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Cheese Wheel Wedding Cakes Might Be The Next Best Trend

Photo: via Fromagination

When it comes to wedding cake variations, we’ve seen it all, from impressive dessert tables to trendy naked cakes. But what about the wedding cake that’s not a cake at all—not even a dessert? Enter cheese wheel wedding cakes.

The Double Threat: Classy & Cheesy

Stacked several tiers—errr wheels—high, these cheese wedding cakes look ever bit as impressive as their traditional counterparts, especially when bedecked with flowers and cake toppers. “People are really surprised when they see these cakes—they never recognize that they’re cheese,” says Shannon Berry, Special Events Manager at Fromagination, an artisanal cheese shop based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Photo: via Fromagination

Berry notes that picking cheeses for an impressive cheese wheel cake isn’t quite as simple as visiting your favorite bakery. “There are a lot more nuanced flavors in these cheeses,” she explains. That’s because Fromagination and other cheesemakers offering cheese wheel wedding cakes, aren’t just dealing in your standard cheddar. Berry mentions that the cheeses Fromagination carries run the gamut, from triple cream bries to soft-ripened goat cheese and even some dessert-like varieties. “Some cheeses are sweeter in nature, like a Wensleydale,” Berry explains. These sweeter cheeses can help bridge the gap for those looking for a sweet after dinner treat.

Can the Newlyweds Still Cut into It?

However, just because couples opt for an unusual cake, doesn’t mean that they need to forego all tradition. Berry explains that most of the cakes she creates are topped off with a softer cheese, like brie, so couples can still perform the classic cake cutting.

But after the cutting, what happens with all that cheese? Unfortunately for us cheese-lovers, the wheels don’t get cut into dessert-sized wedges (a girl can dream!). Instead, each wheel is sliced and served up on beautiful cheese boards along with charcuterie, crackers, honey and more for guests to share. Learn how to make your own charcuterie board, here.

Any way you slice it, these cheese wheel cakes are just as impressive and delicious as their pastry counterparts. As for me, I’ll be crossing my fingers for one of these cheesy cakes every wedding I attend.

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Article by Lisa Kaminski from Taste of Home.

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Hacks

10 Meal-Planning Secrets From A Pro

Family At Home Eating Meal In Kitchen TogetherPhoto: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

While June Cleaver and other 1950s TV moms made it look easy, the reality of getting a healthy meal on the table is a challenge. With our expert tips, we’ll show you how to make any meal stress-free and get a delicious, nutritious meal on the table in no time at all.

1. Plan Ahead

Literally write down what you are going to have on each day for the next week. That way you can write out a grocery list and shop for it all at once. You’ll be surprised how much stress this will remove from your week. And you don’t have to do it alone. At your next meal, ask your family what they would like. You’ll find kids will eat healthier things if they have a hand in choosing what it is.

2. Reuse Good Plans

Why reinvent the wheel? Saving your weekly menu plans and reusing them later is a huge time saver. Just be sure and write down what worked well and what needed some tweaking.

3. Plan for Leftovers

When you plan for a whole week, you can see ways to cook one dish and reinvent the leftovers another day. For instance, instead of roasting just one chicken, why not pop in two? That way, you can use the second bird two or three days later in a recipe that calls for cooked chicken. With a little forethought, you can turn just about any leftover into a masterpiece.

4. Double Up

Recipes that can be frozen should be doubled. Half of it can then be frozen for quick meals later on. Yes, it may take you a little extra time now, but in the long run, wouldn’t it be great to know you have dinner already done and waiting in the freezer?

5. Grab the Bargains

Scanning grocery store ads can help you in multiple ways. First, you can see what items are on sale so you can plan menus around the cheapest things. You’ll be surprised how often expensive cuts of meat go on sale. Second, plan to pick up bargain items you use a lot. You may not need 10 cans of chickpeas right now, but if they’re a good price, get them to help stock your pantry.

6. Shop Your Pantry First

After you write out your grocery list, the first place you should shop is your pantry. If you’ve shopped the bargains ahead of time (see above), you just may already have a good portion of your list taken care of. A big key to shopping your pantry is to organize it correctly. These seven secrets for keeping a well-stocked pantry are life-savers.

7. Chop Once

If you know you need chopped onions in three recipes for the week, go ahead and chop them all at the same time and store in the refrigerator. Better yet, if you have some time after shopping, go ahead and prepare all your meats and vegetables for the week so all you have to do later is grab them from the fridge and cook. Same goes for fresh herbs, as long as you learn how to chop and store them correctly.

