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Cave Tools Pigtail Food Flipper: a great new tool for summer grilling

30 Jun

We’ll be taking these with us to the campground this summer!

It’s officially summer! Summer means so many things, but one thing it means for us is grilling. Another thing it means for us is camping.When we camp, we grill! Therefore, I was very excited when Cave Tools asked me to try out another one of their fabulous products. I have reviewed several of their other grilling tools and have yet to be disappointed.

The Pigtail Food Flippers arrived on our doorstep just as we were creating our menu for a week’s worth of meals, and we put steaks right on the menu so we could try out our new tool. We would be grilling at home, but soon we will be camping and we’ll be grilling over a campfire. These new tools, a pair of two-one longer and one shorter-seemed to be perfect for all the grilling we do. Although we were doing steaks on this particular night, the tools are great for so many other things, including bacon, chicken, hot dogs and ribs, just to name a few ideas.

The Pigtail Food Flipper was great for grilling steaks, but it has many other uses as well.

When I asked my husband what he liked about the new Pigtail Food Flippers versus using a spatula, a fork or tongs, he said that the shape of the hook which made for easy flipping.

“I liked the way the hook was shaped,” he said. “All you had to do was hook the meat and flip it rather than trying to get a spatula underneath. I also liked that it came in two sizes, I didn’t have to use a big one for a small piece of meat and I won’t have to use a small one for a big piece.”

The tool was super-easy to clean because they’re dishwasher safe, and to store, which is a big plus for a small kitchen. Additionally, the handles fit well into the palm of your hand, much more comfortable than the flat form of a spatula.

You can find this great new tool set in two places and it’s very affordable. It’s on Amazon here, and on the Cave Tools website here. If you choose to order from the Cave Tools site, there is a great 15% off discount available by entering the coupon code PIGTAIL15 at checkout.

As we pack up for camping, we’ll be including our Pigtail Flippers, and I encourage you to check them out too!

 

***I was given a free product in order to do this review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.***

 

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What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals and a new recipe for you

8 Feb
This was a recipe we tried out a couple months back and loved, so we put it on the list again this menu cycle.

This was a recipe we tried out a couple months back and loved, so we put it on the list again this menu cycle.

The weeks are flying by! Today I have a two week menu for you, and a new recipe that we recently tried, loved for Loaded Baked Potato Soup, and therefore, just made again. In fact, it is my lunch today, left over from last night’s dinner, as I write. I know that I mentioned last time that I love the Skinnytaste blog, and although I don’t usually share from the same spot so many times in a row, I’m going to have to make an exception in today’s post, which really shares more than one new recipe with you. Thanks to Gina for making such delicious healthy recipes!

Without further ado, here is two weeks of menu inspiration for you.

Sunday (Superbowl): Don’s Chili, Teriyaki Wings, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and Baked Zucchini Rounds with Marinara (her recipe calls for sticks) Here is an alternate recipe for Baked Zucchini Fries from our lunch at the White House that we also love.

Sticks or rounds, using gluten free bread crumbs, these are a favorite treat at our house.

Sticks or rounds, using gluten free bread crumbs, these are a favorite treat at our house.

Monday: Baked Potato Soup from the Skinnytaste Blog. You can see her recipe here, which also calls for the addition of sour cream as a topping option. We did use turkey bacon on ours.

Tuesday: Hot Dogs and Potato Puffs (Mom’s out on this night, this is NOT my favorite dinner. At least the hot dogs are turkey hot dogs! And there is at least one of my kids who is of the belief that Potato Puffs aka Tater Tots, are a root vegetable. That’s another issue for another day.)

Wednesday: Paninis

Thursday: Steak Lettuce Tacos I shared this recipe on my last two weeks of meals post. I won’t say whose recipe this is…any guesses? Click the link and see!

Friday: Homemade pizzas (This and Nachos are often our go-to Friday night meals.)

