Monday, August 31, 2020

Reviewing the Casdon TOY Dyson Ball Vacuum

Last weekend I traveled to visit my son and family and attend my granddaughter's birthday party. It had been over a year and a half since I had seen them so this was a special occasion on so many levels. But what to get a girl for her 4th birthday.  You get her what she wants. Thank goodness she wasn't asking for a pony.  She wanted a vacuum. I chose the Casdon Toy Dyson Ball Vacuum and she loved it.



Casdon Toy Dyson Ball Vacuum

As soon as my son told me that my granddaughter has been asking him for a vacuum cleaner, I began shopping for a suitable toy vacuum. 

Of course these toys range from lightweight and inexpensive toys, to better-built but "comic" vacuums (The Fisher Price version for example) to more expensive, battery-operated toys.  I was looking for a realistic but miniature style.

And I found the toy Dyson Ball vacuum.  It is offered by several different sellers on Amazon and I chose the CASDON version.  I am so glad I did. It arrived quickly (a day sooner than promised) and was better than I expected. Based on a couple of reviews, I am wondering if some of the sellers are selling knock-offs. 

These are the features I noticed about this toy:

  • this toy Dyson Ball Vacuum is well-made and sturdy.
  • uses 4 C batteries to make a suction sound and spinning motion (with an on/off switch)
  • there is a bit of suction and a 'dust bin" to empty
  • It is a nice size - just right for my 4 year old granddaughter (she's a small 4)
  • maneuvers like an adult-sized ball vacuum
  • comes in a variety of colors
I chose this in pink because granddaughter wears some favorite pink dresses.

Children love to be "little helpers".  This is one reason toys such as vacuums (tiny kitchens, brooms, tools, etc) are so popular. Toys such as this also help with motor skills and coordination. Also, as on reviewer on Amazon explained, some children with autism or anxiety disorders, who are fearful of the adult-sized vacuums, may be able to use and enjoy this tiny, quieter version to get over their fears. 

Initially, I thought I would not buy this as a gift, especially after having not seen them for such a long period of time. But then I decided that it was what she had been asking for and what she wanted. It was a hit. She exited the party (ours were the last gifts she opened thankfully) to go inside and begin vacuuming with a big grin on her face.

Click the photo for more information
Click the photo for more information

 

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To see more of our Toy reviews and recommendations (many of which are toys we've purchased for our children and grandchildren) either click the "Toys Reviews" tab near the top of this page or check out our Toy Reviews board on Pinterest. 




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Sunday, August 30, 2020

These Keto Nuggets are Too Good - Resist the Temptation!

These Keto Nuggets are Too Good!

My friend and fellow writer on ReviewThisReviews, Margaret, has written an extensive series on Keto. If you're considering Keto as a way of eating, be sure to check out her helpful ongoing advice and tips. Her latest detailed and very informative article was on Keto Muffins.

Being a Keto warrior myself for about a year and a half, I have a bit of keto experience under my very loose belt now. This brief review is specifically about one particular Keto product I recently tried.

Here's a photo of it:




Am I Serious About Not Buying This?


For me, yes, lol. If you love a bit of crunch, not too much sweetness, and something the size of more significant popcorn pieces, these are calling your name.

I'm not a sweets person: I can take sweets or leave them. However, there's something about this Keto treat that challenged my self-control! My usual food discipline was weakened for the first time in a year and a half on Keto.

I've lost over 60 pounds to date, and honestly, I won't keep these Keto Nuggets in the house any longer. Isn't it funny that something is too good?

They contain just what the package says; dark chocolate, pecans, almonds, and hemp seed. I'm so grateful I ate the entire bag in three days because just typing this would send me looking for it.

The Keto Numbers on Keto Nuggets


According to the package, one serving of nuggets is 20 grams, that's about three-quarters of an ounce. That one serving is broken down as follows: 4 net carbs, 6 total carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 9 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, and 120 calories. That's undoubtedly Keto friendly. However, stopping at one serving is the problem.

If you feel you can stop eating these at a couple ounces, go for it. I honestly struggled with limiting my intake, and I rarely struggle with food on Keto!

Would I Recommend These as a Keto Treat?


Absolutely. Keto Nuggets are fantastic; however, they lead me into temptation, and I had to deliver myself from food evil. For you, they may be just fine. Consider yourself warned, they're delicious.

I live in Canada and purchased these at our local Costco. I did check Amazon to see if they carried it (in case you wanted it, not me!); however, the Keto Nuggets they sell are higher in carbs and not precisely the same as the one I've featured here. They were an excellent price at Costco; on sale for about $10 - which is why I grabbed them. Tell me the store guru's don't know what they're doing.


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Saturday, August 29, 2020

Marie Callender's Shrimp Mac & Cheese Bowl Review

Marie Callender's Shrimp Mac & Cheese Bowl Review
Frozen dinners are, naturally, not anywhere as good as home-cooked meals, but they are convenient for a segment of the population. These include singles, college students, widow/widowers living alone, and busy moms who find a day became too busy to cook.

There are a wide variety of brands of frozen dinners on the market today.  Some are just okay, some are pretty average, and then there are a couple which stand out in taste and deliciousness, making them an above-average, close-to-homemade choice for a meal. Stouffer's Frozen Foods has been just such a line of frozen meals for me for many years, until I came across another one just as good or better.  It's the Marie Callender's line of frozen dinners. 


