Unique Black & White Salt and Pepper Set for R2-D2 Lovers

R2-D2 and R2-Q5 unique salt and pepper shaker set

If you collect salt and pepper shaker sets, and especially if you are an R2-D2 lover, this unique pair is going make your Star Wars friends jealous. Or they might just run out and get one, too.

You could surprise them with this gift because when they see black R2-Q5 and white R2-D2 on your counter, you might need a bribe to avoid mayhem and filching. At least boxed sets are easy to wrap…

I like the fact that they’re washable. No hassles for once. I’ll bet you hate cleaning some fancy ones as much as I do. Here’s to ceramic and simple! Check them out before other fans get there first.

If these are out of stock at Amazon, you can also try ThinkGeek to see if they have R2-D2 and R2-Q5 in stock.

Cool Kitchen Timer For Star Wars Fan Cooks

R2-D2 kitchen timer for Star Wars droid lovers

If you’re here at Cook’s Measure, I’d bet you’re either a cook looking for a cool kitchen timer or shopping for a gift for a Star Wars R2-D2 fan.

And this guy is much more fun than your average kitchen timer. You rotate his head to set the time you want, and then his head rotates around until he signals the done deal. How can an R2 lover not fall in love with that?

Amazon can even gift wrap it for you for the person you’re giving it to. Of course, wink, wink, we wouldn’t say anything if you buy one for yourself, too.

I also like the fact that this is a licensed Star Wars product, so you know it will not be a piece of knock-off junk when you get it home.

If these are out of stock at Amazon, you can also try ThinkGeek to see if they have the R2 Timer in stock.

Awesome Droid Measuring Cups For R2-D2 Lovers

fun R2-D2 measuring cup set for Star Wars droid lovers

If you’re a Star Wars lover like I am, you’ll absolutely wow your friends with these awesome R2-D2 droid measuring cups.

You may not ever use them and just display on your counter because you can’t bear to take poor R2 apart. But he’s definitely a winner in the measuring department. You’ll get all the standard measuring spoon sizes plus the usual ones for dry goods.

It’s amazing how they got all those parts into one small droid. And if you’re looking for Star Wars gifts for a big fan, I think this is a great gift.

all those amazing pieces coming out of a small body

fall in love when you see how many different individual pieces there are in this set

If these are out of stock at Amazon, you can also try ThinkGeek to see if they have R2 in stock.

Can You Cook Baked or Mashed Potatoes in a Slow Cooker?

I love potatoes. All kinds of potatoes. You might even call me an addict. 🙂

My brother-in-law makes the most delicious au gratin potatoes I’ve ever tasted (I’ve got to niggle the recipe out of him). And so I’m always looking for an easier way to make them. So I set out to see if you really could make tasty potatoes in a slow cooker.

Are Slow Cookers Good For Baked Potatoes?

baked potato in jacket with bacon and cheese

Baked Potato in Jacket

At first, I thought it wouldn’t work. I’m so used to either baking them forever in the oven or tossing them in the microwave to make them fast that I never thought about my slow cooker.

But I found out that I was missing out.

A friend introduced me to her favorite recipe for baking potatoes in a slow cooker, and I tried it out.

Although slow cookers aren’t fast, they sure are easy and maintenance-free during cooking. It takes a couple of minutes to prep the bakers, and then toss them in and let them go. No standing around waiting for the microwave to test them for doneness, or tying up your oven just for the potatoes.

What About Mashed Potatoes?

Delicious mashed potatoes with greens in bowl isolated on white

Delicious mashed potatoes

That one had me a bit puzzled, but I was eager to find the answer.

Holiday dinners around here are hectic because my family loves both sweet and mashed potatoes, and they all want both at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And mashed potatoes every time we do roast.

Plus, we need the oven for the turkey and the stove for the gravy and vegetables. There just isn’t enough room in our kitchen to cook more around the stove. As one member in my family says, “This is a two-butt kitchen.” 🙂

So every year we juggle things, and every year we have to leave some dishes in the warming drawer where they don’t always maintain their best texture and flavor.

