Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts

Friday, July 10, 2020

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven With Loop Handles Reviewed

Cast Iron Dutch Oven and Lid Skillet
When fellow contributor, Dawn Rae, started tempting me with homemade bread recipes, I decided I needed a dutch oven.  My husband loves homemade bread and I enjoy cooking, so it was time to test my bread baking skills again.

It has been years since I have baked bread other than my banana bread.  I used to bake bread every week, but I got out of that habit when I let my sour dough starter ruin.  I would love to find another really good sour dough starter.  Until then, Dawn's Artisan Bread Recipe is great!  Actually, it is faster and easier than the sour dough bread I used to make and my family seems to be just as happy with Dawn's Artisan Bread. 

There are a lot of dutch ovens available, but I wanted the cast iron version.


The Versatility of Cast Iron


 Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven on Gas StoveI have cooked with a cast iron skillet my entire life.  It is heavy compared to other skillets, but you can't beat it when frying fish, frying pork chops, or baking cornbread.  

You can use cast iron on a stove top, electric or gas, as long as it has range burner elements (not recommended by some glass stove top manufacturers for a flat surface glass stove top).  
Update: Contributor Sam Monaco comments below that he uses his cast iron skillet on his glass stove top all of the time.

Cast Iron will also go in the oven, which is how my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother and I have all baked cornbread.  That is why I wanted the cast iron dutch oven.  I knew it would be most excellent for baking!

Cast Iron can also be used on a open flame, like a campfire.  I have been known to fish which is rather ironic since I don't eat trout or catfish.  However, when you come from a family with 4 brothers and a mother who loves catfish, you better fish or you are left behind counting the hours.  Besides, I love quietly floating down the river in a boat, soaking in the sun and the beauty of nature surrounding me.  

One year, Dad hired a guide.  We caught our limit by midday, but didn't have any desire to stop fishing.  So, we pulled to shore, built a campfire and cooked our fish in a cast iron skillet along with some potatoes the guide provided.  After lunch, we fished a few more hours and brought home fish for dinner.  That is how I discovered a cast iron skillet could be used over a open campfire!


My Cast Iron Dutch Oven


 Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven With Loop Handles, 5 qtCheck PriceI purchased a 5 qt. Lodge brand cast iron dutch oven and I have be thrilled with it for several reasons.

  • The lid doubles as a skillet
  • I really like the handles on both the lid & the dutch oven
  • It is just the right size for the oven
  • Perfection in cooking due to even heating 
  • Easy to wash, dry & re-season* 
  • I know it will outlast me, which means I will never have to buy again
  • Lodge is a trusted name in cast iron.  Over 100 years in business

*Seasoning cast iron is simply rubbing it lightly with vegetable oil after washing while it is still warm from the hot water wash or you can place it back in a warm oven after applying the oil.

I chose the basic cast iron dutch oven mainly because I loved the dual purpose lid.  I knew I could flip the lid and bake cornbread on top while a roast baked below it in the dutch oven.  The top would not only be a lid for the roast, but also a skillet for the cornbread.  

One note about using the lid on the dutch oven.  In the photo, you see the lid and dutch oven handles are evenly aligned.  I prefer to offset them slightly so lifting the hot lid is much easier.

Dawn Rae chose an enameled cast iron dutch oven which should be fine for cooking on a flat, glass stove top.  You can read her review here: Enameled Cast Iron - Pricey But Worth It 


You too can Bake Dawn's Easy No-Knead Dutch Oven Artisan Bread! 
To make my bread in the intro photo, I used Dawn's recipe. 
I added 3/4 cup cranberries, 3/4 cup walnuts & 1T honey.
Simply click the image below for her recipe. 

crunchy-no-knead-round-loaf-bread





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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Fresh Baked Bread from Frozen Bread Dough Review


To save on trips to the grocery store for something as basic as a loaf of bread, it is handy to have a package of frozen bread dough on hand. You can purchase frozen bread dough in packages with multiple loaves (I currently have one with five loaves in it) and always have it handy whenever bread is needed or you cannot get out to shop.  In addition, you will have the taste of fresh baked bread after enjoying the delicious aroma of your bread baking. 

