Thursday, April 17, 2014

Awesome tips from teh Interweb

The Internet is teeming with creativity and enthusiasm. To any blogger out there, this must be a given fact. 
I know it is to me, and delving into it and embracing its openness - usually in its nerdiest declinations, be it fanart or fanfiction or my very own playgrounds, crafting and baking - is my favourite way to restore my sometimes dwindling love for, and fascination with, people in general. 

Sure, there's bound to be the occasional riot, usually about a few persistent sore spots such as intellectual property etc. 
A famous, well-respected creative guru snapping at the online community for no discernible reason is sure to elicit lots of drama, and from time to time the issue of "Internet envy" is resurrected (and discussed ad nauseam) as one "pro" blogger or the other is knocked off the pedestal. 
We all have our ego and there's no denying that.

Still, the blogosphere at large is made of generous, dedicated people who selflessly share their breakthroughs without any thought of getting something in return. 

As perusers, we easily recognize the effort that goes into developing a recipe from scratch, and admire the creativity of a whole new design or presentation. Such skills may even get the blogger some well-deserved recognition. 
There are times, though, when a blogger's credit lies in sharing tips, tricks and tutorials. Such contributions won't cause anyone to drop their jaw in wonderment, and most of the times we'd be hard-pressed to remember whom we got them from. Yet their tips we put to use again and again, until we come to recognize that "something I read somewhere on the Internet" made our life much easier.        
Those people are the real, unsung heroes of the online community, much as good teachers (mind you, the key word here is good) tend to be in the "real" world. 

Today I'm going to showcase a few instances were a trick I read online taught me a better or easier way to do something. 
I could list many more ofc, but this is enough for one post!


Baking potatoes, now, is one of those skills that are usually taken for granted, like roasting  a chicken or boiling eggs. Anyone knows how to do it, but oh so few know how to do it well - and the lucky few, they might not even be aware of how big a difference it makes, and how precious their knowledge would be to the rest of us. They'll probably tell you they "do it the usual way" like their Ma used to, and that will be that. 

Back to our potatoes - the article I linked might sound overkill, but it really takes all the guesswork out of baking them. Thanks to it, my baked potatoes have gone from "good enough" to "simply perfect every single time" - and given my utter love of potatoes, this is saying something! 

(I swear there are potatoes under all the melty cheese btw. As for the crocheted Rincewind mousie, that's just me being my usual geeky self...)


Aaand... it's potatoes again! Seriously, I can't get enough of them!
My trip to England back in November did nothing to assuage my baked potatoes obsession, this much I can tell you!

Whereas the previous trick works well with huge potatoes that will turn all nice and fluffy in the oven, this one from Closet Cooking is perfect for very small ones, and makes them delightfully crispy. 
You only need to pick your poison!

All but one of the potatoes I used were the purple variety btw, but once boiled they turned a dull grey. They taste every bit as good as the regular ones, but next time I won't bother with the li'l pricey beasts - they're just not worth it!

Also, there is no bacon on my potatoes OMG. I must have been out of my mind. 
But, I sprinkled crunchy fried onion crisps on top. Can we still be friends? Pwetty pwease? 


For our next awesome tip we move away from potatoes, and on to pizza! Or rather, French bread pizza - three words that most of my fellow Italians wouldn't be able to pronounce without sneering, provided of course that they knew what they mean.
I do, as a matter of fact, like it better than regular pizza, which tends to be much of a hit-or-miss thing with me - I'll either love it altogether, or utterly despise it. 

Here's where the catch is, I guess: I can get crazy demanding before I grant my seal of approval to a regular pizza, whereas all I ask of its French bread-based cousin is for the bread itself not to be all soggy and yukky. 
Easier said than done, though - one might be lead to believe that a nasty, damp crust is the price to be paid for taking a shortcut instead of making your own dough. 

Well, no more! Because Mel, a self-professed soggybreadphobe, found out a way to prevent such plague, and was good enough to share it with the world. 
I have made French bread pizza "her way" twice, and it turned out perfect both times! 

First time around I used homemade garlicky cauliflower sauce as a base, then topped it all with crumbled Stilton, some leftover Gouda, and of course bacon...

...while the second time I got a bit lazy (lazier, that is!) and used a storebought tomato/aubergine condiment, which I then rounded up nicely with aged Cheddar cheese and more aubergines in oil.

Needless to say, I liked the cheesier one better! 


Easter is nearly upon us, so this is the perfect time to introduce this awesome guide to stealing candy!

Kids everywhere should raise their praise to Jessie Oleson Moore, the CakeSpy's secret identity. 
Dessert scholar and artist extraordinaire (I should know - I own one of her paintings! HA!), she has also been an accomplished candy thief since childhood. Who would have guessed?
Then again, candy stealing is a form of art in itself... 

See? No indication of tampering whatsoever!

In conscience, though, I'm not sure it is right to teach kids how to steal candy. It is, understand... the ethics of it that I question. 

Because frankly, if a kiddo aged six or more needs online tutoring on the matter, he/she simply does not deserve candy. 
My generation sure needed no such prompting! Why, we were more than capable of coming up with three different plans in a single afternoon!

I'm sorry about this, but I really think there's much to be said for ancient Sparta's approach to pedagogy. (*)


Finally, two tips that need no pic-posting on my part, because they're pretty much self-explanatory: 

- How to boil eggs perfectly, every time. I stated before it's more easily said than done, but The Kitchn comes to the rescue... time tables and everything!

- How to peel bananas like monkeys do. Not much to add, really. Ooooook! 


DISCLAIMER: I am of course aware that plenty of similar tutorials are popping up on other blogs and on Pinterest. I have no way of knowing which one came first - nor the steam to try and ascertain it, frankly. 
So while I can in no way guarantee that the ones I linked are THE Ur-posts about each respective topic, this is where I picked the tips up from first, so it is to their authors that I'll be forever grateful for many delicious lunches to come!


(*)  Now before the International Educators Commitee sends in the thugs, or some righteous mom flames me in the comments: it's called irony, peeps. Give it a try sometimes!

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