whee!

2013 Holiday Guide: Book Suggestions For Your Foodie Friends

December 22, 2013 - Written by Diana

There is still time to run into your favorite bookstore and pick up a nice book-related gift (or two) for your foodie friends and family, and this Holiday Guide contains a few book suggestions for your favorite foodie.  Some of these books are also in ebook form, if you want an extra for yourself. In fact a great gift for reading recipes is an Ipad Mini or a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.  My husband has the tablet – and uses apps to read kindle, nook and other eReader type books. It’s also perfect for taking photos of your food and for looking at photos, much better than a cellphone.  Enjoy!  I hope you get to experience a new recipe or foodie inspiring book to help you throughout the new year.  By the way – Amazon says the last time for overnight is Midnight Monday December 23rd, EST.

The following books were sent to me this year and these are the ones that I feel would make nice gifts:

 

Cookerati Holiday Gift Guide 2013

December 10, 2013 - Written by Diana

This is the official Cookerati Holiday Gift Guide for 2013.  These are things I’ve tried out that I like and most I’ve paid for or used extensively, some are repeats.  I’ll have a book guide in a few days, but these are things to look for now since we only have a couple of weeks left.

Yonanas – this was a review product and one of my fun gadgets that I tried out this year.  You freeze bananas or other fruit and put it through the Yonanas machine.  It smashes the bananas into a creamy consistency almost like banana ice cream.  No sugar or milk involved.  This is a great dorm gift, or fun gathering because you can grab a banana from the store or cafeteria, freeze it and have a quick late night snack – or even invite friends over and tell them to bring their own frozen fruit.  Also, pre-teens can make their own yonanas, as long as you have frozen fruit on hand. My mom, my kids, my husband and I all loved yonanas and we had fun trying different fruit in the yonanas machine.

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Celebrate With Cookerati and a Kenmore Elite 5 Quart Stand Mixer Giveaway

December 13, 2010 - Written by Diana

This Contest has been closed.

I was given a choice of Kenmore small kitchen appliances to review for Cookerati and also give one away.  In spite of all the drama of the holiday season, there is something to celebrate in Cookerati-land.  This December we hit three years of posting to this wonderful blog of ours.  We started with a bunch of different people, but it slowly wound down to Deb and me, though Deb does more of the administrative stuff and I do more recipes.   Anyway, I chose the Kenmore Elite 5 Quart stand mixer because darn it I didn’t have one, and I coveted one for years.  Years, I tell you. So in honor of our blogiversary – Cookerati is giving one away too, (okay, the giveaway was from Kenmore, but it’s perfect timing don’t you think?)

I once asked my husband for a mixer and the frugal guy researched and bought me a nice compact hand mixer. Yeah, it’s like getting a hatchback with manual controls when you want the sedan with all the bells and whistles.  True as that is, the hand mixer was a good gift and my valiant steed for the last ten years.  It still works well, however, whenever I look at my new shiny red stand mixer I know I’ll be less likely to pull out the old one when I need to use a mixer.

Let me tell you about this red hot hunk of mixing love.  It’s sturdy – if it falls on you, it might break a toe.  It doesn’t move around on the counter, because the tinygripper feet grab the counter.  My daughter told me that just because I can leave my mixer unattended, doesn’t mean I should.  I can though, it doesn’t go anywhere.  It locks in the upward position, or down – it doesn’t really bounce, so it won’t pop out of the bowl.  It is loud – noisy, cause it’s got power – ten speeds and 400 watts of mixing power.  It comes with stuff – a wire whisk, a dough hook, and a flat beater blade. It also had two bowls that lock in  – one with a handle. The head tilts back all the way, so you can get to your bowl easily.  My husband was most impressed with the light – the light that shines down into the bowl so that you can see exactly what is going on in the bowl. There was one little piece I couldn’t figure out.  This little hidden spot behind the Kenmore logo in the front.  I read the instruction manual to find that the attachments that fit another name brand stand mixer will fit and work with my new Kenmore Elite.  Yay!  Those of you not wanting to buy separate food mills, can get an attachment made by another brand that will work just fine to smoosh your tomatoes.  Way cool.