Making bread from scratch is a fun cooking project for many, but for a quick way to enjoy fresh baked bread, this frozen bread dough is a delightfully delicious product.


Basic Instructions on Package:


Regular Method – 5 to 8 hours





  1. Coat a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place frozen dough in pan, and cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to dough while rising.
  2. Let dough rise for 4 to 7 hours, until dough is 1” above pan. Actual time depends on the temperature of your kitchen. Carefully remove the plastic wrap.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake bread 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  4. Remove bread from pan at once and place on a wire rack to cool. Brush the top with melted butter or margarine, if desired. Place bread on its side for easier slicing.


Refrigerator Method – 8 to 16 hours


  1. Coat a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place frozen dough in pan, and cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to dough while rising.
  2. Place frozen dough in your refrigerator 6 to 12 hours before using. Dough will not rise, but will be thawed and ready to use. Set dough out to rise for 2 to 3 hours, until dough is 1” above pan. Actual time depends on the temperature of your kitchen. Carefully remove the plastic wrap.


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake bread 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.




Remove bread from pan at once and place on a wire rack to cool. 





Brush the top with melted butter or margarine, if desired. Place bread on its side for easier slicing.


*Recommended pan: 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” x 2 1/2” (1lb. loaf pan) 







More Bread Recipes on ReviewThisReviews



Written on 3/28/2020 by (c) Wednesday Elf

*All images are the property of (c) Wednesday Elf







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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Site Review ~ Dinner, then Dessert, a Recipe Website

https://www.reviewthisreviews.com/2020/02/site-review-dinner-then-dessert-recipe.html
Source:  Pixabay & Fotojet

The other night I decided I wanted to fix Egg Foo Young for my dinner, as I had some leftover ham to put in it.  I almost always order Egg Foo Young at a Chinese restaurant, as it is my favorite. Since one doesn't often 'eat out', I sometimes fix restaurant favorites at home.  

I have made Egg Foo Young often over the years, but, while good, it just never tasted the same as my favorite at a Chinese restaurant or Chinese Take-out. And I never knew why. So I decided to look online for a new recipe to see if I could duplicate my favorite. Much to my surprise, I discovered that I have been 'cooking' my version incorrectly.  I would beat the eggs and add the ingredients (vegetables, and  sometimes meat or seafood) and cook it all at once like an omelet.  Aha ~ THAT was my mistake.  I discovered you cook individual helpings like a pancake! 

When I did a Google search for a new Egg Foo Young recipe, I accidentally came across a recipe blog called Dinner, then Dessert, and I am SO glad I did.  The author is a trained professional cook who worked as a Private Chef for 10 years, and all the recipes on her site are her own. Not only are her recipes delicious, but her presentation is attractive and easy to follow and her writing is delightful. Her name is Sabrina Snyder. 


Meet Sabrina Snyder



Sabrina Snyder, Professional Chef
Author of Dinner, then Dessert
Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years. 

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches, before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef. 

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook a family's entire week of dinners one day a week, including all grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up, and leave them with instructions on reheating each meal.

As a private chef, she cooked for private parties in family homes in the evenings.

Sabrina enjoyed this lifestyle for 10 years, until her life and kids became her priority and  she stepped away from other people's kitchens to stay in her own kitchen.

In  2015, Dinner, then Dessert became an online recipe website where Sabrina began posting recipes she had shared with clients over the years. 

In addition, she still has private chef clients she cooks for.  Sabrina treasures her distinction of being a trained professional  chef. 


Sabrina's Egg Foo Young Recipe



Sabrina Snyder's Egg Foo Young Recipe
Sabrina's Photo from Dinner, then Dessert

Egg Foo Young is a Chinese egg omelet dish made with  vegetables with an easy gravy topping. I share her recipe here:

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Chinese

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total  Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

8 eggs
½ onion, chopped
½ cut carrots (chopped and steamed)
¼ cup green peas
½ cut green bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup bean sprouts, cut in half
½ cup mushrooms
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided

Instructions:


  1. Add the eggs, onion, mushrooms, bell pepper,  bean sprouts and soy sauce together in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil at a time for each pancake you cook on medium heat.
  3. Add about 1/3 cup of mixture per pancake and cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side and 1-2 minutes on the second side.


