How to Make Silky Scrambled Eggs

Are you ready for the cold, hard truth? You are probably cooking your eggs wrong. Don’t feel bad; most everybody is guilty. While there’s nothing wrong with a quick, two-minute scramble, you owe it to yourself to learn the correct way to make scrambled eggs. It’s like eating pure silk, a simply divine experience. All you need is the right technique and a little bit of extra time. Once you try these, you will never settle for another two-minute scramble again.

Silky Scrambled Eggs
from Mark Bittman

4 or 5 large eggs
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil

Directions
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them until the yolks and whites are just combined. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the cream. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat for about one minute. Add the butter or oil and swirl it around the pan. After it melts, but before it foams, turn the heat to low. Add the eggs to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. After ten minutes or so, the eggs will begin to form curds. Keep stirring, breaking up the curds as they form, until the mixture is a mass of soft curds. After 30-45 minutes, when the texture is even and silky, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Spring Cleaning: How to Clean Your Dryer Vent

Today’s spring cleaning tip is a fairly simple task that will save you money and, in the right circumstances, save your property or your even lives. Last week we cleaned our washing machines and this week we are cleaning the vent on our clothes dryers. As with your washer, keeping this appliance clean will extend the life of the dryer, but also result in  clothes drying faster, using less energy and costing less money. But did you know that plugged dryer vents are a common cause of household fires? That makes this spring cleaning task a must do! Let’s break it down step-by-step:

  • Unplug your dryer from the electricity.
  • If your dryer uses gas power, shut off the gas while you perform the task and unplug the gas line from the dryer.
  • Pull the dryer out about 1-2 feet, keeping the accordion-type hose still attached at both ends.
  • Use a screwdriver to loosen the clamp on the end of the hose that attaches to the dryer. Once loose, pull the dryer completely out so that you can get to all areas.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, reach inside the back vent of the dryer and remove lint and debris.
  • Using a screwdriver to loosen the clamp, remove the other end of the accordion hose that leads to your exterior vent.
  • Examine the accordion hose for tears, then use your hand or the vacuum to clear out the interior of the hose. If there is major buildup or blockage, use a long wooden spoon or dowel to break it up and loosen the debris. Patch any tears or replace hose if it is damaged.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, clear out any lint and debris from the portal that leads to the exterior vent.
  • Re-connect both ends of the accordion hose to each port and secure the clamps.
  • Push the dryer back into place carefully, so as not to crimp or loosen the accordion hose. DO NOT reconnect gas or electricity yet.
  • Locate the exterior dryer vent on the outside of your house. Using a screwdriver, remove the external cover and clean it thoroughly.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, reach as far inside the vent as possible to clear out lint, debris, or any blockage.
  • Re-attach the vent cover.
  • To test the air flow, tie a light piece of ribbon or string to the vent cover.
  • Plug in electricity and gas.
  • Place a load of laundry in the dryer and start it.
  • Go back to the exterior vent and make sure the ribbon is blowing, indicating that the airflow is good.
  • Remove the ribbon and enjoy a well-working, well-vented dryer!

Helpful hints for dryer use:

  • Use only half of a dryer sheet for each load. This will cut down on the “waxy” buildup in your vents.
  • Don’t overload your dryer. This can overheat the machinery and also burn clothes.
  • Clean dryer vents every six months for best results.
  • For safety purposes, never start your dryer before leaving the house.

Recipe: Mason Jar Mud Pies

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mason Jar Mud Pies
It’s the time of year where everywhere you look, there seems to be mud. But you know what they say, “When life gives you mud, make mud pies!” This recipe is simple, but amazing. You can use your favorite ice cream flavors, but the secret ingredient is the cookie crumble. Don’t improvise there, this stuff is golden. The other important tip is to thoroughly soften the ice cream first. This will make the process much easier. Building mud pies in Mason Jars is a great way to serve this dessert and it also makes it portable and perfect for parties. Try this recipe and you’re sure to feel sunny all over.

Mason Jar Mud Pies

1 package Oreo Cookies
1 box Little Debbie Nutty Bars
1/2 gallon chocolate-based ice cream
1/2 gallon vanilla-based ice cream
Caramel sauce (optional)
Whipped cream
Maraschino cherries
10-12 Mason Jars

Directions
Allow ice creams to defrost on the counter for at least an hour, or until soft and stir-able. In a large plastic zip-top bag, combine the Oreo cookies and Nutty Bars and mash with a rolling pin until the mixture is crumbly and well combined. Once the ice cream is softened, stir it until smooth. Spoon a 1-inch layer of cookie crumble into the bottom of each jar, then top with a generous layer of the chocolate-based ice cream. Add another inch of cookie crumble and top with a layer of the vanilla-based ice cream and another layer of cookie crumble. Cover and freeze jars until solid, at least 3 hours. Before serving, add a drizzle of caramel sauce, a generous dollop of whip cream and a cherry.

Last-Minute Delicious St. Patty’s Day Ideas

It’s not too late to celebrate the luck of the Irish with some delicious St. Patty’s-themed food. Here are ten great ideas that will likely get you kissed!