The first thing I made was cinnamon rolls.  That’s one thing I never attempted with my other mixer because I knew it was too much work so I used the bread machine instead.  This Stand Mixer rocked the dough without a hitch.  Then I swapped bowls and made the icing.  I intentionally left the lumps in the powdered sugar and left the mixer alone.  I made smooth creamy cinnamon roll icing, the perfect topping for cinnamon rolls.  I’ll keep you updated with my mixing love as I go along, but I totally recommend it for a holiday gift for a loved one.

Here’s the Giveaway:

We are giving away a Kenmore Elite 5 Quart Stand Mixer to a Cookerati Commenter.  We want some nice comment love.  Tell us what you would like to make with your Kenmore Elite that you can’t do with your hand mixer.  Something new.  Our contest extends to everyone so long as the shipping address is a US address.  So if you have a nice mixer, but you’d like to win one to ship to Aunt Martha, or your blogging friend Steve, or your college niece you may do so.  We will only ship to the US, but the giveaway winner may be from somewhere else – we just won’t ship to outside the US.

The Rules:  This Contest has been closed.

In the comments tell us what would you make with your new Kenmore Elite 5 Quart Stand Mixer.  Be descriptive – one and two word answers won’t do.  If you have a link to a website with a recipe, throw it in.

An extra entry for:

One extra entry each(2 total – you choose which two) for a tweet or if you subscribe to either by @Cookerati (twitter) , or become a Facebook Liker (see link on right), and another one if you subscribe to our weekly newsletter.  Leave a comment with a link to your tweet and/or your twitter name or facebook name and let me know if you subscribe or like us.

Twitter –This Contest has been closed.

Girls Night In with Godiva Liqueurs

May 5, 2010 - Written by Diana

This past weekend was a big blur of family time.  Two nephews, from different sisters had events going on this weekend.  My husband and I wrangled my mother in law to stay with our teens (leave them alone, I think not), and drove 600 miles for a long weekend visit.  Long days of driving, they were.  Saturday while we were at my sister’s enjoying each other’s company, I brought out the Godiva Liqueurs I was sent to review.  First off, I must tell you I was totally caught off guard because my mom who doesn’t like sweet stuff, enjoyed the white chocolate a lot.  I mean, she tasted and sent the glass back for another taste, because it was that good.  I confess, I didn’t bring the mocha, I wanted to share the mocha with my in laws.  I thought chocolate and white chocolate for my family, mocha to share with the in-laws and caramel just for me.  After eating, we picked up some ice cream and made our own desserts.  My sister doesn’t own ice, so the ice cream worked as a milky base, plus to help make it cool and thick.

It was fun seeing how each person made their dessert.

Me:  I took some coffee, added the ice cream and Godiva Chocolate liqueur.  It was more of a drink than a shake or an ice cream, but so good.  My husband stole some of mine. – My husband wasn’t interested in baseball, so he hung out with us and said that he thinks he would have gotten thrown out of the he-man woman hater’s club (Little Rascals).  In spite of getting kicked out, he enjoyed his half of the big mug o goodness.

Mom:  My mom had vanilla ice cream with White Chocolate Godiva Liqueur and then after tasting said it needed nuts.  My mother loves nuts in all of her ice cream, so that didn’t surprise me.  She said the nuts made it, but it was delicious.

Mimi: (My sister’s mother in law).  She took her mug of vanilla and stirred in Chocolate Godiva Liqueur. She kept saying it was so-o-o-o good.

Deb – I can’t remember how Deb ate hers.  I think I was too busy gulping mine down.

Then Monday, we were home and I made some Coffee Mocha Milk Mixers.   Take equal amounts of coffee, almond milk, and ice.  I put it all in the magic bullet and blended it, then added Mocha Godiva.

I seem to be addicted, because tonight I added Caramel Liqueur and stirred it around in some vanilla ice cream.

If you are getting together for Mother’s Day, bring a bottle of Godiva, some vanilla ice cream and maybe a few nuts (for your mom), let everyone make it their own way.  It was a fun delicious sit at the table and gab dessert, fast, easy and fun.  I just wish I had brownies to try it over, that would be so good too. I recommend it.

Deb – tell us what you did, because I forgot.

