Friday, June 26, 2015

In case you’re wondering what those photos are all about, you’re...

In case you’re wondering what those photos are all about, you’re seeing images of what you can do on your own barbecue by using the latest barbecue gadget - the BBQ Grill Mat. These handy items haven’t been around that long but they are gaining in popularity very rapidly because they provide a whole new world of possibilities with the barbecue grill

Before the grill mats came along I never would have dreamed that I could cook an entire breakfast on the grill and so I had never gone out on the deck in the early morning and used the barbecue before. It’s such a pleasant time to cook outside and I have come to enjoy it immensely.

I got these Chef Caron grill mats for a Fathers’ Day gift and wasn’t even sure what the purpose of them was or what use they would be at first. After reading the instructions on the back of the package I had the “ah-ha moment.” I know, they aren’t that complicated. But keep in mind, I’ve been using my barbecue the same way to cook the same things for longer than most people who are reading this have been alive. I’m not kidding. We do get entrenched in our habits, that’s for sure. Even when I understood that you were supposed to just put the grill mats on the grate of the BBQ and cook on them, I was a bit resistant. It just seemed like it defeated the purpose of the whole barbecue experience, or at least changed it so much that it wasn’t even the same process anymore. 

After I thought about it for a while I figured I’d better try it, since I didn’t want to offend my daughter who had excitedly given me the mats on Fathers’ Day. Nothing like guilt to force you into new experiences. 

 I do it every morning now. So you’re probably wondering what I cook on the BBQ grill for breakfast. Well, as you can see in the images, there’s eggs and pancakes. It’s pretty fun to fry an egg and end up with grill marks on it. Same thing with pancakes. But there’s also the hash browns, sausages, bacon, mixed vegetables, and omelettes. With the lid closed you can bake fresh biscuits on your barbecue grill, too. 

Obviously this isn’t Just a breakfast device and I do use it when making dinner meals too. I use a grill mat on one side of the barbecue and cook my steaks on the other side. My daughter is still insisting that I try the steaks on the mat too - she says I’ll like them a lot better prepared that way. But the fact is I like them just fine the way I’ve been doing it for forty some years. Anyway, for an old dog to learn one new trick is a big deal. I don’t need to push it. 

from Tumblr

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Review of a Grill Mat

BBQ Accessories
I’m a nut for barbecue accessories. Some people are into their cars, or houses or guitars, but I’m into my barbecue. I actually collect barbecue accessories and barbecue tools and I use them all so I consider myself something of an expert on them. Granted, a lot of it is fairly subjective and that’s one of the things that bugs me about a lot of the BBQ tool reviews I read, is that the review will dis a product just because it doesn’t suit their personal taste. That’s hardly fair. Good reviewers know the difference between poor quality and personal disappointment and write accordingly. So you people out there who are writing reviews peppered with your arbitrary subjectivity better get with the program and cut that out.

BBQ Grill Mat Collection
My recent collection has been BBQ grill mats. I have purchased and tried out ten different brands out of the top sellers on Amazon, and frankly it surprised me how different they all were. Size is a big difference, for one thing. Some of them are quite small, around fifteen inches long, so they’re almost square. Almost all of them are thirteen inches wide. I really can’t see the point in buying a short BBQ grill mat since you can cut them with scissors if they’re too long but you sure can’t add any length to them.

The next very noticeable difference between the different brands of mats is the thickness. Granted, they only differ in thickness by a tenth of a millimeter or less, but oddly it does make a lot of difference in how well they handle. The ultra thin ones which are from .1mm to .15mm are papery and awkward. They are harder to clean because they have no stability and are far more susceptible to burning, which is not good. The thicker mats are from .2mm to .25mm and that seems like a good range. I didn’t see any advantage to the mats thicker than .2mm since they handled perfectly on the grill and were easy to wash too.

Surface Texture
The only other difference between the various brands of grill mats was the surface texture. The mats are made from a fiberglass cloth that is coated with the non-stick surfacing. Different brands of the barbecue mats use varying amounts of the nonstick coating. Now this could be one of those subjective areas. I’ll explain the difference. When the grill mats have less of the non-stick surfacing you can see and feel the texture of the underlying fabric. It’s like tiny squares that show through the surfacing. When the grill mats have extra layers of the nonstick PTFE the ridges of the fabric are barely visible at all and the surface of the mat is very slick because of the lack of texture.

