Showing posts with label baking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label baking. Show all posts

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Reviews of Silicone Kitchen Tools and Accessories for Cooking and Baking Enthusiasts

Silicone sponges, potholders, spatulas, baking pan liners, muffin pan liners, food storage bags, cooking utensil rests, chocolate chip molds, ice pop molds and other silicone molds have become some of my favorite and most-often-used items in my kitchen.

Although I love cooking and baking, I don’t enjoy washing dishes, so I appreciate being able to toss my silicone kitchen tools into the dishwasher. It’s often just as easy to hand wash them with just a soapy sponge, since even sticky foods wash off easily.
Read on for my reviews of the best silicone kitchen tools and accessories!

Silicone Scrubber Sponges

I started using silicone “sponges” a while ago to protect our nonstick pots and pans. I liked them, but found them hard to handle because they were thin, floppy and a bit small. Also, when something did stick a bit, they didn’t work at all to remove the stuck-on food.

When one of them eventually ripped, I decided to look for something a bit larger and sturdier. I was a bit skeptical when I ordered this set silicone scrubber sponges, but I really liked the fact that they had the nubby silicone sponge “fingers” on one side and a sturdier scrubber pad on the other side. I find it much easier to hold these thicker, less floppy scrubber sponges while washing dishes, utensils, pots or pans. And, like the ones they replaced, they’re made of silicone, so they protect the nonstick finish, don’t trap bacteria and don’t get smelly, as cellulose sponges can. They’re also dishwasher safe.
These silicone scrubber sponges won't scratch nonstick pots and pans
The set includes 3 silicone sponge scrubbers, so I can keep one at the sink, one in the dishwasher and still have a spare. I wish the colors were a bit less drab, like the thinner, brightly colored silicone sponges I purchased originally, but I’m happy to trade less attractive color for more effectiveness in my kitchen.

Silicone Potholders

My hands are very sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, so I've gone through a lot of potholders over the years. The first silicone potholders I tried were the OrkaPlus cotton-lined silicone mitts by Mastrad. These long mitts were like barbecue mitts, providing great coverage that protected my fingers, hands, wrists and the lower half of my forearms. This appealed to me a lot, since I'm prone to burning myself in the kitchen! They also came highly recommended by a respected cooking magazine and had great reviews. Unfortunately, I found them very clumsy and had a hard time getting a good grip on the edges of cookie sheets without smooshing the big silicone thumb part into the cookies (or whatever else was in the pan I was trying to remove from the oven). Next, I tried a pair of small, ribbed silicone pinch mitts, also called mini oven mitts, that just covered my fingers, thumbs and palms. But I found them very awkward to use.
These ribbed silicone potholders protect your hands without getting in the way
Finally, I bought two Architec Silicone HotGrip ribbed silicone potholders that turned out to be the perfect solution. I use them every day, throw them into the dishwasher every evening and they still look like new. They're thick, large enough to protect my hands and grip well, thanks to the ribbed texture. Mine are red, since at the time the pretty teal blue color wasn't available. I can't imagine them wearing out, but if they ever do, I'll definitely be buying the blue ones!

Silicone Spatulas

I frequently use nonstick cookware and bakeware and silicone spatulas help protect the nonstick coating. I’ve added to my silicone spatula collection over time because I use them for so many things.

The first ones I bought (many years ago) had silicone heads attached to handles of a different material (wood, metal or plastic). I soon realized I’d be better off with a seamless, one-piece design. This eliminates the possibility of the business end of the spatula becoming detached from the handle (something that happened to me several times with two-piece designs) and eliminates seams and crevices that can trap food and breed bacteria.

Two years ago, I purchased 4-piece silicone spatula set made by UpGood. I was unfamiliar with the brand but bought it because I liked the shapes and sizes in the set, the reviews were great and the price made them an excellent value. The set includes a long, slim spatula for scraping out jars, a curved spoon spatula and both long and short traditional scraper spatulas with one curved edge and one straight edge, These are very nice quality and they're still going strong in my kitchen a couple of years later, And the charcoal gray color is a neutral that won't clash with your kitchen's color scheme. Here's a photo of the spoon/spatula (AKA "spoonula") from the set.
One of the spoonulas in my growing collection!
I find myself using the spoon/spatula shape the most for cooking and baking. Since I rarely have only one pot or pan going on the stove when I cook, I decided to get a couple more in that shape. I was delighted to find one in a pretty aqua/teal, my favorite color, so I ordered the GIR (Get It Right) 11-inch Premium Silicone Ultimate Spoonula in Teal. This high quality, seamless spoon spatula is made of pharmaceutical grade platinum-cured silicone that's heat resistant up to 550 °F. It also has a sturdy fiberglass core that doesn't heat up like the more common iron or stainless steel spatula cores. It's still one of my favorite cooking utensils - I just love the color and using it makes me happy. (It's the little things, right?) It also comes in Red, Orange or Gray.

