Around the House · Cooking · Dining · Food

A Bread Board That Works!

If you are like me, you love homemade or artisan types of bread. If you are also like me, cutting these loaves can be a trial.

In my case, I have a wonderful, sharp knife, but the effort to slice the loaf without crushing it, or getting a slice that is a bit, um, mis-shaped, is a trial.

For several years I looked to find a solution to this problem, thinking that I might purchase an electric knife to solve the issue. I admit, I did not know about the bread slicing guide until I happened to trip over a reference in one of my searches.

I needed something that would make the slicing easier, provide a variety of slice sizes, and would be easy to store away. What I found astonished me.

Behold, the Natural Bamboo Foldable Bread Slicer! Click on the link for more information.

Pay attention to the information guide and note that while this is an easy to use product, there can be a bit of a learning curve. Like many first time users, I set mine up backwards – with the platform that the bread sits on lower than the knife guide. When I turned it over (right side up), it worked great!

It is easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to store. At first I was concerned that the bamboo would be damaged by cutting, but that hasn’t happened yet. I do have issues using the knife, but I expect that to work itself out over time.

Oh, and I have not purchased an electric knife. 🙂

I purchased mine through Amazon, but as you can see on the link above, you can purchase directly from the manufacturer – and check out all the other products they have available!

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Desperate Undertaking

This latest addition to the Flavia Albia series, not to mention the Falco series, is a sit on the edge of your seat thriller.

Desperate Undertaking by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a decided fondness for authors who can create, and sustain, a series with characters and locations that are compelling. In this case, two series.

For those of us Falco Fans, Albia comes face to face with people that Falco and Helena encountered 15 (20?) years prior. It wasn’t a joyful situation.

This situation adds layers to the tapestry that Davis created when she developed both the Falco and Albia series. There is some cross-pollination simply because of the ebb and flow of people that come and go in our lives.

The killings are brutal. There is no doubt that whoever came up with the scenarios (yes, plural) is creative. The horror of discovery is matched by the desperate search to find and stop those responsible. Motive is a huge question – why were these people killed? The answers are chilling on several levels.

As I listened I found myself in awe of the creativity of the writer. While there is a lot of detail regarding a lot of things, thankfully there is not too much detail about certain things. If you have a fluid imagination be warned. On the other hand, the settings and background are beautifully rendered. I admit I would have liked to have a map but one really isn’t needed.

The characters are beautifully rendered. As usual, there are new folks we haven’t encountered in addition to those who came from prior books. The location is also brought to life. Rome in all its complicated majesty is almost a character in and of itself. Not surprising all things considered.

While I would strongly recommend this book to any Falco or Flavia reader, I do think that if you are new to the series you might be a bit lost in understanding the history of the people involved. But that is just me.

That being said, I am going to find the book that this particular work springs from and dive back in. As I recall from the last time I listened/read it, it was one of Falco & Helena’s best adventures.



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Food

Why Did I Wait So Long To Try This?

Finally, a great tasting salsa that is Just Right. For me.

I’m one of those folks who do not like spicy or hot foods. My idea of chili has a maximum 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder.

Salsa is one of those things I enjoy in moderation but won’t make at home. Buying salsa at the store can be tricky. I go for ‘mild’ actually preferring something 50 degrees cooler. And let us not forget that tomatoes and acid go hand in hand, which makes it just that much less enjoyable.

Every once in a while I get an urge for some salsa and the search begins. I toy with the idea of picking up the same brand I bought the last time until I remember that that experience was not really enjoyable. Decent flavor. Okay. Nice texture. Okay. Acid reflux for days. No thanks.

A few years back America’s Test Kitchen did a taste testing of bottled salsas and picked a winner. I appreciated the test, but at that time the brand wasn’t available in my area.

Fast forward a few years. I recently caught that same episode with the taste test. Check out the taste test here:

I wondered if the winning brand was available in my local stores. Yep, it was. I added it to my shopping list along with a bag of my favorite tortilla chips.

Boy! Was I glad I did!

Chi-Chi’s Brand has quite an array of products including salsas. I picked up their Thick and Chunky Salsa – in Mild, of course – and really enjoyed it. Even a few days after the jar was opened, the contents held their flavors, weren’t acidic or bitter and tasted as good as the first taste.

