Thursday, October 15, 2009

Samsung: Makes Cooking Look Easy

This is a compensated review from BlogHer and Samsung Home Appliances.

BlogHer and Samsung are sponsoring a $200 gift certificate to Best Buy, just to the readers of A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade. Entering is completely easy, just scroll down for all the details.

Why Does a Cook Switch from Gas to Electric?
My Story

Wisdom says that a real writer needs no more than a nubbin of pencil and a scrap of paper; the words will flow unbidden, no quiet space, no fancy laptop required. Wisdom says that a real runner needs no more than an open road; the miles will accumulate, no running clothes that wick, no high-tech shoes required. 'My' wisdom says that a real cook needs no more than food and a little fire; supper will appear, no enamel-coated cookware, no German knives required. Once upon a time, there was a food blog where the cooking surface was -- get this -- a hot plate! The blogger moved on but the idea still haunts me: what would I cook with just a hot plate? Could I?

Enter BlogHer and Samsung, collaborating with bloggers to try out -- get THIS, for free -- Samsung appliances. I gave my 15-year old hardware-store variety range a discerning eye. The one potential drawback? Switching from gas to electric. I thought about real writers and real runners and real cooks. I remembered that hotplate. That's how a brand-new sparkly-clean stainless steel Samsung electric range and built-in Samsung microwave came to call my kitchen home.

Installation of Samsung range and oven

It's been some weeks now and I've been cooking up a storm, giving the new appliances a real work out, getting to know the in's and out's. It's easy for me to say, without prevarication: I love these Samsung appliances. Why? They seem to be designed by cooks for cooks. They seem to anticipate my workflow. They make cooking look easy.

Here's what I've learned.

What It's Like to Cook with Samsung Appliances
My Experience

  • Ceramic Surface - The ceramic work surface just looks so good! Plus it's much easier to keep clean than either a gas range or a traditional electric stove. The only downside? My favorite cast-iron skillets can't be used on ceramic, they'll scratch the surface.

  • Five Burners! - I can't tell you how often I filled up four burners on my old stove. The fifth burner on the Samsung is especially useful, since it's the 'warming center' especially designed to keep cooked food warm. This would be great for busy families, for nights when everyone's eating in shifts. There's also a warming drawer below the oven, which would be great for warming plates, unless, like me, you have a dog since that low to the floor, it's a magnet for dog fur.

  • Hot Surface Indicator - When any one of the elements is hot, there's a really obvious warning light, right in the center of the stovetop. In addition, when any burner is turned on, it glows red. There's no missing that it's turned on.

  • Adjustable Cooking Surfaces - The left front burner adjusts to pans of two different diameters, the right front burner to pans of three different diameters. This just makes sense, concentrating the heat beneath the entire surface of the pan. Once you figure out the controls, it's all pretty intuitive; someone new to the stove may need a little direction.

  • Fast Boil - The common wisdom, gas compared to electric, is that gas is faster to come to temperature. I'm finding this to be true but am adapting, turning the stove on while I'm prepping vegetables. Once again, Samsung seems to 'get this'. So the left front burner has a 'fast boil' function and it works just great for pasta water, boiling water for tea, etc.

  • Kitchen Timer - For anyone who lives and dies by kitchen clocks, it's hard to lose the clock when you turn on the timer.

  • Temperature Preview - Some times little things make such a big difference, both positive and negative. This one's a positive! When I preheat the oven, I love seeing the oven come to temperature, 150F, 220F, 275F, 325F, 350F, bingo!

  • Oven Size - This oven is big! Technically, it's 5.9 cubic feet but to me, what's great is that it's big enough for three oven racks, my baking stone now stays on one. There's plenty of room for a big turkey and lots of airspace for two levels of cookie sheets.

  • Oven Temperature Monitor - Oh how I love this feature! Turn on the oven and the display changes as the oven preheats. I could watch the temperature move from 150F to 175F to 225F and so on all day long!

  • Convection Baking - Yes, the Samsung has a convection feature, the much-applauded 'true convection' cooking that circulates air evenly throughout the oven. Bakers, especially, love the even cooking from a convection oven. Convection promises to be an energy-saver, too, because you cook at a temperature 25F lower and usually cook for about 25% less time. But if convection isn't for you, no problem, the oven works in conventional mode as well. I'm still learning my way around the convection feature but it's looking great.

  • Convection Roasting - The Samsung also has a 'convection roasting' function that is designed so that meat browns and cooks evenly, as if on a rotisserie. I'm looking forward to roasting my first chicken this way!

  • Bread Proofing - My heart leapt when I saw this feature! Over the years, I've devised one scheme after another to create 'warm and draft-free spaces' for letting bread rise. (Think cardboard boxes. Think space heaters facing an upside down wire wastebasket with the bread bowl perched on top.) None worked very well. For THIS feature, Samsung, I thank you. Just look! at that beautiful mound of bread dough!

