Hamilton Beach Easy Reach Toaster Oven & Giveaway

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Are you a pop-up toaster person or a toaster oven type of person? It’s actually often cause for debate in my house.  I grew up with toaster ovens. They were a constant fixture in my house at breakfast time. From toasting bagels to reheating pizza, it had its’ place. When I got engaged, my grandmother bought me a simple pop-up toaster. I was pretty skeptical about it. My husband on the other hand, was firmly in the pop-up toaster camp.  So we’ve lived with both kinds of toasters over the years.

So the fine folks at Hamilton Beach recently sent me this Easy Reach 4-Slice Toaster Oven to try out. I was definitely excited to check it out.

toaster-main

This unit has the traditional toaster oven features. You can time-cook it based on how well done you like your toast, you can set it on a timer set to temperature, or you can simply bake with it – set to a particular temperature. What’s different about this toaster is that it has a unique roll-top door to make it easier for you to take your food in and out of the oven without getting burned. The oven door really did open smoothly and it definitely allows better access to the food inside. It’s like a toaster garage!

When it came time to cook with it, I first surveyed my daughter as to what to cook and she suggested bagels. Well, I had to test it with something more than just bagels. The bagels did toast well – just how I like it, but I was curious as to how the baking feature worked.

I decided to bake some cookies in the oven. Sometimes I like to mix up some cookie dough ahead of time and then freeze it so I can bake as needed. I mean, who doesn’t love fresh baked cookies? Anyhow, I whipped up a batch of my favorite oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies. Don’t tell anyone my secret, but I have a special place in my heart for the oatmeal cookie recipe on the lid of the Quaker Oats can. Anyhow, I do a doctored up version of that recipe and it never fails.

I set the toaster oven to 350. It seemed to heat up very fast, which is great.

I scooped up the cookie dough on to a parchment paper lined baking sheet (which is included) and let it go.

cookie-balls

The cookies cooked up nicely. I like to take them out a little earlier, since I like a chewier cookie.

Cookies-Baking

Overall, I really like the way the toaster baked the cookies and toasted my daughter’s bagel. The only con I think of with this toaster is that I wish it had more space. Toaster ovens always seem to show what seems like big food items in their marketing photos. In this case, the box showed a pizza. Well, that must have been a personal sized pizza. But that’s ok. It’s a toaster oven. This is perfect for toasting your breakfast, heating up that leftover pizza and even the occasional small baking job.

baked-cookies

Definitely worth checking out.

For a chance to get in on the toaster action, enter the giveaway below!

*Full disclosure: Hamilton Beach provided me with this toaster. All opinions are my own.

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Lemon Lavender Hamentashen

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Disclosure: I got this silicone baking product mentioned below as part of an advertorial. All opinions and content are my own.

I know I just shared some hamentashen the other day, but since those kimchi hamentashen were savory, I decided to share something sweet with you today. I also wanted to feature my awesome new Cuina Silicone baking mat with you. I figured that freshly baked hamentashen were the perfect way to take advantage of both needs. Stay tuned for the end of this post. You’ll have a chance to win your own Silicone baking mat!

It’s Meyer Lemon season apparently.  I don’t think I’ve ever cooked with them, but I love the taste. They are much sweeter than traditional lemons. When I saw them at the market, I knew I had to incorporate some of them in to my cooking or baking. I’ve been wanting to make lemon curd since I can’t seem to find one that is kosher certified. I was surprised to find out how easy it is to make the curd.

I combined egg yolk with sugar and heated over medium heat, whisking the whole time. I then juiced and zested the lemons and stirred it in to the egg yolks mixture. I stirred for several minutes, letting it thicken then added a stick of butter. You want the mixture to get thick. It should coat the back of your wooden spoon. Once ready. I transferred to jars and chilled in the refrigerator.

lemon-curd-collage

I was debating between lemon rosemary or lemon lavender dough for the hamentashen. I have a foolproof hamentashen dough that I have played with over the years and knew I could make it work for this application. I just had to choose the right herb. I cook with rosemary often, but rarely use lavender – yet I have it in my house. I decided to challenge myself and use the lavender. I know that both herbs work well with lemon anyways, just not necessarily all together.

