A Regular Gal’s Opinion on [Blueland] Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Once upon a time, I became interested in using “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” cleaning products in my home. Maybe back then I was less conscious about actually being sustainable but rather couldn’t stand the headache that often occurred after deep cleaning my home from the fumes of those super-duper effective cleaning products.

After trying several brands of “eco-friendly” cleaning products over the last few years, I realized that none of them reallllyyyy got the grime out where I wanted it to, especially in the bathroom. Or the products smelled a bit too natural – like a really smelly sneeze (yuck).

(One thing I should note too is that since I’ve worked in restaurants/cafés, I’ve been spoiled with using those commercial-grade cleaning products – the ones that make everything super squeaky clean, so when I clean my own home, I need it to be THAT noticeably clean.)

Notes about “Eco-Friendly” Cleaning Products

Alright, alright. I’m getting to the product review, I promise. But before I do, I want to address several important things when it comes to “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” cleaning products.

  • “Eco-friendly” and “sustainable” products aren’t a trend. To say so would be an insult to people who have been using more natural products their whole life. For example, my mom has always refused to purchase cleaning products with bleach. Instead she makes her own cleaning concoctions with things like vinegar, baking soda, citrus peels, etc. It’s not because she’s oh-so sustainably trendy, it’s because that’s how she learned how to clean where she grew up (a small, humble home in a province in the Philippines).
  • Just because it’s a natural cleaning product, doesn’t mean it’s safe. These marketing gurus like to trick people and label products as “natural” but actually contain things like fragrances, dyes, allergens, and irritants that may not be good for people who have asthma, other respiratory issues, and people who have sensitive skin allergies/irritation. Some multi-purpose cleaning brands that have received an Environmental Working Group (EWG) rating of D and below are Seventh Generation, Method, Green Works, etc.
  • Yes. There are environmental impacts from cleaning products. Just to name a few: water pollution (chemicals washed into streams & rivers), air pollution (volatile organic compounds in cleaning products can affect indoor air quality & outdoor smog), and waste (many containers are not made from recyclable materials and O M G, so much empty plastic bottles. Not to mention, some of the more hazardous materials need special energy for transport & disposal). ‘Green’ products typically are more biodegradable, lower in toxicity and VOC, have minimal packaging, and produced with less energy.

OK, ok. Getting closer to the product reviews.

Blueland Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

From Blueland.com

I heard about Blueland after hearing recommendations from YouTubers who try to live a more ‘sustainable’ lifestyle… and hearing that it actually works. After digging through Blueland’s website and reading about them in various articles, here’s a few facts that intrigued me enough to make a purchase:

About the Products:

  • The packaging is reusable, BPA-free acrylic (for the spray bottle) and the refills are little tablets wrapped in compostable paper packaging. The best part is that the refills start at $2!
  • Products are made without: triclosan, parabens, phosphates, ammonia, chlorine bleach, phthalates, or VOCs.
  • Blueland is Certified Platinum Material Health by Cradle to Cradle, EPA Safer Choice, USDA BioPreferred, Leaping Bunny (cruelty free).

About the Company

  • “Better for You and the Planet” is their brand mission.
  • They’re constantly innovating and on a mission to reimagine all the categories of household packaged goods with innovating form factors and environmentally responsible packaging.
  • The carbon footprint involved in shipping Blueland refill tablets is a fraction of that of a standard single-use plastic container of cleaner or hand soap.

After going through all their products, I decided to only purchase the Multi-Surface Starter Set, $16 and Bathroom Starter Set, $16 (since multi-purpose & bathroom cleaners are what I mostly use anyway).

The two bottles I ordered!

I guess I should say that I’m O.K. with the current cleaning products I use. Some are more “eco-friendly” and some are not. However, I want to switch to using only ALL eco-friendly products and decrease my use of disposable plastic in general. In this review, I’m going to compare those two Blueland products with the ones I currently use:

  • All-purpose cleaner (counter tops, glass, door knobs, etc.): Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface, Clean Day Basil
  • Bathroom cleaner: For countertop, sink, toilet cover & toilet seat, I use Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface, Clean Day Basil. For tub & tile, I use either a homemade cleaner made with Dawn dish soap + baking soda + splash of hydrogen peroxide + drops of essential oil (for more casual cleaning) OR Clorox Bathroom Bleach Foamer (for deep cleaning).

