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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two


Main image: More Ways to Prep for Success on a Keto Diet

This is the third in a series of posts in which I will be reviewing my experience and insights after following a very low-carb lifestyle for more than a year.

Quick update: Since my previous post on the importance of preparation in setting yourself up for success on a ketogenic diet was published 2.5 weeks ago, I was surprised to discover that I have lost another pound. So, my total weight loss since May 25, 2019 is now 58 pounds.

Choosing a Start Date

I was highly motivated to begin my new keto lifestyle, thanks to a medical scare that forced me to face the serious health risks of being both postmenopausal and obese, and of continuing to consume added sugar and highly processed foods. I understood the urgency of getting down to a healthy weight, and I was anxious to start lowering my risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes or another serious illness as soon as possible. It was hard to resist the urge to just get started on keto as best I could, and figure things out as I went along.

At the same time, I knew how difficult it was going to be to overcome my food addictions, particularly to sugar and baked goods; cut out all grains, rice, and beans; and severely restrict my consumption of roasted carrots, parsnips, beets, white or sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables, which had been a staple of our weekly menus for years.

So, as impatient as I was to "get the show on the road," I understood the importance of preparing myself mentally, emotionally, and environmentally before committing myself fully to the radical changes that would be required—especially at the beginning, when my starch and sugar cravings would still be at their strongest.

Last but not least, I understood my need for a clear framework and road map to help me stay on track and make consistent progress toward any type of goal.

So, ultimately, I made the wise decision to choose a start date a few weeks out, so I could have the time to prepare myself properly and give myself the best chance of success.

When choosing the date for starting your own keto diet, I encourage you to consider your own fears and challenges, decide how best to prepare yourself to overcome them, and pick a start date that leaves you enough time to complete the preparations that will help set you up for success.

Deciding Whom to Tell, and When

The ketogenic approach to eating is widely misunderstood, remains controversial, and tends to provoke strong responses, whether positive or negative, whenever the topic arises. I knew that switching to this radically different approach to eating was going to be hard enough without the added stress of dealing with unsolicited, well-meaning, but unwanted opinions, advice, or criticism about my decision to follow a ketogenic diet. I chose to keep that decision private for as long as possible. 

When I started, no one except my husband (and my surgeon) would know. Once I became fat-adapted and overcame my cravings for high-carb foods, I would tell a handful of other people if, and when, they needed to know, e.g., telling my brother shortly before we flew across the country to stay with him for a week-long visit. Down the road, when I was noticeably slimmer and people began to ask about how I achieved my weight loss, I would need to decide what, and how much, I wanted to share about my new approach to eating. But I would have at least a month or two to make that decision.

Unless you live alone, the other people who live with you—your spouse, partner, children, roommates, etc.—will likely be affected by your decision to radically limit your food choices and, obviously, will need to be told. 

If you tend to be very social, you may prefer to tell your friends, family members, and co-workers up front about starting keto diet and ask them to cheer you on and help you through the rough patches. The important thing is to take a little time to think about and decide on a communication approach that will suit your individual needs and preferences.

photo of "ASK" sign hanging from brick building
Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Soliciting Support From Family and Friends

To achieve my health and weight loss goals, I knew I would need help from my nearest and dearest. What I couldn't be sure of was how my family, friends, and colleagues would react to my decision to adopt a moderately strict ketogenic lifestyle, especially given how anti-keto I used to be before I became better educated about this way of eating.

Fortunately, as I gradually shared my news with more people, as situations arose when they would need to know, they were surprisingly supportive, especially after I explained the medical necessity for me to lose my excess weight safely but also expeditiously.

Here's the approach that worked for me.

Think about the people whose support, or lack of it, could potentially bolster, or threaten, your commitment and progress the most, especially during the first few months, when you will be battling your cravings for sugar, baked goods, chips, candy, pizza, etc. before your taste buds adjust to enjoying and, perhaps, even preferring healthy, keto-friendly foods.

In my case, my husband would be my entire support system (other than online groups) during most of that crucial initial transition period. But since we also would be spending vacation weeks with my brother and, later, my husband’s parents, as well as joining my sister and brother-in-law for dinner from time to time, and going out to lunch or dinner with friends, when the time came, I would also need to enlist their support—or, at least, understanding—about my dietary restrictions. 

Think about what types of support you might want to request from each of the people in your inner circle, and be as specific as you can about the actions they could agree to that would help you the most. For example, if you have a friend with whom you go out often for brunch, and your favorite restaurant serves a brunch buffet featuring pancakes, waffles, French toast, bagels, and other tempting, off-limits foods you would find hard to resist, you might choose to ask whether they would be willing to change up your routine and meet for lunch instead, and suggest trying a different restaurant (one whose menu you’ve already vetted first so you know it includes a variety of keto-friendly options). 

If you need to tell someone that you’re following a ketogenic approach to eating and anticipate a negative response, you could try to explain up front that you have done extensive due diligence, educated yourself about the potential risks as well as benefits of this way of eating, and spoken with your doctor before choosing this path, and that it would mean a lot to you if they would accept your decision without challenge or criticism and, if they can, support your efforts to lose weight and improve your health.

Considering Ways to Get My Needs Met and Their Impact On Other People

Deciding to adopt a keto approach to eating also means accepting responsibility for making sure you have access to the types of foods you need to keep your commitment to yourself. At the same time, to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." So, throughout this journey, I’ve tried to think about ways to minimize the impact of my limited food choices on other people who had no say in my decision. 