Marie Callender


Marie Callender's story is a Heritage of Homemade.  She believed that slowing down to share a meal strengthened the bonds of family and friends. 

In the 1940s, she began baking pies in her home kitchen, which her son delivered on his bicycle to local restaurants in their Orange, California area. By 1948 she was able to open her first bakery, where she baked over 100 pies every day. 

In 1964, Marie's family opened the first of what eventually became a chain of pie and coffee shops.

Today it has expanded to frozen pies and other desserts, and into frozen meals available in grocery stores.  


Marie Callender's Shrimp Mac & Cheese Bowl


I have tried ~ and very much enjoyed ~ the Marie Callender pot pies and a few varieties of her frozen dinners. Recently I discovered a new line of products – microwavable bowls, and purchased the Shrimp Mac & Cheese Bowl.  It was Delicious! 



Image Source: (c) Elf
The Shrimp Mac & Cheese Bowl consists of shrimp over pasta with a buttery white wine cheese sauce. Mmmmm! 

It is a big bowl of succulent premium shrimp with pasta in a creamy sauce made from scratch with real butter and white wine. 

The bowl cooks up quickly in the microwave on high for 3 minutes, stir, re-cover and cook an additional 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.  VERY hot when done, so remove carefully.  Stir & enjoy!  I did! It is very fresh tasting and delicious. 


Summary


Check out the complete line of Marie Callender frozen dinners and bowls.  The variety is amazing and everything I have tried is very good. You can see the various meals available on the Marie Callender Website.




Image Source: (c) Elf

For the story of Marie Callender, check out this book about her life.





Related Links:






*Review of Marie Callender's White Wine & Butter Shrimp Mac & Cheese Bowl by:

Wednesday Elf 
8/29/2020






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Friday, August 28, 2020

Cast Iron Trivets Reviewed

Cast Iron Trivets Reviewed
My Cast Iron Cow Trivet
I like to surround myself with pretty things that are functional. After all, an item doesn't have to be ugly simply because it is utilitarian.  This is especially true in the kitchen.

I have cooked with a cast iron skillet for as long as I can remember.  I use a cast iron trivet, which I have also had for as long as I can remember, to protect my counter top from the extremely hot and heavy skillet.  However, I recently purchased a cast iron dutch oven for baking bread. I immediately realized that I needed a second cast iron trivet for my new dutch oven's lid which is equally as hot and heavy as the pot itself.

I happened to be exploring an antique store a few weeks ago when I came across an adorable dog cast iron trivet finished just like my cow trivet.  Well, of course, I had to have that!  The dog trivet had a hanger on it which gives it a dual purpose.  It is also kitchen decor.  Yes, I can hang it right on my wall where it will be very convenient and easy to find when needed.

After I got home, I looked at my long time friend, the cow cast iron trivet. I couldn't believe it!  She has a hole for hanging too that I never noticed before.  It was pretty exciting to discover that my pretty cow can also be displayed.  

Using functional cast iron trivets as "pictures".  I love it!


Functional Beauty of Cast Iron Trivets


Unlike many current day trivets that sit flat on a counter top, my cast iron trivets are raised on feet.  That allows the pot or skillet to cool from the bottom as well as the top and sides while protecting my counters from the intense heat.  Since they are also made of cast iron, they are perfectly designed for the weight of cast iron cookware.


Features of the Cast Iron Trivets

Puppy Cast iron Trivet
My Newly Acquired Puppy Cast Iron Trivet
  • Protective rubber feet to protect walls or counter tops 
  • Strong enough to hold heavy skillets, pots & pans
  • Tolerates heat from hot pan without sustaining damage
  • Available in a variety of designs 

My trivets are bronze, clearly from an era when brass was prominent in home decor.  New cast iron trivets are most often black, which match the standard cast iron cookware.  However, there are a few available that are painted like the rooster trivet shown below.

Now, if I only had more wall space in my kitchen, I could have a whole barnyard of animal trivets surrounding me.  





Antique Cast Iron Trivets


If you prefer the bronze or antique trivets, Ebay is the perfect source.  Keep it mind, if you don't see one you love on Ebay today (linked for easy access), you just might see one tomorrow.  Items on Ebay change constantly thanks to the vast numbers of sellers on the site.






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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Visit Missouri- Review of Frontier Park-St. Charles


Located on the Missouri Riverfront in St. Charles you will find a wonderful park, the Lewis and Clark Boathouse Museum and a delightful nature center.


Lewis and Clark Boathouse Museum



The Lewis and Clark Boat House and Museum is a wonderful way to spend time reviewing the history that took place in this area.  There is a wonderful display on the Lewis and Clark Expedition with maps for you to follow the paths taken.  There is a replica of a keel boat used during the expedition times and many other artifacts from the era.  

The  museum also gives a lot of information on the Missouri River ecosystem.  

Outside the museum you will find a wonderful nature center.  It is a small area but packed with informational signs and lots of beautiful flowers.  I particularly like to photograph the sunflowers.  

Here are some photos from a late July visit to the area.


 




I was delighted by all of the colorful cone flowers that were in bloom on this visit.






Frontier Park

Just east of the museum area on the riverfront you will find Frontier Park.