And finally, the product reviews:

  • What you Get: 1 reusable spray bottle + 3 multi-surface cleaning tablets (although I only received 1) + instruction sheet
  • How it Works: Fill up the bottle with hot/warm water, drop in the tablet, watch it dissolve, and it’s ready to use! Makes 20 oz of cleaner.
Multi-Surface Cleaner

Multi-Surface Cleaner. Overall, I like this a lot. I used it on several surfaces: countertop, stovetop, and kitchen sink. On my stovetop was where I really saw its effectiveness – I used this cleaner after cooking something that had a lot of splashes and grease and I was very happy with the results. In case you’re curious, to me it smells like… warm lemon…? Not a bad smell, but not as pleasant as the Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface cleaner. After using it several times, will I be making the switch? Yes. I will.

Little refill tablet
Dissolving tablet. It takes about 30 minutes to fully dissolve.

Bathroom Cleaner: First of all, I reeaaaalllyyy like the smell – it’s minty and eucalyptus-y, and much better smelling that the products I currently use. More importantly, I think this worked pretty well. I used it in my entire bathroom – countertop, sink, toilet cover, toilet seat, tub, and tiles. It took away the grime and soap scum by just wiping (not too much scrubbing happened since my tub & tiles weren’t super dirty). Overall, I think this will replace both the Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface cleaner. Also, in comparison to my concoction of soap + baking soda, this one is just so much easier to apply on the surface (rubbing vs. spray) AND it reduces the plastic I go through from the dish soap. All good stuff here.

Final Thoughts

I think if you’re interested in making a switch to more eco-friendly cleaning products, Blueland is the one to try. I don’t really have anything bad to say about the brand and the products. I love how it is definitely ‘better for you and the planet’.

I also love that it’s affordable. Maybe the starting cost isn’t cheap (purchasing the bottles/packaging for the first time), but the refills are relatively inexpensive (starting at $2).

Another important thing to note is that none of their cleaners claim that they kill bacteria (unlike some competitive eco-friendly brands who claim their ability to kill 99% of germs), so I’m still going to be using my disinfectant wipes from time-to-time. Other than that, I’m very happy with my purchase and I’m definitely going to re-order refill tablets for both cleaners.

I’m also looking forward to trying some of their other products. The ones I’m interested in trying next is the Dish Soap, Hand Soap, and Dishwasher Soap. Maybe I’ll write a part 2 review.

xo,
Donna

My Favorite Foods in Houston

I looked back at my Lasagna recipe that I posted beginning of the year and it made me do a knee-slapping laugh – I was talking about big things happening in 2020 and it is hilarious to go back and read about it.

You would think during quarantine, I would have posted a million recipes on here with all the extra time I had working from home. Don’t get me wrong – I cooked a lot. If being in quarantine for two months taught me anything, it’s that I realized I don’t love cooking as much as I thought I did.

Well, I still love it, but cooking 5-6 times a week, and sometimes even up to twice a day started to feel like a chore. And then came the worst of it all– those damn dishes. So. many. dishes. This fueled my lack of motivation to take ‘professional’ photos of my cooking process. All I wanted to do was eat at a restaurant, share stories, and laugh with friends. Do I sound like a brat yet?

Which leads me to today’s post – I’m reminiscing and want to highlight all my favorite restaurants & foods in Houston! These are the ones that I dreamed about during quarantine. These are the food and restaurants that I recommend to e v e r y b o d y. These are the ones that make me happy when I’m sad… or just make me happier in general.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to the day when things get back to “normal” and I can once again dine-in at my favorite spots with friends and family.

*Note: photos below are not my own.

*Another Note: this is not a food-critic review post!

