Friday, October 31, 2008

Roast Lifters


These scary gadgets are roast lifters. The tines are so sharp that they come with covers to prevent accidents. The idea is that when you need to flip a large roast, you place one on each side and lift. They're very popular for flipping turkeys and geese when they're roasting. I have tried to use them. Really I have. The truth is that it's just not that easy to lift ten to fourteen pounds of hot bird with these things. Save your money. Stash a couple of clean dish towels near the oven and when it's time to turn the bird breast up, you'll get a much better grip on it with the dish towels.

One cupcake. They would make great weapons in a murder mystery.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thermapen Thermometer


Sometimes it makes sense to buy an inexpensive kitchen gadget -- and sometimes it doesn't. I went through three inexpensive thermometers in less than two years. It seemed like they worked about three times and then died. You know the kind, there's a wire that snakes into the roast in the oven and an alarm on the counter that alerts you when the meat is done. Great idea when they work.

Tired of killing thermometers, I finally bought a clever remote sensor, made for barbecues. Not outrageously expensive, but a step up. No one has yet been able to make that thing work. It makes sounds and a light flashes but in spite of our efforts and attention to the instructions, it never did work. (not shown in photo)

I finally opted for the king of thermometers. Made in Utah by Thermoworks, the Thermapen instantly reads the temperature of any food. That means you no longer need a separate thermometer for candy or other foods. I've noticed that my favorite cooking magazine often specifies temperatures now, not just for roasts but in all kinds of recipes. The Thermapen gives an instant picture. In red in the photo above, the steel portion goes into the food and the temp appears on the readout. Then the metal folds back into it. Very handy.

The drawback is that there's no timer. If you're like me and liable to be distracted by guests and the other dishes cooking, it's best to set a timer as a reminder to check the temperature of the turkey. But then you have the scoop instantly. And, so far, it hasn't given up the ghost like my cheaper purchases did. It's expensive at $89.00, but I spent nearly that much replacing the cheap ones. http://www.thermoworks.com/products/thermapen/

Four cupcakes!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

RW Knudsen Spritzer

When I'm out and about, I often end up staring at the labels on natural sodas. Sometimes, they're very scary. Especially the calorie count. Look at them carefully to be sure that 120 calories is per can, not per serving, which usually means it's really 240 calories.

I recently ran across RW Knudsen's Spritzer Light Lemonade. Knudsen makes great fruit juices. (I'll be trying their new Acai Berry juice and reporting on it soon.) The great news is that their lemonade contains 60 calories per can and only 15 carbs. And it hits the spot. Lightly flavored, it's very pleasant with a clean taste. The sparkling part makes it nicely refreshing, too. Plus, there's the added benefit of no preservatives, colors, or artificial sweeteners. And at 60 calories, no guilt.

Four cupcakes. A refreshing treat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aqua Globes



You've seen them on TV and now they're available in stores. Aqua Globes are everywhere. As you can see in photo, they're a good size. The idea is simple. You fill them with water and stick them in a plant. Presumably, they dispense as much water as the plant needs, taking the guess work of of indoor gardening for those prone to killing plants.


The stake portion is fairly long, so they probably wouldn't hold tight in small plants. I'm trying them out in a Christmas cactus and a gernaium I brought in for the winter. Do they work? I'll let you know, stay tuned.

They are pretty, though.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kyocera Ceramic Knives


Very possibly the sharpest knives I have ever used. I adore these knives. A Kyocera knife really can slice a tomato without crushing it. This is what I use when I want very thin slices of meat. Nothing else glides through as easily.

However, you will notice that the knife with the pink handle looks -- odd. That's because I dropped it on a tile floor. Ceramic breaks when it encounters a hard surface. And you'll note that the little paring knife has lost its tip. Yup.

The fact that I still love them anyway should give you a clue about how great they work. I never use them on anything hard, like a carrot. And if I had little hands around the house, I would stash them where the kids couldn't find them because they're so sharp. But for most uses, even the expensive European knives don't beat them. The Kyocera knives aren't cheap, especially when one takes into consideration how easily they break. But they slice like a dream.

