Archives for Resources

Post-Christmas sale items that can be helpful for future gift giving

I enjoy giving two types of gifts and often I can find at least some of the items necessary to give these types of gifts on discount during post-Christmas sales. The first is the personal gift, which is often representational of the shared history between the recipient and myself. These are the gifts I’ll eventually give to my closest friends and relatives, so I hunt for these items all year long, irrespective of the sale season.

The second type of gift, which I give far more often, are homemade food goodies. These treats are individually wrapped up in bags or boxes then decorated with little touches of festive color to create visual interest. Over the years I’ve made cookies, fudge, chocolate covered pretzels, peppermint bark, and spiced nuts in both salty and sweet varieties. Some of these are shipped to family members in other states, which is why most of my creations are slow-to-perish.

Sending these types of gifts is also cost effective and versatile. I primarily buy my containers cheaply after Christmas and in large quantities — I’ll browse places like The Container Store for any specialty jars I might need in the coming year. Finding recipients for these gifts never seems to be a problem for me. Who would turn down tasty treats in pretty wrapping? This makes them incredibly handy for spreading extra cheer when I unexpectedly want to give a gift.

When the times comes to use the jars or bags or whatever supplies I found on discount after Christmas, I’ll use them throughout they year on one of these treats:

  • I’m a fan of the highly addictive Spiced Nuts. Recipes like these are great for adaptation as well, so feel free to make your own substitutions. (And, obviously, don’t give them to anyone who is allergic to nuts.)
  • You can also use Martha Stewart’s Spiced Nuts recipe as a base for other flavors. You can mix up the spices to suit your taste, producing nearly infinite variations. You could also grab the biggest mixing bowl you own and whip up a double batch of just the nuts, salt, sugar, and egg whites to create a base-mixture for further seasoning after individually dividing it into additional bowls. This year I have been using almonds with smoked paprika, cumin, and allspice.
  • Gingerbread Cookies, Brigadeiros, Golden Rugalach — I like to keep my cookies as small as possible since larger cookies are harder to package. Bigger cookies also break easier than small ones when shipped.
  • Vanilla Sugar — This sugar recipe is so simple you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it yet. In my opinion vanilla sugar is best used as a wonderfully easy way to add sweetness and depth to a morning cup of black tea.
  • Holiday Pretzel Treats — For the younger gift recipients, these little pretzel treats get devoured thanks to lots of gorgeous color from the M&M candy centers.

I prefer to keep everything handmade when it comes to my non-edible gifts as well. This great list from getrichslowly.org is bursting with inspirational gift ideas to help come up with the perfect personalized present. The craft section on marthastewart.com has a wealth of great ideas too.

What kind of gift giver are you? Is your kitchen a bustling factory of edible treats? I’d love to hear what gift package experiences you’ve had and where you find deals to stock up on gift-giving supplies.

Favorite food feeds on Twitter?

I’m a fan of Twitter because I get a lot of my food news through it. I subscribe to the feeds of numerous local chefs, bartenders, restaurant reviewers, grocery stores, food scientists, nutritionists, cookbook authors, and even a few celebrity chefs and food writers.

I especially love the feeds from my local grocery stores. For instance, I knew last Friday that my local Whole Foods was having a “Buck-a-Burger” sale on their gourmet hamburger patties, which saved me a good chunk of money for the cookout we had with my family on Saturday. (Do a search to find your specific local grocers.) As long as you’re not following (too many) navel gazers, I’ve found Twitter to be an extremely useful tool for collecting insights into the food world.

Here are some of the Twitter feeds I follow and find interesting for various reasons:

Individuals (chefs, cooks, food scientists)

Companies

Food science, nutrition, and other food-related feeds

If you’re on Twitter, what are your favorite feeds? Are you following ours @SimpliFried? Share your suggestions in the comments.

Learning basic baking ratios

I recently made a batch of scones from a recipe a friend gave to me, and something was wrong with the scones. They were fluffy — they rose like a cake — and very, very bitter.

I reread the recipe and instantly knew what was wrong with it. There was a mistake, and the recipe asked for far too much baking powder. I hadn’t been paying close attention when I was adding ingredients to the mixing bowl, and I blindly followed the recipe without questioning it. When used correctly, baking powder is a great leavening agent and lifts cakes and other baked goods to beautiful heights. When used in overabundance, it makes baked goods bitter and metallic.

The recipe from my friend called for 2 tablespoons of baking powder for 1-1/2 cups flour.

Usually the ratio is just 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking powder for 1 cup of flour. (If you weigh your ingredients, it’s about 5 to 10 grams of baking powder for 140 grams of flour.)

Mistakes like writing tablespoons instead of teaspoons are very common. Knowing what to expect in a recipe can help you to identify these typos before adding ingredients so you don’t waste your time and money.

I’ve found Irma Rombauer and her family’s Joy of Cooking to be good for teaching these basics, especially the “Know Your Ingredients” section. Knowing these baking principles also are wonderful for creating your own recipes and creations.

What resources have you turned to for helping you learn these baking basics? Share your resources in the comments.

The SimpliFried Manifesto

If you’re anything like us, you enjoy all of the conveniences of eating out at restaurants — no shopping, a variety of dining options, and not having to wash a single dish after you’re finished. Eating out is one of our favorite things to do, but it is expensive, and the quality of service, ingredients, and atmosphere vary dramatically from restaurant-to-restaurant and from night-to-night at the same establishment. Simply picking where to eat can be just as frustrating as figuring out what to make at home.

We’re busy, and after long hours at work, feeding ourselves and our families can feel like a burden. But we don’t want it to be a burden. We want the stress surrounding mealtimes to go away. We want eating at home to be as convenient as eating in a restaurant. We want to sit down, enjoy a delicious dinner, and know exactly what we’re eating and whether we’re providing our bodies with proper nutrition. We also want to enjoy the company of our friends, families, and even our own thoughts in the comfort of our homes.

We want to eat something for lunch other than reheated leftovers. We want to be able to chop onions without bleeding. We want to save our money to buy the best quality kitchen gadgets, appliances, and equipment we actually use, and stop wasting our money on items and features we don’t. We don’t want food to rot in our refrigerator’s crisper. We want to get the best cuts of meat from the butcher. And, we want to feel like celebrity chefs when we put food on the table.

Most of all, we want the process to be as painless as possible.

We want these things, and we have accepted the quest to make them happen: SimpliFried is a blog about ending mealtime stress. If your nerves are fried, we’ll be your simple, delicious, and nutritious cooking guide.

  •  
  •