Egg Foo Young Gravy

1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Add everything to a small sauce pan and whisk well before the liquid heats up.  Cook and whisk until thickened. 


Recipe Notes from Sabrina about this Egg Foo Young Dish:



Egg Foo Young is sort of the classic leftovers meal made into a restaurant favorite. At our local Chinese restaurant the classic egg version of the dish comes out with a different assortment of ingredients mixed in almost every time we go.
I’ve asked our favorite waiter (who puts up with our circus of a family) why the fillings change and he explained to me that Egg Foo Young is a leftovers recipe and that when they have more or less of certain vegetables they just adjust the filling to what they have.


My Recipe Notes:



Cooking my version of Egg Foo Young
from Sabrina's Dinner, then Dessert site
Photos by Wednesday Elf, using a Fotojet collage

Following what Sabrina learned  about this Egg Foo Young recipe filling being adjusted, I made my recent version using only fresh mushrooms, diced onions and ham diced up from a leftover ham slice. I briefly sauteed the ham, onions and mushrooms in butter prior to adding them to the egg mixture.

I used only 3 eggs and cooked my pancakes one at a time in a small pan, as I was only making enough for myself. I chose NOT to make the gravy, as I like my Egg Foo Young plain. 

I then served the Egg Foo Young pancakes on rice. The  image below is of my result. YUM!


My Egg Foo Young Dinner

PS: In addition to learning the proper way to COOK this dish as pancakes, I think the other secret to getting homemade Egg Foo Young to taste more like a Chinese restaurant version is using sesame oil to cook it in. 


Site Review Summary


Having now discovered this delightful online recipe website by Sabrina Snyder, I will be visiting Dinner, then Dessert frequently to try out several of her other delicious-looking recipes  from her Main Dish, Desserts, Appetizers and Slow Cooker lists. Her 'Easy Chicken Parmesan' recipe is already calling my name! 

Quick Link:

Dinner, then Dessert Recipe Website

For more Chinese Takeout dishes to  fix at home, check out this cookbook:







(c) Dinner, then Dessert Website Review by Wednesday Elf, written on 2/15/2020





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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Book Review- The School of Essential Ingredients

Are you looking for a good book to read that is just a bit different?  The School of Essential Ingredients has a delightful main character, an interesting take on cooking and a look into the lives of a wide variety of cooking students.
Apples are one of my Favorite Basic Ingredients

When our book club picked this book to read for the monthly meeting, I was not sure if I would like it.  I enjoy a good mystery or historical fiction and this book did not fit into either of these molds.  However, it only took me one chapter to get hooked on this book.  The author has such an interesting way of writing that I instantly got involved in the book.

Lillian, the main character owns a restuarant and conducts a cooking school in the back rooms.  She has a very unique way of cooking that instantly got me interested.  She didn't use recipes but rather concentrated on the basic ingredients for each dish and explored with her students how to make the most of the ingredients.  Lillian surely was a true artist when it came to her cooking.  She had a way of making everything magical and made me want to get in my kitchen and experiment.

The book is set up with a chapter for each student of the cooking class.  As the dish for that evening is explored we also learn a little bit about each of the students and why they came to the class to start with.  Each student had their own story and they were a very diverse group.  Lillian not only had a way with the food but also with each of her students.  She seemed to bring out the best in people and helped them to explore the situations in their lives.

                                                             
I don't want to spoil the story line for you.  But I will tell you if you enjoy cooking and reading you must try this book.  I highly recommend it.


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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


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Friday, June 14, 2019

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Reviewed

An inexpensive rice cooker that everyone should have in their kitchen!

