Dec 31, 2009

Dutch Oven Heaven


Isn't she beautiful?

How can you not love something that can bake bread, sear steaks, slow cook a pot roast, cook rice, or deep fry french fries?  A true kitchen multitasker, the Dutch oven can be used to cook just about anything that you can cook in the oven or on the stove top.  Although there are aluminum Dutch ovens, they are typically made from solid cast iron wherein lies their ability to hold and conduct heat more effectively and are typically known for cooking in the great outdoors.  However, this little beauty is not designed for surviving in the wild, unless you consider a home with four small children "the wild".

My Tramontina 6.5 quart cast iron Dutch oven is enameled with porcelain on the inside and out and is pretty enough to serve in.  Top-of-the-line enameled porcelain Dutch ovens can run $200-$300 (the best is made by Le Creuset, 7.25-Qt for $229.95).  You can find the Tramontina 6.5-Qt at Walmart.com for around $50.  With such a price difference, you might be inclined to think that Tramontina is an inferior knock-off.  Au contraire!  Cook's Illustrated Magazine put Dutch ovens to the test and found that the Tramontina performed beautifully and recommends it as their top choice for inexpensive Dutch ovens. 

My hubby christened ours by making chili this week.  YUM!  If you buy one, make sure to read the manufacturer's directions for use and cleaning.  The enameled porcelain needs to be babied a bit but if you take care of it, this little cast iron pot should last you for the rest of your cooking days.

P.S.  Happy New Year!





Dec 29, 2009

My First Give Away Winner!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas holiday.  I guess I'm a big liar since I said I'd post the winner of my first give away yesterday, but we were busy packing half the day and on the road the other half so please cut me some slack.  I know, excuses, excuses. 

So enough talk.  I had my little girl randomly choose one lucky follower to recieve the fabulous Trader Joe's Kitchen Cloths and 2 Bryton Pick Flossers. 






And the winner is
TracyLaine!
Please email me your mailing address and I'll get those out to you pronto!


If you didn't win this time, no worries.  As my number of followers is still pretty small, odds are, each of you wonderful loyalists will win sooner or later and I have high hopes that my give aways will increase in awesomeness.

Tune in later this week when I'll blog about two favorite Christmas gifts that I received this year.  I am convinced that they will both make my life in the kitchen radically better.  Can't wait!

Dec 22, 2009

Some Fabulous Last Minute Gifts Under $25 & My First Give Away!

Here's to all you procrastinators out there!  We are a sisterhood of well-meaning women who really do plan on getting things done in a timely fashion, but we put things off until the last minute because for us, stress is our greatest motivator.  So, I thought I throw you all a rope, and I scouted out some really great, affordable gifts that you can run out and pick up today.  But why do it today, when you can wait until Christmas Eve?

Bath and Body Works:  Scent Bug $12.99, scented oils $7.50

Running on 2 AA batteries, this little device fills your home with any of 30 different scented oil fragrances without the open flame of a candle and comes in 7 fun colors.

Costco:  8-piece Glass Beaded Utensil Set $19.97

Dresses up any serving table, this set comes with 2 large serving spoons, 2 appetizer spoons, and 4 spreader knives accented with hand made glass beads that come in blue or green shades.

Costco: Dexas Over-the-sink Bamboo Cutting Board with Collapsible Strainer $16.99


Wash and drain produce in the strainer before chopping, or use it to stash carrot or potato peelings.  Folds flat for easy storage.

Cost Plus World Market:  Silver Peace Sign Jewelry $9.99/piece


Anything and everything peace-y is popular with the tween to teen crowd.  These pieces of quality jewelry make great stocking stuffers.

Cost Plus World Market:  Stacking Mugs $9.99 - $14.99


These colorful mugs save space and will accent any kitchen decor.  I love the multicolored stripey ones in the back.  So pretty!

Target:  White Ceramic Serving Platters $19.99 - $24.99
If you entertain, you know how indispensable plain white platters are.  Add to your giftee's collection with an oval, square, or rectangular one from Target.

I hope these suggestions help if your in a gift-giving slump.  I know I'd love any of these things under the tree with my name on them. And now on to one final piece of business...
MY FIRST GIVE AWAY!!!
I'm giving away two small, but fabulous products to one lucky follower.  All you have to do to be eligible, is be a follower of this blog.  I'll randomly choose the winner and post it next Monday.

The first item is a 2-pack of Trader Joe's amazing kitchen cloths.


I tried to have my little guy play "spokesmodel" but it didn't quite work out.  Oh well, he's adorable anyway.


