Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dig Ins Dinosaur Cookie Cutters

Dinosaur Cookie Cutters by Fred.
I will admit that I have a rather ... humongous ... cookie cutter collection. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to add to my collection. These days, though, I'm not looking for another star or flower.

I was particularly smitten with the Dig Ins dinosaur-themed cookie cutters from a whimsical company called Fred.

What I was most amused by was that they aren't just dinosaur outlines, but they impress the cookies with dinosaur bone designs. So the cookies are like you just dug up some dinosaurs. Neat, right?

I have a few cutters that work like this. Some are a single piece, but these cutters are each two pieces, with the cutter separate from the part that makes the impressions, so it's a little more versatile. You could, for example, impress the bone pattern into dough that you're not cutting into cookies.

At the moment, I'm not sure why I'd do that, but I'm sure there could be a reason.

Dinosaur ice cream sandwiches.
Or ... impress the bone design into bread before making toast or a grilled cheese sandwich? That might be interesting, yes?

While it's not exactly cookie-baking weather here, I used the cutters for making cookies that I used for making ice cream sandwiches for a magazine article I was writing. I liked the way they came out, and I think kids would totally love them.

The one problem I had - and it's a me-problem and not a cookie cutter problem - was that I decided to cheat and buy a premade cookie icing in a tube. When I cut the tip, I made the hole a little too large, so I had a little trouble piping the finer lines on the cookies.

If I was making a lot of cookies using these cutters, rather than just a few as an example of one possible shape for the article, I would have used my own icing and I would have used my smallest piping tip, and everything would have been perfect.

Who's it for: People who like quirky cookie cutters. Or people with kids who love dinosaurs.

Pros: Easy to use, easy to clean.

Cons: The cookies are a bit on the large side. That means the portions are larger, but on the other hand, smaller cookies wouldn't be able to have as much bone detail.

Wishes: I totally love this set - I could see doing a second set with different dinosaurs.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.
Dig-Ins Dinosaur Cookie Cutters by Fred

Monday, July 27, 2015

EatSmart Precision Elite Scale

I'm a big fan of weighing cooking ingredients, particularly for baking. It's more precise, and when you get used to it, it's easier, too. And you don't have to wash as many measuring cups.

I use mine a lot for weighing flour and sugar when baking, but it also comes in handy when I want to precisely divide a box of pasta in half.

It's also handy when I need 3 or 4 ounces of chocolate and the bars I have don't divide naturally into those amounts. Or when I have bits and pieces of different chocolate bars, or I'm using chips.

If you ever decide to do any canning, most recipes tell you how many pounds of different fruits or vegetables that you need. It's important to have the right amounts, or your food can go bad because the balance of food and acid and salt needs to be right. Three medium tomatoes is fine for a salad recipe, but not when you're planning on canning.

Kitchen scales are much more popular in Europe than in the US, but I know a lot of avid cooks who love their scales. Fortunately, they're not a huge investment if you want to try one out. Not like buying a food processor.

When I got a chance to test the EatSmart Precision Elite Scale, I figured I might as well give it a shot.

On first inspection, the scale seemed sturdy, which makes sense considering it will weigh up to 15 pounds. That's a lot of food. Probably more than I'd ever need, but there have been a few times when I've needed to weigh a bit more than 10 pounds. So it's possible I might some day want to check the weight of a roast.

The scale weighs in three different modes: metric, ounces, and pounds.

Yup. It treats ounces and pounds differently.

While ounces and pounds are the same measurement system, there's a difference in how this scale reports the weights. If you choose ounces and put something on the scale that weighs 8 ounces, it says 8 ounces. Once the weight is over 1 pound, it continues to to weigh in pounds plus ounces.

If you switch to pounds, it would tell you that your 8 ounces is .5 pounds, and when it goes over a pound, it continues to show the decimals.

I do a fine job knowing that 8 ounces is 1/2 pound, but if I needed 1/3 pound - like if I was dividing a recipe, it's handy to have a scale that would read .333 pounds. On the other hand, if I needed 3 ounces, I want a scale that would tell me it's 3 ounces and not some decimal that would require me to do math.