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Reviewed
I love rice, but I always hated the mess on my stove-top created by the sputtering pan.  I have several friends who have commented over the years, that their rice would burn on the stove if they cooked it according to the package instructions.

On the stovetop, Riceland Rice, the brand I prefer, should be cooked on a low boil, covered for 15 minutes.  You are not supposed to lift the lid or stir the rice for 20 minutes.  I have always believed my rice did not burn simply because of my brand of cookware, and not because my friends were doing anything wrong.

Regardless of the cleanup required, I cook rice frequently.  After all, cleanup is just a part of cooking and I do enjoy cooking.  

When my children were in school, there were mothers who found their solution by buying a rice cooker.  However, it wasn't until this last Mother's Day that I discovered the real beauty of a rice cooker in my own kitchen when my son gifted me with a Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker.


Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Review


 Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker,
4 Cups uncooked resulting in 8 Cups Cooked
Comes with Steam & Rinse Basket
Check Availablity & Price
See Below for Newer Model
I want to start by saying, I really love this rice cooker and I wish I had it decades ago.  It is so easy to cook and clean with this fabulous little cooker.  Plus, it doesn't take up very much storage room.  Because I use it often, I leave mine out on the counter, but it would be small enough to store in a standard kitchen cabinet.

I have yet to experiment with all that this beauty can do for me, but cooking the rice without a mess is enough for me to recommend this cooker to anyone.  It came with a small steamer basket, which I look forward to testing soon by steaming fresh vegetables.  The basket can also be used as a colander for rinsing.

You can cook white or brown rice, beans, hot cereal, hot soup and grains in the cooker, in addition to steaming vegetables.

The cooking pot has a nonstick coating and is dishwasher safe.

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Review


To Cook White Rice in the Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Reviewed
  • Simply add 1 cup white rice, 1 teaspoon of butter, dash of salt and 2 cups boiling water into the cooker pot.  
  • Set the pot into the cooker and close the lid.  
  • Plug in the Rice Cooker
  • Select Warm, then Select White Rice
The cooker will auto set the timer to the default timing and auto-adjusts the time as it cooks.  (usually takes about 35 minutes to cook the rice according to my recipe, but let the cooker auto-adjust itself) 

When it has finished cooking, the cooker automatically switches over to a warming cycle to keep the rice warm until you are ready to serve.


Rice Cooker Vs. Instant Pot


I want to note that I do have an Instant Pot, which I also love.  The 8 cup rice cooker is perfect for rice or sides.  It is smaller and lighter-weight than my Instant Pot, which makes it much easier to store.  However, I could never cook my Minestrone Soup in it.  I need my Instant Pot for complete dinner size meals.  

If you have space for both, I highly recommend having both the 8 cup Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker and the 6 Qt. Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

Note: A few days ago, I needed a housewarming gift and thought this would be the perfect gift. However, I noted that my model (37518) was no longer available "new". Therefore, I purchased (37519 - shown on the far right below). Other than a slightly different color control panel, it is exactly the same in size and function.  



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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Reviewing Grill Mat


I love to cook out on my deck using my gas grill.  For Christmas I received a pair of grill mats that have made grilling and cleanup so much easier.  These mats are sold in sets of two and can be cut to fit any size grill.  They are also good on any kind of grill.  So, whether you have a charcoal, propane, gas or electric grill you will  want to check out these handy mats.

As you can see in the photo above I put my entire meal on the grill mat.  In the photo above I have hamburgers and a variety of vegetables.  No extra pots or pans needed, just my easy to clean grill mat.

When we are finished eating and the grill has cooled down, I bring the grill mat inside and wash it off with sudsy water in the sink.  It cleans very easily and is quickly ready for use the next time I grill.


Why I Love My New Grill Mat


  • Cook entire meal at one time
  • Vegetables and fruit will not fall through grill slats
  • Easy to use, no preparation needed
  • Food will not stick to mat
  • Very easy cleanup 
  • I no longer need to clean the grill
  • Mat can also double as baking mat
Be sure to click on the link below to buy your own grill mat.  You will love how easy it is to use and maintain.



                                                                   



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