Saturday: Chicken nuggets and mac and cheese (all gluten free) not homemade, tonight is a kids’ night in, parents’ night out for a 7:30 theater show, something we very rarely ever get to do, and we have a final end of season basketball game until 5:30, so desperate times call for desperate measures! This is probably one of their favorite meals when it comes to the not-good-for-you kind of meals, but this is real life. It’s not all good for us all the time. The mac and cheese is a white cheese, organic kind, and the nuggets are better than some we have found, as good as we can get in a frozen, breaded, gluten free tenderloin. And to boot, I have no idea what or where we parents are even are eating, given our time crunch. So there’s that.

Sunday: Baked chicken dinner, a Sunday favorite of ours which uses one of my favorite Pampered Chef  bakeware items.

Monday: Chicken, veggie and rice soup (homemade, gluten free with white rice)

Tuesday: Tacos

Wednesday: Pasta with meatballs

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: First night of school vacation week, so dinner is currently TBA

Cave Tools BBQ Brush Review

25 Mar
Look at the difference between our old brush and the new Cave Tools Brush!

Look at the difference between our old brush and the new Cave Tools Brush!

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and being New England, we had snow today. There is a funny saying here that is, “If you don’t like the weather here, wait five minutes and it’ll change,” and it’s so true. That said, yesterday was nice enough out to cook on the grill, while today, it’s a completely different world outside.

Luckily we had the day yesterday to marinate a London Broil and cook it on the grill for dinner. Our grill is super old. We’ve had for more than a decade, almost two, since we moved into our house. Parts and piece of it have been replaced through the years, but the old bones of it are the same. We tend to be the type of people where if something’s not broken, we don’t fix it, and so as long as our grill is in good working order, we’re still using it.

That said, we’ve gone through many grilling tools throughout the years. We’ve bought some, received some as gifts, and they’ve come and gone, not really anything too noteworthy, over the life of the grill.

Recently however, we were given the opportunity to try out the new Cave Tools BBQ brush, in exchange for an honest review of the product. Given how much we’ve loved all of the Cave Tools products so far, I jumped at the chance to give this brush a try. If it could clean our old grill, it could clean anything! The brush we had been using for a while was on its way out, but we still had it, and when you put one next to the other, you can see that there is just comparison in the quality of the two.

Looking at the newly cleaned right side of the grill versus the uncleaned left side, you can see what an amazing job the BBQ brush did!

Looking at the newly cleaned right side of the grill versus the uncleaned left side, you can see what an amazing job the BBQ brush did!

When I read the features of the brush on the Cave Tools website, I liked what I saw. It’s 100% rust proof, it’s got a heavy duty strength clip which holds together three brushes which allows for maximum cleaning power on all types of grill grates. The stainless steel bristles wrap all the way around in order to achieve better cleaning angles and longer lasting durability. It’s even safe for porcelain. When my husband used the brush to clean our grill, he said that there was a 100% difference between using the old brush and the Cave Tools Brush, and the ability for the bristles to wrap around the grates made all the difference in the world.

My favorite thing of all though, is when a company stands behind its products, and I really loved that Cave Tools provides a Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee for the brush. To me, having that peace of mind is priceless.

You can check out the Cave Tools BBQ brush on the website here, or on Amazon.com here. If you choose to order the Cave Tools BBQ brush from Amazon, you can use this coupon code to receive 15% off: V9BW7SDN.

All clean and ready for spring!

All clean and ready for spring!

 

I’m in love.

1 Feb

It’s February, and I’m in love.

My heart pitter-patters and I think about the new object of my affection constantly. What will we do together next? What new things will we try? For years I hoped and prayed I’d find love like this again. It had been so long since my last love affair.

I wasn’t even planning for this, and it has taken me completely by surprise, which I guess is the best kind of love.

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That’s right, I’m in love with my new Stir Fry pan from Pampered Chef. Now I’m not a Pampered Chef consultant, and I don’t pretend to even play one on TV, but I.LOVE.THIS.PAN.

And I’m pretty sure my husband does too.

You see, years and years (and years) ago, my husband and I had received a beautiful piece of cookware from his grandmother. It was a nice, deep Teflon saute pan and it had a glass cover for the top and two handles for the side. I loved that pan. We used it constantly and it was the perfect size for all our meals, even as our family expanded from two, to three, to four, and finally to five hungry mouths to feed. We could saute, cook, simmer. You name it, we cooked it in that pan.