Coefficient of Friction
I preferred the slick mats. The slicker the better for me. I feel the food is a lot easier to manage with no resistance from the mats, and the brands that have the least surface texture are also a lot easier to clean. I’ve heard people complain that the mats slide around on the grill, but handling that is just an issue of technique. You just hold the mat in place with your tongs while you use your spatula with the other hand and vice versa. Really no big deal. And the advantages of the lower coefficient of friction, as it’s called, is well worth any inconvenience of having to learn a simple new technique.

Chef Caron
So based on my experiments with the mats, I came away with two favorites, the Chef Caron BBQ Grill Mats were number one for me, followed closely by the Kona grill mats. Both brands are thick enough to be durable and easy to manage, but the Chef Caron mats are larger, which I like. The Kona mats are slightly thicker than the Chef Caron version, but it doesn’t add any advantages. Consequently, when you factor in the pricing, there’s no question about the winner. The Chef Caron grill mats vary in price, depending on the time of year, from 14.95 to 17.95 and the Kona mats are consistently 23.95. So I’m recommending the Chef Caron mats as the clear winner on this one.

Coming Soon - Grill Brushes
My next barbecue tools comparison will be about grill brushes. If you don’t use a BBQ grill mat when you are using your grill then you probably use a grill brush to clean your grill, since it will need it. There are a lot of different brands available so I’ll tell you what I think based on the one’s I’ve tried out. And I’ll say right up front, just like with the non-stick barbecue grill mats, I have a clear favorite but you’ll need to decide for yourself. After all, I don’t want to be one of those reviewers that thinks my personal preference are a reflection of quality. So having said that, here’s me and my opinions signing off until next time.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review of Reviews

I’m the kind of gal that reads reviews before I buy something, and not just a few of them. I read so many reviews that I’ve come to consider myself a review expert. I mean I can spot a fake review a mile away, I can tell when a review is written by the vendor or by a rep from the company and I can tell when it’s written by a competitor. I’ve been thinking about writing a book about reviews and how to sort out the legitimate ones but I’m more of a reader than a writer, so there you go.

That being said, I’ll now inform you that this post is not about reviews. Not specifically, anyway. I was just mentioning it because I’m setting the stage for telling you about a new product I just acquired that’s one of my favorite items I’ve ever purchased on Amazon. So here’s the story.

I had decided to try out a set of those nonstick barbecue grilling mats. I don’t know if you’re familiar with those, but they are these fairly large, flexible fabric mats that you put on the grates of your barbecue and they allow you to cook stuff that would normally just slip through the grates. At least that’s all I knew about them when I started looking into it.

So here I am shopping for these grilling mats and I’m reading review after review. I don’t read the Amazon reviews so much. I mean I read a few of those but most of them are so short and cryptic that they don’t really matter. Here are some examples of that.


Great product!

Couldn’t be happier!

Exceeded my expectations!

You’ve seen those, you know what I’m talking about. You might not realize this, but there are a lot of fake reviews on Amazon because Amazon product rankings are based partially on the number of reviews so sellers will pay people to post reviews for them. Of course, Amazon is almost as good at spotting fake reviews as I am, so they pull a lot of them, but a lot of them survive too. So I look for the ones people spent some time on. Reviews that list the good things and the bad things and that make it clear that they actually used the product enough to be qualified to make comments on its quality.

Back to the subject at hand. So, as I said, I was reading a lot of BBQ grill mat reviews, one after another after another and I was also watching videos. It’s about the videos. What is it with the subject of the barbecue that makes advertisers think they need to yell at you? I mean the barbecue guys are usually big, granted. I mean look at what they eat. But can’t they quietly explain what’s going on? Do they have to shout? I hate that. So here I’m watching these bbq grill mat reviews. Back to the subject at hand. So, as I said, I was reading a lot of BBQ grill mat reviews, one after another after another and I was also watching videos. It’s about the videos. What is it with the subject of the barbecue that makes advertisers think they need to yell at you? I mean the barbecue guys are usually big, granted. I mean look at what they eat. But can’t they quietly explain what’s going on? Do they have to shout? I hate that. So here I’m watching these bbq grill mat reviews on Youtube and these big fat guys are all yelling at me the whole time. It almost made me want to NOT buy a barbecue grill mat at all. Just scrap the whole shopping thing.

But! I finally came across a video that just quietly explained what to look for in a grill mat, how they’re made, how they are all similar and how they differ from one another along with some pointers on how to choose one. Because there are a lot of brands of grill mats available now on Amazon. It’s like everybody decided to private label grill mats and sell them on Amazon. I mean are there any people left to buy them when everybody is selling them? Sorry, I crossed the line into smart-ass, something I had promised myself I wouldn’t do any more.

