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The Uncommon Life

DIY Gifts that Keep On Giving

November 17, 2011

We love the internet – there’s a treasure trove out there of inspiration.  Here’s what’s caught our eye recently in the world of DIY gifts, a trend we’re totally on board with.

(Image courtesy of Design Boom, from Sabine Marcelis)

Our own Jonathan and Kira tested the Beer Making Kit earlier this summer, and it looks like they aren’t the only ones experimenting with DIY distilling: Design Boom brought to our attention Netherlands artist Sabine Marcelis’ “Housewine,” a beautifully simple and functional display of the wine-making process.

(Image courtesy of My Baking Addiction)

Another recent trend that’s right at home with UncommonGoods is indoor gardening, and now that flu season is upon us, a great way to stay healthy is by adding herbs to your repertoire of recipes. Consider making Jamie of My Baking Addiction’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil Herb Dip. The Dip includes oregano and basil, which can both be grown in our recycled Grow Bottles!

(Image courtesy of Astronomy Today Sky Guide; photo by Jenny Rollo)

While UncommonGoods specializes in gifts that are great for the home, we’ve also got goods that are out of this world – the Planisphere Watch tells the time and maps the night sky.  If you’re interested in DIY astronomy, check out Astronomy Today’s Sky Guide, a handy tool for tracking otherworldly occurrences.


This Just In: Mushroom Kit

October 12, 2011

It can be hard to get kids (and some adults) to try new foods, especially if those foods are kinda funny looking. Mushrooms, for example, are quite delicious, but some folks just aren’t in to fungus.

Those caps can seem a bit strange, plucked from the dirt, packaged in foam, and wrapped up in plastic at the grocery store. But, you don’t have to go to the supermarket to find edible mushrooms. You can actually grow them easily at home, so picky eaters can see from just where their food is coming.

Continue Reading…

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Summer Treats

May 23, 2011

Customer Service representative Meya made some colorful fruit and veggie mango pops with the new Quick Pop Maker, and a recipe she found in Perfect Pops. But will her teething daughter find them as tasty as they are healthy?

1) Product Name: Quick Pop Maker & Perfect Pops

2) Background Research:

Summer’s coming and as a parent to a teething infant, I know the best thing to help sooth them is something cold for them to crush on. So my goal was to find an ice pop recipe that I can make in a jiffy that my teething 8 month old could enjoy as well as the rest of the family.

3) Hypothesis:

I will no longer have to worry that I forgot to pop the teethers in the freezer when the moment hits.

4) Experiment:

My mission: Use the book to find a pop that my whole family will love and with the magic of the Quick Pop Maker create instant ice pops in a flash.

I unpacked, washed, dried and immediately stuck the quick pop maker in the freezer. Then I set out to find the perfect pop recipe. My criteria for my recipe was a pop made of fruits/vegetables, with no added sugar (natural sugars are okay) or salt. A recipe on page 60 caught my interest>: watermelon-beet juice and carrot-apple juice striped pops.

But going over the ingredients I thought, “I must have lost my mind.” Beet juice stains are no joke, and even with the small amount required (2 tbs) I wasn’t willing to risk it. I decided to omit it from the recipe. In the end I also omitted the agave nectar because I couldn’t find any that was pasteurized. I tasted the carrot and apple juice mixture and it really did need something to sweeten it up so I added some mango puree. While it succeeded in sweetening up the mix, it also really changed the color.

Here’s what I did next:

1. Remove Quick Pop Maker from the freezer. Insert sticks and pour about ¾ ounce of 1st mixture or Puree; allow layer to freeze completely.
2. Pour ½ ounce of next mixture or puree into each cavity directly on top of the 1st layer; allow layer to freeze completely.
3. Pour another layer, fill the base up to fill line in each cavity; allow layer to freeze completely.
4. Remove the pops with the Super Tool.

Pretty easy!

5) Results: From start to finish the whole process took about 20 min. I decided to juice or puree fresh fruit, so that added to my time. As did making the striped pops, because I had to wait for each layer to set.

6) Conclusion: I was surprised at Leya. She really loved these popsicles. I took this first picture thinking that I had sometime while she ate her way through the pop.

Little did I know! By the time I texted my mother a picture of Leya eating the pop, she was 2/3 done. As for her sore gums, I had a very happy baby on my hands. So much so that I decided to make her another the very next day (this time it was only an apple-carrot puree). Okay, so I guess I’m not that great at following a recipe but these pops were so good and were quick and easy to make. I can’t wait to try some of the other recipes. If you don’t think your infant can handle the pop stick or you just don’t want the mess, you can always cut a piece off and put it in a mesh feeder.

The Quick Pop Maker is $50 and comes with everything you need to make a batch of pops in just 9 minutes. Pick up a copy of Perfect Pops, $16, for some fun recipes to get you started.