Four cupcakes. If only they didn't break so easily.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt


Oikos? I walked by these yogurts and ignored them for months. Greek yogurt? What was that? But then one day, it was the only organic yogurt I could find and I bought a couple to try. What a mistake. Now I'm addicted. Distributed by Stoneyfield Farms, this thick yogurt is nicely satisfying. One container of blueberry yogurt has only 120 calories, but the denseness makes you feel like you're eating more than a snack. It comes in blueberry, vanilla, honey and plain. The blueberry is my favorite, followed closely by vanilla, but if you're a nut for honey, give that one a shot. The only downside is the cost. It's just under $2.00 for a 5.3 ounce container at my local Kroger. WalMart carries larger containers that are a better deal, but I've only see them in plain.

Four cupcakes for a delicious yogurt, but a bit pricey.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Simplicity Laundry Softener


A couple of years ago, the company that made my favorite fabric softener had the nerve to change the scent. Eww. Since then, I've been on a quest to find a replacement. I've smelled some fairly unpleasant ones, including one that was so bad, I wanted to rewash everything to get rid of the smell. Price, of course, is always a factor.

So I was happily surprised to find Simplicity on the shelf at my local WalMart. The first thing that caught my eye was the phrase "non-toxic". A plus in anything that is used on clothes, sheets and blankets that touch our skin. It's also hypoallergenic. I'm not sure what that means, legally-speaking, but I have a friend who is allergic to scents, so I'm hoping this will be comfortable for her. It says it has a "simple scent". I find that scents are a very personal thing but this one is not offensive to me. I would describe it as lightly fruity. And it turns out it softens my laundry, too. It was a little thick toward the end, so I added water, shook and even stretched it a little. An attractive product all around. $4.42 at WalMart for a 60 ounce bottle (60 loads). I'll be looking for more products from this company. http://www.simplicityclean.com/

Five cupcakes. Softens laundry and is good for the earth.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vegetable Peelers

The other day I saw a well known TV chef mangling vegetables on her show. She seemed awkward but I knew the truth, she didn't have the right vegetable peeler. Take my trusty Kuhn Rikon away from me and I mangle vegetables, too. As you can see in the photo above, I have acquired a number of peelers over the years. The second from the left is supposed to be ergonomically correct. It's heavier than the others, well constructed and has soft spots where it's gripped, which does make it nice to hold. But in spite of their efforts, there's still something awkward about peeling with the blade to the side. The peeler on the right has the correct idea, but that handle shape and length doesn't quite do the trick. With the Kuhn Rikon (the blue one on the far left), I become a peeling dynamo. I peel a lot of carrots and it's quick work with the right vegetable peeler.

Last weekend I made lasagna and needed thin slices of mozzarella. The Kuhn Rikon peeler happened to be handy, and, as you can see from the pile of cheese, worked like a charm. These cute little peelers sell for a suggested retail price of $3.50. They would make adorable stocking stuffers for your favorite cooks and wouldn't break the bank. They're available at various sites on the web, but check with your local cooking store first, since the cost of shipping would probably be more than the price of the peeler.


Five cupcakes for the cute, little Kuhn Rikon peeler!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Loved Dog Treats


At the risk of boring those of you who don't love dogs, I'm posting one more dog-related item before I move on. My dogs are treat monsters. A good thing since treats are very handy training rewards. I found this new treat in the pet food aisle at my local Kroger. They set up a mini-refrigerator at the end of the aisle for refrigerated dog food and this bag of treats was in it. They're called The Loved Dog Treats by Tamar Geller. The first thing I looked for was the reassuring "made in the USA" label. The ingredients are simple: chicken; ground oats; chicken broth; salt; and natural flavors. Tamar, a dog expert, even adds a training tip on the back of each bag.

The big test came when my dogs tried them. They loved them as much as they love fresh chicken. And I have to say, they smell like real chicken. They do have to be refrigerated, so they might not be the best choice for a long walk but all four of my dogs give them five cupcakes. By Freshpet.

