Steamy Kitchen Recipes | RSS Feed http://steamykitchen.com Steamy Kitchen Food Blog: fast recipes, simple recipes, with fresh ingredients to create delicious meals. Tue, 18 Aug 2015 15:11:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Salt Rox Himalayian Salt Review & Giveaway http://steamykitchen.com/40961-salt-rox-himalayian-salt-review-giveaway.html http://steamykitchen.com/40961-salt-rox-himalayian-salt-review-giveaway.html#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 15:11:22 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40961 Salt Matters
Just last night, I was at my parent's house for dinner. Mom made some homemade dumplings and then exclaimed, "the dumplings are too salty!" She had just bought some regular iodized table salt, and since the salt particles are so small, she accidentally poured too much in the mixture. No more cheap table salt for her -- . . .

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Salt Matters

Just last night, I was at my parent’s house for dinner. Mom made some homemade dumplings and then exclaimed, “the dumplings are too salty!” She had just bought some regular iodized table salt, and since the salt particles are so small, she accidentally poured too much in the mixture. No more cheap table salt for her — back to the good salt!

Iodized table salt – the regular, cheap stuff, is mined from underground salt tables, and is processed, stripping away all of the valuable minerals. It also contains anti-caking agents to prevent clumping and added iodine (which you don’t need if you eat a balanced diet.)

Sea salt, on the other hand, is minimally processed. It comes from evaporated sea water, and still contains all the trace minerals naturally found in the water.

What is Pink Himalayan Salt?

Himalayan Pink Salt is even more special. It comes from the salt rocks naturally occurring in Pakistan. It too, is minimally processed and contains trace minerals. The pink color is the true natural color of the salt.

According to Salt Rox, The flavor of Pink Himalayan Salt is much more mild than a processed sodium product. The quantity of trace minerals impart a mild and complex taste. 1.2% sulfur, 4% calcium, .35% potassium, 16% magnesium, along with 80 other trace minerals.

Here are some of my favorite uses for Himalayan Pink Salt

Salt-Rox-Shot-Glass-Stocking-Stufer-Christmas-Sq-566x566Salt Rox has shot glasses made from 100% pure Himalayan Pink Salt. Instead of rimming your glass with salt, enjoy a shot of tequila in this Salt Rox Shotz shot glass!

Here’s another use for the Shotz glass, fill it it with smashed garlic cloves, fresh rosemary sprigs, and stuff it in the cavity of a roasting chicken. The salt, garlic and rosemary sprigs will infuse into the chicken, from the inside!

4x8x1plate__76875-566x240We also love these salt plates. The thinner plates are carved to be used as serving plates. We recently had a sushi party at our house and used the plates to serve slices of yellowtail and fresh salmon. The salt delicately seasons the fish.

 

About Salt Rox

Salt Rox is a small, family-owned company located in Central Kentucky. We’re passionate foodies! We are trendsetters, investigators and inventors… and we love sharing that with you! We manufacture Pink Himalayan Salt Cooking Plates and other complementary Himalayan Salt products to enhance and season your food, before and during the cooking process. Our goal is to introduce gourmet products that complement and enhance your cooking and eating experience! We invite you on this journey with us!

Salt Rox $75 Giveaway

Salt Rox is giving away a $75 gift certificate.

 

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St. Pete Florida Beach Hotel Giveaway http://steamykitchen.com/40946-florida-beach-hotel-giveaway.html http://steamykitchen.com/40946-florida-beach-hotel-giveaway.html#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 17:37:21 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40946 Florida Beach Vacation is provided by Inn on the Beach in St. Petersburg, Florida

Come visit the #2 rated beach in the world in St. Petersburg, Florida. For the past 13 years, we've called this area our home, enjoying Florida's finest sandy beaches on the weekends (and sometimes ditching work on the weekdays!) The Inn on . . .

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Florida Beach Vacation is provided by Inn on the Beach in St. Petersburg, Florida

Come visit the #2 rated beach in the world in St. Petersburg, Florida. For the past 13 years, we’ve called this area our home, enjoying Florida’s finest sandy beaches on the weekends (and sometimes ditching work on the weekdays!) The Inn on the Beach‘s award-winning rooms and quaint cottages are the best way to enjoy your St. Pete beach vacation.

