Wednesday, July 24, 2013

{Giveaway} and Review: ChicoBag

When I first considered reviewing the Original ChicoBag, I was thinking about approaching the review from a foodie standpoint such as using the bag whenever I'm grocery shopping. However, an unexpected thing happened and the ChicoBag Original was utilized in another way.

I had thrown the bag in my purse because, even though I have good intentions, I often forgot to take my shopping bags to the store. Since this bag is so compact in its attached carrying case, it is the perfect bag to throw in your purse whenever you go into the grocery store. In fact, it's perfect to keep in the glove compartment of your car. Put it in your suitcase whenever you travel to use as a laundry bag or to bring home those extra souvenir goodies.

But, back to how I ended up using my ChicoBag Original for the first time. In June, after suffering from a severe headache for almost a week, my husband was hospitalized for what turned out to be viral meningitis. When faced with what to do with my husband's dirty clothes and personal items, I remembered that I had the ChicoBag in my purse. It was perfect! I was so happy that I had the bag and that I had remembered to use it.

I recommend that you pick up a ChicoBag for yourself. Visit ChicoBag to check out all of the wonderful products available.  I want to spread my love of my ChicoBag Original with one of my readers. I've taken the liberty of picking out a bag in this beautiful shade of Boysenberry. I know you'll love it as much as I do. You never know when the bag will come in handy...
Disclaimer: ChicoBag provided me with review and giveaway products; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enjoying My Chef'n Products

Yes, I am a kitchenware junkie. The kitchenware section of a store is my favorite area. I can spend an hour perusing the small housewares section of T.J. Maxx and there's only about three rows. I look at every single item to see if I need to add it to my kitchen collection.

Chef'n must know about my obsession because they sent me several items to test and review. How do you like this whisk? I love it! It's two whisks in one, perfect for when you're extra busy in the kitchen and don't have a second whisk within reach. Plus, it's in my favorite There are several colors to choose from. I think this whisk would work well if you had to pack a few kitchen items to take camping or if you were going to cook in another kitchen away from home, anywhere where your space is limited.

Besides whisks, I'm also a little obsessed with measuring cups. I cried out in joy when I pulled these from the box. Yes, they're green and they're beautiful. These measuring beakers come in a set of three with 1, 2, and 4 cup capacities. Whenever I'm having a marathon baking session, I always use several measuring cups so these beakers are perfect for those days when I don't have time to wash the dishes as I'm baking along.

The beakers fit inside of each other so, unlike traditional measuring cups, they save space in your cabinet. They are made of silicone so are very flexible.

Because they are flexible, they bend easily to create a pour spout. Wouldn't this feature have saved me from some major spills?

Finally, I received this Dual Pepperball - salt on one side, pepper on the other. I haven't owned a pepper grinder in quite a while and had been considering buying both a salt and pepper grinder. I have tons of whole peppercorns that needed to be used.

My 10-year-old is a pepper freak! He puts it on everything so his eyes really lit up when he saw this. He couldn't wait to get grinding. The grinder is simple to use: turn the arrow to one side for salt and turn it around for pepper. The handle is easy to use and is a one-handed design.
Whenever I'm plundering through the kitchenware section of the store, I do look for certain brands, brands I know produce quality products. I've added another brand to my search list...Chef'n. I recommend that you add them to your list, too. Every product that I tested from them was high quality. As you can see from their web site, they have a large selection of products that can make your kitchen not only more functional but more fun.

Disclaimer: Chef'n provided me with these products for review; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blog Tour: "Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook"

Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook
by Shannon M. Smurthwaite
Published by Cedar Fort

A clean kitchen is an uneventful kitchen.
In Shannon Smurthwaite's cookbook, Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook, she pays homage to her Italian mother. The author grew up influenced by her mother's Italian cooking as well as Mormon traditions as her mother converted to the LDS faith as a young woman. 

If you're a fan of Italian food, you'll find plenty of recipes that will turn your kitchen into an Italian restaurant. The cookbook covers all traditional categories of recipes from appetizers, soup, bread, and sides to pasta, main dishes, sauces, and desserts. There is a wide variety of recipes that are perfect for beginning cooks as well as more advanced cooks.

The recipes call for simple ingredients and the directions are easy to follow. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a full-page photograph to tempt your taste buds.

