Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lumberjack Cake

I saw this recipe in a magazine a couple of years ago and I ripped it out and have magically held onto it all this time. (If you know how many places I've lived, you know that this is a miracle.)

I have tried to figure out why they call it Lumberjack Cake. No one in the world seems to know. No one. So I'm just going to assume that its called Lumberjack Cake because lumberjacks really like delicious foods and this cake is a heavenly piece of gooey perfection. Richard is, apparently, not a lumberjack. He thought this cake was a little too gooey. But I think if you love German Chocolate cake, then you'll love this. Coconutty, gooey tastiness.

A disclaimer: I was not trying to be all Betty Crocker by grating fresh coconut. I would have gone straight for the bagged, shredded coconut but the store was out. However, a very helpful clerk told me "Why don't you grate it yourself? We got fresh coconut." As if that's just something you do every day. 

1 cup chopped, pitted dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I substituted coffee liquer and it was great!)
1 apple, peeled, cored, diced
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch springform pan; line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan bring dates and 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in baking soda; set aside and allow to cool.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt.

In a large bowl or standing mixer, beat butter, sugar, egg and vanilla on medium speed . Slowly beat in date mixture until combined. Add flour mixture gradually until just combined.

Gently fold in apple and coconut.

Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack. Gently remove sides of pan and then parchment paper.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What have we been up to?

I don't like summer. Sure, the beach is nice and sunshine is lovely. But summer is really one of those things you only love when you're deep in the bowels of winter. After months of freezing snow and long, dark nights you find yourself saying "I can't wait for summer." That perfect Spring weather arrives and you are freed from the shackles of your wintery prison.

And before you know it Summer is all up in your face and every attempt to look remotely put together is ruined the minute you step out into the hell fire of the Summer sun. So please forgive my recent absence as I have been recovering from this, the most unforgiving of seasons.

However, in the absence of posting, the hubby and I have been trying out all manner of new and interesting ideas.

First, we thought it would be the best hing ever if we made our own pickles. We were right. Richard loves half sour pickles and I've recently grown to love them myself. So I thought I'd try to make some using Persian cucumbers instead of Kirbys. Having never made pickles before, I consulted the all-knowing wisdom of the internet and discovered this recipe on After just 4 days, we had some seriously awesome pickles. We ate 2 jars in 2 days. I'm not ashamed. You should definitely try this recipe.

In August we attended the wedding of two people we love very much. It was a beautiful ceremony with the most amazing sunset view of Manhattan I have every experienced. But before any of the festivities began, the wise bride got us all boozed up and properly fed with some delicious hors d'oeuvres. One that really stuck out was a blini with cream cheese and caviar. Like most people, I keep cases of caviar sitting around my apartment. But my order must have been delayed or something because there was no abundance of caviar when I needed it. So we made these little beauties instead:

I used my usual pancake batter recipe and poured it out in bite size portions on the griddle. Then I piped cream cheese on top, wrapped smoked salmon around the cream cheese and topped it with capers and green onion. This was beyond easy and insanely delicious. If you are having a party, then you better serve these or I am NOT coming.

Stay tuned for our next post - Lumberjack Cake! Oh yeah!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Meal Makeover: Jambalaya

Frozen meals are great when you're in a pinch and need something fast and delicious. But one or two additional steps can take that one bag meal from this:

Bumblebee has these new frozen seafood meals and we got to try one for FREE! The meal itself looked good enough, but I couldn't help trying to kick it up a notch. So I decided to use their Spicy Shrimp Romesco to make jambalaya. The result? A festival of awesome.

2 cups diced peppers
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sausages, sliced
1 tbsp vegetable oil*
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 package Bumblebee Spicy Shrimp Romesco 
1 can small red beans, 14 ounces, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked rice
Hot sauce

Heat a large pan over high heat. Add peppers and onions. Caramelize until golden.

Add oil, garlic and sausages and cook until garlic is golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken broth to deglaze the pan.

