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My Favorite kitchen items

Every year there is always someone on your gift list that you may not know exactly what to get.  With fourteen days left until Christmas, I thought I would run down a quick list of items that I love using in the kitchen that may make your gift giving search a little bit easier.

  1. AirBake Cookie Sheets:  These are the best cookie sheets I have ever purchased.  They are reasonably priced, but a little more expensive than cheap cookie sheets.  They work like a dream, and I have yet to have any problems with them.  I bought these about two years ago and they still look as new as the day I bought them.  The cookies always come out evenly cooked, and I cannot sing enough praises to these amazing cookie sheets.  If you or someone on your gift list is looking for cookie sheets, you cannot go wrong with these AirBake cookie sheets.
  2. Calphalon Contemporary Stainless 13 Piece Set: My husband got me into these pans.  They are a nice set.  It is middle of the line with cost,  but fantastic to cook with.  There is a learning curve for cooking with stainless pans.  They are harder to cook with if you aren’t used to them.  They are not non-stick, but if you heat the sauté pans before adding what you are cooking, you can avoid problems with sticking.  You also need to use butter, oil, etc as a non-stick lubricant.  My husband and I purchased these pans because they work with induction.  We recently purchased an induction cooktop, and if you are in the market for a new cooktop, you should seriously look into one. I’ll have to see about my husband writing up a post about our induction cooktop!
  3. Lodge Preseasoned Cast Iron Skillet:  In addition to the stainless pans, I like to use cast iron pans.  I have a few sizes of the Lodge Preseasoned pans, and they all work wonderfully.  They cook evenly, the food always has a nice flavor, and these work well for both an induction cooktop, as well as your traditional cooktop, and camping!  They are easy to clean, and they are also very affordable.  The only cons is that they can get fairly heavy, especially the larger pans, and the handle gets fairly hot as well.  You will need a potholder or a special hot handle while picking up a hot cast iron pan.
  4. Lodge Silicone Hot Handle Holder and Lodge scrapper: The Lodge hot handle is perfect for medium and larger cast iron pans.  The small cast iron pan handles tend to be too small for these holders, but you could use a pot holder when holding those pans.  I leave my silicone holders on my pans without any problems.  I bought enough to keep them directly on the handles and this way I don’t even have to worry about finding them.  They are made to withstand the hot temperatures, and really do work wonderfully.  Sometimes with a pot holder, you can still feel the heat coming through.  I have not had that problem using these holders.  Now, the scrapper is what I use when cleaning my cast iron pans.  These work great to get off any debris that may have stuck to the pan while cooking.  It is such a simple device, basically a chunk of plastic with a tapered edge, but it does its job very well.
  5. Zipzicle Zip Top Ice Pop Pouch:  These pouches are wonderful for making homemade popsicles.  I would advise you to keep them upright as they freeze.  Once they are frozen, you can lay them on their side.  When you are ready to eat one, I run them under the tap water for just a second at the zip top.  This makes opening them easy.  To fill the pouches, I use a Pyrex measuring cup with a pouring spout and a turkey baster.  I use the turkey baster at first, and then when the measuring cup is almost empty, I’ll pour directly from the measuring cup into the pouches.  They are easy to use, and hold quite a bit of liquid.
  6. Zipzicle Neoprene Ice pop sleeves and Kooleez Ice Pop Insulator:  If you enjoy eating ice pops, both the Zipzicle and Kooleez insulator sleeves are wonderful for keeping your hands from freezing while eating your frozen treats.  They are a fun, and fairly inexpensive novelty item that would be perfect as a stocking stuffer for your ice pop king or queen.  We have both at our house and use them frequently.  The Zipzicle holders are wider and shorter, while the Kooleez are longer and skinner.  Both of these can hold the Zipzicle ice pop pouches.  Since the Zipzicle sleeve is wider, it is a little easier to get pops in and out of them, but a lot of the ice pop tends to stick out of the sleeve unless you buy short ice pops.  The Kooleez are stretchy enough to fit the Zipzicle pouches, but they are tighter.  I like both equally, but you may prefer one over the other.
