Friday, April 3, 2009

DIY hot chocolate

When there's snow on the ground, I practically live on hot chocolate. However, I'm not a big fan of most of the mixes. They're just not as smooth as hot chocolate made from the real thing. Real hot chocolate is more work, of course, you have to melt chocolate, mix in your milk, and froth the drink. Firebox has a Hot Choctail Maker on sale, though, that can do all that, and more.

The Hot Choctail Maker is a blender combined with a coffee pot, with a few extra features added on for good measure. You pour in your favorite chocolate, milk, and other tasty treats, heat things up so that the chocolate melts, and blend it all together. Just think, you can make your own dark chocolate drink with a touch of Irish cream for those really cold nights--or mix up around of hot chocolate drinks for the children. By flipping one switch, the Hot Choctail Maker can even mix cold drinks.

It's easy to clean up the Hot Choctail Maker, and it even has a convenient tap for dispensing your drinks to cups--rather than attempting to pour hot liquids. That tap can come in handy if you have a kitchen full of children ready to serve themselves.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

You can mash potato and do the twist

Don't tell my kids, but it turns out that some people make mashed potatoes by actually mashing potatoes. My children, like all good children, have been brought up to believe that mashed potatoes come from flakes in a box. Add water, and like magic, they grow up to be a beautiful (if a bit bland) "close approximation of mashed potatoes."

Right. So, anyway, if your children have learned that there is another way, you may want to look into spudnik, an innovative masher from ?utensil, a brand created by high-tech design studio And Design to bring to life its own kitchen gadgets.

With spudnik, you use a rolling, rotating motion instead of the typical pounding, to quickly and efficiently mash your potatoes. The idea is that you'll use significantly less effort, and get better results. And, you can also leave the funky piece out on the counter as a conversation starter.

In addition to the regular version, spudnik comes in the lovely limited-edition colors featured here. You may have to head over to the U.K. to get yours--they're about ?8 there. Or, put your Google skills to work and find one a little closer to home.

Need some laptop advices? Are you looking for USB resources ?

Electric vegetable peeler

My family loves mashed potatoes. When the whole family gets together for the holidays, we have to cook up 10 pounds of potatoes to make sure there's enough to go around. That adds up to a whole bag of potatoes to peel. This year, though, I have a secret weapon: the Presto Peel-A-Meal Electric Peeler.

This little gadget is easy to use. All you need to do is drop in your potatoes, snap on the cover, and turn on the power. It automatically peels the potatoes with no further help. Once you can see that your potato is peel-free through the clear cover, you can move on to the next potato. The Peel-A-Meal can handle other produce, as well: it peels apples with no problems and even has a salad spinner attachment that can quickly dry lettuce and other leafy vegetables. No mess--and no more accidentally peeling your knuckle, either.

The bowl and peeling disc--the area in which all the mess occurs--are both dishwasher safe, and the base can be wiped clean. The Peel-A-Meal is priced at $34.99.

Healthy lunch, health lunch box

Most days I can't remember how many servings of fruit I'm supposed to have, let alone the correct serving size. I don't have a food pyramid poster handy and, as much as I'd like to make sure I'm eating all my food groups in the correct proportions, it's not particularly easy to determine just what should be in a healthy meal. The Pyramid Lunch Box simplifies matters. Designed by Li Jianye from Yanko Design, the Pyramid Lunch Box is a triangle divided into three compartments of varying size. The largest is meant to hold bread and other carbohydrates--the foods that the food pyramid suggests we should eat the most of. A slightly smaller compartment is for fruits and vegetables and the smallest is for meat and other proteins. No compartment for sweets, I'm afraid. Not only does the Pyramid Lunch Box help you plan your meal to make sure that you're including items from all the necessary food groups, the compartments are also sized to match serving requirements, helping to keep portion size under control. The Pyramid Lunch Box has a matching triangular lid. While I do think that the Pyramid Lunch Box is a perfect tool for packing a lunch, I'm not so sure I'd want to eat out of it: I like mixing up my grains, vegetables and proteins.

Use a gun in the kitche?

I'm a big fan of spices and seasonings: they can really change a dish from bland to amazing. I like to have fun with my spices, though, and I think the Spice Gun is just the ticket. A Chinese designer, Zhu Fei, came up with the idea of the Spice Gun: instead of shaking out your preferred spice, this gadget 'shoots' it out, using compressed air to push seasonings out of the gun.

