Friday, December 28, 2018

**RECIPE** Hokkaido Milk Bread (updated with photos)

**I thought I should update and add some photos of actual finished product. Since I have not made the bread yet, I am going to post photos of (and links to) those done by other folks. Please see the very bottom of this post for those photos.**

I am determined to make this bread but all the different recipes and instructions I've found so far and mega confusing. I love watching this video ...

...and am grateful for helpful comments with conversions, but... My brain still hurts from trying to sort it all out.

If anyone has a simpler set of instructions for dim-witted me, please let me know!

As someone commented on YouTube, that is some of the sexiest bread ever.

Here are some more pinups of this yumzy looking bread:

Check it out on Bake for Happy Kids

Source Taste of Asian Food (site not secure)

From Yi Reservation (site not secure)


**REVIEW** Denman Brush


I have been hearing about the Denman brushes for years but I never tried using one. Until now.

 That is the Denman 5-Row Classic Pocket Styling Brush.

From what I can tell, most people either love, love, love, these brushes or they hate them. Out of all the reviews and articles I read, only a small percentage of people were neutral. On a scale of 1 to 10 - with 10 being the most positive - I land at 8.5.

When I read Amazon reviews, one of the things I picked up on is that some people wondered if they had gotten a faux Denman. I think I got the real deal.

Another criticism I saw was that this brush was too small, but the description does indicate that it is a "pocket" size. Personally, I like the smaller size because I had more control, especially when doing coils.

So, here goes my review:

I wanted this brush for 2 reasons. First, I wanted to use it to do coils (there are lots of vids and other Instructables for this). Second, I wanted it to better distribute products through my hair. Since I had read from some users that the brush had damaged their hair, I wondered if there was a correct way to use it to avoid damage. There is and it's very simple: your hair has to be wet - very wet - and you must work in small sections. Otherwise, yes, there will be LOTS of ripping and tearing of hair.

Since I wanted to do coils and need product for that, I was able to fill 2 birds. The brush worked amazing for creating coils - or at least it did in spots where my hair was "natural". I have a couple of patches of hair at the front of my head that, for some odd reason, lack any curl or kink. When I put product in those spots, the hair just flattens out into a stringy mess. With the brush, my coils were more even than when done with my fingers.

The best thing was the way this brush smoothed product onto every strand of my hair. Even if I don't coil my hair, the brush totally works my creams and softeners into my hair.

I have not yet figured out how (or why) to take some of the rows out of the brush. For now, I love using it as is.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

**REVIEW** Flour Sack Towels (for the kitchen)

For anyone who likes to cook or bake, towels are essential. Towels for wiping up, towels for handling dishes, towels for covering foods, towels for - well, you get what I mean.

I have been getting by these past several months with towels from the Dollar General or the discount aisle at Walmart. You can find some decent kitchen towels at both places, but I never did. Also, I didn't want to spend a lot of money.

Since I've been doing so much baking lately, I decided to try out a couple of affordable brands of flour sack towels I've seen on Amazon.

This first set from Bosubari is just under $10 and is made of a fairly thick and durable spun cotton.

The next group is from Utopia Kitchen and came in a 12-pack of ring spun towels for about $16.

At first, I was going to review these towels as to which set was better. After using and laundering both, I can't really put one over the other. They had different qualities that I like. Let's look at the Bosubari set first.

Bosubari Towels Pros & Cons

  • Thick, sturdy and has a little weight
  • Good for covering dough during proofing
  • Can be tucked into the waistband and used for an apron

  • Not as good for cleaning messes & didn't launder as well as the Utopia Kitchen towels
I find that I use these more when I'm baking. Mostly I use them for covering doughs during proofing or for keeping finished bread from drying out. They were too thick for me to use as padding for a lid when steaming some bao buns recently.

Utopia Kitchen Towels Pros & Cons

  • The lighter weight makes them versatile
  • Thin enough for cleaning messes and spills
  • They launder better than the Bosbari towels
  • Some came out of laundry with irregular shaping/didn't square up

Overall Impression of Both Sets

These are the Utopia Kitchen towels, but
the Bosubari also had a cloth tie

I am happy with all the towels. Because of the general quality and usefulness, I would have saved money by buying these in the first place instead of getting all the cheaper towels. They have held up well under washing and using so I expect to have them for a while. 