The park covers 16 acres and is a wonderful way to spend a leisurely time watching the boats on the riverfront, watching events on the stage, visiting the old railroad depot, or taking a walk along the Katy trail. Here are the features of the park according to the St. Charles Parks website.

  • 16 Acres
  • 15 Foot Lewis & Clark Statue
  • MKT Depot
  • MO Dept. of Natural Resources Katy Trail runs through Frontier Park
  • Outdoor Jaycee Stage
  • 2 Picnic Shelters
  • Paved Hike/Bike Trail
  • Rest Area (Benches)
  • Restrooms are open year round.


From <http://www.stcharlesparks.com/park/frontier-park/



At Christmas time the city celebrates a "St. Charles Christmas Traditions".  One of the traditions includes a parade featuring Santa's from various countries.  At the end Santa Claus stops at the railroad depot above for children to visit and have their photos taken with Santa Claus  A couple of years ago my two youngest granddaughters were visiting before the holidays and I took them to see Santa.  The depot was a wonderful spot for this tradition.  



The St. Charles area features a lot of festivals held in the area and the stage seen above is often the place where entertainment is featured. People can bring their lawn chairs and sit in the grassy areas surrounding the stage.  Some of the festivals include an Independance Day Celebration, Festival of the Little Hills, Craft Fairs and much more.

This area along the Missouri riverfront in St. Charles is a real treasure of the city and an area I never tire of visiting.

Zazzle Products from my Photographs





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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Columbo TV Series Reviewed

 

Columbo TV Series Reviewed

Who remembers Columbo? If you grew up in the '70s or even the '90s then you may know who Lt. Columbo is. The series began on NBC in 1971 and ran until 1978. I was so disappointed when NBC canceled the series.

 Then, Columbo was picked up by ABC in 1989 and ran until 2003. I don't think we ever missed an episode. In 1989 we moved to Western New York, not far from home in Pennsylvania. Moving is certainly a stressful undertaking, a new town, new schools for the kids, making new friends. This may sound crazy, but the series coming back was like having an old friend in the living room whenever it aired.

Columbo The Complete Series:

Lieutenant Columbo was played by (Peter Falk) a Los Angeles Police Dept. homicide detective. Columbo was not your typical whodunit mystery. Each episode opened with the crime being committed. So, we all knew from the beginning of the show who did it. This popularized what is called the inverted detective format.

During the rest of the show, we watch Columbo solve the crime with his relentless approach of questioning, picking apart the killers alibi, and bringing them to justice. 

To me, the show was more like a comedy, as he would arrive at the crime scene in his old beat-up car, wrinkled suit, trench coat, and smoking his cigar. The suspects become irritated with his persistence and line of questioning. His famous phrase was "Just one more thing". He came off as an incompetent, bumbling detective. It would always be at the end of the episode when they finally figured out how smart Lieutenant Columbo really was.

Some Fun Facts About Columbo:

  • The clothes he wore in the show were Peter Falk's own wrinkled suit and trench coat.
  • He frequently mentions his wife but she never appears in any of the episodes.
  • Columbo's first name is never mentioned. He is known simply as "Lieutenant Columbo".
  • Bing Crosby was originally offered the role of Columbo.
  • In season two they introduced a Basset Hound as Columbo's dog. The dog's name is never mentioned. 
  • The beat-up car Columbo drove was a 1959 Peugeot convertible, Model 403. I read somewhere that only 504 of these cars were manufactured in 1959.
This TV series is surely a classic we still watch it whenever we can find it on television. I still marvel in the endings when Columbo outwits the killer and finds that one clue the killer didn't count on.

Enjoy watching your favorite episodes with this Columbo Complete Series Edition

Columbo: The Complete SeriesColumbo: The Complete Series

 




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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Low Carb Muffins & Cupcakes: Treats to Enjoy on a Keto Diet

Keto Cupcakes & Muffins main image - text over photo collage
Enjoying low carb baked goods helps me stick to my ketogenic diet

In spring 2019, after the medical scare that motivated me to get serious about losing at least 50 pounds and become significantly leaner to reduce my risk for cancer and heart disease, a ketogenic diet was one of several options I considered. One of my biggest concerns about keto was whether–and how–I could stay on such a restrictive diet for however long it would take to lose that weight.

I didn’t think I could, nor did I want to, commit to a way of eating that prohibited all baked goods, since I estimated that it would probably take a year, or maybe longer, to reach my healthy weight loss goal. And, based on what I had read during my extensive research on the ketogenic diet approach, most recipes for keto baked goods turned out dry, dense, and with an unpleasant aftertaste from the sweetener. To be successful on an extremely low carb diet, I could find ways to incorporate keto-friendly baked goods that didn’t taste like cardboard!

When I thought about which ones would be most helpful in staying on track long-term, I initially narrowed my focus to muffins, cupcakes, cake, bread, and rolls, including hamburger buns. I tried a lot of recipes, many of which I didn't care for, but was able to find some I liked. I also sampled an array of keto-friendly baking mixes, limiting them to ones that were made with simple, high-quality ingredients, mostly the same ones I used in my homemade low carb baked goods. Again, some weren't up to my standards, but others were a very pleasant surprise.

Today, I'm sharing my favorite baking mixes (so far) for making keto-friendly muffins and cupcakes, as well as some recipes I can recommend, and the variations and add-on ingredients I use frequently. I'll also include some tree nut and coconut free options. (I'll do the same for other types of baked goods in future posts.)