Most of the time, I need ounces or pounds and ounces, but I really like the fact that I can switch if I need to. I do have a few cookbooks (and I've seen recipes online) that use decimals rather than ounces.

I guess the only other possible way it could show the weight is if it showed fractions, but that's something I very seldom see unless it's something like 1/4 pound, but that's easy enough to know it's .25 pounds or 4 ounces. I doubt I'd ever see a recipe that would ask for something like 4/7 of a pound. And if I did, I'd find a different recipe.

I weighed a few things that I knew the weight of, and this scale is accurate. It reports pounds to 3 decimals (1.502 pounds, for example) and ounces to 2 decimals (3.45 ounces, for example) so it's more accurate than I normally need. But that's fine.

The scale has a tare feature - which means you can put a bowl on the scale and get rid of the bowl weight. You can add an ingredient and then zero out that weight of that ingredient to add the next. Most scales do this, but it's worth mentioning.

If you're looking for a scale, this one is a good choice. The price is reasonable and it has all the functions you need. I've only had it a short time, so I can't say how long it will last, but it seems solidly built.

Who's it for: Cooks who want to weigh ingredients.

Pros: Three different measuring modes. It's small, so it should be easy to store. Turns itself off automatically if you stop using it, so it saves battery life.

Cons: I'm not sure if this is a con or a pro, but there are only 2 buttons for all the functions. If you seldom use it, you might forget that one button is the on-off and the tare function.

Wishes: The shiny look is nice, but a lot of kitchen gadgets these days are opting for color. People who want their gadgets color coordinated might want a few choices.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Monday, July 20, 2015

3D Printed Cookie Cutters

A few years ago, I was on a mission to find a pi cookie cutter.

Not a cutter to cut pie cookies, or cookie pies. Or even pie-shaped cookies. I wanted a cookie cutter in the shape of the Greek letter pi.

I wanted it for pi day (March 17) and I wanted it just because I'm goofy and geeky. I looked for hours online and couldn't find one for sale anywhere.

Eventually, I found an obscure website where a guy would make cookie cutters from copper by hand. No doubt quenched in the tears of virgin unicorns. They were that expensive.

I let the idea rest. It wasn't that important.

Recently, I saw a mention of a guy who was making 3D printed custom cookie cutters ... well, you know I had to contact him. In no time at all, I got a reply:

So, to get started, you can send me an image of something that you'd like to make. I make cookie cutters and cookie stamps (the latter having detail on the inside in addition to the cutting edge). Cutters are $8 and stamps are $10. As far as the designing goes, the less detail the better. I ask customers to keep in mind that when baking, some of the detail will be lost.

Turnaround time is generally 1-2 weeks. It is possible that I can get them done sooner but, since I'm also Assistant Manager, it's unlikely. The 1-2 weeks is also a cushion in case I experience some error with the printer (the hardware and software can both throw me curveballs every once in a while).

Well, that's reasonable.

I emailed him a pretty version of the letter Pi, and he asked me if I wanted red, green, or orange cookie cutter, and what size I wanted. In no time at all I had a brand new cookie cutter. Easy peasy.

I haven't actually tested the cookie cutter yet, but ... seriously ... it's a cookie cutter. It's not like there are moving parts or anything. The cutting edge is plenty sharp to get through cookie dough, and the shape is exactly what I wanted.

Who's it for: People who want a cookie cutter shape that might not be commercially available. Like for company or school logos.

Pros: You get exactly what you want.

Cons: You need to have a drawing or a shape they can follow, so you can't just ask for a three-horned dinosaur with a spiked tail and long eyelashes. Not that anyone would ask for that, but you know what I mean - they won't design your logo for you.

Wishes: I wouldn't mind if the cutting depth was just a little bit deeper. This is fine for cookies, but sometimes I use cookie cutters for other purposes.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Indian as Apple Pie

I might have said this before, but I used to be quite the snob about spice mixes. I thought, gee, if I own individual spices, why on earth do I need a blend? I can mix oregano, basil. marjoram and rosemary ... I can mix lemon and thyme.

What I was saying was that I can mix the easy stuff. That's before I knew anything about Indian food, where the list of spices can be a mile long.