I use an iSi Slim Silicone Spatula to scrape out my very tall Vitamix blender. It works extremely well for this purpose and I am very pleased with it.
This iSI slim silicone spatula is perfect for scraping the bottom of my Vitamix blender
Note: Any silicone spatula that is used to scrape out the contents of a blender will eventually get cuts or nicks from the sharp blades, at which point it should be replaced for sanitary reasons.

Silicone Baking Pan Liners

I've been baking for decades and, as any experienced baker will likely tell you, silicone baking mats are a baking staple. When I was younger, I used baking parchment much more often than I do now. But the older I get, the more concerned I become about the pervasiveness of wasteful habits that wreak havoc on the environment. So, increasingly, I've been trying to switch from disposable to reusable items.

For many years, I've used Silpat baking mats to line my cookie sheets. This French brand is so closely associated with this type of silicone bakeware liner that it's most often used as a generic term for them. But when I lost the use of my full-size double oven, I needed to get some smaller ones that would fit the smaller rimmed baking sheets for my tabletop oven.

I had been planning to buy the iconic Silpat brand again, but the name commands a premium and my income is not what it was when I worked in the corporate world. So, when I looked at a pair of silicone baking mats from an unfamiliar brand that had both great reviews and a great price, I took a chance.

Both my husband and I have been using these Quarter Sheet Silicone Baking Mats by WildCow several times a week. They're great for baking, of course, but we also use them to line our tabletop toaster oven rimmed baking sheets before inserting a rack to oven-bake regular or turkey bacon. We much prefer this method to pan frying, since there's no splatter, no turning and no watchful eye needed. These 11 3/4” x 8 1/4" nonstick cooking and baking mats fit inside the 12" x 10" rimmed baking sheets we use in our tabletop toaster oven (although I may trim the tips of the corners on a diagonal at some point). Despite the excellent price, they're thick and sturdy and have held up great. I can hand wash them quickly with my silicone scrubber sponge and hot, soapy water or just toss them into the dishwasher. (I can't figure out why the mat looks stained in this photo, since it isn't in real life!)
This inexpensive silicone baking mat works as well as my expensive Silpat mats
Be aware that these are heat resistant up to 400 °F, so don't use them for something that requires higher heat, such as browning the top of something under the broiler.

If you're using regular 18" x 13" pans — known in  professional kitchens as half size pans — I recommend getting the AmazonBasics Silicone Baking Mat Sheet, Set of 2 in the Standard size. AmazonBasics is one of Amazon's popular private-label "house brands".These silicone baking mats measure 11.6" x 16.5" and can also be used with 11" x 17" baking sheets (although they'll overhang two of the sides slightly). These mats currently have an average customer rating of 4.7 stars based on more than 4,300 customer ratings, are heat-resistant up to 480 °F and are also very well priced.

Silicone Mini Prep Bowls / Pinch Bowls

I've had a set of medium-sized stainless steel prep bowls for years that I still use. But when I set out and prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook or bake (an activity known in the chef / foodie / Food Network world as mise-en-place), it's also nice to be able to prep and measure out small amounts of ingredients, such as seasonings or garnishes.

My Norpro set of 4 silicone mini pinch bowls are perfect for that purpose. The four colorful bowls in the set are bright red, blue, yellow and green, respectively. These cuties are just 2.5" in diameter and 1.5" tall, so they take up practically no counter space, which is a big advantage if you're prepping a lot of ingredients. In the photo, you can see how tiny they are next to a 1-cup measuring cup.
These tiny, colorful silicone pinch bowls are perfect for small amounts of ingredients
The nonstick silicone means I can measure and set out even sticky ingredients, like a couple of tablespoons of molasses or honey, and easily scrape them into a pot, pan or mixing bowl. These bowls are also microwave safe and heat resistant to 500 °F, so I can melt small amounts of butter or coconut oil in them. And because they're flexible, it's easy to pinch the sides of these flexible prep bowls (hence the name "pinch bowls") to control and direct the ingredients as I'm pouring them into my pot or bowl or drizzling melted butter or chocolate or a sauce over a dish.

