4 Tips for Pineapple Selection

Have you ever been faced with the daunting task of finding the best pineapple in the store? Never fear! About 6 years ago Mark and I went to Hawaii on our 1 year marriage anniversary. One of our trips was to the Dole Pineapple Plantation. We got to see where they grew pineapples, we watched them cut up a pineapple, plus the lady even gave us tips that I’d like to share with you today. Don’t worry, I know it was 6 years ago, but I take notes. Must be that studious part of me… Feel sorry for me or jump for joy that I can still share information with you… your choice!

4 Tips for Pineapple Selection

  1. Smell – you don’t want a pineapple to have a real strong “pineapple” smell.  The more smell you get, the more the fruit is actually fermenting, and getting closer to being bad.
  2. The “circles” on the outside of the Pineapple are called eyes. You want your eyes to be relatively the same in size and shape. This means that the Pineapple is ripe.
  3. Don’t pay attention to color. Color is not a factor in how ripe a Pineapple is. All the color does is show how much sunlight the pineapple received during the growing process.
  4. You don’t need to cut the top off a pineapple. If a Pineapple is ripe, just twist and pull up and the top will come out of a pineapple. Now the really cool thing is you can allow it to dry for a couple days and then place in water. Then you’ll create your pineapple plant. Just keep the temperature range between 70 and 90 degrees year round and you should be able to produce about 3 pineapple’s per pineapple plant.
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Roll-Out Sugar Cookie Tips/Tricks

Hello, happy Foodie Friday. I mentioned last week that my daughter’s birthday was in June and we did a Minnie Mouse theme. I made cake as well as cupcakes and cookies. The cupcakes and cookies were for one birthday party (at the lake, cupcakes make for easy transport and distribution) and the cake was for her other birthday party (with family at home).

I took cake decorating classes, but we never really worked with cookies. I had to do a little research on how to decorate cookies and I want to share some tips and tricks that I learned, plus my favorite recipe for making sugar cookies for decorating. I have a whole other favorite sugar cookie recipe if you aren’t decorating with icing!
·      When it says butter should be at room temperature, make sure it is at room temperature. Baking is a scientific method where cooking is more art. You need to be precise and putting the butter in the microwave to “come to room temperature” doesn’t really work well. It just messes with the consistency of the butter. The standard “room temp” degrees is about 70. You don’t have to put a thermometer against the butter, but keep that in mind for room temperature.
·      Even if your recipe doesn’t call for placing the dough in the refrigerator, do it, trust me. 15-30 minutes max. This allows the butter to harden up a smidge and makes it easier to roll out your sugar cookie dough recipe as well as hold the shape when moving from the cutting board to the cookie sheet.
·      Also, placing a cooler cookie in the oven allows the outside to hold the shape a little longer allowing the middle to melt and bake to help with uniform cookies.
·      Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet. It makes it easier to transfer cookies off the sheet when they come out of the oven, allows a nice golden crust on the cookies while baking, and better yet, makes clean up a cinch.
·      There is a method to the madness in the order to add ingredients. Butter and sugar is always creamed together first before adding wet ingredients. You also add wet ingredients before the dry ingredients. And go ahead, even if it makes another bowl dirty, mix the dry ingredients before adding them to the wet ingredient mixture.
·      Adding the butter to the sugar and mixing has a purpose. It allows air to incorporate into the mixture. It also allows the sugar to start breaking down. So beat it for 3-5 minutes to make sure you have the sugar broken down as well as making sure that there is air added to the mixture for a fluffier cookie. Go ahead and scrape down the mixer bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated and then beat it for another 1-3 minutes just for good measure.
·      Make sure to check the weather. The higher the humidity, the harder it is to get the moisture out of your cookie and your cookie will tend to be a little more on the flat side. Being inside an air conditioned house during the summer helps with that a little, but if you’re having trouble, check the weather outside.
·      Use real butter. It’s the right thing to do. These treats are supposed to be treats in moderation, so it’s okay.
There are many more and I could probably go on for days, but I’ve probably bored you so let’s move to this recipe I found.
I use the Wilton Roll-out cookie dough recipe  and have had great luck with it!

