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10 Meal Planning Tips for a Camping Weekend by Erica

The Original SNAP’N STRAIN™ by Kitchen Gizmo™, No-hands No-Fuss Clip-On Strainer. Fits all Pot Sizes. (Gray)

With its new and updated innovative design, the Snap’n Strain will take the strain out of straining. This top quality, heat-resistant, silicone strainer is the newest, most practical way to get your food strained thoroughly, while avoiding transferring the food out of the pot.

The Snap’n Strain is flexible enough to fit onto nearly all pots, pans and bowls. It snaps on neatly with two clips. The clips’ strong grip will keep it safely attached while in use and can be left attached to the pot while cooking.

Once snapped, the pot can be tilted over a sink or bowl and the Snap’n Strain will do its magic. The liquids will be poured out while the food remains in the pot even with heavier foods like potatoes.

The Snap’n Strain is super compact for storing.
Dishwasher safe.
Recommended Used Include: Vegetables, Potatoes, Eggs, Pasta

Product Features

  • ORIGINAL MANUFACTURERS – Do not fall for the inferior design and quality of the imitations, Only the seller Home N’ Goods carry the original Snap n’ Strain designed and manufactured by Kitchen GizmoTM.
  • UNIVERSAL DESIGN – The specially designed clips will fit nearly all round pots, pans and bowls big and small (yes, even the ones with a lip).
  • SPACE SAVING- Small, compact strainer that is easy to use and store in a quarter the size of the traditional colander. Great when working with limited counter space.
  • SAFE AND DURABLE- Completely BPA Free, Dishwasher safe and FDA approved. Made from top-quality silicone only the original Snap’n StrainTM will have the durability to last for many years. Will withstand straining of heavier foods like potatoes.
  • PEACE OF MIND – With our 1 year warranty. As long as they were purchased new on Amazon, we will replace it free of charge. Warranty only valid for defects in materials or craftsmanship, any damages caused by misuse will void the warranty.

Easy Shrimp Curry Recipe

Here’s one of my strategies for dinner in a hurry–tweak a classic dish by loading it up with vegetables and creating a one pot meal. Recently I worked on a shrimp and feta recipe, it started out very much the same as many other recipes, but I added lots of fresh fennel. Basically this shrimp curry recipe started with a simple coconut curry recipe to which I added sugar snap peas, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes. I happened to have some sugar snap peas from Mann’s produce (another great time saver because they are stringless and don’t need any prep), but I could have added broccoli or sweet potatoes or some other study vegetables. Just add rice or noodles and dinner is done!

This recipe comes courtesy of American Shrimp Company, they kindly sent me some more of their fresh wild gulf shrimp. The shrimp are bursting with flavor and can be used in so many dishes. They arrive clean, deveined, peeled, fresh, not frozen, perfect for when you don’t have much time for meal prep since they really don’t need marinating and cook in just minutes. I don’t use all the shrimp at once so some of them go in the freezer to use at a later date.

The benefit of making a one pot meal is that you don’t have to bother cooking multiple side dishes and in this case, the vegetables swim along with the shrimp in a delicious curry sauce. I’m going to continue to experiment with more dishes like this. What classic shrimp dishes would you add vegetables to in order to make it a meal? Shrimp and grits? Scampi? Shrimp gumbo? The possibilities are endless. 

Easy Shrimp Curry
Serves 4
1 Tablespoon coconut oil or vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced
3/4 pound raw peeled and deveined shrimp
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, optional
Heat a large deep skillet or wok over medium high heat and add the coconut oil. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds then add the onion and peppers. Stiry fry until the vegetables have slightly softened, about 5 minutes. 
Add the curry powder and  the snap peas and stir for a minute then add the coconut milk and soy sauce. Increase heat and bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and cook just until they shrimp are cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning. You can add more soy sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper if you like. Serve with rice (or rice noodles) and garnish with cilantro. 
Disclaimer: My thanks to The American Shrimp Company and Mann’s for providing me with shrimp and sugar snap peas. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Red, White & Blue Strawberry Shortcakes

My kitchen has been overflowing with perfectly ripe strawberries for the past couple of weeks and that means that I’ve been indulging in some strawberry shortcakes lately. Strawberry shortcakes are one of my favorite summer desserts because they are very easy to make, in addition to being a great showcase for ripe, fresh berries. My Red, White & Blue Strawberry Shortcakes are a very colorful twist on my standard recipe that is perfect for serving up on the 4th of July, so stock up on strawberries now!

