Thursday, December 13, 2018

Review: Gravity Chopsticks

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If you've ever eaten with chopsticks, you know that you have to have somewhere to rest them between courses or in lulls of eating, especially if you're someone like me, who likes to talk with their hands, and you don't want to be waving around your utensils in conversation.

The traditional answer is chopstick rests, but unfortunately, not everyone has them and sometimes there just isn't enough room to rest them on the side of your plate. When this happens, you usually have to find a napkin or something as a buffer between your chopsticks and the table to keep things sanitary.

Gravity Chopsticks is a company that seeks to fix this predicament. With their innovative chopstick design, the eating tips of the chopsticks are suspended in the air when they are laid down on the table.

These sticks are made of a BPA free thermoplastic which means that they are both dishwasher safe and heat resistant for cooking. They are also slightly texturized, which helps with getting a good grip.

Currently, they come in two different colors: black, which start at $5.95, and a limited edition red, which starts at $7.95. They also offer two different case options for storing and carrying around the chopsticks: black velvet sleeves for $3.00 and a hard carry case for $29.95. The hard carry case is currently out of stock at the time of writing.

I was able to try out four pairs of Gravity Chopsticks, two black and two limited edition red. I really appreciated the texture on them, as I find that some of the chopsticks that I've used before were simply too slippery to really use.

The squared design of the chopsticks was also really nice, because that meant that they didn't just go rolling off the table when they were set down.

While most chopsticks have a continual taper along the entire stick, these achieve their suspension by having an abrupt change of width in the middle of the chopstick. This didn't present any problems for the Mister or a couple of friends who used them, but for me, I had a slight learning curve because that abrupt change is exactly where I usually hold my chopsticks.

It didn't take long though, and I was holding them a bit further back and using them with no problem.

The clearance between chopstick and surface is only a couple of millimeters, so you do have to make sure there are no food particles or saucy goodness on your sticks before setting them down, or you will more than likely have contact with the surface of the table.

While I was able to use the chopsticks to saute some onions and garlic for my ramen, I was not able to test out how well they would handle being put through a dishwasher because my dishwasher's utensil basket's grid is too big, and the sticks fall right through.

I can't see how they would not hold up to it machine washing, though, as they did a great job when I cooked with them on the stovetop.

I love these chopsticks, and I find myself reaching for them over my old sticks constantly. I keep a set in my lunchbox for work and the Mister has even requested a pair to take with him to Korea! Gravity Chopsticks have a simple, elegant design that works!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Party in Your PJs! #238 - Holiday Decor Inspiration


Happy Tuesday!  Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on three different blogs each week.

 Meet the Co-Hosts

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Facebook // Pinterest // Twitter // Instagram

Ann @ The Apple Street Cottage 

Facebook // Pinterest // Instagram

Last spring, my husband and I moved into our current apartment, so this is the first Christmas we've had here!   We have three small areas where we can decorate for the season:  a metal year-'round ornament tree in the dining area, the mantle over the fireplace, and a small antique sewing machine console in front of the living room window.

I'm rather pleased with how they all came out, although there were still several items in the bins that we just had no room for.

Evergreen garland and lights give this metal ornament tree the illusion of being an evergreen tree.  Our ornaments are an eclectic collection of purchased items, stitched ornaments and a few of my (now adult) children's creations from when they were small.

This was an experiment I did a few years ago, creating a cross stitched 3D TARDIS with perforated plastic.  It was such a pain in the neck to stitch together, and the plastic bows in slightly, so I've never been tempted to make another.

This stuffed teddy ornament was made from a scrap of fabric from a baby blanket I quilted for my second oldest daughter.

Just a few favorite ornaments - the one in the center is a Mill Hill cross stitch kit, stitched on gold perforated paper and beaded.   I so love how that came out!

Our mantle was filled with assorted Santas, nutcrackers and tomtes and provided a good place to display assorted leftover ornaments that found no place on the tree.

Two large Nuremberg style angels are sharing space with my peacock figuring in front of the window.

Finally, our greenman wallhanging got a Yuletide crown for the occasion.

Lynda's Features!

 Make sure you head over to the other members of Party in Your PJs
 to see their features - we each pick our own!

All links are pinned to a Party can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiration to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

Rules -Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

SlimEdge BioBidet (Review/Giveaway)


Bathroom functions can be embarrassing to talk about, provoking snickers and providing raw material for countless adolescent movies, laxative commercials and schoolyard jokes.