They are providing a 2-night stay for 2 adults to a lucky winner! ~Jaden

About Inn on the Beach

WhiteIbis_hero_01-925x465
Inn-On-Beach-LogoNostalgic and hip. Wistful and reflective. Irreverent with hints of a bygone era. Those are just some of the descriptions that Inn on the Beach evokes for us. Jonathan Daou, creator of OpenHouse, an experiential real estate curator in New York City, purchased the Inn in 2014 with the goal of bringing a fresh take to the traditional hotel experience.

Room_interiorCome visit with us and experience the rustic beauty of Inn on the Beach and all that surrounds it.

In a world that is increasingly on­demand, we hope that Inn on the Beach will help you transcend your own sense of time in the paradise that is Pass ­a­ Grille, Florida.

 

yahoo travelSt Pete Beach was voted the #2 beach in the world by Yahoo Travel, and Inn on the Beach was their #1 recommended accommodation

CNN-Travel-LogoSt Pete Beach was featured as the #2 beach in the U.S., and Inn on the Beach was their #1 recommended accommodation on CNN Travel

trip advisorInn on the Beach is a proud recipient of TripAdvisor’s
2015 Certificate of Excellence and is a member of the 2015 Hall of Fame;
we are passionate about delighting our customers and creating magical experiences

stayGreen-300x123Inn on the Beach received a two ‘Green Eco Leafs’ Rating from iStayGreen for our commitment to sustainability and environmental conservation

 

St. Pete Beach, Florida

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image from St Pete/Clearwater Travel Bureau

St Pete Beach is one of the best in Florida and it’s not just us saying that! St Petersburg is famous for the beautifully preserved waterfront, for a huge range of festivals and a full event events calendar to keep both visitors and local busy, and for some truly fantastic weather­ 360 sunshine days a year on average.

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The sand

sandIt’s a great city, with a rich nightlife and culture, and great shopping opportunities but the main attraction is, of course, St Petersburg Beach itself. There is quite literally miles of sandy beach to walk along, with that perfect white sand under your toes. Because of the length of the beach and the careful preservation efforts (especially around the Pass­A­Grille and Fort De Soto areas), it’s equally easy to find somewhere quiet to enjoy a sea breeze or somewhere to enjoy a drink and some live music right by the sea.

St Pete Beach is fringed with perfect, swaying palm trees and lush green grass. It’s so warm that both Royal and Coconut palms flourish in the area. Technically, there actually more than one beach to choose from. Spa Beach and North Shore Beach both adjoin downtown St Petersburg, then Pass­a­grille sits at the southern end of St Pete Beach. Inn on the Beach is located in this laid back area, about a half mile from the southern tip. The busy fun of the other Gulf beach areas to the north is only minutes away. Ft De Soto Beach is also within easy reach. This is part of a 900 acre country park and is superbly unspoiled and natural.

 

The sea

The water is clear and usually very calm, perfect for swimming, kayaking, stand­up paddleboarding, boating, and jet­skiing. Hire is available right on St Pete Beach and there are no less than nine public boat ramps. You can take a trip out to the barrier islands to spot iconic Florida wildlife (take the Shell Key Shuttle from Pass­A­Grille beach) or paddle in warm, safe water just a couple of minutes from your hotel.

The gentle water is great for nervous swimmers and children, but also handy for watersports enthusiasts­ it’s the perfect place to try something new and exciting.

After dark

Because the city comes right up the beach, St Pete downtown beaches have some of the best waterside drinking and dining in Florida. It’s stunning during the day, beautiful (and romantic!) at sunset, and there is a flourishing beach bar scene to light up the nights.

Wharfside restaurants serve up seafood just as fresh as it can possibly be, and even in the evenings the atmosphere is relaxed and family­friendly.

Pass-A-Grille

pass-a-grille
Photo from Pass A Grille Travel Bureau

There are plenty of advantages to staying in a hotel on Pass­ A­ Grille Beach rather than in the busier areas up in St Pete itself. First, we strongly believe that Inn on the Beach is able to offer a more authentic, unique experience­ a real taste of the Gulf Coast. Pass­A­Grille has retained the historic 8th Avenue shopping district and much of the old waterfront. It still feels like Old Florida.

Instead of being in the hustle and bustle of St Petersburg city, a hotel in Pass­A­Grille Beach lets you stay where the attractions are. Whether you come for the fishing, to get out to the pristine barrier islands, to see dolphins and other wildlife, or just enjoy the sun and the sand, there’s no reason to be anywhere else.