I mixed up the dough in my Kitchenaid. I then transferred the dough to a rolling mat coated with lots of flour. I rolled out the dough, and with a small drinking glass, I cut rounds of dough. I then shaped in to Hamentashen and transferred to my baking mat lined baking pan.

dough-rounds

Now I want to tell you about this Cuina Kitchen brand silicone baking mat. The fine folks at Cuina Kitchen sent it to me and I was so excited since I had never used one before. I always tend to use parchment paper instead. This silicone baking mat allows you to make cookies without any spray or parchment paper. You just place the mat in your half sheet pan and the cookies go on. They didn’t stick at all! It was so simple. Why did I never buy a baking mat before? Anyways, I highly recommend this silicone baking mat. It worked really well. My cookies came out perfectly and there was no sticky mess to clean up. At the bottom of this post, you’ll have your very own chance to win one of these baking mats!

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Meyer Lemon Curd
 
Author:
Recipe type: spread, sweet

Ingredients
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Juice and Zest from 4-5 Meyer Lemons (around ½ cup of juice)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 tsp. salt

Instructions
  1. Beat the egg yolks with a form lightly and place in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan, along with the cup of sugar.
  2. Whisk well over medium heat, letting the sugar melt in.
  3. Add in the lemon juice and zest and stir with a wooden spoon. Let the mixture thicken a bit.
  4. Stir in the butter, keep stirring with the wooden spoon until the back of the spoon is coated in the curd mixture.
  5. Once the curd has thickened, remove from heat, transfer to jars and chill in refrigerator. Enjoy!



  meyerlemoncurd  

Lemon Lavender Hamentashen
 
Author:

Ingredients
  • 1 cup lemon curd (see recipe above)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. ground vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. lavender
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups flour (plus more for rolling
  • 1 tsp. salt

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together.
  3. Mix in the eggs, vanilla and the lavender.
  4. Add in the dry ingredients and mix well until it forms a dough.
  5. Transfer to a rolling area that has been liberally dusted with flour.
  6. Make sure to dust your hands and rolling pin as well.
  7. In batches, roll out the dough to about a ½-inch thickness. Cut out circles of dough with a glass. Place a teaspoon of the filling at the center of the dough round. Pinch corners in well to form a triangle.
  8. Transfer formed hamentashen to a lined baking mat.
  9. Bake in oven for around 10-11 minutes.
  10. Cool on rack.
  11. Enjoy!

Lemon-Lavender-Hamentashen-Upright

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Gluten Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Caramel Cookie Bars

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Did you know that Pillsbury has recently come out with a line of gluten free doughs? I recently came across their new line of doughs in the supermarket. I’m so glad that companies like Pillsbury have expanded to the gluten free market and their products are widely available.

Thanks to Pillsbury, I have just had the opportunity to try some of their Chocolate Chip Gluten Free Cookie Dough. I was so excited to try it! I knew that I couldn’t just roll them in to balls and pop them in to the oven. I had to do something fun with this new product.

My favorite kind of cookie is a cookie bar. Something about them just allows for more amazing things to happen. You can layer them. You can stuff them. You can add all sorts of yummy stuff to them. A cookie bar is always the way to go. My favorite cookie is typically an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. I knew I had to do some sort of mash-up. That lightbulb moment happened where I decided to make a layered oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bar. Right away, I knew what would go in the middle of the two gluten free cookie doughs. The only option in my mind was caramel. Gooey and creamy caramel. My mouth is watering thinking about it!

I first mixed up my favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough. I used gluten free oats along with a gluten free flour blend. I slightly adapted the recipe that is on the Quaker Oats canister.

mixing-the-dough

I pressed the mixture in to a sprayed 9×13 baking pan.

oatmeal-layer

Next, I melted caramel bits along with a few tablespoons of heavy cream. I love the caramel bits because they melt faster than the squares and there is no unwrapping to do.

caramel

I poured the caramel over the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough mixture.

pouring-caramel

Next, I used my cookie dough scoop to spoon out even balls of the Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough. I placed them over the caramel.

cookie-balls-pre-baked

I then baked everything at 350 for around 26-27 minutes. I kept my eye on the cookie bars for even browning. The cookie bars couldn’t cool fast enough. I let them cool completely before cutting.

cookie-bars-out-of-the-oven

Holy moly. These cookies bars are amazing. They are the perfect indulgent dessert for a crowd. I hope you enjoy!

**This article is sponsored by Pillsbury. The recipe and content is my own. To check out some other gluten free recipes featuring the line of Pillsbury doughs, go here!