So if you’re in the market for a grill mat and you’re like me, in that you don’t like a lot of hyped-up advertising, with people shouting at you, then give this video a watch, because it’s short and educational and actually tells you stuff you need to know if you’re looking for a grill mat.

I’m on a personal crusade to put a stop to Shouting in Advertising. So I boycott any product that tries to sell to me with people shouting at me. You know, it’s not just the shouting that gets to me. It’s the total absence of substance. It’s like they have to shout because they don’t have that much to say, and what they do have to say isn’t that amazing so they shout it.

Don’t think for one second that I don’t shout once in a while. But don’t you think shouting should be reserved for emergencies and anger situations? It doesn’t seem appropriate if you’re trying to sell me a washing machine or a mattress. That’s just not a shouting situation. So I’m glad I could get that off my chest. Carry on.

from Tumblr

Quick and informative video on how to select a BBQ Grill Mat if...

Quick and informative video on how to select a BBQ Grill Mat if that’s something you happen to be shopping for. 

from Tumblr

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eat Your Veggies with a Simple Bell Pepper Gazpacho

daily-greensBook-Cover-828x1024Today is National Eat Your Veggies Day. Truthfully, every day should honor eating your veggies, but if we need to set aside one day to honor the healthy task we’ve all been assigned each day, then so be it.

This recipe for Bell Pepper Gazpacho is from Daily Greens: 4-Day Cleanse, a cookbook written by Shauna Martin with a foreword written by Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik. Most gazpacho recipes are tomato based, but seeing as I’m not a fan of the ol’ fruit disguised as a vegetable, I think this one will be much more pleasing to my palate.

“One of my favorite summer treats is freshly made raw gazpacho. I love grabbing all the ingredients from a summer farmers market and blending up a big batch to enjoy over the course of several days” Martin says. “It hardly takes any time to prepare, and it’s even better the next day – stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.”


Bell Pepper Gazpacho
1 yellow bellow pepper
Handful of basil (6 to 7 leaves)
½ jalapeno, seeded
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 white (sweet) onion, cut into quarters
2 garlic cloves
1 cup water
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
4 to 5 ripe tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
Sea salt and pepper, to taste 

1.       Combine all ingredients except tomatoes in a high-speed blender or Vitamix and blend on chopped setting.

2.       Add tomatoes and pulse until desired consistency.

3.       Season with salt and pepper.

*This recipe has not been tested by the Cooking Light test kitchen or analyzed to see if it meets our nutrition standards.

from Simmer and Boil via Check This Out

To Lose Weight, I’ve Stopped Exercising


Last week, a friend posted a meme on Facebook that read. “If you went to the gym and forgot to check in, did it really happen?” If I checked in every time I went to the gym, my friends would all block me from their news feeds. I’ve been a regular gym goer, averaging 5 workouts each week, for the last year.

That is, until this month. I’ve hit a very stubborn weight-loss plateau. I wrote earlier this year that I was going to take my mind off the number on my scale and instead just focus on my healthy-eating and gym-going routine. Thirty to 60 minutes of exercise each day and 1,400 to 1,500 calories per day. That’s it.

Well, turns out that didn’t work as well as I had thought. I slipped a few pounds down after my no-scale month, but they came back on. And I’ve not budged since. (Thankfully I’ve not increased either.) So, here I am again, facing a decision. I need to get going on my weight-loss goals, but I don’t know what to do to get there. I’ve increased exercise intensity. No dice. I’ve tried new fitness routines to give my muscles a surprise. Nothing. I’ve even taken to working out in the evening rather than morning. (Because someone told me that worked for them…) No change.

Then, over the weekend, I realized something I had been doing that I’m fairly certain is responsible for my plateau: I’m exercising.

My 4 to 5 exercise sessions each week, while great for my heart health and mental clarity, are actually working against my weight loss.


Forget the gym! Portion control will reign supreme for me as I try to move my weight-loss goals forward.

Here’s why I suspect that: When I work out, I kick up my metabolism. I’m working out first thing in the morning, so I’m hungry all day after an a.m. gym session and frequently graze on the available snacks at the office. Then, there’s the bad habit I have of eating over my calorie goal because, well, “I did go to the gym today.” Sure, I exercised, and I burned more calories. But have I been burning enough to really eat so much over my goal? Calorie estimates from fitness trackers are notoriously way off, so am I really gaining any calories in my everyday treadmill walk? I suspect not. All of that adds up, and maybe that’s the problem: I need to focus more on my food, less on my foot movement.

