Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Kuuk Digital Kitchen Meat Thermometer


I have had an instant-read food thermometer on my mental wish list for a long time, but I have a perfectly good dial meat thermometer that just won't die.  It also won't accurately tell me the temperature before my meal is overcooked, but it's been doing that for so long I just mentally adjust the desired temperature down enough to compensate.  I know we all do that - hang onto something that is cheaply replaceable even though it doesn't quite do the job, and I'm mostly even okay with having a few quirky imperfect tools.  But that doesn't mean I'm not happy to let them go when something better comes along.

Via Tomoson, I was able to get my hands on the Kuuk Ultra Fast Digital Thermometer. Currently available on Amazon for $17.95, this little gadget comes bubblewrapped in a nice little box with a small manual pamphlet explaining how it works.

The thermometer probe is on a hinge, so it tucks away when not in use, avoiding the death trap of coming across it unexpectedly while rooting through the utensil drawer, and lightly snaps into the open position as needed, so it doesn't try to fold up while using it.  If you prefer to hang tools in easy reach, it also comes with a magnet that can be glued onto the back so you can pop it on your fridge door to always have at the ready.

The digital face is large and easy to read and I experienced no fogging over while inserting it into food in a hot, steamy oven.

There are three small buttons on the handle: an On/Off button that turns it on or off (though it automatically shuts off if you forget that part), a C/F button that switches the read-out from Celsius to Fahrenheit, and a Hold button that freezes the read-out so you can remove thermometer from the food to read without the temperature immediately descreasing.

I really liked the idea of the Hold feature, but unfortunately I can't really make use of it.  All of the buttons are quite small and not easy for me to click (rheumatoid arthritis makes such fine motor skills tricky for me).  I am able to if I press down with my fingernail, but I am pretty sure that if I do that too often, I'm going to dent and possibly break the buttons.

This isn't much of a problem with the On/Off and C/F buttons, because I can take a moment to get them pushed.  But the Hold button is meant to be used while food is in the oven, and the whole point of getting a fast read is so you aren't letting all the heat escape.

Fortunately, that nice big read-out means that as long as I take care to put the thermometer into the meat so that I can see it, I don't need to hit Hold at all, and that's working out fine for me.

This time of year, mealtimes tend to be lighter foods, but I have been able to use it on some chicken and on a large uncured ham roast, both of which can quickly go from just-right to dried out sawdust if you're not paying attention to the meat's temperature.  The Kuuk Thermometer handled each job just fine, and everything came out tender and neither overcooked or undercooked.  Also, unlike my old dial thermometer, I don't have to remember to stick it in at the beginning or worry about placing it so it doesn't bump into things.

One thing I did wish had been added to the product was a chart on the back showing proper meat temperatures. 

I've gotten so used to my dial thermometer giving me that information, that the first time I used the Kuuk Digital Kitchen Thermometer, I had it tucked into the chicken, got my reading and then realized I had no idea what number I was looking for - and then there was a scramble to find a cookbook that showed me, hoping I wasn't overcooking dinner with my lack of planning.

And then I almost did it again! I remembered to look up the correct temperature for pork just before I opened the oven to check it  (and found I'd let it go a little too long before I checked, but that was me, not the thermometer)

The lack of a reference chart is hardly a deal breaker, but I'd love if they'd tuck a little peel off sticker into the box along with that magnet for us flaky cooks.  Meanwhile, I plan to make a small chart for my own reference and put it on the fridge door for next time.

Since this is my first instant read cooking thermometer, I can't compare it to others of its kind, but I enjoy it and think it's good value for the price.  I plan to use it often and recommend it as a good option for anyone seeking an alternative to the dial thermometers.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quick and Easy Fried Raviolis


In my family, we are all about quick, fast and convenient. I have a hard working hubby, a little girl who just started Transitional Kindergarten, a very busy little 2 year old and myself at home so when it comes to meal time, fast is best! This recipe is tried and true to my family and we usually have it on the menu once or twice a month! I try not to have a bunch of fried food on my weekly menu so this is kind of a treat!

There are a ton of different raviolis out there that you can do this with.

We have tried a few and cheese has always been an easy pleaser for my kids. My husband and I also like the Chicken and Cilantro Raviolis from Costco (but they only seem to have at a certain time of year).