Keto Baking Mixes vs. Recipes: Pros and Cons

I've been an avid baker all my life and have always enjoyed baking. And, of course, it always costs less when you only have to pay for the ingredients. However, I've found that when it comes to making my own keto baked goods, there's often more prep time and more ingredients needed than with conventional recipes (which also means more measuring cups, spoons, etc., to wash).

In addition to being less expensive, many of us generally prefer to bake from scratch to ensure that our treats are made with wholesome, nutritious, high quality ingredients, and because if you're a reasonably good home baker, they usually taste better than those made from a commercial mix (such as Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, or even Krusteaz). However, the keto-friendly baking mixes I'm sharing here are made with the same foods I would use in my favorite low-carb baking recipes (with only a couple of exceptions), and most taste even better than many of their scratch-baked counterparts.

Another very important consideration for anyone tracking their macros is that many of the best keto recipes for cupcakes and muffins I've tried are significantly higher in calories, net carbs, and fat than treats made from the mixes I've included here.

Since last year, low carb food manufacturers have been really stepping up their game. There are many more options and much better tasting baking mixes than when I started in 2019. So, whether you prefer double chocolate chip cupcakes or savory (faux) corn muffins, I encourage you to give some of the mixes I recommend a try. You may find, as I do, that the taste and texture of your keto baked goods, the convenience, and not having to stock your pantry and freezer with a range of new, more expensive, and often perishable ingredients might be worth the higher cost.


Keto Blueberry Muffins or Cupcakes

HighKey Blueberry Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix

HighKey Snacks makes some wonderful products for people who follow a ketogenic diet. I keep a wide range of them in my cupboard at all times, especially their baking mixes and mini cookies. Their HighKey Blueberry Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix, which I usually order on Amazon with free Amazon Prime shipping, produces a nice, tender, cake-like muffin.

The mix uses a combination of coconut flour and almond flour for a tender texture that's a cross between a muffin and a cupcake. It's sweetened with HighKey's proprietary natural sweetener blend that includes erythritol, allulose, stevia and monk fruit, as well as soluble tapioca fiber (resistant dextrin), a non-digestible carbohydrate that the FDA considers a dietary fiber.

Prepared according to the package instructions with 4 eggs, 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk, and 1/3 cup coconut oil, each blueberry muffin has only 1g net carbs, 140 calories, 12g fat, 7g dietary fiber, 0g added sugars, and 4g protein.

If you can afford a few extra net carbs in your daily keto macros, these individual treats taste even better with some extra fresh or frozen blueberries, especially wild blueberries that are plentiful in Maine during the season. They have much better, more intense flavor than regular blueberries, and they're also tiny, which means the fruit can be more evenly distributed when it's mixed into the batter. If you don't live in New England, or when wild blueberries are out of season, Wyman's of Maine brand frozen wild blueberries are an excellent alternative to fresh berries.

You can also add a little finely grated fresh lemon zest and/or lemon extract (but not lemon juice), if you'd like.

Blueberry Muffins Recipe With Almond Flour

One of the first cookbooks I bought when I started my keto weight loss journey was The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook by Maya Krampf, and the first think I tried from it was the blueberry muffins recipe. They turned out very good, if slightly dry (it's possible I might have overbaked them a smidge). And split, lightly toasted and buttered, they were delicious!

They're sweetened with erythritol, but since the book was published Maya Krampf has come out with her own line of Besti sweeteners, including a granulated monk fruit and erythritol blend that can be substituted 1:1 for erythritol in baked goods recipes.

Note that these homemade muffins are significantly higher in calories, fat, protein, and net carbs than those made with the HighKey mix: 5g net carbs, 254 calories, 23g fat, 0g added sugars, and 8g protein. (The recipe's nutrition information doesn't include dietary fiber.)

Photo of The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook and prepared blueberry muffins recipe
The almond flour blueberry muffins I made with the
recipe from The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook

Keto Chocolate Cupcakes or Muffins

HighKey Double Chocolate Chip Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix

Given my chocoholic tendencies, you may have guessed my favorite low carb cupcakes or muffins flavor is double chocolate chip. I make them from HighKey Double Chocolate Chip Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix often, and usually mix 1/2 cup of sugar-free ChocZero white chocolate baking chips into the batter. (Does that make them Double Chocolate Double Chip, or Triple Chocolate Chip?)

The texture falls somewhere between a cupcake and a muffin. I think of them as the former when I eat them for dessert, and as the latter when I enjoy them as a decadent breakfast treat.

The mix requires 4 eggs, 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk, and 1/3 cup coconut oil to yield 12 servings. Like the HighKey blueberry mix, it's sweetened with HighKey's proprietary natural sweetener blend, which includes erythritol, allulose, stevia and monk fruit.

Prepared according to the package directions, one serving of these sumptuous treats has only 1g net carbs, 120 calories, 10g fat, 5g dietary fiber, 0g added sugars, and 4g protein.

The optional ChocZero white chocolate chips add not only a complementary flavor but also a bit of extra dietary fiber, which can be hard to get enough of on an extremely low carb diet.

photo of prepared HighKey Double Chocolate Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix Chip
I made these decadent, fudgy treats with HighKey Double Chocolate Chip
Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix and ChocZero white chocolate chips

Low Carb Chocolate Muffins and Cupcakes Recipes

Here are a few good ones to try.