When I'm through with whatever ingredients I used them for, I just toss these brightly colored mini pinch bowls into the dishwasher.

Reusable Silicone Baking Liners / Baking Cups

I often bake in cupcake or muffin tins, and even more so now that I’ve switched to eating low carb. I love baking batches of low carb, high-protein, sugar-free chocolate muffins made with almond flour or low carb mini cheesecakes that I can keep in the freezer. Baking a recipe in muffin tins rather than full size cake pans helps me with portion control, since I can just grab one serving and defrost it.

While I could just grease the wells of my muffin tins for my protein muffins, that won’t work for recipes like the mini cheesecakes, since they're too soft to turn out onto a rack after they come out of the oven (and since if I chilled them first to firm them up, they wouldn't release easily from the greased muffin tin).

I stopped buying disposable, single-use paper cupcake liners a few years ago, so I decided to look for some reusable silicone baking cups. Also, since our wall oven died a year or two ago*, we’re using a tabletop oven that isn’t wide enough to fit a full-size, 12-cup cupcake or muffin pan. So, I wanted silicone baking cups that were sturdy enough to be used on a baking sheet, without the support of a muffin pan so I could bake a dozen muffins (or mini cheesecakes) at a time in my small tabletop oven. And, of course, they could also be used as cupcake liners for my 6-cup muffin pans, which do fit my tabletop oven.

After considerable research, I chose Pantry Elements Silicone Cupcake Baking Cups & Liners. They’re made from high-quality, 100% food-grade silicone with no fillers, as demonstrated by the fact that they pass the “pinch test” perfectly. (According to numerous sources, if you pinch or bend and twist a flat area on a colored silicone food preparation product and the color appears white in that stretched area, it can indicate the presence of fillers vs. 100% silicone.)
These reusable baking cups work so much better than paper cupcake liners!
They are also thick and sturdy enough to hold their shape after being filled with thick muffin batter. However, if you use them as stand-alone baking cups rather than as cupcake liners inside a muffin tin, place them on the baking sheet before you fill them with batter. Because they are flexible, moving them to the baking sheet after filling them with batter can be messy. (Ask me how I know, lol!)

Cleanup is easy. Sometimes I let them soak in warm, soapy water for a bit and wash them by hand with my silicone sponge, but they’re also dishwasher-safe. And they come in a rainbow of bright, pretty colors, which adds a nice, cheery pop of color to my kitchen.

Best of all, unlike paper cupcake liners, they release cleanly, so I don't end up losing the outer layer of crumbs to the trash. Just look at those sharp, crisp ridges on that muffin!
See how few crumbs stick to these cupcake liners?
I bake with these silicone cups every week and they still look and act brand new. You get 24 liners for around 50 cents each in a convenient, see-through, lidded storage tube. I can’t imagine ever having to replace them.

*In case you're wondering, our defunct double wall oven, which is original to this 1950s house, is too old to be repaired, according to several appliance technicians who have looked at it. Unfortunately, we also can't replace it because it’s surrounded by built-in cabinetry that runs the entire length of the wall and contemporary ovens don’t fit the opening. Believe me, we've tried!

Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags

Since I switched to a low-carb diet, I’ve been baking grain-free, sugar-free rolls, bread, muffins and brownies to make it easier for this former carbohydrate lover to stay on track. To make this process less time-consuming, I’ve started measuring the dry ingredients for multiple batches and storing them in freezer bags. Now, I can just pull out a bag of my “baking mix” for that recipe, let it come to room temperature, add the wet ingredients and put the batter in the oven. Easy peasy!

Since I am trying to reduce my use of plastic wrap and food storage bags that end up in landfills. So, rather than using disposable plastic freezer bags for this purpose, I decided to get some reusable food grade silicone food storage bags. The ones I chose have bottoms that let them stand up on the counter, which makes them easier to fill. The sliding closure is a bit stiff at first, by design, but loosens up just enough after the first few uses so they’re easier to slide but still airtight. They can also be used in the microwave and for sous-vide cooking and they’re dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up. The one in the photo holds the remaining 1/4 of a psyllium bun from my last batch — time to get baking!
These reusable silicone food storage bags keep disposable plastic bags out of landfills
At roughly 9.5 inches x just under 7 inches, they’re a good size for my baking mixes. And, unlike rigid food storage containers, these fold flat for efficient, space-saving storage when not in use.