And then, one day, try as we would to deny the obvious, we realized our pan was getting old and scratched and we thought we were seeing evidence of little bits of Teflon coming off.

Clearly, you’re not supposed to use Teflon as an added ingredient in your recipes.

We had to say good bye to our pan.

I missed that pan every.single.day.

Don’t get me wrong, we had other pans. We even had two cast iron pans that we loved, but it wasn’t the same. We had to use both pans at once to make some of our saucier meals because one wasn’t deep enough to hold everything. My stir fry meals toppled over the sides of just one pan, our sauces bubbled over. We didn’t have a true matching cover to go with our pans.

I was sad.

And then suddenly, I wasn’t!

A few weeks ago, my very good-I’ve-known-her-almost-as-long-as-I’ve-known-my-husband-friend Marcia asked me if I would host a new kind of Pampered Chef party. She’s been a consultant for years and years now, and there was a new kind of party she wanted to try: a virtual party on Facebook. Would I try it?

Sure thing! I love Facebook because it’s where I get to see lots of family and friends from all over the country, all over the world! And, it’s where I get a lot of great recipes! I invited hundreds of people. Literally. I can fit a good 10-12 in my living room, but this let me be unlimited. I didn’t have to worry about space or weather or distance. I had all kinds of out of state friends on my list.

The party would last one hour and be completely virtual. No ingredients to buy, no house to clean, no makeup to put on. I could sit in my bed under my electric blanket and play along with the games, talk to my guests and watch the videos of all the great new tools that I would suddenly have to have.

As many parties as I’ve had in the past, it never even occurred to me to check out the January hostess benefits, or even to ask. Suddenly though, as I had my party, the orders started coming in. Notification after notification arrived in my email inbox. As my youngest daughter partied in my bed along with me, part playing along and part watching iCarly on the TV, I decided we’d better check things out on the hostess benefits page of my party website.

Sure enough, January was DOUBLE hostess benefits month!

Who knew?

Well, probably lots of people, but I was happily surprised!! Suddenly, even my daughter was paying attention to them and we looked at the videos and photos popping up throughout the party with new eyes.

Granted, I have lots and lots of Pampered Chef tools. I have been creating a collection of great pieces since before my wedding when I had my first party as a newly engaged young 20-something, and I use them all the time.

When all was said and done, I had earned……

Wait for it…..

$530 to spend outright, plus five half price items and one 60% off item, and I received two booking credits for people who had agreed to also have virtual parties after participating in mine, so I’d get really great discounts if I saved a few things from my list and ordered from their parties too.

I was amazed and I was so ready to shop. Normally I don’t have this much to spend.

Or should I say, I have NEVER had this much to spend.

I had a running wish list as the party had progressed, but it was full of little things. With this much money to spend, I could now afford many of those little things and then some really big, expensive things.

And that’s when it happened.

As I turned the pages of my paper catalog now in hand, I saw my newest love: the Executive Chef Stir-fry Skillet. The words Executive Chef made my heart stop for a mere second and I took in a breath as I looked at the pan. I think I even heard angels sing.

It was definitely love at first sight. It was a pan which was not Teflon, but rather a baked on non-stick aluminum. It had handles on both sides, it was ever so deep. It could even go in an oven of up to 400 degrees. What fun we would have together! I pictured all of our recipes being made right in that pan. Cranberry chicken, Chicken Marsala and any one of our favorite stir fry recipes, all bubbly and steaming and yet not bubbling right over.

After placing my hostess order, I planned out our next two weeks of meals, which conveniently coincided with the arrival of my shopping spree. I planned out all of the above and then some. Cranberry Chicken was up first, per request from one kid. Chicken Marsala was up another time, per request of another kid. Shepherd’s Pie, Taco Bake, Lasagna.

I began to daydream of cooking two pounds of ground beef at once in a pan with two cans of creamed corn mixed in for our Shepherd’s Pie, or being able to saute 15 chicken tenderloins in the pan with two cups of cranberries and two cups of water all at once for our Cranberry Chicken recipe.

