Elements of Interest, Simple Tips

Notes from Ashley’s Test Kitchen: Insulated Cake Strips

Have you seen these little guys before? I hadn’t until I came across them in a little bakery supply store. Creating perfectly flat cake layers has always been something I have tried to master. I thought I had it all figured out by measuring out equal amounts of cake batter into each cake pan using a kitchen scale, then slicing off the top bump of the cake with a bread knife once they were cooled. Even after all of that busy work, I still had curved, browned edges along the sides of the cake. Sure, once covered in frosting, it doesn’t really matter, does it? For all of us OCD bakers out there…maybe it does.Wilton Bake Even Cake Strips

I decided to give these insulated cake strips a try one afternoon. I mixed up a quick yellow cake batter from Bakerella and prepared my pans. I saturated one strip with cold water per the instructions. I used the strip on one cake pan (Cake A) and left the other one without (Cake B). I put them in a 350 degree oven right next to each other and awaited the results.

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A couple questions I had while waiting for the cakes to bake:

1) Will the texture be different since it appears to compress the cake into a flat layer? The texture of both cakes was exactly the same; nice and fluffy!

2) Does the baking time increase or decrease with the use of the strip? Both cakes finished at the same time. The only difference that I noticed, is that on the non-insulated cake, the edges browned a bit. The insulated cake was blemish free.

To my surprise, the insulated cake strip worked! Out of the oven came Cake A. A perfectly baked, perfectly flat cake layer without a domed center and no crispy edges! Where have these been all my life? And for $8 for two, it’s well worth the small investment. You can find the Wilton Bake Even Cake Strips here.

Cake A and B Result

Elements of Food, Simple Tips

Simple Dinners: Salmon, French Green Beans and Heirloom Fingerling Potatoes

One of the tricky parts about being married to an entrepreneur, is the ever changing, unpredictable schedule. I can’t even count the number of times I have prepped a meal, only to get a phone call an hour after the original agreed upon dinner time informing me he’s not quite on his way home yet 🙂

I have learned to stop cooking dinner prior to his arrival, unless I get a phone call assuring me he’s 25 minutes away. Instead, on evenings like tonight where I knew he was probably not going to be home on time due to his busy time at work, I sifted through the fridge to find something quick, easy and healthy for my way too hard working hubby. It’s amazing how easy it is to put together a healthy meal in 30-45 minutes or less using delicious, whole foods. And, you don’t need double ovens…Although I do keep hinting to my husband how I would LOVE the new freestanding LG double oven…Maybe someday! Anyway, you just need to alter the temperatures a bit. Here’s how I did it.

  • I preheated my oven to 400 degrees. Sliced a bag of heirloom fingerling potatoes in half, added some fresh chopped garlic, drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper and tossed them in a baking dish. These went in the oven 15 minutes prior to my salmon. If you are using thinner sliced potatoes, you can simply put them in the oven with the salmon for the same amount of time. I used much thicker cut fingerlings.
  • Next, I drizzled my salmon with olive oil, added sliced lemons, salt and pepper, and put it right along side of my roasting potatoes.  I turned down the oven to 375 and baked the salmon and potatoes for 25 minutes. I tossed some fresh Parsley in with the potatoes before serving.
  • In a saute pan, I tossed some fresh French green beans in olive oil and sauteed until bright green and still slightly crisp.
  • I quickly mixed together an easy salmon sauce consisting of sour cream, Dijon mustard, fresh dill and lemon juice.

Voila! A healthy, vitamin rich, colorful dinner ready in no time!

Simple Salmon Dinner

Elements of Interest, Simple Tips

We’re on Facebook!

Hello Everyone! Just a quick note to let you know that I’ve created a Facebook page to help everyone keep up with new posts and information!

Find us here!

https://www.facebook.com/thesimpleelements

Thanks!

Elements of Home, Simple Tips

Simple Gardening Tips: Regrowing Succulents

You may remember my post a few months ago about making your own living succulent wreath. Sadly, one incredibly windy and stormy night, my succulent wreath was blown off my door and landed on my front porch. The succulents were not in great shape, as a lot of them had been uprooted from the wreath. Luckily, succulents are an incredibly strong and hardy plant, and I knew I could bring them back to life. If you didn’t know, you can actually regrow an entire succulent plant from one tiny leaf. That’s right, pull a leaf off any succulent…no roots necessary, stick it in some potting soil and watch it grow into a baby succulent!I gathered up all the loose leaves and clippings that I had in my wreath and potted them in a few pots to bring them back to life and eventually, recreate my wreath.