8. Shop the Salad Bar

If you only need a small amount of something, like chopped onions, peppers or other veggies, sometimes it makes more sense to pick it up already chopped from the grocery store salad bar. Be sure not to overuse this tip, as veggies on a salad bar will cost almost twice as much, pound for pound, as what you’ll get in the produce section. Use this only when you need an amount less than what you’ll get from a whole fruit or vegetable.

9. Start Slow

I know this tip may sound silly, but many people get captivated by recipes they see online or in a magazine, and try a whole bunch of new, often complicated, things at once. Start with recipes suited to your skill level for weeknight meals and save the more fiddly ones for the weekends or when you have more time to devote to preparing them.

10. Don’t Do It Alone

Who says you have to tackle cooking all by yourself? Have your children help with tasks suited to their age. This is easy when you have just the right recipe that will get kids excited to cook. Pretty soon, your kids will be able to get dinner started before you even get home.

At first, it may seem like we’re asking you to do a lot of work. But, in reality, you’re saving time by planning just once instead of trying to figure it out each and every day. If you start simple and build upon what you’ve learned, after a while you’ll start to feel more comfortable with meal planning, experiment a little more, and have more time to relax and enjoy the meals you’ve prepared.

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Article by James Schend from Taste of Home.

Categories
Alcohol

Fact or Fiction: Does Alcohol Really Cook Away?

French crepes made in oven with fire over them. Flamb�© style.Photo: Shutterstock / Bruno Monico

The Test Kitchen gets asked questions about cooking with alcohol at least once a week. While this is not a new technique (cooking with alcohol has been around since the dark ages), concerns about alcohol are becoming more common. So does the alcohol really cook away during the cooking process? It seems the answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Experts Weigh In

Nutritionists from some leading universities set out to solve the mystery once and for all. Using the same recipe, they used a few different cooking and prep methods, then tested the end result for alcohol concentration. The big failure? Flambe! That impressive flash of fire in the pan would make you think all the alcohol burns off but an amazing liquor-drizzled dessert like Quick Bananas Foster will retain 75% of the alcohol after the flame is put out.

On the other end of the spectrum, a longer cook-time means less residual alcohol. So go ahead and make Slow-Simmering Beef Bourguignon without fear that the wine will cause trouble. After 2 1/2 hours, only 5% of the alcohol stays behind. So after cooking low and slow all day, it’s safe to say most, if not all, of the wine has lost its alcoholic punch. Thank goodness all that glorious flavor stays behind though. After all, that’s the real reason we’re adding booze to our food, right?

Is Alcohol-free the Way to Be?

Now you’re thinking to yourself, does it really matter? That depends upon who you’re feeding. Many of the readers that write in with this question have an allergy to alcohol, so in that case it definitely matters. Not only will you want to avoid cooking with alcohol, you’ll want to avoid extracts too. Most extracts are made using alcohol. While alcohol-free extracts are available, they’re still labeled as containing some albeit less than half a percent.

At the end of the day, what you cook with and the methods you use are totally up to you. Now you can make an informed decision and maybe win a question at trivia night.

Related Links:

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33 Things Your Fast Food Worker Isn’t Telling You

10 Common Mistakes Everyone Makes When Brewing Coffee


Article by Susan Stetzel from Taste of Home.

Categories
Grocery

Are Grocery Stores Going Extinct?

Woman standing in front of a row of produce in a grocery store.Photo: Shutterstock / Adam Melnyk

We don’t mean to alarm you, but a lot of grocery stores might eventually become extinct—”might” being the operative word here.

The recent influx of meal and grocery delivery services makes it easy to pick out your produce and perishables from the comfort of your couch—and have your order sent straight to your doorstep hours later. Naturally, there are a lot of perks to online shopping. You save gas and don’t have to clean your reusable shopping bags as often.

But it’s not all positive. Call us old-fashioned, but we like hand-selecting our produce, finding a milk gallon or egg carton with the best expiration date, and scarfing down some free samples. So what’s the deal? Are grocery stores actually going extinct? We’re stacking up the competition—and what your favorite grocery stores are doing to survive.

Meal Delivery Steps Up

A lot of companies are trying to become “the next grocery store.” Meal kit services like Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Purple Carrot sell boxes full of chef-tested recipes and perfectly portioned ingredients. You could argue these services take the creativity out of cooking, but if you’re strapped for time (or learning to find your way around the kitchen), they’re pretty convenient.

