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Quite some time ago I was approached by the creator of a new lineup of products called UNSTICK™. We spoke at length about the product and various applications and when I saw the product was launched last October at the Delicious food show I was ecstatic and impressed. I called the inventor immediately to congratulate them on the success of the launch and we talked about a product review. Kitcheninspirations was provided with products 1-5 for testing/reviewing with no other compensation. The following is my unbiased review.

UnstickProducts

The packaging is beautiful and clearly colour coded — believe it or not, a lot of brands get this wrong — you know the ones that you have to stand in front of for 10 minutes before you can figure out which one you usually buy?

“UNSTICK™ is made of a premium quality PTFE, which is a Teflon coated fiberglass material.”(1) It is FDA approved and is safe to use to 500° F (260° C). These products are made for everyday kitchen use and should be cared for like a reusable silicon sheet, never use sharp utensils, store rolled or flat, you know the drill. The beautiful thing about UNSTICK™ is that they are affordable (retails for $15.99-$19.99 Canadian) and are designed to fit many sizes of pots and pans. The bonus is if you can’t find one that fits, just cut it to size; presto, a custom-made reusable non-stick liner!

Why use a reusable non-stick liner? It’s not always about the ease of cleanup, that’s a no-brainer, for me it’s more about creating less waste (that means that you needn’t throw away a scratched teflon pan, just pop in an UNSTICK™ liner and you’re good to go) . It also creates a smooth surface over and above the normal texture of the pan — cakes have a beautiful, smooth crust to slather on icing, cookies spread uniformly and bake evenly. OK, clean up is a cinch and when you’re stuck in the kitchen baking or cooking for hours, a quick cleanup means 10 extra minutes you can sit before you start the next round! UNSTICK™ also cleans well, there is no greasy residue that some of the other name brand reusable silicon liners seem to get (no matter how hard you clean them). When you clean UNSTICK™, it actually feels clean and dries quickly. There is absolutely no smell or taste residue on baked goods (sometimes I find silicon pans have an odour). Another bonus is that you NEVER need to use any oil or nonstick spray and that’s better for you!

My first experiment with UNSTICK™ was the small loaf pan liner, it’s a pre-cut rectangle to fit snuggly in a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan. I baked a pumpkin loaf in it and it was so easy to remove (just pull up on the sides and lift the loaf out), the liner slides off perfectly.

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The flat loaf pan reusable sheet.

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The reusable sheet in the loaf pan.

The second go was Charles’ Swedish Chocolate Sticky Cake (Kladdkaka) in a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. Although the insert performed perfectly, I wasn’t so thrilled with the inevitable jagged edges the insert cuts left on the cake. Perhaps a few more cuts would smooth out the circle?

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The flat spring-form reusable sheet

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The round sheet in the spring-form pan

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The jaggy cake. It’s 

The frying pan liner was next, most of my frying pans are cast iron perfectly seasoned, but I did give this a go and made an omelet roll (rolled like the Japanese omelet, tamagoyaki) filled with a crab and goat cheese mix. The egg cooked perfectly and because I wanted to roll it, the liner made it incredibly easy; just lift up one side, tuck under the edge and roll.

The baking sheet liner was a god-send over the holidays, many melty messes were easily cleaned up and the reusable sheets cooled down so quickly that I was able to reuse them immediately on subsequent bakings of the same batch (a definite plus over the standard silicon sheets which seem to take a while to cool).

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Roasting and baking sheet liner.

The oven liner is A M A Z I N G! It performs perfectly, it does NOT change the oven temperature one bit (like tin foil would) and because it has similar properties to the baking sheet (although the oven liner and the BBQ liners are much thicker) they are easy to handle and also cool down quickly so I was able to pull it out of my upper oven and test it in larger oven without having to wait for it to cool to handle it.