I have recently learned about the delicious beauty of beef short ribs so was more than happy to test Nanny's Braised Short Ribs. They are the epitome of comfort food.

Nanny's Braised Short Ribs

2 lbs. short ribs
flour for dredging
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup finely chopped celery

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat large baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

After rolling short ribs in flour, brown ribs slowly in heavy skillet turning frequently. Pour off fat as it accumulates. Place ribs in baking dish.

In separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients, mix well, and pour over ribs. Cover and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until tender.

Visit Shannon's web site, My Italian Mama.  

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a copy of the cookbook; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sizzlin' Summer Reads: "Honey Crafting"

by Leeann Coleman and Jayne Barnes
Adams Media

I've been interested in honey for a while now. I wrote an article for my food column where I discussed the merits of using local honey in your cooking. We're fortunate to have a beekeeper/honey maker in our area who sells products made with the locally produced honey. In addition to the honey, I've enjoyed using the honey soap as part of face-washing routine. It seems to help calm any redness in my skin.

So, when I saw there was a new book being published that focused on honey, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. Honey Crafting: From Delicious Honey Butter to Healing Salves, Projects for Your Home Straight from the Hive by Leeann Coleman and Jayne Barnes is the new craft/cookbook from Adams Media.

If any aspect of honey interests you then you need a copy of this book. Each section of the book introduces you to the supplies that will be needed to create the products as well as the safety features to help ensure that the process runs smoothly. In the Honey Crafting for the Home section, you will learn to make your own beeswax candles. The second section, Honey Crafting for the Body, is full of recipes for soap, scrubs, lip balm, body cream, salves, and soothing syrups. While I haven't attempted any of the body crafts, I am fascinated by them and would love to try to make some of them since I love my honey soap so much.

Whenever I'm in the kitchen, I love to incorporate honey into my recipes as much as I can. I think honey provides the perfect amount of sweetness to my dishes, especially savory dishes. There are about three dozen recipes here in this cookbook that all incorporate honey into the list of ingredients. From vegetables and meat dishes to dressings, butters, and desserts, you will find a recipe that appeals to you.

Lemon-Honey Shrimp with Prosciutto
1-1/4 pounds shrimp (21-25 count), peeled and deveined
3 oz. prosciutto, very thinly sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 c. vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. honey
Salt, to taste
Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Cut the prosciutto into strips about 1-1/2 inches wide and 2-1/2 to 3 inches long. Wrap a strip of prosciutto around the center of each shrimp, pressing lightly to seal.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until the shrimp start to turn pink and the prosciutto starts to crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Season with pepper. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and tent with tinfoil to keep warm.
Add the stock, lemon juice, and honey to the pan and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the pan and stir to coat the shrimp evenly, being careful not to damage the prosciutto wrapping. Heat through, about 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

These shrimp were delicious! It was hard to wait until the rest of the meal was done before we jumped in and devoured them. Sweet and savory - my favorite combination.
I think this book would make a lovely gift. It's absolutely gorgeous with its golden honey cover and beehive pattern motif that runs throughout the pages of the book. Give this book with some beeswax candles and a jar of local honey. It's a winner!

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a review copy of the cookbook; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Cookbook Review: "Your Cup of Cake"

by Lizzy Early
Published by Covenant
I've been very fortunate to have access to a lot of cookbooks over the past couple of years. In fact, I have a huge stack lined up right now to be reviewed. I try to review in chronological order of the cookbook's arrival to me. However, I couldn't help but move this cookbook to the top of the review list. I feel a little guilty about that, but I'm just so in love with this cookbook and I want you to know about!
Before this cookbook arrived in the mail, I knew nothing about Lizzy Early and her blog, Your Cup of Cake. But, I know all about it now. I've read all of her past posts and follow her on Twitter immediately stopping to check out her blog when she announces a new post. I like her blog just that much. Why do I like her blog so much? That's an easy answer. Each post is a successful combination of a short back story (sometimes one paragraph) followed by a recipe and accompanied by beautiful photos. Little fluff, big impact!
Chocolate Vanilla Cupcakes
The cookbook follows the same formula. Lizzy includes an introductory paragraph at the beginning of each chapter and then dives right in to the recipes. Yes, this is a cupcake cookbook. All cupcakes...all the time. There are eight chapters of cupcakes and a final chapter on tips and tricks. And, let me go ahead and tell you that every recipe in the cookbook starts with a cake mix. That just adds to the beautiful simplicity of it all. Each recipe starts with a cake mix but is enhanced and enriched by other ingredients. There is a full-page photograph of each cupcake.