And then there’s the crop of grocery delivery sites. Companies like Jet.com and Amazon Fresh do all the heavy lifting for you. Some sites, like Thrive Market, even cater to niche, organic-eating customers.

Simply enter your ZIP code and pick out your items and your order will be waiting at your door hours later. You’ll have to pay a small delivery fee, but it beats waiting in line for 20 minutes, right? Like it or not, this trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Online grocery sales raked in $20.5 billion in the U.S. last year alone, and is expected to reach $100 billion by 2025.

Grocery Stores Fight Back

The good news is several stores are making the necessary changes to stay afloat. Earlier this year, Amazon bought healthy eats mecca Whole Foods for $13.4 billion. Not only did Amazon slash Whole Foods’ prices by up to 43 percent, it’s now offering private Whole Foods labels (think Whole Foods Market and 365 Everyday Value) on its site.

And Whole Foods isn’t the only store making changes.

Walmart may have its roots in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but the savings den is going head-to-head with Amazon. In addition to offering free two-day shipping, Walmart owns Jet.com, which will launch a high-end grocery store on its site. And in some cities, Trader Joe’s, Fairway and Stop&Shop are delivering through platforms like Postmates, Instacart and Peapod, respectively. So it seems like grocery stores have what it takes to survive…for now. But in 20 years? Only time will tell.

While the jury may still be out on the fate of brick-and-mortar grocery stores, they’re not closing tomorrow. Not ready to give up your favorite grocery? Here are our tips for grocery shopping like a pro.


Article by Kelsey Mulvey from Taste of Home.

Categories
Hacks Recipes

This Secret Technique is the Key to Tender, Juicy Stir-Fry Chicken

Boiled chicken breast in a pan on the sievePhoto: Shutterstock / artcomedy

Whether it’s mastering fluffy rice or the perfectly balanced sweet-and-sour sauce, it’s tricky to recreate favorite Chinese restaurant dishes in your own kitchen. (Though, these takeout copycat recipes definitely come close!) In particular, the soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture of a chicken stir-fry just doesn’t taste the same at home. So what’s the secret?

Velveting chicken. In the cooking world, the term velveting means to “pass through” hot oil or hot water for a brief period of cooking time. It’s a popular Chinese technique that is used to lock in the meat’s juices and keep it moist and tender. And good news, this technique can be used on any type of meat. (Velvet pork chops, anyone?) Velveting may be a restaurant secret, but this cooking technique is so easy any home cook can master it with ease.

How to Make Perfect Velvet Chicken

You’ll Need

1 egg white, beaten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

Tools:

Resealable plastic bag

Step 1: Prep the chicken

To get started, cut the chicken into thin slices or 1-inch pieces.

Here are the 8 biggest mistakes home cooks make with raw chicken.

Step 2: Get mixing

In a small bowl, beat the egg white. Then combine the egg white, soy sauce and cornstarch into a large resealable plastic bag. Give it a gentle shake to combine.

Pro tip: Alternatively, you can use red wine vinegar to replace the soy sauce in the mixture.

Step 3: Coat the chicken and let it sit

Add the chicken to the bag, seal it up and turn to coat. Eye it to make sure every inch of the chicken is thoroughly covered. Then, pop the chicken into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Step 4: Poach it

When the chicken is done marinating in it’s eggy, soy-sauce mixture, it’s time to get cooking. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully drop in the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes until the chicken is just cooked through. (The meat should turn from pink to a milky white.) Carefully strain the chicken using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to dry.

Psst! Learn how to poach chicken perfectly with expert advice from our Test Kitchen.

Step 5: Fry, fry, fry.

Get stir-fryin’! Once you chicken is completely dry, dump it into your favorite stir-fry recipe. Despite the extra steps, you’ll find that velveting chicken is completely worth it. It means juicier, more flavorful chicken in every bite.

But don’t stop there. That juicy velvet chicken is perfect for incorporating into other dishes, too. Try it in quesadillas, casseroles, chilis—and our 100 other recipes put leftover chicken to work!


Article by Laura Denby from Taste of Home.

Categories
Grocery

9 Cheap Things You Should Buy Only at Trader Joe’s

Las Vegas - Circa July 2017: Trader Joe's Retail Strip Mall Location. Trader Joe's is a chain of specialty grocery stores in the U.S.Photo: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

Trader Joe’s is the place to go for ready-to-make prepackaged dinners and 2-Buck Chuck. But did you know there are lots of other cheap (and delicious) things that you should be buying at the quirky grocery store? Browse this list before your next visit to the market, and thank us as you unload the items in your kitchen later.