Create delicious four-leaf clovers using a craft punch and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle them on pasta or even a platter of appetizers.

Grasshopper cocktails are a fun adult dessert drink at your party.

Mint green rice krispy treats are a crowd pleaser for all ages and sizes.

A loaf of Pistachio Quick Bread is delicious and fun.

A batch of rich Guinness Brownies will go perfect with your St. Patrick’s Day toast.

This Cheesy Pesto Bread is a show-stopper, and completely easy to nosh on while a crowd gathers.

Wow your family and friends with these impressive but easy to make St. Patrick’s Day Cream Puffs.

Pretty and delicious, these Key Lime Swirl Cheesecake Bars will keep well, but they won’t last long.

And finally, a tall carafe of Rainbow Sangria will bring the sunshine to any get together.

Spring Cleaning: How to Clean Your Washing Machine

This year for spring cleaning, we’re cleaning our cleaning machines. Last week, we cleaned our dishwashers, and this week we turn to our washing machines. Depending on your type of machine and your local climate, washing machines can become moldy and mildewed, which keeps your clothes from getting truly clean. Giving your washing machine a good cleanse will not only lengthen its life, it will result in cleaner clothes that also last longer and smell better. Win/win.

For Top-Loading Washing Machines

  • Select the hottest and longest wash cycle and start it with an empty drum.
  • As the water is filling in the drum, pour in 4 cups of distilled white vinegar.
  • Leave the lid open to stall the wash cycle and allow the water and vinegar to sit and soak for one hour.
  • While the water sits, wipe down the exterior of the machine, including knobs and buttons with an all-purpose cleanser.
  • Wipe or rinse out the bleach reservoir.
  • Close the lid and allow the cycle to complete, flushing the vinegar rinse through all the hoses.
  • Once the cycle is finished, use a dry towel to wipe down the interior drum of the washer and leave the lid open to dry for several hours.

For Front-Loading Washing Machines

  • Select the hottest wash cycle with an extra rinse cycle.
  • Add distilled white vinegar (about a cup, or to the fill line) in the bleach dispenser.
  • Run the full cycle with an empty drum.
  • Once the cycle finishes, use a damp rag with vinegar on it to wipe down the rubber seals around the door opening.
  • Rinse and wipe down the soap and bleach reservoirs.
  • Wipe down the exterior, including knobs and buttons, with an all-purpose cleanser.
  • Wipe down the inside drum of the washer and leave the door open to allow the washer to fully dry for several hours.

HINT: If you live in a warm, humid area, it’s best to clean your washing machine monthly and leave the door open when not in use to allow more air to circulate.

HINT: Using too much soap will not get your clothes cleaner and will likely shorten the life of your machine by producing residue in tubes and hoses. Less is more when it comes to laundry soap.

Cooking with Beer: Apple Ale Cake

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It’s time for our annual Cooking with Beer recipe as we approach St. Patrick’s Day. Today’s recipe is a deliciously moist cake that isn’t too sweet, that introduces complex flavors, and is perfect for your St. Patty’s party, and the glaze has a perfect hint of the ale too. All the alcohol is cooked out, so this is safe for anyone to eat. Try it with your favorite apple or pumpkin ale and raise a toast to…cake!

Apple Ale Cake with Glaze

1 box spice cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup applesauce
1 cup apple ale (for cake)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup apple ale (for glaze)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
In a small sauté pan, toast the nuts and set aside. Preheat oven according to cake mix directions and prepare a bundt pan with nonstick spray. Sprinkle toasted nuts evenly in the bottom of the cake pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, oil, applesauce, and one cup of apple ale. Mix on medium speed for two minutes, then pour into the pan and bake according to directions. Remove cake and allow to cool for ten minutes before transferring to a cooling rack or serving dish. For the glaze, stir the powdered sugar, vanilla and 1/3 cup of apple ale over medium heat. Bring to a boil and allow to cook for one minute. Remove from heat. With a skewer or forks, poke several holes all over the cake and then drizzle the cooled glaze all over the cake.

 

Daylight Savings Deals

You may have lost an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings, but we’ve got some great offers and recipes that make springing forward sweeter than ever. Right now, shop our spring collection and save 20% off your order. (Use code 14EBA at checkout.) It’s the perfect time to select gifts for Easter, birthdays, and teacher appreciation.  Here are some of our favorites:

Spring Treats Tray

Our Spring Treats Tray is full of bite-sized treats to share.

Springtime Floral Box

A pop of bright color and a great collection of freshly baked treats arrive in our Springtime Floral Box.

Spring Bites Box

For any occasion, our Spring Bites Box will thrill and delight with a variety of fresh flavors.

And if springing forward puts you in the mood to bake something yourself, try our favorite Black and White cookie recipe. It’s the perfect treat to mark the onset of spring!