However, we are a slow cooker family. I had an old and small slow cooker from my Grandma, and then we got one as a gift. Neither were really roomy enough to prepare a large recipe, so this year we bought the Crock Pot slow cooker with the mini-cooker add-on. I love it! And we have a big kitchen island with outlet plugs, so I could even borrow another one from my mom.

And with three different slow cookers on call, my mind has turned to ways to maximize their use. “POTATOES,” I thought. “I can do all the potatoes that way.”

So after a bit of research online, I found a couple of good recipes. They weren’t quite the way we like our mashed potatoes, so I made some modifications to meet my family’s exacting standards, and I can honestly report that mashed potatoes are doable in a slow cooker.

If you’ve got a recipe you want to try, but you’re having issues figuring out cooking time and temperature on your slow cooker, CrockPot has some good conversion charts and cooking times on this page.

Are You Hungry For Slow Cooker Potatoes Yet?

So whatever type of potatoes you love best, I think you can find a solid recipe for them online. Another good place to check is recipe books specifically for slow cooker recipes like the ones here at Amazon

No matter what, happy cooking! And I hope you like our recipes for baked and mashed potatoes to prepare in your slow cooker.

Save Time & Hassle – Easy Slow Cooker Cleanup Tip

I love my slow cooker. Actually, I love my THREE slow cookers.

Yes, I’m an addict. I’ll admit it.

But I’m also a neat freak, and a bit obsessive about easy cleanup after cooking.

Want To Know My Secret Whammy?

Easy-peasy slow cooker liners — I was in heaven from Day 1. If you haven’t used them before, you will be, too. Just pop in the liner, cook, remove the lid to let off steam, and serve with the liner in place. When it’s cool and you’ve removed your meal, pull it out. And Magic — No Mess. Try them out!

If you do have a gummy, messy slow cooker after you’ve finished cooking, here are some useful cleaning tips from CrockPot themselves.

My Recommendation – Try Them Out and Report Back Here

Come back and add your own tips. Tell us all if you liked using slow cooker liners or if you didn’t, and why…

Top 5 Highly-Rated Gold Flatware Sets – Service for 8

We’ve sourced out some incredible gold flatware for you to drool over. Imagine one of these sets proudly displayed on your holiday table for everyone to “ooh” and “aah” over. Your friends and family might even be afraid to “break them in.” Paired with your best china, any one of these sets will add a shine to your holiday table presentation.

All of these sets are rated well above 4.0 stars on Amazon, and all of them except the Lenox ones come with free shipping. And there’s Amazon’s incredible return policy, of course.

With all Top 5, you will receive:

  • 8 salad forks
  • 8 dinner forks
  • 8 dinner knives
  • 8 dinner spoons
  • 8 teaspoons

Each also has gives you some sort of hostess set for additional value. You don’t often see those with smaller sets or inexpensive ones.

Our #1 “Wowser” Pick: Wallace Golden Aegean Weave Flatware

Beautiful gold-accent fine sterling silver flatware with service for 8 plus 6 piece hostess set

This fine sterling silver flatware set comes with golden accents in a gorgeous weave pattern on the base and top of the handle.

You’ll also get a 6-piece Hostess Helper Set which includes:

  • Tablespoon
  • Pierced tablespoon
  • Sugar spoon
  • Butter knife
  • Pie server

What really makes this set stand out for me is that the pieces are made of fine sterling silver rather than sterling silver or stainless steel. Most flatware sets are sterling silver (not quite as high-grade but high-content silver at over 90%) or even stainless steel of varying grades or silver-plated. But this is well-crafted flatware, with a 99.9% silver content, so they’ll make a classy statement on your table.

My other favorite part is definitely the pattern. I love the weave designed into the top and bottom of the handles. Whether you’re after a stunning decorative set or one for formal dinners, you’ll rake in compliments for them. If you have a fancy china pattern or design, sometimes the “simple flatware” patterns don’t look just right. And if you have gold-rimmed china, these gold sets can be stunning. Be sure to take a close look at this one to see if it is a good match.

About the only downside to this set is pricing, even at Amazon. So if you fall in love, be sure to check out other sellers at the “new” price level.

Sometimes the pricing can be significantly better on some sellers, especially when the set has such exceptional value like this one.

But given the price, make sure you’ve chosen a reputable seller.