The area is also famous for its sunsets. Almost every night, guests at hotels on Pass­A­Grille Beach are treated to some of the finest evening views on the Florida coast. The sinking sun turns the sea and beachfront pink and gold, and there is no better place to enjoy that than from the private balcony outside your hotel room­ except maybe on the beach itself or at a waterfront restaurant table, waiting for your fish to be prepared fresh from the wharf.

No matter what you want from a hotel room in Pass­A­Grille, Inn on the Beach can provide it. We cater for everyone from casual vacationers to honeymoon and wedding parties, and everything in between. It might be a luxurious, lavishly equipped suite, a self­contained rental cottage with full kitchen facilities, or a simple hotel room with a world­class view and a cool sea breeze­ Inn on the Beach has options for everyone.

St. Pete Beach Florida Hotel Giveaway

One 2-night stay for 2 adults at Inn on the Beach.

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Panasonic NB-G110PW FlashXpress Toaster Oven Review http://steamykitchen.com/40937-panasonic-nb-g110pw-flashxpress-toaster-oven-review.html http://steamykitchen.com/40937-panasonic-nb-g110pw-flashxpress-toaster-oven-review.html#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 14:01:20 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40937 Panasonic provided product for review and giveaway.

Panasonic NB-G110PW FlashXpress Toaster Oven Review
Our summer has been a happy summer of perfect toast. We've been testing out the new Panasonic Toaster Oven for the past week, mainly for reheating leftovers and a couple mornings of toast.

When we first saw the box, my family was a little confused, "Wait. I . . .

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Panasonic provided product for review and giveaway.

Panasonic NB-G110PW FlashXpress Toaster Oven Review

Our summer has been a happy summer of perfect toast. We’ve been testing out the new Panasonic Toaster Oven for the past week, mainly for reheating leftovers and a couple mornings of toast.

When we first saw the box, my family was a little confused, “Wait. I thought Panasonic makes TVs!” Well, yes, but in fact, some of my most-used appliances for the kitchen and home are Panasonic brands.

We have a Panasonic cordless iron – such a relief not to have to think about tangled cords or the reach of the iron! Loved it so much I bought a different model for quilting and sewing (I like this one better.)

Our Panasonic bread machine gets good use – my Mom also bought one for herself too.

So, we started off with great anticipation, would this Panasonic toaster oven perform just as well? The oven is super light, I was actually surprised that I could hold the appliances easily in one hand. The weight of an appliances is important, especially if it’s one that you bring in/put away with each use. For a toaster oven, I’m guessing that most people will leave out on the counter. I’m very picky as to what I leave out on the counter, so those that win a coveted spot must not only perform well, but look good/feel good, too.

The Panasonic’s boxy shape and large, individual push buttons and display reminded me of 80’s electronics. Couple that with the lightness (feels cheaply made), I’m not sure it wins a dedicated spot on my counter.

panasonic toaster oven review 5

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That being said, I’ve never been a fan of pushing a button repeatedly until you get to the desired setting. Apple has spoiled me – I want to be able to get to a setting within 2 seconds, not press the timer up button 16 times to get to 8 1/2 minutes. You can also hold down the up button for a few seconds for speedier rotation, but I seem to always misjudge the timing and overshoot.

The FlashExpress Technology

flash-express_400

 

The FlashXpress Technology is “Double Infrared Technology, Near and Far” uses 2 different types of infrared heating elements.

The far infrared looks the outside of the food. Near infrared cooks the inside of the food.  panasonic toaster oven review 3

That means, no preheating is required, when you power on the Panasonic toaster oven, set the timer (or push a preset button), it immediately gets to work heating.

 panasonic toaster oven review    

So, how does it perform?

Despite the dated look, cheap feel, inefficient usability (all those buttons!), the Panasonic NB-G110PW FlashXpress Toaster Oven actually works very well. Reheating leftover pizza slices gets an A+ score (I can’t believe how crisp the crust got!), cooking frozen French fries A+ (super crispy), reheating fried chicken A+ (crunchy on outside, warm on inside without drying out).

This toaster oven is a re-heating machine. It makes leftovers an enjoyable experience, rather than tired, soggy, dried out mess. The FlashXpress means no pre-heating – it heats up immediately.

For families who occasionally do the frozen nuggets, fish sticks or pizza, it works really well. Though, the appliance is very small – it will only hold a 9″ pizza. For our family, we’ve been reheating egg rolls that were fried the day before, then refrigerated – it heats up super crispy in this toaster oven.