Keto Chocolate Cupcakes recipe from Wholesome Yum

Keto Double Chocolate Muffins recipe from All Day I Dream About Food

Keto Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe from My Keto Kitchen (I haven't tried this one yet, but it has a 5-star rating with 230 votes - a pretty good endorsement in my book!)


Keto (Faux) Corn Muffins

Good Dee's Corn Bread Mix

Real corn is a major no-no on a ketogenic diet, which is a bit of a bummer for those of us who love all things corn. Fortunately, it's possible to bake something that gives us something that is sort of reminiscent of cornbread that is also very low carb, if you set realistic expectations for how "corny" something with no corn in it can taste. And if you're going to top it with keto chili, for example, it does very nicely, indeed.These days, my favorite way to make faux corn muffins is with

Good Dee’s Corn Bread Low Carb Baking Mix. (The package says “Corn Free Bread,” with the word "free" in much smaller letters than "corn" and "bread" for truth-in-advertising purposes.) The directions, which are based on making cornbread in an 8-inch pan, say to bake at 325 F for 18-23 minutes. I divide my batter among 12 silicone baking liners and bake until the muffins test done (i.e., a wooden toothpick stuck into the center comes out without any uncooked batter). That takes around 12-15 minutes, if I remember correctly.

I boost the corn flavor by adding Amoretti Sweet Corn Extract to the batter. It costs more than other brands, but has really good flavor and is keto-friendly. And, since I don't make corn muffins or bread that often, the 2-ounce bottle lasts me quite a while.

This mix makes faux corn muffins that are neither savory nor sweet and contain just a hint of stevia extract. They're perfect for adding shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese, with or without chopped jalapeño or other chili peppers, if you're so inclined, or you can add a little erythritol, monkfruit, BochaSweet (pentose), or a blend, if you prefer yours on the sweeter side.

Prepared with 3 large eggs, 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter, and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar according to the package directions, these low carb cornbread muffins have 1g net carbs, 130 calories, 11g fat, 5g dietary fiber, 0g added sugars, and 4g protein. The optional teaspoon or two of Amoretti sweet corn extract adds negligible calories or fat and no net carbs per serving.

Photo of keto cornbread muffins
Tasty keto corn muffins made with Good Dee's Corn Bread
Low Carb Baking Mix and Amoretti Sweet Corn Extract


Keto Banana Muffins

Keto and Co Banana Caramel Muffin Mix

I love banana bread and cupcakes, and I really missed them after I adopted my new low carb lifestyle. Then, I discovered the awesome Banana Caramel Keto Muffin Mix by Keto and Co, which makes extremely moist, tender, and flavorful muffins that taste as though they were made with real mashed, ripe bananas, yet they contain no fruit at all. They have a slightly sticky, chewy texture similar to almond macaroons (yum!).

This mix is sweetened with the company's proprietary Wondrose Sugar Replacer, a mix of erythritol, non-GMO soluble corn fiber, inulin, monk fruit and natural flavors.

Each bag of mix, which calls for 4 large eggs, 6 tablespoons of melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, makes 9 banana cupcakes or muffins.

I like to amp up the banana flavor even more with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of OliveNation Pure Banana Extract, which has 0 net carbs, no added sugars, and no calories when used as directed for baking (the alcohol burns off in the oven). These muffins are even better if you add 1/3 cup of ChocZero sugar-free dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips.

To make them into cupcakes, simply cover the tops with a swirl of keto-friendly frosting.

Photo of keto banana caramel muffins
I love adding ChocZero sugar-free white or dark chocolate chips when I bake Keto and Co Banana Caramel Keto Muffin Mix batter


Keto Banana Muffin Recipes

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe from Joy Filled Eats

Low Carb Banana Muffins recipe with cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips from Sugar Free Londoner Note: This recipe is flavored with one very ripe banana, which is why it has nearly 8 net carbs. But if you really dislike recipes that use banana extract and you can fit it into your macros, you might want to make a batch of these and freeze them, so you can have one occasionally as a treat.


Low Carb Carrot Muffins or Cupcakes

Good Dee's Carrot Muffin & Cake Mix

I've always been a big fan of carrot cake and muffins, so I was really happy to discover Good Dee's Carrot Muffin & Cake Mix. Instead of almond flour and/or coconut flour, it's made with watermelon seed flour and sunflower seed flour.

Although this mix contains erythritol and very small amount of stevia extract, it's not as sweet as many others, which is actually a very good thing. If you'd like it a bit sweeter, you can easily add a very little bit of additional erythritol and/or stevia extract or another alternative, such as granulated/crystallized allulose, monk fruit, or a blend of some or all of them. However, after several months on a fairly clean keto diet (which also means no artificial sweeteners that can spike your blood sugar and can feed your psychological sugar addiction), you are likely to find that your sweet tooth has diminished, and you may find yourself preferring your baked goods a bit less sweet. I kept hearing this from other people doing mostly clean keto, but never dreamed it could happen to me...until it did!

This mix also has some cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg, but it's pretty subtle. I prefer carrot muffins and cupcakes with a more prominent spice flavor, so I always add additional cinnamon and, often, a bit of powdered ginger. I highly recommend Penzeys Spices for fresh, high quality herbs, spices and pure vanilla extract at terrific prices.

