Adventures of an unfussy foodie.

April 07, 2014

Gifts from the Kitchen: "Williams-Sonoma Store Scent" Simmer Kit

Sometimes I am at a complete loss for gifts for loved ones. For my mom's birthday recently, I drew inspiration from her Pinterest boards, picking several little things I could make or buy to treat her to  fun gift.

I noticed, like me, she had pinned this post at One More Moore for the "Williams-Sonoma Store Scent" that you simmer in a pot. I also noticed that I had all the things needed to gift this item already lurking in my kitchen and pantry. Only problem is that I don't live close by, so whatever I sent needed to be a bit less liquid-y and perishable.

Here's my simple solution for a completely portable simmer kit -- just add water:

"Williams-Sonoma Store Scent" Simmer Kit

1 lemon, thinly and uniformly sliced (about 1/4" slices)
1 vanilla bean
2 sprigs rosemary

Heat oven to 170 - 200º F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (You can do more than one lemon and more than one baking sheet at a time, but it will take longer.) Discard ends of lemon, and lay slices on parchment-lined sheet in a single layer.
Place sheet in oven and let bake until they are mostly dried out. This may take anywhere from 2 - 4 hours, depending on your oven and the thickness of your slices, turning once or twice over the course of the cooking time. The lemons will darken as they dehydrate.
When the slices have almost no moisture left, turn off the oven and let the pan sit in there overnight. In the morning, check the slices to be sure there is no moisture left -- it there is, fire up the oven again and cook the offending slices until they are dry dry dry. Moisture left in your lemons will cause them to mold in storage.
Assemble your kit by placing all ingredients in a clear plastic gift bag. Fold down, and slip a piece of scrapbook paper folded in half over the folded bag. Staple on each side of the bag/tag. Glue on your label -- click HERE for the printable. Remind the gift recipient to add water and let simmer all day for a great fragrance in their home.
Use within a couple of weeks for best results.

February 11, 2014

Diner-Style Chocolate Cream Pie

In high school, I kept an eye peeled for the Marie Callender's near my house to put out the banner that they were having their semi-annual pie sale. As soon as I spotted it, I would rush in to get a pie.
No, not just a pie, a Chocolate Satin pie: Chocolate wafer crust, smooth and creamy chocolate filling, dreamy whipped cream... in short, bliss in a reusable pie tin.

Me and chocolate pie, we are tight.

Especially me and THIS chocolate pie. I make this every Thanksgiving. It is super simple and super amazing. And it's perfect for any occasion. Who doesn't like chocolate pie? Crazy people, that's who.


Make this. You will be happy. (How's that for a promise? Too much?) Well, you'll be happy with the pie anyhow.

Classic Diner-Style Chocolate Pie
from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking


for the crust
30 chocolate sandwich cookies (I prefer Joe Joes from Trader Joes, but I suppose Oreos will do, too.)
6 Tbsp. butter, melted

for the filling
1/2 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. chocolate malt Ovaltine powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. cornstarch
5 egg yolks, from large eggs
2 c. milk (the original recipe calls for whole, but I use 2%)
1/2 c. heavy cream
5 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 oz. milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla

Crush the cookies finely, either by hand (say in a plastic bag that you smack with a rolling pin) or in a food processor. Combine with butter until thoroughly moistened, then press into a 9" pie plate. Place in the freezer while you make the filling.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, Ovaltine powder, and cornstarch. Add egg yolks and whisk again until smooth. Slowly add the milk and cream while continuing to whisk.
Bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent clumps, over medium heat. Boil for 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate along with vanilla. Stir briskly to melt the chocolate and combine. Continue to whisk for a minute or two to cool things down a bit. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. A thin skin will form on the top, but should whisk back in easily.
Pour the filling into the frozen shell, smooth out evenly, then chill for at least 4 hours before serving, topped with whipped cream!

February 05, 2014

Quick Shredded Chicken

Sometimes you need shredded chicken in a hurry. Before now, I've almost never had cooked shredded chicken just hanging around. Some people do, I guess. But more often than not I have to cook the chicken with the rest of my meal. Usually that means I sauté it up in a pan on the stove and cube it, but shredded chicken feels so much nicer in your mouth than a boxy cube. The only other way I've used to make shredded chicken is to cook it in the crock pot, but it always turns out like the Sahara desert. (And that's not so much what I'm going for.) So when I saw this tutorial on Mel's Kitchen Cafe, I was really excited.

And with good reason, because it's awesome. In 10 minutes time, perfect, juicy shredded chicken will be ready for you to use in any application: salad, soup, casseroles... Or just make some up and toss in the fridge or freezer for later. My favorite way to use this is to whip some up while I'm cooking soup on another burner, then I add the chicken AND the broth I used to cook it in to the soup -- it gives AWESOME flavor!

Do you have a favorite kitchen tip? Leave a comment!

Quick Shredded Chicken
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 Tbsp. cooking oil of your choice (canola, oil, etc.)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c. chicken broth

In a large nonstick skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat until hot and rippling. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the chicken top-side down in the hot skillet and let the chicken cook for 5 minutes until golden brown on top. Flip the chicken, and add the broth. Cover the skillet and let the chicken simmer gently over medium heat for 7-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (160 degrees on a meat thermometer). Don’t overcook or it will be dry. As needed, extra liquid can be added to the pan if you find the broth is evaporating too quickly. Remove the chicken from the skillet. Let it cool slightly before shredding into bite-sized pieces. This will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days or freezer for 2 months.

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