You want to make sure that you stick with the original style of Raviolis and not the Tortellini style as they don't always cook all the way through.

Quick & Easy Fried Raviolis
Serves 4

1 bag Frozen Cheese Raviolis- (I use about half a bag)

1.5 cup Italian Breadcrumbs (Flavoring of your choice, we prefer the Italian)

5 Eggs- whipped

A dash of Garlic Salt

2 Cups Oil

Marinara or Alfredo Sauce (for dipping)

This recipe is just as the time states, quick and easy!

Heat up your oil into a pan (splash a drop of oil on it to make sure its hot enough).

Spread the breadcrumbs and garlic salt onto a plate, and whip up your eggs into a bowl.

Dip a ravioli in the egg, roll in the crumbs and drop in the oil! Repeat, being careful not to put too many in the oil at one time (they'll stick together and lower the head of the oil).

Watch them bubble and get brown, then flip. Take them out, lay out on a pile of paper towels to drain some of the oil off...

Once, they're all fried, serve with a Marinara sauce or Alfredo sauce!

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!!!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: Send Me Gluten-Free August Subscription Box


A few weeks ago, I shared my review of Send Me Gluten Free's July Box, and after experiencing the August box as well, I am convinced that this is one of the best subscription boxes out there.  Both were stuffed full of gluten-free snacks, products, and generous coupons.

The August box was a huge winner for me - I loved almost everything in it and now have a nice list of things I'll be looking to buy for when I am having a snack craving and don't want to deal with the digestive fallout that comes when I eat the wrong things.

Check out what all was in this box!

Go Raw Organic Sprouted Sunflower Seeds
These seeds are sprouted and then dehydrated rather than roasted - they were great for eating out of hand, or (my favorite) as a crunchy topping for a salad.  They're lightly salted with Celtic sea salt and nothing else so you get all the benefits of a healthy snack without any unnecessary or harmful additives.  I really appreciated that they tasted like sunflower seeds rather than salt.

Smooze Fruit Ice - Coconut + Mango
The instructions on this one said to freeze it - it's a tropical push up popsicle that is dairy and gluten free and it tastes exactly like it sounds: an even blend of coconut and mango.  I'm not a huge ice pop eater, and was a little puzzled about how to push it up, but once I figured that out, it was really tasty and just the right size to enjoy before it melted.  If I had children around, I'd favor this sort of treat over any of the better known commercial frozen treats.

Aubrey Chia Salt Spray
Aubrey is a line of natural hair care products, and this protein-rich gem offers styling assistance that adds volume, calms frizz and protects color treated hair, all while giving you that great beachy summer look.  As much as I love the gluten-free snacks that Send Me Gluten-Free includes, I really enjoy the non-food tuck ins and finding good haircare products is an eternal search for me.

ekSel Toaster Bags
This is one of those totally awesome gadgets I had no idea even existed, but now that I know I think it's an essential for anyone with celiac disease.  It's a reusable bag into which you can slide your gluten-free bread products before popping into a toaster or toaster oven.  Why? Because if you're sharing appliances, you want to be very careful not to put your safe food into contact with gluten-containing crumbs!  Brilliant, right?  I haven't tried this one yet (we actually stopped letting our toaster occupy precious counter space several months ago), but I think I'm going to pass it along to a friend with celiac that I know shares kitchen space with non-celiac family members.

Glutino Pretzel Twists
Pretzels are in the category of empty calories, so this would be an occasional treat for me, but it's nice to discover a snappy little pretzel snack that tastes and feels just like a pretzel.  I enjoyed them a lot and wouldn't mind keeping them on hand for those times when I just want a crunchy snack that I can safely eat and share with others.  I am impressed - if I hadn't read the label, it wouldn't have occurred to me that these were gluten-free.

Zouq Jubilee Mix
I received three of these pouches, and they were my favorite surprise! A South Asian blend of spices mingle with chickpea and rice flour crunchies, lentils, peas and raisins to make a vibrant savory mix that I really adored.  Zouq carries other South Asian flavored savory snacks, and I'll be on the lookout for them, as well.