I have not tested the BBQ liner yet, there was a snowstorm the day I planned to give it a test and then later there was freezing rain, so we bunkered down, lit a fire, popped open the wine and chilled (I know you won’t mind). I can tell you what the BBQ liner would be amazing for is camping! OK, I’m not much of a camper but I do recall when my family when on a picnic to a public park and we used the communal hibachi BBQs, my Mom would spend at least an hour scrubbing the heck out of the communal hibachi so it wouldn’t be gross. The UNSTICK™ BBQ liner would allow you to spend a minimal amount of time to lightly clean the grill and put the liner on top, presto: covers up all the grossness and makes it safe to cook your own food. You could also fry an egg on it WITHOUT a pan! So if you’re camping and you have to portage, you need only take the UNSTICK™ lightweight BBQ liner and you’re good to go! No need for bulky heavy frying pans! It will also prevent flair ups and sauces will not drip all over your grill, gumming up the element or gas. And clean-up is a cinch, the gooey mess slides off and a dip in hot soapy water renders this clever product like new.

All in all, I am very happy with the performance of these products and I would definitely recommend them; I’m going to put an oven liner and a frying pan liner in my food styling kit which I know will save me precious minutes for clean up when I’m on set. Check out the UNSTICK™ shop here.

(1) from http://www.unstick.ca/faqs/

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A few of my lovely readers have commented that they would love to have a tapas dinner party but it seems like a lot of work, so I’ve put together a few words of advice as I have hosted tapas dinner parties for over a year now and have experienced successes and failures. I hope these tricks alleviate the mystery and inspire you to have a tapas dinner party.

  1. Planning is everything. Think of a theme you wish to follow and create a menu around it; break it out into steps for timing and serving (I’ll give an example of this). Decide how many groups of courses you will serve (i.e., 4 courses of sets of 1-2 dishes are 4 x 1 (0r 2)). If this is your first tapas dinner party and you don’t have a stock up of quick hors d’œuvres in the freezer then start the cooking about 1 week in advance and make 1 to 2 things for the freezer. Don’t worry, you will use them up eventually!
  2. Mise en place is key. Chop, cut, slice, grate anything you can do ahead of time, DO IT. Prepare similar items all at once (as in chop ALL the onions you will need and separate it out into each course). Store meats and fishes in the fridge. I always put ingredients that need to be together in one place in the fridge.
  3. It’s on ‘the list’. There are many components to a tapas dinner party, so even the best of us will struggle to remember everything you need to add, pinch, and sauce so MAKE A LIST and REFER to it throughout the evening.
  4. Distribute the labour. I have found including your partner in helping with preparation and serving the courses allows each of you to alternate kitchen duty and spend time with your guests.
  5. Make it Simple. Choose a combination of freshly made courses and previously made and frozen courses.
  6. Keep it small. Remember that you are having a lot of food over a long period of time so portions should be small (for example, 1-2 medium shrimp per person is one course. Do you have frozen soup in the fridge? Serve it in shooters instead of bowls—it’s an instant serving!
  7. Timing is everything. Make sure you serve the courses spread out over time, this dinner party is about conversation and food…all night. Our tapas usually last 3-4 hours with some breathers in between.
  8. Relax. Fortunately Tapas make a very casual dinner party so you needn’t worry when one coarse is 15 minutes later than expected. Keep the wine flowing and the conversation going and you will have a wonderful evening.

To illustrate how easy this type of dinner party is, below I am posting a sample menu. I may use this for a future dinner party.

Our 21012 European Adventure through Tapas (4 x 1):

Course 1: Budapest

  • Áginéni’s Cheese Sticks (I usually have these in the freezer, but if I don’t I just make a fresh batch and freeze the leftovers for another party!)

Course 2: Spain

Course 3: France

  • Escargot en Profiteroles (I always have the cheese puffs, canned escargot, and frozen butter, garlic and parsley balls ready for action)

Course 4: Austria

  • Austrian Sachertorte three ways. Make one beautiful dessert and serve it three different ways in very small portions. (off the top of my head, I’m thinking 1) a traditional slice, 2) roughly cut into a small trifle, 3) and twice baked into a small biscotti and served with a mini cappuccino!)