Underneath the emotional discomfort, though, is a serious subject: hygiene. It’s a fact of biology that everybody poops, and cleaning up afterward is part of it. That is usually accomplished with a wipe of tissue paper and maybe a daily rinse in the shower. There is a better way, though, a technology that we might encounter occasionally in an expensive hotel, if then—the bidet.

Bidets are essentially standard equipment in much of Europe. Italy and Portugal each made them mandatory in 1975. Why the bidet isn’t routinely installed in American bathrooms is a mystery to me. The device sprays your hindquarters with a well-aimed jet of water, efficiently and thoroughly cleaning away the material left behind in your behind. You stand up from the act with no lingering dirt, ready to continue your day in comfort and cleanliness.

BioBidet has a solution for the bidetless—a series of aftermarket products that easily add a bidet to your existing toilet, without the need to undergo any extensive remodeling. Their least expensive products, the Economy line, are simple inserts that mount onto the rim under the seat and retail for either $59 or $69, and two toilet seat replacements for $79 or $129. All of these models are unpowered, so the intensity of the water stream is limited by the water pressure in your water supply line.

Most of these connect to your cold-water line and provide room-temperature water. One model, the BB-270 Duo, retailing at $69, provides a warm water stream, but it has to be connected to both hot and cold water lines. (Higher-priced models provide warm water without the additional plumbing work. More details on those below.)

For this review, BioBidet provided me the SlimEdge, an insert that sells for $59. I put off trying it for a few days, expecting a messy and difficult time installing it, but that turned out to be really easy. 

There are a couple of simple plumbing connections, and you will need to remove and reattach your toilet seat to secure the insert beneath it. All the hardware you need is included in the box. 

I was also sent two squeezeable poop emojis, available separately at their website for $10 -- we passed these on as stocking stuffers for a couple of our grandchildren.

Installation took me about a half hour working alone, and the only tool I needed was a screwdriver to remove and replace the seat. 

Using the provided thread tape, I was able to get tight, leakless connections with just hand tightening. 

If this seems like more than you want to take on yourself, a handy friend can do it for you, however I found it to be very simple even in the tight quarters of a tiny bathroom.

Because you don't need access to pipes hidden behind walls, most BioBidet products are suitable for renters as well as homeowners. When you move out, just remove the BioBidet system and put the original toilet seat back on. Your landlord will be impressed with how little wear you put on it. 

The controls for the SlimEdge are simple: It’s a single knob that you turn in one direction for a powerful stream aimed at your posterior, and in the other direction for a more gentle stream intended for delicate female parts. 

There is no warm-water option on this particular model, which might be uncomfortable for some, although I don’t mind it. The water is room temperature, cool but not (to me) cold.  My wife expressed a stronger desire for warm water.

Because we were just installing this to test it and didn’t have any particular expectations of whether it would work well or be a pleasant experience, we installed it in our secondary bathroom. 

Now I find myself going to that room whenever the need arises, which is messing somewhat with our distribution of bathroom reading material.

After a few days of using it, getting used to its particular operation and how it feels, I’m sold on the concept. It feels luxurious, even without the advanced features of higher-priced models. 

At the same time, I will probably buy one of those higher-priced models for our primary bathroom because having experienced the SlimEdge, I can see the potential pleasure, comfort, and hygienic value of some of the enhancements.

What you get at higher prices

The next level above Economy, the Luxury class, features full toilet seat replacements priced from $199 to $499. The Premiere class offers more toilet seat replacements ranging from $549 to $699. Topping the list is the IB-835 Integrated, a complete toilet replacement with the company’s most robust set of features, priced at $2,299.

The feature set increases at higher price levels, offering more spray and stream options, increasingly powerful and versatile control panels, and self-heating warm water options that don’t require the dual plumbing connections of the BB-270. Some models offer warm air drying, night lights and easy cleaning features. Most of these models require power, so look at your bathroom layout and figure out how you’re going to plug it in.

Features, depending on model, may include:

·        Warm water heated in a tank, so no plumbing connection to the hot water line is needed;
·        Options for oscillating and pulsating jets
·        Deodorizer
·        Bubble infusion (making the cleaning jet more effervescent)
·        Warm air drying
·        Heated seats
·        Remote control

The remote control features look particularly interesting to me, as it allows for placement anywhere that is convenient and removes jutting out controls on the seat itself.  

