Measuring Spoons Giveaway [Closed]

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for your interest.

I was down in Philadelphia last week, where we go on a semi-regular basis because of visiting this friend, attending that conference, or going to see some show that was sold out here but had tickets available there. For years, Charlie and I have passed by the AIA Bookstore, looked in the window, and remarked, “What neat things! We should go in here sometime when we are not–” [running to lunch, walking by at an odd hour when the shop is closed, etc.]. Finally, last week we went in, and, as we expected, there were all sorts of delightful gadgets, toys, books, and just freakin’ cool things in there.

This set of Flower Measuring Spoons was one of the cool things I found…

Flower Measuring Spoons

…so I decided to bring them home with me and give them away to one of you! A small trinket, yes, but I assure you, they are very adorable, and, well, isn’t it about time we had a measuring spoons giveaway on this blog?

All you have to do to enter to win is leave a comment on this post.
Make sure you fill in your email address correctly so I have a way to contact you if you win!

For extra chances to win…

Subscribe to Measuring Spoons & leave an extra comment saying you did so.
“Like” Measuring Spoons on Facebook & leave an extra comment saying you did so.
Follow @measuringspoons on Twitter & leave a comment with your @name saying you did so.
Leave a comment on any non-giveaway post on this blog & then leave a comment saying you did so.
Tweet about this giveaway & leave an extra comment saying you did so.

Sample tweet: #Giveaway – Enter to #win a set of flower measuring spoons @MeasuringSpoons ends 6/15 http://tiny.cc/4a7qy

You’ll get one extra chance per item that you do, but you must leave a separate comment saying that you did each item.

The fine print: No purchase necessary. This contest will run from today, Wednesday, June 8th, until next Wednesday night, June 15th, at 11:59pm. The contest, unfortunately, is only open to people in the USA or Canada ages 18 and older. A winner will be chosen at random using random.org and will be contacted by email. The winner has 72 hours to respond, after which time, a new winner will be chosen. And, as a friendly disclaimer, I did not receive any products, nor was I paid to do this giveaway (I just thought these were cute!), and the opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Baggie alternative and a quick garden update.

Thought some of you might be interested in something I picked up at the store today:

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Ziplock bags are a really hard habit to break. We use tupperware when we can, aluminum foil when we can, cloth bags when we can, and we’re a lot less picky about things being in bags than we used to. What’s a little dirt sometimes, right? But when you grew up in a house where disposable baggies housed everything from peanut butter sandwiches to dry cereal to lego pieces, sometimes, you just feel like it’s the right solution.

So, when I saw these natural waxed paper bags, I figured that they’d be good to have around. There are occasionally times when it’s just not practical to carry a tupperware around with you, and these certainly seem like they’d biodegrade faster than plastic, though I don’t claim to have any scientific data off the top of my art school brain. (Nor, I should mention, am I affiliated with the company that sells this product in any way… I just thought they were nifty and I bought them with my own three dollars and nineteen cents.)

There you have it. Here’s a tiny garden update. Everything is drowning despite my best efforts to cover it. I think the carrots are doing ok, but I might lose the peas. However…

I went out in the rain this morning and snapped this photo:

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In the foreground there’s the first of the corn coming up! I’m hoping the rows aren’t too crooked from the strong rain washing things away. You may be wondering what the plastic knife is doing in the ground… well, we don’t use disposable flatware that often, but on a rare occasion, we do. Then, we save the knives to use as veggie markers!

We’re supposed to get some sunshine with our rain this week, so perhaps someday the conditions will improve. Until then I’ll be hiding away drinking tea and making soup.

Spoons in the mail.

So, I haven’t talked about it much on here, but I have been having a really intense flare of my fibromyalgia for about six weeks now. There’s definitely an aspect of this blog that involves my disabilities, but it’s not really so much to talk about them specifically. It’s a food blog… just a food blog by a blogger who happens to have disabilities and wants to share with you some ways that that impacts being a baker and a beginner farmer gardener, as well as to talk about when I find solutions that make doing those things easier for me, like when I found this palm peeler.