Silicone Cooking Utensil Rest

For many years, we’ve kept a marble spoon rest next to the stove. I bought it because I thought it was pretty. However, pretty is as pretty does, and this kitchen gadget has been a thorn in my side for a long time! Marble is absorbent, so the surface frequently stained when I was cooking a tomato-based sauce or dish. Also, I rarely use just one utensil when cooking. So, even though the marble spoon rest was fairly wide, it wasn’t big enough to accommodate multiple cooking utensils.
This easy-to-clean utensil rest holds up to 4 cooking utensils
I finally got rid of it and replaced it with a multi-slot silicone utensil rest. It’s certainly not the prettiest thing in our kitchen and the only color choices are a medium grey or a bright yellow-green, but both my husband and I love it. The four slots are wide enough to accommodate the handles of any of our cooking utensils, but also narrow enough so that the business ends of the utensils are held at an angle, so four utensils can fit without resting on top of each other. That also allows the base to be narrower than it would need to be if the “heads” of the cooking utensils were lying flat. In addition, there’s a small lip or rim around the edge of the base, so if there’s a bit of liquid that drips off a utensil, it doesn’t spill over onto the stove or countertop. The only cooking utensil we have that it isn’t large enough for is our enormous slotted spatula, which is nearly 5” wide!

Best of all, because it’s made of silicone, it’s stain-resistant, non-stick, heat-resistant up to 450 °F and dishwasher safe.

Silicone Chocolate Chip Molds

Most commercially available chocolate chips aren’t as high quality as those same brands offer in bars or chunks. In fact, many of the best quality chocolate manufacturers don’t make chocolate chips at all. So, if you’re a true chocolate lover like I am, whenever you use chocolate chips in a recipe, you’re usually settling for second (or third) best.

In addition, as I’ve matured, my taste buds have evolved. Now I prefer really dark chocolate, which has the added benefit of being heart-healthy in modest amounts. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find high-quality, very dark chocolate chips. The so-called dark chocolate chips in the grocery store are 60% cacao; but for heart health benefits, dark chocolate should be labeled 70% cacao or higher according to the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.

If you want sugar-free chocolate chips, it’s even more of a challenge. The darkest I’ve found are Lily’s stevia sweetened chocolate chips which, while delicious, contain only 55% cacao – much too low to improve heart health.

Whether you prefer traditional or sugar-free chocolate, the lower the percentage of cacao, the higher percentage of other ingredients, which increases the number of net carbs per serving.
Sure, you can chop up a sugar-free dark chocolate bar instead, if you’re using them in a recipe. But sometimes you really want real chocolate chips!

So, I was delighted to find these silicone chocolate chip molds, which allow me to make my own healthy, sugar-free, dark chocolate chips that look as though they came right out of a bag from the store.
These adorable chocolate chip molds let you make better quality chips for less!
If I’m feeling lazy, I can just melt a sugar-free dark chocolate bar, smooth it into the molds, let the chocolate harden (or chill the molds for a bit during the hot summer months), then invert and twist the molds to release the chips. I store them in one of my silicone food storage bags until I’m ready to use them in recipes (or eat them just the way they are). The molds come in a set of three. I've shown two facing up and one facing down so you can see the shape of the chocolate chips it makes.

If I have a bit more time, however, I make my own sugar-free, melted dark chocolate from scratch and use that in the molds. Homemade chocolate chips are also less expensive for the quality you get. Either way, I can get sugar-free dark chocolate chips with a much higher percentage of cacao than I can buy commercially.

Silicone Ice Pop Molds

Who doesn't love to cool off with a sweet, refreshing ice pop during the dog days of summer? Many years ago I stopped buying them and started making my own at home. My homemade ice pops are healthier, more nutritious and much cheaper than what I can buy at the store. More importantly (to me), I have complete control over the choice and quality of the ingredients. I use organic produce, dairy, coconut milk and other ingredients as much as possible. No food coloring in my food, thank you! Now that I'm eating low carb, I've also cut out not only processed sugars but also organic honey, maple syrup, date syrup and other natural sweeteners. So, pretty much the only way to ensure that the ice pops I eat meet my strict criteria for food quality and nutrition is to make them myself.