BioBidet also sells an array of accessories and spare parts on its website. It offer warranties on all of its products, but only when purchased from an authorized retailer. Warranties range from 1 to 3 years, depending on the product. 

The SlimEdge provides an inexpensive and simple introduction to the joys of using a bidet.  BioBidet is offering a giveaway for RCH readers located in the United States. The lucky winner will receive the SlimEdge, the same model featured in this review. Read on to see how you can enter to win!

One winner in the US will win a SlimEdge BioBidet, valued at $59.00.

This Giveaway ends at just before midnight ET December 23, 2018

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Giveaway Tools Entry Form below. This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning. (If you don't leave a comment, any additional entries will be void.)

The winner will be notified by email 24 to 48 hours after the end of the giveaway by email. In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Party in Your PJs! #237 - Christmas Cookies

Happy Tuesday!

Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on three different blogs each week.

 Meet the Co-Hosts

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Lynda's Features!

Cookies to keep on hand and to swap with others are a big part of the holidays for many people.  Here are a few ideas to get things started.

Grain-Free Italian Wedding Snowballs (GF,Vegan,Paleo) ~ Strength & Sunshine
 Make sure you head over to the other members of Party in Your PJs
 to see their features - we each pick our own!

All links are pinned to a Party can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiration to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

Rules -Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Review: Warmies Plush Cozy by Intelex

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No matter if you are 3 years old or 93, I truly believe Warmies are amazingly comforting and useful. If I could come up with one downside, it would be how difficult it is to choose one!

Both of my girls now have a Warmies Cozy Plush and they are loved on the daily. The day we came home to find the giant labeled box on our freshly moved-in porch, the kids were so thrilled!

Upon opening it, I was surprised to find that the Warmies were much larger than I expected, which was a fantastic surprise. At that point, we had just gotten a new home and were still waiting for our household goods to arrive from Germany, so these loveys were just what my girls needed.

My oldest chose a Flamingo, and my youngest has a brown puppy.

After they came to room temperature (They were freezing from being outside), we put them on a plate and microwaved them for 1 minute, each.

Once heated, they were so snuggly and had a delightfully calming lavender scent. In addition to the calming scent and warmth, Warmies have a weighted body that creates a feeling much like snuggling with a warm live puppy or kitten.

For the past few weeks, they have been heated up every single night before bed without fail.

Additionally, more than once they have soothed a sad child with the simple phrase “Want me to heat up the Warmie?” The Warmies heat to a comfortable temperature that I have no fear of burning when held in one spot, like many other microwave heating pads. They don't stay hot for too long, maybe a solid 30-45 minutes, but that is more than enough time to soothe a child to sleep or help achy muscles.

The quality of the doll is outstanding. No pilling of the fur or pulling of the seams. Heating repeatedly has not had any negative effects either.

I already have a mental list of people I want to purchase one of these for, adult and child alike, myself included!

Warmies Cozy Plush dolls, which are a product by Intelex, are $24.99 on their website. There is also a line of Cozy Plush Jr. to choose from which cost $11.99. Intelex also has numerous other therapeutic comfort items such as, slippers, blankets, wraps, eye masks to name a few. You can also purchase Warmies via Amazon.

I highly recommend Warmies to anyone to whom you want to give the gift of comfort.  We all need more of that, right?

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Review: Frywall Splatter Guard (Spicy Crispy Chicken Thighs)


After over 40 years of daily meal preparation, it's hard for me to think of any tool that exists that I'm not already aware of and have decided whether or not I need one in my life. For the most part, even if it's really great at doing one single thing, if it's not either multi-use or frequently used, I'm inclined to skip it.

So, it's a real surprise when I find myself using and loving something I had no idea existed or even that I thought such a thing ought to!

The Frywall Splatter Guard caught me by surprise.  This seemingly simplistic silicon product was featured on Shark Tank awhile ago.  I remember thinking "Sure, splattering happens when you pan fry, but who needs a big floppy thing that only does one thing, taking up all the storage space?"

Me. I do. I need this in my life, and I bet you do too.

I received two of these for review (a medium and large), and I plan to buy a third for my smaller pans very soon.  They do exactly what they're supposed to do - let you pan-fry food that would otherwise cover your stovetop, surrounding counters, and your shirtfront in grease without any of that mess.

