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You Won’t Believe This Surprising Use for Your Cooling Rack

You Won’t Believe This Surprising Use for Your Cooling Rack


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This hack will transform the way you cook.

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We typically associate cooling racks with baking desserts because they’re the perfect place to let our favorite treats drop in temperature before we dive in for the first bite. But there’s a brilliant use for cooling racks that you probably didn’t even know was possible.

You can place your oven-safe wire cooling rack directly on top of a sheet pan for perfectly cooked dishes, similar to how you’d use a roasting rack. Purchase a cooling rack that’s large, flat, and can comfortably fit onto a sheet pan, like this stainless steel cooling rack.

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This trick is especially useful (and delicious!) for dishes that give off a lot of liquid as they cook such as turkey, chicken, and fish. The skin will get extra crispy as it cooks, without getting soggy from floating in excess oil. For best results, place your oven-safe metal cooling rack onto a rimmed baking sheet and spray the rack with oil, like we do in our Pickle-Brined Tofu recipe. In dishes like this, the baking sheet allows for all sides of the food to be cooked evenly, to collect pan drippings for a sauce, and to get a crispier texture without the breading sticking to the pan.

You can also use the cooling rack to separate two different elements to your dish, like we do in this recipe for Spicy Chicken Thighs with Summer Squash. Place a flat veggie, like summer squash, on the bottom of the sheet pan and top with the cooling rack. Place a marinated protein on the cooling rack. While the protein cooks, the drippings from the top dish will help flavor the veggies below it.

This technique will give you room in your oven for additional trays and help cut down on dishes — two big wins in our book.


Simple Tortilla Pizzas

It’s about time I talked to you all about tortilla pizzas. I’ve been making these babies since elementary school when my mom would make something that my picky younger self refused to try. They are perfect for days when the thought of cooking a full-fledged meal is too much to bear and even lifting up the phone to order out seems too hard, or when you’re alone and downright hangry… like me on most days.

Honestly, I haven’t ordered pizza for myself in years because tortillas are always on call. Greasy, cheesy delivery pizza beckons from afar, but tortillas shout from my fridge, “Hey, I cost less! I’m better for you! And I’m already here!” The concept of the tortilla pizza itself is so simple, but there are a few tricks to getting a perfectly crispy, flaky crust and bubbly cheese, so be sure to read the recipe below for my time-proven method for perfect tortilla pizzas.

Topping ideas:

  • Barbecue pineapple (as shown): barbecue sauce, mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese, chopped red onion, sliced fresh jalapeño, fresh or defrosted frozen pineapple (canned pineapple is not as good).
  • Greek: Basil pesto, feta, fresh or roasted bell peppers (jarred is fine), sliced kalamata olives, chopped red onion, sliced cherry tomatoes.
  • Green: Arugula pesto or basil pesto and mozzarella, top with fresh arugula and parmesan shavings after baking.
  • Anything you want! Look for more pizza inspiration here.

What Your Oven Isn&rsquot Telling You

According to a test by Cook’s Illustrated in 2011, different ovens set to the same temperature can vary by as much as 90 degrees.

If you are an avid baker or cook (or even just an occasional one), this news should be a bit concerning. Or maybe this news is relief you now have a valid excuse for why your sweet potato fries always burn! Or at least I do…

When we moved in, one of the first things I did was check the oven’s true temperature. It’s an older oven (edited to add: I don’t mean super old by the way. The oven in our last house was 30 yrs old and I doubt this one is more than 10 yrs, so technically, it’s newer to me) and I was concerned about switching to a new-to-me oven without checking things out first. It’s especially important to me because I post my recipes for all of you and I have to be as accurate as possible.

For some reason, I had a bad feeling about this oven, even though it’s quite nice on the eyes.

I set my oven to 350F and placed my oven thermometer (from Kitchen Stuff Plus) in the center of the oven on the middle rack. This would be the first of several tests I would end up doing.

