April 19, 2015

BakeItFun Silicone #bakingmat brings back the joy of baking!

I'll be honest: I'm not fond of baking.

There. I said it.

I'm not talking about roasts or casseroles or stuff like that. I'm talking about pastries, cookies, baked goodies and treats. It has to be a really enticing recipe to inspire me to tackle a baking project.

At least, up until last Christmas. Because for Christmas, I got the two items guaranteed to get me back into baking mode:

A heavy-duty stand mixer

Silicone baking mats

I couldn't wait to try them out, so I immediately went looking for something out of the ordinary to bake. Not Christmas cookies...everybody was doing that. I wanted something a little different, maybe something savory instead of sweet.

Then I remembered Cheddar Cheese Straws. Eureka! That was it. That was what I'd make for my contribution to Christmas snack goodies. And it would be a welcome alternative to yet more sweets.

My Christmas cheese straws were a big hit. They disappeared faster than you can say Ho-Ho-Ho!

But I haven't made them again since Christmas. I've been wanting to, but just never took the time. So when the BakeItFun people gave me the chance to try their silicone baking mat, I knew Cheddar Cheese Straws would be perfect for a product demonstration.
There are a multitude of recipes for cheese straws online. I urge you to experiment and find the recipe that is right for you. Some have a lot of cheese, others have a lot of spice. Some are like pie crust pastry, others are like cheese crackers. There's a recipe for everyone, or you could do like I did and try a number of them, then adjust to fit my own preference.

So here's my recipe for Cheddar Cheese Straws...but again, this is just a starting point. Make the recipe your own.

2 sticks butter (not margarine) softened to room temperature

1 pound grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese (I used 2 8oz. packages - you may prefer mild, or some other cheese) softened to room temperature (do not use packaged grated cheese - something is added to this product that prevents individual pieces from sticking together, and thus it won't blend well with butter and flour for this recipe)

1 tablespoon sea salt (or regular salt - adjust to your taste)

1 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (optional - adjust to your preferred heat level)

3 cups all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place BakeItFun silicone #bakingmat on flat cookie sheet.
In stand mixer, cream together butter, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Gradually add in cheese. After all cheese is added, mix on medium speed for about 15 minutes. This insures everything is creamed together properly. Very slowly begin to add in flour. You'll want to check the consistency as you go. Depending on the temperature and consistency of your butter/cheese base, it could take less than 3 cups of flour or more than 3 cups of flour. What you want is a soft dough that has pulled cleanly away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
I used a frosting bag and large icing tip to pipe the dough into 2-inch straws. Make sure your dough is the right consistency to flow through the icing bag easily or you'll struggle with this step. (I learned this the hard way!) You can get a lot of these on a silicone baking mat, since they are made with all-purpose flour and won't spread or rise. What you see is what you get after baking. So don't be afraid to crowd them a little.

If you don't have an icing bag, you can roll the dough into long thin strips and then cut them to your desired length. You can also roll dough into a log, refrigerate for several hours, then cut into thin slices for round wafers instead of slices. You can drop dough by 1/2-tablespoons then flatten with a fork. So many ways to get creative. Just remember to keep everything thin so it all cooks at the same rate and comes out crispy.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. It may take a little more time, depending on your oven's efficiency. Just keep checking after 15 minutes or so. Straws will not turn brown, but may have slightly darker edges. When they are firm to the touch, they are probably done. Again, this may require some experimentation on your part. They should be very crispy and not doughy at all.

Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack. This is the fun part! Nothing, absolutely nothing, sticks to the BakeItFun silicone baking mat! In fact, you'll want to be careful moving the baking sheet because the cheese straws might just slide right off! I had to fish a few out of the bottom of my oven the first time I used a silicone baking mat. :)
You may notice a crumb or two left on the baking mat, but that's all. No scraping with a spatula, no broken pieces, just beautiful baked goods. Let the mat and cookie sheet cool a little before starting your next batch, or better yet buy two BakeItFun silicone baking mats and have the next one ready to go into the oven right away. And clean-up is a breeze. Just swish in hot sudsy water, rinse, and air-dry flat. So super easy!

Silicone baking mats have revolutionized baking. And they're economical. No more cooking sprays, no more parchment paper, no more throwing out blackened cookie sheets.
They can be reused for years and years, and contain no harmful components. Silicone baking mats can be used in ovens at temperatures up to 450 degrees. You can also freeze with them, use them in the microwave, or just use them underneath casseroles or pot pies to catch any drips or spills for easy-peasy clean-up. I haven't tried pizza on one yet, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it doesn't turn out just perfect, and without sticking or making a cheesy mess.

BakeItFun silicone mats have rulers and circles printed on them, making it easy to roll out dough or cut uniform cookie sizes. It's the perfect pastry sheet because nothing sticks to it! No matter how ooey-gooey!

So do yourself a favor and revolutionize your baking by ordering a couple of BakeItFun silicone baking mats. This is one item you'll kick yourself for not buying before now!

{Disclaimer: I received a BakeItFun silicone #bakingmat gratis to facilitate my review. However, my opinions are my own and no other monetary consideration was involved.}

April 14, 2015

New #Purex Crystals ScentSplash turns laundry into aromatherapy

I just love being a Purex Insider! It means I get to try some of the new products Purex comes out with. While Purex has always been a laundry staple in my home, what really gets me excited is when laundry products that work also do it with great scent!

So I was super-excited to try new Purex Crystals ScentSplash, now in liquid form. The Fresh Spring Waters scent was just what the aromatherapy doctor ordered!
I've been using Purex Crystals for years now and love how my laundry smells. The fragrance and freshness seem to linger for days. I can put a stack of freshly-laundered towels in the bathroom and they will fill the room with delicate scent for a long time. Subtle, not overwhelming, just there. And that's nice to know when I have company coming over. I don't have to worry about...er...unpleasant odor in the bathroom. Purex Crystals added to the towels washload infuses them with gentle fragrance that lasts and lasts.

And now new Purex Crystals ScentSplash is becoming my favorite of all! That delicate scent just got amped up a notch or two! And because it's in liquid form, you can add as little or as much as you like. You can get up to 35% more washloads than 18oz. Purex solid Crystals. Laundry day is no longer the chore it used to be. Now it's like a mini-vacation, a spa retreat, an aromatherapy session.

It lifts my mood. And it just smells so darn wonderful!
Fragrance is one of the things I love in life. I love a clean smell, like cotton sheets sun-dried on a clothesline for example, but I also love smells that delight the senses. I use scented candles, wax melts, room sprays, etc. just because I love being surrounded by pleasant scents. And that extends to laundry. Using Purex Crystals ScentSplash is one more way I can add wonderful aromas to my home.

It works not just on towels but on intimate apparel as well. What a nice surprise to open my underwear drawer and find that wonderful scent still lingering days after I've done laundry! And my closet now greets me with a nice fragrance every time I open the closet door. I can't say enough about Crystals ScentSplash. It is perfect for me. Not too heavy, not too light, just right.

Try new Purex Crystals ScentSplash. It might be just right for you too!
Purex Crystals ScentSplash is now available in 3 fragrances: Fresh Spring Waters, Fresh Lavender Blossom, and Fresh Mountain Breeze. You're sure to find the perfect fragrance for your home laundry needs.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free to use and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the manufacturer of this product.