Five cupcakes. Dog approved!

Coming soon -- Aqua Globes, Mighty Putty, meat thermometers and the best vegetable peeler.

Monday, October 20, 2008

PediPaws Update


I've now spent a week introducing the PediPaws to my dogs and cat with little success. My Jack Russell is terrified of it. I should mention that she copes with some fears from her life before she landed with me, so it could be that some bad memory from her past is causing her horror.

However, my cat, whose claws I have clipped since he was a kitten, doesn't tolerate the PediPaws, either. While one of my dogs is quite curious about it, he immediately yanks his paw away when it touches his nail. His sister stays a safe distance from me when she sees it in my hand.

To their credit, the makers of the PediPaws provide instructions that say to introduce it slowly, with treats. The problem, in my opinion, is that the sensation of a rotary emery board is one that is unfamiliar to dogs and cats. I stuck my nail in it (yes, I now have a weird flat spot on my nail) and it was an unfamiliar feeling to me. Unlike an emory board, there's a vibrating sensation. It could be that one or two of my dogs will eventually come around, but I can see that it will take time. Over the weekend, I saw the PediPaws commercial a couple of times and not one of my animals sits calmly waiting for me to trim his or her nails with the PediPaws. The dog who yanks his foot away from the nail clipper (in the ad) is more representative of what happens in my house with the PediPaws.

You'll note in the photograph above that a Dremel Rotary tool is in the picture next to the PediPaws. The concept is very much the same. After I saw my Vet trimming my bird's beak with a Dremel, I bought my own and have used it for that purpose for years. The Dremel is more expensive than the PediPaws, has a rechargeable battery and is smaller, so easier to hold. The surface of the sandpaper section that rotates is also smaller than that of the PediPaws and there's no plastic cover where the nail is inserted, so they're substantially different but the idea is the same. If you own a Dremel, you might consider trying it on your pets' claws to see how they tolerate the vibration.

Does the PediPaws work? Yes. Will it work on your dog or cat? Hard to say. If I acquired a kitten or a puppy, I would buy a PediPaws and introduce it while the animal was young enough to adapt. I don't have high hopes for using it on my crew, though.

Three cupcakes. PediPaws is a good idea but whether your cat or dog will tolerate it is questionable.

Friday, October 17, 2008

FURminator vs. Shed Ender

Vickie and Lorraine's posts sent me looking for
a flea comb and I found I had a FURminator, too. In the photo to the right, they're lined up left to right -- Shed Ender, FURminator (upside down so the teeth are visible), flea comb.

When I compared them on my short-haired cat, all three removed fur but the FURminator seemed to grab a little bit more than the others. He tolerated all of them well. On my short-haired Jack Russell, again all three worked, but the flea comb and FURminator appeared to grab a bit more fur. However, when I groomed my heavily shedding long-haired Golden Retriever, there was no contest. The flea comb won, hands down. It pulled more of the shedding undercoat out. I have to say, though, that the flea comb moved through the fur with more difficulty, probably because it was grabbing more fur. Since it's small, it's not quite as comfortable to handle. Even though it tugged a bit, my dog tolerated it quite well.

Since the three combs are very similar in concept, I have to wonder if it could be the length of the teeth that make a difference. The teeth of the Shed Ender and the FURminator are nearly identical. I was actually surprised to realize how much alike they are. They're quite short, coming in at about one-eighth of an inch. The flea comb teeth are considerably longer at almost half an inch.

It's worth noting that the FURminator is easiest and most comfortable to use. While the Shed Ender requires a slightly unnatural side hold, the handle of the FURminator is strategically placed so that it is an easy and natural motion.

If you need to get down into long fur, it would appear that longer teeth make a difference. For short fur, there's not much difference between the FURminator and the Shed Ender, but I'm under the impression that the FURminator might have a slight edge due to placement of the handle perpendicular to the blade, so that it pulls through the fur easier and allows for a bit more pressure.