My Favorite Foods in Houston

Relish Fried Chicken Bucket | Image from Facebook

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant: Relish Restaurant & Bar
This restaurant has a special place in my heart. Relish Restaurant & Bar is described as a “contemporary classic American comfort food with French and Italian influences” and I think that is very accurate. I could go on and on why I love this place. I have a couple of all-time favorite foods here: Hot Honey Chicken Biscuit (found in their Brunch menu only, which they’re not currently serving), Fried Chicken with Hot Honey (the breading is unbeatable and you can purchase in buckets!), Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes (it is mostly crab meat and not so much stuffing), and Brussels sprouts (roasted with some type of balsamic glaze). Honestly, I don’t think I’ve had a bad item on their menu. Their wine list and cocktails are amazing as well.

Relish is only serving curbside for now, but typically they are counter service for lunch & brunch and seated service for dinner.

Relish, 2810 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Killen’s BBQ | Image from Instagram

Favorite Barbecue Restaurant: Killen’s BBQ
Confession. I did not enjoy eating barbecue until I had Killen’s BBQ. Their Brisket, Beef Ribs, and Pork Ribs are excellent – packed with flavor, tender, and juicy. But my favorite part about this restaurant is their unrivaled sides options.

Contrary to popular belief, I think that execution of side dishes are just as important as the meat when it comes to barbecue. I’ve tried other popular BBQ spots in Houston (…and in Kansas City) – Rudy’s, Goode Company BBQ, Truth BBQ, etc. – it’s not that they don’t have good barbecue, it’s just that their sides are subpar and Killen’s BBQ’s sides are magnificent. My top two favorite sides are the mouth-watering Mac ‘N Cheese (so creamy and cheesy) and Creamed Corn (sweet and creamy but with a hint of spice). Even their desserts are some of my favorites around town – Banana Pudding (very Southern traditional) and Bread Pudding (made with croissant).

Killen’s BBQ is offering both dine-in and takeout service at the moment. If you’ve lived in Houston and haven’t had Killen’s BBQ before, you are missing out. Venture on out there and your taste buds will thank you.

Killen’s BBQ, 3613 E Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581
Website | Instagram

TacoKeto | Image from Yelp

Favorite Authentic Mexican Street Tacos: TacoKeto
My sister and I first discovered this little food truck during college. We were craving something good… and something greasy. I don’t know how my sister found this place, but I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this eatery. I remember it clearly – we both ordered beef tacos (we had to add cheese) and Mexican coke. It was the most glorious little meal I’ve ever had. The beef tacos were greasy, slightly crunchy, and delicious. The green salsa that came with it was amazing too.

It’s been a while since I’ve visited, but I’m drooling as I’m typing, so I will have to make a trip down I-45 soon.

TacoKeto, 1401 Cullen Blvd, Houston, Texas 77023
Facebook

Favorite Americanized Tacos: Velvet Taco
I know, I know. Some of you are probably shaking your head at me. Americanized Tacos… and a chain?! What can I say – sometimes, it’s done well. In this case, I truly believe that Velvet Taco is not just a copycat Mexican taco restaurant – I think that a good chunk of their menu is unique and you cannot find at other taco places.

My go-to tacos are: Picnic Chicken (rotisserie chicken, avocado crema, warm honey-dijon potato salad, crispy chicken skin) , Nashville Hot Tofu (crispy tofu, napa slaw, ranch crema, house brined pickles), and Spicy Tikka Chicken (crisp tenders, spicy tikka sauce, buttered cilantro basmati rice, raita crema, Thai basil).

Velvet Taco is currently offering dine-in and takeout service.

Velvet Taco, 4819 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007 (preferred Houston location)
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Melange Creperie | Image from Instagram

Favorite Crêpes: Melange Creperie
This was another spot that my sister & I discovered during college that still frequent even now. Melange Creperie was a Parisienne street style creperie stand that started in Montrose (corner of Taft & Westheimer) and now they have their own restaurant in the Heights! The crepes speak for themselves. My favorite is a basic Nutella-Banana crêpe – the actual crepe is thin and crispy and they put just right amount of Nutella. This is one of my go-to comfort foods in Houston.