For toast, it performs fine. Toasted. Nothing too much to say beyond that. At least it’s just a one-button push.

Would I recommend the Panasonic NB-G110PW FlashXpress Toaster Oven? It’s good for small families with little kids (the tray is too small to cook enough food for big appetites), households of 1-2. Perfect for college dorm or apartment.

We ended up finding a home for this toaster oven on the counter of my walk-in pantry, hidden from sight. It performs so well, we’ve been using it quite a bit and have noticed we are enjoying our leftovers more.

Thanks for your support!

Panasonic FlashExpress Toaster Oven Giveaway

 

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$50 Kitchen Universe Gift Card http://steamykitchen.com/40926-50-kitchen-universe-gift-card.html http://steamykitchen.com/40926-50-kitchen-universe-gift-card.html#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 14:33:29 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40926 Kitchen Universe was founded on 2003 as a retailer of fine cooking products. Their storefront is in Miami (open 9am-5:30pm) and they also sell cookware online at www.kitchen-universe.com

Orders above $54.95 qualify for free shipping!

 

You can be sure to be taken care of by their excellent customer service staff - check out their reviews on Ebay . . .

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Kitchen Universe was founded on 2003 as a retailer of fine cooking products. Their storefront is in Miami (open 9am-5:30pm) and they also sell cookware online at www.kitchen-universe.com

Orders above $54.95 qualify for free shipping!

kitchen universe rating

 

You can be sure to be taken care of by their excellent customer service staff – check out their reviews on Ebay Commerce Network.

kitchen-universe-1

Some of my favorite items that I use everyday are:

  • Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Grinder – I love fresh ground coffee, but really detest the loud, jarring sound of an electric burr grinder! This Hario Skerton grinder is so simple to use, and grinds with a ceramic burr gear.
  • Kyocera Julienne Slicer – for perfect julienned carrots, cucumbers and zucchini (zoodles!) Super light, easy to store and stays ultra sharp.
  • Excalibur Dehydrator – best dehydrator on the market! We love homemade beef jerky.
  • Cuisipro Measuring Set – the narrow oval shape makes it so much easier to reach in and scoop out ingredients.
  • Piazza Tongs – we use these for serving pastas, roasted vegetables and salads. So versatile and pretty enough for serving.

$50 Kitchen Universe Giveaway

Enter to win $50 gift card to Kitchen-Universe.com!

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Smeg Toaster Review and Giveaway http://steamykitchen.com/40917-smeg-toaster-review-and-giveaway.html http://steamykitchen.com/40917-smeg-toaster-review-and-giveaway.html#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 15:00:22 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40917 Smeg Toaster Review
I can't remember the last time I had a real toaster - I think it's been at least 22 years. In the past, we've used a toaster oven. But when we remodeled our kitchen, I didn't want to clutter my counter top with an ugly black toaster oven. So, we've been without, and making toast . . .

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Smeg Toaster Review

I can’t remember the last time I had a real toaster – I think it’s been at least 22 years. In the past, we’ve used a toaster oven. But when we remodeled our kitchen, I didn’t want to clutter my counter top with an ugly black toaster oven. So, we’ve been without, and making toast the most inefficient way possible, by sliding our rack to the top position and using the broiler function. 50% of the time, I burn my toast and the burnt smell lingers in the house for days!

Smeg sent a toaster for us to review – this toaster is a beautifully designed 50’s retro style. It’s won the coveted Good Design Awards in 2014 by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and iF Design Award in 2015.

smeg toaster reviewThis is a toaster that I’d be proud to have in my beautiful kitchen. It features a powder coated steel body, polished chrome base, stainless steel ball lever knob, and a backlit chrome knob.

Every aspect of making toast has been well thought out. the stainless steel knob slides effortlessly, the finished toast pops up quietly. The slots are extra wide, so that you can fit thicker pieces of bread or a bagel in perfectly. We love the removable stainless steel crumb tray for easy cleanup and the ability to hide the cord when not in use.

These days, it may seem luxurious to own a one-job appliance, but when the appliance does that one job so well, it’s worth it. The Smeg Toaster browns bread evenly, from edge to edge. There are 6 browning levels and even a “defrost” setting in case you’re going from freezer to table.  We often buy a bag of bagels, freeze half to make it last longer.

With 6 fun colors to choose from, you are sure to find one that matches your decor.

