Fun, fun, fun! Sandwich cookie cake pans from Williams-Sonoma

How much fun is this sandwich cookie cake?? It would be perfect as a dessert for any occasion from a spring or Mother’s Day tea to a birthday party or backyard barbecue.

Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma)

Sandwich Cookie Cake (image from Williams-Sonoma's web site)

I picked up the pans to make this fun dessert this evening, racing into the Williams-Sonoma at Sherway Gardens at 8:58 p.m. (the store closes at 9 p.m.). Just in time!

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Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma's web site)

The 9″ cast aluminum cake pans are exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and sell for $29.95 (US) for the pair. Bake your favourite brownie or chocolate cake recipe or mix in them, then sandwich the layers together with flavoured whipped cream, ice cream or buttercream icing.

Visit Williams-Sonoma’s website for more information and to read reviews about the pans. According to the online reviews, it’s really important to grease the pan well with cooking spray to remove the cakes easily.

I’ll have to hold off testing out the pans until next week as I’m off to New York City this weekend to take a Four-Star Breakfast cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education and visit with my sister Loreen who lives on Long Island. We’ve got afternoon tea reservations in NYC at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Friday.

Removing strawberry caps and hulls in a pinch

A strawberry huller efficiently removes the fruit's stem and green cap.

If you want to remove strawberry caps and hulls quickly and cleanly, I recommend investing a buck or two in a strawberry huller. This small inexpensive kitchen tool, rather like a fat tweezer, will pinch off the green tops of strawberries efficiently so you don’t waste fruit or stain your fingers.

I use mine when I’m facing a large batch of strawberries that need hulling, or even just a few berries, probably because the little tool works well and is fun to use!

You should be able to find a huller almost wherever kitchen tools are sold.

The Lazy Way to Slice an Apple

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Apple Wedger/Corer

I used to silently wonder about people who meticulously cut their apples into wedges or slices with a knife before eating them.

What was wrong with just biting your way around the fruit until you’d found the inedible core? I suppose by slicing to the core, then cutting it away before eating each slice, you never risked not knowing you’d hit the centre of the apple! Duh!

Was cutting an apple into even sections a neat freak’s way to eat this favourite fruit? It did eliminate messy juices dripping down your chin when you chomped into an especially juicy apple. And, it did allow one to pay equal attention to each evenly cut apple wedge, if that was important to you. And I suppose it might be to someone anal about how they eat apples.

Maybe the apple somehow tasted better cut into pieces?

Then my sister tucked an apple wedger and corer into my Christmas gift bag (okay, so my family uses gift bags, not stockings!) and the light bulb went off.

Pre-cutting the apple is a neat, civilized way to eat an apple. You get rid of the core in one deft maneuvre and are left with evenly sized apple wedges that can be easily held by big or little fingers. What’s so wrong with that?

An apple may not taste better this way (although some may argue this point), but it is a simple, fast and fun way to make apple wedges to enjoy however you like (especially dipped in chocolate or caramel sauce ,which I seldom do but it’s fun to think about enjoying them this way!).

You may have to look a little to find an apple wedger/corer. Try a kitchen store, or wherever kitchen tools are sold. My sister picked up apple wedgers at a dollar store.

Depressing Week Not All Bad with News of Transparent Toaster!

According to Welsh researcher Dr. Cliff Arnall, this week was supposed to be the most depressing week of the year. (I guess we should all be glad it’s just about over!) Monday, January 21 was actually the saddest day of the year. Arnall devised a formula to calculate this which took into consideration things like the weather, debt loads carried by many of us post-Christmas, failure to keep our New Year’s resolutions, and motivational levels in January.

What made my week particularly depressing was that I spent an inordinate amount of time in my vehicle commuting to work in Missauga and to meetings in Toronto. Snow and cold weather, at times less-than-optimal road conditions, and traffic accidents that created chaos on the highways resulted in me wasting too much time behind the wheel of my car this week.

On the bright side, if this is as depressing a week as I’m going to have this year, other than some long commutes, the week really wasn’t that bad. And at least it’s almost over and done with!

Thankfully the commutes were made bearable by having something to listen to on my car’s radio. In the morning, I generally tune into CHYM FM for the music, traffic reports and entertaining banter between the hosts. For the drive home I like to find out what’s gone on in the world around me while I’ve spent the day concentrating on the world of eggs, so I dial up CBC’s Here and Now and As It Happens for news, interviews with interesting people doing interesting things, and current events.

