Monday, November 28, 2011

Taco Presentation Ideas

This unique idea comes courtesy of Pier W here in Cleveland. Over Thanksgiving break I wanted to take my family, in town for the holiday, to a unique Cleveland restaurant. We chose Pier W for their breathtaking views of downtown Cleveland and excellent culinary skills.

As an appetizer we ordered their tilapia tacos and were impressed by the presentation. Rather than your typical restaurant that serves the tacos lying on their side with the stuffing falling out, Pier W uniquely places their tacos on a bed of guacamole. This technique holds the tacos in an upright position and prevents the messy fallout of ingredients. I am now obsessed with this idea.

View from Pier W
Another helpful taco tip that I learned years ago: When serving hard tacos, place a full piece of lettuce between the taco and the stuffing. This will help avoid any content loss due to the cracking and breaking of the taco. The lettuce serves as a backup taco if you will.

So you've learned two resourceful, clever ways to serve tacos. Now I'm hungry!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Marcel The Shell

Internet sensation Marcel The Shell With Shoes On came out with part two on Monday and in less than three days she's already got over one million hits on YouTube.

If you ask me, the original Marcel the Shell (with over 12 million hits) is still the best one:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

 This is how we often find Breck, passed out under our bed like the Wicked Witch of the West. She loves it!
Now for the wordless part...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shoe Organization

The key to successful organization is to realize your weaknesses and work around them. I've spent so much time trying to change my innate habits, but eventually found the easiest, most successful way of tackling my clutter is to work around who I am.

Case in point, our foyer. It's filled with shoes. At least 18 pairs. And that's just ours. You should see it when we have guests over. We both recognize it's a problem, but in two different ways. The hubby thinks the shoes don't belong there at all. While that may or may not be true, that's where they've been for 3+ years, so that's where they'll always be. Lesson learned. No point anymore in trying to change.
Photo courtesy of

So off I went on a search for shoe organization. My initial thought was a rock-filled shoe tray. They're gorgeous, functional in that they drain water and snow away from the shoes, and they fit my style perfectly. However, finding a tray that fit our foyer perfectly was not in the picture. Plus, they only fit one level of shoes and would take care of about 1/3 of our problem.

Photo courtesy of
Luckily, during my Thanksgiving preparatory trip to Costco I found the Seville 3-Tier Metal and Bamboo Storage and Shoe Rack.  I bought two, of course. They're super easy to put together (no tools needed) and can be assembled in many different combinations to fit your space/needs. The end result is a totally organized foyer and time saved trying to find matching pairs.

P.S. This lesson can be applied to more than just organization. Playing to your weaknesses rather than trying to change them is the easiest way to accomplish your goals.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Knitted Cake

Since I'm now the official resident cake baker in the family, I was recently asked to create a cake for my husband's grandmother with the only stipulation that it be chocolate. Otherwise I was working with a blank slate. For the record I prefer that so much more than when you approach me with specific details of exactly what you want. While in the shower (all my best ideas come to me in the shower for some reason - I need to get a water-proof whiteboard for notes) I pondered "Nanny's" favorite things. Knitting was the first, and easiest, idea that came to mind. Right then and there I pictured a dark chocolate cake draped with a half-way complete white blanket. The contrast would be simple, yet elegant.

So I got to work creating the inside of the cake as I always do. From two Duncan Hines boxed mixes spread into three circular 9" pans. For those who are counting two cake mixes technically fill up four 9" circular pans. I used the remaining 1/4 of mix to make cupcakes (you'll see why later). The finished product: a three layer cake with a raspberry filled center.

Next I created the dark brown fondant, aka the first part of the visual contrast. It took three mini-bottles of dark brown coloring and just one recipe of my special marshmallow fondant (I'll share this easy and inexpensive recipe soon) to cover this cake.

With the easier part complete, my biggest worry was how to create the actual knitted piece. I first envisioned rolling out hard fondant like you would a snake out with play dough and then "braiding" them together, but soon realised piping out butter cream frosting would be much easier and quicker. I practiced a bit before beginning.

Since the knitting was suppose to look like a work in progress I would need knitting needles. All of my actual knitting needles were mid-project themselves since I haven't knitted in years, but have high hopes of continuing. So I went with regular old chopsticks. I'm addicted to sushi so I have plenty of those sitting around.

I started by piping out frosting every centimeter or so over the needles. Once I had "casted on" the first layer I simply looped the frosting from there. Creating layer after layer over the top of  the cake and then draped down the sides. This is where the cupcakes come in. I used two, one is sufficient though, cupcakes and completely covered them with piped buttercream frosting, giving the idea that they were balls of yarn. Then I continued the yarn up into the knitting for a complete look. One ball of yarn was used to supply the blanket and the other used to create the Happy Birthday!

Rarely do my cakes turn out close to what I had envisioned. However, this is the first time that the finished product looked identical to what I had first pictured in the shower. Let the record show it was a huge hit and I was her favorite grandchild for the night.