Black and White Cookies

1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla and lemon extracts, and mix until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until mixed. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture batches, stirring well after each addition. Place heaping mounds (about 1/4 cup) of batter on a prepared cookie sheet, about six cookies per sheet.  Bake until edges begin to barely brown, 12-14 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

White (then Black) Frosting

4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon light corn syrup.
2  tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

Directions
Boil a cup or so of water in a small pot. Place powdered sugar in a large, heat-safe mixing bowl and pour in lemon extract. Gradually stir in enough boiling water, a tablespoon at a time to the sugar mixture to make a thick, spreadable frosting. Leave remaing boiling water on the stove. Spread frosting on half of the flat side of each cookie.

Once all cookie halves have been frosted, place the bowl of the remaining frosting over the hot water and bring it back to a simmer (creating a double-boiler). Stir in the unsweetened chocolate until melted, as well as the light corn syrup and cocoa. Ice the remaining half of the cookies with the chocolate frosting. If the frosting gets too dry, whisk in an extra teaspoon or two of the hot water to smooth it out. Frosting should be shiny. Allow frosting to set, then serve cookies immediately, or wrap in plastic to keep fresh.

 

Spring Cleaning: How to Clean Your Dishwasher

It’s spring cleaning season once again, but this year we’re going to help you clean your cleaners! (That’s right, it’s getting very meta around here.) Did you that you can extend the life of your cleaning appliances by cleaning them regularly? It’s true. This week, we’re starting with the dishwasher.  Our cleaning tips are like giving your dishwasher a spa day. It will be completely rejuvenated after!

  • Remove all drawers, racks and containers from your dishwasher and hand wash them in the sink with warm soapy water, or a mixture of warm water and 2 cups distilled white vinegar. Remove any stuck on debris or gunk, rinse and allow to dry.
  • Remove all parts in the bottom of the dishwasher than can be easily disassembled by hand. This should include the grate and filter that rests on the floor of the dishwasher. Wash them in the sink and wipe down the areas where they rest. (You’re likely to find a fair amount of debris here, so be prepared!)
  • Check the blades that spin, make sure they move easily, and check the little holes that spray the water. If they have debris or calcium buildup, give them a scrub with an old toothbrush dipped in vinegar.
  • Wipe down the door and rubber seal (a prime spot for mold, mildew, and grime).
  • Your garbage disposal is connected to the dishwasher, so give it a thorough cleaning as well.
  • Put all of the parts back in the dishwasher.
  • Now place a dishwasher-safe bowl in the top rack and fill it with white vinegar. Run the dishwasher through a cycle using the highest temperature settings. The vinegar will cut through any remaining grease and sanitize the inside.
  • After the cycle, sprinkle a full cup of baking soda all over the bottom floor of the dishwasher and run another cycle. This will deodorize the dishwasher.
  • Finally, wipe down the outside of the dishwasher, buttons, and handles.

You’re done! Your dishwasher will look brand new and will run better and last longer! Depending on your usage, cleaning it once or twice per year will significantly extend the life of the appliance.

Recipe: Butterscotch Budino Pudding

Mrs. Fields Secrets Budoni Pudding
This pudding can be summed up in one word: decadent. This is not your average after-school pudding snack, this is a rich, luxurious Italian dessert that feels like eating liquid gold. The recipe is a bit labor intensive, but oh so worth it. And it just gets better with age. Top it with your favorite caramel sauce, a pinch of salt, and a dollop of whipped cream.

Butterscotch Budino Pudding
adapted from Pizzeria Mozza

3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/8 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
caramel sauce (for topping)
pinch of salt (for topping)
fresh whipped cream (for topping)

Directions
Combine cream and milk in a bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk egg, egg yolks and cornstarch and set aside. In a large pot, combine brown sugar, kosher salt, and water. Place over medium-high heat and let sit until edges start to brown. Tilt the pot as needed to even the browning until caramelized and deep brown in color. Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes. Immediately whisk in cream mixture. The caramel will seize and harden (don’t worry!). Continue whisking until caramel dissolves into the cream and mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium.

Next, whisk a cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, then another and another, until half is incorporated. Remove the cream mixture from heat and immediately whisk egg mixture back into the pot and stir until pudding is very thick. This will take about two minutes. Finally, whisk in the butter and rum. Pour pudding through a mesh strainer and divide into 10 ramekins. Cover with plastic and cool at least three hours and up to three days. Before serving, top with a drizzle of caramel sauce, a sprinkle of salt, and a dollop of whipped cream.

Just Because Giveaway

One of our favorite reasons to share Mrs. Fields cookies is just because. There’s something special that happens when you recognize someone, not because of a date on a calendar, but just because you care. That’s why we’re so excited to launch our Just Because Giveaway to help you recognize someone in your life…just because. We’re giving away three great gifts on behalf of three of our readers. Here’s how to play:

1. Choose one of the following gifts and post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest pages.
2. In your post, tell us who you want to give this gift to just because.
3. Be sure to use hashtag #MFCJustBecause in your post to be eligible.

Classic Tin

Sunshine Satchel

Classic Craft Box

Fine print: You must be 18 years or older to participate. Nominee must live in the continental US. Multiple entries allowed. Contest ends Sunday, March 9, 2014. Winners will be selected and notified on their original posts.

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