Monday, July 30, 2012

Oliver’s Labels REVIEW and Giveaway!

*** UPDATE!  We have a winner – Yosefa of Cooking Outside the Box!!!  Always nice to share with another food blogger…
Product IllustrationBack in January of 2011
, I first had the good fortune to review Oliver’s Labels products on my main blog.
I was very, very pleased.  Thrilled, in fact, because I discovered that they have a line of kosher kitchen labels that actually STICK.  Having wrestled with various brands throughout my kosher-keeping life, I was delighted that not only do these stick strongly to a variety of surfaces (including wooden spoons!), but they are not see-through, meaning you can see them no matter what colour your implement happens to be.
imageHere’s a picture I took back in January 2011 of various utensils with the labels attached – so that was over a year and a half ago.  I was so delighted that these could stick to almost any surface, including round wooden spoons (they’re cheap, but annoying to replace when trayfed due to marker M’s and F’s and P’s rubbing off and becoming indistinguishable).
stickers 012
You can see how useful these labels are when the implements are almost identical, like with the pastry brushes above (we make turkey pastries often for Shabbos, so we NEED a meat pastry brush!). 
Anyway, here’s an updated picture which includes a couple of new ones utensils, to show you how well the labels are bearing up under extremely heavy use (and how versatile they are on irregular surfaces, like digital thermometers) (I have two digital thermometers, one for cheese and one for bread, but many people also have a meat thermometer, and these labels would let you use the same cheap thermometer model for all three!).
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(wondering what it looks like when inferior labels FAIL?  Check it out here)
The only times these labels haven’t stuck on well for us is when I’ve attempted to put them on a dirty or uneven surface, like one cutting board that was both chopped up a bit and slightly greasy (doh!). 
Otherwise, they go on and they STAY on, unlike the leading brands that peel up and leave annoying frayed edges that flap in the breeze.  I did try to put one on the cast-iron dutch oven I use to bake bread, but repeated exposure to a 500° left the label adhered but blackened beyond recognition (which was sad, because it’s pareve but also a deep red colour, so it confuses everybody).
Product IllustrationBeyond kosher, Oliver’s Labels also offers customizable Pantry Labels.  You customize the words on ALL the labels (common choices are pre-filled in so you don’t have to type them all out – just the ones you want to change!), so if you have a winning “custom BBQ blend” or Indian garam masala, or a cinnamon sugar shaker jar, just create a label and it stays clearly and professionally marked in your pantry.  The set comes with 50 spice labels and 20 canister labels.
Of course, Oliver’s Labels doesn’t just make kitchen labels.  If you’re interested in my impressions of some of their other products, mostly for kids but not JUST for kids, check out my other review here.
In the meantime!  Because now you’re totally excited about these wonderful labels, I am giving some away!!!  Between now and August 11th, you can enter here OR at my main blog (it’s all one contest, so entering in both places won’t help your odds) and one winner anywhere in the world will walk away (figuratively; they’ll be mailed directly from Oliver’s Labels!) to win BOTH:
  • One set of kosher kitchen labels AND
  • One pack of either Original, Mini, Shoe or Stick-eez Clothing Labels (you choose!)
Here’s my fine print based on past giveaways.
RaffleCopter works well if you follow the instructions.  If it says you get two entries by doing something (like following me on facebook), it will LET you enter even if you don’t do it, BUT I will check the winning entry carefully.  If you are drawn as the winner and you have not done the action properly (ie followed on twitter, commented on my blog with the design/style you want, etc), your entry will be disqualified and another winner will be selected.  Let’s say you got a couple of entries for following me on twitter.  If you are the winner, I will check if you follow me on twitter.  If you are NOT a follower, I will throw away your entry and draw another one.  If you are not sure your entries were all done properly, leave a comment and I’m happy to check for you!!!
So here’s the ‘Copter.  Do your thing!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

When you can’t have bread…

DSC03679(because we just had amazing garlic bread at my mother’s house last night!)