1. Nuts

Nuts at Trader Joe’s are considerably cheaper than at other markets—not to mention that the store has an abundance of nutty varieties. Check out everything from slivered almonds to whole Brazil nuts, and look for smoked, salted and even sweet chili.

2. Precut Produce

Weeknights can be extremely busy, and when you’re in a pinch in the kitchen, it helps to save time by buying precut produce. Trader Joe’s has classic items like crinkle cut carrot strips and broccoli florets, and less-traditional veggies like cauliflower riceand prepared kale salad mixes, for effortless side dishes.

3. Alcohol

T-Joe’s has long been celebrated for inexpensive wines of all varieties. However, the grocery store has affordable, and high-quality, offerings in beer and liquor selection, too. Check out the Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey or the reasonably priced local craft beers—the shelves are always stocked with your favorite IPAs.

4. Cheese

Having a cheese party? Trick your friends into thinking you went to an artisanal cheese shop by stocking up on the dairy-laden goods at Trader Joe’s. From savory smoked goudas to sweet blueberry chevre spreads, the cheese aisle is the place to pick up goodies that will wow friends and satisfy your stomach.

5. Frozen Meals

Everyone should know how to prepare a few good meals at home, but sometimes you want the convenience of having a frozen meal at the ready. Trader Joe’s has a variety of tasty frozen dishes, including garlicky palak paneer and TJ’s cult favorite—the Reduced Guilt Mac & Cheese.

6. Seasonal Treats

You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted a Peppermint Joe Joe or snacked on a slice of Butternut Squash Parmigiana. The chain uses seasonal ingredients that wow in its offerings, and we won’t blame you if you feel the need to try them all. We did.

7. Orchids

Trader Joe’s has bouquets of fresh flowers daily, including arrangements—some including orchids!—ranging from $4 to $10. Small potted orchid plants are available beginning at $8. These beautiful, exotic plants make for welcome hostess gifts or will simply look beautiful around your own home.

8. Frozen Desserts

Running late to a party? Forgot to stop at the local bakery? Pop into Trader Joe’s and pick up a sumptuous frozen dessert. From the decadent chocolate ganache torte to the tasty Speculoos cookie butter cheesecake bites, there’s an item for you that will be delicious, affordable and easy to serve.

9. Wraps

When you’re hungry and looking for something healthy to snack on, seek out a premade lunch from Trader Joe’s. You’ll find a variety of wraps and sandwiches, usually in or near the produce section, that are filling and healthy. Check out the Cubano Seasoned Wrap or a turkey salad sandwich for a meal that won’t disappoint.

Cheap doesn’t have to mean boring. Lots of delicious, reasonably priced items are waiting for you at Trader Joe’s. Grab a reusable shopping bag and get ready to fill it up—just be sure to make room in your pantry for the ingredients to prepare one of our timeless homemade meals.


Article by Justine McGrath from Taste of Home.

Categories
Hacks Packaged Food

Why You Shouldn’t Confuse Baking Powder and Baking Soda

baking soda on the wooden table topPhoto: Shutterstock / focal point

It’s easy to confuse baking powder and baking soda, what with their similarities in name and appearance. And both often show up in the same recipe as well. Baking can be a finicky process, if using wrong amounts can lead to a recipe fail, just think what can happen if you use the completely wrong ingredient! Knowing the difference between baking powder and baking soda is crucial for successful recipes (like these beautiful vintage-inspired cakes). So here’s the scoop.

What is baking soda?

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a mineral compound that, when combined with something acidic, creates carbon dioxide (think of those elementary school volcano experiments when you pour in the vinegar). The carbon dioxide gas creates bubbles, which help doughs and batters rise.

Baking soda is commonly used in recipes containing acidic ingredients like buttermilk, brown sugar, yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, cream of tartar, applesauce, natural cocoa powder, honey or molasses (these molasses recipes are to die for, by the way!). Baking soda helps the finished product to rise and have a crisper texture.

It’s also a little salty tasting. But unlike a little extra salt or sugar, which can often be barely detectable to your taste buds, overdoing it with baking soda can result in an extra salty or even metallic-tasting bake. You only want to use enough to react with the amount of acid in the recipe, and any excess amount means there will be leftover baking soda in the recipe. Flat, weird tasting cake, anyone? Too much baking soda is one of the common causes of cake fails.