Right now, besides Amazon itself, only one other seller — Ava and Lucy — is selling this set and they do have a better price. They also have a great 5-star reputation with over 5,800 people providing feedback. I prefer Amazon as the seller myself, but this gives you some extra insight to make the best choice for you.

This isn’t an inexpensive set by price or quality, but if you’re looking for upscale, high-end, fabulous quality flatware, I encourage you to take a look.

Check Amazon Price

Our #2 “Fabulous” Pick: Oneida Golden Juilliard Flatware

Beautiful 24K gold electroplate gold-tip accent flatware with service for 8 plus 8 piece hostess set

Looking for something simpler? Try this 18/10 stainless steel flatware — it comes with 24K gold electroplate and has golden tip accents in a romantic fleur-de-lis pattern. If your china or stemware is trimmed in gold and would look good with an understated flatware pattern, be sure to check out this set from Oneida’s Heirloom Collection.

You’ll also get extra value with a better-than-average 8-piece Hostess Set. It includes:

  • Serving Fork
  • Pierced Serving Spoon
  • Serving Spoon
  • Sugar Spoon
  • Ladle
  • Butter Knife
  • Casserole Spoon
  • Servall (like a combination pie server and larger serving spoon)

I especially appreciate the larger hostess set here, with some pieces that five-piece or six-piece sets sometimes don’t include or they swap for another piece you also need, like a casserole spoon, servall, and ladle.

If you’re looking for a classic pattern that will never go out of style, I believe this will be your icing on the cake for an enviable holiday display. The big thing with formal place settings is that it always comes down to your china design. You want a good match. So check out this pattern if you think it might be a good complement to your china set or stemware and add elegance to each place setting.

Do you want something less expensive than fine sterling silver as the base metal (Wowser #1 above)? Or even sterling silver? Then the 18/10 stainless steel you see here is the next best bet. The metals in this alloy help reduce corrosion, increase durability, and provide a soft sheen that looks similar to silver. (For more technical information, read here.)

The 24K gold electroplate is a thin sheen of 24K gold added to the stainless steel to provide some additional “amazing” to the basic pattern.

For 18/10 stainless steel with gold electroplate, the price is surprisingly reasonable at Amazon. I looked around and Bed, Bath, & Beyond carries the service for 4 but without a hostess set, and the comparative pricing isn’t anywhere as good there. Target and Walmart don’t carry it at all.

So for a quality offering in high-end stainless steel with gold trimming, I like the looks of this one. I think you will, too, if you like the simpler touch.

Check Amazon Price

Amazon also sells this set with service for 8 without the additional hostess items. If you want to go that route, you can find them here. I just find the full 48-piece set to be a much better investment with more value.

Our #3 “Larger Than Life” Pick: Oneida Golden Michelangelo Flatware

Elegant and expansively decorated 18K gold electroplate gold-twined accent flatware with service for 8 plus 6 piece hostess set

This 18/10 stainless flatware comes with 18K gold electroplate and has golden accents twined throughout the handle. It’s an elegant pattern worthy of Michelangelo himself and it’s sure to go well with the fanciest china. This set catches attention the moment you feast your eyes on the table and decorations. And, if you’re big on fancier gold patterning, it’s probably the best set of the five.

You’ll also get a 6-piece Hostess Set which includes:

  • Serving Fork
  • Pierced Serving Spoon
  • Serving Spoon
  • Sugar Spoon
  • Butter Knife
  • Ladle

The 18/10 stainless steel, as I mentioned in the Oneida above, is the best stainless steel choice for your flatware. Unlike the 24K gold electroplate in the Golden Juilliard, this is a step down with 18K gold. My guess is that this is to keep the cost down because the gold plating is more extensive.

As a reviewer put it, “Even more beautiful than the picture, and we’d buy again in a heartbeat.”

With that recommendation, you owe it to yourself to take a look.