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About Smeg

smeg toaster review 4The award-winning Smeg company was founded in 1948 by Vittorio Bertazzoni, Sr. from Guastalla, a town near the city of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. They specialize in kitchen appliances, all with design as a main focus alongside superb functionality.

Smeg Toaster Giveaway

Giving away 1 Smeg Toaster

 

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Vietnamese BBQ Tacos http://steamykitchen.com/40327-vietnamese-bbq-tacos-recipe.html http://steamykitchen.com/40327-vietnamese-bbq-tacos-recipe.html#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 18:18:37 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40327 Americans are obsessed with grilling, and here to help master the backyard grill is New Orleans chef, David Guas, award-winning cookbook author, restaurant chef and host of Travel Channel’s high-heat, high-stakes grilling competition show, “American Grilled.” His new book, Grill Nation: 200 Surefire Recipes, Tips, and Techniques to Grill Like a Pro is endorsed by my friend, Dr. BBQ Ray Lampe, ...

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Vietnamese BBQ Tacos Recipe

Americans are obsessed with grilling, and here to help master the backyard grill is New Orleans chef, David Guas, award-winning cookbook author, restaurant chef and host of Travel Channel’s high-heat, high-stakes grilling competition show, “American Grilled.”

david-guas-photo-2His new book, Grill Nation: 200 Surefire Recipes, Tips, and Techniques to Grill Like a Pro is endorsed by my friend, Dr. BBQ Ray Lampe, who says, “David takes on outdoor grilling and we all want a seat at the table. I offer his Grilled Peach BBQ Sauce, Creole-Coffee Rubbed Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye and Grilled NOLA BBQ Shrimp as evidence that life just got a little better for all of us.”

While Chef David is from Louisiana, the recipes represent a worldwide sampling of flavors, from Korean Flank Steak, Grilled Lamb with Mint Chimichurri, to Caribbean Shrimp Kabobs and Charred Eggplant with Miso Dressing.

His recipes are simple, most of them no more than a handful of ingredients and 3 steps. Our favorite is this Vietnamese BBQ Tacos recipe. David loves this as a fun party meal, complete with a “toppings bar” of Vietnamese dipping sauce, shaved red onions, pickled cucumbers and wedges of fresh lime.

The marinade is made of classic Vietnamese flavors: fish sauce, ginger, garlic and sugar. All easy-to-find ingredients at your grocery store.

Vietnamese BBQ Tacos

The marinade is whisked together in a bowl, then added to a zip-lock bag with strip, flank, flat iron or skirt steak.

Vietnamese BBQ Tacos Recipe

Get your grill ready on medium-high, and grill the steaks 7-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness and desired degree of doneness. I prefer medium-rare skirt steak, which is thinner – so 5-6 minutes per side works well.

Vietnamese BBQ Tacos Recipe

Cover the steaks with tin foil to let rest for a few minutes (while you get your Vietnamese BBQ Taco topping bar ready). Then slice ACROSS the grain if using skirt or flank steak.

Vietnamese BBQ Tacos Recipe

Thank you for your support!

Starting your shopping from these links support Steamy Kitchen! I love the Pit Mitts – no more lobster claw oven mitts – these Pit Mitts protect your hands from the heat AND give you all 5 fingers to work with. You can use on the grill or in the kitchen.

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Vietnamese BBQ Taco Recipe

Servings: 8 Prep Time: 30 minutes + marinating time Cook Time: 30 minutes
Vietnamese BBQ Tacos 2

Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books (c) 2015 Photos by Johnny Autry. Recipe from Grill Nation by David Guas. This recipe serves 8 (have a party!) Use a mandolin to thinly slice the onion and the cucumber. The dipping sauce stores in refrigerator for up to 1 week. You can use leftovers as a tangy/sweet salad dressing!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds steak (flank, skirt, flat iron or NY strip)

FOR THE TOPPING BAR
24 (8-inch) soft taco-sized flour tortillas
1 lime, cut into wedges
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 cup match-stick cut carrots
handful fresh cilantro leaves and mint leaves, roughly chopped

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano pepper or Thai chile pepper, seeded and sliced

Directions:

1. To make the marinade, whisk together the fish sauce and the next 7 ingredients in a bowl. Place steaks in gallon-sized zip-top bag, pour in the marinade. Squeeze out the air, massage bag a bit to distribute the marinade. Refrigerate for up to overnight.