One of the low carb ice pop recipes I've really been enjoying is called Creamy Keto Fudgesicles. Personally, I think they taste much richer and creamier than their namesake, more like a chocolate pudding pop. They're made by blending ripe avocado, unsweetened cocoa powder, full fat coconut milk, erythritol, vanilla and a little sea salt, pouring them into frozen treat molds and freezing them. The first time I made the recipe, I discovered that the pudding-like mixture was too thick to go through the silicone funnel that came with my Lebice Popsicle Molds (which are very nice unless you're trying to make a frozen treat such as pudding pops or cheesecake pops that involve a very thick mixture). When I tried spooning the mixture into the molds with a teaspoon, even though I was extremely slow and careful I was unable to prevent some of the mixture from getting on the lip and exterior of the ice pop molds.

Since I knew I'd be making this recipe often, especially during the summer, I decided to look for a set of molds with wider openings. I wanted these new molds to have not only wider openings but also reusable lids and sticks. Ideally, they would be dishwasher safe. They would need to be made of BPA-free, FDA-approved food-grade materials and release the frozen ice pops without a struggle.
These brightly colored ice pop molds make nice, big popsicles
The pudding pop recipe makes 6-8 pops, depending on the size of the molds, so I decided to buy a Silicone Popsicle Molds Set with two molds that can make up to 8 ice pops. One of the molds is a deep, bright pink (which the manufacturer calls "rose red" for some reason) and the other is a bright lime green. The set comes with integrated one-piece lids/sticks, two each in pink, lime green, orange and aqua-turquoise. (Kids probably would love getting to choose their favorite color.) And each well holds a generous 3.38 ounces.


Believe it or not, I've got even more silicone kitchen tools, and I'm sure there will be more in my future! If you have some favorites, I'd love to hear about them.



Silicone Kitchen Tools and Accessories for Cooking and Baking Enthusiasts reviewed by 
Margaret Schindel


For more product reviews, visit ReviewThisProducts.com.




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Monday, January 7, 2019

Chicago Metallic Commercial II Non-Stick Perforated French Bread Pan Review

Baguette loaf bread pan.
Years ago I purchased a bread pan that I really liked. Currently, with the cold and gloomy weather, I've been in the mood to bake some bread. I have a couple of bread recipes that I can rely on producing successful loaves of bread. The Chicago Metallic Commercial II Non-stick Perforated French Bread Pan is the pan I depend on when I want baguette-style loaves of bread. 

The Chicago Metallic Commercial II Non-stick Perforated French Bread Pan has nearly a 5 star rating on Amazon which supports my belief that the pan is a main reason I'm successfully able to bake these small bread loaves.

The first time I used the pan, I made a small Wheat Irish Soda Bread loaf. I was afraid the dough would stick badly in the perforations and I was afraid the loaf would break. I sprayed the pan very lightly with cooking spray. After the loaf was baked, I ran a spatula along the sides of the bread to make sure it wasn't stuck before I tipped the loaf out of the pan. I was concerned for nothing. The bread was not stuck to the pan at all.  Also, because of the holes and the shape of the pan, the loaves come out evenly baked, nicely shaped, and delicious. 

The Chicago Metallic Commercial pan is non-stick and clean-up is super easy. When I am finished baking and after the pan has cooled a bit, I soak the pan for a couple of minutes in hot soapy water, to get any bits of bread out of the air holes. I follow the soak with a rinse in hot water.

I'm not much of a baker and my skills at baking bread are fairly new. I started with Irish Soda Bread. It was my first success at baking bread because it did not require yeast. It was also a very dense, heavy bread. Later, I became really good at baking two different breads that require yeast: Peasant Bread and Patara's Bread Recipe

I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this pan. I think that everyone who enjoys baking bread should have one of these highly recommended bread pans. I purchased the two-loaf pan but for those of you who bake more than I do there is also a four-loaf pan available.




The next bread I want to learn to bake is a Subway Sunflower Crunch bread. Their bread is delicious. I feel more confident experimenting while using the Chicago Metallic Commercial pan. I hope I am able to find a sufficient copy cat recipe. Wish me luck.

Related Link: 

Sam on Ahead of Thyme blog shares a sunflower seed bread recipe. I have chosen this sunflower seed bread recipe to try first because the ingredients list seems to be the closest to what the Subway restaurant version tastes like to me.





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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hobby Time from the Review This! Contributors




hob·by - an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure. 

January is known as National Hobby Month.   The contributing writers here on Review This! each have their favorite ways to enjoy a relaxing pursuit and have written many reviews of various how-to books, crafting supplies and DIY tutorials, gardening tips, recipes & kitchen aids for the cook, photography lessons, reading or listening to music, sports, and a host of other hobbies. 

