Archive | Kitchen Tips

Easy Cubed or Shredded Chicken

Easy & Flavorful Cubed or Shredded Chicken

There are so many recipes that call for shredded or cubed chicken and this is such an easy way to always have some on hand.  It’s so easy and convenient to cook up some chicken and portion it out to 1 cup, 2 cup, or whatever and then freeze it in freezer bags so it’s ready to use anytime.

Or if it so happens that you haven’t planned ahead too much to make a certain recipe and you don’t have any pre-cooked chicken in the freezer but you do have frozen chicken breasts, this is a super quick and easy way to turn those frozen breasts into the cubed or shredded chicken that you might need for a recipe you’re wanting to make spur-of-the-moment.

I never thaw the chicken breasts and this method works beautifully all the time.  In about 20 minutes I have the chicken I need for whatever I’m making.

If you don’t use all the chicken you cooked, put it in a container or zip-top bag to use later on a salad or in another recipe.

Easy Chicken Cubed Easy Chicken Shredded

 

Easy Cubed or Shredded Chicken

Ingredients

  • 5 chicken breasts (or as many as you want to cook up at one time)
  • 1 - 1-1/2 tablespoons oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth (or water and chicken base)

Directions

  1. In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Liberally sprinkle the salt and pepper over the oil.
  3. Add the chicken breasts and cook until the bottom side is lightly browned.
  4. Turn the chicken over, add the chicken broth, cover with a lid, and cook until the chicken is lightly browned and cooked through.
  5. Remove the chicken from the skillet and cool.
  6. Shred or cube the chicken and use it immediately or portion it out and refrigerate or freeze for later use.
http://www.abrightandbeautifullife.com/easy-cubed-or-shredded-chicken/

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Freezing Fresh Ginger

Freezing Fresh Ginger

Ginger is one of those spices that’s nice to have on hand, and fresh is so much better than the dried and ground stuff in a jar.  It will keep fresh in the freezer for a long, long time so don’t be nervous about buying a full root. My preferred way to prepare the ginger for freezing is to break the large ginger root into 2-3 inch pieces and then peel them.

I used to break the ginger root into the 2-3 inch chunks and freeze them, unpeeled, and then take out a chunk when I wanted to use it, let it thaw for a few minutes and peel it and shred it while it was still frozen.  That’s an easy way to do it but peeling it prior to freezing makes it even easier and only takes a few minutes, which will save you those few minutes when you’re preparing a meal.

Step 1.  Break or cut the ginger root into 2-3 inch pieces.

Step 2.  Peel the ginger.

Freezing Fresh Ginger

Freezing Fresh Ginger

Step 4.  Place the peeled ginger into a zip top bag or container and freeze.  Then just take out a piece of ginger when it’s needed for a recipe and grate or shred the amount needed while it’s frozen and return the unused piece back to the bag and freezer.

Freezing Fresh Ginger

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How to Make Toasted Coconut

How to Make Toasted Coconut

I mentioned here that I’m fairly in love with toasted coconut.  I really like plain coconut but I love it toasted to use as a topping for ice cream (with or without hot fudge sauce), oatmeal, coconut cream pie, and other desserts.  I love the crunchy texture and rich depth of flavor that browning gives it.  I usually keep a small amount of toasted coconut in a ziplock bag in the freezer so I can pull it out and use it as a topping so I don’t have to make it every time I want some.

Toasted coconut can be toasted in the oven but I prefer doing it on the stove because I can watch it more closely and have better control over how brown it gets.  It’s really easy to make but it needs to be watched so it doesn’t burn.  If it does burn, just throw it away and start again.  I’ve burn a batch or two because I’ve tried to do other things while I’m toasting coconut.  So just try to devote the 10 minutes or so to toasting and it’ll turn out great.

Below are pictures with explanations of the method I use.

Toasting Coconut

 Place the amount of coconut you want to toast in a cold pan.
Then turn the heat to low.  If you warm it up too quickly there’s a greater chance it will burn.
It takes several minutes for the pan to warm up and the coconut to begin to brown.
You don’t need to stir it around yet but check it every minute or two.
After a few minutes I stir it just to check on it because the bottom part of the coconut will
begin to brown before the top.
If it isn’t browning yet just leave it and continue to check it every minute or two.

Toasting CoconutOnce it starts to brown stir it around and then let it brown a little bit more.

Toasting CoconutStir it around again and let it continue to brown.
You don’t need to stir it continuously yet but watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.

Toasting CoconutIt’s getting there.  Just another minute or so.
At this point I stir it until it’s as brown as I want it, which isn’t as dark as some people toast it.
I also touch it with my fingers right about now because it’s a little bit hard to tell if
the pieces that are white are toasting.
If a lot of it still feels soft it will take another couple of minutes.  If they’re feeling dry it’s almost ready.

