Category Archives: Equipment and Gadgets

Ginger Pennies, FBC and Nordic Ware

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I’m attending the FBC conference this weekend! Even though I don’t update the blog often, I really wanted to go for the learning experience and to meet other bloggers. I was sent some swag from Nordic Ware (one of the sponsors) and had the opportunity to review some of the products (disclosure: a review gives me a chance to win $500 in product from Nordic Ware). Can I say how impressed I was with what I got?! I had to pick up the package and wasn’t expecting anything big, so I was completely surprised to see a gigantic parcel.

I was sent the big sheet pan, Prep n’ Serve bowls, cookie stamps and a Pinata cake pan.

I’ve been using the bowls on an almost daily basis. They’re lightweight, dishwasher safe and microwaveable. I like the non-skid bottom which helps keep things in place when mixing. The microwaveable feature helps when you’ve forgotten to soften butter:

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The sheet pan is very big. Here’s a comparison with one of my other pans:

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This is excellent for cookies. Usually I get pretty lazy and I try and squish as many cookies in the pan as possible. The bigger pan means more cookies. Perfect for the ginger cookies I made (which makes like 25 dozen teeny tiny cookies!).

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The pan is lighter than my regular ones so I’m not sure how it will withstand extreme high heat. It held up perfectly for these cookies.

I can’t wait to try out the other products. The pinata cake seems like a perfect choice for a smash cake for my soon-to-be one year old (how does time fly so fast?).

Get the ginger pennies recipe here.

Note: While I was sent product, all opinions are my own.

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Spinach Pasta with Pesto

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They say that your first attempt at making pasta should be an easy, basic one without any fancy flavourings. Once you get the feeling for the dough, you can try other flavour combinations. Of course I ignore that sage advice and try my hand at spinach pasta.

Making pasta is a sensory experience. While most people are intimidated by strict instructions, I need structure. I like working in grams and digital thermometers so when I’m left to my own devices to judge whether something looks/feels “right”, my heart starts palpitating.

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Lowel EGO lights

I’ve been wanting to get these lights ever since I read about them on the Steamy Kitchen website. I don’t have much natural light in my unit. I’ve been shooting outside to get the best pics, but it’s getting too cold to go outside. I finally bit the bullet and bought Lowel EGO lights from Vistek. When I went to Paris for my honeymoon we rented a lens from Vistek and they were super about not charging us an extra day because our flight was delayed and couldn’t make it back in time. Great customer service. I used them again to get the lights and some other things. When I found out they price matched, I saw the items I had just bought were much cheaper at a competitor. So when I inquired about the price match I was treated in a very unprofessional manner. In the end, it took the power of Twitter and some very helpful individuals to rectify the situation. I believe Vistek is the only place in Toronto that sells these lights. B&H has them for much cheaper, but once you factor in shipping, tax, and customs they are about the same price as Vistek. So B&H is probably the better deal if you have other big items you need to buy. I only have one light as they don’t sell the kit with 2 lights that B&H has (another con for Vistek).

Putting the lights together was a bit tricky. The plastic flaps that you’re supposed to fold down are very rigid and I was worried about cracking them if I was too forceful. I talked to Jaden from Steamy Kitchen about it and she had no problems at all. So maybe it was just my kit.

I also bought the sweep which comes with construction paper in a variety of colours. I don’t think I’ll be getting much use out of the papers, but the sweep makes for a good background and as an extra reflector. Much needed for me with my only ego light and dismal indoor lighting.

Here are some test shots.

Le Roux Salted Butter Caramels
The most delicious caramels I got from France that I haven’t posted about.

IKEA cookie cutters
One of the rare times I will use the paper that comes with the sweep.

Portrait with Lowel EGO light

I still need to fiddle around with the lighting set up as sometimes my photos look blown out from the lighting. I’m wondering if I need a lens that has more zoom so that it’s not too close to the lights.

These lights are great for me because I’m also a night owl. Procrastination may have something to do with that, but for some reason I work better at night. This means a lot of the time my baking starts late at night (around 10pm or so). Many of my pictures need to be taken the next day, but with these lights I can finally start taking some night shots. I can also start taking more dinner photos too if I knew how to make them look more appetizing.

Here are some other food photography sites that I found helpful:

Pioneer Woman Photography a lot of good basics material. I just learned how to change the aperture from this site.

Make a macro photo studio for $10
Food portfolio. Tons of info here on food photography.
VeganYumYum Food photography for bloggers.
Jaden’s review of Lowel EGO lights

And while we’re on the subject of photography I am addicted to Photoshop actions. I will usually run my images using the Pioneer Woman’s action set.

Look at the difference it makes:

Pioneer Woman actions

The colours pop out much more. I like using the boost and quick edge burn for my food photos.

You can download the action sets here.

If you’re looking for a free photo editing program that’s super easy Picasa is awesome. R uses it a ton even though he’s a PhotoShop wizard because it’s so much easier.

These lights are a great investment for a hobbyist. It’s pretty inexpensive and gives great results. Because my lighting is so dark I think 2 would work much better and will probably purchase another one in the future.

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My good find

Shun Kaji Fusion

Back when I was making bread every week I wished for a really good bread knife. Something that wouldn’t struggle as I cut through the hard crust. Buying a good bread knife would have been the easy solution, but good knives are expensive so it had to wait.

At the mall the other day I decided I couldn’t wait any longer for a decent bread knife and was willing to plunk down the money. On sale at Williams-Sonoma was the Kaji Fusion, a collaboration of Williams-Sonoma and Shun. It looked similar to my Ken Onion santoku knife I had bought last summer after I was tired of using dull knives. Let me just say if you cook a lot, a really good knife is essential. My sister flipped out when she heard the price I paid on one knife, but it is worth every penny to have cooking be as hassle free as possible. It’s definitely an investment piece, but in the long run it’s very affordable. Especially if you’re using it every day. This bread knife was marked down from $284 to $222. Talking with the sales associate, I found out the regular price was actually $384 and she thought the price was further reduced from $222. The price for it was actually $95.99, plus a 10% discount for registry completion. We were shocked and R said “Are there other knives on sale?!” my voice may have also gotten louder due to excitement and I shouted, “Yeah! Are there?!”

Shun Kaji Fusion

Shun Kaji Fusion

We did end up getting a utility knife, which was smaller and more expensive than the bread knife. I guess because it’s more multi-purpose?

Shun Kaji Fusion

I had no idea what a utility knife is used for, but after googling, it’s handy for slicing meats and cheeses. I’m sure this will work better than the, uh, butter knife we are currently using.

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