These are but a few of the hobbies enjoyed by the Review This crew. The list of hobbies is almost endless.  If you are interested in looking for what we writers here have reviewed, type in the name of your 'hobby' either in the box in the top left-hand corner of any Review This page, or in the search box down the right-hand side. By looking at the author's name, you won't have any problem figuring out which HOBBY is each writers' favorite! For instance, mine  (Wednesday Elf) is crochet and my hobby is shared by several other contributors here, so we learn and share with each other. A more comprehensive list is shown below.


National Hobby Month




Begun by the Hobby Guild of America in 1955,  National Hobby Month was celebrated in April until 1976, then in October until 1986.  Since then, it has been celebrated during the month of January. 

January was most likely chosen for National Hobby Month as it is the beginning of a new year and a good time to start a new hobby.  Many people have never had hobbies during their working years or while raising a family and begin one in their retirement or after the children are grown.  Others try many hobbies throughout their life before finding one or two that gives them the most enjoyment. 


Hobby Examples on Review This!



Hobbies can be passive (such as crafting, reading, writing, listening to music or watching a movie) or an activity such as gardening, cooking or participating in sports. Many people have more than one hobby and often combine them, such as listening to music while crafting. 

In addition to writing reviews here on Review This!, most of the contributing writers here write for their own blogs and websites.  Writers consider writing to be more work than hobby, so time away from writing is important. That's where the activities done in our leisure time become such a pleasure. It is also interesting to note that the passion we feel for our hobbies is shown in many of the subjects we write about.


  • Barbara Tremblay Cipak (Brite-Ideas) is crazy about country music and frequently writes about the artists and their music she is so passionate about.  She is also loves to experiment with color in home décor. 
  • Dawn Rae does crochet and participates in a group of fellow jeep owners.  She also enjoys gardening and lately 'learning about homesteading'.
  • Cynthia Sylvestermouse is a freelance writer and photographer who loves all different kinds of crafts, including crafting in the kitchen, creating fancy cakes and cupcakes. 
  • Barbara (BarbRad) is an expert on books and loves to read.  She is also a nature photographer who most enjoys photographing her central California area. 
  • Mary Beth Granger (MBGphoto) is a fabulous photographer who continually takes photography classes to learn more.  Photography has become her passion in her retirement, along with traveling.  Lighthouses and beaches are her favorite subjects. 
  • Wednesday Elf loves crochet and needlework, watching baseball and reading. 
  • Beverly Owens is busy researching her Native American Indian heritage and loves to write about spirit animals and the wisdom of her ancestors. She also enjoys crocheting. 
  • Olivia Morris loves gardening and following the fashion world.
  • Brenda Little (Treasures By Brenda) collects coffee mugs and researches the history of vintage cups and other vintage items which she shares in her eBay store.  She also loves reading, great movies, cooking, and pop culture. 
  • Diana Wenzel (Renaissance Woman2010) enjoys an off-the-grid lifestyle where she pursues her interests in animal rescue, wonderful nature photography, and DIY projects. She also loves to read. 
  • Louanne Cox (Lou16) loves reading, 80s music, zombies and dolls, among a host of other interests. 
  • Heather Burns (Heather426) is an artist, illustrator and graphic designer. Her hobby is her artistic accomplishments, including the colored pencils she has created for coloring pages and coloring books. 
  • Coletta Teske is a published book author and loves to sew. 

These are just the highlights of hobbies and interests I have observed from the articles they publish and the interaction we have as a team here on the staff of Review This!.  I am sure there are other interests each of them have.  


Quick View Home Page



By clicking on the Quick View Home Page button at the top of any Review This! page, you will have weekly examples of many of the articles your hobbyists here enjoy (plus many non-hobby reviews).  

Stop by the comments section and tell us your favorite hobby or activity. The Review This! staff would love to hear about what gives you pleasure in your leisure time.

(c) Written by Wednesday Elf on 1/20/2018







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Monday, December 5, 2016

Easy Snickerdoodle Cookie Pie Recipe Review

I have always loved Snickerdoodle cookies. I remember eating them as a child, growing up in Amish country. I love eating fresh baked goods - cookies, breads, and pies. Unfortunately, I have very little time to spend in the kitchen so I am always looking for tasty shortcuts. This is a super fast, easy, and delicious way to bake something we call Snickerdoodle Cookie Pie.


