Monday, September 18, 2023

Spicing things up with PepperMate's Traditional Pepper Mill

In the world of seasonings, no spice holds a reputation quite like pepper. My love of those pungent seeds - whether they are black, white, red or pink - is no secret. Salads and roasted vegetables get a liberal dose of coarse cracked pepper, and the breading mix we use for our "zucchini coins" is kissed with a finer grind. 

Now, I don't set out to be a food snob. However, when it comes to things that add flavour, I am on the picky side. Nothing compares to freshly ground spices - and while I do rely on some pre-ground ones (like paprika, cayenne, ginger and turmeric), I buy them in tiny quantities to prevent the sawdusty taste the 6 month old Costco-size bottle takes on. With pepper, I don't have to look any further than a sturdy, reliable pepper mill - and when I received the PepperMate Traditional Pepper Mill to test and review, my search for the perfect one is over.

Photo Courtesy of Peppermate

What makes this pepper mill stand out, you ask? Looking past the celebrity endorsements (Ina Garten used one in her Food Network program), I wanted to focus solely on how this tool could benefit the everyday cook's kitchen. Additionally, since both I and others in my family have arthritis, I wanted to put this pepper mill to the test from that perspective as well.

1. Adjustable Grind
One of my favourite features of the PepperMate Traditional Pepper Mill is the adjustable grind dial. The dial is located under the top cap, and provides precise control over the coarseness of your pepper. Grinds are consistent, and I haven't had any jamming issues.

2. Easy to Turn Knob
Arthritis sufferers and cooks wanting to get kids into the kitchen, rejoice! This grinder relies on a windmill-like knob on the side of the tool rather than a top-twisting system to operate. It's ergonomic and easy to turn - even my 3 year old nephew was able to use it. Additionally, it only takes a few twists to grind a hefty amount of pepper.

3. Loading and Storing Ground Spices
Loading this mill is a breeze - pop off the top cap and add your peppercorns (or other spices - this mill can easily grind mustard seed, fenugreek and coriander). Make sure to adjust the grind first, if you need to, since the dial is in that compartment. Ground spices fall into the bottom cap, which acts as a sealed container. I really like this feature, since when I'm making spice rubs I usually need a good amount of pepper and I can pre-grind it. Removing the caps is also easy on my stiff and sore thumbs, which is a major perk! My only issue is that the caps can pop off sporadically - if you're using this mill over the course of the week without having to re-load it, I suggest adding a bit of tape to the top cap. This advice also goes when you're cooking with kids... trust me on this one.

4. Ceramic Composition
I don't know about you, but our kitchen is regularly filled with steam. In addition, our kitchen also opens out to the backyard, and in the Summer, the humidity is thick. This grinder is made out of ceramic, making it highly resistant to corrosion and rust. As a result, this grinder will last you ages - whether you live in a humid climate, or in the arid areas of the world.

5. Pricing and Lifetime Warranty
At the time of writing, the PepperMate Traditional Pepper Mill retails for $39.99 on the official website and $29.99 on Amazon. While the sticker shock may be real - especially for casual cooks and those who usually gravitate to pre-ground pepper - this mill is proving to be a worthwhile investment. If something should go wrong with the grinding mechanism, PepperMate has a lifetime warranty on all of it's Traditional Pepper Mills. Simply register your product on their warranty page and you're set!

Overall, I highly recommend the PepperMate Traditional Pepper Mill for both casual and experienced cooks. With a easy to use knob, its a perfect option for arthritic hands and getting kids in the kitchen too - allowing everyone to have a burst of flavour in their meals!

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Tri-Coloured Breadsticks

These breadstkcks are made with 3 variations on the same dough - one with butterfly pea flower water, one using the same water with a touch of lemon juice (which transforms it into a beautiful purple) and one using pumpkin in place of some of the water. My niece was in charge of knocking back, rolling out strands are braiding them!

Jump to Recipe

There's nothing quite like the excitement of getting your hands dirty and creating something delicious from scratch, especially when you're using unique and vibrant ingredients - and you have a couple helpers in the kitchen! These breadsticks were the result of an abundance of pumpkin puree, a lack of fresh bread, and the urge to play with the Selefina Spices butterfly pea flower powder I had. The powder is more than just a way to add a slight floral note to the finished bread - according to my niece it's a magical potion ingredient! Butterfly pea flower powder has amazing color-changing properties when mixed with acid like lemon juice, resulting in a stunning indigo-violet hue. After making "magic" purple lemonade with the 5 and 2 year olds, we decided to make something that was filled with colour.