Think ahead when you’re cooking weekday meals, if you’re making a large batch of chili, put aside a full serving for a future tapas dinner and serve it in mini pitas. If you’ve made soup, set aside enough for shooters and serve in espresso cups. A dip and bread may be considered as a course. A simple course might be Saganaki. I try to alternate previously prepared or easy courses with something a bit more complex. Involving your partner to help with alternate courses also breaks up the time spent in the kitchen…don’t you think your partner might love to light the Saganaki and serve this fiery treat?

Desserts, I find are relatively easy too. If you’ve made brownies, cut the edges and freeze. Then for a small tapas dessert, whip some cream or make a quick custard and assemble a trifle with the left-over edges, serve with a shot for extra effect!

Example for timing the menu above (note: the times are just guidelines)

7:30 guests arrive, start with libations and Aunte Ági’s cheese sticks. Pit the oven on and move into the living room and have lovely conversation. Perhaps put on a fire, and definitely play some music (we like jazz).

7:45: put the scallops into the oven, they will take longer than the bacon wrapped dates. Depending on the size of scallops, turn about 5-7 minutes, now add the bacon wrapped dates. Bake for another 5-7 minutes.

8:10 serve the bacon wrapped scallops and dates. Keep the oven on.

Around 8:30-8:45 your partner should pop into the kitchen to start the chorizo course, meanwhile fill the glasses.

Warm the serving dish and prepare the dish.

9:00 Serve chorizo dish with bread.

9:45 You’ll likely want a bit of a break, but you can ready the escargot for the oven, bake for 10 minutes until butter has melted and the Chou is crispy. Serve hot at 10ish.

The dessert should already be made and plated with some last minute garnished to attend to. Serve with coffee/tea when your guest say they are ready.

Tapas need not be stressful, after all, it’s about getting together with friends in a casual setting. Cheers! I hope to read about your tapas dinner party soon.

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Hello friends, hope you’ve all been very well over the last few weeks I’ve been away. We had sporadic internet service over our holidays and I did try to stop by and leave a comment or two, but alas on going back I did notice some did not ‘stick’ and I do apologize. I’ll try to make it up over the following weeks.

Our holidays did get off to a rocky start, with our seats unable to recline on the ancient aircraft Austrian Air employ but that just meant everything else can be so much better, or not, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In order not to bore you with a million-word post, I’ll condense our trip into three sections: Part I will be Vienna and Budapest; Part II Barcelona; Part III will be Lyon and Paris.

I’ll let you know from the get-go that our weather pretty much sucked! If it wasn’t dark gloomy skies and chilly temperatures then it was dark gloomy skies with chilly temperatures teaming with rain. But that didn’t slow us down as much as … oops! There I go getting ahead of myself again. We did have a few nice days, and you’ll see which one’s in the photos. Those of you on my Facebook have had glimpses of our holiday already…so now I hope you enjoy the narrative!

As you know, we landed in Vienna pretty much unscathed, even though beauty sleep avoided us; we had anticipation and adrenaline pretty much on our side, so we were ready for the experience. JT booked us into the Radisson Blu which is in the inner circle in Vienna; the cab from the airport was rather pricey, so if you don’t over-packed (like I did) you may want to take the commuter train which is much less expensive. Quite surprisingly our room was ready at the bright and early arrival time of 10:30am and we were quite pleased because we like to unpack and freshen up after such a long flight (8 hours from Toronto). We set out on a mission to find a lunch place and look around the city. We’ve been many times before (it’s a perfect spot to pick up a rental car and drive the 2-3 hours to Budapest, and it has many intercontinental connector flights to facilitate our adventures) so we were just walking around to air our heads and check out the new/renovated shops.

One of my favourite stops is the Julius Meinl specialty grocer right in the Graben. It’s a feast for the eyes and stomach. The chocolate section is unparalleled!

This is just one of the aisles for the chocolate section. It spans about 1/4 of the entire store.

I just couldn’t resist a chocolate bunny box, image by Andy Warhol. This one is for my friend Genie all the way down under in New Zealand, a fellow bunny lover.

