Cooking Tool Thursday: Charles Viancin Silicon Lids

I love funky, bright, kitchen accessories.  Add functionality and I’m sold. These silicon lids by Charles Viancin are one of my favorite accessories because they are incredibly useful and artsy fartsy, all while being gentle on the environment.

They come in all different sizes so they’re incredibly versatile.  I use them all the time on the stove when don’t want to search for the proper-fitting lid for a pot or pan. I also use them when I make a salad, sauce, dressing or salsa that I need to cover and set aside for mealtime (or as leftovers).  

What’s great about these beauties is when you put them on your bowls or pans, they create an airtight seal, keeping your food fresh and in place without having to waste saran wrap or foil.  This eliminates the guilt I inevitably feel (about using yet MORE plastic) when I need to cover something for a short time.

And last, but certainly not least, here’s some more important deets. They are:

  • BPA free 
  • Oven safe (up to 428 degrees)
  • Microwave safe
  • Dishwasher safe 
  • Freezer safe 

You can buy them individually but I recommend buying a set of variable sizes.  They really are THAT useful! Get them HERE.

Interested in learning more about Charles Viancin’s products, click HERE

 

Cooking Tip Tuesday: The best way to clean your blender

I love my blender. But cleaning it can be a pain in the butt! Especially when I’ve made a salsa, pesto or other thick sauce in it. 

Trying to manuever my awkwardly shaped sponge wand under the blades to get them clean can be unsuccessful. And, if I don’t get it totally clean, my next 3 smoothies take on a hint of onion or garlic. 🤢

That is, until I discovered this hack!

Follow these simple steps and your blender will be clean and back to neutral in no time:

  1. Rinse it immediately after using.
  2. Add hot water, and a squirt of dish soap.
  3. Put the lid back on your blender, put your blender on the blender base and give her a whir. 
  4. Remove blender from base, remove the lid, pour out soapy water and rinse well. 

VOILA! A clean blender!
 

Sundays with Samantha: Calbee Harvest Snaps

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If you have children, grandchildren, teach children or have spent any amount of time with a child, you know SNACKS ARE ESSENTIAL.  To a child, an hour without a snack is like days without a meal for a grown human.  And unless you want to have an incredibly whiny, grumpy child, it’s in everyone’s best interest to have snacks on hand.

Yes, it’s a pain and can be costly BUT kids require lots of fuel. They never stop moving and are constantly growing (mentally and physically) so it’s essential they get healthy snacks, most of the time. That way, they get the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.

And it’s far from easy.  Grocery store shelves are overwhelmingly stocked with junk food. I’m constantly on the lookout for decent snacks (beyond fruits and veggies, of course) and Calbee Harvest Snaps fit that bill.

These pea-pod shaped snacks are a long time favorite.  We’ve been a fan since their “Lightly Salted” debut.  We love these snacks because they are crunchy yet airy and light.  They are loaded with flavor yet not spicy or unfamiliar. And we obviously aren’t the only Harvest Snap lovers because recently, the varieties available have exploded.  You can now find them made of black beans and lentils and infused with flavors like Caesar, Onion and Thyme, Habañero, and Wasabi Ranch (plus those shown above).

Yes, they’re delicious.  But nutritionally, these little guys stand out.  No matter the variety, the #1 ingredient is either peas, beans or lentils. Per ounce (22-24 pieces) you get: 120 calories, 6 g (of mostly unsaturated) fat, 2-4 g fiber, 4-5 grams of protein, and 6-9% Daily Value of iron (all of which are naturally occurring).  That’s actually really good for a kids snack.

Lets compare your typical Veggie Straws, for example.  The #1 ingredient is potato starch and potato flour.  For roughly the same amount of calories and fat, you don’t even get a full gram of fiber or protein and only 2% Daily Value of iron. Woh. Woh.

BONUS: Calbee Harvest Snaps are processed in a facility that is free of nuts and gluten and many varieties are dairy free so they are a great choice for kids (or adults) with allergies.

Where to buy: They are often hiding in the produce section of your conventional grocery store or health food store so if you don’t see them, check with your store clerk.  You can also find them at superstores such as Target or Walmart.  And of course, you could order a sampler pack on Amazon HERE.

You can also visit the Calbee Harvest Snaps store locator HERE.

 

 

 

Favorite Recipe Friday: Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze

My friend Melanie recently gave me bags full of lemons from her tree.  They are the juiciest, most delicious lemons EVER.  After loads of gratitude, my mind quickly drifted into Lemon Ricotta Cookie land. :drool emoji:

These Lemon Ricotta Cookies from Giada De Laurentiis were featured on her “Care Packages” episode.  And rightfully so. They are incredible and say “I care” a lemon-tree’s worth (thanks to the juice AND zest). They are soft and fluffy, sweet and tart.  They are like a cake-cookie cross-over: hand-held like a cookie, crumbly yet moist like a cake.  In fact, I’m making these bad boys for dessert TOnight.  :drool emoji:

If you want to show your people “you care” or if you just want to make some darn good  cookies, you can find the recipe (and video) HERE. 

