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Tips & Advice

Arrange your Baking Tools Like A Pro

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It is not easy to decorate festive cookies or to create an Instagram-worthy baking cake project from a cluttered, messy kitchen. 

When you always feel like you’re ransacking your pantry for the sprinkles container, or like your whisk is jammed up the kitchen drawer, it is time to better organize your baking tools and have all the appliances, ingredients, and utensils, sorted in the right places.

When you are organizing, a lot may hinge on the layout and size of the kitchen. As each space is separate, a variety of tricks and tips can work on countertops, pantry, drawers, and cabinets so that you may choose and pick what best works for you and your available space. 

Before you start organizing, take note of this tip: never feel limited to the store’s kitchen organization section. Look for home improvement and office organization for various sizes and shapes of items leading to even more creativity (with often surprising) storage ideas.

Countertop Organization

The kitchen countertop area is prime real estate. Save that space for the most beautiful or frequently used items. This is where you want to put that frequently used wooden spoon for stirring your beloved homemade fudge or that perfect rubber spatula that scoops out the very last batter drop from the mixing bowl. 

You might want to leave them very close to the workspace. They are going to be on display, so you may want to store them in an antique crock or heirloom vase.

This adjustable countertop rack can expand to fit different spaces and help you differentiate between frequently-used items and reserves much space for showing off a collection of your favorite cookbooks.

Pantry Organization

The pantry is where you store most of your baking ingredients. Freshness as well as order, matters here. Store sugars and flours in airtight containers to retain freshness and quality, labeled every container clearly with what it contains (you don’t want to guess as you bake). These containers for storage come with a convenient handle and are stackable.

Arranging spices and herbs is always a challenge for me. Some plans look great in a photo but they are not practical for the plethora of ingredients in all sizes and shapes of bottles. A slim vertical rack slipping to the side of the pantry can do wonders.

Instead of sorting spices and herbs alphabetically like a grocery store, I would rather separate the savory baking spices from the sweet ones. When I want to make gingerbread, I love having the nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon conveniently nestled together.

If you are often decorating cookies or cakes, your pantry could be easily overrun with containers of decorative and food coloring sprinkles. These items are small, and a divided office organizer could help you arrange them in a way that you can easily pull out one thing from the lot without disturbing everything else.

Drawer Organization

Your kitchen drawer is the perfect place for often used items that won’t find space in the countertop area. A drawer organizer is essential here, especially one that is expandable to fit in any space.

I was thinking about using each slot for the commonly used items together. Probably the pastry brush could be near the pastry blender. Or the offset spatula is close to the piping tips and bags. 

The workplace’s drawer closets should contain the items you use most such as oven mitt or hot pad. It’s the perfect place for lining aluminum foil boxes, parchment paper, plastic wrap, and hanging the favorite kitchen towels on the handles for fast cleanup.

Cabinet Organization

Kitchen cabinets are excellent for more cumbersome, large kitchen items. This is where you want to store more seldom used appliances. Slide-out drawers will come in handy when bringing them out for baking.

Cabinets are ideal for muffin tins, cake pans, or Bundts. Arrange them from smallest to largest to save space. 

At the bottom, I keep the 10-inch springform pan filled with 9-inch round cake pans, then the 8-inch one, and so forth. If you place a shelf lifter in the cabinet, it could provide additional space.

It becomes easier to see all your bakeware and quickly grab what you need for your project. The area near the shelf lifter is good for vertically lining up cooling racks and cutting boards.

Creative Space

It seems like there is never enough space in your kitchen, no matter how big it is. It takes creativity to make good use of space. Why don’t you borrow a tip from Julia Child by mounting up a pegboard for hanging frequently used items inside a door or on a wall?

Consider the unused kitchen spaces like the refrigerator side. The magnetic refrigerator rack is a small space but a genius solution. It’s not on site but functional and stylish. I would always lose the cake tester until the day I glued a magnet at the back and would keep it on the fridge side where I could grab it fast to check a batch of cupcakes.

My last tip: after placing each baking tool where you want it, wait a week and bake some of your favorite treats. This will help you familiarize yourself with the setup, and make few logical tweaks in the process. You might not know the perfect place for an item until you need it in the middle of baking.   

Tips & Advice

French Grannies let us in on their best Cleaning Secrets

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French cooking and fashion inspires millions across the world. The French have a way of bringing style to everyday activities. I wondered if maybe we learn something from the French about things like sweeping floors and scrubbing sinks.

So I turned to French grandmothers for cleaning trips have worked to give them clean and fresh homes. And I was not disappointed. Here are 10 of the best cleaning tips. As shared by French grandmothers.