I think of the Utopia towels as very "every day" and utilitarian. The heavier Bosubari towels are, in my opinion, more "chef-like".
The main test of a product is whether users would purchase again. Would I buy more? Absolutely. I decided a couple of months ago that I will only be giving the most useful things as gifts. These towels are on my list to give to the cooks and bakers in the family.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

**REVIEW** GoWISE USA 5.8-Quarts 8-in-1 Electric Air Fryer XL

While I do love my Instant Pot and am so very glad that I got it, it does not crisp foods. If I want to fry something or put a crust on chicken or fish, I have to move them to the oven. Or just fry them in a skillet. (There is a Saute function that browns some foods, but I have to figure out how much oil I can use...)

Until I figure out how to use the IP for shallow frying some foods, someone suggested using an air fryer for a healthier diet. This is the one I snagged on one of the recent Lightning Deals.

looks like something out of a sci-fi movie

That, my friends, is the GoWISE USA 5.8-quart Air Fryer. I'm not thrilled at the "8-in-1" label they slapped on this thing. The 8 they mention is just for the 8 presets on the control panel. What this could correctly be called is a 4-in-1 because it will fry, bake, grill, and roast. So. Yeah.

Let me just say right off that this thing is a lot bigger and -heavier than I thought it was going to be. A LOT. ** On the other hand, the one thing I liked right off was how attractive the unit is. I didn't appreciate this fully until I turned it on.

It's pretty, but so are most "bimbos"

Okay, so with that out of the way, let me go over the Pros and Cons I see after having used this on 2 items today. I cooked fresh cut potato fries first, then I attempted to crisp a game hen that I had already cooked in the Instant Pot.

  • The basket is rather large and roomy. I was able to fit a whole cornish game hen inside - one a small metal rack - and had room for a second hen if I'd wanted.
  • The unit runs fairly quiet. I was able to hold a phone conversation easily while it was running.
  • It's attractive, especially when powered up. For someone with enough counter space, it looks nice enough to leave out when not in use.
  • Air frying certainly seems safer than pan-frying with oil.
  • If cakes turn out well using the fryer, that will be another Plus.
  • I was not thrilled with the results of my fries when cooked to the suggested time and temp. I will probably adjust to a lesser time to get the crispiness I want without drying out the potatoes.
  • The hen did crisp up but didn't look very appealing. I am hoping that battered chicken with come out better. Again, I think the results might be better with adjusted time and temps.
  • I don't think that the presets are very useful and I will need to come up with my own or look to other users for better ones.
  • The control panel can be a bit confusing, especially as to the ones for setting the cooking time and the alarm time. Some buttons seem, in my opinion, to be completely useless. That could be user idiocy.
  • The unit is large, which is a good thing for those with room for it. Because the air vents need to be kept away from walls and things that melt, that adds to the space needed when running the machine. I had just enough space to safely use it. Storage is also an issue for small-space homes.
  • Getting the basket out took a little bit of hand strength. This could be a good thing because I know now that it won't just pop loose when I am shaking food in it, but it was also a bit annoying.
  • The normal price of the unit is, again in my opinion, a bit high for something of a single-function. An oven can replace the fryer in most instances for those that want healthier options to pan-frying.
  • Clean-up is not fun. I even lined the bottom of the pan with foil (which helped) but still had a time maneuvering the big pan around in sink to clean it.
  • I expected better from the fryer as far as appearance and textures of food. 
I'm not sure why appliances that do basically one thing are so expensive. I snagged this one on a deal, but today the price shown is $79.00. Unless I can do get more day to day use from this, I would not spend that amount for the fryer.

You can see that I found more negative than positive about the fryer. However, I have not fully tested all it's supposed to be able to do. I might have to update this when I've tried cooking more foods in it. If this works well on cakes, that might be a huge positive.

And, if I have to be stuck with it, at least it's a quiet thing...

Again, I don't see a huge advantage of using this over using a stove - other than the fact it might cut back on heat in summer months. Frankly, this is not an appliance I am that excited about. I am considering sending it back but that means forfeiting $15 for a return shipping fee... ~sigh~


P.S.: I fried some chicken cracklins (seasoned skin) and some gizzards. These turned out pretty good so I am a little happier with the product.

** NOTE about the size of the product - this is about the same size as the 8-quart Instant Pot, as you can see. However, it is a great deal heavier to lift and store on top of my fridge.

Monday, December 17, 2018

**REVIEW** Eco Friendly Machine Washable Reusable Bamboo Towels

As with the milk powder I tried, this is another item that I am counting on to save waste and money.