Check Amazon Price

Our #4 “Subtle Elegance” Pick: Lenox Eternity Gold Flatware in Box

Subtle decorations with gold electroplate and top/bottom handle banding accent flatware with service for 8 plus 5 piece hostess set

This 18/10 stainless flatware comes with gold electroplate and has two golden bands on the handle. This is a true Lenox quality set. Although the name here (“Eternity Gold”) differs slightly from the set sold on Lenox’s site (“Eternal Gold”), one reviewer confirmed that the difference is mainly a design change for weight, and a slight flattening of the flatware angles. This is sold under the Eternity Gold name (instead of Eternal Gold, which is a slightly different set) only for this 45-piece set.

If you check out Amazon’s comparison chart on this set’s page, you’ll notice the price difference as well. Eternal Gold sold on on Amazon as well as Lenox’s site would cost 2-3 times more respectively, and without the hostess set to boot! Other than the slight difference in weight, as one reviewer said, some of that is apparently because the Eternity Gold is limited to a specific piece count and configuration packaged for retail sale. I suspect that the gold might be a slightly lesser gold quality than 24K like Eternal Gold although I couldn’t confirm that. But from reviewer comments, that doesn’t appear to be an issue affecting the presentation or use of this set.

My guess is that Lenox will charge through the nose for the hostess set for this one or make you buy single pieces. So if you like this 45-piece with service for 8, then you should consider your options here.

If you have gold-rimmed china or gold-banded crystal glassware, this set looks like it will be a beautiful but understated complement to them.

You’ll also get a 5-piece Hostess Set which includes:

  • Serving Fork
  • Pierced Serving Spoon
  • Serving Spoon
  • Sugar Spoon
  • Butter Knife
  • Ladle

One reviewer researched the name, warranty, and other issues with Lenox themselves, and confirmed the packaging and warranty information. This set comes with the Lenox lifetime warranty as part of their Breakage Replacement Program.

As a reviewer put it, “Everything is beautiful. I was afraid they could look barroque but instead this flatware looks elegant. I was concerned also about the weight; however they are not too heavy or too light, and perfect weight for my taste…” (read more reviews here).

If you’re looking for good quality, nice-looking flatware with a reasonable price, be sure to consider this one.

Check Amazon Price

Our #5 “Unique Design” Pick: Mikasa Cameo Gold Flatware

Subtle ridged decorations with gold electroplate and handle banding with tapered design - flatware with service for 8 plus 5 piece hostess set

This 18/10 stainless flatware comes with 24K gold electroplate and has an outer ridging on the tapering handle. If you favor Mikasa and its designs, you’ll like this simple set. For gold flatware designs, this one’s a little different. Both the look of the rolled edge and the tapering lend themselves to an interesting look and feel.

If you have gold-rimmed china or gold-banded crystal glassware with an unsual edge, this might complement them better than complicated designs or overly traditional simple designs.

You’ll also get a 5-piece Hostess Set which includes:

  • Serving Fork
  • Pierced Serving Spoon
  • Serving Spoon
  • Cold Meat Fork
  • Butter Knife
  • Sugar Spoon

As a reviewer put it, “The gift recipient was very pleased with the quality of the flatware set, its simplicity and
beauty as well as the contrasting gold…” (read reviews here).

If you’re looking for high quality, brand-name, nice-looking flatware with a reasonable price, be sure to check this one out further.

Check Amazon Price

Our Final Recommendations — Care and Handling

Most people are aware that fine sterling silver and regular sterling silver flatware require careful handling. But it’s worth repeating when you’re spending a fair bit and wanting them to last.

You should always handwash these pieces with a softer, less-abrasive soap. Dry them right away to avoid spotting, and use a soft chamois or soft cloth to prevent scratching or damage. Also, silver needs to be polished regularly, at least twice a year even if you don’t use it. That will help keep it in top shape for years to come.

While people believe stainless steel is dishwasher safe because it is “stainless,” I strongly believe — just like cooking knives — that it is still a good idea to wash them by hand. Like silver, you should also immediately dry your good flatware. Long experience has taught me that even “stainless” items can spot and corrode in the dishwasher no matter what they say.

And since gold is a softer metal, even in electroplate, it can damage more easily. Not to mention the terrible potential for bending or distorting items put in the dishwasher just because they were pushed against other residents of your dishwasher.

So take a look at some of these if you’re looking for gold flatware with service for eight. They’re gorgeous, with a nice ranging of prices, and a good place to start in your hunt for excellent table settings.