Add paprika, onion powder, pepper, worchestershire sauce, beans and Spicy Shrimp package contents. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in rice. Salt and hot sauce to taste. It's time to eat!

*Don't use olive oil or any other oil with a low smoking point.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cherry Hand Pies

Sitting around on a Saturday morning, Richard and I are trying to decide what dessert I should make for the weekend. I am having a serious sweet tooth attack and everything from cookies to cakes to cupcakes sounds good. So we head to the store to just pick up a few baking staples that we need: chocolate chips, cherries, nuts. Having these things in the house means we'll have what we need to whip up a tasty treat once we decide what that is.

I wanted to make something familiar but that would give me a new challenge and BOOM! It hit me. Hand pies!

Although Americans didn't invent pies, we certainly are the country that has most embraced the concept. Hand pies used to be the go-to food for many American field laborers and travelers. But homemade pies became rarer after WWII and convenience foods took over. A recent resurgence in pie popularity has brought some lovely innovations to the most beloved favorites. But today's pie recipe is simple, classic and freaking delicious! I did have about a cup of filling left over, but we're going to use that as a tasty ice cream topping. Genius.

3 cups jarred pitted sour cherries, reserve 1 tbsp cherry juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tbsp cornstarch

2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp butter, unsalted, cubed
5 tbsp ice water

1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
granulated or turbinado sugar

In a stand mixer, combine flour and salt. Add butter and mix on high until crumbly (about the size of small peas). Using a spatula add one tablespoon of ice water and toss into mixture. Continue until a soft dough is formed. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap and flatten into 2 inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

In a large saucepan, heat cherries, sugar, cinnamon and salt over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to gentle boil and lightly mash cherries with a wooden spoon. In a small bowl, combine reserved cherry juice, 1 tbsp of cooked cherry juice and cornstarch. Stir to dissolve then stir cornstarch mixture into cherries. Simmer gently for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. Allow to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and water.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut chilled dough into 6 equal parts. Roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface. Cut each piece into and 5.5-6 inch circle. I used a small saucer and cut around it with a butter knife. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of cherry mixture into the center of the circle. Using a pastry brush, brush the edge of one side of the circle with egg wash. Fold the other side over and crimp with a fork. Repeat for each circle. Arrange pies on cookie sheet and brush with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with sugar.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes then 350 for 5 more minutes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Your Midweek Dinner Menu

I'm on a big peanut butter kick right now. I have always loved peanut butter, but this week I'm really feeling the PB love. So I've put together a meal menu using peanut butter in every course. You might think this could be peanut butter overload. But it's not! It's the perfect showcase of how versatile this pantry staple can be.

Salad Course is the genius behind this delicious peanut salad dressing. If you are a big fan of Thai food, you're going to love this! Pair it with crisp romaine, grated carrot, sliced cucumber and chopped nuts.

Main Course

Over at Kitchen Confidante, Liren is busy putting together recipes that are definitely drool-worthy. This Indonesian Pork Tenderloin is just one of them. Serve it with some grilled veggies and rice for a perfect meal.

Dessert Course

Fresh & Simple Kitchen is killing me with these super simple and fantastic peanut butter coconut truffles. They only have three ingredients and almost no prep time. Just don't eat them all before dinner starts!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Those of you that follow me on Facebook know that these little beauties started on a whim at 9pm on a Friday. They would probably be amazing with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or a smear of raspberry preserves but since I didn't plan ahead I worked with what I had. 

These bake at a high heat so I would not recommend substituting the peanut oil with something like butter or vegetable oil. They may breakdown under the high temperature and cause your muffins to brown too quickly.

We grind our own peanut butter because I think it tastes better. If you use store-made peanut butter, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar since store-made peanut butters contain a good amount of added sugar. 

½ cup Peanut Oil
2 Large Eggs
½ cup Granulated Sugar
2 Ripe Bananas, mashed
1/4 cup Smooth Peanut Butter
1 2/3 cup Unbleached Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a muffin tin with liners or lightly grease with oil or butter and set aside.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

3) In a large bowl beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, peanut butter and mashed bananas.