I had decided to give my sister those Godivas – Dawn chose the White Chocolate, Deb was happy because she wanted the Chocolate Godiva Liqueur.  I still have the Mocha and the Caramel.  MMMMMMmmm good. The bottles are so pretty they make a fabulous Mother’s Day gift, or offering.  The caramel was probably the sweetest.  The mocha a lot less sweet with a nice coffee, mocha taste.  The white chocolate is sweet without being overly so.  The Chocolate was  delicious, though not as strong of a chocolate taste as I thought it would be.

Disclosure:  I received a bottle each of White Chocolate, Chocolate, Mocha, and Caramel Liqueur to review.  The opinions are my own.

Barbecued Beef Chuck Short Ribs – A Nice Treat That You Don’t Want to Share

December 20, 2009 - Written by Diana

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA           The kids would have loved these ribs – if they were home, but we didn’t want to share, so we had them tonight when they were out.  Does it sound terrible that we save some of our favorite things for nights when they’re out?  Evenings together should be memorable, and delicious, not just sandwich night.  Plus, if I put in the effort, my husband does the pots and pans, how cool is that?  That’s not to say I spent all day on these ribs because I didn’t.  These were precooked cryo-vac ribs in a barbecue sauce.  Throw them in a pot of water still sealed for an hour and they are done. 

The barbecued ribs were so soft and tender, melt in your mouth delicious. I told my husband that we were probably way over our limit in portion size and could have shared it a little, but as we scarfed it down, we didn’t really care. I made  campanelle and pancetta in a smoky goat cheese, and cooked up some orange cauliflower that I froze at the end of the summer.  I usually don’t go this far when it’s just us, but my kids are growing up, so I had better get used to meals for two.

The Barbecued Beef Chuck Short Ribs came from U.S. Wellness Meats

A short background on the company:

U.S. Wellness Meats founder and fifth-generation farmer John Wood was farming the conventional way until a holistic land management seminar showed him the light.  Trusting that there was something to this “natural” thing, he raised his first all-forage, grass-fed cow in 1997. The resulting meat was more delicious and healthier than any beef he’d ever encountered:  high in omega-3s and Vitamin A and low in fat and bad cholesterol.  And though raising beef will never be as sustainable as carrot farming, USWM uses holistic farming techniques that use natural/seasonal growth cycles to raise their animals.  We think of USWM meats as a product of the “solar-powered cow.” (The sun feeds the grass which feeds the cow which feeds the, well, you get it.)  The meat is free from hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, preservatives and additives.

I can tell you these ribs were out of this world good.  U.S. Wellness meats is a mail order company, you order it online, then it’s delivered in a styrofoam cooler to your door.  This way the meat isn’t sitting around a freezer case in a store, it’s direct from them to you.  This makes a great holiday gift, especially someone who works all day and wants a no fuss delicious meal without the mess.  If you go visiting, you can send a thank you for letting me sleep on your couch gift, or if you are far away from your mom, or your kids who could use a little help, this would be a great treat. 

U.S. Wellness has a faq page, that I visited and was interested in finding out why they weren’t certified organic.  This was their response:

Are you certified organic? Why not?
All U.S. Wellness Meats pastures and animals have been maintained with organic principles in mind since 2000. Unfortunately, the state of Missouri dropped a state-run organic-certification program and turned it over to a private certifier several years ago. The private certifier wanted 3% of the gross income of the preceding year to maintain the license. We politely said no, and felt if Thomas Jefferson were still alive he would concur.

Interesting, huh?

My side dishes used a smoky cheddar goat cheese that I got from U.S. Wellness Meats to try out also.  They have all different types of meats including things like lamb oysters – betcha didn’t know where you could find them.  Plus U.S.Wellness Meats has cheeses, and soaps and candles made with tallow.  It’s worth investigating.

 

Disclosure: U.S. Wellness Sent me the Meat and Cheeses to review.  I gave my honest opinon.  That’s it.