That is a roll of Bamboo Towels - Heavy Duty Eco Friendly Machine Washable Reusable Bamboo Towels (my emphasis)

I was a little skeptical about these washable and reusable bamboo paper towels. Basically, I wondered if they would work without falling apart. I also wondered if they would really work as claimed.

My first test was to wet a towel and clean one of the kitchen counters. I used soap for the first wipe-down, then I used a spritz mix of alcohol and water. The towel held up really well. It didn't shred or leave any fuzz/residue on the surfaces.

The next test was to rinse the towel out with some soap and let it dry. I wanted to see if it retained its original strength and cleaning properties. It did.

At this point, I was feeling pretty impressed. I don't know how long these will last but I'm going to treat them exactly as the packaging suggests and update this review down the road. If they last longer than a month, that would be saving my use of at least 3 rolls of these Viva paper towels I have preferred - and which cost about $9.50 for 8 rolls (with 88 1-ply sheets per roll).

Here's a little more info about the reusable towel:

  • There are 20 sheets of 11x12 perforated sheets to a roll.
  • They are made of a sustainable "bamboo source" (made into a type of rayon material, apparently)
  • For concerned folks, these aren't made of wood from "normal" trees.

What about the "rayon" in "bamboo rayon"?

Some Amazon reviewers noted that there is actual rayon in the product and when I checked my package, sure enough, there was a note about rayon.

 Did you see it? Me either. Until I squinted.

Now, I myself am not troubled by using rayon to clean items in my home. Also, for those who are concerned, I found an article that somewhat clarifies the issue of bamboo rayon fibers. What does bother me is that the rayon part seemed to be hidden. This is a copy/paste of the product description on the product page:
Our heavy-duty bamboo towels are stronger, more absorbent and durable than regular paper towels. They are made from sustainable certified organic bamboo source with each roll can save up to 60 conventional paper towel rolls and fits in your regular paper towel dispenser. These 11" x 12" perforated tear off sheets are machine washable and reusable up to 120 times before discarding. Use these bamboo towels just like how you normally use conventional paper towels. Hand or machine wash and air dry for best results and longer life. They are soft enough to be used on skin and tough enough to be used as shop towels, our bamboo towels can be used almost anywhere. Perfect for household cleaning, travel, car, bathroom, pets, camping, personal care, daycare and more. Unlike normal trees, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, growing up to 3 feet or more day and is grown without pesticides, fertilizers or irrigation, making it an eco-friendly and sustainable choice over cotton and other plant materials. (emphasis mine)
The positives of bamboo and lack of certain items are played up but the rayon is not mentioned. That just seems sneaky. Notice the emphasis I made in showing the listed product name at the head of this post.

Care and Upkeep

Because these are reusable, I wasn't expecting them to be totally easy to care for, but I am glad I paid attention to the packaging. My instincts would be to toss them in a washer/dryer, then iron them. That would be wrong.

These are to be machine or hand washed but with no fabric softener. They must be air dried and not ironed. 

Bottom Line
  • Softer and more pliable than I expected, making them great for cleaning and drying items
  • The size is large enough that one is adequate for most cleaning
  • They are quite absorbent and thick
  • They are tough and don't tear or shred easily (at least not after my first use)
  • Will replace a lot of traditional paper towels
  • They rinse out well - even after wiping stain-like messes
  • There isn't a lot of shrinkage after wetting or drying

Top - dry towel
Bottom - wet towel

  • They have to be air dried so need a place to hang
  • The sort of hidden rayon issue bothers me
Honestly, I really like these a lot. I am going to mention to the seller that the note about the rayon shouldn't seem so hidden. At any rate, I will most likely purchase these in the future - maybe from another seller.


Saturday, December 15, 2018

**REVIEW** Hoosier Hill Farm All American Whole Milk Powder

When you have a tiny household sans kids, it's hard to keep certain foods and staple items on hand without them going bad. I can always freeze vegetables (and some fruits) and I have learned to vacuum seal a lot of other things (flours, meals, mixes) to keep the bugs and other critters out. The one thing I waste the most though is milk and cream. I've tried freezing them but their texture (and, in my opinion, taste) are affected. I like shelf-stable - or UHT - milk and it's pretty tasty but I can't find a good price for the whole fat that stores will ship. Also, for some reason, once opened, it seems to lose freshness quicker than does "regular" milk.

Anyway, I wanted to try a whole milk powder. This is one that I now have:

That is a whole milk powder from Hoosier Hill Farm via Amazon ($15.15 at time of this review).