5) Add the dry ingredients and mix them in to combine well but making sure to not over mix.

6) Fill your muffin tins 3/4 of the way and bake them for 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.And it's time to eat!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lobster rolls!!!

When I was a kid I always thought that if you were able to eat lobster then you were rich. I really thought that. And after a night of singing fervently into a hairbrush in my room, I would imagine I was being interviewed by some fabulous magazine. They would always ask me about my wonderful life as a superstar and of course I would tell them that "I'm just a normal girl like you. Except I eat lobster every night and drink fancy, bubbly drinks."

Well, dreams do come true! I eat lobster more often than I should, but I really don't care. You can judge me all you want as I sit happily with a belly full of lobster meat and butter running down my chin.

Preparing lobster:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put live lobster in the water head first. Boil for 10-15 minutes depending on size. While lobster is cooking, prepare a large bowl of ice water.

Submerge cooked lobster in ice bath immediately after removing from the boiling water. Allow to cool in bath for 5 - 10 minutes. Crack shell and remove all meat from tail and claws. Be sure to rinse any green gunk (bile) from the tail. Pull lobster meat into bite sized pieces.

We mixed together some mayo, lime juice, old bay seasoning and tabasco and then tossed it with the lobster meat and scallions. You could also skip the mayo and use butter or olive oil.

Preparing the rolls:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap rolls in foil and place on top rack of the oven for about 0 minutes. Carefully remove from foil and brush insides with melted butter.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

8 Kitchen Gadgets I Can't Believe I Don't Have

Why don't I have these things in my kitchen right now? Seriously, Green Army Man toothpicks? My parties just got so much more amazing.

1. Monkey Peeler - Buy it here.
2. Food Fighters Toothpicks - Buy them here.
3. Frog Head Oven Mitt - Buy it here.
4. Ninjabread Cookie Cutters(Disclaimer - I DO have these and they are awesome!) Buy them here.
5. Bomb Kitchen Timer - Buy it here.
6. Chimpsticks - Buy them here.
7. Dynamite Candles - Buy them here.
8. Constructive Eating Utensils - Buy them here.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Googa Mooga and Homemade Hummus

This weekend we ventured out to the Great Googa Mooga in Brooklyn. If you aren't familiar, it is a food and music festival that allows eateries around the city to showcase their finest eats while guests sway along to the tunes of up-and-coming bands. While there are some booths that cater specifically to foodies (Foie gras donut? Come on.), there was great representation of simple food done very well.

We started on the foodie end of the spectrum - Rabbit and Snail Paella from Toro. Set to open its doors in the Meatpacking District this fall, Toro is hoping to make a name for itself with standout dishes like this. Luckily, they have plenty of time to perfect this dish between now and then. The snails had a muddy taste that did not play nicely with the gamey rabbit.

Some NYC institutions like Big Gay Ice Cream and Blue Marble were representing but I ultimately went with a delicious ice cream cookie sandwich from Melt Bakery. Simple, well-made vanilla ice cream artfully sandwiched between two of the most lovely chocolate chip walnut cookies I've seen in a while.

Then we decided to go traditional and pick up chicken fingers at Dirty Bird. These folks are doing it right. Juicy, flavorful chicken with a light and savory crust. The honey mustard sauce was the perfect blend of sweet and punchy.

As we strolled along and sipped our overpriced Blue Moon, the unmistakable smell of lobster wafted our direction. Red Hook Lobster Pound and The Lobster Place were somewhere in the area, but I went straight to my favorite - Luke's Lobster. These people do a lobster roll right. There's no photo because I did not even care about getting a picture. I just wanted to devour that sweet, buttery piece of heaven.  Why even bother with the others? That would be like cheating on your perfect girlfriend with her evil twin. I'll never stray, Luke's Lobster. You're the only roll for me.