2. To make the dipping sauce, whisk together the ingredients in a bowl, or add them to a mason jar, cover and shake.

3. When ready to cook, preheat grill to 350F-400F (medium-high). Remove steaks from marinade, discard marinade. Grill steaks 6-8 minutes per side, or until desired degree of doneness, turning every 3-5 minutes; remove from grill and cover loosely for 10 minutes. Cut steaks across the grain into thin strips.

4. Serve with the carrots, red onions, cilantro, mint, cucumber, lime wedges and warmed tortillas.

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$75 Gift Certificate to The Cocoa Pod http://steamykitchen.com/40899-75-gift-certificate-to-the-cocoa-pod.html http://steamykitchen.com/40899-75-gift-certificate-to-the-cocoa-pod.html#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:48:51 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40899 Our friends at The Cocoa Pod is giving away a $75 gift certificate to their shop! You can buy raw cocoa beans and beautiful, decorative pods.

We just roasted a batch of cocoa beans in the toaster oven and enjoyed nibbling the roasted nibs with our trail mix. While dark chocolate has health benefits, cocoa nibs are even . . .

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how-to-host-chocolate-tasting-4Our friends at The Cocoa Pod is giving away a $75 gift certificate to their shop! You can buy raw cocoa beans and beautiful, decorative pods.

We just roasted a batch of cocoa beans in the toaster oven and enjoyed nibbling the roasted nibs with our trail mix. While dark chocolate has health benefits, cocoa nibs are even better, with higher levels of antioxidants.

Take a look at The Cocoa Pod’s offerings – and if you’re interested in hosting your own chocolate tasting party, read on! The $75 giveaway is at end of post. ~Jaden

 

Wooden box with set of dark, white and milk chocolate on wooden

How To Host A Chocolate Tasting Party

By Jeffrey Stern, The Cocoa Pod Shop

What could be better than getting together with a group of friends to eat some chocolate? A chocolate event should be a full sensory experience, involving not only taste, but sight, smell, touch and hearing. Holding a chocolate tasting at your home or office can be a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening, and in this post we’re going to show you how to do it. You can have a great time enjoying chocolate with friends and learning something new about chocolate!

Grab Some Chocolate!

Before anything, you need to get your self some chocolate! But what should you choose and how should you organize it? We’re here to help you with that.

First, you need a range of chocolates starting with a low percent chocolate up to a high percent. You will see chocolates of varying per cents such as 55%, 60%, 70%, and higher. Percent refers to the actual amount of cocoa solids and cocoa butter in a chocolate. So a 70% chocolate has 30% sugar, a 65% has 35% sugar; a 50% chocolate has 50% sugar. I suggest shopping online first, or going to a specialty gourmet market or store so that you can get some quality chocolate. Some brands to look for include Dandelion, Ritual, Fruition, Dick Taylor, among others. Skip the mass-market products for now and look for artisan, bean-to-bar chocolate brands.

Choose The Right Chocolates

When purchasing, make sure your chocolate contains only real cocoa butter and no added fats. The only ingredients you should find on the label are cocoa mass or cocoa liquor (not actually a liquor, just an industry term), cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, and maybe vanilla. Avoid chocolate with vanillin or artificial flavor vanilla in it at all costs! For the tasting, you will want chocolates without any added flavors or inclusions, just pure chocolate, so you can get to know the range of flavors possible in a chocolate bar.

Milk chocolates usually is usually a 35% chocolate or less, so that means at least 65% sugar! Because of its high sugar content, milk chocolates aren’t really going to help you appreciate the flavor nuances good chocolate can have. You also probably won’t find a milk chocolate with a percent even listed on it! But it’s good to have one bar as a reference point to start with.

Get Organized

To organize your tasting, start with the milk chocolate bars first, and then move up to by percent, finishing with the highest percent. I would recommend tasting a maximum of 5-7 chocolates-otherwise, your palate will be chocolated out!

You can do the tasting blind, hiding each of the chocolate brands and percent until after you are done tasting. This makes it more fun for the participants to try and guess which bar was which after the tasting.

To get organized, prepare as many plates as you have bars of chocolates, and if doing a blind tasting, label each plate underneath with a piece of tape and the chocolate brand. Prepare cups of water and a tray of unsalted crackers for each participant to use to cleanse the palate between each chocolate.

Break the chocolate into small pieces, about the size of a quarter or less.

