Tips and Tricks!

So, things have been crazy around here lately! It took me forever to get my meals planned, and actually get out to go grocery shopping! UGH! So, due to that, there has been a shortage of posts… oops! So, for this post I am going to explain different cooking terms, give definitions and a couple of kitchen “tips” to make foods turn out the way that you want them! Sound good?? Ok!

So, lets start out by defining cooking terms. This is something I have slowly learned through cooking shows… so, lets define!

To make it easy, I got it from here:

When a recipe says to cook the pasta: Al dente: Pasta cooked until just firm. From the Italian “to the tooth.”

There are times when you are cooking meat, such as turkey, and you want it moist. People use the term Baste: To moisten food for added flavor and to prevent drying out while cooking. Basically taking the juiced from the pan and occasionally putting back over the meat.

When we say to “beat” an egg… this is what we mean: Beat: To stir rapidly to make a mixture smooth, using a whisk, spoon, or mixer.

When making pesto, to keep the pesto green, you can do this to the basil and spinach: Blanch: To cook briefly in boiling water to seal in flavor and color; usually used for vegetables or fruit, to prepare for freezing, and to ease skin removal.

Bouquet garni: A tied bundle of herbs, usually parsley, thyme, and bay leaves, that is added to flavor soups, stews, and sauces but removed before serving.

If you are one to sear your meat before cooking it in the crock pot,… you are actually braising!! Who knew right?! Braise: To cook first by browning, then gently simmering in a small amount of liquid over low heat in a covered pan until tender.

How do you broil?? In the OVEN! 🙂 Easy! Broil: To cook on a rack or spit under or over direct heat, usually in an oven.

What do I mean when to brown or sear? Brown: To cook over high heat, usually on top of the stove, to brown food.

Do you ever wonder what it means when something is blackened? Here ya go! Blackened: A popular Cajun cooking method in which seasoned fish or other foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until charred, resulting in a crisp, spicy crust. At home, this is best done outdoors because of the large amount of smoke produced.

This is something that I do not usually use, but it is popular because it has a long shelf life: Bouillon: A bouillon cube is a compressed cube of dehydrated beef, chicken, fish, or vegetable stock. Bouillon granules are small particles of the same substance, but they dissolve faster. Both can be reconstituted in hot liquid to substitute for stock or broth.

Caramelize: To heat sugar until it liquefies and becomes a syrup ranging in color from golden to dark brown. You can also do this with onions… with the same end results in color.

When baking, if the term “cut-in” is used, here is the definition: Cut in: To distribute a solid fat in flour using a cutting motion, with 2 knives used scissors-fashion or a pastry blender, until divided evenly into tiny pieces. Usually refers to making pastry.

Chefs use this term a lot.. and it adds a lot of flavor! Deglaze: To loosen brown bits from a pan by adding a liquid, then heating while stirring and scraping the pan.

When making fried food, this term is used a lot: Dredge: To cover or coat uncooked food, usually with a flour, cornmeal mixture or bread crumbs.

If I say use the chicken/turkey/beef drippings it means: Drippings: Juices and fats rendered by meat or poultry during cooking.

Ever wonder what starting your dish on fire is called??? (When it’s ON PURPOSE!!???) Flambé: To drizzle liquor over a food while it is cooking, then when the alcohol has warmed, ignite the food just before serving.

And… another baking term: Fold: To combine light ingredients such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites with a heavier mixture, using a gentle over-and-under motion, usually with a rubber spatula.

Poach: To cook a food by partially or completely submerging it in a simmering liquid.

Reconstitute: To bring a concentrated or condensed food, such as frozen fruit juice, to its original strength by adding water.

Reduce: To decrease the volume of a liquid by boiling it rapidly to cause evaporation. As the liquid evaporates, it thickens and intensifies in flavor. The resulting richly flavored liquid, called a reduction, can be used as a sauce or as the base of a sauce. When reducing liquids, use the pan size specified in the recipe, as the surface area of the pan affects how quickly the liquid will evaporate.

Saute: From the French word sauter, meaning “to jump.” Sauteed food is cooked and stirred in a small amount of fat over fairly high heat in an open, shallow pan. Food cut into uniform size sautes the best.

Those are just a few terms. If you have another one that you’d like me to define and give an example of, please let me know!!!

