Sharing our #MyCIO House Party Cooking War Challenge Event

Long ago, I used to host a lot of parties.  We held lavish birthday parties, huge Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings, July 4th pool parties, and regularly participated in brand parties and events.  Then--life got in the way and I had to step back from party hosting.  When I recently had the opportunity to host a Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven party through House Party--I jumped at the chance.  I have a tween and teen daughter--and we immediately saw the perfect opportunity to host a cooking war challenge between their groups of friends--and share the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven with the girls' families as well.  I wanted to share the details of our House Party--and encourage you to check out this innovative kitchen tool!

What is a House Party event?  House Party is a really cool website for those who love to entertain.  House Party members complete a profile--and then apply to host various in-home parties with varying degrees of sponsorships.  We were recently approved to host a Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven party.  We were asked to invite at least 10 guests and host our usual style gathering--featuring the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven in some way.  We were provided a complimentary Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven, some party favors and some party planning resources.

We planned a Cooking War Challenge.  What happens when your daughters are two years apart, attend gifted education programs at the same school--and love competitions?  You host a cooking war between their friend groups, of course!  The girls formed their teams.  The girls were assigned the task of creating an Appetizer, a Main Dish, a Side Dish and a Dessert during a 6 hour party time.  They were required to use a squash of some sort in one of their dishes--and use the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven to prepare one dish.  They were given a "due date" for their lists of recipes so that I could have all of the needed ingredients.

We hosted The Awesome Elsa Cooking Squad...

...a group of 5th grade girls who chose one of our cats as their mascot and namesake..

....and Team Pear Pressure

...a group of 8th grade girls who have had years of school, group project experiences together, love puns, and gave a "shoutout" to their "pearants"....on their team banner.  Pun lovers, I say.

Team Elsa Presented their Menu...
Deviled Eggs 
Spinach and Mushroom Quiche
Grilled Zucchini and Veggie Skewers
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Team Pear Pressure Presented their Menu...
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Homemade Pizza
Caesar Salad

We set up tables of spices and dry ingredients...

 ...and cooking tools and utensils

Each team was responsible for hand-washing dishes and utensils as they used them--and for returning un-needed items to the "community" table of supplies--and everyone had access to the refrigerated supplies.

During nearly 6 full hours of cooking--

Team Elsa seemed to cook in a constant state of chaos.  All four dishes were in various states of preparation--and the team was working on additional sauces, toppings, and experimental offerings as extras to their menu.  I was 100% convinced that these girls would never finish on time.  I was wrong.  Not only did they finish nearly an hour before the other team--they prepared three extra final dishes for their presentation table!

Team Pear Pressure was neat, methodical and organized.  They prepared one dish at a time.  They cleaned meticulously between dishes--they had a dedicated dish washer--and they always knew who was doing what....but, they barely finished their presentation table by the judging time limit.

...and each team met the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven...

You may read my review of the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven... here...

You may also buy the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven via Amazon...

Team Elsa presented their cooking challenge table...

Team Pear Pressure presented their table...

Parents returned to sample the dishes and cast votes for the party winners...

Who won our 2016 Winter Cooking War Challenge? Team Elsa won the dessert category with their Pineapple Upside Down Cake. ....but, Team Pear Pressure took the remaining categories and the overall prize for the day! (Though--in all fairness--there may have been some judging bias as only one parent judge had a child on the Team Elsa Team! Team Elsa was sadly underrepresented at the judging!)

Each participant was rewarded with silver cups, candy and/or cookbooks--depending on their level of "win" in the competition.

I am already looking forward to a summer cooking war challenge with these girls!  They were wonderful--and I'm pretty sure I had just as much fun as they did at this party!

Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven Review

I practically live in the kitchen in my little corner of the world. My spice cabinet overflows--and I have a massive assortment of kitchen gadgets and tools--and I wouldn't have it any other way. I recently had the opportunity to host a House Party featuring the new Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven. I had never used an induction oven before--but, it has been on my wishlist for some time now. What did I think of the Panasonic Counterop Induction oven?  