But, today, I’m going to talk about my disabilities a little bit more than I usually do. And that is because I got an awesome, beautiful gift from my friend Katrina yesterday.

Lately I have just been feeling shitty. Winters are the hardest time for me, historically. I’ve been chronically sick since I was eight years old, and I always dread winter, and I always get to January or February and think, “I need to move someplace warmer.” But I love seasons that change, and I love New York area autumns, and I couldn’t live someplace that wasn’t close enough to drive up to New England every fall. I couldn’t live someplace where you don’t go pick apples, swear up and down that you will not come home with too many this year, and then pick, “just a few more because that one looks really good” and put it in your bag that is already sort of dragging on the ground… and then spend weeks eating apples, baking apple pies, making apple butter, and so on.

Surprisingly, my rheumatoid arthritis is much more controlled than it was this time last year, but with my health, if it’s not one thing, it’s another, and this time, it’s my fibro choosing to throw a temper tantrum. I’m tired but I can’t sleep, my muscles ache, my tender points radiate pain, and despite tinkering with my meds, we haven’t quite worked it out yet. To be frank, I’ve been quite incapable of making dinner for us most nights, and I’ve had to rely on my wonderful Charlie and our well-stocked freezer to get us through. (My mom dropped off some vegetarian chili and some vegetarian lasagna today, too.)

Anyway, it’s been kind of a bummer, and my friends are noticing. And yesterday, I got a package from Etsy shop Mudaliscious of a gorgeous set of ceramic measuring spoons! Katrina sent a note with it that said, “Dear Cat, I thought you might like some extra spoons. Hope things are looking up soon.”

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I sent Katrina an email last night telling her how awesome she is. I felt very serious saying things like, “this was really meaningful,” but, it was. It just made my day, and I wanted to share it with all of you. I don’t even know if I’ll ever use these to cook! I suppose that at least once, I would like to pour some rich vanilla liquid into them and see what it looks like when there’s that tiny drop at the bottom of the spoon that won’t come out.

I miss baking. I do have plans in a couple of weeks to have some friends over to have a tea tasting, and at least one person has already committed to come over beforehand to work in my kitchen sweatshop, so I’ll have something else for you by then even if I’m not feeling better.

Mom’s Sweet Potato Pie

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It’s December! And what does that mean? I have absolutely no excuse to avoid posting on my cooking blog. (Ok, so I have a few excuses – I’m still about 10-15k from finishing my novel for NaNoWriMo, even though I technically “won,” and I’ve been having a particularly nasty flare of my rheumatoid arthritis lately, leaving me pretty wiped out.) Excuses aside, there is definitely some exciting stuff brewing around here, like the arrival of my stuff from CSNStores.com!

The first thing I want to share with you is my awesome sweet potato pie recipe, as well as reveal one of the things I chose to review that we talked about in this post.

The first thing that arrived was perfect for use in this recipe. It was a potato masher from OXO!

I absolutely love OXO products, and I’m so glad that CSN Stores carry them. OXO was actually started by a guy whose wife had arthritis in her hands, and the kitchen tools they make are designed so you can grip them easier. This masher has a really comfy handle, and it is super sturdy. I have no doubt that I’ll have this in my kitchen for a long time. The handle might be a tiny bit short if you’ve got a really steamy pot, but all in all, I am super pleased. Shopping with CSN was easy (except for deciding what to get…) and two out of the three items I ordered arrived with lightning speed.

Hmmm…. now aren’t you curious to know what the other two items were? More recipes will be coming soon with the reveal. For now, check out this awesome masher action:

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Disclosure: I was given this product by CSN Stores in exchange for writing this review, though this is my otherwise unpaid, unbiased opinion.

Ok, back to your regularly scheduled programming. As a kid, I was never into sweet potato pie, but every year at Thanksgiving and sometimes at Christmas, my mom makes a sweet potato pie. She mashes up sweet potatoes with some brown sugar and butter, dumps it all into a graham cracker pie crust, and tops it with pecans. In the past couple of years, I’ve started to get more into various types of veggies like beautiful acorn squash and gorgeous yams, and the sweet potato pie really started to grow on me! At Thanksgiving this year, my immune system was particularly crummy from having just taken my RA medicine two days before, so I really wasn’t up for seeing the entire extended family (and all of the germs they might have), so we kept it low-key. I did have a serious hankering for my mom’s sweet potato pie, though, so we whipped up a slightly dressier version of our own.

