10 Simple & Easy Kitchen Tricks From Henckels Knives

 

Tomato Bruschetta

Last week I had an amazing day with the Henckels & Staub product knowledge team, at the beautiful Miele Experience Center in Vaughan.

At the Henckels' Knives Event at the Miele Experience Centre, Vaughan, Ontario
At the Henckels’ Knives Event at the Miele Experience Centre, Vaughan, Ontario

Along with the Kitchen Stuff Plus team, we saw close-up product demonstrations by 5 chefs and a sales manager — all while preparing our own delicious lunch!

My favorite part was learning some food prep secrets from the chefs while trying out the different knives and cookware. I was on the team that made Tomato Bruschetta and Grilled Ratatouille Crostini and I very quickly realized that having the right knife, sharpened, could easily save me about 20 minutes a meal!

Tomato Bruschetta
Tomato Bruschetta

Here are some of the insider tips and tricks that I learned:

Pro Tip #1
The three most useful knives in any kitchen are a paring knife, a chef’s knife (can be a 6, 10, or 12 inch blade), and a bread knife.

Zwilling/Henckels Knives
Zwilling/Henckels Knives

Pro Tip #2
Buy the finest sharpener and sharpen your knives often. This way, your knives are always in top condition and you don’t need to move to a course sharpener!

Pro Tip #3
Henckels knives are available in forged or stamped options. A forged knife is heated and shaped out of one piece of steel, whereas a stamped knife is cut out of a piece of steel and attached to a handle.

Forged knives are heavier, thicker, and more durable and are the choice of people who cook a lot.  Stamped knives are thinner and slightly less expensive. Both knives work very well – it’s’ a matter of preference and affordability.

Making Potato Gratin
Making Potato Gratin

Pro Tip #4
To hold a knife, pinch it with your thumb and pointer finger at the bolster, the junction where the blade meets the handle. If you keep your pointer finger on top of the blade, the knife may get warped and won’t cut as evenly. Wrap your other fingers around the bottom of the handle.

Making Braised Chicken in Reisling
Making Braised Chicken in Reisling

Pro Tip #5
Let the knife do the cooking! Sharp knives, and the right knife for the right job, can make cooking so much more pleasant and efficient. We also learned about Henckels’ Miyabi line of Japanese knives, the blades of which are thinner and allow for more precise cuts in preparing items like sushi and delicate fish.

Pro Tip #6
Use a rocking motion when using a knife, versus lifting it off the cutting board and banging it back down. The power of a knife is in the bottom half, near the tip.

Pro Tip #7
When chopping vegetables, think in terms of stages: cut into small pieces, then cut those pieces into even smaller pieces until you reach the desired sizes. Chop your vegetables down to a size that feels comfortable for you to bite into – let that be your guide!

Making Tomato Bruschetta using a Henckels' chef's knife
Making Tomato Bruschetta using a Henckels’ chef’s knife

Pro Tip #8
To avoid dulling a knife’s blade, flip the knife around and use the other side for scraping food items into a pot or container.

Making Tomato Bruschetta using a Henckels' chef's knife
Making Tomato Bruschetta using a Henckels’ chef’s knife

Pro Tip #9
The Staub cast iron pans, that come in beautiful dark, rich shades, are ideal for grilling food because they can be heated to high temperatures and brushed with a minimal amount of oil. It’s like having an indoor barbecue!

 

Grilling vegetables on a Staub cast iron grill pan
Grilling vegetables on a Staub cast iron grill pan

Pro Tip #10
Cookware and knives are thoughtful gifts for the cooks in your life. Here are some items that I would love to get for the upcoming holidays (hint to my husband and friends):

The newly launched Zwilling Now 6 Piece Knife Block Set comes in three fun colors: Granada, Blueberry, or Lime colors; you can also buy any of the knives separately:

Zwilling Now 6 Piece Knife Block Set
Zwilling Now 6 Piece Knife Block Set

The Henckels Pro Bread Knife with the special Zwilling 15 edge is designed to cut through bread more precisely and effortlessly:

Henckels Pro Bread Knife with the special Zwilling 15 edge
Henckels Pro Bread Knife with the special Zwilling 15 edge

The rocking Santoku knife, with a straighter blade and a lower tip, is the standard in preparing Asian cuisine. It’s akin to the Chef’s knife in Western cooking and it will be available in time for Christmas:

Henckels rocking Santoku knife; photo courtesy of Kitchen Stuff Plus
Henckels rocking Santoku knife; photo courtesy of Kitchen Stuff Plus

I hope you find these tips helpful in making meal preparation go faster and smoother! Do you have any tips that have made your time in the kitchen more efficient? I’d love to hear about them.

Check out your local Kitchen Stuff Plus store and the online site for promotional pricing, September 10th through October 8th , and get your gift shopping done early!

(This post is sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. All opinions are my own.)

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Here’s Why (I Think) I’m Going To Be Okay On University Drop-Off Day

Here’s Why (I Think) I’m Going To Be Okay On University Drop Off Day

Our oldest is going off to university the first week of September, and, admittedly, I’ve been a bit of a hot mess over here. I’m not ready for my daughter to leave the nest. Some days are good, others are not so good. My heart is sad and heavy, but my thinking is more along the lines of ‘it’s going to be okay’. Over the years, I’ve heard many parents talk about their experience, listening intently because I knew my turn would come. It has.

I spent the last months of my daughter’s senior year thinking about missed opportunities of being together, yet also understanding that a teen’s school and social life can take precedence. Sometimes I felt guilty about how I could’ve parented her differently as a kid. And, sometimes I just cried a lot.

When we first found out we would be parents, my husband said it best: ‘we’re going to have a visitor for 18 years!’ I was impressed with how insightful he was about raising kids and then letting them go. I’m a bit slower about accepting and understanding my role, but time has been the perfect teacher.

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7 School And Work Lunches Approved By My Daughter And Husband

7 lunch ideas for Back to School
7 lunch ideas for Back to School

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, on August 7, 2018. You can read that post here and follow the hyperlinks there to learn more about the highlighted products.)

After meal planning and making lunches for many years, my family and I have decided to shake things up for our upcoming back to school and work routines: we’re eating more fruits and vegetables and trying out different food combinations and ingredients.

Recently, I sat down with my high school daughter, who prepares and takes lunch every day, and my husband, who brings lunch to work a few times a month, to discuss new and fun ideas.

My daughter tested these lunches when she was at her summer day camp job and my husband enjoyed the leftovers from the photo shoot – yup, all the meals got a thumbs up!

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What I’m Sending To University With My Daughter This Fall

 

Getting ready for back to school with Kitchen Stuff Plus
Getting ready for back to school with Kitchen Stuff Plus

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, on August 1, 2018. You can read that post here and follow the hyperlinks to learn more about the highlighted products.)

Although it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to my oldest daughter when she goes off to university in September, it makes me feel better knowing she’ll have what she needs to make her dorm room feel a bit like home.

When we looked at the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, there were many room décor and snack accessories to choose from! We chose items that are reusable and environmentally friendly, conducive to healthy eating, and durable – so she can still use them when she eventually moves off campus.

Clothing & Shoes Storage

Non-slip hangers and underbed storage containers
Non-slip hangers and underbed storage containers

These velvet-covered hangers ensure clothes stay put without sliding to the bottom of the closet. Because they’re all the same, the closet will look more organized and aesthetically pleasing.

For shoes, we chose an under bed container to hold out-of-season shoes and an umbrella.

Bath Accessories & Toiletries

Dark towels and a shower caddy are practical
Dark towels and a shower caddy are practical

We went with navy towels because they’re easier to keep clean-looking! A shower caddy is a must, à la sleep-away camp.

Keeping beauty accessories tidy
Keeping beauty accessories tidy

For holding makeup and hair styling accessories, this flat plastic container with high sides is perfect – she can move the bin around and then store it under the bed when it’s not in use.