Flat mesh screens don't do that because you have to take them off the pan to handle the food and then the grease goes everywhere anyway. Also, you're dripping grease all over when you set it aside (possibly onto other burners, creating a fire hazard at worst and a really annoying clean up at best) and they're gross and impossible to clean thoroughly.

In contrast, the Frywall creates a flexible cone shaped barrier that basically turns your pan into a high-walled pot, except the conical shapes provides enough air to keep the food from being too steamy to crisp up.

In the past couple of weeks, I've used it to make pan fried chicken, pork chops, fried potatoes - and it even does the trick to get a large quantity of fresh greens into the pan to wilt down without losing greens onto the floor before they shrink down.

And once the meal prep is done - clean up is as easy as washing the pan and setting the Frywall into the dishwasher. NO surrounding grease mess to take care of at all.  No need to pre-wash a floppy Frywall to get off the grease - it cleans perfectly in the dishwasher without any greasy residue and nothing sticks to it.

They even come with a sturdy clear holder that keeps them from being too awkward to store.  I keep mine at hand the same cabinet where I store my pans, and use them together nearly every day.

Ok, so downsides?  It is a little awkward looking, especially the larger size - it took me a few tries to get used to how to hold it to let it billow open in the pan. (Frywall provides illustrated directions)  So, plan for a little bit of a learning curve when you first start using it.

Ideally, the bottom of the Frywall is suppose to be slightly larger than the pan so that it sits a bit above the bottom of the pan.  It doesn't work out that way for my cast iron pans, and it's fine to let them sit on the bottom, however that does mean you have to practice care not to fry above 450F when it's in the pan.  Since that's higher than you'd heat oil even for deep frying, I don't see that as a problem.  In my case, the smoke detector would be warning me well before the Frywall was in any danger of melting.

The larger problem for me is that for certain smaller foods (like fried potatoes), having the Frywall all the way on the bottom of the pan meant that some food tried to get caught underneath and behind it.

It was a surprise the first time it happened, but once I knew that was a risk, a little bit of extra care when moving food around the pan took care of it.  I'm going to put this in the learning curve category.

Frywall comes in several colors, according to size, although both the M and L for me came in this bright green, instead of the orange listed on their website for the M (10").  All of the colors tend to be bright, and I do think I'd prefer to be able to choose by color regardless of size, but since the Frywall is all about function in spite of a general lack of aesthetically pleasing look, this is a only a minor wish - the different colors would let you grab the right one for the right pan quickly.

So overall - I'd give the Frywall very high marks, and it might just be the one tool to gift that Cook Who Has Everything that they haven't already gifted to themselves!

This is the chicken recipe I used - I love, love, love crispy skin pan-fried chicken, but don't make it often due to, you guessed it, the mess.  This time I got all the flavor and none of the mess.  The inside was moist and fall apart tender, and the skin was crisp and full of flavor from the spices.

Spicy Crispy Chicken Thighs
Serves 2-4

1-2 Tblsp. coconut oil
4 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
Salt & Pepper to taste.
Seasoning blend to taste*

*I used Penzey's Galena Street Rib and Chicken Rub  - it is a combination of flake salt, sugar, black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, sage and cayenne red pepper.

Put Frywall in place, if using, then heat oil in a 10" skillet (preferably cast iron) on med-high.

Generously season the chicken on both sides.  Place chicken in hot oil in skillet, skin side down, and cook uncovered for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken skin is crispy and the fat has rendered.  If chicken is cooking too quickly, lower heat a bit.  Do not turn or move chicken while cooking!

Turn chicken skin side up, and let it cook another 20 minutes without moving it. Check to ensure chicken is fully cooked before serving.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Cook the Books: The Cooking Gene (Persimmon Quick Bread)


The current Cook the Books selection, hosted this time by Simona of Briciole, is The Cooking Gene, by Michael W. Twitty.

I've known of Michael W. Twitty for several years.  He is an African-American, Jewish food historian and chef who hails from the DC area where I live, and who has been doing truly interesting work recreating the experiences of early American cooks in authentic kitchens located at various historical landmarks. As a researcher and teller of stories, he has focused a lot of his attention on tracing the path of foods as they have migrated over the centuries with the people who ate them, particularly those whose journeys were against their will as slaves or refugees.  Those stories are the hardest to research, because the chain of ancestral storyteller to listener is so often forcibly broken. Through the path of food as it travels from one area to the next, Michael Twitty's work seeks to reconnect those broken links.