  • Jewish Sabbath & Holidays - For some families, this might be of real benefit, leaving the oven and the oven light on throughout the Sabbath, overriding the standard safety feature that turns the oven off after 12 hours.

  • Self-Cleaning & Steam-Cleaning - The Samsung has a self-cleaning feature but better still, it has a light-cleaning function called SteamQuick that uses 10 ounces of water to clean the oven. Sweet! What an energy saver for light jobs. I do wish that the oven racks could be used during the cleaning functions.

Caveat: My cooking style gives a range and an oven a real work-out, the microwave, not so much. I'm sure that the Samsung has many features that a microwave power user would appreciate. At present, that's just not me. My first check, to make sure that it would cook my morning oatmeal. Perfect!
  • Intuitive - The best thing about the microwave is that it works in such a straight-forward mode. Honestly, I've got the user manual on my desk but haven't looked at it yet.

  • Turntable & Shelf - The turntable cooks food more evenly, the shelf lets you cook two things at once, swapping between the shelf and the turntable midway.

  • The 'Soften' Function - This works for ice cream and chocolate but in my world, it's for softening butter for baking when I forget to put it out an hour before. It works like a dream.

Many Thanks
Many thanks to the people at BlogHer and at Samsung for the opportunity to 'live with' the new stove and microwave! I'm grateful!

Visit Samsung's site for more information.

Now, How Can You Win that $200 Gift Certificate to Best Buy?




Chance #1
1) ENTER ONCE by leaving a COMMENT on this page
> To enter to win, leave a comment on this page. In your comment, finish this sentence, "To make my life better, the one kitchen appliance I'd most like to replace is a ... ". Is it an aging refrigerator? A loud washer and dryer? A tempermental oven? A leaky dishwasher? A sagging microwave? You decide!
> To be eligible, you MUST leave your e-mail address in the comment but if you like, disguise it so that a 'human' can read it but a machine cannot. For example, if your address is, disguise it as cookie hyphen girl at yahoo dot com.
2) ENTER AGAIN via TWITTER (and leaving a separate comment here with the Twitter link and your e-mail address)
> For an extra entry, link to this page on Twitter. For the tweet to be eligible, you must leave the link to your tweet and your e-mail address in a separate comment here.
3) ENTER AGAIN by POSTING ON YOUR OWN BLOG (and leaving a separate comment here with the post's link and your e-mail address)
> For an extra entry, you may blog about this contest on your own blog. For the post to be eligible, you must link to this page in your blog post, then leave the link to your post and your e-mail address in a separate comment here.
4) The contest runs between October 15, 2009 (9am PST) and November 15 (5pm PST).
5) This contest is open to U.S. residents (so sorry, Canadian readers) at least 18 years old.
6) A random winner will be selected and notified on November 16, 2009. If I don't hear back from the winner in 48 hours, or if for some reason the winner is not eligible, I will select another winner.
7) For more information, please see the Official Rules.

Eight Total Chances to Win

Chances #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8! - Visit for links to the seven other bloggers who are reviewing Samsung appliances. Each blogger will select a winner for a $200 gift certificate from Best Buy.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Win an HP Photosmart All-in-One Printer

BlogHer and HP are sponsoring the fantastic opportunity for me to give away a printer just to the readers of A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade. It's completely easy, scroll down for all the details.

UPDATE We Have a Winner!

April 28, 2009 -- Congratulations to Cheryl A from Bakersfield, CA who is the lucky winner of the HP wireless printer. Many, many thanks to all who entered the contest, your comments were creative and inspiring. If I could have awarded a printer to each and every one of you, I would have. Til next time!

Here's Why You Want This Printer for Yourself!

Sure, if you already have a printer at home, you could gift this printer to someone in your circle of family and friends. But there's lots of reason smart reasons to want it for yourself.

This post is sponsored by BlogHer and HP and is the independent review
of Alanna Kellogg of Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture

Finally, Wireless That Works and Gorgeous Home-Printed Photos

THE PRINTER is the HP Photosmart C6300 All-in-One printer. Stuff I like:
  • EASY WIRELESS SETUP What a great experience! The HP Photosmart is my third wireless printer. But the HP Photosmart is the first wireless printer to actually work wirelessly. The wireless set up was quick and easy -- the printer detected my home network then took over from there. Setup took about an hour, from unpacking the box to the first test pages.
  • TWO CARTRIDGES The printer has two paper cartridges, one for regular copy paper and another for photo paper. This makes it so easy to switch back and forth between regular printing and photo printing, no more fumbling around with different papers.
  • GORGEOUS PHOTOS I was all prepared to be underwhelmed by the photos straight off the printer. Instead, the photos are completely beautiful -- sharp, with great saturation and natural colors. Gorgeous. My new guilty pleasure: printing photos at home for frames around the house!
  • ALL-IN-ONE PRINTER, SCANNER, COPIER Even though the photos are so beautiful, this printer isn't just for photos, it also prints, scans and copies. Former models of the All-in-One also included a fax, I wish this feature hadn't been dropped, even if faxing isn't so common anymore. I also wish it were more intuitive to switch back and forth between 'draft' printing and 'photo' printing (note: this may well be a MAC issue).
  • INDIVIDUAL COLOR CARTRIDGES Everyone knows you can go broke buying printer ink. I'm not saying that HP's ink is cheap. But the color cartridges are individual, so you can replace each one as it's used up. This is especially important for home-based businesses, say, where a blue (or red or whatever) logo might use up one color faster than the other colors.
  • SMART WEB PRINTING For PC owners, the HP Photosmart includes software free software called Smart Web Printing. Many people struggle with printing recipes from websites, I think this would be an excellent way to select only what you want to print, saving ink and paper both. (Sorry, I haven't been able to test this myself since HP doesn't yet support this feature on a Mac.)