Book Suggestions for the Cookerati 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

December 19, 2009 - Written by Diana

Gadgets, and tools are great gifts, but cool ideas and inspiration come from great books too.  I like to give books out, though sometimes I have a hard time parting with the ones I like best.  I’ve got a few choice suggestions for you and I hope whatever books you choose – whether they’re from the list or not, they help to inspire you throughout the new year.  Cooking should be an adventure, we should all step out of our comfort zones and tryout something new for us. First I want to admit, that I haven’t tried a recipe out of every book like I usually do, due to lack of time. I will however, try to get to that and let you know about how the recipe turned out at a later time.  I will tell you honestly how I feel about the book as a gift though based on what I like in a cook book.

image The first book is not really a cookbook. It’s more about your food, and the constant planning, planting and picking that goes on in a farm, specifically Henry’s Farm.  The book The Seasons On Henry’s Farm – A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm by Terra Brockman was a fascinating peak inside the lives of Henry Brockman, brother to Terra Brockman and the entire Brockman family (including Terra) as they work Henry’s farm for a whole year.  The book starts out talking about the soil and whether they will get the garlic in, and ends the next fall talking once again about whether they’ll be able to get the garlic in the ground in a small space of time when the ground dries out enough to plant, but hasn’t frozen yet. In between, we learn about preparing the vegetables that are going to the market, planning the farm market stands, gathering vegetables for the csa and the downtime  of taking a nap in the truck on the way to the market for an extra hour of sleep. The winter time is still very filled with work, building the hoop houses for planting the seeds early in the year in order to have a head start on the other gardens.  Then into the Spring and the Olympic summer gardening where they’re racing against time and daylight to get everything done during their heaviest producing part of the growing season.

Throughout the book Terra has sprinkled some family recipes to go with the produce they grow.  I love how she defines the vegetables and fruit that are a little too ripe, or have a bad spot as forus.  They save it for themselves, clean it up and use whatever they can.  This part always reminded me of my grandmother’s toy and card store – the toys with the broken boxes, or having a missing piece (nothing important) or a ripped lid, became forus also. Terra Brockman has a way of describing what she sees, smells and feels as she works the farm, that makes you fall in love and yet feel all the aches at the end of the day from all the hard work.  It’s not a book that romanticizes the garden, but it makes you know how they feel about the land they work.  The Brockmans don’t use the chemicals for pesticides, or fertilizers, they encourage you to bring your own bags for your groceries, and try to find ways to work things out for the long run betterment, not the quick fix. 

The farm is family run, and family is such and important part of this book.  Terra tells about her father and his physical health issues that plague him, about the death of her grandmother, and her relationships with her siblings.  It’s important to see how important even the kids are to the farm and how much of an impact it has when they go back to school at the end of the summer, but also how even the smallest can do small things to help out – big things too.

My words for describing this book are so inadequate for how I feel about it.  I want to own this book, and keep it forever, but also share every word, it’s that good.  Terra Brockman is such a gifted writer.  My Grade – A and two dozen pluses wouldn’t be enough.  This book is a treasure.

 

image New England Soup Factory Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes from the Nation’s Best Purveyor of Fine Soup by Marjorie Drucker and Clara Silversteinis a great book too.  Soup is a staple in my home and it’s one of my favorite meals to prepare. This book is very well laid out, starting with the basics of broth making.  It has all the favorites when it comes to soup, like chicken, tomato, chowders, all the soups you would expect.  Then of course there is the pumpkin soups, the bisques, the vegetarian soups – soups different enough to feel like you’re really trying something new. The last part of the book deals with sides, and sandwiches, because soup needs a little something on the side.  The photos are fantastic and drool worthy, the pages glossy and the book nicely laid out.  Here’s something –  I made the Pumpkin and White Bean soup.  My idea of what this soup would taste like was no where close to the actual results.  This soup raised our expectations to a to a higher level, seriously. These people are the experts at developing the flavor of soup. My grade A+

 

image The Baking Answer Book – Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face, Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask by Lauren Chattman . I liked this book, though I only got to see a pre-published copy that was a little rough looking.  However, the important part of the book had to do with every baking problem you can think of.  It is laid out in a question and answer form, but also it is divided into sections. The sections are ingredients, equipment, science for bakers, know your oven, and then into all the different type of baking products – quick breads, cookies, cakes, pies, etc, and ending with metrics and high altitude baking. Each section addresses the basics of that section and gives a recipe.  Sprinkled throughout are drawings.