[But it’s called a “TRUE TEMP”…what could possibly go wrong. ]

The oven beeps when it has supposedly finished preheating, so I eagerly walked over to the oven when it alerted me. I didn’t want to impact the temperature by opening the door, so I quickly turned on the oven light and bent down to look at the temperature.

The oven temperature read about 290F or so. I can’t quite remember it exactly, but it wasn’t even close! I gave the oven the benefit of the doubt, assuming that it just took longer to preheat.

And I waited some more. The temperature climbed slowly and after a good 15 minutes, I decided it wasn’t moving anymore. I waited an extra 30 minutes just to be sure.

I squinted my eyes really hard (am I getting old or are those things just really tiny?)

To me, it looks about 315-320F:

This is about a 30-35 degree difference. I also tested various places in the oven (on the side and in the back), but they were all around that temperature give or take 5 degrees. I even left it in for a full hour just to be sure. Nada.

Every good researcher knows that it’s to never advisable to rely on a single study, right? So, I headed out and bought another brand of oven thermometer (this time from Canadian Tire) and tested it once again.

Wouldn’t you know it, the temperature was the exact same. Approximately 320 degrees Fahrenheit when it should have been 350. At least the thermometers are accurate. )

I Googled if there was any way to fix my wonky oven temperature and it turns out that it’s fairly easy to calibrate many kinds of ovens, depending on the severity.

Always start with the manual first. I looked for the owner’s manual, but wasn’t able to locate one (not surprising being in a rental and all). Eric suggested that we find the model number of our oven and see if we could find instructions online. He wasn’t able to find the manual online for this oven.

Following these directions, he was able to set the oven temperature higher (35F was as high as he could go), however it’s still not a perfect calibration. Now, when I set the oven to 350F, it heats to about 340F, so it’s still about 10 degrees too low. To attain 350F, I have to set the oven to 360F and also wait about 5-10 minutes after the oven tells me it’s preheated. This isn’t a huge deal, as long as I’m careful and I keep my oven thermometer in the oven when using.

The oven thermometer is probably the best solution we have right now, aside from actually paying someone to repair it (or asking the landlord), which I probably wouldn’t bother with unless it got worse.

Our first adventure in oven calibration is now complete.

One thing I love about this oven? The stove top heats up much faster than our old oven back at home. You win some, you lose some! I’ve burned a few veggie burgers so far, but I’ll get used to it eventually.

Have you ever measured your oven’s true temperature or calibrated your oven? I bet you sure are curious now…


Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Meringue Frosting

Sweet, moist Sweet Potato Cupcakes are topped with a fluffy Marshmallow Meringue Frosting and then lightly toasted for the most festive dessert recipe you’ll ever make. Real sweet potatoes are used to keep the batter tender and light, the perfect sweet treat for any occasion.

Sooooo….winter just blew in like a stinking hurricane. It’s been so windy the past couple days half the siding on my house has blown off….well, maybe just a quarter of it. But it’s a lot! And sooooo loud, it sounds like my house is going to blow right off the hill. Winter definitely made it’s grand entrance and I think it’s here to stay. Honestly, I was in serious denial…I really didn’t think it would ever get cold. It’s like I forgot I lived in the north where they’re now forecasting a seriously wicked winter. So, we may get to use that shiny new snowblower we bought last year after the LAST blizzard. Hooray for small victories!

In the meantime, I’m getting cozy with some comfort food. It’s been awhile since I baked cupcakes for all of you….like since April. And all I could dream about since that time was that crazy amazing meringue frosting. It’s so insanely amazing you’ll want to make a big bowl and spread it on all the things. I decided to make a big batch and spread it on something equally amazing but fitting for the holidays. I found an awesome Sweet Potato Cupcakes recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens site that I tweaked just a bit substituting the canned sweet potatoes for fresh sweet potatoes and added a bit of nutmeg because I think nutmeg should be in just about any sweet potato recipe. That’s just me.

These easy to make Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Meringue Frosting come together pretty quickly…especially if you roast an extra potato, like I did, when you make these Brown Butter Mascarpone Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Sometimes I multi-task like a pro….but most of the time I’m not even the least bit ahead of the game. The frosting can be whipped up while the cupcakes are cooling and, if you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can totally skip the toasting step….they’ll be just as lovely without it.