Now I know better. When the folks at Indian as Apple Pie asked me if I wanted to try their products, I said sure. This showed up.

This is the six-jar Custom Blend Spice Set with generously sized jars of spice blends. The first thing I did was sniff all of them, and I can tell you that they're fragrant and definitely different from each other.

The second thing I did was use the Tandoori Masala as a dry rub on a pork roast. I wasn't trying to make a true Indian dish - I just wanted to sample it and and add some flavor to the roast.

Wow. A little bit of rub truly did add a lovely punch of flavor. Since then, I've tried a few other flavors and I have to say that I'm really impressed. I still haven't made an actual traditional Indian dish with any of these, but that's fine. I'm okay with using the flavors of a cuisine in non-traditional ways.

Sooner or later, I will make a traditional Indian dish, but meanwhile, I'm enjoying them on different meats and vegetables.

Who's it for: Anyone who wants an easier way to make Indian cuisine and use Indian flavors.

Pros: The prices seem very reasonable for the spices. Flavors are very good. I've tried other Indian spice blends, and I have to say that something about these is much more appealing - brighter and deeper flavors.

Cons: When you're buying spices online, you can't sniff them to see which you like best.

Wishes: For people who don't know which blends they like the spice set is a good idea, but it's a lot of spice - it would be great if there was a sampler set with smaller jars or even packets for people who aren't sure what they will want.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

JK Adams 1761 Collection

I've had a few folks ask me about a wooden board that I've used in photos. You can see it here:

Chex Mix!

And here:

Tips for making macarons.

And here:

Green Olive and Pimento Bread.

It's a wooden board from the J.K. Adams 1761 collection. I have a lot of different wooden boards, but what I really liked about this one was the color. I make a lot of ... well ... brown food, like bread and baked goods.

I like using wooden boards and natural colors in photos, but I also like some contrast. I mean, peanut butter cookies on a medium-brown cutting board isn't all that exciting.

This board has a whitewashed look, and it's got gray tones. And it's BIG. Which is great. I tried to take a photo of the whole board, just to show the board to you, but in my small photo space, I wasn't very successful. So here's a photo from their site:

It's got a leather loop for hanging. Most folks would probably use this as a board for cutting bread because it's long enough for large loaves, but I'm planning on using it mostly for photos.

So, when you see it on my blog, you know what it is!

Also from J.K. Adams is this slate board:

Brownie Krinkle Cookies

Slate is a type of rock, and also a color. Like slate gray, right? This type of board is usually used for serving cheese and it's from their Charcoal Slate collection. It's a dark gray - not black - with lovely texture. You can see the edges of the board in this photo.

What I love about this is that while it's dark, it's not totally black, and it's a natural material. The texture is also nice, compared to all the flat surfaces I usually use, like normal dishware and cutting boards. It's also very easy to clean.

I previously reviewed their Trilogy Collection boards, here.

If you like pretty serving items - or if you're a blogger or photographer, the J,K. Adams site has lots of fun stuff to browse through, and new items added pretty often. I found a few things just now that were new and interesting.

Who's it for: Bloggers as well as normal folks who like pretty serving pieces and cutting boards and other gear.

Pros: Good quality products; a lot of variety on their site, so there's something for everyone.

Cons: Some of the items are on the higher end of the budget, but they'll last a long, long time.

Wishes: So far, I've been very pleased with all of their items.

Source: J.K.Adams supplied these to me for my use in photos - I wasn't required to write a review. But... so many people were asking, so I figured you wanted to know!

Monday, July 6, 2015


How much do you hate recipes where you need to strain liquid from a hot pot - like when you're cooking potatoes you're going to mash, or when you're draining the liquid from cooked vegetables? Or for those times when I want to pour finished soup stock into a storage container while leaving bones and bits behind?

Sure, you can use a colander, but a big colander is more than you need most of the time, right? My mom used to use the lid to hold back the food while she poured the hot water out. It works, but it's not the best option.

I have a saucepot that's got a straining lid, and I love that. But it's one pot. I use a whole lot more pots when I'm cooking.

So when I got a chance to test the Multi-Strainer from New Metro, I couldn't say "yes" fast enough.