This mix calls for 3 eggs, 1/3 cup melted coconut oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for carrot muffins, or 4 eggs, 1/3 cup melted coconut oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract for carrot cake or cupcakes (follow the directions for the cake, but divide the batter into 12 silicone cupcake liners and bake for only 18-23 minutes). The "as prepared" nutrition information (which doesn't specify whether it's for cupcakes or muffins) listed on the package is 3g net carbs, 150 calories, 12g fat, 3g dietary fiber, 0g added sugars, and 4g protein.

Note: Although there are no tree nuts or coconut in the ingredients, the mix is manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility that also processes soy, milk, tree nuts, and eggs. So, if you have a severe food allergy to any of those things, this might not be an option for you.

Variation: Carrot Muffins with Nuts and/or Shredded Coconut

Traditionally, carrot muffins and carrot cake recipes often include crushed pineapple, raisins or dried cranberries, all of which are off-limits on a ketogenic diet. However, if you enjoy tree nuts and/or coconut and can tolerate them, these carrot cake muffins are even better if you add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut and/or chopped, lightly toasted walnuts or pecans to the batter.

While these additions will nudge the calories and net carbs a bit higher, they will also provide more healthy fat, dietary fiber and protein. I have tried several brands and prefer Anthony's Organic Unsweetened Shredded Coconut, which is great quality and costs less per ounce than many other high quality brands. I keep a 2-pound bag of it in our freezer.

Variation: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Make the Carrot Muffins with Nuts and/or Shredded Coconut variation, then add a dollop or swirl of sugar-free cream cheese frosting to each serving. I recommend either the cream cheese frosting recipe from the Wholesome Yum website, or my favorite keto cream cheese frosting recipe on page 380 of The Ultimate Guide to Keto Baking by Carolyn Ketchum, an absolutely fabulous cookbook that has become my go-to for low carb baking. If you want to learn how to make delicious keto muffins, cupcakes, layer cakes, frostings, cookies, doughnuts, gingerbread, brownies, pies, tarts, pizzas, crackers, bread, and more, this cookbook will become your keto baking bible. In addition to explaining simply and thoroughly the fundamentals of low carb baking, this book contains more than 150 sweet and savory baking recipes. And, while I haven't tried them all yet, every recipe I've made has been a winner.


Choose Your Flavor Muffin Mix

Good Dee's Low Carb Base Muffin Mix

You can whip up a batch of sweet or savory keto muffins in a jiffy by mixing in whatever flavoring ingredients you want into Good Dee's Low Carb Base Muffin Mix. This versatile mix makes a neutral muffin batter that you can customize to suit your individual preferences. Shredded cheese and bits of ham or crispy bacon, fresh raspberries or strawberries, shredded coconut and lemon zest, any flavor extract you can think of...the only limit is your imagination!

Image of Good Dee's Low Carb Base Muffin Mix package
Good Dee's low carb base muffin mix is a blank canvas
so you can flavor it with any ingredients you wish


Adapting Keto Baking Recipes for People with Tree Nut Allergies

Almond flour, alone or with coconut flour, is the foundation of most low-carb baking. While there are some recipes that use coconut flour and no almond flour, these two ingredients behave very differently in baked goods, and you can't simply substitute one for the other and end up with a successful result. That means most keto recipes for baked goods are off limits to people who suffer from severe tree nut allergies.

Fortunately, in most cases, sunflower seed flour, also called sunflower seed meal, can be substituted for almond flour, if you add a bit more than the recipe calls for to get the right consistency (you may need to experiment a bit).

Although I'm not allergic to tree nuts, last fall I wanted to make a recipe that called for this almond flour alternative. I ordered a bag of Gerb's sunflower seed meal, which is convenient and high quality, but also on the expensive side. So, when that bag is finished, if I want more, I'll make my own by grinding raw sunflower seeds in a clean coffee grinder and sifting it. This post from Carolyn Ketchum on how to make sunflower seed flour has some helpful and important tips.


My Favorite Silicone Baking Cups / Liners for Muffins and Cupcakes

Keto baked goods often don't release as easily as their conventional counterparts. So, whenever I make low carb muffins or cupcakes, I always scoop the batter into my favorite non-stick, reusable, Pantry Elements Silicone Cupcake Baking Cups / Liners. This set of 24 fluted silicone liners includes four each of six bright, cheerful rainbow colors—yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, and green—in a bonus see-through storage container. The silicone passes the "pinch test" for color, and they also can be used standalone without the support of a cupcake or muffin tin, which is how I usually use them, since my old wall oven died and we now use only our countertop oven, which won't accommodate a full-size cupcake pan. I use these wonderful silicone liners for baking at least every other week.

Note: I've also recommended these silicone cups previously, in my review of the best silicone cooking and baking tools and accessories.


Thoughts on Soluble Tapioca Fiber, Soluble Corn Fiber, and Inulin in Low Carb Mixes

Tapioca and corn are starches, and high-fructose corn syrup (aka HFCS) and maltodextrin are high carbohydrate sugars with a very high glycemic index. None of them should be eaten on a ketogenic diet. However, although it is derived from HFCS, soluble corn fiber (SCF) is a horse of an entirely different color! Soluble corn fiber is a resistant dextrin, a water-soluble dietary fiber that has other potential health benefits, such as increasing bone calcium retention in postmenopausal women. It adds viscosity and sweetness without spiking blood sugar levels, because it passes through the stomach and small intestine without being digested. Similarly, inulin, another soluble dietary fiber recognized by the FDA, also provides sweetness and has an extremely low glycemic index.