Baking to me is more science than the other forms of cooking and more precise in the order, quantity, and quality of ingredients, as well in which ingredients to use. Sometimes you can follow directions – and still somehow end up with a different product than intended.  This book will help you see where you went wrong and how to correct any issues.  That’s the real value in this book, figuring out how to make it come out perfectly the next time.  My grade B +.

 

image The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book: Great Dairy-, Egg-, and Nut-Free Treats for the Whole Family by Kelly Rudnicki  The title pretty much covers it.  These are baking recipes that don’t use dairy, egg or nuts.  It basically takes the recipes you love and substitutes for those ingredients you need to avoid. I actually like that it shows us how to redo blueberry bread, or pizza, or cookies.  Kids are wary of strange looking meals and foods.  If a kid has an allergy, sometimes they feel alienated from others.  If you provide baked goods that look like what they have in their own homes, they won’t think twice about eating it. I’m serious, I’ve made plenty of meals the kids just rolled their eyes at.  Soft cover book, with beautiful glossy pics.  My grade A.

 

image Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations: Entertaining at Home with New York’s Savviest Hostesses Compiled by Florence Fabricant and the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.   The recipes in this are organized by holidays.  First you get a menu, lovely table setting pictures, and then each recipe in the menu along with a little paragraph about the special remembrance when this menu item was made and some personal serving suggestions. While the book exudes Elegance and Entertaining, the recipes look reasonable and not too difficult to prepare, using ingredients from your local grocery store.  This is a nice size hard cover book, with lovely pictures and very clear directions.  There are pictures, but I wish there were more. It focuses more on the table settings than the food.  Sprinkled throughout are entertaining tips, and ideas.  The sales of this book benefits Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Society.  My grade A-.

 

image The Bryant Family Vineyard Recipes From Great Chefs and Friends by Barbara Bryant and Betsy Fentress – This is more of a coffee table size book than a regular cookbook. I love that every recipe is paired with a wine, so you know exactly what to serve.  All of the recipes were provided by acclaimed chefs and friends, inspired by the Cabernet Sauvignon that the Bryant Family Vineyard is known for.

First produced in 1992, the Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon enjoys the reputation of a "cult favorite" among wine connoisseurs and has a waiting list of over 6,000. As Park B. Smith of Veritas Restaurant noted in the foreword: "All of the chefs who have contributed to this book are artisans of their vocation. Their culinary delights are best appreciated, however, when teamed with the art of a winemaker. Food and wine are natural complements to one another." The Bryant Family Vineyard Cookbook helps readers achieve the ideal marriage of food and wine with helpful information on pairing each dish with a complementary wine.

The recipes are well laid out and anyone can prepare them.  Great vineyard and wine pictures throughout.  Lovely recipes, good for entertaining.  I didn’t count, but I think there is a high percentage that involve mushrooms.  So if you like mushrooms, this is definitely the book for you, they aren’t in the desserts though. No pictures of the actual food to judge by, which is a negative for me, but the book is really a quality book. Some of the proceeds will be donated to the Bowery Mission. Great Gift for the wine, fine food and mushroom connoisseur.  My grade B +.

 

image Elegant Entertaining Seasonal Recipes From the American Ambassador’s Residence in Paris. - This is definitely a coffee table book.  It combines the history of the American Embassy with the idea of entertaining in France with French Chefs.  Plenty of the Residence pictures, plenty of food and entertaining pictures.  The book is organized by holidays and it describes all of the different traditions with a French twist to the menu.  These recipes are  elegantly prepared, and displayed using out of the ordinary ingredients.  Nice book for someone who likes history and traditions along with French/American cooking.  My grade A-

Cookerati’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide Recommendations

December 10, 2009 - Written by Diana

I am a lover of things that are useful. I do also love the decorative and if they are both all the better for me. For years my husband balked at buying cooking things for me because it just wasn’t right. Now I give specifics, and he sometimes follows through because it’s what I want.  I have been trying out a bunch of stuff and I’m here to review and recommend. I’ll probably have other recommendations, but since you’re list checking now we want you to know what we think. These are the best of the best.  I still have a few more things to put out, including a book round up with some great choices, and some quality products to use when making gifts.  Those reviews are on the way.  I like to thoroughly try out my products before I give a review, I want Cookerati to be the place you can trust. 