 

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12 Tips to Baking Great Cakes

I wrote this blogpost a month ago for a guest blogpost on a website. They didn’t use it, they didn’t tell me they weren’t going to… so I’m posting it here since I did spend quite a bit of time writing it :). Hopefully you enjoy and maybe find a little useful information to boot!

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My daughter is huge in to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse right now, especially Minnie Mouse. Back in June for her 2nd birthday we decided to have a Minnie Mouse themed birthday party. I took cake decorating classes back in 2008 because I had nothing better to do with my time, so I learned all the techniques on decorating cakes. I might be a little rusty these days, but I still have all that arsenal in my back pocket to come in handy one of these days. Now I’m going to share some tips with you on how to decorate your own cake to look professional.
For my daughter’s birthday I decided we were going to have Minnie Mouse Cupcakes, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cookies, and then on her actual birthday a cake. Yes, she got two parties. Sometimes it happens.
So my tips on making the Cake… from get this… a box mix. Shhh don’t tell anyone!
1.     I’m not picky on box mixes. In fact, I won’t lie but a lot of times I use what I can get cheapest. Now I will still go for name brand cheap, but not always. So buy the box mix of your choice!
2.     Eggs. You should have your eggs room temperature. Yeah yeah, we all hear that and sometimes we don’t all have time for that… am I right? Okay, 2 tips on getting your eggs to room temp quickly… crack the eggs individually into bowls right before you start to allow them to “quickly” rise to room temperature. Second way… while still in the shell, run them under luke warm water for 5 minutes. Or the third way (I know I said 2 but…) do it the right way and set the eggs out for about 30 minutes before hand.
3.     Preheat your oven. My cake mix always says 350˚F. There is a science to making cakes… so make sure to do this and let it fully come to temperature.
4.     Make sure you have good sturdy cake pans. I love the Wilton ones but that’s my choice. It is better to have a good sturdy cake pan though… you know, instead of the throw-away cheap type.
5.     Just before you turn that oven on to preheat, make sure your oven rack is in the middle. Maybe that should be point number 4 because it sucks to try and move that rack after the oven is hot. Trust me, I’ve done it. It’s doable but not fun.
6.     Mix it… Mix it good. Does that make anyone think of that 90’s song. Oh wait, did I just age myself? Anyway… hint, I typically don’t use a mixer to mix my cake mix. I know, I know… But I get out a whisk and I whisk it by hand. Sometimes that’s a pain and your arm gets tired, but it works for me and sometimes I’m lazy and don’t want to have to clean my mixer. The cake mix says to mix for 2 minutes usually… well… I try to do that by hand but may not always make it. Don’t tell… they might send me to cake jail…. Just mix it until it looks like it’s light, fluffy, and all the dry is mixed into the wet. You’re good to go and golden then!
7.     Remember to Grease that pan. If you don’t, you’ll be crying! So back in the early 2000’s (there I go aging myself again) Food Network did a special on cake baking sprays. Baker’s Joy won. That’s what I swear by. But if you don’t want to buy that… my other suggestion is lightly butter your pan and reserve just a bit of your dry cake mix and add that to the butter, instead of flour. Especially with chocolate cake. Then you have that layer but it’s not white flour, especially on chocolate cake. If you choose the flour method, then use cocoa for a chocolate cake mix to avoid having that white layer on a perfectly pretty chocolate cake. But really, just buy the Baker’s Joy.
8.     Bake it. Bake it good. Okay, sorry, I’ll quit that now… So I’ve learned with my oven that it is best to cook at the minimum time. So say it says 30-35 minutes. I bake it at 30 minutes, then test it. Invest in long toothpicks or wooden skewers, they are helpful when you have a thicker cake. Otherwise toothpicks will work. Place the toothpick in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, pull the cake out.
9.     Let it cool. Here’s where I break the rules again. I try to bake my cake the day before. Doesn’t always happen, but that’s my goal. I leave the cake in the pan and let it cool, then I wrap it in aluminum foil. Most people say let it cool for X number of minutes then cool on a rack. I place my pan on a rack and let it cool. That’s only backfired on me twice and that’s when I didn’t have the bakers joy. Like I mentioned before… buy the Baker’s Joy. Then that aluminum foil, I use it to wrap my cardboard cake plate when I’m ready to decorate my cake.
10.  If you don’t have time to let it cool… ok I hear you… let it cool in the pan on the counter for 10 minutes, then place it directly into the refrigerator or freezer. Refrigerator for 30 minutes or freezer for 15. You don’t want it to freeze after all, just cool.
11.  If you don’t have the premade/precut cake board, just grab a box, use your cake pan you baked in, turn it upside down, trace the top and cut. Then cover with aluminum foil and place your cake on the board and you’re ready to run. Heavier cakes… you might want to double up on the cardboard to make it sturdier.
12.  Frost it. Get a good recipe or use store bought if you must and you’re ready to go. I prefer homemade, but that’s another discussion for another day.