What is an induction oven? Okay.  This countertop cooking device combines direct induction cooking and instant double-infrared heating yielding fast & flavorful one-pan meals.  Sources say that induction cooking allows for better cooking precision, faster cooking times due to efficiency and better flavor development.   Essentially, this oven combines electromagnetic technology and infared technology in one unit.

What does the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven offer home cooks?  The unit claims to cook a chicken and vegetable dinner in under 30 minutes--in one pan.  The device has pre-set cooking modes for a variety of foods using grilling, broiling and baking techniques. The heavy-duty, dishwasher-safe grill pan radiates conducted heat from the center to edges to simultaneously cook foods requiring different heating times. While cooking, the oven's interior circulates the natural flavors released by foods to heighten the savory taste of umami—the Japanese word for deliciousness.

Why did I want the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven?   I cook chicken and fresh vegetables for dinner each and every week.  I use a combination of broiling and oven roasting.  Since the chicken generally requires 40 minutes and the vegetables need nearly an hour--and both must be cooked separately due to variations in temperature--my chicken and veggie dinner takes a couple of hours to prepare.   When I saw that the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven promised to cook chicken and vegetables simultaneously in 30 minutes--it certainly had my interest.

I was also interested in the oven's grilling capabilities.  I love grilled steak and chicken--but, in Ohio, our outdoor grilling season is limited--and indoor grilling doesn't produce the same results for me.  I hoped to be impressed by the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven. 

What did I think of the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven?  During our HouseParty--we used the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven to grill vegetable skewers and to bake a homemade pizza.  Since the party--I have used the oven to prepare everything from my stand-by, chicken and vegetable dinner to grilled shrimp and grilled steak.  Let me break down my pros and cons for you--but, let me tell you that, overall, I love the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven.  

Pros of the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven.

The unit is very versatile.  Intially, I saw the price tag of the oven and did a double take.Then, I realized that I'm actually gaining multiple kitchen tools in one unit.  I have an extra oven, an extra broiler, and an indoor grill--and all of the functions work wonderfully for my needs.

The Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven saves time.  It really can cook a chicken and vegetable dinner in one pan in about 30 minutes--and the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are not overcooked.    I cut an hour off my evening dinner prep by using this oven--and I was still able to use my usual seasonings and recipes on both the chicken and the vegetables.

I have a cooler kitchen.  I mean this purely from a temperature standpoint--although this oven is pretty cool from a personality standpoint as well.  Literally, the device does not radiate a lot of external heat--unlike broiling chicken or oven roasting vegetables.  The top of the oven is hot to the touch--but, my kitchen doesn't turn into a 90 degree inferno for an hour to two!

The food turns out great.  During our House Party cooking party--we actually baked one homemade pizza in the traditional oven and the second pizza in the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven--and the one from the Induction oven was preferred hands down.  My husband has complimented this week's chicken breasts as some of the juiciest, most flavorful pieces since the summer's grilling.  And, while the thought of ruining a pound of fresh shrimp made me cringe--I couldn't have grilled it more precisely myself than the oven did.

Clean up is pretty easy.  I hate dishes.  Especially when I am facing them at 8 or 9 pm after a busy day.   If you use the provided grill pan--clean up is a breeze.  If you bring in other approved pans--you may find that the method still yields less baked-on, cooked-on food.  This week, I was able to prepare everything directly on the grill pan--and clean up was super easy.

The recipe book and instruction guide create a great launching point.  While the recipe book and the instruction booklet are certainly not all-inclusive--they offer a great, random sampling of popular and common food choices to get users started.  

Cons of the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven.  

While I love this oven--there are a few drawbacks.

The unit requires a countertop space for its home.  My kitchen is tiny--and counter space is at a premium.   I had to get creative in finding a permanent space for the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven.  I'm not sure if DIY'ers  could mount it under cabinets according to its clearance specifications--but, I expect most users will need a dedicated space for it.

The Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven is a little pricey--but..  The kitchen gadget is a little expensive--but, it really does combine several kitchen tools into one unit.  My family entertains a lot--and we have increased those parties significantly in the past couple of years.  There are times that I simply need two ovens--or host a winter party that would benefit from grilled salmon or such.  When you consider the convenience, time saving benefits, and versatility--the price may become less of a con.

