Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review: Microwave Chip Maker from Pampered Chef

My sister-in-law had a Pampered Chef event awhile back, so I decided to buy their Microwave Chip Maker.  The claim: you can make delicious, crispy potato chips at home in just 2 minutes without ANY fat or oil.  Sounds too good to be true, but the results were surprisingly good!

I've said this before when I review something here on the blog, but it bears repeating: I do not get any sort of compensation of ANY kind from the manufacturers of the products I review. I've been contacted in the past after posting a positive review, with offers of coupons and such, and I never take them up on it. I don't include links or ads or any of that, because I want whoever is reading these reviews to know that I don't have any reason to be anything other than brutally honest when it comes to whether or not this stuff is worth spending your hard-earned money on.

In the case of the Microwave Chip Maker, I have to say--it was a good purchase. I also bought the Simple Slicer, because I don't have a mandolin slicer, and that made a big difference, too. There's no way I would have been able to get such nice, evenly thin slices using my usual old metal grater. I suppose I could have used my food processor with the slicer attachment, but that's a huge pain in the neck to haul out every time you want a quick snack. It's essential that the potatoes be sliced really thin (1mm--setting number 1 on the Pampered Chef Slicer), and that you lay them out on paper towels so that you can blot away the excess moisture.  I salted the slices, waited a few minutes, then dabbed at them with another paper towel to get the rest of the moisture that came through.   They only took about 2 minutes in the microwave, and were every bit as crispy as the ones you buy at the store.

I didn't blot the first batch as well as I did subsequent batches, and two minutes wasn't quite long enough in terms of cooking time.  I also noticed that some batches cooked darker than others, so it's a good idea to keep an eye on the chips and check them as they're cooking.

The instructions say that you can also make sweet potato chips or apple chips, which is something I'll try next time.

Note: I have included links to a similar microwave chip maker that is available on 

Wise Words from Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.
ralph waldo emerson

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Yonanas Healthy Dessert Maker

My favorite Christmas gift this year: a Yonanas Healthy Dessert Maker. I'd seen it for sale at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but figured it was just another gimmicky, "As Seen On TV" gadget.  Nevertheless, my curiosity got the best of me, so I put it on my "wish list" for Christmas. Sure enough, Santa was kind enough to bring me one. The machine itself is pretty unimpressive right out of the box, made of black and silver plastic, and decidedly "no frills".  It doesn't even come with a bowl to catch the dessert in.  The recipe book that's included has some basic recipes, some that use bananas and some that don't. Alas, the recipe book I put on my wish list was on back order, so I had to search the internet to find additional variations. 

The concept is pretty simple: take those overripe bananas, peel them and pop them in the freezer, and within 24 hours you can enjoy a frozen dessert that is similar to soft serve ice cream without all of the fat and calories. Considering the fact that I am always looking for ways to eat healthier, and I usually end up turning overripe bananas into decadent banana bread, this seemed like a good alternative.

I've only used it a couple of times, but so far, so good!

The basic recipe uses two frozen bananas, but you can also mix in other types of fruit.  For my first try, I used bananas with a few frozen strawberries and raspberries mixed in. It's important that the fruit be frozen solid, but also that you wait just a few minutes after taking it out of the freezer, so that it's not rock hard when you put it in the machine--otherwise, it takes forever for it to come out. I was a little impatient for the first batch, and some of the fruit came out a little icy, but it was still delicious.

For the second go-round, I followed a recipe I found on the Yonanas website for Berry Chocolate Zin.  It's a combo of frozen bananas, dark chocolate, mixed berries, and frozen cubes of red wine. (Note: My refrigerator/freezer has a built-in ice maker, so I didn't have any ice cube trays in the house. Instead, I improvised and used an empty plastic egg carton container to freeze some leftover wine.  Worked like a charm!).  The bananas weren't quite as frozen as the ones I used in batch #1, so the consistency of this recipe was a lot softer, but still delicious.  

According to the Yonanas website, you can skip the bananas entirely and just use frozen fruit to make sorbet.  I'll give that a try tomorrow and see how it turns out. 

The basic machine costs about $50, although there are "deluxe" versions that come with some accessories.  The machine is very easy-to-clean (the chute disassembles and is dishwasher-safe, but honestly--it only takes a couple of seconds to rinse everything off) and so far, I haven't found anything about it that I don't like.   

UPDATE: I've used this machine a few more times, and still love it. You can make sorbet by using fruit without bananas, but adding the bananas give you that creamy texture that mimics ice cream and makes the dessert more satisfying. I've also tried adding a little Truvia sweetener at the end, and it makes the dessert even better. 

Here are some photos from tonight's dessert, made with Bananas, Blueberries & Strawberries. The first photo shows the fruit just before I put it in the machine. It's important to be a little patient and wait until the fruit is just starting to thaw--if you put it in the machine while it's still frozen solid, the dessert won't turn out as well, and will have chunks of frozen, icy fruit in it.  

The second photo is what it looks like right out of the machine.  You need to stir it all up to blend the flavors, which is the result you see in the last photo.  Delicious!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The True Meaning Of Christmas

My favorite moment from my Christmas special of all time.

Charles M. Schulz had to fight to keep this scene in the TV special. He said, "If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?"  Thank you, Mr. Schulz.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Look for the Helpers

The school shooting in Connecticut is every parent's worst nightmare made reality.  The deaths of those 20 children and 6 adults have deeply affected us all. The situation is horrific. There are no words to describe the depths of the pain and fear that are evoked when something this awful happens.

There was one thing I read this morning that I felt was worth sharing: words from the late Fred Rogers (better known as "Mr. Rogers" of public television show fame), as quoted by Connecticut meteorologist Matt Scott:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Of all the posts I've read so far about this awful tragedy, this is the one that brought me comfort.

When we're assaulted by the realization that there can be such evil in this world, it helps to focus on the good people who are always there to help you. The teachers who risked themselves to save their students' lives, the cops who rushed in to make the school safe again, the emergency service workers who helped restore order to chaos, and the doctors and nurses who treated the injured.

We can't stop evil from existing.  But evil can't wipe out good, either.  Innocent lives were lost yesterday, and for that, we all grieve. Amidst this shared mourning over an act of unimaginable evil, we must also recognize the powerful forces of good that exist in one another.

Do your best to tap into that goodness, and show it more.  Hug your children and show them how much they are loved and cherished. Remind your close friends and family how much you care about them. Do a kindness for a stranger without expecting anything in return. All any of us can do in the face of something like this is to be one of those caring people in the world that helps to heal the pain of others. And that's what we need most right now.