Confession of a Failed Brownie Baker

Confession of a failed brownie baker

Last weekend I was short on time and decided to make brownies from a box.

Ideally, I would have made the most scrumptious dessert, all from scratch, that everyone would have raved over. It would be that good. This is the dream of someone who doesn’t feel entirely comfortable entertaining or knowing what to bring.

But this time I would be bringing brownies to our neighborhood block party.

Right before the timer went off, my son needed me. I neglected the oven a few minutes too long, but the brownies seem to look okay.

I tried to get them out of the pan. I would save them, I reasoned. I gently scraped and prodded. Then, I scraped and shoved and pushed.

The brownies were a hot mess. How do you ruin a boxed recipe of brownies, one of the easiest baking feats on the planet?

Sighing, I put on my shoes, grabbed my keys and drove to Trader Joes to get a replacement.

Next time, I won’t be baking brownies. Curse you, Betty Crocker! :-)

DIY powedered sugar dispenser

A better way to powder your pancakes: Easy DIY sugar dispenser

My favorite hack of the week: the DIY powdered sugar dispenser.

Every Sunday is pancake or french toast day in the our house, and every Sunday ZJ and I have a little powdered sugar with our meal. I bring the whole bag of sugar to the table and I carefully spoon out the sugary goodness.

Many genius moms and cooks have created better ways to dispense powdered sugar. You can, of course, buy a sugar dispenser. You can also modify a mason jar.

I decided to try a spice jar.

This weekend I took an old Trader Joes 21 Seasoning Salute spice jar that we were no longer using. I cleaned it out and removed the label. Then I poured the confectioner’s sugar inside.

It worked perfectly. It left the right amount of sugar on the french toast, with no clean up.

Right now, ZJ is not old enough to powder his own pancakes but I know he will want to soon. This will be a great hack to keep the amount of sugar he uses under control!

pancake photo credit: ralph and jenny via photopin cc
I am grateful for the simple moments in life!

Gratitude for the simple moments in life

Many times, a short walk around the block with my family is the high point of a long day, filled with rush-hour driving, work, cooking, cleaning, dirty diapers and baths.

I know our after-dinner jaunts are numbered as we approach fall and we lose the sunlight earlier and earlier each day.

My shortcut for today is to be grateful for the simple and beautiful moments in life.   As Ferris Bueller puts it: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ridiculously easy vegetables: Foil packet grilling

Ridiculously easy vegetables: Foil packet grilling

Lately, I’ve been struggling to make veggies taste great in the little time we have to make dinner.

We had some green beans in the fridge that were almost at the end of their lifespan, and I was uninspired by my previous attempts at quick green bean preparation. I figured it was time to try something different.

This is not a new concept but it’s new to us: Grilling vegetables in a foil packet.

It’s simple:

1. Throw some veggies on foil.
2. Add a little olive oil and salt/pepper/spices.
3. Seal the packet and throw on the grill next to the chicken or burgers.

We are hooked. The veggies we have tried so far have been delicious, and it is easy. The clean-up is even easier: just throw away the foil.

I am looking forward to trying different vegetable and spice combinations!

Three incredibly fantastic gifts for a new mom

Three incredibly fantastic gifts for a new mom

When I was a new mom, I found that taking care of a newborn was pretty darn tough.

Then you add in daily activities, like cleaning and cooking. Making my bed? Forget about it! I never knew when I would be able to sleep next. My bed had to be ready to go.

During this time, some good friends and family thoughtfully provided some basic but significant gifts that made the transition easier. I am ever so grateful and I hope to pass on their generosity in the near future.

Here are three gifts that meant a lot to us: Continue reading

Microwave hacks, part 1: sponges and oatmeal cookies

Microwave hacks, part 1: sponges and oatmeal cookies

Until recently, I had no idea what power my microwave truly had. I am quickly learning that heating up leftovers is just the tip of the iceberg.

A microwave can clean, soften or re-energize many things. It can also cook entire meals. Apparently I am not letting my microwave reach its full potential!

I am familiar with the anti-microwave movement, which I understand and respect. Frankly, I would love to go microwave free. As a working mom, or anyone with an overscheduled life, it’s just to hard to let go.

Since I am holding on, it’s time to experiment.  I’ve started with two basic hacks:

Microwave Hacks part 1, cleaning a sponge

1. The dirty (and smelly and overused) sponge.

My husband has a favorite brand of sponge, and it’s often difficult to find in stores. This sponge is at the end of it’s life. It’s dirty, smelly, and I had already stopped using it.

While reading a post on Kids Activities Blog, I ran across advice on how to clean a sponge in the microwave. Just nuke the sponge for 2 minutes. Before placing it in the microwave. I soaked it in water and vineagar.

Microwave Hacks part 1, cleaning a sponge

 

The verdict: After two minutes in the microwave,  not surprisingly, the sponge smelled like vinegar. However, it was clean and sanitized, and I feel comfortable using it again. Score one for the microwave!

 

Microwave hacks, part 1: Dirty sponges and oatmeal cookies

 

2. Bake a cookie in a coffee mug.

This growing trend of making baked goods in a microwave fascinates me, and I wanted to try an oatmeal cookie. I found a relatively easy one on Greatist:  “31 Healthy and Portable High-Protein Snacks.”

One evening, I mixed the ingredients together:

1/4 cup of oats
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp flour of choice
1 egg white
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp raisins

I poured the mixture into a ceramic coffee mug and put it the microwave for 45 seconds.
Microwave hacks, part 1: disenfecting sponges and oatmeal cookies

The verdict: It looked good, and the rise was nice. However, the taste was lacking.  It’s healthy but rather bland. It could be the recipe itself and it may be worth trying again with different ingredients. However, the cookie rates “high” on the fun-to-make scale. I will probably stick to the oven for cookies.

I’ll continue to be on the look-out for good microwave hacks and will report back. In the meantime, check out the following links:

Stay tuned for more hacks!