What I was looking forward to before anything else was taste. Also, I wanted something that was mostly or only milk. I didn't want a bunch of additives and such. The Hoosier Hill Farm milk is simply powdered whole milk. NOTE: One Amazon reviewer makes note that the product is "packaged in a facility shared by treenuts, peanuts, dairy, soy, and wheat products". Good to know.

Taste is the next and equal criteria. This one passes the test, It's really pretty yummy. I drank some straight (and not cooled) and liked it. I really liked adding it to my coffee. It had a slightly sweeter taste, in my opinion than my usual refrigerated variety gallons.

Now here is where it might seem like the powdered milk is way too expensive:
Ouch, yes? Not really.

When I spend that 3 bucks and change on "regular" whole milk and end up having to toss out some - sometimes as much as half the bottle and usually as much as the last third - I'm not saving a cent. I have saved slightly soured milk for baking but that was just so I didn't have to throw it out. With the Hoosier Hill, I can use the milk by the teaspoon if I want. Or, if I happen to need more, there are instructions for mixing it by 1/3 gallons. I will most likely be mixing it up by the cup since that's how I use for baking things or having the random bowl of cereal.

Another great thing is the shelf life of 7-9 months and that is if kept on the shelf. I have read various sources about shelf life. One states 3 years at best taste if properly stored, but safe to drink for a longer time. Another source states that if stored properly (sealed and in a freezer) the milk will last indefinitely. Now that means vacuum sealing it and freezing - not just closing up in a bag. Most sources go with "indefinitely".  I'm not stockpiling (yet) or looking to keep the milk forever. I just need it to last until I finish with it.

This is how I packaged mine for storing:

(Once again, folks, I have to tell you that Next Shine Food Sealer has paid for itself three or four times over.)

I kept out one slightly smaller quantity for the fridge so I can pull it out and use by the spoonful. I'm kind of excited that I won't be pouring any more chunky milk down the drain. When I can afford to, I plan to try some of the other powdered dairy products from Hoosier Hill Farm, especially the Premium Heavy Cream.

I do suggest that you use a blender and/or warm water for obtaining a good consistency, then refrigerating for taste. For baking, I will stick with warm or room-temp liquid.

Let me add another observation about mixing this product: I think that you can use slightly more or less powder depending on what you need the milk for. When baking, I plan to stick strictly to the suggested measurements. For my coffee and cereal needs, I will probably skimp a bit.

All in all, I think that I picked the right brand for my first try at powdered milk.


Sunday, December 09, 2018

Family News and Upcoming Reviews!

Posting has been slack because... I ran out of all the scheduled posts I'd set up and... I have been visiting my family. We have a new member of the crew:


That is my darling little grandniece. Isn't she just the loveliest little person?

Also, I got so see my little man DJ Boo.

I have missed that kid SO much the past year and a half. I have to share a little story from our reunion...

He did not know that I was coming to town. When I got to his house, he was in his room playing or cleaning up. His mom and older cousin went in before me and told him that he has a big surprise and saying "Guess who's here, DJ?"

When he stepped into the hallway and saw me, he just stood about 5 feet away staring like he just couldn't believe his eyes. He looked at me like that for a good half a minute before he ran over and hugged me.

"Booboo! You came back to me!!!"

That is what that kid said. Then he started bawling and I started bawling. Oh man. How I do love that kid.

Meeting his newest cousin
and making sure the nurse is careful!

I don't know WHY we look so slow
Yeah... We are a bit "special"


It's really true #familyiseverything

All the excitement and kind of early Christmas with this part of the fam has worn me out. I will be down for a minute because I got a bit ill, but will be catching up on the reviews as soon as I can. Once I am back up and running, this is what will be coming:
  • Target Beauty Box (Holiday)
  • Hoosier Hill Farm All American Whole Milk Powder 
  • Bosubari Flour Sack Tea Towels
  • GoWISE USA 5.8-Quarts 8-in-1 Electric Air Fryer XL 
  • 8QT Stainless Steel Stackable Steamer Insert Pans (for Instant Pot)
And if you are wondering about the 8 quart Instant Pot pans, that's because I traded up from the 6 quart IP. Since I actually use the device so much, I decided to go for it in a larger size. I told you guys, I may never use my stove again. And, yeah, I can't wait to review that Air Fryer.

I will also be doing a review of America's Best Eyewear. I had a little seeing problem when I lost my last contacts and realized my RX was outdated. Had to run over to the cheapest place and... well, you can read the review soon. In the meantime...