Yes, there is some heat and tang to the sauce. No, it isn’t spicy and hot in that numb your mouth way. At least the Mild version I tried wasn’t. I can’t comment on any of the others.

Yes, I could make my own, but I don’t eat it enough to go to the trouble to find everything I need.

I’m glad I saw that taste test and took the minute or two to find it in my local market. This is something that I can imagine using in a variety of ways, not just on chips.

Check it out and see what you think!

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Murder Through The English Post

Or, how I spent yesterday. 🙂

Murder Through the English Post by Jessica Ellicott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This 6th addition to the series has been a joy to listen to. Combined with a poison pen letter mystery is a bit of introspection by all of the main characters. When you consider that Beryl has only been at the Beaches less than a year, a lot has happened since the beginning of the series.

The letter mystery is beautifully crafted – I had no idea until the very end. I also thought the solution was quite unique, at least I’ve not encountered anything similar.

As for the individual characters, Ellicott has once again brought each into focus and reminded us of where we started. The pleasure of these books is the way the characters, and the stories, are crafted. There is a clear deliberation on every detail that creates a lovely tapestry of the location, time, and people. And the dog!

Yes, each book can be read on its own, but I strongly urge new readers to start at the beginning and work their way forward. They won’t be disappointed.



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Cooking · Food

Too Hot To Cook!

In my neck of the woods, it has been in the high 90s for quite a few weeks. Way too hot to heat up the kitchen!

Recently several folks posted the query: “It is too darn hot to cook – What do I fix for dinner?”

While take-out might sound great, it does take quite a chunk out of the budget. And I know that heating up the kitchen just doesn’t appeal when it also heats up the house. No need to strain the a/c, right? But what to do?

Here are some suggestions:

Why not grill chicken, including extra chicken that you can eat cold? Or, if you are inclined, fry enough chicken for several meals. Cold chicken is a staple in many picnic baskets, why not keep that thought in mind for a picnic in the backyard or at the kitchen table?

You could make tuna or chicken salads or add tuna or chicken to pasta salads. Or, you could make sandwiches using tuna or chicken. If you precook a batch of chicken, you could have enough for sandwiches and salads.

Speaking of salads, pasta salads are an easy fix and you can make enough for a couple of meals. Same for potato salad and coleslaw.

Have some cheese and crackers on hand. Don’t forget the pickles, not to mention raw vegetables, like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, and jicama.

Think fresh fruits for dessert. With the bounties available at farmer’s markets, you could indulge in some wonderful flavors at reasonable prices.

You can make your own sorbets using the fruits, too. Or, if your fruit is getting a bit close to its’ ‘use by’ date, make a crisp or buckle. You could make it early in the day before the heat is bad, so it doesn’t overheat the kitchen.

If you have suggestions on other options, I’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, don’t forget to make a batch of iced tea (sweet or unsweet), and tuck it in the fridge for a great way to cool off on a hot Summer day!

Around the House

Chain Reaction

How Making One Change Can Bring On More Changes

It never fails. You look around your home and find clutter in places you never really paid any attention to. That clutter can be exhausting, too. The magic happens when that clutter disappears. Or, realistically, when you take a few minutes to remove it.

I recently decided to upgrade a piece of equipment in my office. The electrical plug is tucked away behind a file cabinet that is itself tucked behind a worktable.

When the new equipment arrived, I knew I had a job on my hands because I had to clear out the corner to remove the old equipment and install the new one.

<Sigh>

On top of the requirement to move some furniture about, there was the issue of the piles of Things I Need To Do Something With.

I tend to keep a reasonably tidy workspace, but I do have a habit of piles. The problem of piles is that they can become clutter. Visual clutter. And the problem with visual clutter is that it takes up space in the room – and I don’t mean just the spots on the counters, etc. but in the room itself.

To be honest, the full job took less than 30 minutes – and that included moving things around, replacing the old with the new, and putting things back where they belonged. I also gathered the piles together, discarded what could be discarded and realized that what was left was a very small collection of things that won’t take long to deal with.

The magic happened when I looked into the corner and found room. Space. Area.