As an example, six months after I started keto, by which time I had lost 50 pounds and my entire family knew about my ketogenic diet, my sister and brother-in-law invited us to their house for Christmas dinner. My sister asked me to help her understand my dietary restrictions so she could tailor the menu accordingly. After thanking her for her thoughtfulness, I asked what she would make if my diet weren’t a consideration. I was able to suggest fairly minor changes that would make most of those dishes keto-friendly, such as serving the salad dressing on the side, making a marinade for the pork that didn't contain any fruit juice, ketchup, barbecue sauce, sugar, honey, or molasses, and replacing one of the two high-carb side dishes with grilled, roasted, or sautéed asparagus or broccoli with butter and herbs. I told her I would bring my own keto-friendly salad dressing and dessert. When she expressed her reluctance to serve foods she knew I loved but would no longer eat, I explained that it was important to me that my decision to severely restrict my own food choices had the least possible impact on what everyone else was eating, and that it would give me pleasure to see my nearest and dearest savoring one of her decadent desserts while I enjoyed my keto-friendly sweet treat. The dinner was delicious, and a wonderful and festive time was had by all. A win-win!

Unless you live alone, minimizing the day-to-day impact of your dietary restrictions on the people you live under the same roof with can be significantly harder. Our household consists of just my husband and me, and when I was considering the keto diet as an option, I discussed the idea with him at length, and he said he would be willing to help me in any way he could in my efforts to get down to a healthy weight. I told him about the challenges and potential obstacles that concerned me the most, and we worked together to come up with solutions that would work for both of us. 

For example, I worried that having baked goods, chips, and other addictive foods in the house would be an unnecessary temptation, and we agreed that he would try to keep and eat those foods mostly at his office or outside the house without me. We also designated the lowest drawer of our refrigerator and the cabinets above the fridge as food storage “for John’s eyes only,” and he agreed to consume those foods out of my sight for as long as necessary, until I could see them—and especially, watch someone else eating them—without craving them. 

I’m blessed to have a very loving and supportive spouse, who was as invested in my success as I was. Many other people may have additional challenges, such as an unsupportive partner or having the primary responsibility for feeding the entire household, especially if it includes picky eaters, young children, or other people with different dietary restrictions. So, if you’re considering starting a ketogenic diet, it’s important to give some thought to what is and isn’t likely to be doable within the limitations of your individual situation, and to develop an actionable plan for how to get your own food needs met. 

It’s worth explaining to your family members how important it is to you to lose weight, give up sugar, lower your risk for developing a serious disease, or whatever other goals you have for starting keto, and ask the rest of the family participate in brainstorming ideas with you on what they can, and are willing, to do to help you succeed, including agreeing to changes in how their own food needs have been met until now. You might be able to negotiate making meal preparation a shared responsibility, for example. 

Be prepared for the possibility, or even the likelihood, that some or all of the other members of your household may be unwilling to inconvenience themselves or adapt to changes in the status quo to support your weight loss efforts. By the same token, they also might surprise you with willingness to help you achieve a goal that matters to you so much. your goals. 

Either way, accepting full responsibility for your own food choices will be the most important determinant of your long-term success. 


Exploring Online Keto and Low Carb Diet Support Communities

Since I had decided not to tell anyone about my lifestyle change who didn’t need to know, at least at the beginning, I checked out various keto support groups on Facebook. During the next few months, I joined eight or 10 of them, most for only a short time, and eventually winnowed those down to a handful that I still participate in roughly a year later, even after having met and surpassed both my original and "stretch" goals for losing weight. 

Searching for "keto group" on Facebook will return a dizzying number of choices. I recommend looking at the ones that have been around for a while and have successfully grown their membership, which is one indication that a lot of people have found the community to be valuable.
 
Screenshot of Facebook search results for "keto groups"

If you’re active on Facebook and are considering joining one of the many keto groups and communities, I suggest you start by thinking about which types of support would be most helpful to you. Are you most interested in: 
  • Learning more about this way of eating to help you decide whether to try it? 
  • Asking for and offering encouragement and help and celebrating success milestones?
  • Being with other people who are just starting out, or with a mix of newbies and people who have been following a ketogenic diet for a while? 
  • Getting meal planning or recipe ideas? 
Being clear about what you hope to get by participating in one or more Facebook groups will make it easier to find ones that might meet your needs. Reading the rules or membership guidelines as well as the "About blurb for a group you’re considering can provide helpful insight into its culture as well as its focus. Plan to try out at least a few different groups, and don’t hesitate to leave any that turn out not to be a good fit for your needs. 

Tip: Don’t assume that, just because a Facebook group is sponsored by a brand or other business, it will be less helpful and more self-serving than peer-run groups. When I began my keto journey 14 months ago, it really bothered me that the groups I found most helpful, informative, positive, engaging, and worthwhile were created or sponsored by companies and entrepreneurs whose primary business was to produce, sell, and/or promote keto-related products or services. My perspective has changed significantly, and I am grateful that the brands who make many my favorite keto-related products have chosen to invest financial and other resources to build, grow, and nurture a vibrant community of people sharing a common interest, create a continuous flow of new, informative, fun, and helpful content and activities, and provide knowledgeable, active, and helpful admins and moderators to vet posts, ensure compliance with the community guidelines, respond to questions and comments in a timely manner, and troubleshoot customer service issues. 

