Jun 14
icon1 Jennifer | icon2 Beverages, Desserts, Product Reviews | icon4 06 14th, 2011| icon32 Comments »

. . . are watermelon, cherry & blue raspberry.

One of the kids got a snow cone machine for a birthday a couple of years ago. We were all happy and excited, and then it was put up on a deep shelf in the mudroom, and no one gave it a second thought. It’s lived there since then, sad and unused.

Until today, that is! With their oldest brother off at summer camp, the little ones have been clamoring to do “special” things. While I was digging out lawn chairs a few days ago, I spotted the lonely ice shaver and pulled it out tonight after dinner for a treat. We have the Back to Basics Dual Ice Shaver.

It works pretty well, but after playing with it a while I figured out a couple of things. First of all, we have an automatic ice maker, so the cubes are those half moon shapes, curved on one side and flat on the other. Since they don’t fit in the shaver nicely, they sometimes jam out of reach of the blades. So I started using the “crushed” option on the ice dispenser. Ours doesn’t crush nicely, just smaller than the cubes, but that helped the ice to settle in more compactly and keep contact with the blades. I also found, when I went back to make seconds, that the ice that had been sitting in there and allowed to melt slightly shaved more quickly and nicely as well.

Now the syrup I had purchased at Target, but I can’t seem to find it through them online, although it’s widely available through other sources like Amazon and walmart.com. We used Back to Basics sugar free flavors. While they don’t show as vividly as the stuff you get at carnivals, they do have a nice flavor and only one calorie per serving, which is why I didn’t mind everyone having seconds. It’s not even particularly hot today, so I’m looking forward to using the ice shaver all summer long. It will be a good way to get fluids into kids who don’t want to stop playing to rehydrate.

Feb 1

I never thought an eReader would become such an integral part of my life.  But since I acquired it, I have been happily using the Kobo eReader app on my iPhone to help with a particular domestic problem of mine.  I’ve mentioned before that my husband is the primary grocery shopper in our household due to my, ahem, impulsive shopping habits.  Add to that my general failure to bring make a list, and I’m not the most efficient shopper out there.  Further, I often used to find myself guessing at recipes when inspiration would strike and then racking up some unnecessary expenses.  But with Kobo on my iPhone, right in the middle of the store I’m able to consult those very cookbooks that would normally be standing ineffectually at home on a shelf.  I can buy what I need and get out of there!

And now I can take it a step further with Kobo Reading Life.  Launched back in December for the iPad, Kobo Reading Life is an app that enables users to do all of the following:

∙ Connect your Reading Life with friends on Facebook
∙ Discover and share your favorite books, passages, characters and places
∙ Celebrate reading and earn fun & exciting awards
∙ Track your personal reading history, and learn about your own reading habits

Well, as of today, the Reading Life app is available for iPhones and iPod Touch devices.  So when I’m standing in that grocery store, bursting with pride over getting everything I need (and nothing I don’t) to make Rick Rodger’s Pear Coffee Cake with Streusel Crust, I can post that recipe instantly to Facebook, and give myself an “award.”  I can even check my personal stats.  Ahh, I thrive on validation!

Jan 6

Who only cooks once a month?  Someone with a personal chef?  A person who works in a restaurant?  Certainly not a busy mother of four Bottomless Petes who routinely insist that I, you know, feed them!  Well Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson insist that it can be done.  According to them, you can grocery shop one time, do all your prep work at once, and stock your pantry and freeze enough to feed your family every day for an entire month.

Does anyone else remember those meal prep places that were all the rage a few years back?  I went a couple of times, and it was pretty neat.  You’d gather a bunch of friends, choose from several menu selections, and read off of a recipe card as you dumped ingredients into plastic bags and containers to take home and freeze for future consumption.  Everything was prepped and ready for you to assemble.  My friends and I discussed the possibility of getting together on our own to do something like this, maybe once a month. How great it would be, we imagined, to have a ready supply of pre-made meals to draw from on those crazy evenings when baseball practice, Cub Scouts, and gymnastics all seemed to converge at once, resulting in exotic dinners of peanut butter and canned soup!  Alas, we never figured out how to do it.

But now I’ve discovered Once-a-Month Cooking:  Family Favorites, and I’m newly inspired!   The aforementioned Lagerborg and Wilson have even trademarked their Once-a-Month Cooking system, so it must work, right?  I’m learning all about their cycle method, whereby you shop for either monthly, bi-weekly or seasonal cycles, do all your prep in one day, and voila!  A freezer full of well-planned and balanced meals!  I can’t wait to get started.  The way I see it, buying in bulk for these mass prep sessions will not only save us money because we’re buying in bulk, but also because we won’t be making gratuitous trips to the grocery store, where we’re naturally tempted by all kinds of costly impulse items.  But the absolutely best part is that I don’t have to figure out how to do any of this on my own, because I have the book to lead me, every step of the way. Who’s with me?  C’mon!

Jan 2

Living in the midwest, we don’t cook outside anywhere near as often in the winter, and I really miss the taste of grilled food, as well as the expanded menu offerings that come from outdoor cooking.  So when I stumbled across the Nathan’s Reversible Stovetop Grill & Griddle while Christmas shopping, I just couldn’t pass it up.  And yes, that’s Nathan’s as in Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters, sponsors of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island that my family can’t miss watching in horrified admiration every summer! 

We took our new Nathan’s Grill/Griddle on a test run today for lunch.  On the menu:  Nathan’s hot dogs (natch) and Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausage.  The Grill/Griddle fits over both front and back burners of our gas stove (the only cooking surface not compatible is glass) and distributes the heat evenly.  Although the hot dogs cooked pretty quickly, the sausages took more than twice as long as they typically would on the outdoor grill.  But I liked how the grease was channeled away from the meat, and 40 minutes later, we thoroughly enjoyed our summer-style lunch in the middle of winter.  Afterwards, clean-up was a breeze on the non-stick surface.

On the flip side of the grill is the griddle, which holds further appeal for us.  Making breakfast for a family of six is no small endeavor, and the expanded surface of the griddle will make for much faster pancake production.  The box even depicts pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes all cooking simultaneously on the griddle surface, but that’s a challenge for another day.  So far, Nathan’s Famous Reversible Stovetop Grill & Griddle gets a thumbs up from my family, although I hope it will be quite a while before any of them can down 50 hotdogs in a ten-minute sitting!