Now, before you think I’ve fallen off my rocker, I’m not saying this is right for everyone. It’s just, as I read in a New York Times story on Monday, I might not be wrong. Studies show, time and time again, that sedentary people are no more likely to gain excess weight than physically active people when they’re both eating a calorie-structured diet. In other words, exercise isn’t as important as eating less.

Before you think I’m shunning the gym and stowing my tennis shoes for good, let me clarify this one thing. I’m not going to stop being active. The link between physical exercise and heart health, as well as the reduction of a whole host of other diseases and physical ailments, is too strong for me to say there is no space for exercise and movement in my life. So I’m still going to take my good, healthy walks around the office. I’ll still stroll my neighborhood at night, and on the weekends, when I have several hours of free time, I’m probably going to put in a good sweat session at the gym. But every other day, I’m going to focus on food first. When I have a healthier relationship with my energy intake, maybe then I can get the results I’m seeking.

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from Simmer and Boil via Check This Out

The Best Charcoal Grills Under $500 (2015 Edition)

If you have a lot of money, it's as easy to select a great grill as to select a great wine. The trick is finding a great one that's also affordable. With over 500 grilling equipment reviews under my belt and ten grills out in my backyard at any given moment, I know a thing or two about buying grills. Here are my picks for the best five charcoal grills for $500 or less. Read More

from Serious Eats via Check This Out

Want Mindblowing Mint Chip Ice Cream? Ditch the Bottle of Extract

I'm about to dive deep into the makings of the perfect mint chip ice cream, but I need to get this out of the way: The stuff made with extract tastes like toothpaste to me. Now if your crystalline vision of the perfect ice cream is a pale scoop speckled with dark chocolate, redolent of the crisp, clean, subtly grassy aroma and taste of genuine mint leaf, step a little closer. My kitchen smells awesome right now. Read More

from Serious Eats via Check This Out

What I Love This Month: Benefit’s Roller Lash Mascara


Benefit Roller Lash Mascara ($24, It seems like innovative mascara formulas and wand designs are constantly popping up, but Benefit’s new hook-and-roll brush is a game changer. It helps grab and separate lashes and holds them in curl-like place for up to 12 hours.

I’m a bit of a mascara hoarder, though, and I change them like I change my moods. Other favorites include:

The entire LashBlast collection from CoverGirl, specifically Clump Crusher, Make Up For Ever Smoky Extravagant, and one of my coworkers just raved about Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara (no comment on the name, though).

Do you have a favorite mascara?

I am Cooking Light’s beauty editor. Tell me what products you’re loving right now at We’ll feature your top picks on our blog.

from Simmer and Boil via Check This Out

A Double Dose of Marinade Gives Greek-Style Grilled Chicken Extra Flavor

Grilling culture in Greece is inherently relaxed and groovy. More often than not, all it takes is a fire, a ton of olive oil and lemon, some garlic, and some herbs to transform meat and seafood into party-worthy fare. But with traditional methods, by the time the skin finally gets crisp, the meat is dry and overcooked. This double-marinade process for chicken delivers the whole package: crisp skin, flavor, and perfectly cooked meat. Read More

from Serious Eats via Check This Out

Is Tap Water Safe to Drink?


Illustration by Dante Terzigni

“If it’s healthy tap water here in America, absolutely yes,” says Douglas Casa, PhD, a kinesiology professor at the University of Connecticut. “I think it’s a colossal waste of money to buy bottled water. It’s also obviously horrible for the environment, too.”

“Tap water is more regulated than bottled water, and a lot of bottled water is just municipal tap water,” says Kate Geagan, RD, author of Go Green Get Lean.

Although American tap water is filtered and cleaned, it still may retain flavors from minerals or chlorine. If filtering your tap water once it’s out of your home’s faucet helps improve the taste for you, these products may help:

EveryDrop’s Water Filter is a space-saving, portable option that can filter water for any size vessel (and up to 1 gallon in just 2 minutes). It’s especially great to have when traveling. $20,

Pur’s new slim Ultimate 11-Cup Pitcher removes 95% of mercury and reduces chlorine and minerals that can change the water’s taste. The best part: When you’re finished with it, it’s fully recyclable, so it won’t take up space in a landfill. $44,

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from Simmer and Boil via Check This Out

The Chain Breaker: A Dairy Queen Like No Other

"Corporate would love for us to disappear, no question about that," says Moorhead Dairy Queen owner Troy DeLeon. With its seasonal hours and walk-up service windows—plus a penchant for producing menu items you won't see elsewhere—the shop has more in common with the first Dairy Queen, which opened in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois, than the sleek stone-walled Grill and Chills you're likely to see today. Read More

from Serious Eats via Check This Out