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12.29.2015

Product Review: The Keepsake Kitchen Diary DIY Cookbook


Disclosure: I received a sample of this product for review purposes.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.  I was not financially compensated for this post.

Holidays to me are synonymous with both family and food.  Every year I look forward to the chance to have Granddaddy's clam dip, Aunt Alicia's cornbread dressing, Dad's Puerto Rican feast, and a warm batch of GG's pumpkin bread.  Not only are these cherished recipes that I have been collecting over the years to pass down to my sons, but the cooking and eating of these dishes contain so much history.  As my Lily & Val Keepsake Kitchen Diary itself says, "the fondest memories are made when gathered around the table."



This holiday season was the perfect opportunity for me to sit with family members and capture not only the recipes themselves, but also the memories (and special "secret" notes) surrounding them.  And the Keepsake Kitchen Diary was the perfect way to capture both. 



The Keepsake Kitchen Diary by Lily & Val is a pretty, DIY cookbook where you become the cookbook author.  Not only can you record recipes, but you can also write down memories and the occasions the dish was served. 
 
 
In addition to the page dedicated to the recipe, the next page is for writing down the story behind the recipe or when it is usually served.  There are also helpful cooking/baking measurements and conversions and other tools and tricks artfully illustrated inside the spiral-bound cookbook. 


The first step was for me to round up the recipes.  Family members sent me some in advance, or brought me recipe cards that I could attach right inside the cookbook.  As I said above, the holidays provided an ideal opportunity to get some of the cooking tips and memories directly from other family members.  Even though my boys may not have had the chance to meet their great-great-grandmother, they will have information on how to make her pumpkin bread just right!


As you can see, the pages allow room and blank fields for hand-writing in recipes and including notes.  You can also attach recipe cards in them (I recommend using acid-free adhesive and pens for archival quality).



I also decided to include some photos of the dishes, or of the family with them when I had the opportunity.


The book includes some pockets to store extra memories as well.


Another fun addition is the tear-out recipe cards in the back.  What a handy way to share copies of some of the favorite recipes with other family members who request them!


Click here to get your own copy... either for yourself, or as a special birthday, Valentine's, or Mother's Day gift!  I know I am already cherishing the opportunity to create this special cookbook to pass down as an heirloom. 

12.08.2015

Air Frying vs. Deep Frying


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive commission if you make a purchase using the link.

I love to cook, and I try to be health-conscious in my cooking as much as possible without sacrificing the taste.  I recently heard about air fryers (oil-less fryers that "fry" food with circulating hot air instead of oil), and decided to give it a try.  I found this Rosewill Oil-Less Air Fryer on Amazon at a great deal (in fact, it's still on sale).  I almost couldn't believe the claims that air fryers could cook crispy, delicious food without oil, so I set off on a test over the last few weeks. 



The air fryer itself has a few timing suggestions built-in for different types of meats and items, but in doing some research I learned that those setting shouldn't limit you.  You can choose the cooking temperature and time, and can cook many different types of things in an oven like this.

Through Pinterest and Google searching, I found these recipes for a different brand of air fryer, which helped me with some of the inspiration for the food I tried. 

Frozen Fries

This was the simplest thing I tried with the air fryer.  I tried a few different kinds of fries (shoestring and thick, wedge-style), and both cooked thoroughly and were nice and crisp based on the built-in timing suggestion.  The thicker fries required a few extra minutes, which I expected.

Fresh-Cut French Fries

After trying the frozen fries (which basically used the air fryer instead of the oven), I was eager to see how fresh-cut French fries would compare.  To get a nice crispness, it is recommended you toss them in a small amount of oil (I used about a teaspoon) before putting them into the fryer.  I chose truffle oil for this batch of fries, and finished it off with some truffle salt and parmesan cheese after it was done.  The texture and taste were perfect, but with so much less guilt!

Spring Rolls

On Pinterest I came across this recipe for air-fried spring rolls.  It was my first test to see if an eggroll wrapper could possibly crisp-up like a deep fryer.  Like with the fries, I brushed these lightly with oil (I chose sesame oil - yum!) before cooking.  Again, it worked like a charm. They were surprisingly crisp for not having been fried!  Since I used pre-cooked chicken, I didn't have to worry about the meat cooking through, so I was just able to cook them until desired crispness. 

Fried Wontons

With the success of the spring rolls, I was encouraged to try my own fried wonton recipe in the air fryer.  These start with raw meat (you can use ground beef, ground pork, or ground turkey) seasoned with minced onion, garlic powder, and pepper.  I wrapped them in a pre-made wonton wrapper then sealed them shut with some water.  Like the spring rolls, I brushed the outside with a little sesame oil, and cooked them.  Not only did they crisp-up nicely, but the raw meat cooked through without a problem.  The ground meat did add some additional oil to the dish (as you can see in the photo above), but it didn't feel nearly as greasy as when I deep fry them.  The air fryer has a basket that allows excess oil to drain off, so the items didn't sit in their grease while cooking.

Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp
I found this recipe in this air fryer cookbook here, but really, no recipe is needed.  I simply wrapped the shrimp in the bacon, and let the air fryer do its thing.  It took a few batches (since the space in the air fryer is limited), but it was totally worth it.  Easy and delicious, and the basket let the bacon grease drain off the food while it cooked.  The meat cooked through thoroughly without issue.

Fried Chicken

The real test of my air fryer was fried chicken.  I recently reviewed Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Recipes cookbook (see my review here), which included a recipe for KFC's Original Recipe Chicken.  For this test of the air fryer, I tried some drumsticks in the deep fryer (on the left in the photo above), and one in the air fryer (on the right).  Unfortunately the air fryer did not work as well for the fried drumstick.  As you can see in the photo above, the outside does get a nice crispness and color. However, it didn't cook all the way through as thoroughly as with the other items I attempted. 

Overall, I am really impressed about how my Rosewill fryer works and would recommend it.  It has already replaced traditional, deep frying in my house for fries and some of the items I tested above.  Why would I go back to unhealthy frying when I can have the same taste with a fraction of the oil?  Additionally, one thing I didn't consider was the potential cost savings.  If you use a deep fryer, then you know how much oil it takes to use each time (and oil is not cheap).  That is a non-issue with the air fryer. 

Have you ever used an air fryer?  Do you have any recipes or suggestions?  If so, comment below!