Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Metro Shelving

If you've never heard of Metro shelves, take note.  My former kitchen had very limited space and our growing collection of kitchen items prompted me to find a solution.  That's where Metro shelves came in.  I had always admired them at Sur La Table, Fante's Kitchenware's in Philadelphia and at Foster's, so it was only natural for me to buy one.  These steel shelving systems can be purchased in different configurations ranging from wide shelves, narrow towers, corner shelves or kitchen islands with butcher block tops and they are not terribly expensive.  To make them mobile you can have them fitted with casters.  Although my current kitchen has more space, I still find myself dependent on this particular shelf.  Here is how I currently use mine.

The shelving system may seem packed, but it's quite organized.  This is located along one of my walls in the kitchen.

The top two shelves have some of my large yellowware bowls and antique glass cake stands.  My french rolling pin fits there nicely and won't fall off.

The middle shelf holds a Cuisinart food processor, a professional KitchenAid stand mixer and an All-Clad 13" braiser with one of my kitchen mascots sitting proudly. 

The second to bottom shelf has all of my rimmed baking sheets, my flat cookie sheets, several cutting boards, a large Martha by Mail stainless steel colander and an All-Clad 7qt. pasta pentola pot.

The bottom shelf holds stockpots, some skillets and a round grill pan.

The nonstick grill pan is lined with a folded kitchen towel before being stacked with a pot. This protects the pan's coating.

A side view let's you see how I hang pots and pans from hooks along the edges.  The shelves are made to withstand all that weight.

You'll notice that I hook the lids onto the handles to keep them together.

I hope this provides you with some ideas of how you can use a steel shelf like this one. Don't limit yourself to using these in the kitchen.  A Metro shelf would be right at home in a garage or laundry room quite easily.  Once you get one into your home you're going to find yourself relying on it a lot and wondering how you ever managed without one.  Have fun organizing!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

These delicious cookies come from the Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies special issue that is on the newsstands now.  Look for it because there is a cookie recipe in there for everyone.  I tried these awhile ago & they were a great success.

Have all of your ingredients premeasured before starting.  French chefs call this mise en place and it's a good habit to get into.  The butter and eggs have to be at room temperature in order to cream properly.

The recipe calls for cocoa powder (dutch-processed).  Cocoa has a tendency to clump which is why I always presift it before proceeding with the recipe.  Those lumps that are left can be pushed through with your spatula or wooden spoon.

In the bowl of your mixer cream your butter and sugar well.  You don't want to overbeat this mixture because you may have cookies that spread too much.  Just beat until it's creamy.

Add your eggs one at a time until well blended.  I always crack my eggs in a separate bowl.  This will keep any unwanted pieces of eggshell out of your dough.

This is what you want to see before adding your next egg.  A well incorporated egg in the butter/sugar mixture should have no slickness. 

Scrape your paddle.

Although your stand mixer does a good job of mixing, it's still necessary to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

                       Add your dry ingredients on low speed.  

Mix well.

Use your spatula to scrape all that dough off your paddle.  Now it's time to chill it.  I almost always chill a butter cookie dough before baking.  This helps retain its shape when baking.

What gives these cookies their Mexican flavor is the combination of cinnamon & chili powder.  I happened to use cayenne pepper for these.  Mix with the remaining sugar.

At this point your oven should be preheated & your cookie sheets should be lined with either parchment or a silpat.  Portion out your cookie dough with an ice cream scoop & drop the balls into the cinnamon sugar. 
Place them on the baking sheet & pop them into the oven. 

Once the cookies have come out of the oven, let them cool before packaging them up.  Don't be surprised if the aroma prompts your neighbors, friends or family for an unexpected pop in.  Make plenty of these because they're going to love them.

These were a special care package for a nephew of mine who happens to be a chocoholic.  I placed each one in a cupcake liner because they were so tender & wrapped them in a large cellophane bag. 

Make an extra batch for gift giving because everyone is going to want to try them.  Perfect for the cookie monster in all of us.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A long time coming.

Friends & family have been prompting me to create a blog which showcases pictures, recipes & helpful hints that make my life easier and more enjoyable.  I'm not sure where I will take this, but here's to the beginning of something wonderful.  I hope to fill this blog with Good Things for you & your loved ones.