Home Free Mini Vanilla Cookies
Another great find, and sure to be a winner with children (and adults) who want to not have to miss out on the occasional sweet treat.  These cookies are thick, crunchy bite sized cookies that remind me a lot of Nilla wafers, only much better. Here again is a product that doesn't scream 'gluten-free'.  Home Free also carries oatmeal, several chocolate and chocolate chip varieties, and Lemon Bursts (mmm!!!)

I Heart Keenwah Aged Cheddar Quinoa Puffs
This was my second favorite discovery this month, and I expected to dislike them.  When I saw 'puffs', I was expecting some sad version of those airfilled styrofoam cheese puffs that put the empty in 'empty calories', but instead, I found sturdy little balls full of texture and deliciousness and the perfect snap (can you tell that the right sort of crunch is a big deal to me?).  The cheesiness tastes like cheese, and I am excited to see that they also carry Herbes de Provence, Salt Truffle, and Sweet Chili Puffs.  Definitely on my 'to buy' list!

Beanfields Bean & Rice Nacho Chips
I've seen the Beanfields brand of tortilla chips before, and they come in a number of flavors. The good news is these are high in fiber and protein and are, of course, gluten-free.  The bad news, for me, is that while they did taste like a nacho chip dipped in bean dip, I found them to be very dry and wasn't able to eat more than a couple of them before realizing I just didn't care for them very much.  They'd probably be a great carrier for salsa or guacamole - something to moisten them - but I didn't have any on hand, and declined to finish the bag.  Out of the entire box, this was the only snack I didn't thoroughly enjoy and I call that a win.

Justin's Maple Almond Butter
Justin's makes a number of flavored nut butters, peanut butter cups and pretzels.  The Maple Almond Butter is delicious!  The packets are great for travel, but are a bit tricky to use - like most natural nut butters, it separates.  You're supposed to knead the packet to mix it before opening, but I didn't knead quite enough, so it was a little hard to actually render it spreadable.  Even so, I'd gladly purchase this brand, and I'm intrigued by several of their other products.  I highly recommend it for those who enjoy almond butter, but it is not a suitable replacement for peanut butter if you are allergic to peanuts - it's processed in a plant that also handles soy and peanuts.

YummyHealth YummySnack Peppermint Bar 
Now we're totally in candy bar territory!  This tastes and feels like a mash up of a Mounds Bar and York Peppermint Patty - very very tasty! Also, not very nutritiously positive (although better than the two I just mentioned). It keeps things 'low sugar' by using artificial sweeteners and the coating is 'dark chocolate flavored coating'.  I enjoyed it a lot, but I don't eat candy bars often for health reasons, and this one doesn't take those reasons away.

Kickers All Natural Powdered Fruit Blends - Maple Banana Cream
I was so mystified by this one - it's a little packet of flavored powder, and at first I was afraid it was one of those artificial water flavor things (which I hate), but it's not!  It's just a little all-natural burst of flavor for things like yogurt or oatmeal.  The ingredients list is pleasantly simple: dried banana powder, cream, maple sugar, cane sugar, spice, and vanilla bean.

I stirred mine into some yogurt - I thought it was plain, but no, it was vanilla (oops)!  Even at that, I found it not to be an overly sweet addition and both the banana and maple was apparent over the vanilla in the yogurt. This isn't something it'd occur to me to buy - but then, I like my yogurt plain and on the tart side, and my oatmeal salty with butter.  But if you're trying to make the switch off heavily sweetened yogurts or oatmeals, this would be a great way to ease into it.  There are 2 servings in each packet that add up to 20 calories for each serving, all without artificial sweeteners.

As if all that weren't enough, this months' Savings envelope was stuffed full of great coupons and discount codes for Justin's, Kickers, and Aubrey styling products, two additional products (Zollipops xylitol lollipops, and Don't Go Nuts snack bars), a coupon for a FREE package of Foster Farms Gluten-Free Corn Dogs, and one for a FREE Cabot cheese product as well as a weeklong gluten-free meal plan booklet with recipes from Cabot.

I cannot recommend the Send Me Gluten-Free Subscription Box strongly enough - it includes great value for the price ($24.85 per month for yourself or as a gift), and if you're unsure of what's out there for those eating gluten-free, you're sure to make several discoveries each month of the possibilities.

If you'd like to try the Send Me Gluten-Free Subscription Box at a discount, use the code BLOG20 at check out, and you can get it for 20% off!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Awesome Life Friday #32

Welcome!  We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

Here's what we've all been up to over the last week:

We hope you'll check these out if you haven't already!