Your Cup of Cake covers all of the classics, vanilla and chocolate and every combination of the two. After the classics, it moves on to more creative combinations such as Apple Cider Cupcakes, Blueberry Pancake Cupcakes, Peaches and Cream Cupcakes, and Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes. I have no doubt that these cupcakes can stand up next to any gourmet cupcake bakery.
Lizzy has not only set out to write a blog and cookbook that delivers delicious recipes, but she also strives to help her readers with tips and tricks for recreating the cupcakes at home. One of my favorite sections of her blog is her Tips and Tricks page. This page has instructional posts on how to use different piping tips, how to photograph your results, and even how to get organized if you ever cater an event.
Somewhere along the way, I learned that she has another cookbook coming out in 2014. I can't tell you how excited I am about that. But, I don't know if I can put this cookbook down long enough to read another one. Go now and read the blog, then buy the book. You won't be disappointed!
Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a copy of the cookbook; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Getting to the Point: New West KnifeWorks

Mini Chopper Chef Knife Fusionwood 2.0

My husband has several loves in the kitchen. One of those is his love of knives. I know that I can always drag him into a kitchenware store because he enjoys looking at knives. I always call him my sous chef because he does all of the chopping and slicing whenever we cook on the weekend.

I knew that he would be more than happy to help me test and review this Mini Chopper Chef Knife Fusionwood 2.0 from New West KnifeWorks. We chop a lot of garlic at our house. We put it in almost every dish we make. Garlic oozes from our pores. This mini chopper was perfect to get the job done. I have some larger chef knives, but I loved the compact size of this knife. It's now been deemed the garlic knife.

When the knife arrived in the mail, it was sheathed in this leather case which I plan to continue to use for the knife's storage to protect the blade. It will be perfect on those rare occasions whenever I travel to cook in unfamiliar kitchens.
These knives come in different color combinations, all are beautiful. This one is called peacock. You can also choose a more subdued, solid color if that's what suits you.

Over the years, I've learned that a sign of a quality knife is when the blade is a whole piece and goes all the way through the handle. As you can see from this photo, this is a strong knife that should last for the rest of my life.
I definitely look at this knife as an investment for my kitchen. I'm hoping to add more knives from the Fusionwood 2.0 Collection to my collection. It may be a long, slow process, but a worthy one.
If you would love to add some of these beautiful knives to your collection, visit New West KnifeWorks Facebook page. They have a giveaway going from now until the end of August. Here's the link to enter to win:
Disclaimer: New West KnifeWorks provided me with the product to review; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Welcome to The Spice Lab

The Spice Lab
Gourmet Salt Collection
First of all, this is probably one of the most beautiful presentation of spices that I've ever seen. Don't you love it? I do! I was so excited to open up the box and find the Old World Salt Collection from The Spice Lab.

The Old World Salt Collection featured six different salts: Wild Mushroom Cyprus Flake, Chardonnay Oak Smoked, Flor de Sal Algarve, Guerande Gray Salt (Coarse), Citron Cyprus Flake, and White Cyprus Flake. The collection came with a helpful key card that described which salts would work well with different foods and also how the salts should be used in terms such as cooking and finishing. I used the Chardonnay Oak Smoked salt on fish. Delicious!

The salt came housed in this cedar stand with scooper. This would make the perfect gift for the foodie in your life. My husband and I share a tremendous love of spices and his eyes really lit up when he saw this collection. He loves nothing more than grinding away on our mortar and pestle.

The Spice Lab is more than just gourmet salt. They also sell spices, peppers, spice blends and rubs. In addition to the web site,, products can be found all over the country. See the list of stores here. I'm excited to visit Caviar & Bananas on my next trip to Charleston.
Investing in quality spices can really expand your cooking repertoire by turning ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary. It can also be the perfect gift for the cook who has everything. I don't think you can ever have too many spices.
Disclaimer: The Spice Lab provided me with this produce to review; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

PlanetBox: A Product Review

Last New Year's Eve, I made a resolution to pack my children's lunches for school. From the first day they returned to school in January until today when they're in summer camp at the YMCA, I have packed their lunches every day without fail. As a lunch-packing mom, I'm sure that you know how frustrating it can be to figure out what to pack and how to pack it. I've opened up lunch boxes at the end of the day to find that hardly anything had been touched. That means it's time to rethink what is being packed.