Gluten Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Caramel Cookie Bars
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: gluten free

Ingredients
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer – slightly adapted from Quaker Oats
  • 1 stick plus 6 Tbsp. softened butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1.5 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend (use one that includes xanthan gum in the ingredients)
  • 1 tsp. gluten free Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 cups Gluten Free oats
  • 1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Caramel Layer
  • 1.5 cups Caramel Bits
  • 3 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer
  • 1 tub of Pillsbury Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Layer
  1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together. Bean in the eggs and vanilla.
  2. In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips and the oats until well incorporated.
  5. Spray a 9×13 pan and press the oatmeal chocolate chip mixture in to the pan.
Caramel and Cookie Layers
  1. Place the caramel bits and the heavy cream in a small sauce pan. Heat the pan to medium-high and stir frequently until well melted.
  2. Once everything is melted and mix well, remove from heat.
  3. Pour the caramel over the oatmeal chocolate chip mixture.
  4. Using a cookie scoop, spoon the chocolate chip cookie dough over the caramel layer.
  5. Bake in oven for around 27 minutes, until the top has an even brown tone.
  6. Cool completely before cutting. The bars will be gooey from the caramel.
  7. Enjoy!

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Vanilla Kipferl Cookies

This happens a couple times a year. My lovely daughter volunteers me to make something for the class. In December, it was latkes. She wanted to teach her class about Chanukah. This time around, she offered a German baked good. Or rather – anything German and cooked. I had no idea what to prepare.

I researched German baked goods on the interwebz a bit – trying to find something that my grandmother used to make. So many things are variations on recipes most likely handed down in her family. I finally came upon an authentic German cookie that I remember her making. The buttery, almond & vanilla cookies shaped in a crescent shape. These were always among the bags of baked good that she would hand deliver to Minnesota. This seemed easy enough.

These turned out to be successful. The class enjoyed – several kids even asked for the recipe! Glad the 4th graders approve!







Vanilla Kipferl Cookies
Ingredients


2 cups of flour
2 sticks of butter, softened
1/3 cup of sugar
3/4 cup ground almonds
2 tsp. vanilla
vanilla scrapings from 1/2 vanilla bean
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 365.

Mix all of the ingredients together except for the powdered sugar.

The mixture will be crumbly.

Use your hands to form some semblance of a dough.

Pinch of 1-2 tablespoon size pieces and shape in to a crescent or horn shape.

Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Bake for around 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet.

Roll in powdered sugar and cool on cooling rack.

Enjoy!

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Chewy Ginger Snap Cookies

Last year I decided to be a bit frugal and start making my teacher gifts. I can be crafty, but I don’t have time to be as crafty as I want to be. I knew I wouldn’t be buying out A.C. Moore and making fancy baskets. I still had to do something. Each kids has a gaggle of teachers, and buying something more tangible from a store would be ridiculously expensive. I decided to make a cookie basket of sorts. I think I will continue with that place this year. About $20 in baking ingredients + $15 in packaging supplies from the craft store, and we’re good. I may add some cute pictures of the kids in aprons or something along those lines to add to the card.


Anyhow, I made about 4 different kinds of cookies. My Russian tea cakes bombed. Will need to find a new recipe for that. The chocolate krinkles and the chocolate chip cookies were easy and appreciated. It was the chewy ginger cookies that were the biggest hit – both at home and in the schools. I have since made the recipe a few times, and they get devoured pretty quickly. Definitely recommend it.


Soft and Chewy Ginger Cookies
Recipe slightly adapted from the Cooking with my Kid Blog

Ingredients:

3/4 cup melted butter

1 and 1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp cloves

Melt the butter and let it cool. 

Mix in the egg, molasses, and 1 cup of the sugar. 

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. 

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture a little at a time until combined. Chill for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper and heat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Make 1″ balls with the dough and roll in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until coated. 


Place on cookie sheet with about 2″ between each ball. Bake for exactly 9 minutes in the middle of the oven (only 1 cookie sheet at a time). 



Take them out at 9 minutes even if they don’t seem done. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for 2 more minutes before removing and cooling on a rack. 


Enjoy!


Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cooookies! Did someone say cookies?

I took a day off work today to get some appointments out of the way, and then lo and behold, two of those three appointments got cancelled. Doctors get emergencies? Who knew? Anyhow, I had lots of time to kill and no plans.

I got my shabbat shopping and a Target run out of the way and I still felt like I had endless time. I decided to knock out the shabbat desserts. I first made an apple crisp. Easy peasy, right. But then I had leftover flour, brown sugar, and oats. They are useful to have around, but not in the amounts I had. A cup or two here and there. These leftover ingredients screamed cookies to me. I love a good oatmeal cookie. Always, always with chocolate chips and never with raisins. I also had some peanut butter at the bottom of the jar begging to be folded in to the cookie. Voila! The cookie was born!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Pareve)
Ingredients:

1 cup earth balance or butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 cups oats
2 tbsp. coconut milk or regular milk
3/4 cup peanut butter – creamy or nutty would work
1 + bag of chocolate chips (I had a 1/2 cup or so chocolate chips left in a bag begging to be used)

Preheat the oven to 360.