If you’re looking for a festive dessert for your holiday gatherings this season then these Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Meringue Frosting are the ticket. They have built in portion control so you won’t bust your belt buckle…or you can serve them as part of a fun, holiday cupcake buffet with these Gingerbread Latte beauties or my favorite Caramel Apple Cupcakes.


Ingredients:

These puff pastry cookies require just 3 ingredients!

  • puff pastry – try to search for all-butter puff pastry as it simply tastes best
  • sugar – I used light brown sugar because I like its caramel taste but you can use regular granulated sugar instead, make sure to use granulated sugar and not powdered sugar as the sugar sweetens the dough but also provides a crunch
  • cinnamon – can be omitted if you don’t have it on hand but its flavor is just so lovely here, authentic palmiers are actually made without cinnamon

How To Make Vanilla Extract In The Instant Pot

*A Note About Ingredients: I knew I would never be able to track down whole vanilla beans in my small town, but it was easy enough to find good quality beans on Amazon! Also, when you’re buying vodka for your vanilla extract, look for a one liter (1L) bottle. A standard 750mL bottle won’t have quite enough for this recipe.

Step 1 – Prep

Start by splitting the vanilla beans with your paring knife. Cut them in half, then split each half down the center to reveal all the vanilla bean goodness trapped inside.

Next, divide your vanilla beans between the two pint jars. Pour 2 cups of vodka into each jar, then place the lids on the jars.

Screw the rings on to hold the lids in place, but don’t over-tighten them. Finger-tight will do just fine!

Place the trivet in the bottom of your Instant Pot, then set the sealed jars on the trivet. Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pot, then seal the pot.

Step 2 – Cook

Pressure cook the jars on High for 60 minutes. When the timer goes off, allow the pressure to release naturally from the Instant Pot for at least an hour (or as long as it takes if you’re patient!)

Step 3 – Cool

When you’re ready to remove the jars from the pot, be sure to use an oven mitt to avoid burns! Remove the jars and transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Using & Storing Your Homemade Vanilla Extract

You can open and use your vanilla extract about 24 hours after taking it out of the Instant Pot. However, the vanilla flavor will continue to strengthen for about a week. So for the best results, I recommend waiting until then!

Your homemade vanilla extract should last indefinitely if you store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

What’s your favorite recipe to make that includes vanilla extract?


5. Clipboard To-Do List

If you or your family has a set list of chores that you repeat daily or weekly, you can easily keep track of those to-dos with a clipboard and a handful of binder clips. Start by writing out each of the tasks along the left edge of a piece of paper, continuing along the right edge if you have a long list. (You can also type it up on your computer, arrange the text into two columns, and align the text to the left and right edges of the paper.)

Once you’ve got your checklist written or printed out, clip it on your clipboard, then clamp binder clips to the side of each task. After finishing a task, flip the metal arms back so they rest against the clipboard to indicate the task is done. (The little “click” of the metal hitting the board is highly satisfying!) Resetting your list is as easy as flipping the metal arms of the clips back out again.


Cheap Crayon Holders

A popsicle tray is the perfect way to keep crayons sorted and put away. The trays only cost a dollar at the Dollar Store and you can separate crayons so they are much easier for little fingers to find. Organize them by color or just let the kids stuff all of their crayons into their new case. The lids will even fit on so you can store them in the trays all the time. This is actually a really neat idea for kindergarten and daycare classrooms. You can sort crayons by color and have each popsicle holder for a different color of crayon.

DIY Instructions and Project Credit – Teachjunkie


– Essential Baking Tools

When I started baking a few years ago I only had a few basic things and although I got to stock up on baking equipment and ingredients quite a lot ever since, I still keep those basic around and if I had to work it out without any extra equipment, I would manage with only these essential baking tools. I find these to be a “must have” in the kitchen and to be totally honest with you, lacking certain pieces of equipment forces you to get creative and improvise – you have no idea how many things you can come up with to ease your job in the kitchen if you have to!