For example, Maya Krampf, who wrote one of my go-to cookbooks, The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook: 100 Simple Low Carb Recipes, 10 Ingredients or Less, and whose Wholesome Yum website is chock-full of helpful information and reference resources, as well as great recipes and her Besti line of sweeteners, has a terrific and very active Facebook group.

Screenshot of Keto Low Carb Support & Recipes - Wholesome Yum Facebook Group


Cleaning Out the Refrigerator, Freezer, Pantry, and Other Food Stashes

I systematically went through our kitchen cabinets, shelves, refrigerator/freezer, and pantry, the huge chest freezer in our garage, and anywhere else where there might be a snack, pack of gum, cough drops, hard candies, a chocolate bar, crackers, dried fruit, etc., including the pockets of my coats and jackets, my handbags, my bedside chest of drawers, the bottom drawer of my desk, and even the glove compartments and center consoles of both our cars. Then, my husband and I decided what should be done with each of those items to make sure they would be out of both my sight and my reach before my keto start date. 

Looking Ahead

Here's a peek at some of the topics I plan to address in future posts in this series:
  • My favorite keto-friendly food products and ingredients
  • My favorite keto cookbooks and recipe sources
  • Delicious ways to get enough fiber on a very low carb diet
  • Meal planning and grocery shopping lists
  • Avoiding the “keto flu” 


Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two 


Read the Previous Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey:




Read 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



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Monday, August 3, 2020

Reviewing the Basics of Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapenos) Recipes

I just made a small batch of Cowboy Candy. While I probably will not be able to eat much of these candied jalapenos myself, my family members will love them. Meanwhile, I'm in love with the syrup and have already tried it in two different dishes. 



Cowboy Candy is the popular name for Candied Jalapenos. No matter which name you use, they are a delicious item to have in the pantry!

After about 30 years, I have decided to resume canning and preserving foods. Mostly in my preparation for moving to my land and my plans to have a garden. But also due to the difficulties in obtaining food at times during this crazy year. 2020 has been a difficult year for sure and has made me think about moving forward my canning timeline.

I chose to make Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapenos) because I know my family members love spicy food.  I love spicy foods but I have a hard time tolerating the heat. So I may or may not be able to eat much of this treat as a condiment. I bet I'll be able to eat it over nachos and as a topping on crackers with cream cheese (in small doses). 

What is in Cowboy Candy? 

There are many variations in Cowboy Candy recipes.  But there are three ingredients that are listed across the board: jalapenos, vinegar, and sugar. 

The basic steps are: 

  • slice or dice the jalapenos (wear gloves! I did not and regretted that decision)
  • bring the vinegar/sugar mixture to boil 
  • add any additional spices
  • add the jalepenos for a short period of time

if canning:
  • separate the jalapenos from the syrup and pack the jars with the peppers
  • add the syrup to the peppers
  • follow canning instructions to can them safely

if you make a very small batch, you could store this in the refrigerator for a limited period of time. 

I used 3 lbs of jalapenos and ended with two half pint jars and six quarter pints. I also ended up with extra syrup and had about three cups that I put in the fridge and canned five of the quarter pint jars.

I also followed the recipe from Foodie with Family. In this recipe, the spices included turmeric, celery seed, garlic, and cayenne pepper. 

Some recipes include pineapple. The next batch I make will definitely include pineapple!  

Other Uses for Candied Jalapeno Syrup

So far, I've used the syrup in two recipes.  I baked chicken thighs in the syrup and it made the most beautiful, delicious glaze. I served that over rice.



The second recipe, I used a bit over my sweet Italian sausage bits and drizzled the glaze over my pasta in place of tomato sauce. I could have allowed it to carmelize a bit more but I was hungry and in a hurry. People who are talented in the kitchen will find many delicious uses for this syrup/glaze. 



Related Links:

I look forward to gardening (when my Shack is replaced with a permanent home and I am able to live on my land). And while I've had some wildly successful tomato and green bean plants in the past, I definitely need more "garden to table" lessons. 

I watch these two ladies who practice farm-to-table in their everyday lives.  I'm including the links to their Cowboy Candy/Candied Jalapenos here - in case you are like me and want the step-by-step directions. 

That 1870's Homestead



Living Traditions Homestead



And finally, if you are curious about my land, The Shack, and my plans to live on my land, you can visit me at Treasure, Travel, Tales.





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Friday, June 19, 2020

4th of July Placemats Home Decor Review

Decorating with 4th of July Placemats is fast & easy. Selecting Independence Day placemats is fun, but here are a few things to keep in mind before you buy.
Placemats are such a fast and easy way to decorate your home for the 4th of July, or any holiday.

Holidays are normally celebrated with family & friends gathering around tables laden with delicious food.  Hamburgers, Barbecue sandwiches, or hot dogs are often the normal fare for the 4th of July celebrations, but they aren't really "pretty" food.  Colorful placemats provide a very pretty setting for our tables.  They can even make plain white disposal plates more attractive by giving them a lovely background.  Plus, they protect the table.

The featured placemats come with matching coasters and napkins to complete a beautiful table setting.  This set is waterproof and easy to wipe clean.

I chose this set because I have a dark wood dining room table & cobalt blue Fiesta plates. I needed the light or white background for the red, white & blue design to really pop.