Sure enough, when my order arrived and I unpacked it all, reminiscent of a child opening gifts on Christmas morning, my pan was all I’d hoped for and more. That very first night, I rejoiced as I happily made our Cranberry Chicken, and beamed as everyone commented how great it came out. My meat browned evenly, there was plenty of room for everything and it all tasted delicious. I think it tasted even better than usual in my new pan!

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I’d highly recommend any Pampered Chef party and any of their products to any of my friends and family, always. However, I must say, this new virtual party was fantastic! It was such fun “seeing” everyone that I wouldn’t get to see at my own in-house party. It was fun watching the videos and seeing some new must-have products, but most of all, it was fun falling in love-with a stir fry pan- all over again.

Happy February!

 

 

 

Product Review: Cave Tools Kabob Skewers Rack

3 Sep
Having the skewers up off the flames was a huge benefit to this kabob set.

Having the skewers up off the flames was a huge benefit to this kabob set.

Good morning to you all!

Here at our house, we have almost made it all the way through all of the first week of school craziness! We did all the last minute shopping and appointments for the dentist, eye doctor, orthodontist and whatever else needed checking before school started last week, and now we have just about finished up this first week for all of the kids. It was a busy couple of weeks, and Don’s school district started a whole week before our kids did, so it’s been a tiny bit hectic!

Thankfully, we have some great go-to meals that are fast and easy to prepare, and they’re great for this time of year. Kabobs are one of our favorite things to do in the summer especially, because we love the mix of meat and grilled veggies, and they’re fun to eat! You can marinate them or just cook them as is, and either way they are fantastic!

Recently I had the opportunity to try out another Cave Tools product, and since we loved their BBQ set over the summer, we couldn’t wait to see what their Kabob Skewers Rack had in store for us! Prior to getting the Kabob Skewers Rack, we would use wooden skewers whenever we do kabobs, and it’s frustrating to have the meat sliding off the stick as we’re trying to cook them, and it’s hard to slide the meat off the stick once it’s cooked on there. Additionally, it’s very hard to get them evenly cooked, as they sit right on top of the grill grates.

Dishwasher safe!

Dishwasher safe!

This very affordable Cave Tools Kabob Skewers Rack had features and benefits that would ease our kabob cooking frustrations and we were anxious to try it out. I was thrilled to find out that it’s completely dishwasher safe, and it comes with a Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee. I love companies that stand behind their products. I also love companies that include recipes with their products and this product came with 25 recipes to try!

Don was anxious to try out the rack on the grill, and he was really pleased with the fact that the meat was not directly on the grill grates, thanks to the rack that keeps them just the right distance off the grates yet provides a great finished cooked product. He said it was the best, most evenly cooked meat he’s ever done on the grill, thanks to the rack.

The set comes with five flat skewers, which is perfect for our family of five, since everything seems to always come in a four-pack, everywhere we go. The skewers each have a little disc on them which can be used to slide your meat right off the skewer and onto the plate. That was ultra convenient!

Each skewer also has a locking mechanism to keep it in place, which was great and tricky at the same time. It was great because the skewers didn’t slide around or come off of the rack while cooking, but a little bit tricky because they get hot and to unlock them to turn them for one of the eight cooking positions was a little bit tough. However, with a set of tongs and a potholder, it can be done, and the even grilling made it worth it.

If I could make one recommendation about the product it would be that we wished it came with some sort of dish or tray that the rack would fit onto for setting up the kabobs and carrying them out of the house and to the grill. We ended up finding a Pyrex glass dish that was the perfect size so that the handles of the rack fit on the handles of the dish and the chicken juice could drip down into the Pyrex without the food sitting in it or having anything dripping onto the floor as we carried the food outside.

At such a busy time of year, this set made a quick meal even better, and I can see us getting a lot of use out of the Cave Tools Kabob Skewers Rack in the future. So far, we are big fans of the Cave Tools products! I hope that you’ll check out their site to see all that they have to offer. If you are a fan of using Amazon to order your products, you can find the Cave Tools Kabob Skewers Rack there as well!