As you can see, Austria is not cheap. In fact, breakfast in our hotel was a lofty 28 Euros (about 35 Canadian dollars) per person. We decided to order one and share, and it’s a good thing we did, even one was more food than we both could eat.

We chose Danieli for lunch and Huth for dinner (which I’ve talked about in my first post about Vienna).

Here is a lovely picture of Danieli and my delicious salad.

A very nice Italian Restaurant in the Graben

I just can’t get enough of this delicious salad. They just call this cheese Bufala Mozzarella

Budapest was a trip to visit family. My dear uncle passed away over a year ago and I haven’t been back since so it was a rather emotionally stressful time for me. I am pleased to say that all went well, and although there were a few moments of water works, it went rather smoothly. My family lives on Rosa Domb (Rose Hill) in Buda, which is the quieter side of Budapest. They used to live in the heart of it all in Pest, but about 30 years ago decided to move in preparation for their retirement. They have a lovely four-story town-house. We packed 22kg (about 50lbs) into each of our cases, and the guest room is…you guessed it, on the fourth floor! Now these were likely the most luxurious steps of all the steps we encountered on our trip, there were worse. And I was very lucky that my cousin and JT carried my over-packed case all the way up (I’m re-thinking this packing business in the future!).
We ate like kings for the four days in Budapest!

This was our welcome lunch. The Hungarians eat their main meal at noon on weekends. It’s stuffed pork tenderloin with prunes, cooked beets, carrots, mashed potatoes and white asparagus.

A typical “dinner” served anywhere between 6-9pm. Cold cuts, cheeses, tomatoes, Hungarian peppers, radishes and fresh bread

My cousin treated the entire family to a evening cruise on the Danube. It was a lovely evening and the lights sparkled like diamonds. It was such a beautiful sight, I would recommend this cruise to everyone, although the dinner cruise is not recommended (we just cruised with a cocktail!).

The Szabadsági Bridge (Freedom Bridge) with an interesting light my camera caught

The very beautiful shoreline with the Independence Monument in the background

The beautiful Parliament Buildings

Our last full day in Budapest, we visited the Castle District (Vár) and Margit Island (Margit Sziget).

Matthias Coronation Church newly restored and sparkling clean

The Fisherman’s Bastion. The story goes that during one of the many Turkish invasions (over several hundred years), the city was divided into different sections to be protected by each trade. This section was protected by the fisherman.

Dancing Fountain on Margit Island

Yes, we did get a lovely day or two in Budapest.

It was nice enough to eat outside. JT took this picture from the back which is a reverse ravine. That’s my cousin Rudi on the far left, my Aunt Ági, my cousin’s wife, Éva and me!

We left early the next morning to drive back to Vienna to catch a flight to Barcelona but not without issues. JT tried to carry too much luggage down and slipped and twisted his ankle (OK it may have been the precarious little rug at the foot of the stairs). We realized in Barcelona that it was indeed a sprain, but after some quick first aid and the purchase of a cane we were back on our way!
The other issue was that we had left 4.5 hours for a 2-3 hour drive and we ended up just barely catching our flight due to some really bad back up just outside of Vienna on the A4 (M1 in Hungary). It was a very anxious trip but we made it.

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Spring is my favourite time of year. It’s a time of rebirth and renewal. It’s a time to shed the heavy coats and gloves and socks and boots and dawn lighter, airier garments. It’s a time to enjoy the greenery and the burst of colour the garden has to offer.

The beautiful crab apple tree in full bloom. She is just so happy we got rid of that towering shady elm!

We live in the city, and so our lot is not huge, but it’s a decent size for some interesting landscaping. Last fall, as many of you already know, we hard-scaped the back yard and removed all the grass. It never really grew well anyway. Our big huge Elm made sure of that. We also had a smaller elm removed from in front of the kitchen window. We knew the crab apple would be very happy because we did.

The Azalea in full bloom.