 

Selecting 4th of July Placemats


There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting holiday placemats.  A lovely design is clearly the first thing that grabs your attention, but you will also want to consider the following details when making your final choice.
  • How will they Look with Your Dinnerware
  • Are the Placemats Waterproof 
  • Are they Heat Resistant 
  • Are they Non-Slip
  • Will they Protect Your Table
  • Are they Easy to Clean
  • Would they Need to be Ironed 
  • Do they have Matching Napkins
  • Do they have Matching Coasters
  • Do You Want a Matching Tablerunner for Serving Dishes
  • Price (if they are priced individually, consider the cost of 4 or more)

You may have laughed over the question of "do they need to be ironed", but these days, that is a huge issue for me.  Decades ago, I didn't mind washing and ironing placemats.  However, now I prefer avoiding the iron when possible.  Especially, if I am the chef & hostess for the celebration.

I washed all of my placemats, napkins & coasters in cold water with white vinegar in my washing machine immediately upon delivery (prior to taking the picture in the introduction).  The vinegar helps to set the colors so they won't fade.  I dried them in my dryer for 10 minutes in spite of the directions telling me to hang dry them.  As you can see in the introduction photo, they are perfect and required no ironing.

Because the placemats and coasters are backed with a second layer of plain fabric, they appear to be a little darker than the napkins in person and the napkins appear to have brighter print.  However, do not be alarmed.  That really is just an appearance different due to the multiple layers needed for protecting the table.
 




House of Sylvestermouse




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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Copper Chef Black Diamond Nonstick Cookware Review

Copper Chef Black Diamond nonstick cookware has a diamond-reinforced, black ceramic coating and textured cooking surface that make these pans the most durable, scratch-resistant, best-performing nonstick cookware I've tried — and I've tried a lot!
Image - title and photo collage for Copper Chef Black Diamond Nonstick Cookware review by Margaret Schindel
©2020 Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved
Several years ago, I began replacing our large collection of old nonstick cookware. All the pans had visible scratches in the coating after years of use, so they no longer had their nonstick qualities. I also didn't want to risk the possibility of accidentally ingesting a speck (or flake) of loosened Teflon, especially since the older Teflon coatings were manufactured with PFOA.

Since I had a lot of pans to replace (my husband and I both cook a lot!), I research the newest generation of nonstick coating options and cookware. I tried a T-Fal skillet and, later, an OXO Good Grips nonstick frying pan, both recommended by Cook's Illustrated at the time, as well as a highly-rated set of two skillets from Sur La Table, but I found they scratched too easily for my household's needs (my husband tends to be a bit hard on pans!).

Original Copper Chef Nonstick Cookware

A few years ago, my mother-in-law bought us a set of the original Copper Chef pans, after she had bought herself some and loved them. Admittedly, I was skeptical about the quality of "As Seen on TV" nonstick cookware purchased from an infomercial, and I didn't immediately understand the appeal of a square skillet or pot. But I soon discovered how much better and more durable the ceramic nonstick cooking surface was, compared to the others I had tried.

The set John's mother gifted us came with a square 9.5" fry pan, a square deep 9.5" pan, a square basket insert for deep frying or draining (e.g., pasta), a steamer insert, a slightly domed, square tempered glass lid that fits both pans, and a cookbook. Since the exact set she got us is no longer available, I've provided a link to a newer version, identical to ours except for the added set of 4 nonstick-safe cooking utensils. You can learn more about one of the original Copper Chef pans from my fellow Review This Reviews contributor Cynthia (Sylvestermouse), in her review of the original Copper Chef square fry pan.

After six or so months of heavy use, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised at how well the two pans his mother had given us were holding up, so we decided to start slowly investing in more Copper Chef cookware. We were using the shallow fry pan the most, so we bought the Copper Chef Square Fry Pan 5 Piece Set, which includes an 9.5-inch square griddle pan with a glass lid (that also fits the two pans we received as gifts), a larger 11" square griddle pan with a glass lid, and an 8" ridged grill pan.

Copper Chef Black Diamond Nonstick Cookware — Even Better Than the Original!

A year or so later, we had enough experience with the durability of the CeramiTech coating and the excellent heat conductivity of the built-in stainless steel induction plates on our glass stovetop to confidently expand our collection further. This time, when I looked on Amazon to see what other sizes and types were available, I discovered there was a new, improved line: Copper Chef Black Diamond nonstick cookware.

Boxed 5-piece set of stackable space-saving Copper Chef Black Diamond nonstick cookware
My first Copper Chef Black Diamond 5-piece stacking non-stick cookware set
©2020 Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved

We chose the Copper Chef Stackable Black Diamond 5-piece Non-Stick Fry Pan Set, which comes with a 9.5" square grill pan (with grilling ridges), a 9.5" square griddle pan with the raised diamond pattern interior bottom, a 4.5-quart, 9.5" deep square pan with the same raised texture on the inside bottom, two 9.5" tempered glass square lids (which fit all three pans, as well as most of our other Copper Chef pans), and a recipe book.

View of textured interior bottoms of Copper Chef Black Diamond nonstick pans in 5-piece set
Raised 3D interior texture on Black Diamond pans
©2020 Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved

Diamond Reinforced Ceramic Coating + 3D Textured Interior Bottom = Even Less Sticking

Not only are these pans extremely attractive, with their copper-colored exteriors and black interiors, they also are more durable, because the CeramiTech nonstick coating is reinforced with thousands of tiny diamond particles. In addition, the inside bottoms of the Copper Chef Black Diamond pans (except the ridged grill pans, which don't need it) have a raised, diamond pattern surface, rather than the original, totally flat surface, which enhances their nonstick performance.