The recipe starts with buttermilk biscuits that are laced with vanilla extract. The biscuits have red, white and blue sprinkles worked into the dough – just like you would find in funfetti cake – and that gives them a very festive, patriotic look that is ideal for Independence Day celebrations. The biscuits are “drop biscuits,” meaning that they are not rolled out, but shaped free-form on the baking sheet. I like the rustic look, but you can also roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface if you prefer to cut them out with a biscuit cutter. Once the biscuits have baked and cooled, you’ll need to prep your strawberries and whipped cream.

The whipped cream is the really fun part of this recipe, as it is dyed with red and blue food coloring to give it a bold, swirling color pattern. Whip the cream first, then divide it into smaller portions and add your food coloring. Both liquid and gel food colorings can work, but you’ll have to eyeball the amount to get the color you want. All three colors – red, white and blue – are spooned into a piping bag. Try to keep them separate as you spoon them into place so the colors come out in neat lines as you pipe. A large piping bag will make this easier, as it allows plenty of room to maneuver the whipped cream into place. The whipped cream is piped on top of sliced, fresh strawberries, which are piled into the split biscuits. It’s colorful, fun and delicious.

How to Make Red, White and Blue Whipped Cream

In the event that you want the skip the biscuits, you can use the whipped cream as a topping for cupcakes, hot chocolate or just a bowl full of berries! Get creative because this is a fun and easy way to add some 4th of July flair to any dessert.

Red, White & Blue Strawberry Shortcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces
2 tsp vanilla extract
approx 2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp red, white and blue sprinkles
2 cups sliced strawberries
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until mixture is coarse and sandy, with no pieces larger than a big pea remaining.
Combine the vanilla and buttermilk in a measuring cup and pour 1/2 cup of the milk into the flour mixture. Stir with a fork until the dough starts to come together into a very slightly sticky ball. Add remaining buttermilk as necessary to bring the dough together. Stir in sprinkles as you work the dough.
Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and shape them roughly into discs about 3/4-inch thick.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until biscuits are a light golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Whipped Cream & Assembly
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks with an electric mixer. Beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Divide into thirds and place into three separate bowls. Fold blue food coloring into one batch and red into another, leaving the rest white. Spoon all three whipped cream colors into a large piping bag (or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off).
Split the cooled biscuits in half and top each with about 1/3 cup strawberries, then generously pipe on red, white and blue whipped cream. Replace top half of biscuit and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Family Food: Ragu alla Bolognese 2.0

Ten years ago, I road tested an earlier version of this ragu alla Bolognese recipe for the very first time. It has since become a household staple; the recipe that defines ragu alla Bolognese for my family. For the moment, it is also the only pasta dish both my children will eat. They clamour for it every week. And I must admit that listening to my two-year-old pronounce “boh/loh/NYEH/seh” makes me smile.

However, my taste preferences and lifestyle have changed over the years. Having prepared this ragu for a decade, I’ve jotted down many details that have helped me to more consistently achieve the final outcome I’m after. This was what prompted me to share a version 2.0 recipe with you (10 years of recipe notes!).

That said, I don’t claim to know what an authentic or traditional version of ragu alla Bolognese is. This is simply the way my family enjoys it.

Personally, I’ve also written this all down because I hope to give my children a chance to re-live the memory of this taste of their childhood in the future. The magic of a recipe is that it breathes life into a remembered past long after its author loses the capacity to rewrite it in her own words.

Toby and Tara, if you do ever read this, know that mama loves you always and forever.

Lessons Learnt

For one, I find the use of butter in addition to olive oil unnecessary. This is especially so because the pork belly and guanciale provide adequate fat to the dish. The same applies to the quantity of cream. Where I initially celebrated it for taking the mild acidic edge off the tomatoes, adding a full measure of cream to the ragu eventually made it too cloying. Eating it began to feel like an extreme sport! I’ve since reduced quantities and started using sour cream or creme fraiche instead. I like how they enrich the ragu while sustaining balance. The faintest hint of acidity helps cut through the overall unctuousness of the dish.