To properly taste each piece, use the following guidelines:

You should observe several things when you taste any chocolate:

1. Visual – The chocolate should have a nice brown or mahogany sheen, and be clear of blemishes or a matte appearance on the surface. This is a sign of properly tempered chocolate.
2. Audible – The chocolate should have a crisp snap when you break the piece or bar. This is another sign of properly tempered chocolate, and the presence of real cocoa butter. The chocolate should not be soft and easy to break.
3. Smell – The chocolate should have a clean, chocolate and cocoa smell to it. No ‘off smells’ or rancid smells should be present.
4. Touch – when held in the palm of your hand, the chocolate should slowly melt and the melted chocolate should leave a clean, smooth feeling– not a greasy one.

Eat and Indulge!

When tasting chocolate, place a small piece in your mouth and let it melt slowly on the tongue. Try not to chew it, however tempting that may be! As it first melts, try and recognize any unique flavors. Once melted, move your tongue around your mouth to spread the chocolate. Some of the flavors you might find include citrus, nuts, dark or red berries, raisin, plum and others. Don’t be shy and write down what immediately comes to mind!

Finally, once the chocolate has completely melted and you have swallowed all of it, wait and try to describe any lingering aftertastes. Is it pleasant, unpleasant, long, or short? There are many ways to describe chocolate flavors, so just describe whatever you taste. There is no right or wrong here!

Holding a chocolate tasting party can be a great way to learn about chocolate, discover the wide range of flavors possible in different chocolate bars, and enjoy a great time with friends and family.

$75 Gift Certificate Givewaway

 

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Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Review and Giveaway http://steamykitchen.com/40895-mr-coffee-cafe-barista-review-and-giveaway.html http://steamykitchen.com/40895-mr-coffee-cafe-barista-review-and-giveaway.html#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:29:16 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40895 Mr. Coffee provided the giveaway unit

It was quite a big change in my morning routine - to go from the cheap Aeropress that fits in my back pocket to a full fledged coffee drinks machine! With my Aeropress, I was limited in the types of drinks to create - that's not a knock on the Aeropress, but it . . .

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cafe-barista-review-1

Mr. Coffee provided the giveaway unit

It was quite a big change in my morning routine – to go from the cheap Aeropress that fits in my back pocket to a full fledged coffee drinks machine! With my Aeropress, I was limited in the types of drinks to create – that’s not a knock on the Aeropress, but it is because of my own laziness and preference. I don’t like adding cold milk to my coffee – and too lazy to warm the milk up.

cafe-barista-review-2We tested the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista for 1 week.  I enjoyed a different drink every single morning! The milk is poured into a container, that stores in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to make a drink, the container pops right into the coffee maker.  Brewing the drink is a lazy-woman’s dream. Just pack with coffee grinds and put a button.

Café Barista brews espresso with 15-bar pumps and has a refillable water reservoir in the back.

You can choose between a single shot or double, espresso, latte or cappuccino. The automatic milk frother will give you beautiful, light foam. While the machine can accommodate a smaller espresso cup as well as normal sized coffee mugs, I wish I could use a little taller mug – the ones at our house are a little taller than normal.

The Cafe Barista is a snap to maintain and clean. I refill the water reservoir every other day. The milk goes between the machine and refrigerator with ease. There’s a clean button on the machine to clean the frother nozzle.

We used both prepared ground espresso (Illy) and beans that I ground every morning. I like that I don’t have to buy expensive and wasteful pods.

Honestly, I was quite surprised at how well the Cafe Barista works – I’ve always thought the Mr. Coffee products were on the low-end coffee machines. I love that it’s an all-in-one unit. The design makes it really convenient to make customized drinks. I hope this is a sign that Mr. Coffee will continue to introduce higher-end machines! ~Jaden

About Cafe Barista

Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Giveaway

 

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Aervana Review & Giveaway http://steamykitchen.com/40890-aervana-review-giveaway.html http://steamykitchen.com/40890-aervana-review-giveaway.html#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 17:57:41 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40890 Aervana is one of the most innovative wine products I've seen - combining the functionality of an aerator and a no-drip pour.

We tried so many different wine aerators - from the classic wide, curvy body of a decanter to a strange magnetic powered aerator machine that swirled your wine.

We like the Aervana. Sure, it's another . . .

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Aervana-Packaging_Front

Aervana is one of the most innovative wine products I’ve seen – combining the functionality of an aerator and a no-drip pour.

We tried so many different wine aerators – from the classic wide, curvy body of a decanter to a strange magnetic powered aerator machine that swirled your wine.