Coffee & Water Bottles

Double tumbler perfect for hot and cold beverages
Double tumbler perfect for hot and cold beverages

We opted for two types of mugs, in two different sizes. We love that both containers can be used for hot or cold liquids and foods.

Travel mug with handle is perfect for students on the go
Travel mug with handle is perfect for students on the go

The smaller mug with a handle is just right because she can easily hold it and reach into her backpack for other things. And, both containers are wide-mouthed and easy to clean – yay!

Coffee Station 

In-room coffee station
In-room coffee station

My daughter is someone for whom writing comes at crunch-time, meaning late night studying. Having an electric kettle on hand means she can make coffee and tea in her room.

She also picked out a rose gold colored coffee press and an electric milk frother. She’s very excited about sharing lattes and drinks with friends while enjoying the usual fun conversations that come with dorm living.

Rose-colored coffee press and monogrammed mug
Rose-colored coffee press and monogrammed mug

By the way, we’ve been making iced lattes every morning at home for a few months now and one of our tricks is sweetening the drinks with simple syrup (recipe below). This reduces the need to store sugar in the dorm room, not to mention keeping ants at bay!

To quickly make a latte, pour coffee into a tumbler, add syrup to taste, and then pour in the milk – usually no spoon is needed for mixing!

Jars For Storage and Snacks

Jars for desk accessories and snack storage
Jars for desk accessories and snack storage

Keeping snacks such as nuts and chocolate in glass jars or plastic containers is neater, sanitary, and more conducive to having dorm-mates drop in for a chat and a snack.

We also liked this set of 3 mason jars in a caddy for storing markers, pens and pencils, coffee utensils, and reusable stainless-steel straws.

Himalayan Salt Rock Lamp

Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp
Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp

When my daughter saw this lamp, she loved it for various reasons. It gives off a warm, zen light, setting a calm mood for the room. And, the negative ions it emits help manage dust and odors.

Packing up for university is still a few weeks away, but getting these items ready is making the upcoming university drop-off feel like it’s going to run a tad more smoothly!

Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Drops of lemon juice

Place the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, adding the lemon juice a minute before you remove the syrup from the heat. Store in a closed jar, at room temperature.

What tips do you have for helping a student get dorm-ready?

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This post was sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. All opinions are my own. A special thank you goes out to Sophie and Joanna for helping me with understanding dorm life needs today!

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Tahini Freezer Fudge

No Bake Salted Tahini Cookie Dough Fudge
No Bake Salted Tahini Cookie Dough Fudge from Ambitious Kitchen

Have you ever tried freezer fudge? It’s easy, quick, and no-bake — and, it’s my new favorite fudge.

I’ve always loved fudge: the texture, the bite-sized pieces, and the sweetness. And, I’ve made lots of fudge using condensed milk and chocolate, or using cream and butter and icing sugar. But, this freezer fudge, made with coconut oil, is just so simple and fast to make that I had to share it with you.

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How Colorful Tableware Changes Your Outdoor Dining Experience

 

Simple Steak Dinner on Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus
Simple Steak Dinner on Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus blog, on July 19, 2018)

It’s amazing how a set of outdoor tableware can change how one feels about eating outdoors. I recently won a flatlay contest sponsored by Collective Influence, a blogger/influencer association, of which I’m a member, and Kitchen Stuff Plus, one of southwestern Ontario’s leading kitchen and homewares stores. The prize was this beautiful tableware set for eight that my family and friends loved using this past weekend.

Outdoor Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus
Outdoor Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus

The tableware is called the Madrid and it’s part of the Blue Sky collection. It’s made out of BPA-free melamine that won’t mark when you use a steak knife on it like we did this weekend! It’s light-weight, dishwasher safe, and the perfect size for a bbq meal or just lounging around at home or in nature. The dinner dishes are the same size as indoor plates but the side dishes and bowls are slightly larger. These larger side dishes and bowls can be used as extra dishes when you have more guests. Continue reading

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Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad That’s Perfect For Summer BBQs

Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad
Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad

Sometimes I come across a recipe that I keep making over and over, like this Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad from Rose Reisman. I’m sharing it because I make it a lot in the summertime!