Oven-Safe Coating

The deep square pan also works well as a casserole, since the pans are oven safe. The CeramiTech diamond-reinforced ceramic nonstick coating on the inside, and the regular CeramiTech coating (the same as on the original CC pans) is temperature-resistant up to 850° F. The tempered glass lids, however, are only temperature-resistant up to 350° F, so make sure not to exceed that temperature (or let the glass lids get too close to the heating elements), or just cover your casserole with aluminum foil.

Quick and Easy Cleanup After Cooking

After cooking, just let the pans cool to room temperature before washing. They clean up quickly and easily with just a sponge, mild liquid dish soap and hot water. Alternatively, you can fill them with hot, soapy water and let them sit until you're ready to do the dishes after you've finished your meal.

Space-Saving, Stackable Design For Convenient Storage, Even in Small Kitchens


All three pans can be stacked, a space-saving feature we love and took advantage of until my husband finally built us a wall-mounted bar of hanging hooks for storing our growing collection of nonstick pots, pans and lids in our very small galley kitchen.

Image of 3 Copper Chef Black Diamond square nonstick pans, stacked, with lids
The pans stack compactly in this space saving cookware design
©2020 Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved

When the two frying pans (flat bottom and grill pan) and the deep pan (more like a saucepan or pot) are stacked, the collective dimensions, including the long handles, are 19.5" X 10 X 7.75" — not a lot of space for two frying pans and a pot, each with 25% more cooking area than round equivalents!

Not All Brands of Copper Ceramic Coated Nonstick Cookware Perform Well!

As we expanded our collection, we tried pans with copper ceramic nonstick coating from a few other brands and discovered that, while they may all look similar (and, in some cases, nearly identical), the quality of some brands isn't on a par with that of Copper Chef. For example, we bought an 11" square griddle pan for my husband, who wanted it to make French toast, that looked like it matched our collection. However, it didn't have the built-in stainless steel induction plate, so it didn't heat up as quickly or evenly as our Copper Chef pans.

SHINEURI 5-piece set of nonstick saucepans and saute pan on Amazon
We love the SHINEURI 5 piece nonstick
copper cookware set we purchased
on Amazon
The good news is that we also discover some winners among the competitor brands. At the time, Copper Chef wasn't making any round pots or pans, and we wanted a set of small and medium covered nonstick saucepans to replace the ones we threw out, as well as a couple of small to medium size round skillets for making omelets and such.

I was delighted with both the quality and the appearance of the 5-piece set by SHINEURI that we purchased, which has the reverse color scheme of our Copper Chef Black Diamond pans and looks terrific with them. The 1.5 quart and 2.5 quart saucepans with glass lids and the open 8" sauté pan look as though they were designed and manufactured by the same designer and factory as the original Copper Chef pans. Even the slightly domed lids and hollow stainless steel handles look exactly like the original CC pans, and they also perform just as well as those, although not as well as the Black Diamond pans.

Fortunately, the Copper Chef Black Diamond line has since expanded and now includes round pots and pans.

Another high performer we purchased from a competing brand was the Home Hero 8" round nonstick skillet with glass lid, which also had the built-in stainless steel induction plate and has performed as well as our original Copper Chef pans, although it doesn't look quite as nice, in my opinion, and doesn't have the textured interior bottom or diamond-reinforced nonstick coating of the Black Diamond pans.

Copper Chef Black Diamond Nonstick Cookware Makes a Great Gift

We loved our 5-piece set of square Black Diamond pans so much that we bought two more sets as Christmas gifts, one for my in-laws and one for my brother. They agree with us that these are by far the best nonstick pans we've ever owned.

Set of copper cooking utensils with silicone tips for nonstick cookware on Amazon
You can buy this gorgeous set of
copper metal and black silicone
cooking utensils on Amazon

Anyone who cooks would likely be delighted to receive a set of these good-looking, durable, well-designed, nonstick pans. As a bonus, the company's packaging is attractive and perfect for gift-giving.

For an even more special gift, consider adding this set of beautiful set of copper cooking utensils with black silicone tips. I think they would look absolutely stunning with Copper Chef Black Diamond or original CC pans, or even similar pans from competing brands.

I admit that I'm really tempted to put these on my holiday wish list, even though I already own plenty of perfectly functional utensils suitable for nonstick pans. But they're so freakin' pretty. And they look as though they were custom designed to go with the Black Diamond pans, don't they?

If you prefer round pans to square ones, this Copper Chef Black Diamond 10-piece set is another excellent choice. It comes with 8-inch and 10-inch round skillets with curved sides (to make stirring foods and sliding or flipping omelets easier), a 2-quart sauce pan, a 4.5-quart casserole pan, three metal-rimmed tempered glass lids that can be mixed and matched to fit all four pans, plus a roasting rack and a nonstick-compatible serving spoon and slotted spatula. My husband and I both think we'd get a lot of use out of this set, which would complement our existing pieces nicely, and we hope to be able to add these pots and pans to our collection eventually.

Either set would be a wonderful gift for someone special — including yourself!

