Asked & Answered!


Every once in a while, I’ll come across a kitchen-related question…and it’s usually when I’m elbow-deep into a recipe and can’t stop and take the time to find an answer! Well, I’ve compiled a few of these questions here, found some answers, and thought I’d share them with you!

  • What’s the difference between salted and unsalted butter? Besides the obvious—one has salt and the other doesn’t!—there isn’t one! But I’ve always wondered which is better to use for certain recipes. Here’s what I have found: if you’re baking and want complete control over the taste, try and use unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter, reduce the extra salt called for in the recipe by half. Either one won’t change the way something cooks or bakes—so don’t stress too much about it!

*FYI: Salted butter has a longer shelf-life than unsalted butter (3 months versus 1 month, respectively) because salt is a preservative. If you slice your stick of butter and the inside is noticeably lighter than the outside, it’s time for a new stick!


  • Why do you thump a watermelon to see if it’s ripe? I grew up with a Papaw who loved to garden, and to this day, I remember him thumping watermelons in the summertime to see if it was juuuuust right. I still use this test when I’m in the produce section, but for a while, I had no idea what I was listening for. But now I know! First, you want the bottom of the watermelon to be yellow or tan—if it’s white, it’s not ripe enough for a knife to cut through it. Then give it good thump. The more hollow the THUD, the riper the melon!

*If honeydew melons are more your taste, you can shake it to see if it’s ripe—you’ll be able to hear the seeds rattling around inside if it is.

  • Why are there two kinds of brown sugar–light and dark? I’ll spare you all the science behind sugar cane processing, but when it gets almost to the end of the line, brown sugar comes to be when molasses are added to the raw sugar crystals. Dark brown sugar has more molasses added to it than light brown sugar. The main difference is the taste: dark brown sugar is said to taste more like toffee or caramel. They are pretty much interchangeable when it comes to baking, but light brown sugar weighs less and has less moisture because it has less molasses. Just know that dark brown sugar will rise a little higher if there is baking soda in your recipe—its acidity activates the baking soda and causes it to rise up!

*One recipe that definitely benefits from dark brown sugar’s extra flavor is gingerbread—give it a try this holiday season!

Hope these help you out—are there other baking questions you’ve come across? Share them with us!


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Let Them Eat Cake!


Whether it’s a birthday party, a baby shower or a ballgame tailgate, it seems like the most common go-to celebratory creation is CAKE! The possibilities are endless, and it’s the perfect way to get creative and make something that fits in with whatever theme you’re going for. A few years ago, for my son’s 3rd birthday party, I thought I’d try my hand at making a “bow cake” to go with his party theme. I wanted to keep things simple, without too many cartoon faces all over every little thing, so I thought this was a nice compromise. I think it worked out pretty well, and if you’re looking for a way to combine the tasty goodness from your local bakery with your own creative touches, look no further!

What you’ll need:

A cake

Different colored fondant or icing

Ribbon with wire, color to match

I’m going to start off with one of my most favorite shortcuts/secrets—let Food City do the baking for you! I usually get their 2-layer round or square cake, with plain white icing. This saves me hours in the kitchen so I can just focus on the fun part—decorating! First, you’re going to cut 2 strands of the ribbon—a little bit longer than the width/length of the cake. Use more of the ribbon to make a bow. (This part can be done in many different ways—I usually just fold the ribbon over, back and forth about 6 times and tie a piece of ribbon around the middle. Then pull the ‘loops’ apart, shape them up a bit, and there you go!) Take one strand and place it across the middle of the cake and gently tuck the ends underneath the bottom of the cake between it and the platter. Criss-cross the other piece of ribbon the other way, and secure it, too. (See the video below—it’ll make more sense.) Place the bow on top, securing it with either a toothpick or a dab of icing. Then decorate around the ribbon as you see fit—either with different sized fondant circles or icing polka dots or swirls.

This is a great way to save some time, and you can still get creative and put your personal touch on the party’s centerpiece. Trust me—it’ll be one of the best presents at the party! 😉



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Straight Up Stems


Whether it’s a showy centerpiece or a handpicked bunch, fresh flowers can be the perfect addition to any table. Seeing all the different blooms in the floral department just sets my creative wheels into motion…but when I get home and put them in a vase, they end up looking sparse and my flowers keep falling over. So, here’s a tip to keep your flowers standing up straight and your homemade arrangements will look like they were hand-delivered by a professional florist.