One company that is trying to help all those haggard parents out there is PlanetBox. The company provided me with this product, PlanetBox Shuffle, to review. What is PlanetBox? According to their web site, a PlanetBox is "part bento box, part TV dinner tray, our segmented containers are the best way to pack delicious, no waste meals for school, work, or on the go." There are three different types of boxes: the Launch (large), the Rover (medium), and the Shuttle (small, snack-size). You can check out all of the details here.
The Shuttle I received came with an aliens carrying bag and magnet set. The carrying bag is lightly insulated. There are several sets to choose from or you can purchase the box without the carrying bag. As you can see from the photo below, the box is quite attractive without the magnets. Of course, as soon as my 8-year-old saw the magnets and carrying bag, he claimed them as his own.

The complete set comes with the carrying bag, magnets, and the tall dipper. The dipper is perfect for salad dressing or, my favorite, caramel sauce for my apples. The large compartment can easily hold a sandwich, wrap, or salad while the smaller compartment is perfect for a side of fruit or veggies.

While my son wants to take the Shuttle back to school when he returns, I've been sneaking around and using it for my own snacks and lunch this summer. I love the idea of using a product that is sturdy and can be reused indefinitely. To wash the box, I quickly washed in warm, soapy water and wiped dry. The stainless steel construction kept the food perfectly chilled as I put my Shuttle in the refrigerator until I was ready to eat. 
If you're making changes in your life that involve producing less waste and you want a product that can hold up to regular use, then a product from PlanetBox may be the investment for you.
Disclaimer: PlanetBox provided me with the review product; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sizzlin' Summer Reads: "Noodlemania"

by Melissa Barrow
Quirk Books

One of the first dishes that I ever made for my children was noodles, seasoned noodles to be exact. Seasoned noodles consist of cooked vermicelli drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with garlic salt. My children ate these noodles from the time that they could eat from the table to current day - as in ten plus years now.
There is just something about kids and pasta. Now, someone has written a book to celebrate the relationship between children and pasta. In Noodlemania!, Melissa Barrow has created recipes that children will love to help you prepare and eat. If you have kids, and they love pasta, then you need a copy of Noodlemania!
The first word that comes to mind when I look through this book is fun! Even the chapter titles are fun: Totally Tubular, Twisted & Twirly, Super Skinny, Very Stuffed, Wheels & Whatever, and Sweet Treats. While some of the recipes celebrate flavor favorites such as Pizza Pasta Bake, Toss 'Em Taco Pasta, and Bacon Ranch Attack, other recipes will bring out your child's creativity with dishes such as Little Ladybug Salad which uses cherry tomatoes and black olives to create ladybugs. Your child might enjoy making Silly Sea Creatures using hot dogs and spaghetti.
There are plenty of recipes to satisfy adults, too, such as Chicken Cordon Blue Pasta, Lasagna Pinwheels, and Rollin' Chicken Alfredo. Finish up the meal with a dessert made from ramen noodles in the form of Crunchy Cinnamon Noodle Ice Cream Sundaes.
When I chose to highlight a recipe made from ramen noodles, I ended up introducing my son to these noodles for the first time. He's fallen in love with them and we now keep a supply of them in our kitchen just in case he's in the mood for a quick and simple lunch.

Best Ramen Ever
2 pkgs. ramen noodles
1 Polish sausage ring, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
Cook the noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a large frying pan, cook the sausage and peppers together until the sausage slices are slightly browned. Stir in the cooked ramen noodles and toss to combine.

Who will like this cookbook? This cookbook is perfect for parents (and pasta lovers) who love to get creative in the kitchen. Many times, a picky eater will respond to food served in a unique way. The cookbook contains interesting photography and illustrations that will appeal to children. Your child will enjoy looking through the cookbook and picking out a meal for you to cook for dinner. 
Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a review copy of the cookbook; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.