Monday -- an update on PediPaws!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

bionaturae pasta

I try to eat organic foods. This isn't my forum for that soapbox, so I'll just say that some foods that are supposed to be healthy for us aren't as delicious as they could be. However, I've found an organic pasta that makes me drool. bionaturae is made in Italy. The company has been around for quite awhile because I was familiar with their fruit juices ages ago. Their 100% durum semolina pasta is absolutely delicious. It contains no other ingredients and is certified organic. It comes in various shapes but the spaghetti and capellini (angel hair) are staples in my kitchen. Few things are faster than a salad and pasta with garlic and shrimp in olive oil. Comfort food for a cold night. I've tried the bionaturae whole wheat pasta and while it's okay, it's still a little hardy. If you're into whole wheat pastas, you might like it. But the bionaturae durum semolina, yum, pass the garlic bread!

Five cupcakes!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saving with Coupon Codes


You've probably figured out by now that my favorite site for coupon codes is RetailMeNot.com. I like it for several reasons. The first is that it doesn't make you join anything. I don't receive endless emails from them about products that don't interest me. Too often, when I search other coupon sites, there are no coupon codes, just links to the retail sites, which means I have to start over again. Ugh. Who has the time? At RetailMeNot, you can type in the name of a company and go to a list of coupon codes for that company. Very efficient.

On the main page, if you scroll down, you'll see widgets and extensions on the left. I admit, it was with some trepidation that I added the Firefox extension. After all, isn't this just more intrusion on my computer? However, my computer hasn't blown up and my malware checker hasn't thrown the RetailMeNot extension out or highlighted it, so maybe it's not hostile after all. And I have to say, I love it. Sometimes, especially after a long day, when I'm a little bleary and I have to order something, I forget to check for coupon codes. But now, when I log onto a retail site, a little bar pops up across the top of the screen, telling me when there are coupon codes available for that site. It's a very nice, unobtrusive reminder that I might be able to save on shipping or knock a few dollars off the price. Plus, it includes a link so I can easily check out the codes.

Five cupcakes to RetailMeNot for a job well done.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shed Ender


The folks at PediPaws threw a Shed Ender in the box as a freebee. I noticed them at a box store selling for $9.99. It comes with a sheath over the comb blade, which makes me think it's supposed to be sharp. Basically, it's a comb with short, tightly-spaced teeth. I tried it on my menagerie. My short-haired cat liked it and I have to say I got the best results on him. It really did seem to remove very soft undercoat. Not much, but a few swipes did result in fuzz on the blade. My Jack Russell, also short-haired, liked it a lot, too, but then she loves to be brushed and combed. Oddly enough, it removed little fur from her. My Golden Retriever and one of my mixed breeds are shedding -- big time. I thought it would grab the undercoat that needs to come out. Nope. A little soft fuzz. I would have done better on them with a plain old people comb.

Two and a half cupcakes. It works, but so does a 49 cent plastic comb. If you've tried this, please post and let us know how it worked for you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cooking Racks for Baking

Now that cooler weather is setting in, it's pie and cookie baking time. My mother gave me a set of these cooling racks ages ago. I can't believe how well they've held up. These days, I have plenty of counter space, but I still use them. They're terrific for cooking cake layers and especially important when the great Christmas cookie baking extravaganza begins. I put them in the dishwasher without worrying about it. The best thing is that they collapse and they're not attached to each other. That makes it easy to use only one or two and they stack nicely for storage. Ideal for a small kitchen.



The best price that I've found is at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but with some diligent searching, you might be able to find a better deal on them. The Google search terms that worked best for me were "stackable cooling racks" (don't use the quotes).

Five cupcakes for practicality, ease of washing, and durability.

$9.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com

http://www.centralchef.com
RetailMeNot.com has a coupon code for free shipping on orders over $125 for this store. Check it out if you're ordering more items.

http://www.cooking.com/products/shprodde.asp?SKU=163750 for $14.45.