Why and How I Make Snickerdoodle Cookie Pie


I regularly bake brownies (from a box mix, of course). Brownies from a box are quick, easy, and fairly fool-proof. Even for me. I love eating cookies, but because I'm fairly lazy in the kitchen I rarely bake cookies. After all, dropping cookies onto sheet after sheet and having to be attentive to the oven every few minutes seems like a lot of work to me. I end up burning more cookies than I bake successfully. Because of these tendencies, I thought I'd try to make bar cookies using Betty Crocker Snickerdoodle cookie mix. 

I have used the different Betty Crocker cookie mixes and have found every single one tasty and dependable. I know what I am getting when I buy this brand of cookie mix. I recommend this cookie mix for folks like me who aren't very talented in the kitchen. Or for people who have minimal time for baking.

After experimenting with a 8" square baking dish and just one pack of cookie mix, I then experimented with a 10 1/2" round baking dish and two packs of cookie mix. I do like the 8" baking dish with one package of peanut butter cookie mix (just follow the directions) but for the Snickerdoodles, I prefer the round dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of Betty Crocker Snickerdoodle cookie mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 T water
  • only 1 of the packs of cinnamon (included with each cookie mix package)
  • optional - crystal sugar sprinkles

also:
  • Baking dish 10 1/2" round and at least 1" deep baking dish
  • non-stick cooking spray

Step-by-Step directions:

pre-heat oven to 375 
set butter in dish and warm to room temperature



set the cinnamon packs aside

add cookie mix (both packages) to the bowl
add eggs and water

mix together



lightly grease the bottom of the baking dish

sprinkle approximately 1/4 of one of the cinnamon packs in the bottom of the baking dish




drop the cookie dough by large spoonfuls into the dish flatten/spread slightly

(the dough is very thick. Trying to pour then spread is only successful in pulling the cinnamon up from the bottom of the dish)




sprinkle the cinnamon remaining in one packet on the top

(you can choose to use both cinnamon packets, but I prefer less cinnamon. I simply save the extra packet for use on toast or oatmeal)



optional - during the holidays I use red and green crystal sugar in addition to the cinnamon




bake at 375 for approximately 30 minutes

test for doneness with a toothpick or small wooden skewer
when the skewer pulls out clean, bake for an additional few minutes

(I bake for an additional 5 minutes. If you end baking as soon as the skewer comes out clean, your cookie pie will be doughy in the center.)




cool, slice and serve

can be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream




Notes:

You will need to adjust the length of baking time for your oven, elevation, and preference. I prefer my cookie pie to be a bit on the doughy or under-cooked side. You may prefer yours cooked through a bit more. 

As I was preparing this article I noticed that the Betty Crocker Peanut Butter cookie mix is less expensive in Amazon's Prime Fresh category than it is at my local stores. Be sure to check out the lower prices if you are an Amazon Prime and Prime Fresh member.







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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It's National Banana Day!

National Banana Day happens on April 20th and for all of you that don't have a calendar handy, that just happens to be today.

Now I don't know about you, but for me, bananas are not just monkey food, they are the best people food too.  After you are finished eating them, don't throw away the peel either.  I'm not going to suggest eating it, but did you know that you can bury it in the ground around your rose bushes and they will love all the nutrients that are coming to their root systems.

No mess and no waste, all of that banana goes, first, to feeding you, and then the peels, into feeding your garden.

Picture courtesy of Pixaby : I love My Minions and my Bananas
Bananas are one of Nature's most perfect fruits.  They are very high in vitamin B6  and low in sugar. They also contain essential minerals, Vitamin C,  and dietary fiber.  While bananas also contain potassium, they are not as high in potassium as other fruits and vegetables.  Having said that, you will still get a good amount of potassium,  8% of your daily requirements from a banana that weighs about 100 grams.  You get more potassium from beans, apricots, carrots and bell peppers, but they aren't nearly as ready to eat as that beautiful yellow skinned banana. (USDA)

What is really neat about bananas is that they help to regulate your blood sugar and cholesterol.  They are good for people who are having issues with their heart.  Bananas have also been studied in relation to High Blood Pressure and found to be very effective in regulating blood pressure in many people.  That is good news if this is something that worries you.  


Different Ways to Use Bananas 


I'm always interested in ways that people use bananas other than just peeling and eating them.  I love to peel them, cut them up and then layer them with ice cream either chocolate or vanilla.  If I've had a bad day and you make me a bowl of ice cream and banana, I will be a happy camper.  There is also the perennial standby of a peanut butter and banana sandwich.  I don't know anyone, regardless of age that doesn't like that for a treat (unless of course you have a peanut allergy).