During what stretched from an anticipated 1-1/2 hour drive to an over 3 hour commute from Kitchener to a meeting in downtown Toronto on Thursday morning, CHYM’s morning show hosts George and Tara talked about the development of a prototype for a transparent toaster. The toaster was applauded for its potential to end the trauma of toasting. The toaster’s transparency would allow you to see your bread while it was toasting. The toast could then be removed when it was done to your liking – eliminating burnt or under-done toast.

Before you rush out to look for the toaster, be advised that it is still in the concept stage. The idea for it was developed by the Innovations Concept Studio.

Glass toaster

Here’s how the toaster would work.

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From Dipping to Sipping

Over the Christmas holidays, Murray and I enjoyed a three course fondue meal with his sister Lorna at The Melting Pot Restaurant in Winnipeg, Manitoba. All that dipping inspired us to buy a new tea pot.

What? You don’t see the connection between fondue forks and tea pots? Well, let me explain. But I’ll start at the beginning and describe our meal in case you get a chance to visit this fondue restaurant.

We started with a salad (a Sunshine salad for me – mixed greens, feta cheese, red onion, olives and pecans, drizzled with a sun-dried tomato dressing). Salads were followed by a classic cheese fondue made with Gruyere and Swiss cheeses, wine, kirsch, and a medley of spices that included a wonderful punch of nutmeg.

We continued our dipping with a “surf and turf” bouillon fondue of scallops, prawns, chicken, beef and pork with three sauces (seafood sauce, a dill sauce, and a chili sauce, if memory serves). This fondue was accompanied by rice and Thai-style vegetables.

A chocolate fondue with fruit dippers finished the meal on a very satisfying note.

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Along with the dessert fondue, Murray ordered tea. It was served in a see-through tea pot that housed an infuser for the tea leaves. The word “BrewT” was stamped on the tea pot.

The pot was a little taller and larger than the one shown on the left.

We were intrigued by the pot with its pronged feet. Although we had all seen clear tea pots before, this one appeared to have no pouring spout.

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Here’s how the pot works.

Tea leaves and boiling water are placed in the pot (1 teaspoon (5 mL) tea leaves and 1 cup (250 mL) water per cup of tea). The tea is allowed to steep for a few minutes.

After the leaves have steeped, the pot is set on top of the cup. This pushes the release valve open which allows the tea to pour into the cup.

The three of us were impressed by the pot’s efficiency, probably because most restaurant tea pots pour so badly you usually have tea everywhere but in your cup.

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Of course the trick with this pot was knowing when to lift it off the cup so it would stop “pouring”, otherwise the tea could overflow the cup.

But judging when the cup was nearly full proved to be not that difficult. You just had to lift the pot for a look, and to immediately stop dispensing tea.

Once we were back home, Murray was on a hunt to find a similar tea pot.

An online search revealed that BrewT was available through Cornelia Bean Ltd. in Winnipeg for $24.99.

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We decided to check a local tea shop to see whether they sold anything similar. Sure enough, Distinctly Tea in Waterloo (Ontario) carries three different styles and sizes of this type of tea pot. Each comes with a round coaster on which the pot sits to catch any drips.

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Small Kitchen Gadgets are a Big Help

I received a couple helpful kitchen gadgets for Christmas that I’ve been able to put to good use.

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The utensil pot clip is a stainless steel clamp that fits saucepans with edges less than 3/8-inch thick. Attached to the side of a pot, it holds a spoon or spatula at the ready. The silicone-coated hook is heat resistant to 600F (315C). It’s a great way to keep your counter and stove top clean, and the utensil handy when needed. Approx. price – $8.75 (Cdn)

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If you’re tired of wondering whether food in your house is past its prime or safe to heat, here’s a gadget that will help you keep track of the number of hours and days a food has been in your refrigerator or opened and in your cupboard. The days agoTM digital counter counts up to 99 days and is reuseable. Its suctioned and/or magnetic base enables it to adhere readily to almost any surface. The one I have is magnetic, but with a small piece of masking tape rolled over onto itself and stuck to the back, the counter will readily adhere to plastic or glass.

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