 Cooking Tools:

Calphalon ReNew Calphalon  ReNew –  Fantastic idea.  You buy the new pots, and send them back the old to recycle for you.  I’m sending back the pots my son stuck inside each other that will no longer separate, which is the reason I needed new pots and pans.  I never tried Calphalon before, but I wasn’t thrilled with my previous non stick pans because they scratched off so easily. I now have the Calphalon Unison Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set  and this is my number one recommendation. Nobody should deal with macaroni and cheese stuck to the bottom of the pot.  If you have teenagers, you have stuck macaroni, let me tell you, but not with my new Calphalon.  The rivets are a love/hate thing.  They’re nice and big – which means the handles won’t come off like they did on the cheapo pan my husband bought last year, but on the downside you’ll have to be careful to clean them well.  It’s not really that bad, I like that the handles won’t unscrew. Another great point, you can start your eggs or food on the stove and pop them into the oven – up to 500 degrees. I’ve done that with my eggs and roasts – better than using two pots or doing all on the stovetop. They’re heavy enough that they don’t wobble on my glass top stove, like some of my older pots.  Cleaning is easy with a washrag. Some of the pans are made for searing, and others for the food (like eggs) to just slide off.  I love , love, love this set. You can find it online or instore.  My grade A+++ And give it another plus or two for recycling the old pots! In addition, approximately 35 percent of Calphalon cookware is made from recycled aluminum, another wow.

WMF Trend Ceramill Empty Grinding Mill WMF Trend Ceramill Empty Grinding Mill – I bought this at the North Market. Kay Davenport , the proprietor of North Market Cookware helped me pick it out. She pointed out that ceramic does better over heat and steam. This pepper grinder is so much better than those prefilled pepper grinders you find in the spice section of the grocery store. A couple of turns and you have a nice fine pepper sprinkling over your food instead of big pieces that take over your food. I really like this grinder. My Grade A.

 

Microplane Zester/Grater Microplane Classic Series Zester/Grater–Soft Handle – Kay also pointed this out to me. We were talking about whole nutmeg which she didn’t have, but I also needed a way to grate the nutmeg. This is a terrific item. I’ve been asking for a zester in my Christmas Stocking for years now and no one in my family could figure out what I needed. I’ve used this to grate cheese, and to zest lemons and oranges. It was so fantastic; I was gushing about it and my family thought I was nuts again. Last night, I let them use the microplane to grate parmesan over their spaghetti and they were dually impressed. Kay – if you’re listening, I’m sending my husband back for an herb grinder. Please help him, he knows nothing. My Grade A.

 

 

Crypton Dog Doodle ApronCrypton Dog Doodle Apron – I always thought I wanted a pretty apron (these are cool don’t get me wrong – The Crypton Doodle Dog Apron features the artist William Wegman’s signature dog doodle) something frilly and womanly.  I received one of these to try out and I’ve changed my mind.  Give me something that I can wash my pots and pans in and never get wet.  I can move my roasting pan, and if it sloshes, I’m still okay.  This is a good work apron, that looks good too.  My husband has said he’s going to use it doing the dishes too, because he’s tired of sitting around in wet clothes afterwards.  It’s a hard worker, that repels stains and water, so it still looks good afterwards.  Just wipe it off and let it dry. 

The apron is made of eco-friendly Crypton fabric, which is not only odor and bacteria resistant, but also includes a built in moisture barrier that prevents grease and liquids from penetrating the fabric and staining clothes.

My Grade A  – I love it.

Teas:

1st Flush 2009 Organic Fair Trade Green & White Tea Gift Set 1st Flush 2009 Organic Fair Trade Certified™ Green & White TeaThis is a great gift set, especially if you have a friend who appreciates fair trade and organic. 

This Taste of Origin comes from one of the oldest tea-producing gardens in the world. Located in the birthplace of tea-China’s Yunnan province-Mannong Manmai is an ancient tea garden where wild tea trees occur naturally, grown from 1,500-year-old seed stock.