Since I wasn’t sure exactly how many of the four of us at dinner would be interested in the sweet potato pie, I opted to make adorable little mini pies! This allowed me to customize them, too, since I actually prefer walnuts over pecans, and since one of the diners is diabetic and had to avoid the sweetness of the marshmallow topping. And if you’ve got vegan dinner guests, this recipe is easy to adapt. Many graham cracker crusts are actually vegan – or you can easily make one yourself. Natural foods stores also carry vegan marshmallows, which can be snipped apart with kitchen scissors to trim them down to the appropriate size for these tiny treats.

As for my thought that we might have too much… I think these were gone by the end of the night. I had to have my brother bring reinforcements of my mom’s leftover sweet potato pie when he came to visit the next day.

Ingredients

3 large yams/sweet potatoes
6 mini graham cracker crusts
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter)
pinch of salt (more if you used unsalted butter)
pecans or walnuts for topping
mini marshmallows for topping (optional)

Directions

Wash your sweet potatoes. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the sweet potatoes (skins on!) until soft (probably about 30-40 minutes, depending on their size – test with a fork).

Remove the sweet potatoes from the water and put them on a cutting board to cool. Carefully remove the skins with a paring knife, or just grab them with a potholder and the skin should slide right off.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mash the Earth Balance or butter, brown sugar, salt, and sweet potatoes with your awesome potato masher. (Oh, you don’t have an awesome potato masher? You can get one here.)

Divide the sweet potatoes between the mini graham cracker crusts. You’ll want to heap the sweet potatoes up and out of the crusts. Decorate with nuts and marshmallows to your liking. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until your nuts and marshmallows are nice and toasted.

No, I already have a teapot…

Remember when recently the nice folks from CSNStores gave us a teapot to giveaway? They are so awesome, and they have contacted me again to ask me to review a product from their website.

I figured since this is a food blog, you readers would want me to pick something like a neat cooking gadget, even though they have all kinds of stuff to choose from like contemporary coffee tables and sheets for my bedroom. But, you know, you readers might think it a little bit weird if I was like, “I made these great cupcakes, now look at these beautiful pillowcases on my bed!”

I wonder what I should pick… There are just so many good choices! Should I get a neat bread pan, since whenever I make bread I always double the recipe, and since I only have one pan, I have to either use disposables or make some very oddly shaped loaves.

Or how about an immersion blender? I was so jealous of Bo’s that time he left it here. It made making soups and sauces so easy, and now that I’ve got several winter squashes sitting around, it would be a really good time to have one to make a smooth squash soup.

Once I finally decide and it arrives, I’ll use it with a recipe, and I’ll let you guys know if it’s a product that you probably want in your kitchen.

So… if you had $35 to spend at CSNStores.com, or one of their partner sites like Cookware.com (that’s ALL cooking stuff, *drool*), what would you get?*

*Warning, browsing these sites may cause you to spend hours making holiday wish lists. :)

Kitchen Tools: SlapChop

If you go back to this entry about my palm peeler, you’ll see that I sometimes write about tools that have helped me in the kitchen, especially since the arthritis in my hands makes that difficult a lot of times. Here’s another entry like that.

Ok, so it’s an As Seen On TV item. You’ve probably all seen Vince’s spiel (if not, go here because it’s pretty amusing) about how “We’re going to make America skinny again, one slap at a time,” and how we’re going to love his nuts.

I am always hesitant to buy products like this, but several months ago, not only was I having more arthritis pain in my hands, but I was also losing some dexterity. What does this mean? Well, in this case, it meant that when I was wielding a giant chef’s knife and some veggies on my cutting board in my kitchen, I almost always cut my hand in addition to the vegetables. It was never anything serious – I never needed stitches, never lost a finger or anything, but the medicines to treat my rheumatoid arthritis make it harder for me to heal cuts in general, so it wasn’t the brightest idea to keep that up each week. It was clear that I was having difficulty.

