Oct 29, 2015

Product Review: Botticelli Foods

Just a couple of months ago my family was approached to try some products from Botticelli Foods and provide an honest review. I'm severely behind in getting this on the blog because life has been crazy the past few weeks, I'm just now getting around to it. But I didn't want to miss sharing the comments my family made. I thought you might find them worth hearing. :)

First, lets talk about the company. Botticelli Foods is a family owned company that dates five generations. They pride themselves in "presenting a full line of fine Italian foods from their family to your's." They carry olive oils, vinegars, pastas, roasted red peppers and sauces.

We were generously gifted the Tomato & Basil Sauce, Rigatoni pasta, Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil to test in our daily meals. (not pictured is the Olive Oil as it was already in use by the messy stove.)

I'll be honest, I didn't want the normal rigatoni and sauce dish. I wanted to jazz it up a bit. So we stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zones and cooked without a recipe. WHAT!! I know. I know.

But you know what, I survived and my kids didn't die from eating my dinner.

We started by boiling the Rigatoni aldente. I wanted to see if it would hold its shape after being boiled. It did quite well actually. Some of the other store brands don't hold up too well after being introduced to hot water. But Botticelli's did. It didn't get mushy at all. It even had that homemade pasta taste that you normally can't get unless you breakout the pasta cutter and start working the dough yourself. I was impressed by this.

Botticelli, score 1.

After the noodles were ready, lightly covering a 9x13 glass dish, i poured the noodles in and tossed ever so gently. This served two purposes, it added a lovely olive flavor to the pasta and coated them from burning or sticking to my dish. Then I laid in chicken cutlets and covered the entire dish with the tomato & basil sauce. Topped it all off with some mozzarella cheese because every dish needs cheese and baked for 25 minutes until the chicken was cooked and the cheese bubbling.

It was amazingly easy! Botticelli, score 2.

Doesn't that look amazing?!?! Botticelli, score 3.

But the real test is if the crazy #4 boy will eat it? His understanding of Italian food is that it comes from a blue box and is super super cheesy. Bonuses if we add hot dogs or spam. Blech!

And his verdict??

Botticelli, score 4.  Full on thumbs up with chipmunk cheeks!

Everything was as amazing as it looked! I'm not afraid to share my opinions, good, bad or otherwise. But there was nothing negative to say about this dish. In fact, the boys, plural, all of them, agreed this was one dish we can remake any time!

Botticelli, score 5! Consider this a 5 star review for a 5 star product!

I think the next test will be to prep it frozen and see how it cooks thawed. It would be super easy to prep as a freezer meal!

These opinions are mine and those of my crazy boys. Other than the products to test, I was not compensated for my review. Unfortunately the husband didn't get much input as he was traveling on business. But he has continuously used the olive oil and is impressed with the texture and taste. This weekend we plan to use it for homemade pasta to see how it flavors the noodles.

Thanks for listing and check out Botticelli Foods for yourself! Leave a comment if you've used their products before. What did you like? What do you recommend? If you haven't, what dish would you make with the things they sell?

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Aug 31, 2015

Cooking splatter and spot free?

If you want to have a clean kitchen and cooking in it doesn't become an experience in ending in splatters and spots everywhere, here is how to achieve this. You should learn to clean as you go, develop other useful cooking habits and prepare the kitchen for cooking. Use these tips, and your kitchen will be in the same condition in which it was before you started to cook.

Make sure you start cooking with an empty sink and an empty dishwasher. Wash every plate and glass that is dirty before beginning to cook. A good habit which you can develop is to clean as you go and avoid leaving dirty dishes and other cleaning work for later. Piling cutlery and dishes in your sink will make your cooking a not-so-enjoyable experience. Learn to wash and clean right after you finish using every item during the cooking process. This will save you time as well.

After you wash the dishes, clean your sink. You can use basil soap and warm water to remove the dirt and grease form your sink. It's a great way to keep this area hygienic and ready to be used right away. Make sure that your cutting board won't slip easily and is steady on its place. For this purpose place a damp cloth or towel under the board. This will save you from making splatters and spots all over the place.

Keep your cutlery, pans, pots and other cooking items in good condition, maintaining them once a month. Make sure the knives haven't rusted and are sharpened enough. Clean wooden boards and spoons regularly, remembering to oil them once in the month. These maintenance tasks will help you in the cooking process and it will be much more pleasant.

