I admit it, I have been guilty of buying processed American cheese for my kids. And I have bought it without giving it too much thought. Then recently, I was provided the opportunity by the Motherhood and Sargento to invite some friends over and participate in a cheese tasting, comparing Sargento’s natural cheese with the processed stuff. I was even provided with a cheese tasting guide which covered Look, Feel, Smell and Taste and some basic facts about the two. What an eye-opener.
On facts alone, we learned a lot about the difference in real and processed cheese. For one thing, some processed cheese is made with emulsifiers and preservatives and sits on a store shelf for months without refrigeration, before being sold… eww. Processed cheese is first cooked into a liquid before being pressed into slices through its plastic packaging. The natural cheese is made only with milk, cheese cultures, enzymes and salts. It is aged naturally and tested by cheese graders to ensure quality. It is cut from a real block of cheese and packaged. It also contains a lot less sodium than the processed variety.
1. Look. The natural cheese had a matte appearance and deeper color while the processed cheese was much more shiny and glossy and fake looking.
2. Touch. The natural cheese went bent would break off with a rougher texture while the processed cheese was pliable and rubbery and could be bent.
3. Smell. The natural cheese we were tasting smelled like what it was sharp cheddar cheese. The processed cheese really didn’t smell like much of anything.
4. Taste. The natural cheese had a depth of flavor and was tasty. The processed cheese tasted salty and flat.
The Sargento Natural cheese also comes pre-packaged and in slices like many of the processed cheeses but it is much healthier and tastier. It also comes in a lot of varieties.
How cute are these leaf pie crust cutters from Williams-Sonoma. They are adorable and so fun! Fall is a huge pie making season for me and these cutters elevate pies to a new level of prettiness. Before these, I have spend much time hand-cutting out leaves from pie dough to top and garnish my pies. These little tools make it so super easy to decorate pies. First of all the leaves are much cuter and more intricate than the ones I fashion by hand. Second it is done in a second. Third how great does a pie look with these. You can cut out just a few to decorate the center, a few more to decorate just around the perimeter, use them for cut outs in your top crust or you can go all out and cut out a bunch and overlap them on top of the pie to create an entire top crust. Try them out – you won’t be disappointed! You get a set of 4 for $18.
I love my immersion blender. It is so handy. I use it to puree applesauce, milkshakes,veggies, soups, etc right in the pot. It is so much easier and less messy than transferring your food to a blender or food processor and then transferring it back every time. The immersion blender gives me decent control of how much I wish to puree what I am making. It is also simpler to wash than all the parts of the food processor. I love to make soups so my immersion blender really gets put to good use. It’s also perfect for emulsifying homemade salad dressings. Williams and Sonoma sells a good one for $129. The Bamix Immersion Blender chops, purees, beats, mixes, blends, stirs and emulsifies. It comes with a whisker, beater, mincer attachments and a beaker. If you never owned one, try it. They are so versatile and just plain handy.
I think beverage servers at parties are great, especially since I tend to mix up a cocktail or 2 beforehand for my guests to enjoy as a featured cocktail of the night. They look attractive, display your beverages of choice beautifully and make serving easy. They are also a handy way to serve a larger quantity of beverage. Personally I think they are much less messy than punch bowls too (but then again I am very clumsy). I saw today that Horchow has this Triple Layer Beverage Server on sale for $99. I like it because it holds 3 distinct beverage options. It won’t take up much room on a buffet, and it’s cute looking. If you don’t need the 3 layers they also have some others that hold varying degrees of liquid. They showcase some beautiful options at every price point, ranging from $35.90 -$390 and currently are offering many of them at a special value price. I have used my Beverage Server for Sangria (which looks so pretty because you can see all the fruit), various punches, even a large batch of margaritas and cucumber mojitos. You can use the a layer of the Triple Layer version to offer your guests a non-alcoholic punch or ice water dressed up with cucumbers or lemons.