It doesn't have a clock...I don't think.  Okay--this one may sound silly--but, if leave the device plugged into an electrical outlet--it displays a lonely little 0 on its display panel that drives me crazy.  Really, I should probably unplug any device that I'm not using--and it should have a blank display panel anyway--but, I have it set up to plug into a rather inconvenient outlet..and I would probably be inclined to leave it plugged in between uses for convenience sake.  However; I've learned to unplug it after every use so that I'm not met by a distracting zero upon entering the kitchen!

The Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven cooks for four or fewer.  Often, I cook for 10 or 12--and that requires multiple batches in this oven.  I also often cook for multiple meals at one time.  I wish the oven had a slightly larger capacity--but, then, I would be faced with needing a larger storage space as well--so that's sort of a no-win situation.
Research the Safety for Yourself.  The former chemist/environmental engineer in me looks for health and safety risks in everything--so, I wondered how safe the induction cooking process is for the long haul.  Because that's what I do.  That's how I worry.  Most of what I read tells me that this method doesn't have the risks of traditional gas cooking or char-grilling or broiling.  Do your own research into induction and infrared cooking--but, be sure to compare those findings with your current cooking method's risks as well!

Would I recommend the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven?  I learned to cook from a Depression-era-born grandmother who never seemed to have most of the tools she needed to work with.  I don't always buy the latest and greatest, "bell and whistle" loaded devices.  Having said that--if I were planning to splurge on a new kitchen tool--this would be the one.  I have used this oven every day for the past week. I don't use anything with that frequency.  It saves me time and I get great results--and I can use my usual oven/grill/broiler recipes without issue.  I love this thing--and I am not one to jump on the latest trend.  My evenings are packed with activities--and this oven can really simplify my dinners to one pan creations--in less than an hour for most of them.  I would certainly recommend this for busy, home cooks seeking to prepare home cooked meals in less time with easier cleanup.

Buy a Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven

Learn more about the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven.

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Disclosure:  I was a HouseParty host and I received a Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven to use in my kitchen.  All opinions are my own and I was not asked to provide a review. 

Encouraging Women to Support Each Other with Faith

Womens empowerment groups are an outstanding way for women to connect with others with similar lives and a need for comfort and suggestions as to how to overcome their problems. The groups are a wonderful way to share the goodness of God, who is available for us in good times and hard times and is also always there to hold our hands and comfort us in times of need.

Spreading God's Message of Understanding and Love.  Your church can be shown how to connect with God and women who are anxious to find support, love and friendship. Those women will be happy to come to a welcoming environment where they can let down their barriers, open up about the many struggles they face, and listen to how those problems can be handled in a peaceful way.

Tea Parties.  A tea party held at a local women's group meeting or in a shelter gives members a chance to sip tea and feel comfortable opening up to others. Conversations can be started that touch on the problems that women often face in their lives, discussions can be extremely helpful and enlightening, and answers can hopefully be found for those with overwhelming problems.

Speaking Engagements. If you are located in Seattle, Washington, or the surrounding area, Courageous Women Ministries is the place to go for a variety of reasons including the encouragement of women to love and support one another and, at the same time, develop a strong relationship with God in their daily lives. It is headed by Vickie Hoefer, an inspiring female Christian speaker who gives talks at women’s organizations throughout the area.

Vickie's speaking engagements are geared towards married couples, single people, and families who have children with special needs. She emphasizes the importance of never giving up and allowing God to take over to guide through any suffering and lead to a place of contentment, understanding, and happiness. Vickie also hosts a support group for women who have chronic illnesses as well as The Rain Foundation that connects disabled children with horses.

Join in with other women to make life better for everyone.


Silence Interrupted by Sania Shaikh Young Adult Book Spotlight

I love it when I am able to feature new authors as they release first books. I especially enjoy these spotlights when the author is seeing those first works published at a young age. The first book from Sania Shaikh, Silence Interrupted, caught my interest as the mother of tweens/teens/young adults. Then, I realized that Shaikh is a teen herself. I'm pleased to spotlight this young author and her first novel today.