Care and Cleaning Tips

The manufacturer says these pans are dishwasher safe. However, I strongly recommend hand washing these (which is a breeze, using just a regular or silicone sponge and hot, soapy water as soon as the pan cools, or after soaking if you don't want to wash soon after using). Dishwasher detergent is abrasive, which is why glasses that are washed in the dishwasher frequently will become cloudy over time. The cloudiness is actually a result of the detergent gradually etching the surface of the glass!

When I noticed that my husband had repeatedly burned spilled Sloppy Joe mixture (and who knows what else) onto the underside of one of our original Copper Chef fry pans without cleaning off the burned-on food residue, I discovered the hard way that a Scotchbrite or similar scrubby sponge is too abrasive for cleaning the CeramiTech nonstick coating, which covers both the inside and outside of the Copper Chef pans (other than the stainless steel induction plate and handle). Also, if you use a steel wool pad to scour the induction plate on the bottom of the pan and don't take care to keep the steel wool away from the CeramiTech coating, the metal fibers in the pad will quickly remove the nonstick coating right down to the metal underneath.
Bottoms of original and Black Diamond Copper Chef nonstick fry pans after cleaning correctly and incorrectly
©2020 Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved

Pan on the left: Original Copper Chef fry pan
with repeatedly burned-on food, cleaned with
a scrubber sponge, plus overzealous scouring
of the built-in stainless steel induction plate
with steel wool scouring pan.

Pan on the right: Copper Chef Black Diamond pan,
cleaned with regular or silicone sponge, induction plate
scoured with steel wool pad. I scoured the perimeter of the
stainless steel induction plate to avoid accidentally
scouring off the nonstick coating on the surrounding areas.

Similarly, if you want the CeramiTech coating on your pans to retain its nonstick properties as long as possible, I recommend using only plastic or silicone cooking utensils designed for non-stick cookware with these pans, something Tristar, which manufactures Copper Chef and other cookware brands, also advises.

Closeup view of inside of Copper Chef Black Diamond nonstick grill pan
Close-up shot of the ridged interior bottom
 of the nonstick grill pan
©2020 Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved

As you can see from this close-up of our grill pan, our Copper Chef Black Diamond pans — which have been in heavy, daily use for a long time now — not only still perform beautifully but also hold up remarkably well, as long as you care for them properly!

The Inexpensive, DIY Pot and Lid Storage Rack My Husband Built for Our Copper Ceramic Nonstick Cookware

When our collection of copper ceramic nonstick coated pans continued to expand, my husband — my very own MacGyver — put together an inexpensive, space-saving pot rack next to our stove, using just leftover wood strips and some coat hooks. Sadly, the beautiful, half-round, French-looking wrought iron pot rack I had purchased long ago for my Manhattan apartment doesn't work in our ranch-style home now. (Not only do we have many more pots and pans to store, but we also have only a short, narrow "mini hallway" between the stove and the side entrance to our house, which opens into our kitchen. So, our pot rack needs to be fairly flush to the wall to allow the door to open.)

One of the things I really like about his design it that, because each coat hook has an upper and a lower hook, the lids to our collection of nonstick pots and pans now have a convenient "home" for storage when they're not in use, since the glass lids can't be stacked. As you can see, it even holds our two large stainless steel mesh spatter shields!

It was meant for functionality rather than looks, but you could easily stain and varnish the wood, and even use a router to shape a scalloped edge, if you like.
Homemade wall-mounted rack for storing pots, pans and lids
My clever husband's inexpensive DIY pot rack
for our nonstick pans, lids and spatter screens
©2020 Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved

Happy nonstick cooking!

Copper Chef Black Diamond Nonstick Cookware reviewed by
Margaret Schindel


You'll find a wide range of other reliable product reviews from our Review This Reviews contributors at ReviewThisProductReviews.com.


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Sunday, May 17, 2020

A TV Series about a Digital Afterlife - Reviewed and I Was Glued

A personal review of the Prime Series "Upload" - About a Digital Afterlife

Upload is available on Amazon Prime.

Before I tell you about the series, let me start by saying that I broke every one of my own rules about binge-watching! I started watching late at night, didn't get up for snacks (lol), watched every episode .... and the worst part, I chose a series with only 1 season!

Ok. That's off my chest.

Are You a Fan of Shows About the Afterlife - If So, You'll Enjoy Upload

My favorite types of movies are time travel, the afterlife, catastrophes, new planets, life exploration, spiritual revelations, and mankind lessons. Weird right? Lol. I know.

After reading what Upload was about I knew I'd be giving this one a try. It's a fun and interesting look at preserving a person's consciousness after death. Personally, no thanks - let me go. But hey, the creative aspect of this is futuristic, and who knows what the future holds.

The Story Line of Upload

In the year 2033 when a human passes away, they have the choice of uploading their consciousness into a virtual afterlife.

The premise of this show is that the main character, Nathan, is uploaded prematurely. The plot is about this mystery, and why.

It offers love, manipulation, humor, and some dark comedy.

Making Money on Selling an Afterlife, WHAT!

Omg. I was actually mad about this (in a disgustingly funny way), but it's critical to the story - it's part of the story!

There are expensive afterlife locations and cheap ones for those with less money. Capitalism in death, sheesh. Get this, in this story, your living loved one pays for your stay in the virtual afterlife location of your choosing, and also pays for the things you use there. LOL - like a hotel! Go easy on the afterlife minibar?