CAN YOU PRINT ARCHIVE-QUALITY PHOTOS ON A HOME PRINTER? I spent a long time on the phone one day with the 'paper crafting' guru at HP. I've always been under the impression that you couldn't get enough print quality from home-printed photos, that for photos to last several generations, you need to print at a photo production house (which excludes nearly all one-hour photo places).

YES (SO LONG AS) I am now convinced that if I use quality paper and quality ink from the SAME company (they have to work together, to last), then you can get long-lasting archive-quality photos at home. So this gives me the confidence to print photos at home for use in my photo scrapbooks. I’ll still use a photo print service for big orders (like when I have lots of shots with multiple copies), but now I know that I can fill in pages with odd shots printed at home. PLUS when I print occasional shots for friends and family, I know that if THEY scrapbook the photos, they'll last.


~ more information about the HP Photosmart All-in-One printer
on this page at ~

Live Wirelessly. Print Wirelessly.

What's this printer worth? Right now, Google Shopping says that the retail purchase price of the HP 6380 is $147 - $228. So c'mon. Enter to win your very own! All you need to do is leave a comment -- just follow the instructions directly above the comment box.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fage Yogurt, the No-Guilt Indulgence

Lucky day! Over at, there's going to be a whole lot of yogurt indulgence. That's because every single day between now and May 6th, someone's going to win a case of FAGE Yogurt.
It could be YOU -- details below!

This is a compensated review from BlogHer and FAGE.

FAGE is 100% natural Greek yogurt. It's free of additives, preservatives, and sweeteners and is so thick, you'll call it 'Ridiculously Thick Yogurt'. FAGE recently invited 10 lucky BlogHer Reviewers to sample their yogurt and was so pleased with what we had to say, now they want others to have the same experience!

Okay, that was the official stuff. But I'm willing to bet that in sixty seconds, readers are going to ask two questions.
  • How in heck do you pronounce 'Fage'?
  • How in heck can you get your hands on some of this stuff?
I promise to answer both questions, but bear with me a minute.

I remember my very first cup of yogurt, way back when I was a kid. My folks packed the kids and the dog in the station wagon for a thousand-mile trip to Florida. To save money, we ate from a cooler. For lunch one day, Mom bought yogurt -- lemon and peach, I think. Instantly, I was a yogurt fiend. Then I lived in Europe and discovered really good yogurt, thick and creamy and tangy, unsugared but still sweet. When I came back, American yogurt -- yuck, not for me, not anymore. (Who's noticed how much yogurt we must collectively eat? At the supermarket the other day, I counted. There were 24 feet of yogurt, six shelves high -- and NONE of the good stuff.) Fast forward to maybe 2005 when Greek yogurt started to appear, finally, a yogurt worth eating in the States.

So when BlogHer and Fage offered the chance to sample some FAGE Greek yogurt, the answer was an enthusiastic "Yes". I've purchased Fage on occasion but mostly, my go-to yogurt is a Lebanese yogurt called 'labna'. So I did a side-by-side taste test, comparing the full-fat labna that I buy to the Total 0% FAGE. Not a fair test, you think, comparing a full-fat yogurt to a no-fat yogurt?

Here's the thing. The Total 0% FAGE won, hands down, based on taste alone. Add in that the FAGE 0% has about 75% fewer calories? Goodbye labna, hello FAGE.

(Funny thing is, I never-ever LIKE non-fat products, see this post I wrote for BlogHer about lower-fat products worth buying.)

So for me, FAGE 0% is a no-guilt indulgence. For an after-supper treat, I especially love it with a little agave nectar drizzled over top, maybe with some toasted almonds or a little cinnamon. But I use Greek yogurt in recipes too, here's my Kitchen Parade recipes that call for yogurt.

FAGE has other yogurts too, the FAGE original that's to-live-for good, some individual serving yogurts with fruit or honey in handy-dandy little side cups, perfect for breakfast on the run or lunch at your desk. These are sweet for my taste but hey, that's just me.

OKAY, so now back to those burning questions.

  • How do you pronounce FAGE? fah-yeh
  • How can you get some FAGE to sample? Head on over to this special page at to enter the daily contest. I'd really love for several readers from A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade to win!

Want to know more about FAGE? Check