The multi strainer is made from silicone so it bends to fit pretty much any pot. And when I say any pot, I mean ANY.

First, I tried it on a standard saucepan. This one has pouring spouts, but the lip of the strainer is deep enough that the liquid came through the strainer rather than out of the spout.

Here's another view of the saucepot. 

Then I tried it on a very large pan.

Then I wondered how small I could go - so I attached it to a mini pot I have. It's about the size of a cup-size measuring cup.

I can't think of any sane reason why I'd want to use it on a pot that small, but I attached it anyway, just for the fun of it. It clipped on just fine.

Since it's made from silicone, it's got all the advantages of that material - able to withstand high temperatures, flexible, dishwasher safe, nonstaining, and gentle on nonstick pots and pans.

Who's it for: Anyone who's looking for a better way to strain liquid from pots

Pros: Clips on securely; won't mar nonstick pans.

Cons: One more thing to store - but I think this one is worth, and since it bends you can store it inside a pot instead of in a drawer.

Wishes: So far, none. It works well.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

LidLover Lids - Updated Post!

I've been using these lids regularly for more than a month, so I wanted to update this post.

First, the mini lids are now available for sale, and the square and rectangular are coming very soon.

The reason I love reusable lids like these is that I used to go through plastic wrap at a ridiculous pace, and a lot of it was for covering bowls of rising dough or for covering other bowls that didn't have their own dedicated covers.

So when I got a chance to test LidLover lids, I was really curious. Would they work?

Unlike other stretchy lids I've tried, these have concentric rings that make it easy to fit the lids onto different sizes of bowls or other containers.

That doesn't mean there's one size that fits everything, though. There are small lids that fit cups, glasses, jars and food cans, and three different larger lids for large containers. The largest size is sold solo; the middle-sized lids are sold as a pair of two different sizes; the smallest (now available) come as a pair of the same size.

The lids can be used right-side up, or upside down. That doesn't seem like a big deal since the lids stretch, but I found that sometimes the fit was better if I flipped it over.

The lids are made from silicone, which means they're safe in a wide range of temperatures - freezer to dishwasher to oven ... although I can't imagine why you'd use them in the oven.

I've tested them on different containers made from different materials, and they work well. One of my biggest uses for covers is my stand mixer bowl, since I need to cover it if I have bread dough rising. Over the past few years, I've tried different covers, and many of them failed to hang on when the dough rose and gasses stretched the lid.

This one, because of the rings, has plenty of ability to expand before it starts to stretch, and even with the little bit of stretch required, it hung on tight.

I've had a small one on a plastic container in the refrigerator for quite a while, and it's still holding on.

Most things that I plan on storing long-term go into containers with their own dedicated lids, but there are plenty of times when I'm marinating something, or I have a salad pre-made and in a serving bowl, and I want to cover it before it goes to the table, or I want to stop the splattering in the microwave. These lids are perfect for all of those uses.

While they work well for longer-term storage, I usually think of covers like this as a short-term solution, mostly because the containers I use for long storage have their own lids.

After using these for over a month, I have to say that they've held up well and that I actually use then quite often, both as a loose cover in the microwave, and as tighter bowl cover. I've washed them multiple times in the dishwasher, and there hasn't been any color fading or other signs of wear. While I'm sure they're not indestructible, they should last for a good long time for normal use.

I got some of the brand new mini covers recently, and I learned something new - they sent along jars with covers on them, with one of the covers right-side-up, and the other upside-down

Okay, I knew you could use them either way. But they wrote little notes on top of the lids and said that the notes could be wiped off. So I grabbed a paper towel, moistened it, and the ballpoint-pen notes wiped right off.

Isn't that cool? You can write on them and the text wipes off really easily, so you can label things in the refrigerator without permanently marking the lids and without using tape that you have to peel off - which of course could leave a sticky residue.

I know that's not the most earthshaking thing, but I thought it was worth noting.

Who's it for: People who have lidless bowls and containers.

Pros: Each one fits multiple sizes. Stretches. Wide range of temperatures.

Cons: None yet.

Wishes: Colors are limited. Not a deal breaker, but I love when products have color choices.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.