The second item I'm giving away is a cool new little device I was sent to try called the Bryton Pick.
If you hate getting food stuck in your teeth when you're away from home and can't floss, you'll love the Bryton Pick.  It runs circles around toothpicks, or anything else you might try to fish that poppyseed out from between your two front teeth.  Developed and tested by dental professionals, they're pre-sterilized and made of germ resistant stainless steel and are re-usable for up to 30 days.  I'll  be sending the winner 2, each in their own little pouch.  They are currently available from Meijer, Kinney drugs, and online.
So check back here the Monday after Christmas, and I'll announce the winner.  In the meantime, have a wonderful, glorious, and peaceful holiday celebrating the birth and life of your savior and mine, Jesus Christ.  May God bless you and your families.

Dec 16, 2009

These Are A Few Of My Favorite (Household) Things

I apologize for neglecting my blog as of late.  Life has been nothing short of insane at my house and since my hubby and I share the computer, my time on it is limited in the evenings when I usually  blog.  To make up for it, I thought I'd list a few of my favorite items in this blog instead of my usual one.  None of these products is life-altering necessarily, but I love them nonetheless.

Trader Joe's Kitchen Cloths:  Think Sham-Wow, but for your kitchen.  It absorbs an insane amount of liquid and wrings out almost dry.  Best part, it never gets stinky.  Use it to wipe down any surface in the kitchen and for cleaning up spills. 



Image from Green Clean Review blog.  $3.99/2-pack

Kidco Baby Steps Food Mill Grinder:  The phrase "make your own baby food" used to sound so intimidating to me.  I envisioned spending hours in the kitchen cooking and then pureeing all kinds of fruits, veggies, and meats and then storing it all in labeled, single-serving sized containers in the freezer.  I'd then have to carefully thaw and reheat them before each meal.  Needless to say, I never did any of it ,and my baby food mill grinder sat in my cupboard through 3 kids.  It wasn't until my fourth baby that I realized how amazing this little grinder is.  I literally throw whatever (cooked food) my family is having for dinner in the grinder with a little water and it grinds it up beautifully.  I then stir in a little more liquid and my my baby gobbles it down.  In fact, he hates baby food and will only eat what the rest of us are eating.  This device has saved me so much money!


$11.95 (comes with it's own carrying case) on Amazon.

Lash Stiletto Mascara by Maybelline New York:  I was married to my old mascara for years but after I read some favorable reviews of Lash Stiletto on Beauty.com, I thought I'd give it a try.  After a few uses, I was sold.  I have stubby, thin lashes, so anything that makes my lashes visible to the naked eye is amazing to me.  This mascara definitely makes them look longer and thicker without giving me spider lashes.  I buy the waterproof kind and it stays put, no raccoon eyes.

$6.98 at Walmart

I hope you are all enjoying this holiday season.  My next post will include a few last-minute gift ideas for all you procrastinators out there (myself included) and... drum roll please, my first ever give away to one lucky follower!  Stay tuned.



Dec 8, 2009

Cutco Spatula Spreader: A Kitchen Multitasker

If you've heard of Cutco Knives, chances are a college-age friend or family member has had you sit through an extremely long sales pitch/demonstration about how Cutco knives are the best out there and how you should spend obscene amounts of money on them.  Well, I've sat through their presentation as well and, although I had no money to spend on knives at that time, I caved and bought the 3-knife set.  The set I purchased came with Cutco's Spatula Spreader as a free gift.  Honestly, that's the only reason I bought the set because I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.  Don't get me wrong.  The knives are good quality and have a great unique handle that fits nicely in your hand, but in my opinion, they are waaaaay overpriced.  Now, that I've had the knives for several months, I'm thinking it was almost worth spending the money on the knives just to get the Spatula Spreader, or as I call it, the "Super-Duper Sandwich Maker".


The coolest thing you can do with this knife/spreader is make sandwiches in no time flat.  Now I know that isn't exactly earth shattering, but if you're someone who makes sandwiches for your kid's lunches, you'll appreciate this spreader for that aspect alone.  I think a reviewer (Sherkarr) from Epinions.com summed it up best:

"One of my favorite parts of the (knife) set was the spreader. It is flat like a spatula and then curved at the top, but with an edge on one side like that of the steak knives. If you buy nothing else from Cutco, buy the spreader! It is a sandwich makers dream! Slice the tomato, put mayo on the bread, chop up the onions and celery, mix the tuna...boom! No other tools necessary. And it is great for frosting cakes, and slice and serving cakes and pies."

If you've read my blog, you know I have a love affair with multitaskers.  Well, this handy little knife-spreader-spatula-in-one is at the top of my list of kitchen multitaskers that are well worth the dough (especially since you can find them on Ebay for less). I took it to a recent church dinner where pumpkin pie was the dessert, and I was told my spatula spreader out-cut and out-served every other kitchen utensil that was brought.