And now our favorite part - the FEATURES!  If you're one of our featured posts, we'd love it if you'd grab a button, and thanks to all of you who shared with us last week!

If you are one of our FEATURED bloggers, this button is for you!

The Anglophile Desk // In the Boondocks

Crazy Ideas for Family Fun at Mealtime // Grandparents+ 

20 Ways to Keep Your Grocery Budget Under Control // Fun Money Mom 

Enchilada Stuffed Squash // My Life Cookbook 

Flirtini // The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl 

Why We Stopped Buying Toys! // The Practical Mom 

Dill Cucumber Dip // Sweet Little Ones

Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

Are you all ready to party?  If you like, we'd love it you'd help spread the word by grabbing our button:

Here we go!

Review/Giveaway Ecobloomers Cloth Diapers


I have very few materialistic desires in life. I don’t wear jewelry, I own 2 pairs of shoes, I rotate a small wardrobe, and stamp collecting has never really looked like much fun. The single product I can think of that fits the bill of some sort of active consumerism on my part, is cloth diapers. I want them all. I want all the prints, and types and colors and brands.

The thing about cloth diapers though, is they have to be equal parts functional as they are pretty. So in that respect, I still like to try out a brand here and there before I’m going to stock up.

When I first started my cloth ‘journey’ I was pregnant with my second. I heard a handful of brand names thrown around, some high end and some are what are considered “china cheapies”, and along with those there were maybe 3 WAHM (work at home mom) type business brands.

Amongst the WAHM brands, I heard the name EcoBloomers tossed about the Facebook diaper swap sites. I knew it to be a fellow military spouse and made note to try her diapers when I got the chance. Unfortunately, due to financial reasons, most of my stash is preloved. I have very few, if any, bought new.

Scrolling through Facebook sometime last year, I saw a post from EcoBloomers that said they were relocating to Fort Irwin. Hey, that’s where I live!! I couldn’t wait to meet her. I had been drooling over her creations for quite some time at that point.

While I never had the pleasure of getting close with Hayley, we met numerous times and ran in the same social circles. The cloth community is fairly small as it is in the ‘real world’ and even smaller in our desolate desert surroundings, so we attended the same groups around town.

EcoBloomers pre-loved fluff!

The first diaper I had the pleasure of trying of hers is a few years old, and second hand. A good friend gave it to me. Her daughter’s legs were just far too skinny for the leg holes. It luckily fit my chunky girl just fine. It was never meant to be for review but I just wanted to mention it because it is one of my favorite diapers. Although it is a few years old, and been used and washed numerous times, it is holding up fabulously.

When Hayley asked me to try out one of her new diapers for review I was very honored! She had a pink polka dot one size Pocket style diaper picked out for the occasion, and let me choose between white or blue snaps on it. I chose the stylish blue snaps.

When I went to pick the diaper up, she was super nice and excited for the opportunity. I’m pretty sure she didn't realize I was much more stoked than she was.

The diaper was so adorable in person. Its color schemes was very pin-up 50’s style in my mind. The inside was lined with a fabric I hadn’t come across previously in diapers. It was almost like a jersey mesh. I found that interesting.

It fit my daughter and her chunky thighs, beautifully! It moves around with her ever mobile self without any issues. My daughter wore this diaper for probably about 5 hours the first time, which included a nap (might as well test it against the big guns!) and we had no leaks at all.

Now this diaper has been worn and washed a half dozen times, and it is not anything less than it was brand new.

I would definitely recommend EcoBloomers for handmade custom cloth diapers.

It is important to remember that no two diaper is going to be 100% the same, and small irregularities, that in no way effect the functionality of the diaper, are to be expected. I actually appreciate them. I love seeing that someone poured their time and love into an item I own - it makes it all that more special.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a few more of these gorgeous and unique diapers. Many of Hayley’s diapers appear to be in the to $30 range, however the one I reviewed is only $16.

EcoBloomers offers custom made diapers in addition to the rest of her stock. Want a diaper made from real recycled military uniform, or your old band Tshirt? Ecobloomers is definitely your go to shop!

If you'd like a chance to get your hands on an EcoBloomers diaper for your own, read on - we've got a great Giveaway for you!