To set off the blue and violet colours, I grabbed a couple "pucks" of pumpkin that I had frozen from the Cinderella squash I roasted and used it to partially replace some of the water in that third of the dough. Not only did it provide a beautiful colour, but added a little extra nutrition in the form of beta carotene - which sparked a storytime about how I once at so much pumpkin I turned slightly orange because of it (I was an undiagnosed celiac with fat malabsorption and a lot of my "safe foods" contained it).

One of the best parts of having two extra sets of hands on deck - with inquisitive minds controlling them - is that it's an excellent opportunity to help them develop their skills in measurement, fine motor control and counting. Having a background in teaching home economics, I walked them through the process, step-by-step instructions for measuring and combining ingredients, answering their questions (like why we need yeast, how yeast works, and why we need to wait for the dough to rise). My mom took over for the braiding part, but my niece picked up the process quickly and insisted on doing all of them. 

We opted to make 8 long braids, and the leftover dough got the loaf treatment, transforming into this funky, multi-hued bread. It tastes just as good as it looks, and turns everyday sandwiches into something fun! 


Monday, July 10, 2023

Rhubarb-Apple Lattice Pie

Shredded apples (peel and all) not only add fruity notes to the filling, but contain pectin which helps thicken it. The result is an easy to slice but not gloopy pie ready for your next backyard bbq!

Jump to Recipe 

It's been a hot minute since I dabbled in pastry  quite frankly, I don't have the patience to coax together a perfectly flaky crust any more, and the people who would enjoy such a treat are few and far between now. However, I did have the opportunity to pay a few visits to a friend with a distinct love for rhubarb pie this year - and how could I not indulge that possibility? 

Luckily, the backyard rhubarb was - and is - prolific this year. We have (at last count) 4 rhubarb plants in the garden, each exploding into a mess of foliage every year. I'm the only one who actually uses the rhubarb, oddly enough, and what better way to celebrate this often ignored ingredient than in my annual pie?

That said, rhubarb-only pie has a set of things that need to be addressed for it to be fit for the dessert table. The first (and most obvious) is that fresh rhubarb is tart - great in, say, chutney, but not alone in a dessert. The next is the fact that rhubarb is essentially sour celery. It's stringy because of the cellulose fibres that give it structure, and it's filled with water. Ignore those elements and you wind up with dental floss soup in a pie crust. Appetizing, right?

 The approach I took in order to combat all three considerations while keeping the rhubarb front and centre was multi-fold. The easiest one was the tartness, obviously - but to add some complexity to the sweetness I used a mix of plain granulated and dark brown sugars. The brown sugar gave me the inspiration to tackle the liquid issue as well. In addition to using tapioca starch (my go-to thickener for pie, since it's freezer-stable) I decided to shred apples, peel and all, into the rhubarb mixture. The apple's pectin, combined with the sugar and the heat of the oven, also aided in the thickening of the filling. The stringiness of the rhubarb turned out to be a non-issue, since the pieces were chopped fairly small but the cellulose was also somewhat softened by the overnight sit in the sugar.

This is not a quick pie to make, since you need to let the filling stand for 12 hours (which also lets you chill your pie dough appropriately), it bakes for an hour, then has to set for another 8 hours before serving. I 100% promise it is worth it though - and if you're feeling energetic enough to make enough pie dough these freeze well both unbaked and baked. Don't want to fuss with a lattice (you can see my amazing weave work above haha)? No problem - just pop a full crust lid on top and poke 5-6 slits in the top for ventilation.

PS - Prime Day is TOMORROW! What's on your list this year? 

Don't forget, you must be an Amazon Prime member to catch all the deals!

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Prime Day 2023 is Near!


Time is flying by this year - I don't know about you, but it seems like every day is either packed with things to do or spent planning for those days. While I haven't been cooking or baking a ton (though things are coming as soon as I get a spare moment!) I have been busy with the gym, work, tutoring, two graduations and (my favourite) traveling.