I saw this recipe in our local paper years ago and thought I would try it because it sounded perfect as an accompaniment to barbecued meals. It’s made with mangoes, black beans. sweet peppers, corn and coriander – all some of my favorite ingredients. The coriander is part of the dressing and the more you use, the better the salad tastes. If you have an herb garden and grow coriander, then you’ll love this salad because you likely already have this herb on hand.

Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad
Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad

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Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups – And, They’re No-Bake!

 

Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups Made With Penotti Cookie Notti
Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups Made With Penotti Cookie Notti

I love to bake, a lot, and recently I’ve been experimenting with cookie butter. I discovered cookie butter about a year ago and I’ve been busy developing new ways to bake with it.

Cookie butter is a spread that’s been popular in Europe for many years and is now available and gaining popularity in North America. Made primarily from speculoos cookies, cookie butter looks like and has a similar consistency to peanut butter.

When I did some reading on the origins of cookie butter and speculoos cookies in particular, I realized that I practically grew up on these cookies! Speculoos, or speculaas, cookies are a Belgian spiced shortbread cookie that are popular year round in Europe. You’ve probably seen them in old-fashioned type tins around the holidays and you may have seen them in the cookie section of your grocery store. Speculoos cookies are brown in color, crunchy, and often have a caramel flavor in addition to hints of cinnamon. In Europe and the Middle East, these cookies are served as tea biscuits and used for baking – they’re consumed and enjoyed all year round.

Speculoos Cookies
Speculoos Cookies

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3 Things I Know For Sure About My Anxiety Journey

As someone who suffers from anxiety on a regular basis, I’ve noticed there are three things that have been consistently true about this mental illness: each anxiety journey is personal, it changes over time, and talking about it helps.

When I shared my personal anxiety journey with you in a post on Bell Let’s Talk Day, I mentioned that I would post more on living with anxiety. I have a lot to share.

Anxiety is a personal journey

The first point I’ve noticed about anxiety is that it’s a personal journey.

As the stigma around mental illness is slowly being lifted, more and more people are talking about having anxiety, and no two stories are alike. This was a big a-ha moment for me, because when people would open up to me, I wanted to help. I know what it is to suffer, and I want to share my experience. But, you can’t really give advice to someone else because of the nuanced thoughts and behaviors around each person’s experience.

Each anxiety journey is unique. I took two Cognitive Behavior Therapy classes, which worked really well for me, and it was in the second one that the mental health professional would specifically remind us not to say ‘you should do x, y, or z’ to anyone. We had to use words like ‘for me, this worked’ or ‘I found this helpful in this situation’. At first that bothered me because I had to check myself a lot, but I soon understood. Each person’s story was completely different.

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5 Ways To Make Toronto (Or Any Big City) Feel Smaller

Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall
Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall

Ever feel like Toronto is getting too big, too busy, and too hard to get around? Well, you’re not alone. In 2016, the census metropolitan area of Toronto was almost 6 million and is growing at a faster rate than the national average. In fact, Toronto ranks as North America’s 4th largest city in terms of population, according to the Economic Intelligence Unit, after Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles.

I love living in a big city. There are always new exhibitions to see, restaurants to try, and quaint neighborhoods to discover. In fact, I often feel there are so many options to choose from, and that I miss out on some fantastic opportunities because I just can’t be in two places at the same time!

One of the things that I’d like to share more with you, the readers of my blog, is how to live slow and intentionally. I didn’t realize there was a term for how I like to live. I’m an emotional person, love connecting with people, and tend to overthink things. But I also appreciate all the things life has to offer, the big and the small, the material and the immaterial. I like being alone as much as I like being with others. And, I like walking outside as much as I can, enjoying nature and just feeling a part of the world. Yes, even in a big city, you can experience much of mother nature. Continue reading

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