Some people argue that anything with a sweet taste should be avoided on a ketogenic diet because, they allege, continuing to eat sweet-tasting foods will simply feed your food addiction to sugar. They point to studies that suggest that consuming artificial sweeteners may affect the metabolism, and a recent study that suggests that merely tasting something sweet might alter our metabolism and glucose control. However, these studies were focused solely on sugar (sucrose) and artificial sweeteners sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), and saccharine, all of which affect blood sugar and metabolism differently than plant-based, low glycemic sweeteners such as erythritol, monk fruit and stevia. It doesn't seem scientifically valid to draw conclusions about the metabolic effects of anything that tastes sweet based on extrapolating findings about effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

I have been eating foods containing soluble tapioca fiber, soluble corn fiber, and inulin for more than a year, while losing 58 pounds on my ketogenic diet, and I successfully kicked my sugar addiction and enjoy, but no longer crave, sweet foods. There are many, many others who have had similar experiences. As always, your mileage may vary.

Also, different people metabolize carbohydrates differently. If you have any concerns about how any type of sweetener might affect your blood sugar (especially if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic) or your ability to stay in ketosis, or just try adding plant-based sweeteners in limited amounts for a month, without changing anything else about what, when, and how much you eat, and see whether it seems to affect your weight loss.


High Quality Keto Baking Ingredients & Mixes Cost More Than Flour, Sugar, and Honey

The only significant downside of my ketogenic lifestyle is a noticeably higher grocery bill, despite purchasing less food on our shopping trips. Whole, high quality, nutritious foods are cost significantly more than processed foods, pizza, rice, grains, and traditional baked goods, especially since I try to choose mostly foods that are organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, pasture-raised, etc., when possible (and practical). And for baking, ingredients like almond flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk powder, and high quality, naturally-derived sweeteners, such as monk fruit extract, stevia extract, erythritol, allulose, and my personal favorite, BochaSweet (pentose) that have a low glycemic load, are more expensive than their far less nutritious conventional counterparts, such as wheat flour, cornstarch, sugar and honey.

But I consider the added expense a small price to pay, compared to the extremely high financial, emotional, and quality of life costs of developing and being treated for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or another serious and potentially life-threatening illness, for which my obesity put me at much higher risk. And the ability to enjoy life so much more, now that I feel (and look) so much better, free from my prior chronic joint pain and inflammation, with more energy and verve than I could have imagined, is priceless.


Want Even More Low Carb Cupcakes and Muffins?

Bookmark this page and check back often over the next few weeks. I'll be updating this review with more of my favorite keto recipes and baking mixes for the best muffins and cupcakes to enjoy on a ketogenic diet.


Low Carb Muffins & Cupcakes: Treats to Enjoy on a Keto Diet
by Margaret Schindel


Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey

My Favorite Hamama Microgreens Seed Quilt Accessories

Hamama Microgreens Starter Kit and Seed Quilts Review

Good Dee’s Keto Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix Review

Low Carb Keto Chocolate Yogurt Granola Chip Pudding Recipe

Low Carb Muffins & Cupcakes: Treats to Enjoy on a Keto Diet

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part One

My First Year on The Keto Diet


Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas)

My Personal Keto Testimonial

How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating


Read More Reviews About Health and Wellness by Our Contributors




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Monday, August 24, 2020

Worst Cooks In America: TV Series Reviewed


Have you ever wondered how a meal which seems so easy to make can sometimes go oh so wrong? As in what was I thinking? Did I use sugar instead of salt? Was that a cup or cup and a half of flour?


Been there. But thankfully, only occasionally.

If you need a little laughter in the kitchen then the television show the Worst Cooks In America is for you. (Laughing with the contestants at their culinary journey.)

Worst Cooks Competition


The Worst Cooks In America is an elimination competition cooking show in which contestants are separated into two teams. The teams are captained by well known chefs Anne Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli this season.

Each show has a culinary  theme where the captains guide their team by teaching the contestants how to make a specific meal. The captains coach their team members along the way while the team members learn the ins and outs of cooking ... hopefully.

The first episode of the season features the contestants making their go-to meal from real life. A little scary, very interesting and very creative are some of these dishes. Some dishes combine ingredients that are just. so. not. edible!

A Sense Of Humor

Laughter and humor are also a theme throughout the show as contestants are good humored and the audience is rooting for them to succeed! Contestants are eliminated at the end of each show and they try so hard! As we home cooks know, some days are better than others and cooking can be an inexact endeavor some days for us novices.

Celebrity Worst Cooks

Every so often the show runs a celebrity season and there is always plenty of mirth and mayhem. It is quite amusing to watch celebrities out of their entertainment element and enter the show as the main character.

As the celebrity contestants are already camera friendly their cooking or lack of cooking skills shine through along with their entertaining personalities.

Where To Find Worst Cooks In America?

New episodes of the Worst Cooks In America air at 9 p.m. Sundays on the Food Network.

If you have an Amazon Fire Stick the series is available on the Food Network Kitchen app. The app is also available on Google Play and iPhone. The apps offer some free Food Network shows; however a cable subscription will unlock all the offerings.