  7. Ice Pop Joy: Organic, Healthy, Fresh, Delicious by Anni Daulter: There are a lot of amazing and inspirational ice pop recipes in this cookbook.  She gives you great ideas to play with, and you can easily go and explore making up your own recipes off of hers.  I sometimes change around the fruits, add difference juices, etc.  However, her book has given me a lot of inspiration on where to begin with making my own ice pops, as well as some combinations that I never really thought of putting together.  These are not your typical ice pop recipes.  She has recipes for tofu, vegetable, fruit, tea pops, and more.  It truly is a great book with a ton of ideas!
  8. Burn- FIX and First Aid Kit:  It is always a good idea to keep burn aids and a first aid kit around.  Accidents happen to the best of us, and you always want to be prepared.  These burn pads are fantastic for burns, we got them for my husband after he got a bad burn in the kitchen after Thanksgiving.  I wish we had found these when I burned my hand on the oven rack by accident a few months ago.
  9. Infantino Squeeze Pouch, Infantino Squeeze Station, Infantino Fresh Squeezed Simple Squeeze Kit:  If you, your child, or someone you know loves fruit and veggie pouches, Infantino has a great line of products.  The Squeeze Station is nice for when you want to make a more than one or two pouches at once, or you can use the Fresh Squeeze Simple Squeeze when you are wanting to make a single pouch quickly.  They sell pouches that come with twist tops.  I have never had a problem with leaking and they are very easy to use.  It is an easy way to make healthy snacks when on the go for kids and adults alike.
  10. Spiralizer:  I absolutely love my spiralizer.  I have used it to make zucchini noodles, fried zucchini chips, sweet potato chips, potato slices and more.  There are a lot of things you can do with this.  I would suggest you also check out the cook book Inspiralized by Ali Maffucci.  There are some great recipe suggestions, and inspirations to give you some great ideas on how to use your spiralizer and replace some of your carbs with vegetables.  Personally, this is why I bought the spiralizer, to incorporate more vegetables in place of and sometimes with pasta.
  11. Munchie Mug Snack Cup:  These are great for kids and adults alike.  They come in 12 oz or 16 oz sizes.  You take your dry snack of choice (crackers, pretzels, sweedish fish) and place it in the cup.  There is a lid with an overlapping fabric that is easy to put your hand through to get to your food, but keeps the food nice and tidy in the cup when tipped over or dropped, or a solid lid if you want something a little more sturdy or for safe storing, and makes it so you can hold liquids without leaking.  The trick to making sure they don’t leak is to make sure the cap and container are not wet where the cap threads on.  If the threading gets wet, I have had leaks.  However, these cups are mainly advertised for dry foods.  These cups come in a variety of colors as well.
  12. Ninja Master Prep: This is really an amazing blender.  When my blender finally burned out, I researched blenders for a while.  I really didn’t want to spend a ton of money, but I wanted something that worked well.  This blender is absolutely amazing.  I use it to make smoothies all of the time, as well for blending sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and it purees like a dream.  It is a pulsing blender.  You push the button on the motor on and off as many times as you need to to get the desired consistency.  The motor is in the top.  It is small and easy to store, which is an added bonus to me since I hate to have too many things on my counters.  Also, you can buy additional attachments and parts from Ninja’s website if you wanted additional jars, lids, etc.  I use this almost every day.
  13. Thermos Hydration Bottle:  This is the best water bottle I have ever had.  It does not leak, it holds a good amount of water, it has a ring so you can attach it with a carabiner and carry it with you.  It fits in a car cup holder as well.  I also love that it doesn’t have a straw.  I love water and I tend to guzzle water when I am drinking it.  To me, a straw gets in the way and makes it take longer to drink the amount of water I’m wanting.  The mechanism to open the water bottle is very easy to open as well as close.  You press the button and it pops open, and push the top down to close it.
  14. Curious Chef Apple Slicer:  I have been thinking about getting an apple slicer for years.  I never made the jump to do it until a couple of months ago.  I must say, I absolutely love the Curious Chef Apple Slicer.  I like to peel my apples, and then use the slicer to remove the core and slice the apple all at once.  It takes less than a second and works very well.  This is actually a product line that is marketed towards getting kids more involved in the kitchen.  You should check them out!