Ok, now tips:

Shrimp: I have found that the best way to get the BEST tasting shrimp is to bake it. It just always comes out evenly and perfectly cooked for me. I start out with thawed UNCOOKED shrimp, peeled and deveined. Wonder how to do it on your own?

I always use Ina Garten’s recipe for shrimp. She is the one I followed to get the perfectly cooked shrimp. I sometimes adjust it a bit, but I always use the temperature she says, and I adjust the time based on how large the shrimp are. I’m not the only one either! Other blogs follow her great ways too!

Here is Ina Garten’s original recipe showing it:


I have found, after trial and error, that my steak always turns out best when I start out by searing it on the stove (or browning) and then finishing it in the pre-heated oven for a certain amount of time until it reaches my desired temperature. Always. If I try to make it on the stove top only, it is usually either under done or over done. Just from my observations.

Mashed Potatoes:

Want them the most creamy? Add sour cream and whip them either in a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer. Seriously… whipped and delicious!


I have found that sauteing or roasting vegetables keeps more vitamins and color in vegetables (even from frozen) than boiling them. Try it!

Want me to post other tips or tricks?? Ask me!! Comment below and I’ll do my best to find them!


Lemon Zucchini Muffins with a Lemon Glaze


These are DELICIOUS! They are so light and fluffy, and lemony! They taste like summer! And, you get to use up a zucchini that’s been sitting in your fridge for a little bit too long! YUM!


  • 2 cups all purpose flour (then remove 2 TB and put back into bag of flour)
  • 2 Tb of corn starch ( to replace the 2 TB of flour you removed)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (If you don’t have buttermilk, just add 1/2 TB of white vinegar to your milk and let sit for 2-3 min)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup zucchini grated (on the cheese grater)

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1 TB skim milk (or unsweetened coconut milk)


  1. Mix flour, salt, corn starch and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Then add oil and sugar until well blended. Add lemon juice, buttermilk, lemon zest to this mixture and blend all together.
  3. Fold in zucchini until it is mixed well.
  4. Add dry mixture to the wet mixture and blend all together until well combined.
  5. Pour batter into greased muffin tin. It makes about 16 muffins.
  6. Bake at 350 for 12-15  minutes.
  7. While still warm, make glaze and spoon over the muffins and then sprinkle lemon zest over the top.

Blueberry Banana White Chocolate Bread


This bread was AMAZING!!! Besides the fact that it smells like absolute HEAVEN when it’s baking… DELICIOUS… oh man… dessert, breakfast, mid-day snack… whatever. YUM! My family loves it, and I brought it as a snack to my friends… and they enjoyed it too!!! YUMMY!!!


1/2 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
2 Tb butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (or could use 1/2 cup honey)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea  salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 ripe bananas mashed
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup organic low-fat PLAIN yogurt

1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup blueberries (DRY, fresh. Then toss in 1 Tb of flour.) I used frozen, thawed and dried a bit on a paper towel and tossed in 1 Tb of flour.


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In a separate large bowl, beat the sugar and butter and applesauce with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Stir in the flour mixture; just until moist. Don’t over-mix. Stir in the chocolate chunks and then gently stir in the blueberries. If you want, you can sprinkle a few additional chocolate chunks and blueberries on the top to make it look pretty.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

*This recipe turns out perfect for me, so here are the details: We bake at sea level in a greased glass blue pyrex pan and we bake on the middle rack in a electric oven.
*If you use frozen blueberries, dry off and toss in flour. Do not wash and then toss in, you want to DRY as much as possible so you don’t add too much moisture.
*If you bake in a dark metal pan or if you are baking at a different altitude or using an gas oven, you may possibly get different results.
*Oven temperatures can vary quite a bit, so if you have an oven thermometer that is helpful to see if yours is recording the right temperature.
*If the top is browning too quickly, cover the top with foil in the middle of baking to prevent it from browning further.

Bake, and ENJOY!!!


Quote of the Day:


Egg Free, Dairy Free Pancakes!!!!