Whisk and spatulas – no doubt most of you have these in your kitchen. A whisk is great for mixing batters or creams quick and even and a spatula comes in handy when you have to fold in whipped cream, meringue or flour. I recommend a silicone spatula which not only can stand a higher heat, but it can also clean the bowl properly (don’t you hate struggling to get all that batter off the bowl with a spoon?!)

Cake pans – this section would deserve a post of its own because there are so many pan options out there! But I recommend springform pans in various sizes, the most common ones being 18cm, 20cm, 22cm, 24cm and 26cm. I love these pans not only because the removable sides make transfering cakes or cheesecakes on platters incredibly easy but also because the sides (without the bottom) can be used as cake rings – for assembling cakes straight on a platter. I started out with 3 springform pans of different sizes and I now have around 8 round cake pans, two of them having the same size for those cases when I need to bake the cake layers separately. In addition to a few cake pans, also buy 1 large baking sheet for those times when you are baking cookies and 1 small square pan for making brownies or sheet cakes. Later on I also bought a muffin pan (12 muffin cups to fit most recipes).

Hand mixer – during my first years of baking and even now, a hand mixer was my best friend! Of course it’s fun whisking things by hand, but when you have to whip up a meringue for 7 minutes, believe me, the fun is gone! I have a very simple, white, plain, cheap hand mixer and despite being over 4 years old, it still works which is quite surprising as I’ve been using it quite a lot. My mixer also came with a bowl so I can either hold it in my hand or use it as a stand mixer (in a cheap, simpler version which gets the job done though). My mixer also came with a hand blender which is helpful to have around as well.

Baking paper – this is a life saver! Do not confuse this with aluminum foil! Baking paper is also known as parchment paper and it prevents the cake, cookies, rolls etc from sticking to the pan, but you can also use it to make chocolate decorations on. It’s cheap and incredibly useful. Lining a baking pan with this paper means that the baked goodies won’t stick and you won’t have to wash the pan either, just replace the paper with a new sheet and your’re good to go! And since we’re at it, I should mention here the muffin/cupcake papers, although you can also improvise some out of baking paper, like here.

Mixing bowls – 2-3 mixing bowls of different sizes are more than enough, even for a specialized baker later on. I recommend the plastic ones as long as you replace them from time to time because they tend to retain smells and fat, but they are cheap so that shouldn’t be a problem. A heatproof glass or ceramic bowl is great for those cases when you have to cook something over a hot water bath or melt chocolate.

Kitchen scale – I’m not going to lie to you – when I started out baking, I didn’t have a kitchen scale and I relied on some approximate measurements using a tea cup and some spoons I had on hand (I told you that lacking equipment forces you to get creative), but buying a kitchen scale was a great improvement and investment so I do recommend it as a must have in the kitchen. Although I do not believe that a few grams more or less in a every recipe affects the final result much, in some recipes is important to have a precise measurement and there are ingredients that surely need a scale, like gelatin for instance. When buying a kitchen scale, make sure it can weight even 1g and it can reach at least 3kgs.

Measuring cups and spoons – although my recipes are weighted out with a kitchen scale, you will find many recipes measured in cups and spoons so having a set of each is helpful. Plus, they come in so many shapes and colors that it is fun to buy them. However, as a novice in the pastry kitchen, a regular tea cup of 250ml and a regular tablespoon and teaspoon will do the job just as good!

Pastry brushes – I have two pastry brushes – I use one to brush egg wash over my baked yeasted dough or puff pastry and one is reserved only to brush sponges with sugar syrup. A brush allows me to control the amount of syrup so much better and it’s easier to use as well. Pastry brushed are cheap and easy to find, colorful and come in many shapes and materials. Just pick a favorite and go with it!

Fine sieve – a sieve is helpful not only for sifting the flour, cocoa powder or icing sugar, but also to smoothen up fruit sauces.