Melange Creperie is currently taking takeout orders. It’s perfect because their crepes are wrapped “street-style” – you can eat while taking a walk around the neighborhood!

Melange Creperie, 711 Heights Blvd #B, Houston, TX 77007
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Luce Ave | Image from Instagram

Favorite Coffee: Luce Ave
This one was a battle. I contend that great coffee is extremely subjective, but I believe this place exceeds expectations. I had a few runner ups, but ultimately, Luce Ave won. I’m a little picky when it comes to coffee (and espresso drinks) because I have 6+ years of experience working as a barista. I’m not an expert, but I guess know more than the average person. I won’t bore you and get into technicalities, but I love how consistent their drinks are. Their baristas are thorough – from measuring the ground espresso in the portafilter to extracting it with perfect timing. Their espresso drinks are top-notch quality each time.

My go-to drinks are: Cortado (half espresso, half steamed milk), Iced Creamericano (when I have a sweet tooth), and Black Peach Iced Tea (they brew the tea upon order, so it’s fresh each time).

Bonus: Their chocolate chip cookie is amazing and a must-try.

Luce Ave, 3995 Richmond Ave Suite A, Houston, Texas 77027
Website | Facebook | Instagram

State of Grace | Image from Facebook

#1 Favorite Restaurant: State of Grace
State of Grace is a “jubilant medley of old favorites played with new spice, accent, and freshness: southern, American, Latin, Gulf Coast, German, and Asian.”

This restaurant is brilliant, excellent, and amazing from food to service. I’ve eaten here perhaps 182638x over the last couple years and have eaten through their different menus – lunch, Sunday brunch, dinner, and Sunday Supper. I’ve never eaten anything here that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. This is my favorite restaurant for date night, small celebrations, and just-because.

Again, I’ve tried a majority of their dishes but my top recommendations are: Redfish “On the Half Shell” (with ginger and lime vinaigrette, pearl onions – always cooked perfectly – dinner menu only), Chicken Fried Chicken (topped with butter biscuit, sausage gravy, and sunny side-up eggs – brunch menu only), and their Sunday Supper, which is a prix-fixe menu for $29 pp.

Bonus: For Happy Hour, they have $1 oysters (and it’s just not the Gulf oysters )!

State of Grace is currently offering dine-in and takeout service. Kaykay and I ate here last month and felt very, very safe (at least safer than grocery stores).

State of Grace, 3258 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Happy Eating!

How to Store Herbs, Vegetables, and Fruits to Maximize Freshness

Happy New-ish Year!

After a 3-month long hiatus (after the holiday craze), I am back!

It didn’t mean I stopped cooking! In fact, I’ve probably cooked more meals in the past 2 months than I usually do. I often get discouraged from taking photos of my home cooked meals because 1) my kitchen is tiny so I lack space to set up and 2) food styling can get a bit too much especially when I just want to eat my food right away! I know, I know, both are feeble excuses and I promise I will try harder this year. However, today’s post is not a recipe! Instead, I’d like to share my tips on how to store herbs, vegetables, and fruits in your home to maximize freshness after your trip to the grocery store.

One of the things I hate about cooking is how much produce I waste.  For example, if a recipe calls for 2 basil leaves, you cannot purchase TWO basil leaves at the grocery store. Instead, they come in a bunch and you don’t know what to do with the rest except hope that you’ll find use for it the next day or watch it wither and die. This is also why it’s discouraging to eat more veggies at home. By the time I’m ready to cook them, they’ve gone bad. It’s easy to say, “Just grow your own produce so you only pluck as much as you need to!” Trust me, I would very much like that, but I lack the space to do so. Maybe I just need to try harder next time.

To try and reduce food waste, I’ve gone through a series of trial and error to find the best ways to keep common produce fresh as long as possible. I know these things can easily be Googled, but I’ve found that multiple websites can tell you conflicting instructions, so it’s a bit overwhelming. I’ve narrowed it down for you. I also know there’s a lot of science behind these methods – mix of moisture vs. oxygen vs. sunlight – but I’m not going to go into that (boring!). Just trust me.