… then have bread on TOP of your regular supper!!!

In this case, chili, with cornbread on top.  Always a hit, but this could easily be made with this quick n’ easy beer bread instead. 

The chili around here is usually pareve, so I used milk in the cornbread; if the chili had meat, you could just use water – if I’m using tinned corn, I’ll save the corn water and use that – or some pareve kind of milk, but I don’t adore pareve milks in baking.

Use any chili you want:  homemade, storebought, whatever – just make sure it’s very moist, or you’ll be gasping for liquids as you eat it, because the cornbread sucks up some of the liquid, while DSC03676baking evaporates some.  Lose-lose, so start with a very wet chili.

The cornbread on top is adapted from the Joy of Cooking, and I usually double it, because we love it like crazy and one batch just isn’t enough:

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tsp regular, not kosher, salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • (April 22/13, made this again today and realized it doesn’t have salt in it; the original recipe may have omitted it, but I recommend a tsp of salt)

    DSC03678Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 425°.
    2. Pour prepared chili into a 9x13 pan – make sure there’s enough room on top for the cornbread mixture.  Put a baking sheet underneath if you think it might overflow.  Ask me how I know this!  (see pic above – there is NO room; I had to divide this chili into 2 tinfoil pans)
    3. Combine dry ingredients well in a bowl.
    4. Combine wet ingredients well in a measuring cup.
    5. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients.
    6. Stir gently ONLY until combined – not a second longer.  I use a rubber spatula for this step so as not to overmix.
    7. “Plop” cornbread mixture hither and thither, in evenly spaced blobs, all over the chili.  Don’t worry if it starts to sink a bit; it will rise during baking.
    8. Bake at 425° until cornbread is brown, about 20-25 minutes.

    In case you’re curious, here’s  a rough breakdown of the chili itself, because it’s very easy:

    • 2 tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed (hint: open upside-down; they’re easier to drain that way)
    • 1 tin of diced tomatoes
    • 1 packet of taco seasoning (we use Ortega)
    • 1 big purple onion, diced
    • 2 carrots, cubed
    • red pepper, diced, if desired
    • Garlic, as much as you can stand
    • Tinned or frozen corn, ditto
    • Any other veg you want to include
    • Tofu, TVP, whatever you want to boost the protein / texture
    • Tin Cream of Tomato soup, or not, whatever you want

    Instructions

    1. In a large pot, fry onion in oil.
    2. Add carrots, fry till slightly softened.
    3. Add red pepper, ditto.
    4. Add kidney beans, ditto.
    5. Add garlic and mix well.
    6. Add taco seasoning and mix well.
    7. Add tomatoes.
    8. Add 1-2 cups of water, as desired
    9. Add frozen or tinned corn.
    10. Add Cream of Tomato soup, if using.
    11. Stir well and bring to a boil.
    12. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, until flavours are well-combined.  Add chili powder, cumin, cilantro, or anything else to add authenticity, or just leave it the way it is if you’re feeding little kids.
    13. Serve on its own, with cornbread – or, better still, with cornbread ON TOP!!!

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Upcoming Joy of Kosher Spotlight

    As a baking Jewish blogger (not regularly enough here, I know!), I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to be featured, along with two of my recipes, in an upcoming “blogger spotlight” on Jamie Geller’s JoyOfKosher.com mega-site.

    I thought you-all might be fascinated with my responses to their questions, so I’ve posted them here so you can get a sneak preview:

    Tell us about your blog and how you got started:

    I've been baking for years, but a couple of years ago, I realized that too much of my regular blog, Adventures in MamaLand (http://ronypony.blogspot.com) was being taken up with my latest obsession, which - at the time - was no-knead breads.  So I found a similar Blogger domain name and took it from there!  I don't post there quite as often, but I like to think I have a dedicated core of kosher-bread aficionados who read it regularly.