Two Rishi Teas come with this set: Ancient Emerald Lily, Organic Fair Trade Green Tea & Ancient Moonlight White (2009), Organic Fair Trade White Tea – and not only are they delicious but beautiful to look at also. You put a tablespoon of tea leaves into the glass pot, and fill with hot (not boiling) water.  Let the tea steep for 4 minutes.

The glass teapot is fun to fill, but when you pour the tea into your cup, the tea leaves stay behind (something I was concerned about).  I also love that it all comes stored in a really nice bamboo basket with lid.   If you order this, order extra tea because it doesn’t come with a lot of tea.  There is enough for a few cups of each, but that’s it.  My Grade is an A. Available at www.rishi.com, Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods

Zhena's Gypsy Tea Zhena’s Gypsy Tea – If you like flavored Tea, this is a great place to get find the perfect fair-trade organic tea to suit your friends individual taste. These teas are infused with different flavors, so they’re not overpowering, but more of a light taste. My favorites – Chocolate Chai, Caramel Apple and Pumpkin Pie Spice.  Actually all of the chais were pretty good.  The tea bags look like round pillows, and come in a really nice tin. I hope the website comes back up so you can get a good look around. In the mean time, here’s a nice page showing all of the teas. Zhena’s Gypsy Tea.

My Grade A-. It just needs a touch more intensity, but otherwise, is really tasty.

Chocolate:

Scharffen Berger Chocolate Scharffen Berger is my number one pick for chocolate taste. Scharffen Bergen is Artisan chocolate, used in a lot of baking, but I’m talking about gifts, so if you are buying a chocolate bar, or buying a gift of chocolate, Scharffen Berger has some great tasting stuff. I loved the milk chocolate. Don’t buy the cheap stuff in the grocery store. Get this, it’s worth it and would be a great stocking stuffer.

 

 

 

Theo Chocolate Theo Chocolates – Theo is the only bean to bar chocolate factory in the United States.  Cool, eh? Theo is an Artisan Chocolate also and fair trade.  Theo has such great combinations of flavor.  My daughter loved the Almond Cherry Chocolate bar and took it back to college.  Hazelnut crunch was my favorite.  Who thought of putting sea salt in chocolate?  I salty sweet chocolatey bite – fantastic. I’m not sure I tasted the bread in the Bread and Chocolate Dark Chocolate, but I got a little butter flavor. The only one we couldn’t finish was the Chile Dark Chocolate.  We would take a bite, and after a minute you got the heat, a lot of heat.  Maybe it would be great for a Mole – or my niece that makes the cayenne chocolate cake. 

My grade for both chocolates A. 

 

 

Disclosure – Some of the products were provided to me for review – while I bought a couple myself.  I gave all items on the page an A (of some sort) because they were all great products worth a great grade.  This was my honest opinion, I liked them all.

Seven Items I’d Still Recommend For Christmas 2009

December 3, 2009 - Written by Diana

I’ve done reviews during the year and I like doing the reviews, even though it means trying things out I might not be in the mood for. I always tell the truth about what I’ve feel and I don’t do things I object to, like cookie diets.  I’d like to tell you my favorite reviews of the year, the ones I liked the best.  These are also the things I still use on a regular basis because I found them so useful. These are items I reviewed between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. They may not seem like the most elegant gifts, or the coolest, but these are the ones I use the most.

imageKyocera Ceramics – These knives are fantastic, still very sharp and cut easily.  My mom was struggling with one of my old knives, I gave her one of the ceramics and she thought they were wonderful.  When I told her it was a review item, she said that she hoped I gave them a great review because they deserve it.

image Aroma Rice Cooker
– I never thought I’d care if I had one of these since I made perfect rice(most of the time) without it. However, I found I could have perfect rice every time if I used the rice cooker.  My friend said he read about making steel cut oats with a rice cooker.  I might just try that one out.

image Cloth Napkins – Never going back to paper.  Cloth napkins are wonderful.

image CDN DSP1 Dual Sensing Probe Thermometer and Timer
– Best thing for a grillmeister because you can tell when the meat is ready, but not overcooked.

 

image  Pourfect Mixing and Measuring bowls and spoons. – Very sturdy and functional.