(Keep in mind that these are not new, revolutionary methods. This is just what has worked for me based on experience!! If you truly believe that singing to your herbs at 6am every morning helps them stay fresh, then keep on doing it!!!)

HERBS

Basil: My patience is about as short as a basil’s lifespan when it’s been plucked from the plant. It’s non-existent. There’s a couple of tricks for this. 1) Trim off about 1/2-inch off the ends and place them in a jar of water, about 1 inch, just like you would with fresh flowers. Loosely cover it with a plastic bag (I usually use produce bags from the grocery store) and leave it on your counter. I’ve found that room temperature is basil’s best friend and oppositely, the cold air in the fridge can make them wilt faster. This method can usually prolong basil’s life for 4-5 days. I like this method if I know I’m going to use basil on Monday and then again on Friday for a different dish. With this method, I find that replacing the water every 2 days can help maintain its freshness. 2) If you accidentally bought a whole basil plant, but got home and decided that you’re too lazy to take care of it, you can actually freeze the leaves so you don’t have to use it all at once or throw it away. First, pluck the leaves from the stem and blanch* for 2 seconds (YES, 2 SECONDS ONLY). Then completely dry the leaves and store in a freezer-safe container, separating the layers with parchment paper.

Mint: Similar to basil, trim off the ends of the stem and place in a jar with 1 inch of water. Loosely cover it with a plastic bag, but store it in the fridge, not your counter. Change the water every 2 days (or when water becomes cloudy) to maintain freshness. This keeps mint leaves fresh for about 7-10 days. You can tell it’s gone bad when the leaves have become discolored.

Parsley, Cilantro: Exact same method as mint (trim ends, put in a jar of water, cover loosely, keep in fridge), but add more water to the jar. Change the water every 2-3 days. Keep trimming the ends if they get a bit slimy. This method keeps the leaves fresh for about 7-10 days. You can tell they have gone bad when the leaves become discolored.

Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Oregano: These guys can last a while already without much care, but there’s 2 ways to keep them even longer!! 1) Place them in a small jar of water, about 2 inches and leave on your counter top, no cover. Replace the water when it gets cloudy. This prolongs their life for about 4-6 days. Thyme will last longer. 2) To keep them even longer, loosely wrap the sprigs in a slightly damp cloth towel and then again in a plastic storage bag or airtight container. Be careful not to wrap the sprigs too tightly because trapped moisture makes it easier for mold to grow. This prolongs their life for about 2 weeks. Method 2 is my favorite way to store these herbs.

*Blanching is a cooking process wherein a food, usually a vegetable or fruit, is scalded in boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water to halt the cooking process. -definition stolen from Google

VEGETABLES & FRUITS

This section is more about proper storage and how long it lasts i.e. do I put it in the fridge or leave it on my counter top? Should I hop around it for 10 seconds and clap my hands twice?

Bell Peppers, Cucumbers, Eggplants: Fridge, 5-7 days

Onions: Counter top, 1-2 months if whole. Fridge, 5 days if cut & peeled & stored in an airtight container

Avocados: Fridge, 3-5 days. However, if you’re storing half an avocado, I’ve found that placing it in the same, air-tight container as a cut onion can help slow it down from turning brown. Also, I’ve found the problem with buying avocados is that they are always too unripe (reminds me of dragon eggs) or it’s too mushy. If it’s too unripe, the faster way to ripen them is to store them in a brown paper bag until soft. Pro Tip: when picking avocados in the grocery store, pull back the stem on the end of an avocado to check the ripeness. If it’s green underneath, it’s ripe. If it’s too brown, it’s overripe. If the stem doesn’t come off easily, with just a slight pull, it’s unripe.

Apples: Fridge, 3 weeks

Mangoes: Counter top, 1 week. They shouldn’t be refrigerated until they’re ripe, but putting them in the fridge when they are ripe can help them prevent from getting too ripe.