Toasting CoconutThis is how my coconut looks when it’s done.
Some of it is still a bit white but it’s dry and crisp.
If you want yours a little darker just keep stirring and warming it until it’s how you like it.

Toasting CoconutAs soon as it’s toasted to your desired brownness, immediately remove it from the pan to a bowl.
If you leave it in the pan it’ll continue to brown.

Then enjoy your delicious toasted coconut.

Hot Fudge Sauce

Check back tomorrow for a delicious toasted coconut dessert.

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Freezing Corn for Year Round Eating

 

Freezing Corn for Year Round Eating

 

Isn’t shucked corn a beautiful site?

From mid August until mid September we always buy a lot of corn on the cob and eat it until we don’t think we can eat any more because it’s such a treat for that one month we can buy it from local farmers.  And from that corn we always freeze a few bags to make this Sweet Corn Chowder on cool fall and cold winter days.  It’s such a delicious soup that we look forward to.

This year, though, I decided to buy gobs of corn all at one time ~ 6 dozen ~ and cooked it all up, cut it off the cob, and froze it so we can just pull it out and eat it without having to shuck and cook every day or two.  And we’ll have enough frozen that we can eat it all through the next year.  In a couple of weeks I’m planning to get more for freezing, just to make sure we have enough.

It took me 3 hours to complete the task and I had help with shucking and bagging the cut-off corn.

These are the steps if you’re interested in doing the same:

1.  Shuck all of the corn and place them in large bowls.

2.  Fill one, or two, or three large pots with water.  Add about 2 tablespoons of sugar to each pot and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, add the corn into the pot and bring it to a boil again.  After the water comes to a boil the second time, remove the pan from the heat and let the corn sit in the hot water for 10 minutes.  {You may cover it with a lid, but it’s not necessary.}  Repeat until all of the corn is cooked, adding more water and sugar to the pots when needed.

Corn on the Cob

 

3.  After the corn has sat in the hot water for 10 minutes, remove it, using tongs, to a large bowl to cool.

Freezing Corn for Year Round Eating

 

4.  After the corn is cool enough to handle, cut it off the cob.

Click {here} to view a video if you don’t know how to cut corn off the cob.

5.  Place the cut cut-off corn in quart-size {or gallon} ziploc bags in the quantities you need for your family.  One cob of corn equals about 1/2 cup, two cobs equals about 1 cup.  {I made bags with 2 cobs and 3 cobs of cut-off corn.} Flatten the corn in the bag so you can stack the bags for storing in the freezer.  {I placed all of my bags in a box and put it on a shelf in my freezer.}

Then pull out your corn, thaw it, and serve it up whenever you’re wanting fresh off-the-cob corn.  So easy and delicious!

Fresh Corn off-the-Cob

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How to Make Cake Flour

Homemade Cake FlourOnce upon a time I used to bake my cakes with all-purpose flour because I didn’t ever know that cake flour in a recipe was something I should REALLY be using.  Then one day I saw packaged cake flour next to the all-purpose flour at the grocery store and bought a bag for the next time I baked a cake.  And guess what?  It made a world of difference.  My cake tasted the same but the texture was soft and delicious, lighter and more delicate ~ not as airy as boxed cake mixes, which I’m not fond of, and definitely not as dense as a cake made with all-purpose flour, which I had grown accustomed to liking ~ but somewhere in between the two.

It makes light, fluffy muffins, too.  Just substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour.

After I discovered the difference cake flour can make, though, I never seemed to have it on hand for spontaneous cake baking.  So after a bit of researching I learned how to make my own.  Using only two common kitchen ingredients I can bake a cake at the drop of a hat!  Anytime I want!  No pre-planning!  You can, too.  Here’s how:

How to Make Cake Flour

How to Make Cake Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup {or more} all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons {or more} cornstarch

Directions

  1. Measure out the amount of all-purpose flour needed for your recipe and place it in a bowl {or make more, see note below}.
  2. For every cup of flour you added, remove 2 tablespoons of flour and return it to your flour container.
  3. Now add 2 tablespoons cornstarch replacing each of the 2 tablespoons of flour removed.
  4. Sift 5 times.
  5. Always measure the flour that's needed for a recipe after it's sifted.

Notes

You can make cake flour for a specific recipe or make larger quantities and store it in a ziploc bag or container.

http://www.abrightandbeautifullife.com/make-cake-flour/

Cake Flour Collage

Cake Flour Collage 2

Make sure to sift 5 times so the mixture is well incorporated and the flour aerated so it’s soft-as-silk.  {Isn’t there a brand of cake flour that’s actually named that?}  It’s true ~ you won’t believe how silky your cake flour will be.

Happy “Lighter” Baking!