Cream the butter with the sugars until smooth.

Add the vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs. Beat some more.

Add the rest of the ingredients slowly, one by one. Mix well with an electric beater or mixer.

Drop by rounded spoonful on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for around 8-9 minutes for yummy chewy cookies.

Enjoy!

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Coffee Oreo Ice Cream

coffee-oreo-ice-cream

The title says it all. How could you go wrong with coffee oreo ice cream? It was a dairy holiday, with the weather warming up. Ice cream had to make it on the menu. I first sampled this flavor either at Sebastian Joe’s in Minneapolis, or Max & Mina’s in Queens. Either way, it’s the perfect flavor combo and I was determined to make it my own.

Around 5 years ago, I received this handy dandy Cuisinart ice cream maker as a token of appreciation for doing some product research stuff. I used to do various focus groups and product testing in my “free time.” My love of kitchen appliances brought me this baby. I think I can count on my hands the number of times I have actually used this appliance. It averages out to two times a summer. Making ice cream is so easy. Not necessarily cheaper than buying it though. Still, it’s wonderful when it’s homemade and Shavuot calls for yummy, delicious, homemade ice cream.

Coffee-Oreo Ice Cream
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Ice Cream, Frozen

Ingredients
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • ¼ cup very strong coffee/espresso (ice cold)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extra
  • broken up sandwich cookies (I used Trader Joe’s chocolate Joe Joe’s) – About 20 or so, maybe more.

Instructions
  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, coffee, and espresso powder to combine.
  2. Whisk in the heavy cream and the vanilla.
  3. Pour into the ice cream maker. Turn the machine on.
  4. Let it run a good 20 minutes.
  5. Watch it thicken up and turn into ice cream.
  6. Toss in the cookie pieces. Let it run another 5-10 minutes.
  7. When done, it will be like soft ice cream. Think Carvel. You can enjoy it now, or you can let it freeze and harden a bit more. Enjoy!

coffee-oreo-ice-cream

Hamentashen

Purim is coming. What does that mean to you? To me it is the megillah reading, dressing up in full costume, shalach manot, and of course the 3-cornered delicacy, the hamentash, or the plural – hamentashen. Hamentashen, in Hebrew – Oznei Haman, is a reference to the evil villain of the Jewish holiday of Purim. Haman, the bad man that we drown out with groggers during the Megillah reading, was said to wear 3 cornered hat. So from that, we make the triangular cookies that we call Hamentashen.
I don’t think I have made hamentashen in over 20 years. I am embarassed that I am old enough to be able to reference the events in my life “20 years ago.” I do remember early spring days at kitchen tables cutting out dough circles and forming them into the yummy hamentashen.
Ever since I have had my own kitchen, I have passed hamentashen by as being a job that is too time consuming – too much of a patchka (a bother in Yiddish speak). I don’t like the cakey hamentashen at my local bakery…and my daughter has been begging me to make them, with her as my dutiful assistant. She was wonderful as a chef’s assistant and I am very picky over who I let share some control over the kitchen when I am in it.
I looked over cookbooks to see what looked reasonable. I chose an easy to please recipe from Alphabet Soup, a Jewish cookbook put out by a Solomon Shechter school in Chicago. I pulled out the ingredients and got to work. The ingredient demo pictured below has a typo. I pulled out the baking soda and clicked away, before I realized that I needed baking powder. Oops!

Our hamentash fillings of choice this year were Israeli chocolate spread, and Strawberry Preserves. You can really experiment with a multitude of fillings. Poppy seed (mohn) and prunes (lekvar) are historical favorites. The hipper kosher bakeries are now filling hamentash with chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, and other good sweet stuff.

You will need: 2 sticks of earth balance or butter or transfantastical margarine; 2 eggs, 2 cups of sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla, 4 Tbsp. orange juice, 4 cups of flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, and your choice of fillings.
Mix together the butter/eggs/sugar/vanilla/OJ

Add in the dry ingredients. Mix well. I used a hand beater.

 

 

Get your prep area ready.

Roll out the dough to 1/4″ thickness. You will need extra flour on hand…on the board, on your hands, and on the rolling pan. Cut out circles of dough with a small glass.
Fill the dough circles and pinch dough into triangles around the filling. Place on cookie sheet.

Bake in 375 degree oven until done, around 10-15 minutes.

B’teavon! Chag Sameach!
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