Food Network also carries the Wilton brand of these racks for $14.45. http://www.foodnetworkstore.com/p-163750--_Stackable-Cooling-Rack-3-pc.aspx RetailMeNot.com is offering a coupon code for a free Rachel Ray DVD set with orders of $50 or more from the Food Network Store.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Replacements


It's hard to think about the holidays already but our neighbors to the north are celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, so that's a clue that we won't be too far behind. No, you don't have to start cooking yet, but remember how Uncle Al dropped a plate last year? Now you're short a dinner plate. You prowled through antique stores and yard sales all summer hoping you would find one that matches your grandmother's china but no such luck.

The first place I go when looking for china and crystal that isn't in stores (and sometimes that is in stores ) is Ebay. Just type in the brand and see what comes up. You can save your search in Ebay by clicking on "save this search" and that will take you to a page that prompts Ebay to send you an email whenever your item is listed for sale. I use it all the time so I don't have to keep checking back.

Ebay is hit and miss, though. Replacements.com is a better bet. Our North Carolina readers have been to their famous yard sale. Replacements collects discontinued china, crystal and silver (also sells non-discontinued items) and sells it. I've also seen items that were exclusive to a particular retailer that I thought I'd never find again. So, if you can't find one dinner plate in Grandma's pattern, head for Replacements.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dogsters


Well, I have to confess that the PediPaws didn't go over very well last night. My dogs and cat sniffed it while it was turned off. They were a little wary of it when introduced to it again with the motor running, even though the motor is remarkably quiet. Everyone ate a treat while the PediPaws was inches from their little noses. But when I tried it on my most willing victims, uh oh. Gretel let me touch it to her claw but, unlike the dogs in the advertisement, she acted like I'd been mean, took off and watched me warily for a few minutes to make sure I didn't try that again. My little Jack Russell was so distressed that I'm not sure she won't run from the room if she ever sees it again. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, though, so you'll know I'm not just a cruel, PediPaw-wielding dog Mom, I thought I'd share a dog treat that my dogs adore. They drool at the sight of a box of Dogsters. Supposedly healthy treats, the main ingredients are cheese, whey and peanuts, so maybe they're not too bad. They come in little plastic containers, four to a box. My dogs take their doggy ice cream cups and retreat to dog beds to enjoy them. I like them because it occupies them for a few minutes. My big dogs crunch through most treats in seconds, even the ones that promise otherwise. But all four of my dogs are content to calmly lick their Dogsters until the little cups are clean. Dogsters has a cute website at dogateers.com but there's not much there yet. Made by CoolBrands International and available in the ice cream section of grocery stores.

Five peanut-flavored cupcakes from Krista's dogs!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

PediPaws Pet Nail Trimmer


You've seen it on TV. You've winced at the thought of hurting your sweet dog or cat when trimming claws. And now we're putting PediPaws to the test. The photo on the right shows the tip up close. The idea is fairly simple. A tip fitted with a sandpaper ring rotates and files the claw. The amber top has a notch in it where the claw is supposed to be inserted.

It runs on two C batteries. The top unscrews
to replace the sandpaper when it's worn out. My PediPaws cost $35.97, which includes the cost of shipping, three replacement sandpaper rings and a "free" Shed Ender that they throw in. Ten replacement "filing bands" (their term sounds better than sandpaper rings) can be ordered for a whopping $7.99 plus $2.99 shipping.

The instructions recommend introducing PediPaws by turning it on and giving your pet a treat. Repeat as necessary until the pet is comfortable around the PediPaws. As it happens, I have plenty of victims, er, willing customers. Well, they're willing to eat treats anyway. Stay tuned for the realities of using PediPaws.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Divas Arrive!

It's official. The Diva Runs Out of Thyme is in bookstores today. There have been sightings in a chain bookstore in Texas and at Quail Ridge Books in North Carolina and I have one on my desk, so I know for sure that it's real!

I hope you enjoy the book, but don't overlook the recipes. First Murder Bourbon Pecan Pie is sinfully delicious. Even better when topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Sophie's Crusty Country Bread, Bacon and Herb Stuffing is the recipe I use every year for the holidays. A true family favorite.