Delegate

French grandmothers often have a femme de ménage. They delegate at least some of their cleaning work to a domestic help. Most people cannot afford maids. But you can identify your most unpleasant or tedious tasks and delegate them. Hire someone at least once a year to do some spring cleaning. Work is a lot easier when you get the whole family to chip in with the cleaning. 

Use Black Soap to make a Floor Cleaner

Black soap is a natural cleaning product which is also biodegradable. Made using olive oil, black soap works for everything, and it is no surprise that French grandmothers love it on floors. Black soap is too strong and needs to be diluted first before you can use it for cleaning. You can also use black soap for refreshing leather, cleaning paint brushes, doing laundry, and spraying garden plants to get rid of aphids.

Use Lemon Juice to make an Old White Shirt Brighter

Make your lemon juice solution using juice from three lemons mixed into a liter of cold water. Submerge an old white shirt that may be dull or graying inside the mixture to brighten it. Soak it for a few hours before rinsing the shirt and washing it the usual way. It will come out brighter. 

Clean Windows with Cut Onions

A French food blogger leaned into her Normandy mamie network for this one. When your windows are really dirty and you want them squeaky clean, scrub the outside of your windows with half an onion before you apply your window cleaner or a weak ammonia solution. The onion helps to take out the tough grime when your windows are really dirty. Use this trick after a long winter to give you the best windows.

Use Salt and Aluminum Foil to Polish Metal

To give your silverware and copper dishes a strong clean and shine, mix boiling water, salt and aluminum foil. Stir the mixture inside the water for around ten minutes with the silverware insider. Remove the silverware and rinse it then dry with a cloth. This treatment will turn dull and grey silverware clean and shiny. The results are magical.

Remove Wine Stains with Salt

If your tablecloth is ‘ruined’ with wine stains after a dinner party, do not worry. Simply rub the stain with coarse salt soon after it has been stained. The coarse salt lifts out the color of the wine and keeps it from setting. Wash immediately for best results. 

Use Spinach Water to improve Fading Dark Colored Clothes

If your black jeans are starting to look less black and greyer, the solution could be right in your kitchen. Soak the garment in spinach water to enhance its color before you wash it. The spinach water should not have any seasoning, oil, or butter inside it. If you have no spinach water, try black tea or coffee. 

Use an Old Sweater to Shine Floors

An old woolen sweater and some beeswax is all you need to give your wooden furniture and floors some conditioning and make them smooth and glossy. Woolen sweaters are perfect for the job. The gentle material is also absorbent enough to remove stains from wood. 

Use Vinegar for Kitchen Odors

I had to try this tip on my own mildew infested sink to see if it really worked. I was amazed to find that the smell disappeared after a few days. Keep a small bowl of vinegar at any kitchen spot that is plagued by bad odors. It works. 

Use Coffee Grounds to make Smelly Hands Fresh and Clean

Once you are finished with your chores, you want your hands to look and smell fabulous. You do not want to leave the kitchen smelling of garlic or fish. Grab some used coffee ground and some soap and clean your hands with them. The soap will make your hands clean and the coffee grounds will absorb any nasty smells.

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Ingredients

How to eat more Lobster

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Lobster is huge this spring. We are into everything about lobster. We are looking at recipes, cracking equipment, napkins, and plates. So to indulge our near fanatical love for lobster, we decided to delve deep into everything lobster. 

Here is everything you need to do for a lobster-full season:

The Equipment

There is nothing worse than cracking a lobster with a rock and scattering the shell all over the kitchen. It is disrespectful. You want to have a pick to pry tasty meat from the lobster legs. Curved seafood scissors will help you to remove the meat in one piece because of its curved blades. 

Here is where you can find the best equipment for your lobster dinner. 

The Tableware

Lobsters are not exactly simple dining fare. Lobster meat is a treat. When you are having a lobster dinner, you are allowed to go all out and invest in a lobster platter, special dinner plates, and even these lovely appetizer plates. This is a set of simple yet refined tableware that is just right for lobster.

The Lobster Dinner Preparation and Dining

Once you have your lobster pot, your well-chosen lobster, some melted butter, and lemon, it is time to get to cooking and eating. 

It takes some courage to do this. You have to choose a nice and meaty one. You could give the lobster a few minutes in the freezer before putting it to a boil. But don’t get to 10 minutes because after that the meat will be frozen. Or you could use a sharp knife to stupefy it before cooking. Boiling a lobster is not that hard once you get used to it. 

Learn the proper way to boil it, halve it, carve it, crack it, serve it, and eat it. With some tips and practice, you will be able to properly fold its claws down and remove the whole tail at once. 