So unless you have a lot of greenbacks, your afterlife is destined to be low quality and low budget! If your bills aren't paid, your consciousness is frozen until more gigabytes are purchased or the bills are paid.

There are a Few Shocking Bloodless Scenes

I almost want to tell you what it is so you don't jump out of your body like I did! But I won't. Or should I? No. I won't. I'll give you a hint; when Nathan is being 'Uploaded', get ready for what happens, because that's one of the parts where you'll jump out of your seat.

Do I Recommend This Series?

Yes. If you're curious where a writer goes with a topic like this, you'll enjoy it's dark, fun creative aspects.

Apparently, Upload has been renewed for a second season. Yippee, I'll be watching.

The Trailer is excellent - Watch it on Prime.





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Thursday, April 2, 2020

No Ordinary Dog - Book Review

Read an Excerpt
If I asked you what you were doing when you learned about the terror of the unfolding 9/11 disaster, I have no doubt that nearly 100% of you could provide, in great detail, your memory of that dark day.

Now, how about May 2, 2011—what can you tell me about that day?  Actually, I can't recall anything about it, but the author of No Ordinary Dog, Will Chesney, was there when the mastermind of September 11th, Osama Bin Laden, was finally brought to justice during one of the most incredible Navy SEAL operations of all time.

Due to the highly classified nature of the ultimate in top secret missions, only one operative's name was released at the time—Cairo—the extraordinary military dog present during the raid.  This is the story of Cairo and Will's journey to achieving their joint, and yet distinct, destinies.  Most of all, it is a poignant tribute to the life-changing power of the human-animal bond.

Chesney knew his destiny very early in life.  All he ever wanted to be was a Navy SEAL.  It was that, or nothing.  Likewise, Cairo, an exquisite Belgian Malinois, was bred, raised, and trained for an equally elite destiny.  Few animals ever make the cut when it comes to serving as a special ops war dog.  Cairo was among the rarest of the rare.

Though I had read books and seen movies about Navy SEALS, nothing ever really drove home the extreme sacrifices made by these rare individuals like No Ordinary Dog.  Reading Chesney's accounts of what he felt and experienced during his SEAL training made me wonder how anyone ever endured that rite of passage.  Likewise, despite reading dozens of books about the process of how service dogs are prepared for their work, this was a very different look into the becoming of a top-of-the-line military counterterrorism dog.  It was fascinating to learn about the motivations and methods that come together to create a weaponized canine capable of functioning at unbelievably complex levels.

Over the course of their tours of duty, there was plenty of action and many memorable moments in service to their country.  If you are like me, though, it will be their final mission that stands out.  When Will is seriously wounded by a grenade explosion, and suffers from the long-term impacts of PTSD and other equally debilitating injuries, it will take the unbreakable bond he shares with Cairo to get him through the greatest challenge of his life.

This is a book for anyone who loves dogs, enjoys military history, appreciates the sacrifices made by our human and canine military forces, or who finds inspiration in the incomparable connection between humans and their animals.  It is a book that will stay with you during this time when our nation is once again shaken to its very core just as it was on that September day so many years ago.

Note: I received an ARC from NetGalley in return for my honest review.  This book will be released on April 21, 2020.  Available for pre-order today.







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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Easy Homemade Coleslaw Dressing - A Family Fave

Easy Homemade Coleslaw Recipe
Quarantine has me thinking more about food. Fortunately, after 10 months of Keto, I still have willpower!

Keto warriors forewarned: This Coleslaw recipe is not Keto. However, if you replace the sugar with Monk Fruit Sweetener, it would be. Yet, I haven't personally tried that. If I did, I would use less Monk Fruit sweetener than 1/3 of a cup. I'd try a heaping tablespoon for my first attempt.

As mentioned in my previous recipe review posts (featured below), although I can cook, it's not my favorite thing to do. For that reason, I'm drawn to simple recipes.

While whipping through my stained recipe book, I came across this straightforward homemade recipe for Coleslaw dressing to share with you.

Homemade Coleslaw Dressing Ingredients:

. 1/2 Cup of Vinegar
. 2/3 Cup of Olive Oil
. 1/3 Cup of Sugar
. 1/2 Teaspoon of Pepper
. Miracle Whip Salad Dressing

If needed, you can double this.

Instructions:

Put all the ingredients in a small pot on the stove and bring it to a boil (EXCEPT the MIRACLE WHIP). Pour the boiled ingredients over the prepared Coleslaw while it's hot. Put it in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Once you're ready to serve it, mix in two heaping tablespoons of Miracle Whip Salad Dressing. I've added the dressing when the Coleslaw dish is warm, and when it's been cooled in the fridge.

Preparing the Coleslaw:

You can buy the packages of ready-made Coleslaw at the store, or shred a cabbage head and
other vegetables..

The Extra Ingredients that Make Coleslaw Taste Great:

Other than a delicious Coleslaw dressing, there are two ingredients I always add:

. Chopped Apple
. Chopped Onion

Add the chopped apple just before serving. Cut the apple into small bite-sized pieces and stir it in. I usually cut up two medium-sized apples for a medium-sized bowl of Coleslaw.

Add 1/2 of a large onion, chopped or shredded.

The apple combined with the onion and the homemade dressing gives the Coleslaw a delicious taste.

Store-Bought Coleslaw Dressing Alternative:

If you don't have the time to fuss over making homemade dressing, Kraft's Coleslaw Dressing is excellent. Make the Coleslaw as described above with apple and onion, then put in nearly a full regular sized bottle of Kraft Dressing. Base the amount you want on how creamy you prefer your slaw. Pour it in quarters.