    What is your earliest cooking memory?

    Baking one-pan brownies with my little sister in my mother's kitchen.  I didn't really learn to cook at home, because my mother is as tidy as I am NOT and it didn't make for a very comfortable relationship in the kitchen.  But one-pan brownies, we could usually manage without messing up too much.  Later on, when I was going to school and living alone with my future mother-in-law (my future husband was in a different city), I was amazed at how mellow a person could be in the kitchen - she didn't care where I put stuff in the dishwasher and loved coming home to fresh-cooked and -baked food.  With that freedom, I started experimenting!  I remember making a jelly roll, step by step - baking it flat, rolling it up in a towel to cool, gently unrolling and filling it -and being so proud of how perfectly it turned out.  Even though, these days, I'm usually rushing to get family food on the table, it's wonderful to sometimes find a stretch of leisure time to cook or bake.

    What is your favorite kitchen implement / utensil / gadget?

    Hands-down, my Danish dough whisk.  Look it up on the Internet; it's a beautifully simple gadget, made in Poland - they're all made in Poland, apparently.  Basically, a twisted coat-hanger on a wooden handle... but it WORKS.  It's great for no-knead doughs; literally, you just stir them together.  But it's also the best thing for muffins and anything that suffers from overmixing.  And it's super-easy to clean!

    What's your favorite kosher dish to cook?

    Can't every dish be a kosher dish if you fiddle with it enough?  I didn't grow up eating kosher, and I remember at one point missing dim sum terribly.  Now, dim sum is practically the opposite of kosher - little dumpling pockets of shrimp, "mystery meat," tripe, you name it (okay, the tripe never appealed).  It's all about presentation and little bursts of flavour.  I didn't mourn; I gathered ingredients, rounded up recipes, bought some bamboo steamers, and spent the better part of a day re-creating my favourite dim sum of all:  "char siu bao," the well-known "barbecue pork" buns... using kosher beef.  They were utterly delicious, but it was a ton of work.  I guess that's a very long answer.  In my work as a freelance writer, I interview a lot of caterers, who all claim that their food "doesn't taste kosher."  I have no idea what this means, so my short answer is that my favourite dish to cook, period, is one we'll share with friends and family.  I love thinking about who'll be eating it while I cook; it's almost meditative.

    Who is your cooking inspiration?

    I don't know if I have one.  Honestly, any eishes chayil [woman of valour] who manages to cook a delightful meal for her family seven nights a week (or organize takeout or husband cookery for one or two of those evenings!), year in and year out, regardless of how she's feeling and what else is going on, should be an inspiration to us all.  In that sense, my mother was an inspiration - I guess everybody says their mother, but now, my jaw drops when I think about everything she accomplished.  I have the same number of hours in the day... perhaps the difference is that she didn't have the Internet and great sites like joyofkosher.com!

    Please share a favorite cooking tip or trick with our readers:

    MEASURE!  Cooking is fun, an art, but baking is a science.  Measure your ingredients properly.  A normal cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 120 to 170 grams; we North American home bakers are terribly lazy, but you can find good recipes that give exact weights, and you may be amazed at how much more reliable your baking becomes!  Also: measure the temperature of your finished bread - 185 to 195 is a good internal temperature.  My digital thermometer cost under $10 and it's saved so many loaves from over- and under-baking!  Again, it's one tip:  MEASURE!  Oh, and don't "punch down" your bread, no matter how many times your Bubby's challah recipe says you must.

    Which recipes are you sharing with us today?

    Two recipes - one is an easy and practical Pareve Hamburger Bun recipe, and one is a Blender Challah Recipe which is a little harder to work with but which should yield the softest, fluffiest challahs you've ever tasted.

    Recipes to come…

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    Whole Lotta Challah Going Down…!

    So when I open my big mouth, I sometimes end up with a Shabbos like last week where I owed 5 challahs to various people around the neighbourhood, plus 3 for us = 8 challahs.