Supply yourself with the proper cleaning products and keep them within reach for when you need them. Store your cleaning preparations under you sink in baskets, buckets or in large drawers. You will save a lot time looking for them and they will be handy whenever you start the cleaning work.

Keeping your worktops impeccable and spotless is very important. These areas can either invite you or make you run from the kitchen. Cleaning your worktops regularly will make your kitchen look tidy and cooking will become an enjoyable task. Make sure there are very few things on your worktops so that they don't look cluttered. 

It's good to have a trash pail in the kitchen that is large enough to store a lot of trash but doesn't get easily filled to the top. Store it in an appropriate place so that it is within easy reach. Another habit which is good to develop is wearing an apron. It will protect you from splatters and spots while you cook. On the other hand, it also provides a way to carry a towel on your person while you prepare food. Carrying a kitchen towel in the pocket of your apron is a great way to clean while cooking and doing different activities.

Before cooking a complex dish, prepare all necessary ingredients to ease the cooking process. This way you will reduce the mess to a minimum. While you cook, store leftovers in a small container, bowl or a bag to save space and keep your worktop clean. These are smart ways to make  the cooking more fun and less frustrating.

If you use this advice, cooking will become more effective, easier and won't leave your kitchen messy. Learning some useful habits and cleaning in motion is great for keeping your kitchen impeccable no matter how long you have used it. 

The article is kindly presented by Patricia Cornwell who works for HomeCleaners Paddington. She is keen on cooking and likes to experiment in the kitchen. Often this experiments leave a true mess at her cooking area and that's why she presents her tips and advices on how to cook and leave the kitchen in the same condition as it was before - clean and tidy.

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Aug 12, 2015

Important ingredients every baker needs to survive

Important ingredients every baker needs to survive

We recently moved and had the joy of packing and unpacking our stuff. And like me, you get everything unpacked and put away in the first week of living in the house, right? Who am I kidding?!? I'm still leaving in a sea of boxes, but at least the important items are unpacked!

What I did find though was that some of my "staples" were missing when I went to grab them out of the pantry. I can't remember if we threw them out because they expired or for space or simply because I had too many. (Which is a possibility) But now I found myself without some of my key ingredients for baking.

And what is the first thing I want to do in my new home? Bake! Don't you? I want to smell the cookies floating through the freshly painted home. Or hear the cheers from my boys as they realize mom made a special treat or dessert!

Mom Rocks! Mom Rocks! Mom Rocks! .... sorry daydream moment....

So I started compiling my grocery list to fill in the blanks and thought you might find this list helpful!

So here it is.... Important ingredients every baker needs to survive!

Refrigerated Items:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Milk - I prefer 2% but sometimes that means whole or even buttermilk
  • Eggs - We can simply never have enough, so we buy in bulk
  • Sour Cream
  • Cream Cheese

Pantry Items:

  • Non-stick flour baking spray
  • Flour - All Purpose is our preference, but I always have cake flour too
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Light Brown Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar (Confectioner's)
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Dry Yeast
  • Table Salt
  • Cocoa Powder, unsweetened
  • Cornstartch
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Crisco (shortening)
  • Corn Syrup - Dark and Light
  • Honey
  • Peanut Butter
  • Vanilla Extract - we prefer the real vanilla extract
  • Almond Extract
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Ground Ginger
  • Ground Cloves
  • Ground Nutmet
  • Chocolate Chips - semi sweet morsels
  • Shredded Coconut
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Evaporated Milk

Additional Items:

  • Almond Flour
  • Honey
  • Coconut Oil
  • Unflavored Gelatin
  • Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • Assorted Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
  • Dried Fruit - Raisins, cranberries
  • Food coloring
  • Sprinkles (jimmies or nonpareils)
  • Marshamallows
  • Jams or Preserves

Keeping a great stockpile on hand will ensure you have everything you need when a sudden craving for macarons hits you! I LOVE MACARONS!!! Don't you??

By Georges Seguin (Okki) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What other ingredients did I not list that you can't live with out??

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Sep 15, 2014

12 Awesome Peach Recipes Plus a Bonus Recipe!!

12 Awesome Peach Recipes, Plus a BONUS Recipe!!!

 photo courtesy of Brent Hoard

Summer peaches are at there sweetest in the south right now.