Previous Simple Recipes from My Kitchen:
If you're looking for a simple, comforting meat dish to serve with this Coleslaw, check out the Roast Pan Steak recipe featured above, it's so good!

Stay safe, happy cooking.



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Friday, March 27, 2020

About Sam Monaco

About Sam Monaco on Review This Reviews

First, let say how honored I am to be part of Review This Reviews Blog. I've followed most of the contributors here for a long time.

What I like about Social Media is that you meet people and follow their work and communicate with them on-line.

You never meet them in person and yet they become part of your family. That's the way I feel about the contributors on Review This Reviews.

My full name is Eugene Samuel Monaco, but everybody just calls me Sam. I only use my full name when signing important documents. I was named after my uncle who was called Sam also.



I'm a semi-retired Industrial Engineer working in the automotive and furniture industries. You just can't get any further apart from an industry standpoint. My work gives me the opportunity to interact with people every day on the manufacturing floor. This is the reason that I love my job so much.

I began my online writing about 9 years ago and this is where I meet so many wonderful and helpful people. The following are just some of the places you can find me online.

Sam's Places: This is my food blog where you will find old and new family recipes. I have a passion for preserving old family recipes the recipe's from my mother, grandmother, and aunts.  So many of these old recipes are written on little scraps of paper. I find it to be such fun to figure them out and reproduce them so they can be enjoyed for many generations.

Cherished Toy Finds: This is my toy blog where I write about what I call cherished toys. I watched my grandchildren play with some of the very same toys that I had and my kids had. So, I thought what a great idea it would be to write about some of these toys that have been around forever. You'll find many of these cherished toys in my blog. Along with some new ones that they teach grandpa about.

Reviewed By Sam: This one is my own review blog where you can find a variety of things; books, products, travel, and do-it-yourself project. I always own and use the products I write about in all of my blogs.


A Little More About Sam:


My interests are simple. I enjoy the work I do and the interaction with so many people. I take great pleasure in preserving those family recipes and creating some new ones along the way. My biggest joy is my four grandchildren. I cherish every minute I spend with each one of them.











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Sunday, March 15, 2020

10 Calming and Distracting Things to Do

Calming and Distracting Things to Do
With all that's going on in the world, some distraction is in order.

When you've had your fill of news, and consumed as much info as you need for a day or so, here are some things you can do to take your mind off the world.

1. Listen to Music

Yes, I know, that's predictable! You've heard it a million times. The principle of Occams Razor applies right now (the simplest solution is often the best or right one - paraphrasing). With that in mind, turn off the TV for a while or forever, and pick a few songs that speak to you.

Here, let me recommend a fantastic song for country music fans; have you listened to Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani's song "Nobody But You?" If not, take a minute. It's a perfect song to cuddle up to or think about the one you love, and what's most important in life.

Lyrics
"Don't have to leave this town to see the world
'Cause it's something that I gotta do
I don't wanna look back in thirty years
And wonder who you're married to
Wanna say it now, wanna make it clear
For only you and God to hear
When you love someone, they say you set 'em free
But that ain't gonna work for me"




It's currently my favorite country music song - hope you enjoy it.

2. Watch Inspirational Videos

This is a little self-serving; here's one of my most recent video-poems. Written about a month ago, it's about finding clarity and calm in life.

This year I've vowed to work on body, mind, and spirit. The video speaks to the spirit side of life. I call it Living in Light. If you need a little calm, mixed with a teaspoon of hope and faith, this one is for you.


3. Cooking - Do You Love to Cook?

If you love to cook there are a ton of recipes from our writers here on ReviewThisReviews. Be sure to check out the recipe section. You can find it here.

4. Puzzles and Games

You've already thought of this right? Board games, riddle games, and puzzles. If you're not in the mood to play family games, distract yourself with riddles. Yep, I happen to write them. Here's one, can you solve it?
Find more at StumpedRiddles.com
5. Dance in Your Kitchen

Oh, that sounds really dumb, doesn't it? It's not. Turn up the radio and dance. The exercise is good for us physically and mentally. Who cares how silly we look. Blast your favorite music and go for it.

6. Exercise

If your health permits and you have exercise equipment, use it. If not, there are plenty of yoga and exercise videos on Youtube and TV you can follow. I like this basic exercise video for Arms. This lady features short easy-to-do videos.


7. Draw, Paint or Create

Now is a good time to tackle that book you've always wanted to write. If books aren't your thing, sketch or paint. Stepping back in time, it's said that the plague may have influenced Shakespeare to create his best works. You can read about it here.

If you've wanted to write a book, but aren't sure where to start, I've written several articles with tips from my own personal experience of writing my first books. You can find them here:


8. Binge Watch TV

Oh my, that's too much couch time, but if you can't help yourself, here are some comical tips on what not to do when you binge-watch.

9.  Read a Book

If you're looking for a book to read, check out the book reviews by the Contributors on this site. There are some serious book-readers here! You can scroll through the reviews by starting here.

10. Express Your Love to Family and Friends

Don't hold back. Say it out loud or by text or phone if you have to, but say it. Say it over and over, and even say it for others to hear. Spread love - let your voice be heard.

My own Mind, Body and Spirit tips for 2020 are reviewed here.


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