    I used a no-knead, bucket-risen dough (blender challah recipe) that quickly surpassed the bucket:

    DSC03447

    Plop!  Out on the table!  I had to elevate the bucket so it would fall out.  Here is my hand in its midst, for size comparison:

    DSC03450

    8 x 4 = 32 “pancakes”

    DSC03452

    8 x 4 = 32 “slugs,” ready to turn into “snakes” and braid…

    DSC03454

    (the progression as the challah takes shape, by the way, is as follows:  blobs, balls, pancakes, slugs, snakes, challahs)

    You can’t really tell from the pictures, but the dough was ridiculously soft, pretty much at the limit of what I can work with, though a few weeks ago, I did a batch that was worse: it was ALL BUT unworkable.

    Even fully-cooked, the challahs were frighteningly bendy in the middle.  They also grew tremendously and bonded with each other in the oven.  Here are 3 of them in a cardboard box, alongside some cookies, banana cake, chicken, soup and vegetables, all on their way to a neighbourhood family with a new baby:

     DSC03455   

    But that wasn’t the only mitzvah… because I used such a tremendous amount of flour, I was also able to take challah with a bracha, which is more of a rarity around here than you might think.

    And lest you think I’m an actual balabusta, it was 40° in the kitchen, sweat was streaming off me, my family and everybody in it was utterly miserable.  And the vegetables I sent?  Frozen – steamed to perfection, of course, and that was nothing less than what I was serving the rest of us for Shabbos dinner.  But still, I felt like I ought to have included a kugel…

    Here, because you are the only people who will care about this at all (even my family – who eat the challah happily each week – don’t want to hear too much about it!), are a couple of pictures of the week I made an almost totally unworkable challah dough:

    The dough itself – blahb.  You can see that it’s just one step up from cake batter, smeared on the bowl scraper like this.

     DSC03235

    Somehow, by a neis, rolled up into the  most sluggish slugs.

    DSC03236

    Again, by sheer force of will, snakes:

    DSC03237

    And somehow, beautiful braids.  I baked these in pans because I wasn’t taking any chances with spreading.  (I have already mentioned how much I love my Lodge-brand cast-iron loaf pans from Sara???    Even a wet bread like this releases like a charm…)

    DSC03238

    And, baked at last!

    DSC03240 

    See?  This is why my family doesn’t care that this was the wettest dough I have ever made a shaped bread with.  Once it pops out of the pans, you can’t even tell that it’s anything special at all.  Although this past week’s challahs remained remarkably soft the entire Shabbos, nobody even cares about that – they just pretty much take it for granted.

    When you talk about bread, does anybody listen?  (I will!)

    Sunday, July 1, 2012

    Shabbos Challah

    I had a weird amount of challah left over, so I was going to do a 3-braid with a little teeny 3-braid on top, but I turned the teeny 3-braid into the letters shin, bais, sav (tav), in honour of Gavriel Zev’s alef-bais siyum / party today.

    It was beautiful when it started rising…

    DSC03400

    I even used poppy and sesame seeds contrasting – poppy on the letters and sesame on the “body” of the challah.

    But it quickly turned ugly once the oven heat struck…

    DSC03403

    As you can see, the dot from the bais wandered away onto the other side of a giant rift.  You can barely see it here, but the dot from the shin strayed and is now in the top-right corner.  And the save just kind of unwove itself into a “humph” shape.

    Oh, well… I haven’t had a challah split this badly in a LONG time.  In fact, the others that I made this week didn’t split at all – just my special fancy “lettering” challah.  Go figger!

    This was also a weird batch because I used raisins.  I was making Joan Nathan’s “best challah” recipe, which (on the site I copied it from), calls for some plumped-up raisins.  I have never plumped them before, so I tried it, and they were okay… but nothing amazing.  None of us really love raisins in challah, except Lenchners

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