I’ve recently started to add leeks to this ragu, too. I love how they melt into the dish and add a vegetable sweetness to it. Should they turn out to be a hassle for you to pin down, then substitute them with two more brown onions.

I’ve also discovered that using canned cherry, rather than Roma, tomatoes adds a desirable sweetness and umami to this recipe. Furthermore, cutting down the quantity of tomatoes a little and eliminating the beef stock leaves us with an aptly reduced ragu that clings well to pasta, and boasts a deliciously calibrated intensity of flavour.

As for the use of wine, it’s a bit of a superstition for me. I’m convinced that it builds a layer of nuance. But I tend to reach for whatever leftover wine I happen to have in the freezer. While a dry white is preferred, I’ve used everything from fruity reds and champagne, to even vermouth or cognac (in a smaller quantity). On occasion, I use a blend of leftover wines.

Finally, I feel that the kind of salt and pepper you use also matters. In a dish that boasts such luscious flavours, I like that Red Boat salt contributes yet another facet of near-funky umami savouriness to the ragu. My preference is to use freshly crushed Kampot black pepper, which isn’t about outright heat. I find it aromatic and subtle. Yet, it manages to hold its own among a melange of flavours.

Convenience Versus Flavour

In my quest to develop a more concise ragu recipe, I’ve attempted to use store-bought minced meat. But it never delivers on mouthfeel and flavour (probably because the cuts that go into store-bought minced meat aren’t always meant to be slow cooked). The meat ends up tough and grainy rather than tender, and the ragu ends up tasting thin and watery.

So, I do two things. First, I choose the cuts of meat carefully (at present, I favour Canadian pork belly and Australian oyster blade) and have it ground at the butcher’s or I do it myself at home. Second, I double the recipe (the recipe below yields twice the original) to make the amount of time I put into making it worth my while.

I’ve also tried making this in a crockpot in the hopes of easing the need to watch over it constantly. But after multiple attempts, I’ve concluded that the crockpot fails to deliver the same vivacious flavours (it takes a lot longer to reduce). Using an induction hob makes it the most manageable. Also, using a cartouche seems to help pace the reduction of the liquids. It ensures that the meat develops tenderness even as we reduce moisture to intensify flavour.

This feels like a tiresomely long recipe, but it really isn’t. I often get all the prep done (grind the meat, chop the vegetables, process the canned tomatoes) on one night. I store everything in the fridge and make the ragu the following night. The family then has it for dinner the night after.

I totally believe that slow cooked dishes taste better the day after they’ve been made. (Aged ragu, anyone?)

You are the most important part of the recipe

My attitude towards recipes has also changed over the years. Recognising how variable ingredients can be, a recipe can only be a rough road map. The cook plays a major role because you select every component of the dish.

So, where I used to keep ingredient specifications as broad-stroked as possible to accommodate differences in produce availability, I now tend to be exceedingly specific. Even if you can’t lay your hands on the ingredients I use, they give you a stronger sense of how you might tweak or substitute items to create a closer approximation of what the recipe seeks to accomplish.

It isn’t about using the most expensive ingredients. Paying close attention to all aspects of the dish is what it takes. Everything from your choice of ingredients, to the type and size of pot you use, your heat source and even your frame of mind comes into play. Keep tasting as you go so that you can tweak and adapt the dish as it evolves.

It would be quite terrifying, and unnatural, for ingredients to remain  exactly the same all year round. I’ve learnt to embrace the inexactitude of nature and humanity as part of our process.

Ragu alla Bolognese 2.0
Makes 16 portions

400g guanciale
800g oyster blade steak
800g Canadian pork belly, skin off
3 leeks, white stalk only
2 brown onions, peeled
4 medium carrots, peeled
4 ribs celery
3 cans (each 400g) cherry tomatoes, drained
Olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1tsp Red Boat salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp whole Kampot black peppercorns, crushed
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
200ml sour cream/creme fraiche

Slice the guanciale, beef and pork into narrow strips that will fit into you meat grinder chute. If you find it difficult to slice the chilled meat, place the whole pieces of meat in the freezer. When they are semi-frozen, cut them into narrow strips. Then freeze the strips. This can make them easier to grind. Coarsely grind all the meat together in a meat grinder. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Chop the leek, onions, carrots, and celery stalks to a 1cm dice. Press drained canned tomatoes through a food mill (using the disk with the smallest holes) into a bowl made of non-reactive material (such as glass). Don’t include the liquid that the tomatoes are steeped in because it will leave you with too much moisture in your sauce.

