Baking Hacks- for when you’re short on time

While preparing to bake a Sticky Banana Toffee Pudding, I decided to share a few of my baking hacks; things to do to make baking easier and more successful. 

You may notice recipes usually state ‘use room temperature eggs (as well as) butter’, but you may not have taken the eggs and butter out to warm up enough by the time you’ve started baking.  It’s actually quite important when you’re creaming butter, sugar and eggs to not have butter and eggs that are cold.  If you don’t have the ingredients at the right temperature it won’t cream properly.  If too cold the butter will look like tiny pieces of rice in a puddle of egg stuff.  And if you’ve melted it, it also might not bake properly.  (Whereas in making pastry (crust) you do want cold butter.)

These tips will help get around the time constraints, so you can have warm enough ingredients.

IMG_0991Most commonly people know to soften the butter in the microwave, but it’s important to cut the butter into small cubes and use a low setting.  It’s also helpful to move the pieces around on the plate or bowl, so that they’re evenly softened (otherwise some melt while others are cold).

IMG_0989Once you’ve gotten the butter temperature correct, placing it into a cold stainless mixing bowl will not help your goal.  It’ll cool it down again.   So, put warm water in the bowl or place the bowl in warm water for a couple of minutes and tip out before adding the butter.  Too hot and butter will melt.  But warm, the butter won’t congeal again.IMG_0993

IMG_0988Last tip is one I discovered myself but I’m sure it’s been done elsewhere.  Since we refrigerate our eggs in the US, one usually needs to plan to bake with eggs by taking them out of the fridge in time to take the chill off.  But you can place eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 to 10 minutes.  Again, not hot water, but warmer than lukewarm.  The butter, sugar and eggs will look fluffy if you’ve got the right temperature. 

These tricks will help you bake great cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and cookies.

©2014 MyKidsReallyEatThis 

Splenda and Eggbeaters… try the real thing instead


Splenda and Eggbeaters… try the real thing instead

Picnic and Barbecue Time


I find it really challenging to get kids to eat the healthier choices when we’re out.  We had several picnics and barbecues over the Memorial Day weekend starting with my kindergartener’s class concert/family picnic.  I made a quick lunch with leftover steak, egg salad, mixed greens salad and strawberries.  The dessert table was full of blue jello cups, blue punch, cupcakes and very shiny marshmallow treats.  I find it so hard to get the kids to eat anything healthy if other children are already on dessert, but they have to have some good things first before they’re allowed.  I also try to get the kids to not pick the artificially colored desserts and choose the more “real” stuff like ice cream and cupcakes.  Not sure that I’m on the right track but the color thing gets to me.  I don’t serve my children dessert at every meal or every dinner for that matter, but I do give them some sometimes.  And again, holidays and birthdays my rules get much more relaxed.  They’re even allowed soda on those days (I try to get the ones without preservatives and artificial ingredients- like Virgil’s- if I buy any, which is next to never) but I serve them real juice or water if it’s available.  

One of the parties we went to I brought my mother’s old standby rice salad with tuna.  It’s such an unusual combination but so many people love it.  Perfect for summer gatherings. My kids love it too!  Maybe it’s the crunchiness and sweetness of the apple together with saltiness of the tuna and pickle.

Julia’s Rice & Tuna Salad

  • One and a half cups of white or brown rice (or 3/4 of each), cooled
  • One or two cans of tuna (depending on your taste preference)
  • 1/2 onion chopped (I prefer red)
  • 2 peeled and cubed tart apples, (Granny Smiths, Braeburns) soaked in a little water and lemon juice so they don’t turn brown
  • 2 pickles cubed
  • 2 chopped plum tomatoes –sans seeds if possible 
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs cut into large pieces (add last so they don’t break apart too much)
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • Tbsp fresh chopped basil or mint (optional)
  • vinaigrette or Italian style dressing
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

 Mix together and serve chilled.


I also have another great rice and fish salad that I adapted from Chef David Raymer’s chopped rice salad.  You can make it with white fish or salmon or even canned salmon. Fabulous for left-overs!

Make it same way as above but without the apples, eggs, tuna or pickles. 

 Use the rice, red onion, tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, and vinaigrette dressing.

Add veggies-(select your favorite or what ever’s left over) like zucchini, summer squash, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli and green beans (prefer haricot verte)—all chopped. Add handful of nicoise olives, several handfuls of chopped mesclun greens and 2-3 Tbsp capers.  Really delicious!  Not all my children will eat the olives but they love capers …and the salad in general.