As far as the cost, I wouldn't recommend paying full price.  Cutco is notorious for being secretive about the prices of their knives.  They're not listed anywhere on their website and the sales reps won't even tell you what individual knives sell for unless you sit through their entire presentation.  Ebay retailers claim that Cutco sells it for $49 and most of their "buy it now" prices are $39 new or used for around $25.  I know buying a used kitchen utensil seems a little creepy, but just wash and sanitize it, and you won't care.   I've used and washed mine almost daily for the past 3 months and it still looks brand new.  I truly love this knife/spatula/spreader or whatever it is and I'm sure you will too.

If you need further convincing, you can read more reviews at Epinions.com



Dec 5, 2009

Great Gift Idea: Handmade Interchangeable Jada Belt Buckles

I was surfing around the blogosphere and ended up on the gorgeous blog, Blue Hydrangea, where I caught a glimpse of these to-die-for, handmade belt buckles.  They're sold on Esty by M "n" M Treasures and not only come in 200+ different styles/colors, they're also extremely affordable at $16 - $36 each!  I wouldn't mind finding one of these in my stocking.  (I sure hope my husband reads this post!)

 
 
A mere smattering of the belt buckles available.  To view more styles or to purchase, click here.

Dec 4, 2009

A Few Affordable Faves from Trader Joe's

I'm just back from a trip to my all-time favorite grocery store, Trader Joe's or TJ's.  I know some of you are die-hard fans already and know that store inside and out, but for those of you not yet converted, hopefully this post will help you see the light.  Not only is TJ's known for carrying products with high-quality, unprocessed ingredients, but Consumer Reports ranked Trader Joe's near the top of their list for lowest prices compared with all other nation-wide grocery store chains, including Costco and Walmart.

Frozen foods is definitely one area where TJ's excels.  Their frozen vegetables are the best we've tried.  Besides veggies, they have quite a few frozen products to save you time and energy in the kitchen.  A couple of my favorites are the Party Size Mini Meatballs ($3.69) and the Sweet Potato Frites ($2.29).  The meatballs are the perfect size to use as appetizers but also taste great on a sub or paired with pasta and your favorite sauce.  They're seasoned perfectly, unlike other frozen meatballs I've tried that are like little salt bombs.

My kids will not eat sweet potatoes or yams in any way, shape, or form...unless they look and taste like french fries.  As a dietitian, I'm all for getting veggies into your kids any way you can, but especially the brightly colored ones.  Just pop TJ's Sweet Potato Frites in the oven and you've got a side dish that your kids will love, even while their getting their daily dose of vitamin A.

 (Sorry about the poor photo quality...not much natural light in my kitchen.)

TJ's Puttanesca Sauce is not your ordinary jarred tomato sauce.  This stuff is just bursting with intense flavors from tomatoes, black and kalamata olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, and basil.  My husband is a bit of a pasta sauce snob, and we usually make our own, but he couldn't stop raving about this sauce the first time I served it.  Throwing a meal together with this stuff couldn't be easier.  Pasta, Puttanesca, salad, done.  Oh, and some crusty bread from TJ's bakery department would be nice too.


If you are a chocolate or coffee lover and you like the tartness of real yogurt, you have to try TJ's Coffeehaus line of european style yogurt ($0.99/5.3oz cup).  They carry two flavors, coffee and chocolate.  I'm not a coffee drinker but I adore the chocolate flavor.  The color reminds me of a chocolate frosty from Wendy's (another fave) but the texture is silky smooth.  With every spoonful you'll taste a perfect balance between tart, sweet, and rich chocolate flavors, with some added chocolate goodness on the bottom that you can stir in.  And with 25% of the daily value for calcium and only 130 calories per container, it's an indulgence I can feel good about.


Speaking of indulgence, TJ's carries a variety of high quality Belgium chocolate in one pound bars called Pound Plus ($3.99).  They break easily into one-ounce squares and are perfect for cooking and baking, but I also like to snack on a square or two of the dark chocolate after dinner.  YUM!!!


I'll just mention one more find exclusive for the holidays.  Mini Gingerbread Men cookies with white fudge icing in a festive green one pound box ($2.99) make a great addition to any gift basket or a perfect snack on Christmas Eve, and then you can leave a few out for you-know-who.  They have a strong ginger flavor without being too spicy and have just the right amount of icing on each crunchy little cookie.  Pair them with a glass of cold milk and good luck stopping at just one five.

Even if you don't have a Trader Joe's around the corner from you, it's worth taking a drive to one every once in a while to stock up on some high quality, very affordable products that you just won't find anywhere else.  You'll be glad you did.  I'm planning on posting a few faves from TJ's every once in a while so consider this the first of many.   And please let me know what some of your favorite TJ products are.  That place is like a treasure chest.  You never know what you're going to find until you dig around for awhile.
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