So, there you go!  My fourteen favorite kitchen items for 2015 fourteen days before Christmas!  I hope you were able to find something that you or someone you know will enjoy as well!

How We Feed America…

As we get into the thick of the holiday season, it is our hope that every person is able to have the food they need and are able to enjoy the festivities that many of us look forward to all year round.  However, the sad truth is, that there are millions of families across America who are unable to afford the food they need to prepare and enjoy healthy holiday meals. In fact, this time of the year is a painful reminder of what they wish they could have, but don’t.  However, it doesn’t have to be that way and you can help!  FeedingAmerica invites us all to engage with them for the month of December through participation in #GivingTuesday, #WhyIFeedAmerica, and/or Feed New Traditions.

On Tuesday, December 1, Feeding America recognizes #GivingTuesday—a global day dedicated to giving back. #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable giving season and is observed on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday , and Cyber Monday. Did you know, with as little as $1, you can help Feeding America secure and distribute 11 meals to people facing hunger?  Pretty amazing!  What a wonderful way to not only spend your $1, but also a wonderful opportunity to help others during the season of giving.


Are things tight for you this holiday season, but still want to help?  You can help out at your local food banks by volunteering your time.  While you are at it, encourage others to help by participating in #WhyIFeedAmerica.  #WhyIFeedAmerica is an opportunity to share your intention and reflect on why it is important to give back and support Feeding America.  Maybe you know someone who has been an inspiration, that you met who is or has battled with not being able to afford food for themselves or their family.  Sharing these stories helps get the message out and the awareness of real issues in our country surrounding hunger.   I am thankful that I always have been able to have food on my table, growing up, and now as an adult.  The fact that this isn’t the case for so many, is not only heartbreaking, but you wouldn’t think it would be as prominent as it is in a developed nation such as ours.  Shouldn’t every American be able to afford the food they need?

Lastly, take the time to participate in Feeding America’s Feed New Traditions this holiday season.  Feed New Traditions is a content series built to share stories about the people FeedingAmerica serves, and to show you, their volunteers and donors, the impact that you have. With all of our testimonials from #WhyIFeedAmerica and experiences about why this issue is so important, we will be able to inspire more people to help one another in need to have the means to celebrate new traditions this holiday season.


So, whether you choose to donate or volunteer, by bringing attention to hunger you can make a new tradition with your own family by supporting hunger relief this holiday. We hope you are encouraged to contribute to Feeding America’s efforts, and enabling more families access to the food they need to enjoy a happy holiday season.

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Parmesan Base


2 cups egg noodles

2 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 stick butter

2 oz cream cheese

1 cup peas

1 cup parmesan cheese grated

1 can albacore tunafish drained

(Optional: instead of 1 cup peas, you can do 1/2 cup of peas and a 1/2 cup of diced carrots)

Makes two servings.

First off, I have to admit that I had an absolute love for Betty Crocker’s classic tuna noodle growing up.  It was my favorite food that I always got on my birthday, and was easy for me to make myself as a teenager.  Then, after years of this addiction, they changed their recipe.  I was pretty sad about that, and turned to hard copies and virtual copies of tuna noodle recipes to get that same flavor.  However, I quickly realized that practically every recipe I ran into called for cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup.  This never created the same taste as I remembered my favorite meal having.  Thus, my own version of what I thought a tuna noodle casserole should taste like.  I think the secret is in making an alfredo sauce instead of using the condensed soup route (not that that is a bad thing, but it wasn’t the flavor I was looking for).

Tuna Noodle Base

Tuna Noodle Base


To start this recipe, we begin with the milk, heavy cream, butter, and cream cheese in a sauce pan.  Bring to almost a light boil while whisking to help dissolve the cream cheese.



Noodles, peas, and tuna fish

Noodles, peas, and tuna fish


Once the cream cheese is blended and the liquid contents are almost to a boil, add the egg noodles, peas, and tuna fish.  Cook until your noodles are el dente by covering the saucepan with a lid, and turning the heat down to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.