Instead, try putting that extra baking soda to good use cleaning around the house!

What is baking powder?

Unlike baking soda, which consists of one simple ingredient, baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar, a dry acid. An inactive ingredient, often cornstarch, keeps the two from reacting until liquid is added. The addition of cream of tartar adds acidity to recipes that don’t call for acidic ingredients. Also worth noting: Since baking powder is a mixture of ingredients, it’s slightly less potent, teaspoon by teaspoon, than baking soda.

When liquid is added, the soda and acid in the cream of tartar combine to produce carbon dioxide. Because this reaction starts right away, it’s important to bake these batters and doughs quickly after adding the liquid. That means no prepping chocolate chip cookies with baking powder a week in advance (but you can make these spritz recipes ahead of time: they don’t have either baking powder or baking soda).

Most baking powders sold today are double-acting, meaning that they work once as they are added to wet ingredients and then leaven (make dough rise) again when popped in the oven and exposed to heat. Single-acting baking powders are also available but aren’t used as frequently. They activate when exposed to moisture and that’s it. You can substitute double-acting for single-acting baking powder.

Bear in mind that baking powder and baking soda can both become less effective over time, meaning if they are too old your cakes won’t get the right rise. Be sure to check the expiration dates before you start baking.

If they’re so different, why do some recipes use both?

Some recipes call for both baking powder and baking soda. These recipes have a little bit of active acid, but the resulting carbon dioxide from the acid and the baking soda isn’t enough to leaven the volume of the batter. Baking powder is incorporated for that additional lift.

Both can be used for preserving flavor as well. For instance, if you were making fluffy pancakes, only using baking soda would neutralize the buttermilk’s acid and therefore cancel out the desired tangy flavor. Incorporating baking powder allows that slightly acidic flavor to remain, while ensuring the pancakes achieve desirable fluffiness.

Now that you know the basic differences between these two ingredient cousins, you’re destined for baking success.


Article by Alexa Erickson from Taste of Home.

Categories
Adventures Sweets

The Reason New Yorkers Can’t Stop Putting Dinges On Their Waffles

Belgian waffles with fresh berries on rustic wooden backgroundPhoto: Shutterstock / Alena Haurylik

The essential difference between a traditional waffle and a true Belgian waffle is in the pockets. Traditional waffles are thin, with shallow pockets. Belgian waffles are thick, with deep pockets. And no one knows that better than Wafels & Dinges, purveyors of true Belgian waffles via food trucks, carts, and signature cafes in New York City, whose stated mission is to give America’s notion of Belgian waffles a “serious upgrade” by filling up those light and crispy deep waffle pockets with…dinges.

Wait, what’s a dinges (pronounced DING-iss), you ask? Why, it’s a Flemish word Belgians use for “thingies” or “thingamajigs” or “whatchamacallits.”

Quite simply—and literally—Wafels & Dinges has been putting the dinges in the waffle (sorry, “wafel,” as it’s spelled in Dutch), and they’ve been doing so since 2007. That’s when the King of Belgians, Albert II, got word of the sorry, soggy state of Belgian waffles in America. He then commissioned the Special Forces from the Ministry of Culinary Affairs, Department of Wafels, knighted Thomas DeGeest to Special Envoy for Wafels, and crowned Rossanna Figuera as Ambassador of Good Things. Or so the story goes on the Wafels & Dinges website.

The three most popular dinges are the “legendary” spekuloos spread, dulce de leche, and Belgian chocolate fudge, but dinges can be sweet or savory. “Our first glance at the menu had us floored; we hadn’t expected so many different variations and possibilities,” John Simon wrote on his lifestyle blog, XOJohn, especially surprised by the savory choices of dinges. In particular, John and his dining companions raved about the wafels with sausage gravy and cheese, as well as the hash brown wafel with “liege syrup” and “copious amounts of bacon.” Other popular savory dinges include:

  • pulled pork, coleslaw and sweet barbecue sauce
  • chili, sour cream and cilantro
  • ham, raclette and scallions (dubbed the “Volkswaffel”)
  • sour cream and prune syrup (the De Bastogne Wafel).

But even if you’re not in New York City, there’s no need to suffer FOMO (fear of missing out), because we’ve got your go-to guide for all the best waffle toppings, including recipes you can make at home, both savory and sweet.


Article by Lauren Cahn from Taste of Home.