What you’ll need:
A vase
Transparent tape
(That’s right. Plain ol’ tape.)

First, put some water in the vase that you’re going to be using. Then, trim your flowers. (This part is totally subjective—I cut mine at different heights, and try to keep some leaves on the stems to add some green fullness to the arrangement.) Take 4 to 6 pieces of tape and criss-cross them across the top of the vase. (See the video below.) This will leave you with a grid-like opening in which you can place the flowers and rearrange until it’s just right.

Sometimes I also like to add rocks to the vase for a different look—or wrap some ribbon around the outside of the vase. Choose things that will match your party theme or your home décor, and have fun with it!



Keep Cool – Cooler Packing Tips


We are right in the heat of the summer…so what better time to offer you some cooler tips? Whether you’re heading to the pool, the beach or the racetrack, here are a few tips that will come in handy when it comes time to pack your snacks.

  • Cold air travels downward—so place your pre-cooled beverages in the cooler first and your ice last.
  • If you have a larger cooler, fill up empty half-gallon milk jugs or orange juice cartons 2/3 full with water and freeze—place in the frozen containers in the corners of your cooler for some homemade containable ice packs!
  • This sounds simple, but by keeping what you’ll eat first on top inside the cooler, you won’t be digging around through the cooler and keeping it open longer than you have to.
  • If you’re packing sandwiches ahead of time, place condiments like mustard and mayonnaise in between the meat and cheese, and not on the bread itself—this will keep your sandwich from getting soggy!
  • Fruits like apples and oranges contain natural juices, so they make the perfect snack—they’re refreshing and won’t dehydrate you.
  • Remember— If you’re heading to Bristol Motor Speedway, glass is strictly prohibited in the grandstand, so opt for cans instead.
  • Everyone has his/her favorite snack—from beef jerky to cookies—so just divvy them up into smaller bags that are easy to take in and out of the cooler/bag…and if everyone wants something different, it wouldn’t hurt to take a permanent marker and write names on the bags!
  • As the day goes by, don’t drain the water out as the ice melts—it actually keeps everything colder to leave that ice water in there!
  • After you come home, mix equal parts water and white vinegar to safely clean out your cooler—don’t use bleach wipes on your bag-type coolers because this can destroy the insulation material.

Give them a try—and get out there and enjoy the rest of the summer!


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Packed Lunches


Sure. We’ve all seen those adorable sandwich creations on Buzzfeed or Pinterest—and if you have time to make your child’s sandwich and snacks into a scene from a kids’ movie, then kudos to you! BUT…if you’re like the rest of us, you’re thinking, I’m lucky if I have time to put matching socks on my kids in the morning…let alone sculpt pop-culture masterpieces for their lunchtime enjoyment! Let’s be honest. Those culinary creations only impress other parents. Yeah, kids think they’re cool, but most of them also think armpit noises are just as impressive…so there’s some perspective for you. 😉

Fear not, fellow real-world parent! Here are a few things that can give you a little creative (and healthy!) inspiration…for when you have an extra minute or two to spare!

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  • I heart you! My daughter hates the crust on her sandwich. LOATHES it. I know someday she won’t be bothered by it, but for now, I take a large heart-shaped cookie cutter and voilà! She’s happy without the crust and I feel like I’ve cutesied up her lunchbox. Use other cookie cutters and mix it up during the week!
  • Arrrr! Mini bananas (Banan-nanas, as they’re affectionately called at Food City) are one of the easiest things to pack for lunch—but how to make them fun? Just take a permanent marker and draw different faces on ‘em—draw a smiley face with an eye patch on there and you’ve got a Captain Banana…the swashbucklin’ cafeteria pirate!
  • Make it count – I know, I know. Lunch is a break from learning…but you can incorporate a little math by cutting your child’s sandwich into puzzle-like pieces. Keep the sandwich together and let him/her move the pieces around to make different shapes at the lunch table!

If you have other fun ideas, we want to see them! Post your fun-food-creation pictures to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #forksandflowers to share with us!