At this point, start working on your battuto. Heat just enough olive oil to coat the base of a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I use a 30cm cast-iron French oven) over medium heat. You can tell when the pot has achieved the right temperature by observing the oil. It should seem more fluid, transforming into an even slick across the pan without puddling.

Toss in the leeks and onions first. Sweat them (they should be translucent, but not browned). Toss in the remaining vegetables. Continue to sweat until they begin to soften before adding the minced meat mixture. Sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned (about 10min).

Add the wine into the pot and let it evaporate for 5 minutes (increase the heat a little if necessary). Add the tomatoes and simmer uncovered for another 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cover with a cartouche (here’s why) and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, lower the heat and reduce uncovered for another 25 minutes. The final ragu should not be too watery. You want it to cling to your pasta when you serve it.

I usually cool the ragu and pre-portion it into multiple bags (usually helpings for 2 adults or 2 children simply because that works for our household). These are stored frozen in vaccuum sealed bags. I know fresh is best, but there is a limit to how much of a slow-life my working mom-life affords me. I make calculated compromises.

To serve, heat ragu in a saucepan (add a little chicken stock if you need to adjust the thickness of it), then add cooked pasta of your choice. Stir to coat evenly and heat through before plating. Top with generous shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano.

The post Family Food: Ragu alla Bolognese 2.0 appeared first on Chubby Hubby.

Nostalgia BSET300RETRORED Retro Series 3-in-1 Family Size Breakfast Station

The Nostalgia BSET300RETRORED Retro Series 3-in-1 Powerful Family Size Breakfast Station makes a complete breakfast with just one appliance. Enjoy a cup of coffee with the four-cup coffee maker, then treat the family to a variety of breakfast meats and eggs cooked on the large, non-stick griddle. The multi-functioning toaster holds up to four slices of bread at a time, and is perfect for 7-inch frozen pizzas, hot sandwiches, desserts and more. For added safety, a 30-minute timer is included with automatic shut off. When the meal is done, the griddle and oven tray remove for easy cleanup.

Product Features

  • Large family size non-stick griddle
  • Coffee maker brews up to 4-cups of coffee at a time
  • Toasts up to 4-slices of bread at a time
  • Removable oven tray and non-stick griddle for easy cleaning
  • Multi-function toaster oven bakes, toasts and reheats food
  • Glass griddle lid
  • Includes 30-minute timer with automatic shut off
  • 1500 watts

Blueberry Crumb Bars

These blueberry crumb bars are crazy easy to make and could, dare I say, rival your favorite blueberry pie recipe. You can pick them up and eat them on the go, which makes them a perfect dessert for picnics and summer parties!

Blueberry Crumb Bars - A big stack waiting for your summer party!

Ahh, sweet blueberries. I am positively obsessed with them right now. I’ve been eating them by the handful… and with cottage cheese… and in a bowl of cinnamon shredded wheat… and in every baked good I can possibly imagine. I can’t imagine a day when I’ll ever tire of baking with blueberries. This past weekend, I decided to combine blueberries with one of my favorite desserts – crumb bars! Give me anything with a crumb topping and I’ll devour it faster than you can say “butter”. Quite a few years ago, I made peach crumb bars, which I successfully turned into blueberry crumb bars. If you can go wrong with fresh fruit and a buttery crumb crust and topping, I haven’t found a way.

Blueberry Crumb Bars - An overhead look at three blueberry crumb bars waiting to be gobbled up!

I’m sure you could easily adapt these bars to use up whatever type of berry you have in your fridge, but I am definitely partial to the blueberry. It’s my favorite of the berry family, plus I just love that beautiful purple color that baked blueberries exude.

These bars exceptionally easy (and quick!) to make, so no excuses… grab a big container of plump, juicy blueberries and hop into the kitchen!

Prepare yourself for the fact that you will continue to cut “just a little piece” until half of the pan is gone. It’s unavoidable; just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Blueberry Crumb Bars - A fabulous blueberry filling between two layers of crumb mixture!

One year ago: Cherry Coke Float Cupcakes
Four years ago: Strawberry Pimm’s Cup Cocktail
Five years ago: S’mores Ice Cream

Did you make this recipe?
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Blueberry Crumb Bars

Crumb bars loaded in the middle with fresh blueberries.


