

Now it’s time to decorate!  You can use Washi Tape to decorate your phone holder quickly, or use patterned paper to glue onto the toilet paper roll.

Push one push pin into front and back of each round side of toilet paper roll.

Place your phone in the holder and jam out to your favorite tunes!

IMG_0378

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

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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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11 Healthy(ish) Vending Machine Snacks

The 10 am hunger slump…the 3 pm hunger slump…the daily stress that just makes you want chocolate ERR DA TIME…the fact that food is 100% more interesting than anything you’re doing at work…that hopeful thought you have every time you pass the break room…

 party food celebrities reactions jennifer lawrence GIF

Sometimes you just have to feed the craving.

If you work in a corporate job, chances are there’s a vending machine in your break room…probably filled with candy bars and packaged baked goods, these snacks have most likely been sitting in there since before you were hired, just waiting for a despite hungry worker to come buy an old granola bar when no one was looking…just to have a little munchy.

And, if you’re one of the really lucky ones, you might have a vending machine that has a nice assortment of options…filled with chips, granola bars, and a few sweets here and there for those emergency moments.

And for those of us who are trying to be healthier, the vending machine can be a pitfall of despair, offering little to no options to actually help the hunger slump.  However, if an emergency hits, there are better options than others hidden in that vending machine.  So, if you are in dire need of a snack or something to get you through the day, here are 11 Healthy(ish) Vending Machine Snacks that won’t drag you down and make you feel like a slug.

snacks1

11 Healthy(ish) Vending Machine Snacks

Overall nuts, granola, trail mix or anything high in fiber and protein will help tame the hunger beast.  Look out for meal replacement bars that are packed with sugar or fatty snacks masked as healthy options. 

  • Snyder’s of Hanover Mini Pretzels (110 calories)
  • Quaker Chewy Low-Fat Granola Bar, Chocolate Chunk (110 calories)
  • Sun Chips Original (140 calories)
  • Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts (160 calories)
  • Planters Sunflower Kernels (160 calories)
  • Nature Valley Granola Bar, Oats & Honey (180 calories)
  • Fig Newtons (190 calories)
  • Baked! Lays Original (210 calories)
  • Traditional Chex Mix (220 calories)
  • Triscuits (240 calories, but packed with fiber)
  • Peanut M&M’s (250 calories)

…And a Few You Should Avoid

All those muffins, pastries, and candy bars may look tempting, but they’re just gonna drag you down even more.  Plus, most of them carry tons of trans fat, sugar, and empty calories that are just no good!  If you must indulge…because really, sometimes you must, share these with a friend!

  • Austin Cheese Crackers with Cheddar Cheese (210 calories, also high in fat)
  • Doritos (250 calories)
  • Skittles (250 calories, also high in fat)
  • Twix (280 calories, lots of fat and saturated fats)
  • Lay’s Potato Chips (280 calories, packed with BHT)
  • Snickers Bar (280 calories)
  • Pop-Tarts Frosted Strawberry Pastries (420 calories)
  • Drake’s Apple Fruit Pie (440 calories)
  • Entenmann’s Jumbo Iced Honey Bun (660 calories, a serving is half a bun!)

 

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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Seasonal Produce Printables

One of my favorite things about summer is going to local farmers markets.  For those of us who live in the Midwest, it’s often hard to find fresh seasonal produce at our local stores, so whenever the farmer’s markets come to town, we do our best to stock up on fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies.

And one of the best ways to buy your produce is to know what’s in season when you’re out shopping.  Buying produce when it’s in season often means fresher, cheaper, and tastier ingredients…and who doesn’t love that?

To help you learn what is in season when, here are some handy printables so you can see what fruits, veggies, and herbs are in season every month of the year.  Happy shopping!

Looking for clever ways to use your favorite herbs?  Check out this herb printable for some handy ideas!

SUMMER PRODUCE

summer

FALL PRODUCE

fall

WINTER PRODUCE

winter-veggies

SPRING PRODUCE

spring

Download All Produce Printables Here!

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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