1 cup all purpose flour (I like Lily Self-Rising Flour, makes them extra fluffy!)
1 cup soymilk (or rice milk)
1  tsp flax seed meal
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)
1 tsp vanilla



1. Spray cooking spray on skillet.

2. Heat on medium.

3. Mix all ingredients in one bowl.

4. Use 1/4 measuring cup to drop pancakes into skillet.

5. Cook pancakes on skillet until bubbly in the middle and a bit dry around the edges.

6. Flip and cook 2 minutes more until done.


My kids are creatures of habit. A couple of years ago, when  my mom watched my kids when I was still working full time, they would usually have breakfast with her. She got them into a “toast” routine. Every single morning… I mean EVERY morning (whether we are out of town and at Panera for breakfast, or home) they want toast and bacon and juice for breakfast. That’s it. It’s crazy! The problem this morning is that I didn’t go grocery shopping yesterday, and realized this morning that I am out of bacon and bread. OOPS! So, my toast snob children were not happy. BUT, I whipped up these “Levi Friendly” (my son who has food allergies) pancakes and they DEVOURED them!!! At least I know what I can make now when I run out of bread!!!






Easy and Quick Big Group Breakfast!!!

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Scrambled Egg Croissant Sandwiches


1 dozen eggs
1/2 to 3/4 bag of Jimmy Dean sausage crumbles
6 slices bacon (I used pre-cooked TJ nitrite&nitrate free bacon)
2 TB milk (I used unsweetened organic coconut milk… you could use organic 1/2&1/2)
1/2 bag of shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
20 croissants


Scramble eggs w/the milk until 1/2 way cooked. Add sausage and cooked bacon (microwave bacon until crispy) and add salt and pepper as desired. ( I don’t add too much salt because of the cheese, bacon and sausage. Scramble until cooked through. Put into 9×13 pan to serve and top with shredded cheese to desired amount. Then, cut the bakery (or pillsbury) croissants in half and make a breakfast sandwich. Easy, and enough to feed many!!!

Friday the 13th!

So…. my Friday ended up with me getting 7 stitches in my finger due to me attempting to help my husband with yard work and breaking out the electrical hedge trimmers. Needless to say, no cooking was done in my house last night or tonight.

I AM doing meal planning… So, I am going to post a bit about that.

My husband gets paid 2x per month… so, therefore, to be most efficient, I grocery shop 2x per month. (SOMETIMES I have to go back out for perishables). So, when the grocery shopping time is coming up, I go through and plan out what recipes I will be making for the next 2 weeks. I usually pick about 18 in case I change my mind, or my mood changes. At least 5 have overlapping ingredients, so that I don’t have to double purchase. Also, I like to be able to use leftovers, or excess from one meal, to make another.

I usually use 3 different things to do the planning. 1: . This website rocks! They have a large library of recipes WITH the calories listed, which is really great. I also love the weightloss area of the website too, and how it’s free and makes sure that you have a BALANCED diet, not just get skinny. They focus on HEALTH, which I LOVE!

I also use pinterest. I not only search for recipes, I have a board where I pin my bi-weekly recipes, and then when they are made, if I liked them, I transfer them to my meals board.

I also use my cooking magazines. I just picked up Cooking Light from the grocery store. I will for SURE be incorporating these recipes the next two weeks! They have a lot of fresh and clean focuses on the recipes in there, so I’m excited to try some fun and new stuff!

I’m also trying to learn. I really want to go to culinary school, but until I can… I am watching youtube vidoes, trying new methods, new foods, etc as much as I can. I am just soaking it all in! I’m also trying to be cautious about clean, organic ingredients, and also lower in calories… the “lightened” version of things.

Thats my thinking!

Here is my board on Pinterest:

I’ll be up and cooking soon… until then, it will be info, advise, and musings! Praying these stitches heal well and quickly!!


My LOVE of Grapefruit



Do you like grapefruit? Have you ever tried it warmed up with Brown Sugar melted into it??? If not… DO!

I have memories of going to visit my grandparents in Tampa and going out and picking a grapefruit off of their tree and bringing it inside and making it like in the picture. MMMMMM!!!!

So, what you need: 1/2 grapefruit cut and sectioned
1-2 TB of brown sugar

Cut the grapefruit in half and then take a serrated knife and cut out each individual triangle in-between the membrane. Then, take the same knife and cut around the outside of the citrus, but not into the pith. Then, top w/brown sugar and microwave for 1 minute.