Grapefruit, Oranges: Fridge, 2-3 weeks. Counter top, 1 week

Lemons & Limes: Fridge, 3 weeks. Counter top, 3-5 days depending on how ripe they are

Potatoes: Counter top, a lifetime. Just kidding, they can last about 3-4 weeks. These are best stored in a dark, cool place. When your potatoes start to sprout, this means that nutrients are leaving the potatoes. To prevent from sprouting, keep them in a brown paper bag. If your potatoes have sprouted, don’t throw them away just yet! If you have a garden (or access to one), click here to learn how to grow a potato from a potato.

Asparagus, Scallions: Store in a jar with about 2 inches of water. Don’t trim the ends/roots. Loosely cover with plastic bag. Store upright in fridge for 7 days.

Garlic: Counter top, 2 months

Ginger: Fridge, 3 weeks. You can also freeze these to make it last for MONTHS. This is awesome because you don’t need to thaw it out before grating. My best tip is to just buy ground ginger. I have seen no difference in taste in recipes when I’ve substituted ground ginger for the real ginger. I would say that the equivalent is 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger to every tablespoon of freshly grated ginger the recipe calls for.

Arugula: Wash & dry thoroughly. Wrap the leaves in a cloth towel and place them in a plastic bag with holes and store in the fridge. This will keep them fresh for about 7 days.

Carrots: Wrap in damp cloth towel and place in an airtight container. If you buy carrots with the tops, cut it off first. Store in fridge, 7 days.

Celery: Keep it whole! Wrap the whole thing with foil (not too loose, not too tight) and store in the fridge, 7-10 days.

Tomatoes: I recommend counter top for 1-2 weeks. Not sure if there’s any science behind this but in my experience but I’ve found that although tomatoes keep longer when refrigerated, they lose their flavor.

OTHER FUN FACTS

Did you Know? When other fruits are next to bananas, they ripen faster. This is because Bananas release a gas called ethene/ethylene. This gas breaks down the cell walls of fruits (starches converting to sugars) thus causing them to ripen & soften. There are some fruits like oranges that doesn’t ripen next to ethene, but there are a lot that do (avocados, peaches, apples, tomatoes)!

To Wash or Not Wash?: I think there’s a lot of argument about whether or not to wash veggies & herbs before storing (something about the bacteria on the leaves helping it last longer). From my experience, I think that you can certainly wash certain vegetables before storing, but make sure to dry them well after washing. I’ve found that doing this doesn’t necessarily shorten the life of the vegetable or herb.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope that helps out someone. I promise my next post will be a recipe post!

Cheers,
Donna

Favorite Kitchen Tools

Today I’d like to share my favorite kitchen tools!

I know this might seem silly, but I think that having the right tools in the kitchen makes a difference in your mood when cooking. By mood, I mean that I used to get so grumpy every time a recipe says “zest of a lemon” because I hated using my large cheese grater to zest a tiny lemon. While it does essentially the same job, switching to a microplane changed my life. Before I start rambling, my point is that having the right tools in your kitchen can make a difference in the ease of cooking. I use these items almost every single time I cook/bake. When I’m working in someone else’s kitchen, I feel like one of my arms are cut off if I don’t have these on hand. In no particular order, here are my favorite kitchen friends:

Microplane, $12.95, Amazon:

Microplane

This little guy surprised me. I didn’t know I needed him in my life until he came along. Now I don’t know what I’d do without him. Really, the biggest difference between a regular grater and a microplane is that microplanes shave much more finely and have better consistency than a grater. As I mentioned above, this guy save my citrus-zesting game. When I first used this, it increased the flavor & efficiency in my cooking. While I mostly use it for lemon/lime zest, I also use this for: hard cheeses (Parmesan), fresh ginger, fresh nutmeg (when I make apple pie!), and garlic. It can also be used for other things like chocolate shavings, coconut shavings, etc.