I did a lot of product research before I bought, including this youtube video (click at your own risk, it’s gross) that does a good comparison but then quickly dissolves into SlapChopping things that should not be SlapChopped. I let Billy Mays yell at me about the features of his product, the Quick Chop (this was almost immediately after his death, but I did not let this sway me into purchasing the inferior product). They’re all about the same price – OXO also makes one, but ultimately, the SlapChop seemed like it worked the best, was the easiest to clean, and, well, I also got a Graty (for grating cheese “quickly and easily”) with my purchase.

So, you’re wondering… how does it work? Has it been the miracle I was hoping it would be?

It’s actually pretty awesome, though there are some disadvantages. You have to hit the thing pretty damn hard, which means that we haven’t completely eliminated discomfort from the process. Sometimes I look completely silly and I put an oven mitt on before I slap, to cushion the blows. However, since my problem is mostly in my finger joints, this is a definite improvement for me.

The other disadvantage is that you have to coarsely chop the items before you can use the SlapChop, and if you overfill it, it will get stuck and give you uneven pieces. The coarse chopping I can handle, though, as it was really the finer stuff I was having problems with, and once you get a hang of what fits inside the SlapChop, you’re good to go.

Now on to how awesome it is. Last night, it would have taken me ages to cut up everything I needed for the Lactose Overdose: Cream of Broccoli Soup, but instead, I was able to SlapChop the carrot, the onion, and the garlic in no time. I’ve put herbs in there before, as well as whole cloves that I need ground so that I don’t have to handle the mortar and pestle. And, of course, nuts!

Mincing garlic is the absolute best part of it. I was really having trouble with that, as it’s such a tiny thing to handle, and my hands sometimes feel clumsy and swollen. But garlic is fundamental to our cooking, and I can now just pop a few cloves in there and have them minced in seconds. It’s incredible.

Anyway, you may be wondering about the SlapChop’s confusing website. When you select one item for purchase, you get the second one free. All in all, you pay $35.85 and get two SlapChops and two Gratys (Graties? haha) so you can split the cost with a friend if you’d like. If you really only want the one, they do sell them in places like Walgreens, but you don’t get the Graty. I got the extra one because, while it says it has a 3 year warranty, I figured it would break eventually and then I’d have a spare.

Have I used it enough to be worth it, or does it just sit in the back of a cabinet?

I have definitely gotten my money’s worth. We keep it right on the counter and reach for it whenever we need it.

*As a final note, just for the record, I’m not affiliated with SlapChop in any way. I don’t work for them and I don’t get any money from them for writing this, I just like the product!

Kitchen Tools: Palm Peeler

I’ve been meaning to start this kind of entry for a while, where I highlight the kinds of tools I love to use in my kitchen. There’s no recipe today, just some thoughts, a recommendation, and maybe a bit of advice.

Now, I’m not the biggest advocate for peeling vegetables. My carrots often end up in a pot of soup unpeeled. I figure that people survived eating carrots that were unpeeled for a very long time before the invention of the peeler. I just wash them thoroughly. Besides, in many vegetables, some of the great nutrients are found in the skin, so why would you want to throw those away?

Sometimes, however, you need a good peeler. When I’m making fluffy mashed potatoes like my mom taught me, I peel my potatoes. When I’m having guests who turn their noses up at unpeeled carrots, I might take the trouble to peel the crudites. And when I do, I want my palm peeler.

We found this nifty little tool when we were in one of those chef stores with all sorts of overpriced gadgets. I think we paid $5 for it, and it was well worth the trouble.

Not only does this peeler sit in your palm and swivel, making it way easier to peel things like potatoes, it is so much less stress on my arthritic hands. I can probably peel two or three or four times as many things than if I were peeling with a regular vegetable peeler or a knife.

My one complaint is that the blade is starting to dull, but to be fair, I haven’t looked into if it’s replaceable or not yet. I hope it is because I don’t want to have to throw out a little chunk of plastic every few months.

You can get one on Amazon or a million different places on the internet.