Lastly, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the parmesan cheese.  Use your whisk to mix in the cheese.  It is important to not add the parmesan cheese too early because the cheese will curd instead of being a smooth texture.  You may get tuna fish, noodles, and peas in the whisk while doing this.  That is okay.  You can give your whisk a tap on the side of your saucepan and they will fall right out of your whisk.


Added in the parmesan

Now, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  If you’d like, you can sprinkle a little more parmesan on your portion of tuna noodle casserole before serving.




I hope you enjoyed my version of a classical tasting Betty Crocker tuna noodle. 🙂

Tiziano’s Ristorante Italiano Review

When I travel to the VA metro area for work, I try to find a hotel to stay at that won’t break my wallet.  Little did I know, that this trip I’d stay at a hotel near a wonderful family run Italian restaurant that I would absolutely enjoy.

Tiziano’s Ristorante Italiano is in a small brick building.  It didn’t look like it had much to offer from the outside.  I watched it for a couple of days when I would drive by to see that it looked rather empty.  I was wondering to myself if the place was even open.  One day after work I had such a hankering for Italian cuisine that I thought I’d stop by.  Tim was with me.  We pulled up to the door and saw the open sign.  However, there was one problem we noticed, no one else was there.  The parking lot, which wasn’t that large, was entirely empty.  We both looked at each other and then said to one another, “maybe we should try some place else and the empty parking lot is a sign”.  So that night we did and tried another restaurant.

Although, we had a nice meal that night elsewhere, I kept thinking about this other restaurant.  I wondered why no one was eating there.   Determined to try it out, I talked Tim into coming with me for lunch the next day.  This time when we showed up there were two mini-vans parked in the parking lot.  I thought, “well, this may be a good sign”.  We parked and walked indoors to see this beautiful open restaurant with a bar area, as well as the main dining floor, and a section of dining that was farther in the back and up a few steps.  There was only one other table that I could see that was there while we were.

The dining area had a faint yellow paint on the walls and some very nice paintings hanging from the walls.  My favorite part of the room was the archways.  They were everywhere.  You can see them in the picture below of the main dining room.  You can find this picture and more on their website under “gallery“.

Main Dining Room at Tiziano's

Based on what we saw, it appeared this restaurant was a family owned restaurant.  An older gentleman, who we believe may have been the father, brought us to our table.  A younger woman, who seemed that she may have been the daughter, waited on us during our meal.  Both the host and the waitress made us feel welcomed.  They had heavy Italian accents, which made Tim and I more excited hoping that meant authentic Italian cuisine.

We were not disappointed.  We both ordered from the lunch menu.  I got the fettuccine alfredo (one of my favorites), and Tim got the chicken parmesan.  Our meals included a salad and bread.  The salads and bread were okay.  Nothing terrible, but nothing to really write home about either. One piece of advice would be that the butter could have been more room temperature so it was easier to spread on the bread.  It’s a shame that we didn’t get it with spices and olive oil for dipping.  That would have been lovely to have and would have alleviated the hard butter issue.

Slightly disappointed from the starters, we still felt this quaint restaurant had promise.  When our meals came, we were pleasantly surprised. We were given very generous portions.  I took half of mine home with me.  I thought the alfredo sauce was very light, yet had that nice sharp parmesan taste.  It was creamy and the noodles were cooked perfectly.  Tim’s chicken was nice and moist and he really enjoyed his meal as well.

Now, it has been a couple of months since we went there, and I am now writing up this review.  Looking back at Tim’s and my meal, I remember my meal being very good and remember the creaminess and taste of the alfredo and the noodles being a much better experience than my visit to Vapiano’s (see review for Vapiano’s for more information).  However, Tim remembers liking his meal, but wasn’t blown away.  He doesn’t remember exactly how the tomato sauce was, he thinks it may have been semi-chunky with a touch of pepper, but not much.  I guess this says that we both really did enjoy our meals here, but at the same time, they weren’t so amazing that they stuck with us.  With that being said, would we go here again?  Sure.  The food and service was great and very affordable, our whole check was less than $20 for both of us.  Would we recommend this place to you?  Well, you may not experience an Italian cuisine awakening, but you will get good food.  You just need to come inside and ignore the fact that the parking lot may be empty.  In this case, we learned not to judge this restaurant by its parking lot.