For the Crumb

  • 3 cups (425 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (198 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (227 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg

For the Blueberry Filling

  • 4 cups (20 ounces) fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
  2. Make the Crumb: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter, and then the egg (the dough will be crumbly). Press half of dough into the prepared pan.
  3. Make the Filling: In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently fold in the blueberries to coat evenly with the sugar mixture. Spread the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust, drizzling any excess juice in the bowl over the filling. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the blueberry layer.
  4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

(Recipe adapted from; originally seen on Smitten Kitchen)

All images and text ©Brown Eyed Baker, LLC.

This recipe was originally published on July 23, 2013.

The post Blueberry Crumb Bars appeared first on Brown Eyed Baker.

Garlic 101 by Erica

Pickled Garlicky Green Bean Salad

Here’s one appetizer that will leave your palate intrigued and happy. Pickled Garlicky Green Bean Salad. Perfect for summer and super easy to make. I served it at my Azerbaijani supper club recently and it was a hit.

To make it, green beans are first cooked, then tossed with garlic and fresh herbs, drizzled with vinegar, and left aside for some time to soak up all the good flavors.

This dish is made with Romano beans, which are broader than the more common French green beans (haricots verts). They’re also fleshier and have flat pods with beans inside that are loaded with distinct flavor. Choose fresh and tender beans for the best results. If Romano beans are not available to you, use French green beans.

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The post Pickled Garlicky Green Bean Salad appeared first on AZ Cookbook.

Pecorino Toscano & Pecorino Sardo

Yesterday I wrote about Pecorino Romano, today Pecorino Toscano and Pecorino Sardo, two other kinds of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Pecorino you are likely to find in the US.

Pecorino Toscano
I ate the fresh version of Pecorino Toscano practically daily when I lived in Tuscany. In Florence, fresh Pecorino Toscano was like the Italian version of Monterey Jack, the cheese I grew up eating in California.It’s mild, slightly herbal, sweet, approachable, easy to love. It’s really great in a sandwich–either cold or grilled.

Pecorino Toscano is made from milk produced in Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria. As with all cheeses, it gets harder and drier as it ages. In the US it used to be much easier to the find the aged versions than the really fresh soft ones. The fresher version is particularly mild and creamy. The aged version is buttery, sometimes nutty with a peppery finish It’s just a great table cheese, perfect for an antipasto platter. Even aged it tends to be much milder than the Pecorinos from Lazio and Sardinia. 

Pecorino Sardo Maturo & Pecorino Fiore Sardo
Pecorino Sardo 
This is the Pecorino I know the least about, so I turned to cheesemonger and author Gordon Edgar to help me get a better understanding of it. Here’s what he had to say: 
“The tricky thing about Pecorino Sardo is the variation contained within the name. Whereas Pecorino Romano means hard, aged, grating cheese and “Fresco” means semi-soft and young, Pecorino Sardo just means sheep cheese from Sardinia which is where a lot of Italian sheep cheese comes from, labeled as Sardo or not.
There is a name-controlled version “Fiore Sardo DOP” which is raw milk and slightly smoked and one of the most amazingly complex sheep cheeses available anywhere.  Rich, milky, nutty, mutli-layered, briney, and, yes, a touch smokey in a complimentary way, not the way smoke is often used to cover defects in cheese.  Personally I mostly use this as a table cheese to eat with cold cuts or other cheeses.  If you dislike “pecorino,” this cheese may well change your mind.  Make sure it says DOP though, because some importers  and retailers can be a little loose with the American naming of their Italian cheese
Most Sardo sold in the US fits the middle-ground, age-wise between fresco (from whatever region) and the hard, crumbly Romano. If not name-controlled, the Sardo Maturo is my favorite one to buy.  It can work as a less intense and salty alternative to grating than a Romano, but also works as a table cheese, often lending a grassy, potato-y flavor absent from many pecorinos. The aging (maturo) lets flavor develop and my favorite brand is Central Formaggi (though this is often not labeled at point of sale). You can kind of tell how strong Sardo will be based on the texture, so — if you can — try and squeeze it a little before purchase.”
Curious about Pecorino Romano? Read about in yesterday’s post.