Wild Card Wednesday: (How to) Sharpen your knives!

One of the first articles I posted was about one of THE most important kitchen tools…a good quality chef’s knife.  A brand new knife is amazing but, what happens when it starts to dull?  Not so amazing anymore.  Plus, a dull knife is actually more dangerous than a sharp knife because you end up having to use more pressure to cut through something, which inevitably sends food flying off the board and the knife chopping your fingers instead.

The good news is, quality knives are meant to be sharpened and it’s pretty easy to maintain a sharp edge.  And now-a-days, there are some very affordable products that do most of the work for you, quickly and painlessly.

Here’s what I recommend for your average home cook:

Manual (or hand-held) Sharpeners

There are 2 main types of manual sharpeners:

  • Those with slots containing various levels of (knife safe) abrasives inside.  The abrasive material removes small pieces of metal as you slide your knife through, reshaping the sharp edge.  The Chef’s Choice sharpener (seen below), uses diamond abrasives and is very versatile.  It can be used on European/American/Asian Style kitchen, sports or pocket knives.

Chef's Choice 4643 ProntoPro Angle Select Diamond Hone 3 Stage Manual Knife Sharpener

  • The second type of manual sharpener is like the MinoSharp version shown below.  It uses ceramic wheels and water to do the job.  It has 2 different levels of ceramic abrasives (in wheel form) to remove the excess metal. This goes one step further than your average manual sharpener and rinses the pieces of metal away with the water as you sharpen. I use one very similar to this one and love it.

MinoSharp 440/BR Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus, Black/Red

Electric Sharpeners

Electric sharpeners do the same thing as the manual ones. The difference is they are motorized so you hold the knife and let the abrasives do the work.  They work well, for the most part, but depending on the shape of your knife (namely, those with a large bolster), your knife may not fit properly and the knife can become unevenly sharpened.  Also, they cost quite a bit more than the manual versions.  If electric is what you want, Cooks Illustrated (the authority on all things tested and perfected) recommends the Chef’s Choice Trizor Edge shown below.

 

Sharpening Steel (a.k.a, the steel rod found in knife sets): This is actually NOT a sharpener. It’s purpose is to hone your knife.  WTF does that mean?  Think of if as a knife file.  It doesn’t remove metal from your knife (like a sharpener does).  It reshapes a dull edge, creating a smoother, straighter, sharper edge.  From my experience, this is mostly useful in a commercial kitchen or if you are using your knife to chop a lot, for a long period of time.  I personally don’t use mine.  I go straight to my sharpener when my knife dulls.

Side note: Some sharpeners are designed specifically for one type of knife over another (i.e. Asian vs. German vs. American) so just make sure you read the details before purchasing.

Lucky for me, the lovely folks at Cooks Illustrated, wrote THIS in-depth article about the different ways to sharpen and maintain your knives.  If you want to read more about it and see a video of how to hone your knife, check it out.

If properly maintained, good knives will last forever. “A sharp knife is a chef’s best friend”ancient proverb

Click HERE to buy the manual Chef’s Choice Pronto Pro Diamond Knife Sharpener

Click HERE to buy the manual MinoSharp Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus

Click HERE to buy the electric Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Edge Sharpener

 

Cooking Tool Thursday: NutriBullet

Now-a-days, the Vitamix or similar high-powered blenders are all the rage.  And, rightfully so.  They are amazing, whizzing beasts…the Rolls-Royce of blenders.  Unfortunately, they come with the Rolls-Royce price (about $400-$600).  Holy-Pretty-Penny-Batman.

I personally don’t have a use for such a big, powerful blender.  I rarely use my standard blender and often use my food processor for big jobs.  If YOU are in the market for a Vitamix, you can get it on Amazon HERE.  They usually have the best price, customer service is great and if you’re a Prime member, you can get free shipping, for most things, in a day or 2. Hard. To. Beat.

But enough about the Vitamix.  I’m here to tell you about the humble, the amazing…NutriBullet by Magic Bullet.  I absolutely LOVE this little machine. It’s compact, taking up little space in my packed cabinets. It blends, purees and emulsifies like a champ.  And it works amazingly well for blending sauces or salsas, smoothies or anytime I need to blend a small batch of anything.  With THIS NutriBullet you can say goodbye to the days of watching your blender blades spin, not catching the ingredients you need to blend because it’s too big. 

THIS 12 piece NutriBullet set is awesome because it includes 2 different size cups, resealable lids, removable handles (for taking your smoothie on the go), and 2 different types of blades (one for emulsifying and one for breaking down dry ingredients).  It’s super affordable ($79.99) and the pieces are really easy to clean (they are dishwasher safe if you so choose to go that route).

If blending, emulsifying or pureeing is your game, NutriBullet is the name.