With summer peaches finally reaching their peak in sweetness, this is the perfect time to break out the ice cream maker, fire up the grill and bring out the pie pans. This stone-fruit is such a versatile fruit, your only limitation is your own imagination. 

photo courtesy of Mike McCune

Grilled Peaches

One of my all time FAVORITE things to do with peaches is to grill them! They become sweeter as their juices caramelize on the open flame. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

Have you ever tried grilled peaches? Do you leave the skins on or grilled them after they are pealed?

Here is a great recipe by Jennifer Garza of iSaveA2Z.com

Fresh Peaches

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 Servings

Instructions for grilling peaches:
  1. Clean them.
  2. Slice them in half.
  3. Remove the pit.
  4. Baste them with oil (on the inside of the peach slice)
  5. Place them face down on an open grill on medium heat for about 15 minutes or just until they are soft but not mushy (no too soft).

Optional: Add Butter, cinnamon and sugar for a sweet treat. You can also top it with ice cream or whipped cream for a simple, yet very delicious dessert!

photo courtesy of Eric

Your options with peaches do not stop with grilling. You can whip up some peaches and shortbread or peaches'n cream. You could freeze them into peach ice cream. You could pull out the dutch oven and create my personal favorite, peach cobbler. Or have grandma show you how to make her award winning peach pie. The options truly are endless.

photo courtesy of Ralph Daily

Other Awesome Recipes with Peaches

by Jenny Hobick of Every Day Occasions

by Jenny Layton of The HappyGal

by Cathy Trochelman of the Lemon Tree Dwelling 

by Bobby Flay adapted at Natural Noshing

by Katie of Healthy Seasonal Recipes

on Tea at Prim Rose Hill 

by Lara on How Does She?

by Erin Lem on Red Tricycle

by Sally on Sally's Baking Addiction

on Kitchen Simplicity  

by Sally on Sally's Baking Addiction 

on Six Sisters' Stuff

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Sep 9, 2014

All Time Favorite Gadget in my Kitchen

What is my All Time Favorite Gadget in my Kitchen?

My Professional 600 Series mixer in Onyx Black!

Hands down!! That isn't even a hard question in my household. And no one, I mean NO ONE, is allowed to use it but me! It was a mother's day gift about seven years and two kids ago from my sweet husband. I hardly ask for gifts but this was one I wanted.

AND, he got a great deal! He bought it refurbished. Still had a warranty and was in great working order. So, why not take advantage of a little savings and buy a great gift at the same time?! He got a little more than  high-five for that purchase.

KitchenAid Stand Mixers in a Rainbow of Colors

I was considering buying another recently, especially with all the new colors that KitchenAid has come out with.The color possibilities are virtually endless!

But did you know KitchenAid has an Outlet Center? Go to KitchenAid.com Outlet Center for the best buys in kitchen countertop appliances. Get 10% off with the code "CJOUTLET"

I'm thinking about whipping up some Cherry Limeade Cupcakes this evening to share with the office tomorrow.

What is your All Time Favorite Gadget in your kitchen?

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Feb 12, 2014

Valentine Monsters : Class Party Mailboxes for Boys

Valentine Monsters make great Class Party Mailboxes for Boys

I play clarinet. I sing, but don't ask me to solo. It just isn't happening. (Mom rocks!) I paint. I draw. I'm pretty artsy if you get right down to it. And what did God bless me with? Boys. (Mom Rocks) Not that boys can't paint, draw, play clarinet, etc. But most of the time they just want to wrestle or throw a ball around. Thankfully, I also play softball and soccer and can hold my own. Oh did I forget to mention that MOM ROCKS!

Well after last night, mom rocks even more!! I work full time so doing little things for the boys for school is zero to none most holidays. BUT I found this idea while surfing Pinterest and knew it was the BEST way to enjoy Valentine's Class parties and still my boys, boys. ;)

I can't take credit for this idea, but I sure can make it mine and rock with it!  The idea was from Giggles Galore's post on Tattle Monsters. She also has a post about making the class mailboxes, but i didn't see that until I was writing this post. Oh well. Great minds think alike and I'm too proud of my creation not to share! So here they are while I do my little happy dance. ♪ ♫ ♪ *happy dance* ♫ ♪ ♫

Class party mailboxes for boys by BakingUpChaos

Aren't they the cutest!!!

What did you make for your little men for Valentine's? What do you do to try and keep the "girlie" holidays a little more rough and tumble?

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