Enjoy the rest of the week and this upcoming long weekend!

Book review: Smile & Succeed for Teens

16 Feb
A perfect book for our generation of teenagers!

A perfect book for our generation of teenagers!

Put that device down.

Put your device away.

No technology at the dinner table.

Is that on? Shut it off, please.

Sound familiar? We live in a very technological world. Texting and driving recently surpassed drinking and driving as the cause for fatal driving incidents, proving that people are more connected, more wired in than ever.

It’s a whole new world, and it’s not going anywhere.

Thankfully, author Kirt Manecke realizes that rather than trying to pretend that our wired world doesn’t exist, it’s much better to teach teens how to succeed in such an environment.

Manecke’s book, “Smile & Succeed for Teens” has received the “Mom’s Choice Award,” which is something I often look for when I’m considering a product for my kids. The book, geared for kids ages 12 and up is a spinoff from Manecke’s adult book, “Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service.” It is a handbook of sorts, helping kids to make the best possible first impression when they’re out in the world. It’s designed to be read in any order, either chapter by chapter or topic by topic, and the first chapter alone, “The Top Ten People Skills,” is invaluable in itself, teaching kids how to do the most basic of skills: making good eye contact, putting away their devices, using manners, and all of the things we sometimes forget that kids aren’t born knowing how to do. We teach them other basic life skills, but these types of skills also must be taught. We also need to remember that technology is good sometimes, but not all of the time, and we as adults must model good people skills too, putting our devices away, using good body language and eye contact as well. You can read a section of it here.

Upon reading the book myself, I told my 15 year old daughter that I was insisting that she read it too, and my 12 year old is on deck as well. I firmly believe that every teen should read “Smile & Succeed for Teens.” The language and drawings are humorous and kid-friendly, and sometimes, hearing the things mentioned in this book from someone other than your parents sounds better, and so much more enlightening than when you hear it from your parents. Again. And again.

The other thing that I loved about this book was the title and topics featured in Chapter Seven: Use Your Expertise and People Skills to Change the World. This is something that we have tried to instill in our children from a very young age: making a difference, changing the world, rocking the world. I read that Kirt Manecke volunteers his own time, working with DECA to help teens be successful, and also helping with environmental causes and working to end cruelty. He’s leading by example and he talks about how to make a difference in the world in Chapter Seven, and I love that. In fact, a percentage of every book sold goes to animal welfare.

The book can be ordered online and I strongly encourage everyone- parents, teachers and teens- to check it out. It’s a great book to teach all teens the most basic social skills needed for a lifetime of success in any world, but especially in today’s wired world.

Got a future engineer? Try the Young Architect kit!

2 Feb

This project takes some time to complete, which is something I like about it. It shows just how much time and thought is involved in creating house plans.

I spent much of last month discussing many of the STEAM-focused gifts my girls received for Christmas, but there was one that I held off reviewing because although we’d opened it and played with it, it’s not a one-and-done type of project. It’s something that takes some time, and as my nine year-old daughter worked on it, I watched her and took pictures, but I wanted the project to be more complete than not, when I shared it in a blog post. We’re finally getting to that point where she’s almost done, not 100%, but enough where I can share it and you can get the whole picture.

After watching her do some pretty complex house plans on the old Etch-a-Sketch toy, it was clear she was ready for the next step.

After watching our nine year-old do some pretty complex house plans on the old Etch-a-Sketch toy, it was clear she was ready for the next step.

At our house we watch a lot of house hunting/renovating/designing types of shows. We’re big fans of “Love It or List It” and other shows like that. Our youngest daughter in particular has been quite inspired by the house planning and design portions of those types of shows. She’s on the edge of her seat, watching the blueprints take shape and it’s really influenced how she plays and the thing she likes to do in her spare time. She started off this fall, playing with our old Etch-a-Sketch, creating blueprints of imaginary houses, and announced that she’d like to be an engineer when she grows up (she’s also wanted to be a real estate agent, a dog groomer, and a veterinarian in the past, so things could change at any moment, and we get that.)