Wild rice is so good for us but I find it difficult to make it taste special. I tried a lot of variations before hitting on Cranberry, Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing. The cranberries add just the right burst of sweet tartness. It was a hit with all my tasters.

And stop by divamysteries.com before Thanksgiving because I'll be posting a Bourbon laced whipped cream that's incredibly simple but is so yummy you just want to keep eating it. Perfect as a topper for pies and and pumpkin cheesecake.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chocolate Yogurt

At the Guppies Chapter of Sisters In Crime, we know that chocolate is the only way to take the sting out of rejections. It's also handy for celebrations. Now you can have your chocolate without guilt. Stonyfield Farms makes delicious chocolate yogurt that's even organic. The chocolate is on the bottom, so you have to stir to mix it in. It has a nice yogurt tang, which means you won't fool your children into thinking it's pudding, but if I wanted to convince a kid to eat yogurt, I'd start with this. What could be better? It flies out of my grocery store, so you might have to ask your dairy section to hold some for you when it comes in.

Five Cupcakes. Chocolate, yummy, fat and guilt free!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Great Green Bag Experiment -- Results!


And the winner is -- not what you think. As you can see from the photograph to the right, B, the banana in the green bag that was kept at room temperature on my kitchen counter looks far better than the other two. My conclusion is that green bags do help bananas last longer and that we shouldn't buy more bananas than we think our families will eat in one week.





To the left, you can see that I've peeled each of the bananas and they all look edible inside. But the surprising result to me is that banana C, the one that looks the worst because it was in a green bag and kept inside my refrigerator, is far and away the freshest inside.












The two photographs above represent a slice taken from the top of each banana (left) and a slice taken from the middle of each banana (right). They are lined up A, B, and C. The picture on the right is the most telling since a crack is visible in banana A. It was not in a green bag and was on my kitchen counter. It's quite mushy and has that mealy, old banana taste. It would be great for baking, though. Banana B, which looked the best on the outside is also a bit on the older mushy side. It's still edible but a lot of kids would refuse to eat it. The firmest banana with the best flavor is the one that looks the worst! The horrible brown exterior of banana C hides a banana with an almost fresh flavor. It's not the least bit mushy and tastes great. So, if you can overlook the brown peel wrapping it or you can serve it already peeled as a garnish or with cereal, banana C is the winner. My bananas will be in a green bag in the refrigerator.

Thanks for following the Great Green Bag Experiment. Stay tuned because I'll experiment with storing lettuce soon. Next week, chocolate yogurt and Pedipaws!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Day Six of the Great Green Bag Experiment



I think we all know which banana we'd chose at this point. Banana B is clearly winning, at least in appearance. That's the banana inside a green bag but kept at room temperature on my kitchen counter. Someone asked me when I would peel them so you can see the insides of the bananas. I suspect that the difference on the outside will be so marked in about two days that we'll have a definitive answer about the green bags. And then I'll peel and slice so you can see what has happened to them inside.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Poison Ivy


This isn't prime poison ivy season but a friend of mine is dealing with it, so I thought I'd share this. Unfortunately, I have a ridiculous sensitivity to poison ivy and can attest that BandAid Anti-Itch Gel is the best thing going. It feels cool on the skin and it helps dry up the poison ivy. It really does sooth the itching better than anything else I've tried, and believe me, I've tried a lot of things. The other key to managing poison ivy is to never ever subject the affected area to heat. That means no hot water, either. There's something about hot water that makes the poison ivy itch more and puff up. Use cool water and soap to wash the rash and then apply the Band-Aid Anti-Itch Gel.

Five cupcakes for a product that soothes an impossible itch.

Green Bags Day Five


I can hardly believe that it's day five of the Great Green Bag Experiment. At this point, most children and a lot of adults would run screaming from banana C. That's the one that has been in a green bag in the refrigerator. It still feels firm, though. Banana A, (which is sitting in a fruit bowl on my counter without a green bag) is certainly still edible but is showing serious signs of age. On day five, the banana in a green bag at room temperature leads the bunch.

 
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