The Uncommon Life

V’reens or Verrines?

September 9, 2010

This French style of cuisine is growing popular among foodies for its ability to bring out not just the taste, but also the texture and color of your ingredients.

What is a verrine? Verrines are layered dishes. Rather than blending or stewing or mixing or baking, when you make a verrine, you layer up all the ingredients.  Verrines give each layer its time to shine, by putting it on display in a special glass.

Last month, Kevin Weeks from NPR did a great piece on the art, science and history of preparing verrines (or v’reens).

A verrine can be an appetizer, an amuse-bouche, a salad, a side dish, a dessert (the most common application) and, I suppose, even a complete meal, with the right combination of ingredients and the right sort of glass.

Verrines are clearly linked to the parfait, a soda-fountain treat popularized in the middle of the last century, as well as other layered dishes, such as the Cobb salad and the English trifle. Verrines, however, are individualized, with a single serving in each glass and yet as carefully arranged as the famous seven-layer salad of Super Bowl Sunday fame.

You might combine — from the bottom up — something green (peas) with something brown (mushroom duxelles) with something golden (sauteed onions) with something white (pureed potatoes). This arrangement also layers — from the bottom up — textures such as slightly mushy peas, grainy duxelles, crunchy onions and silky-smooth potatoes. Each layer provides its own flavors, and all of the flavors, tasted in turn and in combination, bring their own brilliance to the assemblage.

I’m convinced v’reens might be the perfect party dish. They look so complicated, so intricately prepared. But in truth, many verrine recipes are quite simple. Try one the next time you’re headed to a potluck or dinner party. I bet your friends will be oh-la-la-ing over your v’reen creation.

The Uncommon Life

International Foods Week: A Tasty Tagine

September 8, 2010

I was excited when I was asked to give one of our latest products, the ceramic tagine, a trial run.  As someone who enjoys cooking, I’ve always been intrigued by the tagine, but didn’t know too much about it. All I know is that it had a conical top (not sure why) and that it is a really beautiful piece.

Before deciding what to make, I did a little online research about the tagine.  The tagine is the name of the vessel and the name of the food dish you prepare – think “I made a casserole in the casserole.” Turns out, the cone is designed to encourage any steam to come back down into the food to keep it moist – perfect for braising. I was also looking for recipes for vegetarian tagines and saw a similar pattern – lots of veggies, layered in the bottom of the tagine, add spices, oil, liquid – then cook.  Not too complicated.

I decided since it is the best time of year to buy local produce at the market that I would just go and get whatever veggies look the best.  I ended up with tomatoes, okra, eggplant, potatoes, onions, red peppers and zucchini.


When I was ready to begin cooking, Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

International Foods Week: Tasty treats? Czech!

September 7, 2010

This week on the blog we are talking about international foods. Today’s destination? The Czech Republic!

The Czech Republic’s beautiful town of Karlovy Vary is famous for many things, including Wine Wafers – delicious, crispy cookies meant to accompany your favorite wine.  Wine Wafers go as far back as 1640, when they were introduced as a treat for the nobles and visiting upper-class.

The great thing about wine wafers is not only are they a fun, tasty and unique treat to enjoy with wine, but you can also use them to make super easy and delicious cafe and wine bar desserts. So pour yourself a big glass of wine, grab some wine wafers and let’s begin!

Celebration Torte

wine wafers

12 oz. of mixed berries
32 oz. cool whip
24 oz. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
6 Lemon-Vanilla Wine Wafers

Mix half of sour cream with cool whip, add more sour cream to taste.  Spread 3 tablespoons Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Joseph & Joseph Giveaway

August 6, 2010

Congrats to Lindsay, who said, “My favorite thing to make is hearty fall and winter soups. Potato, vegetable, french onion and cauliflower soup. Warm, filling soup … yummy!” She’s winning a set of Elevate kitchen utensils.

And congrats to Amanda, who won the nesting prep bowls. Her favorite meal is, “kabobs! Yum! So simple! So tasty! So easy!”

Thanks to everyone who left a comment! Remember you can subscribe to the Goods via RSS and get a heads up for all our future contests and giveaways.

Happy Friday everyone! In lieu of our usual Friday Scavenger Hunt and in honor of National Inventors month, we’re giving away a set of elevate kitchen utensils and a set of nesting prep bowls from innovative designers Joseph & Joseph!

To enter is easy. All you have to do is leave a comment telling us what your favorite dish to make is. Make sure to leave your email address and name when you submit a comment (Don’t worry, your email address won’t be public – It’s just so that we can contact you.) Also, leave your twitter name if you have one!

Wait there’s more! If you want to triple your chances, tweet your comment to @uncommongoods and leave a comment under the post on our Facebook wall for up to two additional entries. Everything must be posted before 12 noon ET on Sunday. We’ll announce the lucky winners on Monday.

Happy Friday!

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