This recipe was featured on:
Mandy’s Recipe Box
http://www.abrightandbeautifullife.com/make-cake-flour/

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Homemade Baking Powder

DIY - Baking Powder

You may ask, “why make your own baking powder?”  I would have asked the same question a year or two ago.

One day, back then, while I was baking I happened to look at the ingredients on my container of baking powder and noticed that it contained aluminum sulfate in addition to cornstarch and baking soda. Knowing that metals as additives are not good for the body, I started doing some research and this is what I learned: The human body is able to excrete aluminum in it’s natural form but aluminum, like mercury, as an additive is toxic to the body, specifically the brain.  So with a bit more research I learned that I can make my own baking powder and that the aluminum isn’t necessary.

A small adjustment is necessary so it’s good to understand the properties of the ingredients and how they work.

Here’s a short summary of baking powder. Baking soda is an alkaline substance and cream of tartar is an acidic substance, and they react together to make carbon dioxide gas bubbles {leavening} when combined with a liquid.  So when baking powder is added to a liquid it starts the leavening process.  If the item to be baked isn’t placed in the oven fairly soon {usually within one hour} after mixing it will lose it’s ability to leaven properly because too much of the leavening action took place outside the oven.  In the early 1900s “they” started adding aluminum sulfate to the baking powder because when heated the aluminum will react with the baking soda and cream of tartar and start another leavening process {I guess to make it fail-proof for cooks} ~ which is why it’s called “double-acting” baking powder.  Homemade baking powder is “single-acting” because it will only have one leavening action.

It’s hard to avoid all aluminum, but this is a small thing I can do to help keep it out of my body and those of my family.  It is possible to purchase aluminum-free baking powder, but it’s a lot less expensive to make it.

Homemade Baking Powder clumps together so some people add cornstarch to the mixture.  I personally don’t add it ~ I just break up the clumps with a fork.

Baking Powder is super easy and inexpensive to make, and making it myself cuts out the toxic aluminum so baked foods taste better {Have you ever noticed that some baked goods taste a bit metallic? That’s the aluminum in the baking powder} and our bodies will be healthier.

Why not make some today?

:: I’ve updated this post {6-8-13} ~ I received several questions/comments regarding homemade baking powder and so when I wrote a guest post {here} I decided to write it more informatively than what I originally had posted and that is what you see here now.  

Homemade Baking Powder

Homemade Baking Powder

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the cream of tartar and baking soda and stir.
  2. Using a sifter or fine sieve, sift together 3 times.
  3. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Notes

I usually at least quadruple the recipe.

http://www.abrightandbeautifullife.com/homemade-baking-powder/

This recipe was featured on:
Domesblissity
Small Talk Mama
Kitchen Meets Girl
This Silly Girl’s Life
How to Train a Superhero

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A Good 2 Weeks of Fresh Cilantro

I know that giving instructions about how to store fresh cilantro seems like a silly thing to blog about.  And it might be common knowledge and maybe I just re-invented the wheel, but in the last several months I have “discovered” a great way to store cilantro so that it will last in the refrigerator for up to three weeks ~ maybe even longer, but I haven’t tried beyond three weeks.  I used to wash, dry, and wrap the cilantro in paper towels, and then bag it and place in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator until needed, but it never lasted more than about a week.  And since I only grocery shop every two weeks I needed to plan my meals so that I was using the cilantro within that time period.  However, one day after grocery shopping I decided to try a different method to see if I could store it differently so that I didn’t have to be a slave to my cilantro.  This is how I store it now:   IMG_5290

I wash and dry the cilantro.

IMG_5134

Then I pull off the leaves and place them in my salad spinner and give it some good spins to make sure it is throughly dry.

IMG_5135

I place two paper napkins in the bottom of a plastic kitchen storage container and put the cilantro leaves on top of the napkins.  {This photo only shows a portion of the bunch of cilantro cuz I wanted to show the napkins at the bottom.}

Then I place two more napkins on top of the cilantro and cover it tightly with the lid and put it in the refrigerator.

Every few days I take the container out of the refrigerator, take off the lid, remove the top napkins and unfold them and let them dry out from the absorbed moisture, and fluff the cilantro around to air and dry out {leaving the lid off while the napkins dry}.

Sometimes the cilantro gets a tiny bit limp but I’ve found that letting it air and dry out a bit helps keep it fresh enough for using in any recipe I want use it in.

After the napkins are dry I refold them and place them back on top of the cilantro, put the lid back on, and return to the refrigerator.

I keep doing this until I use it all up.

IMG_5137

This is how this container of cilantro looks after two weeks.  Still fresh looking, no brown or mushy leaves at all.

So that’s my method and it seems to work well.  How do you store fresh herbs?  I would love to know.

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