Tips & Recommendations

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Recipe for a Tabletop Terrarium

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Terrariums are perfect little worlds in the middle of your dinner table. Whether it is faraway jungle with miniature orchids and moss, or southern desert, sparse with a few rocks and succulents, you are the creator and get to decide. Be inventive with the vessel… you probably have some clear glass vases or a small forgotten aquarium somewhere. Maybe you have moss or succulents growing in your garden. If not, your local nursery will be able to help you pick plants that are happy to be part of your project…

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The Difference Between Olive Oil Grades

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Choose Regular (Pure) or Light Olive Oil for high heat cooking like sauteing or when you need a neutral flavored oil). This olive oil is usually the least expensive. Since it is basically the bottom of the barrel it has to be refined and filtered to remove both the bitter flavors and acid content. This means a lot of the flavors we love have been lost, and it is not as nutritious, however since it has been purified it has a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil, so it is good to use in the pan or oven. By the way, “light” does not mean “low fat”, it means light in flavor.

Select Virgin Olive Oil for marinades, roasting and dressings. Virgin olive oil is the result of the olives pressed with hardly any further manipulation or processing, hence the term “virgin”. This milder flavored olive oil is good for marinades, everyday salad dressings, pestos and for roasting vegetables with.

Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for dressings and drizzling. This is a high quality olive oil since it comes from the first press. It is delicious just as it is, with lots of flavor so it is perfect for dipping bread, salad dressings, and for drizzling on dishes after they have been cooked.

Select Cold Pressed Olive Oil for dressings, drizzling, and general fanciness. Cold pressed olive oil is the fanciest and most precious of all. Usually this means the farmer used the best olives and they were cold pressed with care to make sure that all the flavors and health benefits remain intact. This is the olive oil you use when you really want to showcase it, so use it in cold or room temperature dishes, for dipping, drizzling and dressings that have just been gently whisked, or for drizzling on hot dishes after they have cooked. This olive oil is not recommended to cook with as you will lose a lot of the flavors you paid dearly for.

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Edible Flowers

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I love flowers in food, it is like bringing the flower garden to your table. And for some reason all of these flowers are very easy to grow. Once they are flowering in your garden (you might even already have some of these), you are not going to stop at fancying your water. Sprinkle them on cakes and puddings, toss them with your salads, cut them like bright colored confetti to sprinkle on a dull cookie that needs a little joy. Here are a few suggestions for using edible flowers…

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Storing Fresh Vegetables

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We are big fans of in-season, farm fresh vegetables. But how to clean and store the produce to keep it at its best?

There are different opinions as to whether you should wash your produce first or not. Washing can bruise the produce making it susceptible to spoiling sooner. Unless you are going to use the produce immediately, my recommendation would be to gently brush off any dirt and store in the fridge in separate bags or containers until ready to use, then wash well.

If you choose to wash produce before storage, be sure to thoroughly dry it with a clean paper or dish towel. Wrap salad greens in paper towels before putting them in bags. Never wash berries until you are ready to eat them.

As far as herbs go, herbs love to be treated like flowers, so put them in a vase, and beautify the interior of your fridge with them, unless it is basil, they don’t like the cold, so keep them in a vase on your counter.

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Cooking Tip: Measure Precisely When Baking

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When baking, please measure! Get out standard measuring cups and measure where measure is called for, this will save you from things going amuck and ensure success.

For dry things like flour, oatmeal or peanut butter (technically not dry, but too lumpy to be wet), use a standard (not cutely shaped) set of dry measuring cups. They are meant to be filled right up to the top and then leveled off with a straight edge of some sort.

For liquids like milk or oil use a liquid measuring cup. They generally have a pour spout and are made to be filled to the measurements on the side of the cup (1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, 6 oz, etc.) rather than being filled right up to the top.

For small amounts, use a standard set of measuring spoons. Using an inexact teaspoon from your drawer to measure baking soda could cause your cake to implode. It might not, but it could, and that would make us both sad.

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