If you love to cook or watch cooking shows I think you will enjoy Worst Cooks In America and may even learn a few new skills for your own kitchen along the way.





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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Take a Break and Solve Some Riddles

Fun Combined with Distraction - 2020's Prescription

With so many challenges in 2020, finding distracting things to do has been priority number one for my family and me.

Simply enjoying each other's company and being grateful for what we do have has been a priority in our life these past several months. But truth be told, it's still a conscious effort to keep the mind clear and hope alive. Life has a way of sneaking up and challenging our sanity. Sometimes getting back to the basics is the best solution.

So that brings me to riddles. Lol. Truth.

I decided to write riddle books as a form of entertainment and distraction.  Strangely enough, I started writing them in late 2019. Premonition maybe? To date, I've self-published five riddle books. My latest book is Halloween Riddles, featured below.

Available on Amazon
Turn the World Off With a Smile

When I created the books, and the related website, "StumpedRiddles.com," my tag line for both became, 'turn the world off with a smile.'

My latest project, Halloween Riddles, was a time-consuming venture. It involved approximately three months from writing to publishing. It was published on Amazon in August 2020.

This book features eighty riddles divided into eight chapters. The chapters are Unseen Halloween, Dead Halloween, Costumes, Halloween Food, Halloween Decorating, A Famous Cartoon, Halloween Emotions, and Halloween Noises.

The book was written for the avid Halloween fans and for parties.

You Can Also Solve Riddles Online

I built StumpedRiddles.com to coincide with the published riddle books.

The site features a growing list of originally written riddles to solve. When you need a mindless activity, head over at your leisure to tackle a few.

Some of the riddles are unique to the website, while others are from the already published riddle books.

A Growing List of Original, Personally Written Online Riddles to Keep You Busy Here

Here's one of the riddles you'll find on the website:

On StumpedRiddles.com

Did you guess the answer?

Oh, what the heck, I'll give you one more to ponder:

On StumpedRiddles.com

Riddles might seem mundane, but these days, that's a feature, not a bug!

I created the books for multiple purposes: Parties, Games, Loot Bags, Stocking Stuffers, Mental Challenges, Family Gatherings, and of course, Distraction.

Have fun, and lose yourself in brain teasers :)





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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Reviewing PUMA Pacer Next Cage Sneakers for Men

Now before I start my review I should say that I am unashamedly a New Balance girl, so why am I reviewing some PUMA sneakers?   Let me tell you my story .....

My black PUMA sneakers - perfect for wearing to the office!


For the past 10 years I have been wearing New Balance shoes for walking (well I do also have walking sandals, but ..), running, the gym and basically any activity I do.   They were recommended to me by my physio, the people at the athletic shoe store who measured me and did various tests and one of our friends who's a podiatrist.  Even with those three recommendations I wasn't convinced until I tried them on, I decided I was never even going to look at other athletic shoes as they were so comfortable.

Hello 2020 and I find myself the owner of a pair of PUMA Pacer Next sneakers, so what happened?   Surprisingly, given the year we are in, it had nothing to do with Covid!   I work as an Office Manager for an accounting firm and we moved from our long-standing one story office building to a two story office building a few months ago.

For the first couple of weeks I decided I was wearing my New Balance shoes as I was running up and down the stairs so many times while we were getting everything organized (including carrying boxes as we were still unpacking!).   Seriously though, anyone who knows New Balance will know that each year they have different coloured shoes released and I have never owned a black or grey pair.   My current bright pink shoes are very comfy and are great for sport, but they don't really look very corporate.

Now it's winter so I thought I would wear my smart (and very comfy), flat black boots to the office.   I should mention that we now have wooden floors throughout and my boots were very loud - what was the solution?

My husband and I happened to visit a shopping centre not long after and he steered me towards the PUMA store (I was trying to go into the bookstore opposite!).   Let's look for some black pumps were the words that convinced me to leave the bookstore until later (by the way this was the bookstore where I got The Alice Network and then returned to find they also had The Huntress - can't wait for my next trip!).

The first pair I tried on were the Pacer Next and I loved them, but my husband wanted me to continue to look so I tried two other pairs on and returned to the PUMA Pacer Next pair.  Now these were actually the men's shoes and they seem to go by the name of PUMA Men's Pacer Next Cage Sneaker in the US.   I originally tried the men's on because they were all black and the woman's ones had a white stripe on them, when I put them on they were basically the most comfortable for me.

I do have wider feet than I used to and this could be why the men's style suited me best.

What I found a little strange was that the tongue was sewn in so instead of pushing the tongue up and pulling the sides out to manhandle your foot into it you had to push your foot in and then I hooked the tag on the back with my finger and effectively used it to 'shoehorn' my foot in.  It felt weird the first couple of times, but now I do it without thinking.

A very big plus with these shoes is I haven't had a single blister, not even a little rubbing.   That's after wearing them for over 8 hours a day four days in a row.   They are extremely comfortable and I thoroughly recommend them, in fact I'm not going to even look for a more 'corporate' shoe for work as these blend in nicely with my black trousers and I stay comfortable!

I will still stay loyal to New Balance for my workout shoes, but PUMA is going to be my go to work shoe for quite some time I believe.

Have you tried any of PUMA's sneakers?




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