Sticky notes of possible recipe inspiration!
The Cooking Gene is equal parts history, food writing that will make you curious to try things you never have, nostalgia for the foods of your own childhood, along with a good peek at history and science.

You'll find yourself learning about DNA testing's role in helping solve the complexities of tracing roots as a black American.

You'll be caught up in reading a personal memoir and family history that is at times funny and heartwarming and at times absolutely heartbreaking, and then seeing it set against a well researched explanation of how focus on "King Cotton" led to a legacy of malnutrition that still impacts poor black families in the south.

These ingredients all come together in a book that was both riveting and very difficult to read without flinching.

Go ahead and flinch - our history is extremely uncomfortable - and then keep reading. You will know much more when you finish this book than you knew before you started, and you'll find yourself thinking about it long after you've put it down.

I am so beyond impressed by work that went into The Cooking Gene.  But I was totally overwhelmed when it came to choosing what to cook as my inspiration from it. SO. MANY. POSSIBILITIES.  There are a few recipes included, but there were also numerous mentions of foods from the American South, Europe, Africa, Asia... name it.

I decided to take my inspiration from a passage about time spent visiting his Southern relatives as a young man.  In The Cooking Gene, this story includes a passage about persimmons, and it occurred to me that I had never had a persimmon, never much thought about persimmons or had any idea of what they tasted like. 

That same week, to my surprise, persimmons showed up in my produce box, and suddenly, I had to figure out something to do with them.
'Hours later, we would tumble into my paternal grandmother's home. "Ma, you're never going to believe this," he said, peeling back the layer of the bag. My grandmother happily said, "Oh, 'simmons!!"  I took half and, under my father's instruction, made the same persimmon beer that Elijah and George toasted their freedom with in 1865.  My grandmother, who used to use the unripe astringent ones in place of pimple cream, turned her 'simmons into a spicy, molasses-laced persimmon bread, drawing on a recipe from the newspaper to back up her memory of a treat that had been eaten for at least three generations.'  ~ The Cooking Gene, pg 228.
The recipe for persimmon beer is included at the end of the chapter but calls for 10 cups of persimmons and several weeks to ferment, so I wisely decided to try Persimmon Bread instead.

The American variety of persimmon is Diospyros virginiana.

Gee, it would have been great if I'd taken a picture of the persimmons before I cut them!
What came in my box was the more commercially available Fuyu persimmon, which doesn't have the astringent qualities of other varieties, and so can be eaten while still firm.

This time of year is just an excellent time for sweet quickbreads, so that's what I've done here - I have no idea if this is anything at all like Michael Twitty's grandmother's, but we enjoyed it quite a bit.

The gingerbread loaf is a basic quickbread that uses molasses and buttermilk, along with roasted persimmon where I might otherwise use raisins or other dried fruits.

(Oh... persimmons taste like mild apricots to me, with a bit of honey and a bit of a tropical fruit taste.  I think that Persimmon Beer must tasted a good bit like mead.)

Persimmon Molasses Gingerbread
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves

3-4 persimmons
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375F.  If desired, peel the persimmons (I didn't and didn't notice an issue with it) Wash persimmons, cut in quarters and de-seed them, then chop into small, dice-sized cubes.  Spread persimmons on a parchment-covered cookie sheet, drizzle with oil, and roast for about 20 minutes, until they are soft and slightly caramelized.

Let persimmons cool for several minutes and lower oven temperature to 350F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar, creaming together thoroughly, then add molasses and vanilla, stirring to blend well.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition so that the batter is well mixed.

In a second mixing bowl, combine flour, soda, and spices.

Add the dry ingredients, alternating with some of the buttermilk, a little at a time to the wet mixture, mixing well between each addition.

Add the roasted persimmons and pecans to the batter, again mixing well to coat the fruit and nuts.

Spoon batter into greased loaf pans (I used two smaller pans so I'd have one loaf to freeze for later), leaving about an inch of room below the rim.

Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes.

Let cool on a rack for several minutes before removing them from pans, then let cool completely before serving.

A loaf of a good quick bread like this is just right for keeping on hand for visitors, and is equally good as a fast breakfast, an afterschool snack, or a simple dessert.

I hope you'll check in with Cook the Books to see the round up of what other inspiration bloggers have found inside the pages of The Cooking Gene!

The next four book selections have been announced - maybe one will tempt you to join in!

The Cooking Gene Website
Afroculinaria - Michael J. Twitty