I found myself feeling a bit creative again. I found that there was room to be creative again.

Hmm.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, I suggest you pick a corner, a small corner or spot or whatever, a tackle that. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see what you can accomplish in that time. Once the timer has gone off, stop, if you like, and do something else. Or, if you are inclined, set the timer for another 15 minutes and see what you can accomplish in that time.

Let the magic happen!

If this has been helpful, or interesting, please let me know by clicking the Like button below. Thanks!

Crafting · Gifts · YouTube

The Alternative To Regular Viewing

Or, a great way to watch (and learn) to craft. Even if you aren’t a crafter.

Now, I know that not everyone wants to craft. And I know that there are lots of people who are curious, but not sure if they want to learn a craft. Then there are lots of people who love to craft and are looking for some great instruction, interesting projects, fabulous product.

If you are any of these, stick with me.

If you are a long time reader, you know I enjoy MaymayMadeIt on YouTube. I’ve been a viewer, and a customer, for quite a few years. Maymay is a great teacher who loves to share her love of crafting. Recently, she has changed her video schedule to accommodate the needs of her viewers and the result has been phenomenal.

If you are looking for a way to ease out of a busy work day and spend some time learning something new or just enjoying some great chatter, Maymay has an evening Crafter and Crafter After Shows ( both are live shows ) on Tuesday. She also has crafting tutorials on Thursday and Saturday. If you miss a show, you can always pull up the replay on her YouTube channel.

To find her on YouTube, type MayMayMadeIt in the search box. Don’t forget to hit that ‘subscribe’ button and ring the bell so you get notification about her next video!

The schedule – Note that her schedule is Central Standard Time:
  • *Here is our Weekly Video Schedule:
  • – Sundays 6:00pm CST | Created In Christ Devotion
  • -Tuesdays 6:0pm CST |The Crafter Show
  • -Tuesdays 6:30 pm CST The Crafter After Show
  • -Thursdays 2:00pm CST | Craft O’clock Show
  • -Thursday 6:00pm CST Maymay Recorded Tutorial
  • -Saturdays 6:00pm CST | Maymay Recorded Tutorial

Even if you aren’t a crafter, but just want a way to ease out of a busy day, I strongly recommend that you stop by and spend some time with Maymay, Vinnie and the crew.

As someone who spent years watching quilters long, long before I ever picked up a sewing machine or quilting pattern, I know that sitting back and watching the process can be quite relaxing, and an opportunity to pick up some tips and tricks along the way. It is also a great way to see if a particular craft is something you might be interested in. Or not. 😉

You can also learn more by visiting MaymayMadeIt.com.

If you are bored of the regular TV viewing, tired of the same old, same old, looking for something different, why not give Maymay a chance?

Enjoy!

Around the House · YouTube

I Love This Project!

When DIY Danie on YouTube announced her plans to update her back garden, I was stoked. She put together some amazing projects which included updating her gate and fence, clearing space for a garden shed and work on entertainment areas.

If you have not been keeping up, episode 1 of the creation of the garden shed aired last Saturday and episode 2 is due to release this coming Saturday.

You don’t want to miss this!

If you are contemplating some DIY projects for your own backyard, this is a great collection of ideas and a guide to how Danie plans out the projects and the budget.

If you are an armchair cheering squad, like me, this is a great opportunity to see some imaginative creativity along with some occasionally silly humor and a great dog.

Not sure how to find her? Go to YouTube, type ‘DIY Danie” in the search box. When you click on her channel, don’t forget to check out her website for her other media options and, if you like what you see, click the subscribe button.

Why check her channel out? There are lots and lots of great projects that cover a wide variety of ideas. If you are a beginner or experienced DIYer, Danie has you covered.

Enjoy!

The starting point for the project.
Cooking · Food · Meal Building Blocks

Why Didn’t I Think Of This Earlier?

Or, tips and tricks to make Summer meals a lot less, less.

I’ve had a few ‘head-slap’ moments lately and thought I should share. After all, you might not have thought of these, either. 🙂

Batch Cooking

As you contemplate your weekly meals, if you are planning on using, say, a lot of oven-baked chicken across many meals, why not put it all in the oven at the same time and use the oven once instead of several times heating the kitchen when it really is too hot already?