Zester – many baking recipes require lemon zest as flavoring so a zester or fine grater is incredibly helpful. Nothing compares to freshly zested lemon rind in terms of aroma!

Stand mixer – Kitchen Aid or Kenwood are the two most known brands of stand mixers. Needless to say that they are amazing if you can afford any of them. Mixing batters or creams becomes so much easier, although even if you do have one, I still recommend having a hand mixer as well – it’s better for small quantities or certain delicate batters.

Piping bag and pastry nozzles – when I started out baking, I used to decorate my cakes with a regular bag (zip lock style) so intricate piped details were avoided. But a proper piping/pastry bag and a few basic nozzles (closed star, open star and round) are cheap and handy, especially for decorating cakes and cupcakes, but also for piping eclaires for instance.

Cooling rack – this is certainly not a must have in the kitchen because it takes quite a lot of space, but if you do have the space, a cooling rack makes chilling cakes so much easier.

Rolling pin – although for some this may sound like a must have, it is not for me. I rarely made cookies when I first started baking and when I did, a glass bottle did the trick of rolling out the dough just as well. But if you love making cookies or yeasted dough, do get a good rolling pin!

Cookie cutters – although now I have an entire collection of cookie cutters (I rarely use them, but they were fun to buy), a round cookie cutter is enough as a starter. And if you don’t have that one either, cutting the dough with a knife in various shapes is just as good, believe me as I’ve done it!


Whole Wheat Mustard Carrot Cake

Adapted from Crackers & Carrots
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 2 small-medium apples, cored and diced
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 small-medium carrots, washed, stems cut off, and cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons Maille Old Style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • (frosting) 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • (frosting) 1/2 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • (frosting) 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • (frosting) 6 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans (or three 6-inch) with cooking spray and dust with all-purpose flour, discarding any extra flour (or spray with baking with flour cooking spray).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the beater attachment, beat the brown sugar and eggs until foamy and thoroughly beaten.
  4. Meanwhile, in your blender (I use a Blendtec) or food processor, purée the apple slices and oil together. Pour into the beaten eggs/sugar of your stand mixer.
  5. Next, purée the carrots and orange juice together. Pour into the beaten eggs/sugar mixture of your stand mixer.
  6. Add in the vanilla extract, mustard and ginger to your stand mixer and beat on low until all of the wet ingredients are combined.
  7. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients of your stand mixer and stir until just combined.
  8. Equally separate out into your cake pans (about 2 1/4 cups of batter per 8″ pan or 1 1/2 cups of batter per 6″ pan).
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and the edges are light golden brown.
  10. Allow the cakes to cool for five minutes in the pan before carefully flipping out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  11. Meanwhile, to assemble your icing, beat butter, yogurt and vanilla extract together until combined. Add in the powdered sugar until combined.
  12. Assemble the cake and decorate as desired.

Note: For extra security, line the bottom of the cake pans with a round piece of parchment paper, then spray with cooking spray.


103 Comments

Select your preferred type and grade of beef in any subprimal cut, generally, strip loin, ribeye, top butt. Fold back the opening of the UMAi Dry® material and slide the subprimal cut of beef inside. Smooth the UMAi Dry® material carefully against the surface of the beef eliminating all air pockets. The critical factor for optimal dry aging results is the excellent bond that will form between the proteins coating the surface of the beef and the UMAi Dry® material.

this UMAI drybag is really an useful thing, and as said in the post, this actually works as membrane and lets the food item breathe, yet does not let the oxygen come near it and let the food get rotten, am happy to use it instead of regular plastic bag.

I went to DryagSteak website and guess what, they offer a new bag version for Foodsaver units, they call it UMAi VacMouse® adapter strips for use with FoodSaver-type sealers.
BR
Francisco

I am dying to try this drybag and to do some real good steaks. I have one question: how come the meat doesn’t spoil even if sitting in the fridge? I know that for charcuteries, everybody (even Umai) uses curing salt to prevent botulism. Thanks in advance.

I would suggest NOT using marinade during the aging as the marinade is wet and will spoil the meat.

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