In the photos below, are all the succulents I took off my wreath and replanted (and, a perennial I’m trying to save as well in the blue pot). The pot on the left, is the one where I literally took a leaf off various types and they have already regrown into little baby succulents. So cute! I managed to keep my succulent plants alive through the winter indoors, so by next year I’ll have enough for another wreath.

Elements of Food, Simple Tips

Simple Tip – Sour Cream

I don’t know about you, but I love the way Chipotle sour cream is thinned out and easily covers my entire entree without globs of thick sour cream in one spot. I just assumed they either made their own, or it was thinned out because it sits out. Well, I made Chicken Enchiladas Verdes the other night and there it was, right in the recipe. Add 2 tablespoons to every 1/2 cup of sour cream. Water? That’s it? It also makes your sour cream last a lot longer than it would otherwise! Best. Discovery. Ever.

Elements of Food, Simple Tips

Simple Tip: Take Your Leeks for a Spin!

Leeks can add wonderfully mild flavor to a variety of dishes, soups, meats and many other foods. However, they can be a pain to deal with due to the prep work that is needed to get them squeaky clean. No one likes to bite down into a leek full of dirt… I cook with leeks a lot and the best way I have found to clean them is to put my salad spinner to use! Simply fill your salad spinner half full with water, place your chopped leeks in the water and give them a good spin! I spin them around for about 45 seconds, remove the basket, dump out the water, rinse, and place the basket with the leeks back in and spin them again to remove the excess water. Now they are ready for use!

Elements of Food, Elements of Interest, Simple Tips

Simple Tip: Green Onions

Most recipes only call for the green part of the green onion. No need to toss the white bulb part of the onion…simply place the bulb root side down into a glass of water, and set in a sunny window. The green onions will regrow! You’ll never have to buy green onions again 🙂

UPDATE: My mom regrows her green onions in a little flower pot with soil. This prevents you from having to change out the water occasionally and they grow much faster and much better in the soil! Moms know best!

Elements of Food, Simple Tips

Simple Tip: Leftover Mashed Potatoes

I don’t know about you…but it’s going to be a long time before I can eat Thanksgiving goodies in their natural state again. We went to two Thanksgivings and were sent home a whole pile of mashed potatoes…and not enough gravy to go around! And let’s be honest…they really aren’t as good as when they are first set out on the table. Here is a simple way to re-purpose mashed potatoes into a flavorful soup!

Simply take your mashed potatoes (which are already heavily laden with cream and butter!) and put them in a sauce pan. Add enough chicken broth to thin out the potatoes into a puree. Add chopped scallions or chives and simmer. If your potatoes do not contain the amount of cream and butter that mine do…add a few tablespoons of heavy cream or sour cream to thicken.

Top with cheddar cheese and crisp bacon. Yum!

Note: See my full recipe for actual potato soup here! https://thesimpleelements.com/2011/10/16/yummy-potato-leek-and-cheddar-soup/

Elements of Home, Simple Tips

Simple Idea: Magazine Holder = In Cabinet Cutting Board Organization

Living in an 1911 house, we have very limited kitchen space, which means, extremely limited cabinet space. Every inch of our kitchen is being used very creatively to store our culinary belongings. One thing I’ve struggled to store are our cutting boards. They don’t fit upright in any of our cabinets, and laying them flat underneath other items is beyond inconvenient for something that gets used on a daily basis. I came across this wall magazine holder on Amazon one day and instantly an idea came to me. If this can hold magazines on the wall, it can certainly hold my cutting boards! I simply attached the magazine holder to the inside my cabinet using short screws (you don’t want them coming through to the other side) and voila! Easy access to my cutting boards!

In Cabinet Cutting Board Organization at its Best!
Elements of Home, Elements of Interest, Simple Tips

My Porch is NOT your Restaurant!

You spent your evening carving the perfect pumpkin for Halloween to sit happily on your front porch while trick or treaters come wandering by. What you also didn’t know is that you were also prepping this delicious treat for the neighborhood critter’s evening snack. Want to keep your furry friends from devouring your hard work as an appetizer? Follow this simple tip.

Mix hot pepper sauce and water together (or cayenne pepper powder) into a spray bottle. Spray your pumpkins with this spicy concoction and you’ll send these unwanted diners to another house for dinner 🙂