OXO 2oz Mini Angled Measuring Cup, $4.99, Bed Bath & Beyond

OXO Measuring Cup

Alright, this measuring cup is the unicorn of all measuring cups. This exact one is hard to find (I found mine at my local liquor store. I own 3 of these). Yes, it’s only 2oz (1/4 cup). Yes, it looks like a normal measuring cup, but it’s not! It measures tablespoons on one side, ounces on the other, and mL on one side too. The calibrations are printed on the cup’s sides (as usual) AND it’s printed inside the cup that’s angled so it can be read from above. It means that you don’t have to bend down or hold it up to determine how much liquid it contains. (It’s the little things, guys). I love this because it measures small volumes of liquid very accurately since most 1-cup measuring cups won’t give you the markings for less than 1/4 cup. While this is plastic, it’s very durable. I hand wash it for the most part, but I run it through the dishwasher anytime I use it for oily liquids. This is definitely my most-used kitchen tool.

KitchenAid 3.5 Cup Food Chopper, $39.99, Target

Food processor

I honestly don’t know what my life was like before I got this food processor. How did I mince garlic? How did I chop basil? How did I make corn flake crumbs? How did I make salad dressing? This food processor is the Kristin Chenoweth of kitchen tools – she’s tiny but her voice is so damn powerful. This will be your new best friend if you hate chopping things like basil, cilantro, garlic, and other veggies. You can also use this to puree vegetables. It’s perfect for those who have a small kitchen like myself! This is SUPER easy to take apart, wash, and put back together (I’m literally laughing out loud because I’m reading reviews/comments on how people are like “it’s too many things to snap together!!!” because the whole thing is only 5 pieces).

Citrus juicer, $4.99, Amazon

Citrus Juicer

These are a game changer when you need fresh lime & lemon juice. There’s not much to say about this except that you need one. My advice is that you need a heavy duty one, not a plastic one. I don’t suggest buying it online – go to the store and feel the weight. Also, there’s a lot of fancy versions of a handheld juicer that are super expensive. You probably don’t need that one, so save your money and get the most simple, heavy duty one!

Silpat Baking Sheet, $28.99, Amazon

Silpat

These silicone sheets are so exciting!! They are thin, flexible mats that can be used instead of parchment paper when baking. Cookies and pastries come off without tearing because of its nonstick surface, and it makes cleaning up so easy! I also place these on my counter when I’m kneading or rolling out dough. Just make sure you order the right size for your baking sheet!

KitchenAid KSM150 Artisan Series Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, $299.99, Best Buy

Stand Mixer

Every time I use my stand mixer, I can’t help but sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” because it really is just too good to be true. Before I finally caved in and bought one, I was using a handheld electric mixer. It was very messy. I do not miss it. But this stand mixer works magic. Even Dumbledore won’t be able knead dough like this guy with the Elder Wand. If baking is your hobby, you need a stand mixer. The one I have is a 4.5 quart, the tilt-head makes it easy for you to add ingredients, it comes with 3 beater attachments, and it’s yellow! There are a bunch of different kinds of stand mixers in the market, so if you are interested in getting one, do your research on which one will work best for your needs. I’m not a heavy baker so I don’t need the super fancy one. One last note: I suggest purchasing it from Target or Best Buy since they often put these stand mixers on sale. I purchased mine from Best Buy because you can get 10% cash back or finance it without interest with a credit card.

8-inch Knife, $30.00, Amazon

Knife

Having a good knife is essential to cooking. This one is my favorite. Oooo it slices, dices, and chops soooo good. It’s relatively inexpensive too. I know that there are $200 knives out there, but my eyes are set on this one. The important thing to know about knives is how to take care of them. Make sure you clean it immediately after use and dry it right after washing.

Food Thermometer, $9.99, Amazon

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My favorite for measuring temperature the doneness of meat and hotness of oil. This is an important tool to have!

Digital Food Scale, $10.85, Amazon

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Doesn’t really matter which brand of digital scale you get. All that matters is that you get one that measures both ounces and grams! My favorite use for the digital scale is for baking. I used to use cups/teaspoons measurements for baking until a good friend gave me very great advice and said weighing dry ingredients (flour, sugar, etc.) is more accurate and always yields better results. He told no lies. I found that my dough is always more consistent when I measured weight vs using cups/teaspoons. He is a fairy godmother.

