Kitchen Tips and Tricks: How to Make Homemade Whipped Cream.

Homemade whipped cream is one of the easiest things to make, and it undeniably takes your dessert to a whole new level. Whenever I need to serve whipped cream, I always make my own. It is cheaper, requires only 3 ingredients, and is ready in 5 minutes. In my opinion, the light and fluffy richness of homemade whipped cream is not reproducible in the store bought variety. Thanks to my best friend from high school who first made me appreciate the value of this homemade topping, it has revolutionized the way I view the stuff!

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So, let’s get started. All you need are 3 simple ingredients: whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Easy peasy, right? Start by pouring the whipping cream in a bowl. Next, turn your whisk attachment/mixer on to a medium-low speed because you don’t want to splatter cream all over your kitchen.

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Now let the mixer do the rest of the work! See the bubbles happening in the picture below? That’s a good sign. Keep going…

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After a couple more minutes your whipped cream should look like the picture below. It is starting to firm up enough that the whisk is leaving it’s “path” through the cream.

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Mix in your sugar and vanilla, to taste. I like a good amount of vanilla in my whipped cream so I usually use at least 1 teaspoon, often more. Whipped cream should be slightly sweetened, so I use about 1 tablespoon of sugar–granulated or powdered will both work. Taste it and adjust to your liking. Let your mixer continue to whisk the cream until the cream becomes stiff. You should be able to pull out the whisk, turn it upside down, and have stiff peaks of whipped cream on the end that stand up. (Just for the record…if you continue to whisk after it is stiff you will eventually end up with butter, so don’t go too crazy!)

Can you believe it’s that easy?!

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Homemade Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • Whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar (granulated or powdered)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or more!)

1) Pour the whipping cream in a  large bowl. Using the whisk attachment, turn it on medium-high and whisk the cream for several minutes until it begins to stiffen.

2). Add the sugar and vanilla. Continue whisking until the whipped cream is firm enough that stiff peaks form. Enjoy!

Easy Homemade Taco Seasoning

Let’s talk about taco seasoning. You can buy it at the store in the form of those little convenient packets, or you can add maybe 3 minutes to your total cooking time and make your own from the spices sitting in your pantry.  It is EASY and tastes just as good (if not better!) than what you get in the packets. Plus, even if you don’t want to make it a habit of making your own, someday you may realize you are out of taco seasoning right before you wanted to whip up some tacos. Now that problem is solved!

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All you need are 7 common spices, plus salt and pepper. Give them a stir in a little bowl and continue on with your dish as usual! Like I said, it’s so easy. One batch of this mixture is equal to one packet of taco seasoning. If you are making tacos, you will need to add 2/3-3/4 cup water just like you would with the seasoning packets.

Now, I’m going to jump on my soap box about why you may want to start making it a habit to prepare your own taco seasoning. Packaged taco seasoning has many unnecessary and even unhealthy ingredients. For example, take the list of ingredients from a name brand taco seasoning I found in my pantry: maltodextrin, chili pepper, salt, onion powder, corn starch, garlic powder, spice, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, yeast extract, silicon dioxide, sunflower and/or cottenseed oil, spice extractive, and ethoxyquin. Um, what? I can hardly pronounce some of those unrecognizable ingredients. And “spice”?? Why don’t they name the spice? The first ingredient listed, maltodextrin, as well as “yeast extract” are alternate names for Manufactured Glutamic Acid, aka MSG (source). And the partially hydrogenated soybean oil? Trans fats (source). The side effects of MSG and trans fats have been pretty well documented and I encourage you to read up on them if you haven’t already. Ok, ok. I’m done. All I want to say is if you are going to buy pre-packaged taco seasoning (which, let’s face it, we all probably will from time to time), read the ingredients list and make sure you select one where all they list are regular spices. No preservatives or ingredients you don’t recognize, k?

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

1). In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients. (This mixture will be equivalent to one packet of taco seasoning).

Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/taco-seasoning-i/ 

Kitchen Tips and Tricks: How To Hard Boil Eggs In The Oven.

This post is not really a recipe, but more of a “how-to.” I know this time of year many of you are looking for healthier alternatives after the holidays, and eggs are a great source of protein (particularly if you ditch the yoke). Recently, I noticed a lot of Pinterest posts on hard boiling eggs in the oven. You simply place the eggs in muffin tins, preheat the oven to 325F, and let them cook for about 25 minutes before moving them to an ice bath. The ice bath stops the cooking process, leaving each egg perfectly hard boiled, unlike many experiences I’ve had trying to hard boil them on the stove. Am I the only one that struggles with that? I just can’t seem to get consistent results, but that’s exactly what I do get from the oven method. I just had to share with you in case you too have a hard time achieving perfectly hard boiled eggs on the stove!

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Another great thing about this method? I can easily cook anywhere from 12-24 eggs at a time, which I can then use for breakfast throughout the week, a snack, chopped up in salads, etc. I’m not a big deviled eggs person, but if you are this would be an easy way to cook a large quantity for that purpose as well.

How to Hard Boil Eggs in the Oven

What you need:

Eggs

A muffin tin

A large bowl with ice water

1). Preheat the oven to 325F. Place eggs in muffin tins. Bake for 25-27 minutes, depending on your oven.

2). Immediately move the eggs to the bowl with ice water to stop cooking. Let them cool for several minutes before draining the water and drying the eggs.

3). Refrigerate eggs until needed!

How to Make Perfectly Shredded Chicken in the Crock Pot and KitchenAid Mixer

I want to share with you one of my most favorite, most used kitchen tricks: how to make perfectly shredded chicken! You know all those recipes that call for “cooked, shredded chicken breasts”? This is how I make mine, and it could not be simpler. The great thing about it is you can cook a lot of chicken at one time, shred it, then use it for a variety of recipes throughout the week or even put it in a freezer bag and freeze the excess.

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First: cooking the chicken in the crock pot. 

1) Spray your crock pot with cooking spray.

2) Put as many chicken breasts as you’d like in the crock pot. These can be thawed or frozen. If using frozen, simply adjust the cooking time.

3) Season with lots of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

4) Cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 3 hours. If using frozen chicken breasts, you will need to add an additional hour or two to cooking time. Keep in mind crock pots all heat up to different temperatures–test the chicken with two forks and see if it comes apart easily. If it does, then you’re done!

You may notice I did not add any chicken broth or water to the chicken–I have done it both ways, and it works out with or without the additional liquid.

Second: transfer the cooked chicken breasts into the KitchenAid mixer.

The first time I tried this method of shredding chicken breasts, I was so skeptical. It sounds crazy to throw cooked chicken breasts in your KitchenAid mixer and let it run, but it works perfectly every time. Simply turn it on low and let it run until the chicken is shredded. I typically add back several spoonfuls of the chicken broth left in the crock pot to ensure it does not dry out. Taste the chicken and add more salt/pepper/garlic powder if needed.

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It only takes one to two minutes for the mixer to shred the chicken perfectly, and then you can use it for all kinds of things. Here are a few recipes and ideas:

-Add BBQ sauce and make BBQ chicken sandwiches

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-Make Chicken Enchilada Zucchini Boats

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-Add salsa and create a Mexican flavored salad

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-Add pesto and make pesto chicken paninis.

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-Make baked chicken taquitos.

IMG_20130730_183409-You can also add leftover shredded chicken breasts to salads, pasta dishes, soups, and sandwiches. The possibilities are nearly endless!

Stay tuned for the pesto chicken panini and baked chicken taquitos recipes very soon!