We had a good time eating our way through the grounds - or passing up things that were simply laughable. (Again, foie gras donut? Why?) But honestly, you could get an even better experience by creating your own food safari in the city. Prices at the festival were twice the in-house prices for these restaurants and you'll probably enjoy exploring the city. So make a list of the restaurants you've really been wanting to try and make a plan. Go out and share one thing at each place and enjoy good food and conversation with your best friend.

After leaving Googa Mooga, we decided we'd go exploring. We came upon a great specialty food shop called Sahadi's. They sold zataar bread, a wide variety of spices and some well-priced dried fruits and nuts. We snatched up a little bit of everything and were inspired to whip up some hummus today.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans (14 ounces), drained
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 medium roasted red pepper
1 large clove garlic
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend well. You can add more olive oil if you like a creamier texture. Garnish with some cilantro and a squeeze of lemon and it's time to eat!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tarragon Sweet Potato Chips

I've recently discovered that tarragon is an entirely underutilized herb. After having french fries with a tarragon seasoning, I knew I had to start using this more often.

This herb has a soft texture and a flavor that is like a mix between fennel and anise. In other words- it is heavenly. So pick some up and start experimenting! Chicken stock or roasted chicken with tarragon. Mashed potatoes with tarragon sauce. The possibilities are endless!

Tarragon Sweet Potato Chips

1 tbsp butter, unsalted
1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
1 medium sweet potato, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Very lightly grease baking sheet with olive oil.

Place sweet potato slices on baking sheet in one layer. Melt butter in a small pan and remove from heat. Stir in tarragon and brush butter mixture lightly on top of potato slices.

Cover with aluminum foil. Leave a small part open to release steam. Place on middle rack in oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove foil, turn off oven and place baking sheet on highest rack in oven for 10 minutes. That's it! It's time to eat!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

3 Mother's Day Meal Ideas

Moms are special creatures. I work with children, so I see snippets of a mother's everyday life and I am awed by their superpowers. I'm sure you were the most perfect, well-behaved child in the world, but your mom probably deserves a nice meal anyway.

Here are three meal ideas to help you make up for your torturous youth:

For the Veggie Mama
These Grilled Cabbages from Breanna's Recipe Box may not stay around as long as a bouquet of flowers, but they look just as pretty.

For the Hot Mama
Steamy Kitchen's Coconut Curry Shrimp recipe is so easy, you literally have no excuse not to make this.

For the Foodie Mama
These Breakfast Stuffed Poblanos from A Spicy Perspective are chock full of delicious layers of flavor.

Feeling inspired? Go on! Get in the kitchen an make your mama feel loved. (And don't forget to do the dishes afterward.) It's time to eat!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

10 Essential Ingredients

There's nothing worse than trying to scrape together a meal with what you've got hanging around and realizing you are missing a few little things that could take your meal from edible to epic.

But if you make sure you always keep these items stocked, you will never again try to justify a bowl of cereal as a dinner option.

In no particular order:


Liquid smoke - This little bottle is full of big flavor. A little bit of this magical elixir transforms ground turkey, tofu, or portabella mushrooms into an amazing beef substitute. Or try a few drops in mac and cheese, potato salad or guacamole.


Onions -  In our house yellow, white and red onions are essential staples. White onions are very strong and are best used in fresh salsas or roasts. Yellow onions are sweeter and are perfect for sautéing. Red onions have a lightly sweet and pungent flavor that is best utilized uncooked.


Garlic - I think this is self explanatory. It's garlic. It's delicious. Use it.


Oils - Sesame, Olive, Chili, Sunflower - Having many different oils available can change the whole flavor profile of your dish. Want it spicy? Use chili oil. Want to stir fry at a high heat without scorching your food? Use sesame oil.


Lemons/Limes - A squeeze of citrus can brighten up any meal and balances out strong flavors. Got a slightly-too-salty sauce? A squirt of lemon will fix it. Got a too-spicy stew? A shot of lime will mellow it out.


Rice or Pasta - If your meal needs a little more substance, this is a great way to bulk it up. Add it to soups or toss with veggies and you've got an instant meal!