My friend Norma has beautiful Azaleas in her rural garden. She is even lucky enough to get deer from time to time! Our back yard faces east, so we really only get the morning sun. It’s still a little cool to sit outside, but I’m hoping that by next weekend we will be able to.

The hostas and ferns are shooting up like crazy beside my little ‘thinker’

I’m finding that the garden takes turns on allowing a different variety to flourish each year; the periwinkle is flowering so much this year, more than I can recall in the past. The violets are not doing as well. Perhaps next year it will be their time again. Or the Lily of the Valley.

A surprise in the back 40!

And so, I’ll leave you with a little surprise down by the back shed: our very own Trillium. The Trillium is Ontario’s official flower and it is illegal to pick them, or even uproot them; you can get fined if you are caught. They supposedly flower every seven years! We noticed this little gem about 5 years ago, when it flowered last (OK, so maybe Trilliums weren’t good at math). We don’t know how it got here, but we sure feel lucky that it is here! And flowering so beautifully. See you Miss Trillium, hopefully in another 5 years!

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The dinner party was an enormous success, THANK YOU Angela, Gordon and the Stewards, Evan and David. It went off without a hitch (not that we could see anyway, and that is what counts!). The boys did an amazing job with serving and cleaning up the table. Conversation was lively and we all had a great time!

The food was great and we couldn’t stop from finishing everything on our plates. My contribution of three (for recipes click here, here and here) of the ten courses were also well received. The table was beautifully set with the hand made branded napkins, the branded chargers and Angela’s wedding china and Silverware. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I certainly felt like I was on an opulent vessel being served a Michelin Five-Star meal! And we didn’t sink, which was a real bonus.

We dined for 5 hours, enjoying every last morsel and libation. The party went on until one o’clock in the morning, at which time, we thanked our hosts and drove silently home, pondering the forthcoming events of that fateful evening one hundred years ago.

Here is a quick recap of the evening, and that is likely the last you’ll have to endure Titanic mania at least until next year (there is talk to have this event yearly! ;-))

A quick recap of the invitations.

It looks real, doesn’t it?

I blurred out the names for privacy reasons!

I suppose this was directed toward the Gentlemen, as the Ladies were likely not invited into the casino!

I created memento booklets for the event. It had our menu, the guest list and some titillating trivia about the grand vessel.

Here is the entire booklet: MomentoBooklet_BlogNew

The welcome flags of the Titanic First Class Passengers

Our charming and generous hosts

Our fastidious Stewards, Evan and David, who kept the dinner moving efficiently and gracefully

The setting: First Class Dining Room

Hand made Napkin by Angela

The Cast of ladies (from left to right): Denise, Éva, Renata, Angela and Ginger

The cast of gentlemen (from left to right): Eric, Gordon, Richard, Philip and John

The party was certainly a hit!

Please ask for permission if you wish to download any of these photos as not all of them belong to me!

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Reposted from last year.
Make mine chocolate
Please don’t buy a real bunny as a gift at Easter. A bunny will live to about 12 years; this is a real commitment. A bunny needs as much attention as a dog; they have delicate digestive systems that upset easily and not every vet knows how to deal with them (I know of 1 in Toronto) $$$. This is not a decision to be made lightly while you are caught up in the Easter festivities.

This post is dedicated to all the bunnies that end up at the humane society after Easter is over.

Just a few links to demonstrate how ridiculously rampant this idiotic tradition is:
http://www.rabbit.org/easter/2012release.html
http://animalrights.about.com/od/companionanimalspets/a/EasterBunny.htm
http://www.annarbor.com/pets/local-animal-welfare-agencies-urge-people-to-forgo-buying-live-bunnies-for-easter-with-the-make-mine/

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The Invitations were mailed last week. I wanted to help my friend Angela out by creating her invitations in the original format of the Boarding Pass for the Titanic. I found a low res print here and recreated it in Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop, it’s something I love to do and I was happy to help out. Plus, it’s not like there are a thousand going out, just three (not counting our’s and Angela’s)!

It looks real, doesn't it?