I am sharing this spotlight as part of an iRead Book Tour. All opinions are my own.

Quick Summary of Silence Interrupted by Sania Shaikh. Two months before Troye Saavedra’s senior year of high school, his father’s drinking problem skyrockets. When Troye’s parents make an impulsive move to Georgia in order to “help” him finish high school on a positive note, he is forced to leave behind everything he knows. Things couldn’t get worse for Troye. That is, until he meets three enigmatic teenagers: Adelaide, an independent violinist with radical ideas; Zaidan, fiercely loyal and always funny; and Arabella, a girl who harbors secret struggles. Together, the four friends try to pick up the jagged pieces of their lives without getting hurt themselves. An insightful tale of perseverance, Silence Interrupted is a young adult novel about the beauty and peril of traversing the world as a teenager.

Buy the Book:  Amazon

Meet the Author:

Sania Shaikh is a junior at Cambridge High School. Inspired to write from a young age, she worked on Silence Interrupted, her debut novel, starting in eighth grade.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Bird Nesting: What is it? Does it work?

Divorce is often postponed or avoided altogether when spouses consider the toll it may take on their children. Without speaking to a competent Michigan divorce lawyer, parents may think the best decision is just to stay in an unhappy marriage and tough it out… for the kids’ sake, of course. Little do they know how much damage they’re causing in the process. The truth is kids are resilient, and unless you keep your family completely secluded they likely have at least a few friends who have gone through a divorce. Not all parents can maintain a healthy relationship after the marriage ends and, let’s face it, not all should. However, families who can work together without issue, see the necessity of focusing on their children’s needs in this intense emotional time, and have the financial flexibility needed to participate in this option should consider bird nesting. But what in the world is that and how does it work?

What Is Bird Nesting?  There are many types of co-parenting or joint custody arrangements you can consider during your Michigan divorce. Bird nesting is one of them. Although this type of co-parenting arrangement isn’t common yet, many parents who can remain civil on a consistent basis post-divorce and have the mental capacity to put their children first do see the benefits of the arrangement have opted to try the method. It is not mandated or even suggested by the court system, however, due to its high-structured nature and financial requirements so it must be requested by both parents during the divorce proceedings.
How Does Bird Nesting Work?  Most co-parenting options allow both parents to maintain separate housing as the children float back and forth from one household to the other. Bird nesting is a bit different. Imagine an actual bird’s nest. After the offspring are hatched, they remain in the nest as the parents flit off to gather twigs, berries, moss, and sustenance needed as the baby birds grow into fledglings. At no time are the birds removed from the nest until they are ready for flight.

Such is the case in bird nesting. In this type of co-parenting system, three households are maintained: one for each parent and a separate one for the children. The kids maintain their normal lives: they continue going to school, participating in the activities they love, and hang out with the friends they’ve developed over the years. The children alone in their household, but the parents are never together in it, either. As one parent moves in to take care of the kids, the other goes back to their own residence. That parent then relieves the other when it’s their custodial time. Bird nesting should only be considered for parents who live locally, have the financial freedom to accept the terms, and are emotionally stable enough together to focus solely on the ongoing needs of their children.

Does This Really Work Long-Term?  Those who truly understand how this co-parenting option works and have the ability to do it can do wonders with it. It’s definitely not for everyone. This is a child-centric option to the extreme where both parents maintain separate homes outside of the main household. It offers more security to the children since they don’t have to remove and replace their toys, bedding, homework, or clothes from one home to another. But it requires a great amount of civility, respect, and patience from both parents.

Bird nesting is expensive since three households must be maintained. However, parents often have an easier time relocating temporarily to another household than the children do. This co-parenting system encourages universal house rules that are to be mandated and followed by both parents simultaneously. There are some issues bird nesting does not take into consideration, such as what might happen if one or both parents begin seeing other people, but welcome to the world of divorce. Bird nesting certainly is not for every situation, but if you feel it could fit yours be sure to mention it as an option to your Michigan divorce attorney.