Banana bread is always a welcome treat too.  There are so many recipes with different variations, but the same soft moist and nutritious outcome.

In my kitchen there is always a banana available.  Those banana hooks are pretty good at keeping them from getting all bruised.  They are right there in the open for anyone looking for a healthy snack. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals and not a whole lot of sugar.  So perfect for anyone who is watching their waistline too.  Quick and easy to eat, nutritious and delicious and really good for you.

When you buy too many bananas and they start to go brown, you don't have to make banana bread right away if you don't want to.  Just peel the bananas and place them into a Ziploc Bag, freeze them and when you are ready to make a banana dessert, they will be ready too.

Basic Banana Bread Recipe:


2-3 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar (you can make this 1 cup if you want it sweeter or 1/2 cup if you like less sweetness)
1 egg beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 4x8 loaf pan.
In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas until smooth. Stir in the melted butter.
Add to the mixing bowl,  soda and salt.  Stir in the sugar, beaten egg and vanilla extract. Add flour,
mixing until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Test with a skewer, when it comes out clean, the loaf is done.

Remove from oven and cool completely.  Remove from the pan.  Use a serated knife to cut into slices.

That is the basic recipe from Simply Recipes (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/banana_bread), but you can add chocolate, nuts, cherries, dates, and a host of other additions to make this banana bread your very own.  I have used this recipe so often, and each time I try a new addition.  I have not been disappointed yet.

It is moist, delicious and nutritious. Banana bread is always a good seller at Bake Sales too!  You can also freeze it, just in case unexpected guests arrive.

Some things that may help you keep Bananas at the ready in your house.....







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Monday, November 24, 2014

Best Bread Recipe for Kitchen Dummies

Thanksgiving and the holidays are quickly approaching. This time of year brings discussions of celebrations complete with good food and good company,  As a result, I found myself getting into the baking spirit.  I began to look for easy bread recipes.  Historically, I have not been able to make bread that contains yeast with any success.  But I have found a recipe, of a bread containing yeast, that I am able to bake with reliable success.  I am thrilled about it and I will share that recipe with you in a just a minute. 

First, I want to begin with why I love homemade bread.  My mom sometimes made breads such as banana nut bread and zucchini bread.  As a child, I could help make those types of delicious breads. I haven't made a loaf of banana bread in decades and have recently asked around for a good recipe. 


Photo by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
Sylvestermouse shared her banana bread recipe with me. I am excited to add this recipe to my baking successes. With the exception of having bananas most of the time, not all of the time, I always have the necessary ingredients in my kitchen. I can almost smell the banana bread baking now. 


I also spent part of my childhood raised with Amish folks, farmers, and other women who baked their own breads.  Bread recipes that called for yeast. Since I was not able to get my breads to rise properly, I look for an alternative.  I have been baking wheat Irish soda bread for some time now.  The recipe does not call for yeast, which is why I've been able to bake it successfully.  We love this full-bodied, whole grain, dense bread.  I make long loaves in this amazing bread pan and we partner our soda bread with soups.  I don't end up baking this wheat Irish soda bread often enough and the Mister ends up asking me to bake some more.  

Photo by Dawn Rae
One Thing that has been indispensable when it comes to baking my Irish soda bread has been this amazing bread pan.  I had experimented with baking the soda bread in the traditional round loaf, in a little bread pan, and then finally in this loaf pan.  I love the pan.  And if you bake bread, you may end up loving this pan too. 

Now, I will tell you about this amazing white bread, with yeast, recipe that even I can bake.  Alexandra describes it as the easiest bread you will ever bake. She is not exaggerating.  She gives step-by-step instructions for every bit of the yeast-proofing and bread baking. There are videos and photographs, but even without the videos, she describes the process in a way that made perfect sense to me.  I made her mother's peasant bread in the round bowls a few times before switching to a small square baking dish that worked beautifully too.  I have not yet baked it in my amazing loaf pan, but you can bet I'll try that soon. 

Since I found Alexandra's mother's peasant bread recipe, we have not been without homemade bread in the house.

As I said, Alexandra's tutorial about baking peasant bread comes complete with photographs and videos. So, in case there is any doubt that you should also try baking this bread, I will leave you with this tempting video: 



Written by Dawn Rae
Disclosure: In affiliation with Amazon.com, Dawn Rae is a blogger and content writer who may earn compensation from the sale of  Amazon  products.








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