Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beautiful Baked Ratatouille **OXO GIVEAWAY (U.S. Readers only!)*

A few months ago, I was combing the internet for ratatouille recipes, and came across Smitten Kitchen's version of the baked ratatouille featured in Disney's Ratatouille.  You know the one: the spirals of colorful eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red peppers that cause the cynical food critic to recall the carefree days of his childhood, when a dish of warm ratatouille, made by his mother, had the power to sooth all ills.

Thanks to the acquisition of an OXO Good Grips Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer (for free from OXO, I might add) and the opportunity to test said mandoline slicer as part of OXO's Healthy Eating product promotion, I had the perfect tool to make the thin slices required for this baked ratatouille dish.

I was pretty excited to get my OXO hand-held mandoline slicer in the mail.  I love my chef's knives and am very proud over my steadily improving skill with chopping and slicing.  But I'm not very good at uniformity, and had been sort of wanting a mandoline slicer for a while now.  I hope my readers are excited about this product, too, because OXO actually sent me TWO slicers - one for me to test and keep, and one to giveaway to a reader in the United States (more on the giveaway in a moment).

There are a lot of great things about the OXO hand-held slicer.  It has an ergonomic handle to reduce strain and fatigue in your wrist.  There's a non-slip edge on the top of the slicer, so it won't go sliding around your cutting surface - plus there's a little "notch" in this edge so you can set it over a bowl and slice directly into salads, sauces, or what ever else you might be making.  It has a food holder to protect your fingers.  There are three settings for the cutting edge, and you can lock the slicer so the sharp blade isn't hanging out for all and sundry to accidentally cut themselves on.

Perhaps my favorite part is the fact that it's dishwasher safe.  After my foray into ratatouille, and later sweet potato fries, there was a little bit of staining on the white plastic, but it came off pretty easily with just a touch of "elbow grease."

While the pros of this product are vast (easier to store than a traditional mandoline slicer, the non-slip features, the bent handle to reduce wrist fatigue), it's not a perfect product.  Though, to be perfectly honest, I only had one major complaint.  The food holder has plastic pegs that don't really stick very well in the food you're trying to slice, so unless you're using somewhat small pieces of vegetables or fruit, you're going to have trouble keeping the holder on the food.  It would have been a better design to have stainless steel pegs that would actually puncture the flesh of the vegetables I was trying to slice.  I had to hold the vegetables in my hand until they were small enough to use the food holder.

Check out this little YouTube video of mine (I apologize for the somewhat bad sound and video, my microphone and camera aren't the best quality) for a demonstration.

I'll get to the recipe for my ratatouille after the jump break, but first, let me tell you about the giveaway!

One lucky reader in the United States (sorry, international fans!) will become the owner of the second OXO Good Grips Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer in my possession!  All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, telling me what you like about the mandoline slicer and what you would use it for if you won.

The winner will be chosen via a random integer generator.  The giveaway will end at midnight, Eastern standard time, on Monday, May 21st.  Only residents of the continental United States are eligible for this particular giveaway.

Now, keep reading for the scoop on that ratatouille!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award!

Hey, how's this for pretty cool?

The Parenting Patch nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.

I'm going to pull out a word I haven't used since I was a sophomore in high school. Spiffy!  Thanks so much to the folks over at The Parenting Patch for the nod!  :)

In return for being recognized as a blog-worth-reading, I am nominating some of my favorite blogs for the same honor.

Here are the rules:

Each Nominee Should
  1. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
  2. Add an image of the Versatile Blogger Award
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link to their site
  4. Share seven completely random facts about yourself
  5. Include this set of rules
  6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination
Random Facts
  1. When I was a kid, I wanted to become a paleontologist.
  2. My favorite way to eat cake is to flip it upside down and eat the cake first, leaving the frosting on the plate, which I scrape up later.  A little bit of "cake film" clings to the frosting and it's decidedly splendid.
  3. When I submitted my first novel manuscript to a publishing house (at age 18), I received a personalized rejection letter which pointed out both my manuscript's good points as well as things to work on.
  4. I am freakishly afraid of spiders.
  5. Gone With The Wind is my favorite book, and I have read it upwards of 15 times.
  6. Although my husband and I did sort of meet at church, we were officially matched on eHarmony.  He brought me three bars of chocolate from Switzerland on the first date, and the rest is history.
  7. Corduroy gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I Nominate

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Coconut Chick Cupcakes (Cupcake of the Month Series #4)

Easter, springtime, baby chicks....  puts you in the mood to make some cupcakes, right?

Little, adorable cupcakes that look at you and say, "I'm too cute to eat!"  But you eat them just the same.

This is the April cupcake from my Martha Stewart Cupcakes calendar, and while they are a bit labor intensive, they turned out to be far to sweet for their own good.  I actually ended up only decorating six cupcakes as chicks, and the rest received a generous smear of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream that went with the lemon-kissed vanilla cupcakes on my recipe cards, along with a sprinkle of Wilton yellow sugar crystals.

Keep reading to see how I made them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth...

It's been a really busy few weeks.

First of all, I took a fantastic spring break road trip to Georgia with my husband last week.  The weather was wonderful, I ate some of the most delicious and interesting foods ever, stayed in a reportedly haunted inn in Savannah (though we had no unexplained visitors), visited with friends, and overdosed a little, at least on my husband's part, on historical geek-ery.  I will not regale you with my impressions of the delightful historic Savannah houses we toured, or the trek up Kennesaw Mountain - though according to my FitBit I climbed the equivalent of 99 flights of stairs.

Secondly, this week I had to do report cards and parent teacher conferences.  It isn't the sort of week particularly blessed with free time.

Needless to say, I haven't done much cooking the past three weeks or so.  However, I do have several recipes waiting in the wings, and you can look forward to the April cupcake of the month as well.

Keep an eye out for some "food reviews" from our vacation, and I may also be embarking soon on a "pecan pie experiment."

Yummy things are coming soon around here!