Beans/Legumes - These protein-packed little nuggets of tasty are my go-to for quick, high protein meals. Throw some chickpeas in your salad and suddenly it's a filling meal. Toss some red beans with broccoli rabe and sausage and you won't regret it.


Fresh herbs - If you're using the dried versions of any green herb, you might as well be sprinkling your food with sawdust. Green herbs get their flavor from chlorophyll and once that is gone, so is the flavor. They cost a little more but this is NOT the area you want to be cheap.


Dijon mustard - This little condiment is a lifesaver. Mix it with a little butter and lemon and you've got a killer dressing for veggies. Whisk with olive oil and herbs and BAM - your salads and pasta have never tasted better. Brush it over chicken, add it to potato and macaroni salads or use it in marinades for poultry and pork.


Chicken stock (not broth) - Chicken stock (not broth) is the base for the most flavorful gravies, soups, sauces and brines. If you don't have this in your kitchen all the time, you're doing it wrong.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spicy Thai Tuna

I don't cook fish. It's not that I dislike fish - I love fish. It's the fear of walking that very thin line between undercooked and overcooked. But recently, I have been testing the waters. And there's no better way to conquer a food I'm afraid of than with the support of my beloved cast iron griddle. I sliced the tuna into 1/4" slices and cooked it for about 2 minutes on each side on a very hot griddle. It came out perfect!

Soon my brain was flipping through my mental rolodex of flavor pairings and preparations. So what pairs well with tuna? The bright flavors of lime and chilies. The sweet crunch of carrots and green onion. And the distinctive flavor of black vinegar. And sesame! Don't forget that! Oh, what about ginger? And that was how this laundry list of ingredients turned into an actually delicious meal.

1/3 cup fresh cilantro
2 medium ahi tuna steaks, sliced in 1/4" slices
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots
5-7 green onions, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 tsp fresh lime zest
juice of half a lime
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tbsp. black vinegar
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
rice noodles or angel hair pasta, cooked al dente
1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp hot chili oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce

Toss sliced tuna with 1 tbsp. sesame oil and soy sauce.

Heat cast iron skillet, griddle or sauté pan over high heat. Sear tuna, about 2 minutes on each side.

In large sauté pan, heat remaining oil, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, lime juice and lime zest over medium heat. Add stock and black vinegar and simmer about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add noodles, carrot, green onion, cilantro and tuna. Toss to coat and serve hot.

It's time to eat!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Veggie "Pasta"

As the weather gets warmer, I crave meals that are lighter. But sometimes a salad just isn't going to do it. Sometimes I want a meal that is filling and savory without putting me in a food coma.

One of my favorite ways to lighten up the menu and still feel like I'm eating comfort food is to substitute shaved veggies for pasta. Right now you're thinking "Yeah, because veggies are really what I want when I'm craving pasta." But really, it works!

Peel asparagus and carrots and then shave them into 'noodles' with a veggie peeler. Sautee them with some garlic and olive oil. Toss in some Italian chicken sausage and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and you'll have a new household favorite. I guarantee it! It's so easy that I'm not even going to list a recipe. It's time to eat!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Banana Pecan Soycakes

I like dairy. I like it a lot. Butter, milk, cheese. Bring it on! But some of my dearest friends have sensitivities to dairy and I've had many requests for a dairy-free breakfast option. Well my friends, this is it!

These fluffy delights are full of chopped pecans and caramelized banana slices.

1 cup All Purpose Flour
2 tbsp. Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Soy Milk
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Large Egg
1/2 cup Chopped Pecans
1 Large Banana, sliced thin
Additional sugar
Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat.
In a small bowl combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl whisk together egg, milk and oil.
Add flour mixture and mix until just moistened. (There should be a few lumps.) Stir in pecans and let the batter rest 5 minutes.
Sprinkle banana slices with additional sugar and place 4-5 slices close together on the griddle for each pancake. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter over each group of bananas on griddle. Cook for about 3 minutes or until sides of the pancake look cooked and the tops are bubbly. Place 4-5 slices on top of each pancake before flipping. Cook for about 2 more minutes.
Makes 6 pancakes. It's time to eat!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chicken with White Wine Sauce

Every single time I make this my husband says "Is there going to be a crust of bread to soak up the sauce?" And the answer is always yes. This sauce is so good that I've considered using the recipe as a springboard for a soup. You're going to read this recipe and think "This sounds so easy" - and it is! This is one of my go to quick dinners when I've had a long day. I like to make it with broccoli, kale or broccoli rabe tossed with butter, lemon and mustard.