EcoBloomers is letting us giveaway this wonderful skull and roses print OS pocket cloth diaper, aptly called "Circle of Life" ($24 value)! 

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 9-10-15. 

The winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  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.

Once the winner(s) have responded and confirm, their first name will be posted on our Giveaways page. 

Good luck everyone! a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, August 24, 2015

Five Common Weight Loss Struggles


We all know weight loss is achieved through the kitchen right? The kitchen can be a very complex place which may be why weight loss isn't as simple as a fad diet or exercising off a bad meal.

Common struggles of losing weight include:

  1. Finishing what others do not eat
  2. Mindless snacking
  3. Not eating all day and over doing it in the evening
  4. Making nourishing choices until someone else has another idea or your normal routine goes out the window when you leave your environment
  5. You are tired and sugar is calling your name

If you struggle with one of the above, write down in your weight loss notebook how you will over come this obstacle. If you feel like all of these are your struggles, pick one to start with. Once you have overcome one move on to the next. Please do not try to change all 5 at once. Small changes lead to lasting change. That's what you want right? Lasting change so you are not on another weight loss journey next year?

Here are my tips for these common struggles:

1) Finishing what others eat.
This is really common for the mothers of small children. Give them smaller portions.They can always ask for more if they are hungry and you are not faced with finishing whats left on their plate. You can also save what is left over for snack time or their next meal. If they did not eat much of it because they did not like it, pack it up for your next meal if you really feel you need to not waste it.

2) Mindless snacking.
Be the observer of your mindless snacking - what time of day do you do it and what's going on when you are snacking. Find an activity to entertain your hands and your mind for when the snacking starts to draw you in. I like to grab a glass of water and sit on the floor to stretch. This gives you an opportunity to hydrate (we often snack when our body is dehydrated and actually just asking for water) and it lets you reconnect with your body (which reminds you of the goals you are working on).

3) Not eating all day and overdoing in the evening.
The night before or the morning of, have a plan for your meals and when you will eat. Meal prep, make time for yourself to eat during the day and change something about your evening routine. Instead of sitting down with an abundance of food, have dinner and go on a walk or play at the park. Your body does best when it is fueled regularly with time in between to digest. If you eat the same time of day every day your body knows what to expect.

4) Being derailed by others or changes to routine.
Build your willpower one choice at a time. Instead of saying "I can't eat that", say "I don't eat that." By changing your words you can change your thoughts.

Not everyone is going to support you in losing weight and place an awesome healthy meal in front of you. You will encounter some that want to see you fail because they aren't happy with themselves or motivated to change their own habits.

Being vegetarian gets me out of a lot of situations where I don't want to eat what is provided. And there's no harm in saying "I'm eating vegan right now to support my health" even if I'm only eating vegan for that one hour when I'm at that event where chances are there's nothing there vegan.

The foods we are addicted to most often react the most negatively to our bodies when ingested. Evaluate your reaction of bloat, gas, cramps, skin reactions, and emotional reactions and you'll have an easier time saying no to those foods that aren't helping you feel well. When you know you will be faced with a tough situation, prepare by eating ahead of time, and have your healthy go to snacks available while you're there. When you're asked "Do you want some? you're not going to have any?" take a deep breathe, pause thinking of how you would feel after having it, and respond as you feel is appropriate.

5) The sugar demon is calling you.
You're sweet enough, step away from the sugar. For those times you can't live without it, find a healthier replacement such as dates, figs, or dark chocolate. Make these a nice treat, not an everyday routine. The less often you have it, the more you can enjoy it when you do. Sugar is one of those things you go to when emotions are strong. Before you reach for the sugar, try calling your go to person when you need to talk about what is going on.

Enjoy a sweet treat without derailing your goals!

What are your particular weight loss struggles? Pull out your notebook, write all the struggles you experience with weight loss, from above or your own personal ones not listed. Choose the one you feel most motivated to work on right now. How will you overcome it? Write it down! When you accomplish it for at least a week or longer, move to the next while maintaining what you have created.

When it feels like a lot - breathe. Take at least 5 deep breathes and see how you feel afterwards. You will discover how deep breaths can help you change your perspective, and change your entire life, including your confidence in your ability to succeed at weight loss.