The Cooking Instructions

If you are nervous about preparing your first lobster, you don’t have to be. We have a range of fool-proof recipes to choose from. Everything is covered – the rolls, salad, chowder, sliders, paella, and risotto. You can go for the recipe that seems best and which features the ingredients you prefer.Lobster does not have to be boiled. Grilled lobster is oh so yummy. You can start planning your ideal lobster dinner with your favorite wine. 

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Tips & Advice

Rodney Scott the Fire Pit Expert on why Backyard BBQs are about more than just Food

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If you happen to pass by Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston in the mornings, you will be treated to the exciting aroma of a whole hog slow cooking in their in-house smokehouse. The hog starts cooking at sunrise.

Scott’s mark of quality is their penchant for giving each pig at least 12 cooking hours in the smokehouse. They pull off the pork as it cooks ensuring a perpetual supply of freshly cooked barbecue pork to dinner time. 

Their signature barbecue has been so successful that Scott now has a second restaurant and a third on the way. In addition to the Charleston one, he has outlets in Birmingham and an Atlanta outlet coming up. 

Scott has already appeared on the Parts Unknown show by Anthony Bourdain as well as Chef’s table. He has also won the 2018 James Beard Award for being the Best Chef Southeast. 

Now Rodney Scott is taking up a new challenge. He is creating a cookbook to share what he knows about barbecuing: Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Recipes & Perspectives from the Legendary Pitmaster. 

Scott has been cooking whole hogs since he was only 11 years old. His family had a smokehouse at their Hemmingway, South Carolina hometown. So, he is perfectly comfortable cooking pigs. 

Creating a cookbook has been a whole new experience for the barbecue expert. “It’s a whole new learning curve,” said Scott. He must translate his restaurant recipes to suit family-sized meals. His average reader probably will not be looking to make an 18-gallon batch of Rodney’s pepper-flecked vinegar-based Rod sauce. The barbecue whisperer will have to put together simple directions and recipes that are easier for people to replicate at home. 

The cookbook contains many of Scott’s most famous recipes – all adapted for home cooking. He has adapted his recipe for roasting the whole hog by modifying it to fit backyards and substituting his smokehouse for some chicken wire, a steel drum, and cinder blocks. Perhaps the only thing you won’t recreate from the recipe is the warm atmosphere at Rodney Scott’s barbecue. 

“Hospitality is the first flavor that goes into your meal or your event, so of course you want to make it good,” Scott opines. “I believe you have to give people an experience as well as a tasteful dish.” 

A classmate of Scott from Hemmingway in South Carolina once told him that it was his personality that made his food great. Scott brings warmth and a confident attitude that has made his restaurants popular in a region that has plenty of barbecue restaurants. 

Rodney Scott shares some excellent tips for anyone who wants to throw a successful home barbecue party:

Invite a whole Bunch of People

When you roast a whole hog, you can be sure that the aroma will reach your neighbors’ noses. The best thing about a whole hog is that it is big enough to feed a mob. Deliver an invite to all your neighbors. It is better to have people at your barbecue than in their houses, hot and bothered by the sounds and smells emanating from your home. That way you are part of their day and not a disruption. 

Create an Ambiance

One of the things that make Rodney Scott’s barbecue so special is the unique ambiance that makes guests feel like they are in a whole different place. Scott does that with a disco ball. “I saw a disco ball for the first time at a nightclub in 1985 and I was just mesmerized,” says Scott. “Now I put one in all my restaurants. It’s a little thing, but it creates a moment, it indicates that you are stepping into a different place for a little bit.” 

You may decide to introduce color with a floral arrangement, an impressive appetizer, or a unique centerpiece. Choose something that creates a different energy. 

Be the Life of the Party

Rodney Scott has learned many lessons about being a good host while running a barbecue restaurant. One of the most important lessons he has learned is that people came to see the host just as much as they came to eat the food. 

For this reason, he no longer spends hours scooping hot coals to keep his slow-roasting pork going. You are more likely to find him out front. He greets guests and welcomes diners. 

When you are hosting a barbecue, you want to avoid toiling behind the scenes leaving your guests neglected. Set everything out in advance. Once people start showing up, you should be available to greet them and direct them to the bathroom.

Talk about your Food

People love to talk about food. Don’t be shy about going into detail about what you made, why you chose the dishes you chose, how you prepared the food, and how the cooking went. 

This would be a good opportunity to whip out your cookbook or tell your story. If you tried a recipe for the first time, share your experience and as for their opinion. 

This will not only spark conversations but also help expose people to different techniques of cooking. 

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