 

My two favorite books that I’d recommend again are:

image The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Cookbook

 

image The Christmas Table

Wolfgang Chocolate Berry Dipped Candies

October 30, 2009 - Written by Diana

Wolfgang Candies Recently, I was given the opportunity to taste Wolfgang Candies.  These were sweet dark chocolate candies filled with a light fruit syrup.  They’re individually wrapped and come in blueberry, raspberry and cranberry.  The berries are listed as ingredients which is a big plus, no artificial flavoring.  The ingredients include dark chocolate (sugar, chocolate (processed with alkali), cocoa butter, soy lecithin (an emulsifier) vanilla), sugar, berries, vegetable oil. I enjoyed the dark chocolate outer shell.  It wasn’t too sweet, and is a good contrast to the fruit syrup inside.

While the berries are listed as an ingredient, and it says they are dipped, I wasn’t able to find fruit inside the syrup. The sweet liquid inside the chocolate shell is light and more flowery than fruity tasting, but still pleasant.  While I’m not a huge fan of chocolate covered syrup, my husband and son felt similarly about the fruit and the syrup but gave the candies a little better rating. 

Would I buy these for myself?  Maybe not, I’m not a huge fan of fruit syrups, but I could get them for my husband or son because they liked  Wolfgang Candies.  It might make a nice Christmas gift, Stocking stuffer, or Host gift too. Capturefile: F:\Documents and Settings\Jay\Desktop\In Progress\37138 Wolfgang Candy  01-31-07\37138-000891.Cap
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My grade for Wolfgang Candies Chocolate Dipped Berry Candies  is C+, but to be fair my husband and son gave it a B.

Spice Depot Gift Suggestions for Foodies

December 24, 2008 - Written by Diana

Spice Depot has a slide show on their website with suggestions for presents for your foodie friends.  You can find most of these items at your grocery store.  I thought these were good suggestions.  I like the Spice Depot Grinders they’re better than the store brand.  I bought a store brand the other day of the Garlic Pepper and was disappointed, it had salt and some other things in it unlike the Spice Depot Grinder.  Be sure to read your labels to make sure you are getting what you want. If you talk to my husband and kids, you would find that I like gifts that I can use, so these gift suggestions would be great for me. 

Ferraro’s advice this holiday season is to “Customize your spice grinder purchases and pair them with creative and inexpensive add-ons to suit each recipient – maybe pair our Spicy Sea Salt with a DVD and small package of microwave popcorn for the babysitter, or tuck our Salad Seasoning, cotton garden gloves and a packet of lettuce seeds into a tiny terra-cotta pot.  What gardener wouldn’t love that? Singles love a trio of Salad Seasoning, JoJo Potato and Spicy Sea Salt – and for less than $10 for the set of three, you’ll be much-loved and happy.”

“My potato-crazy friends can’t wait for their plain brown paper bag filled with nugget potatoes and topped with a bottle of  JoJo Potato Seasoning.  They know it’s coming but still they laugh like crazy and deliver a smile worth hundred-fold the cost of the gift.   It’s not the cost that counts with gift giving, it’s the thought we put into it.  Building spicy little bundles to suit individual personalities is fun, inexpensive and very thoughtful.”  And, with the economic situation looking somewhat less than festive for so many this holiday season, creativity is at a premium.

Spice Depot sent their stylist out shopping, with limited cash and a long gift list.  She made just one trip to the mall and came back with dozens of fabulous DIY gift ideas under $10, plus a few under $20.  To view the complete slide show visit Spice Depot Videos & Podcasts and click on the DIY channel.

DIY Gift Ideas Under $10

(links to high-res images and details)

JoJo To Go #1 – in a series of five DIY gift ideas for Potato Lovers 

JoJo To Go #2 JoJo To Go #3 JoJo To Go #4 JoJo To Go #5

Visit Where to Buy to find the nearest listing retailer.  Try all 12 grinder blends:

Salad Seasoning Garlic Pepper Seafood Seasoning

Hot & Spicy Spicy Chicken Smokey Rib

BBQ Burger New York Steak Spicy Sea Salt

JoJo Potato Coarse Sea Salt Black Peppercorns