Anyway, I think that’s all for today. I hope you like this post. I know it’s a little weird to talk about kitchen tools, but having the right ones is something I feel strongly about.

Until next time,

DLJ

Clean Kitchen – Tips & Tricks

It’s Saturday! Call me crazy, but one of my most favorite things about the weekend is actually spending time at home, taking lots of naps, binge watching Supernatural on Netflix, and having plenty of time to experiment on a new recipe! However, no matter how much time I have, one of my least favorite things about cooking is how messy the whole business gets. Onion skins everywhere, my hands are smelly, my whole apartment smells even worse… ugh…

Today, I want to share some of my favorite tips & tricks about keeping a clean (and good-smelling) kitchen before, during, and after cooking! The following “hacks” are things that I’ve picked up along the way from personal experience, things I’ve Googled, and things I’ve been taught by people. They are tried & true, I promise! I really hope you find some of these useful!

REALLY FAST CLEANUP. This one might be silly for you, but I use this method every single time I cook for easy cleanup. Don’t get rid of those plastic produce bags you get from the grocery store! Instead, save them and use them to clean up kitchen scraps. Spread a bag on the counter next to your cutting board (or in the sink) and sweep scraps such as vegetable peelings onto it as you prep. When you’re done, just gather up the bag and throw it away BUT MAKE SURE YOU COMPOST YOUR FRUIT & VEGGIE SCRAPS!

HOW TO DISPOSE USED OIL. I don’t mean deep frying oil, I mean oil as in when you sautè something and end up with a bunch of oil afterwards or if you cook bacon and there’s a gallon of grease on your pan and you don’t know how to dispose of it correctly. Whatever you do, don’t throw it down your drain! Once your pan is off the heat, pour some flour onto it and stir. Once the oil has been absorbed by the flour, let it cool and discard.

GETTING RID OF KITCHEN STENCH AFTER COOKING. How is it that food smells sooo good while it’s on the stove/oven, but once you’re done cooking, it leaves the MOST unpleasant smell throughout the house? I’ve tried lighting candles, keeping the fan on my A/C, sometimes even cracking my front door open, but no matter what, the smell can stay for DAYS. Good thing those days are gone – here’s my favorite tip to freshen the air: Simmer 3-4 cinnamon sticks (or 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon) in 2 cups of water in low heat until the pleasant smell of cinnamon takes over. Warning: you might end up wanting to bake cinnamon rolls after this.

FRESH HANDS. Yes, it’s common knowledge that lemon & lime juice are often used to wash away lingering odors from hands after working with smelly ingredients such as garlic, onions, or eating crawfish (yummmm), etc. However, I find that citrus doesn’t completely get rid of the smell. For these tough cases, wash your hands with a little bit of mouthwash. Any inexpensive brand works.

NO DOUGH HANDS. Working with dough with your hands can get really sticky sometimes, and when you wash your hands, it takes FOREVER to wash off the dough. To shorten your scrubbing time after kneading sticky dough, “wash” your hands with a handful of flour or cornmeal instead of soap. Then, rinse your hands with COLD water. (Hot water causes the starches in the dough to gelatinize, which requires more scrubbing.)

KEEP WOODEN SPOONS CLEAN. I love using wooden spoons to cook, but I avoid using it because they retain yesterday’s tomato sauce and transfer into my tomorrow’s creamy chicken noodle soup. I’ve found that the best way to clean wooden spoons is to scrub it with baking soda and water.

CITRUS FOR GARBAGE DISPOSALS. Done squeezing lemon & limes or eating oranges & grapefruits? Take a couple of pieces of peel in your garbage disposal, a few ice cubes (if you have some), run some water down the drain, then turn on the disposal. The rough peels help to clean the blades and the citrus oils do a GREAT job of naturally freshening things up. This is something that I do pretty often since it requires almost no effort!