I created it like a four page booklet, with the cover being the boarding pass, the inside front is the actual invitation, the facing page is an actual ticket and then the outside back cover was a note from White Star Lines Angela found that talks about the danger of professional gamblers on board. I just love the language used.

I blurred out the names for privacy reasons!

I also made up little stories about why each person is travelling on the Titanic and some very specific preferences to be considered by the Titanic staff.

I suppose this was directed toward the Gentlemen, as the Ladies were likely not invited into the casino!

I am rather excited about the evening, everyone will be coming in period clothing and Angela has already bought a CD of music of that time. My friend Monica loaned me a gorgeous lace dress that seems to be of the period (it was her sister’s MILs), now I am scouring ebay for long black gloves to go with the dress. JT needs to get some tails and we’re all done (lots to be found on ebay!)! We’re preparing some trivia for the evening that will also be loads of fun.

Now onto something as exciting, my friend Betsy over at Bits and Breadcrumbs has bestowed the honour of four awards and I am excited to tell you about them, but first a little bit about Betsy. Betsy is a graphic designer by day in the Atlanta/Decatur, Georgia area. She lives on a lovely country lot with a gorgeous garden; she can have bon fires in her back yard, how cool is THAT?! You should check out her blog, she cooks up wonderful comforting but healthy meals for herself and her hubby. Thank you Betsy, I am very flattered.

Thank you Betsy for this wonderful honour

  1. Favourite color? Red
  2. Favourite animal? Bunny Rabbit
  3. Favourite number? I’ve never really thought about it.
  4. Favourite drink? Non alcoholic: a good cup of coffee. Alcoholic: vodka martini (I really don’t care if it’s shaken or stirred, just get it to me, chop, chop!)
  5. Facebook or Twitter? Both, but I am slowly losing interest in both.
  6. Your passion? Cooking and travelling (we’ve got three trips planned: May NYC, June Chicago and September Europe (Vienna, Budapest, Barcelona, Lyon and Paris!) ! I’m hoping to bring you along on all three!)
  7. Giving or getting presents? Giving, for sure.
  8. Favourite day? Friday
  9. Favourite flowers? Hydrangea and Lilacs. No wait, Lilly of the Valley.

Now, it is customary to pass along the love (as Betsy put it) and I therefore nominate the following blogs. As usual, your participation is entirely up to you, if it’s a busy week and you just can’t deal with it, just put it aside or don’t even think about it. They are lovely awards and it’s a way for me to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. In no particular order:

  • Promanade Plantings lives in St Leonards On Sea. Her plot of land offers a gorgeous views on a southerly slope facing towards the sea. She gardens like a pro; the most beautiful pumpkins that are not just for Halloween!
  • Generation Y Foodie I came across Dara after she had asked Ann to review her cookbook. Dara is a lawyer by day and enthusiastic foodie by night. She has healthy recipes with a lot of appetite appeal!
  • Charlie Louie of Hotly Spiced is one of my favourite reads. Charlie has a wonderful knack to entertain and weave in a recipe; her family is a rich source of most of her entertaining stories. And she’s a great cook!
  • My friend Barb, Profiteroles and Ponytails, just because. And I’m dying to have a slice of that Moose Tracks Ice Cream Pie! 🙂
  • My other friend Pamela who runs Downton Abbey Cooks a blog about the British show Downton Abbey. Pamela has the skill to weave the storyline of the show into her blog along with a poignant recipe. The show has only recently caught my interest because of the Titanic Party we are going to — the show begins with the dreadful sinking of the Titanic. Pamela also enlightens me on words such as Entail!
  • Karen over at Back Road Journal, much like Oliver Wendell Douglas and Lisa Douglas, Karen and hubby gave up their urban life for a 1730’s home with an apple orchard in a small town in New Hampshire. Karen generously takes us along when she and her husband travel and it’s a wonderful experience of lovely country inns and delicious food.

So there you have it. A few more facts about moi, 6 more bloggers to add to your reading list. Thank you Betsy for the lovely nomination!

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