We like the Aervana. Sure, it’s another battery-operated wine gizmo, but its innovative design allows for sediment to stay where it belongs – at the bottom of the wine bottle.

The unit pumps up the wine, adds in the air before allowing the wine to pour out into your glass.

I like that I don’t have to pour an entire bottle of wine into a decanter (along with the gritty sediment), and that I’m only aerating exactly the amount of wine that I’m drinking. No more wasting wine in the decanter, or trying to pour unfinished wine back into the bottle without spilling.

We also used to have an aerator that you had to hold in your hand, balancing it over your wine glass. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed the pour, and spilled red wine all over. Plus, where do you put the drippy, messy aerator after you’re done with a glass?

aervana reviewThe Aervana is no mess, effective, easy to use and keeps the sediment from mixing in with my wine. We also love that there’s no pouring involved, no balancing and no dripping. A clean, steady stream of properly aerated wine.

A set of batteries will last you 250 bottles of wine. It’s expensive, at $99. But if it means enjoying a better glass of wine over and over again, it’s worth it.

Aervana won the Red Dot Award for innovative product design and has also been awarded as a finalist for the Innovation Award at the International Home + Housewares Show.

Buy the Aervana for $99

 

~Jaden

 

 

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Oster Versa Blender Review & Giveaway http://steamykitchen.com/40881-oster-versa-blender-review-giveaway.html http://steamykitchen.com/40881-oster-versa-blender-review-giveaway.html#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 16:30:14 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=40881  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oster provided the product for giveaway

In 1924, John Oster started a company in his garage. His first product was hair clippers for cutting men's hair! These days, Oster is known for their kitchen small appliances, and is now owned by Sunbeam.

While they've been manufacturing quality kitchen blenders for some time now, Oster hasn't been able . . .

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versa

Oster provided the product for giveaway

In 1924, John Oster started a company in his garage. His first product was hair clippers for cutting men’s hair! These days, Oster is known for their kitchen small appliances, and is now owned by Sunbeam.

While they’ve been manufacturing quality kitchen blenders for some time now, Oster hasn’t been able to compete in the high-end blender market that Vitamix and BlendTec have long dominated, until now. We’re impressed with their Oster Versa line – with an all-metal drive, dual directional blade, 1,400-watt motor that runs at 28,000 RPMs.

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Not everyone can afford a Vitamix or BlendTec – the Oster Versa 1100 is priced right at less than $200. Plus, it also includes a food processor component AND a to-go smoothie cup that can be used on the Versa.

How does it blend?

Side by side with my Vitamix, I blended a morning frozen fruit smoothie with a handful of spinach. The Versa performed fabulously, the frozen berries and fresh spinach smoothie was smooth, creamy, no un-blended bits. I did have to use the “Reverse Blend” button twice to get all of the spinach, but the job was done well.

I like having the Reverse button, it saves me opening up the lid, using a small spatula to get pieces unstuck. On the Vitamix, I don’t have a reverse button, but it is rare that I need to open up the Vitamix lid, unless I’m making something like almond butter.

71CK8NeQwmL._SL1500_How does it process?

The food processor attachment did an okay job. The container is smaller than I’m used it, but for small jobs it’s fine. Personally, I probably would just use my trusty Cuisinart food processor. But for a starter kitchen, the Oster Versa is actually a really good deal – high performance blending with food processing capability.

71K3hR-e15L._SL1500_Smoothies to go

The smaller 20-ounce to-go cups are very convenient, but they didn’t perform as well with hard vegetables, like carrots and fresh leafy greens. Because the jar is so skinny and tall, the ingredients just couldn’t get to the blade very well. But for soft fruits, frozen small berries, it worked well enough. Tip – as you fill the cup with your ingredients, place the hard to blend stuff in last, so that it will be closest to the blades.  Have plenty of liquid in the cup to make the ingredients move better.

Lots of parts to keep track of

The great thing about all-in-one machines is multi functionality at one price. The bad thing? Don’t ever lose your manual and keep track of all your parts. The Oster Versa 1100 has a lot of parts, and you have to remember what goes where, or keep your manual handy.

Conclusion

It’s a powerful blender. I like the all-metal drive, and 7 year warranty. The price is right for a powerhouse blender that can also multi-task. It’s great for starter kitchens – if you don’t have a reliable food processor, or can’t afford a Vitamix or BlendTec, put this Oster Versa 1100 on your wish list.

 

 

Oster Versa 1100 Giveaway

Enter to win one Oster Versa 1100.

 

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