And don't forget - reposting this recipe on your Facebook or blog will automatically enter you in our Food Network Cookbook contest! So keep sharing!

4 Chicken Breasts, butterflied
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
3/4 cup Chicken Broth (Use the good stuff here. Seriously.)
1/2 cup White Wine (Again, if you wouldn't drink it - don't cook with it.)
1 tsp. Fresh Thyme
2 tbsp. Butter
1 tbsp. Capers
3 tbsp. Minced Shallots
2 Cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
Fresh Rosemary (garnish)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté garlic and shallots until shallots are almost transparent. Salt and pepper chicken on both sides and sauté until golden brown on both sides. You're going to need high heat for this part so turn it up and don't be afraid. You want a crisp browning (also known as the Maillard Reaction). Remove chicken from the pan and add broth and wine. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Whisk in butter and add thyme. Pour over chicken and top with capers and fresh rosemary.

It's time to eat!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Enter to win Food Network's How To Boil Water Cookbook

Simply repost one of our recipes on your Facebook page or blog before April 1st and you'll be entered to win a copy of Food Network's How To Boil Water Cookbook.

• Shows beginning cooks how to do just what the title implies—and a lot more—without a hint of intimidations.• Features classic comfort foods such as no-flip fried eggs and soul-soothing grilled cheese for one and bolder, ethnic recipes like Tacos Picadillo and Southeast Asian Beef Salad.
• Exquisite photography and Food Network recipes, both inspire and build the confidence needed to make every dish a success.
• Hundreds of must-know hints, tips and short-cuts for those new to the kitchen.

So start re-posting! :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

10 Tips for a Happy Kitchen

The kitchen can be a scary/frustrating/annoying/confusing place. And there are some tasks that make the kitchen even more daunting. Here are some tips that just might help make your kitchen experience more palatable. :)

1. Got a piece of eggshell in that egg you just cracked open? Don't go fishing for it with dry fingers. The oils in your skin push the proteins in the egg and force the shell away from your finger. Try wetting your finger and then picking out the shell. The water allows the proteins to move apart, allowing you to get to the shell right away.

2. Need to thaw meat fast? Try putting it in an unheated aluminum or stainless steel pan. The metal will work as a conductor, lowering the temperature. Flip the meat after about 30 minutes to let the other side get some surface contact.

3.  Commercially made peanut butters contain additional oils and preservatives. Save up to 100 calories by making your own. Put nuts in a food processor and process until smooth. That's it!

4. You may not know it, but most cookbook measurements are based on spooning, not scooping the flour. When you scoop the flour gets packed into parts of the measuring cup and you'll end up with more flour than you need.

5. You know why chefs look like they've got it together in the kitchen? They prep. It's called mise en place, which translates to "everything in place". You'll save time and feel more confident as you move through your recipe.

6. Salt does more than just make things taste salty. Salting at the right time will enhance the flavor of every dish. For tips on salting, click here.

7. Asparagus can have a tough skin. Peel it off just below the tips before cooking and your asparagus will be nice and tender.

8. Reserve some of the water used to cook your pasta. The starch in the water will thicken your sauce and add a creaminess to the texture.

9. Sanitize your wood cutting boards by covering them in salt and scrubbing with a lemon. As an added bonus, the salt enhances the smell of lemon. Your kitchen will smell amazing!

10. Use unflavored, waxed dental floss to gently slice delicate pastry doughs. Your rolls will keep their shape and you'll keep your sanity.

Got a tip you want to share? How do you make cooking easier?