We know that engineering, like many other math, science and technology jobs, is a career in which women are a minority, and we’ve talked about that with her, but that doesn’t seem to scare her off, at least not so far, which is great. We work hard to keep our kids’ love for these subjects going as they approach their teenage years because we know that it’s often at that time where they get scared away and lose their confidence as compared to males in that same age bracket. We talk a lot about future careers and programs, even at a young age. We’ve already taken her to see the Computer Aided Design department at our local high school’s Career and Technical Center to check out what’s available for her in a few more years. Her mouth dropped when she saw the drafting tables and computer technology available to her there. She was amazed by the 3D houses on display that the students had created. Had she been able to enroll that day at age nine, I think she would’ve signed right up; she was in her glory during that visit. She looked up at the sign that said, “Architectural Engineering” and she said, “That’s me. That’s what I want to be.”

This kit includes everything you need to go from a paper design to a 3D design.

This kit includes everything you need to go from a paper design to a 3D design.

In November last year, as the girls were making their Santa lists, our daughter found a similar kit in a magazine catalog to the Alex brand Scientific Explorer Young Architects kit pictured here, and she put it on her list. At the time, it could be found for $55 on the Walmart website, and ran about $75 in the other catalog where she first saw it.

Watching and listening to the thought process and problem solving that goes into these house plans was amazing.

Watching and listening to the thought process and problem solving that goes into these house plans was amazing.

The kit came with everything she’d need to create a blueprint house design on paper, fill it with furniture and then add walls, windows and doors using plexiglass fixtures, creating an entire 3D house plan. It was very exciting when she opened it on Christmas morning. She was so thrilled and could not wait to get started.

Over the vacation weeks she began

It was fascinating to watch the project go from its beginning stages of using stencils to outline the rooms to the more complex stages.

It was fascinating to watch the project go from its beginning stages of using stencils to outline the rooms to the more complex stages.

working, using the stencils to lay out her walls and determine what spaces would be which kinds of rooms. That alone, took some time. It was fascinating for me to be a fly on the wall, watching her figure things out, thinking out loud and problem solving as she went along. She worked for hours at a time, several nights in a row, until she had all the rooms drawn out. She asked me for little post it-notes to label each room so she wouldn’t forget what was what when it came time to add in furniture. Picturing the doors for each room as a little half circle was a little confusing for her, so we went into our bedrooms and I showed her how the doors made the half circle marks on the rugs, which on paper would indicate where an actual door would be, and then she got it, adding them in and figuring out in which direction they opened and closed in or out of a room.

The kit has absolutely everything she needs to create a very comprehensive house plan.

The kit has absolutely everything she needs to create a very comprehensive house plan.

The kit included a plexiglass table-top board, extra-large pieces of tracing paper, stencils for outlining the rooms, diagrams for tracing all kinds of furniture, doors and appliances into the rooms, colored pencils for coloring the furniture (we added in a bigger variety of colored pencils), and plexiglass walls of all sizes, along with the cubes to connect them and keep them standing upright, which creates the 3D effect, as is seen at the top of the blog post.

When we had our blizzard last week, she took out her kit and finished up coloring in her furniture and began placing the cubes in the corners of each room so that she could put up her walls. Her house plan currently looks just as the photo shows it at the top of this blog post. I couldn’t be more proud, and more amazed at her work, at the level of the complexity of her thinking, and at her talent. The only step she really has left is to use the included removable decals to add in windows and doors on the walls of her rooms. We can’t wait to see the finished product, and I think she’s already looking forward to having it on display for a little while and then taking it all apart in order to start all over again. Thankfully there are six pieces of tracing paper in the kit so that she can do up to six different house designs before I have to find more paper for her.

I’d highly recommend this Alex Young Architect design kit for all your aspiring young architects and engineers whether they are boys are girls. The kit is moderately priced, and is well stocked with everything they need for hours and hours of creating and designing. It’s been a perfect, perfect STEAM gift for our aspiring female architectural engineer, and I can’t wait to see what she creates next.

Young Architect Kit 7