It should come as no surprise that I'm an Amazon Prime member - as a blogger, Amazon is a quick and reliable way for me to source ingredients, equipment and electronic tools that allow me to put out content. In my everyday life, I've turned to Amazon to get all sorts of things, from workout gear and supplements to Bluetooth keyboards (yes, two), a wireless mouse, acoustic panels and media cables for my office. Of course, I'm a huge sucker for a good deal, and that's when Prime Day enters the equation.


What is Prime Day, you ask? 

Prime Day is Amazon's deal event exclusively for Prime members, featuring personalized deals and top brands. Think of it as a giant sale rack for members only. The savings can be huge - up to 40% - and the best part is that there are a bunch of stores that have partnered with Amazon to bring you Prime Day deals as well.


When is Prime Day?

This year, Prime Day is July 11 & 12, 2023

What's on sale?

Prime Day means sales across almost every category! Whether you're looking to pick up a gorgeous Dutch oven, a tumbler perfect for getting your daily hydration, or that KitchenAid Stand mixer you've always wanted, there is a really good chance Prime Day will soften the hit to your wallet.   


What's on my wishlist?

Given my love for travel, exercise and cooking as well as my need for reliable electronics and connectivity, I've got quite the list this year! Here are a few of my favourites:

You can find my full (and ever-changing) wishlist here

How do I get in on this?

There are three different types of Prime membership to choose from! 

Join Amazon Prime Today!

Prime Student 6-month Trial

Amazon Family 30-Day Free Trial

  •  Amazon Family lets you save 20% on diaper subscriptions, has exclusive Coupons and Deals from Amazon Family and exclusive Baby Registry benefits


What is included with Amazon Prime? 

Membership allows you to access all the Prime Day deals for members, as well as exclusive benefits such as 2-Day Shipping, Exclusive Member Deals, Prime Video, Buy With Prime, Amazon Music, and Prime Gaming (which includes one free Twitch sub a month!)


Are you looking forward to Prime Day? What's on your wishlist?

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Kielbasa and Kale Soup

It looks like spring is finally edging it's way in for good - and what better way to celebrate than with a bowl full of vibrant colour and flavour! This Kielbasa and Kale Soup is packed with carrots, potatoes, and white beans in addition to its namesake ingredients, and packs a spicy, smoky punch too.

Jump to Recipe

You might be surprised to know that my family eats soup and stews year round. Lunchtime in the summer is often just as hectic (if not more so) than it is during the school year, since we either have the littles over all day, the garden needs constant attention, or mom is running off somewhere or other. Having filling, delicious meals on hand is something that never goes out of season! Given that the warmer months are here (hopefully to stay!) I wanted to bring the colours of the season into this bi-monthly batch with lots of kale, celery and carrots. These vegetables were accented with hearty sausage and potatoes, creamy white beans, a hefty pop of garlic and a richly flavoured homemade chicken broth.

The star of the show, for me at least, is the smoked paprika. I own three varieties of smoked paprika, which I love to use in the summer to amplify the flavour of meals either cooked on the grill or not. Selefina Spices' Spanish de la Vera Smoked Paprika is the perfect addition to burger mixes, mayo, ketchup, deviled eggs and pasta salad - and I'd wager it would make grilled corn butter pop too. Letting the soup simmer (and even sit overnight before reheating) allows the flavour of the paprika to infuse fully, making every bite memorable.

Some notes on variations and alternate ingredients:

  • You can use turkey or beef kielbasa in place of the traditional pork, or even cooked Polish sausage. I haven't tried vegan sausage in this but it should work as well, or leave it out completely.
  • If you don't have hot smoked paprika on hand, mix 1 1/4 tsp sweet smoked paprika with 1/4 tsp of cayenne to make your own.
  • If you don't want the spice of the hot paprika, use sweet smoked paprika 1:1 for the hot paprika. 
  • Any waxy potato will work - I used Yukon Gold, but white or red potatoes would work too.
  • Vegetable broth can be used in place of chicken, if you don't use low sodium taste the soup and add salt to taste
  • Start with 9 cups of broth and add if you need the soup to loosen up.
  • Kidney beans, brown lentils, lima beans and navy beans will all work. You want about 5 cups of cooked beans if you're cooking from dry.
  • You can use any leafy greens instead of kale - Savoy cabbage or mature spinach are both good.
  • This soup freezes well - ladle cooled soup into freezer-safe containers and store up to 3 months.