 

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10 Fall Cleaning Ideas

Today is the first day of Fall. Does anyone think this year went by in a whirlwind? Wow! I can’t believe it but before we know, it’ll be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Winter which means Christmas. Let’s throw in a couple birthdays in that mix and a couple anniversaries and Bam, the year will come to New Years Eve and an end. We’ll be at 2017. Wow!

And this has been quite the interesting year for my family and me. But let’s not focus on that today. Instead, I’d like to offer up 10 Fall Cleaning Ideas to help make your transition into the Fall Season a little easier!

1. I hear winter is going to be tough this year, so you might want to Tighten/Secure the hatches! Make sure to look for gaps or seals in and around your doors and windows as well as just make sure you don’t have any gaps in your foundation, etc. If you do, use some caulk or weatherstripping to fix or else call a professional to come make sure your house is in tip top shape!

2. Clean that chimney. Your Chimney has sat vacant all summer… or so you think. If you don’t have a cap on the top, a bird could very easily have gotten in there to create a home. Or better yet, you might find that there is a crack in the fireplace or chimney. My parents had that unfortunate incident happen and we had to get it fixed before they were able to use their fireplace. Better to be safe than sorry!

3. For once put your mind to the gutter… as in Clean out the gutters. Make sure to clean all the leaves and gunk out of the gutters. If you’re feeling real ambitious you can put mesh covers over the gutters to prevent having to do this in the future.

4. Check for Damage to your rooftop. Remember, just around the corner Santa will be bringing in his sleigh and reindeer. Make sure he has a safe landing space. Also, you don’t want a minor problem on the roof to become a major problem!

5. Drain, unplug, remove water from ponds, bird baths, bird feeders, etc. And your water hose, especially if your water hose drains back into your house to keep the hydrant from freezing, because you’ll actually break pipes.

6. [In my Joey Gladstone’s best voice] Cut it out. Meaning, take that lawnmower for one last spin before placing it in the garage for the winter. Also take extra care of that lawnmower and winterize it! Hopefully by this point you’ll be done mowing the grass for the year.

7. Clean the furnace. Especially if this is your only source of heat for your house, but even if it is secondary. You want it to be up and running efficiently, especially with below frigid temperatures coming soon!

8. Steam Time. Check the humidifiers. With the drier air, make sure your humidifier is working properly. Your nose will thank you! Make sure to remove any hard water deposits from your humidifier.

9. Rake and destroy leaves. It’s time to start thinking about raking those leaves up. Make sure you let the family play in them and they’re a great opportunity for pictures, so don’t forget the camera!

10. Check batteries. Setting yourself a reminder to check batteries in smoke detectors and CO2 monitors twice a year is a good thing. One time to do it is Spring and Fall. Why not. Hey, if you want, check them 4 times per year. Better to be safe than sorry. Also check the batteries in your vehicles with the upcoming winter and flashlights. Flashlights are necessary if freak ice storms take out your power for a week… been there done that.

So what other tips am I missing?

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