My range has a convection oven and, along with all the other bells and whistles, has a dedicated button for chicken nuggets. Yeah, really. I used to chuckle a lot at that, too. But you know what? Filling the oven with baking sheets full of chicken to be cooked and used for several different meals saves time, energy (i.e.: money), and work. You can even prep different flavor profiles if you want. Even if it really is just chicken nuggets.

If you are able to find a flat of meats you will be able to use in a variety of meals, take advantage of pre-prepping and batch cooking. You can fill up the slow cooker in addition to filling up the oven or making use of your grill. You’ll save money and time.

Think Ahead

If you like to make tuna or chicken salad don’t forget to put the tuna or cooked chicken in the fridge before you start making the salads. I keep my canned tuna in the fridge so when I’m ready for a tasty lunch, the tuna is already cold. All I need to do is make the salad and eat. No waiting for the mixture to cool off.

Batch Prepping

I recently picked up a bag of sweet mini peppers to see if I would like them. I don’t care for hot peppers and while I enjoy sweet bell peppers many times one is just too much. On top of all of that, I hate waste.

I liked the sweet mini peppers but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat them all before they went bad, so I pulled out my mini chopper, grabbed a paring knife along with a couple of small freezer containers and started in. I split each pepper after I took off the top, cleaned the seeds out and then cut into smaller pieces that I put into the chopper. Once the chopper was full, I pulsed it until the peppers were coarsely chopped and then moved the chopped peppers to the freezer containers. I can now use what I need for a recipe without waste!

Do you have ‘issues’ with green peppers? As I got older my digestive system no longer tolerated green peppers. Until I learned this secret: Peel the peppers. Yep, pull out your vegetable peeler and remove that outer skin. No more uncomfortable tummy!

If you find a good deal on onions or other vegetables but don’t want to let them go to waste why not prep them and tuck them away in the freezer?

Best Tip: Use an ice cube tray to create cubes of these veggies. When they are frozen, pop them into freezer bags and put them away. Don’t forget to thoroughly clean the ice cube tray for the next round! You can use this trick for left over wine, tomato paste, fresh herbs, and probably more things than I’ve thought of here.

Start looking at different eye levels.

It is easy to forget than there could be great bargains on your grocery shelves just waiting to be found. All you have to do is look up and then look down.

Many grocery stores stock shelves based on what they want the buyer to purchase. They know shoppers don’t always look above or below eye level. What can you gain by looking up or down? Better prices. Better quality. Better options.

Don’t get caught up in purchasing brand names, either. You’ve probably heard that store brands are often the same as name brands other than the prices. That is true more often than we think. By trying off brand items you could find something you like better – and at a better price.

There is a time and place to purchase name brand items. But it might not be a bad idea to check around and see what you are missing, especially when there are limits on what you can find on the shelves.

I hope these few tips are helpful. If so, please click on the ‘Like’ button below!

Enjoy!

Cooking · Dining · Food

Thinking About Ingredients

Or, you might find something you like better

We have all heard of blind tastings where we ‘thought’ we knew what we liked but discovered there were potential ingredient changes that would improve our cooking.

The recent blind tasting over at Sortedfood was interesting. Check it out:

Sometimes it makes a difference when you choose different versions of the same ingredient. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you discover that you are spending more money on something you don’t really like as much as the lower priced option.

In these days with higher prices and shortages, it pays to be a bit more elastic with our shopping. Trying brands that are in different parts of the store (i.e. shelf) could save a lot of money. Take it one step further and look for stores that cater to a certain cuisine.

Want to find the best produce? Looking for authentic ingredients at a price point that won’t compete with your car payment? Looking to learn more about flavors and foods from a different culture?

Your local markets and farmer’s markets are excellent resources. The big box stores can carry a lot of items but that does not necessarily mean that their quality is the best. It usually isn’t. Tiny local markets may not have the huge array of options but what they do carry is often in quantities that are easily usable without waste – even if their price point might be a bit higher. You might be surprised to discover it isn’t.

Sometimes you can find alternatives that are better quality, flavor, and even price, just by checking out a different part of the store.