There are three barrels in the Spice Gun, allowing you to load it up with the spices of your choice--you can change up your ammo by spinning the barrel. The gun only shoots dried spices, and it looks as if ground herbs are easier to load.

While the Spice Gun was created as a fun twist on the seasoning shaker, I've already thought of a few practical applications. When I'm cooking my Thanksgiving turkey, for instance, I like to put some spice on the inside of the bird. I usually wind up using my hands because I'm worried about getting my spice shakers dirty. However, if I could just shoot the spices into the cavity, I don't think there would be near as much mess.

Electric wine opener

I have a hard time with most corkscrews. I can generally get a wine bottle open without mishap, but it always feels like I have to do a lot of work for only a little result. With the Oster Inspire Wine Opener, however, I can get the cork out and the party started in a matter of seconds. This bottle opener even includes a foil cutter to remove seals.

The reason the Oster Inspire Wine Opener is so good at speeding up the process is the fact that it's an electric opener. It's cordless--the wine opener comes with a recharging station--and it just pops corks out with a touch of a button. This wine opener can handle big parties, as well. If you start with a full charge, you can open up to 30 bottles before you need to recharge.

One of the real benefits of this bottle opener is how easily it fits in my hand. It's also designed to fit all traditional wine bottles--I haven't seen too many nontraditional wine bottles, so I'm confident this bottle opener can handle any wine I plan to buy. After all the pain and pulling of traditional bottle openers, an ergonomically designed grip is a relief. The Oster Inspire Wine Opener retails for $27.99.

The water filtration system

Everybody loves water. In fact, it's one of those things that you pretty much need to love. Except, there are those few people who don't like "the taste" or find it "boring". (Yes, you know who you are). Regardless, for the rest of us "normal" folk, we are left to decide between tap, filtered, bottled, or delivery (even bigger bottles).

Municipal water is regulated by the EPA and is held to a stringent set of standards. (Bottled water, FYI, is safeguarded by the FDA). However, many people opt to add an extra level of purification and choose to filter the stuff that comes out of the tap.

The Cuisinart Cleanwater Countertop Filtration System is an easy and convenient way to keep filtered water on hand. The reservoir holds two gallons of water. The filter has the ability to remove contaminants such as chlorine, mercury, and lead for up to 80 gallons. Two spigots deliver hot, cold, or room temperature water at the press of a button.

The filtration system will be available on January 23, 2009 at Sur La Table and will cost $169.00.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A cool fridge

There are some places an LCD screen makes no sense, like on a vent hood. But there are other places where the inclusion of an LCD screen is so natural that it practically seems obvious once you see it. Like on the fridge.

Samsung isn't the only one to come up with this idea, but it is a nice addition to the company's new French door fridge, announced on November 3. The RFG299 has a 7-inch LCD screen just above the ice and water dispenser. The screen offers one-touch access to calendars, schedules, showcase photos, nutrition facts, and unit conversions, as well as controlling the fridge temperature and monitoring the water filter status.

In other words, you can clear off all the artwork, invitations, photos, and sticky notes all over your fridge and enjoy the sleek look of, well, a clean fridge front. (Hint: Take snapshots of your to-dos and kids' artwork and incorporate them into the photo slide show.)

Although the fridge fits in a standard footprint, it offers 28.5 cubic feet of internal storage; that's the industry's largest. By using high-rate urethane insulation technology, the company was able to reduce the refrigerator walls from 2.04 inches to 1.38 inches, leaving you with an extra 3.5 cubic feet for your favorite foods.

Interior LED lighting lets you see clearly, and the fridge and freezer sections are cooled separately to prevent odors from spreading. The fridge comes in stainless steel and retails for about $3,100.

My favorite knife block

I've always thought that the scariest part of the circus was the knife thrower. It's so easy to imagine the knife thrower's assistant going home minus an ear--but that isn't a worry for the little guy in the middle of Throwzini's Knife Block. This knife block really does spin, making putting away your cutlery a little more exciting. Luckily, you can get the thrill of the knife thrower's wheel without the worry that goes with the full-size version.

The block itself is handcrafted from wood, with a small red figure--or target--in the center. The five stainless steel professional chef knives that accompany the block are held in place with magnets in their individual protective sheaths. It's built solidly to guarantee that, while your knives might get a thrill from spinning, you won't get any unpleasant surprises. The knives included with the block are described as "razor sharp" so the designers made safety a priority.

Throwzini's Knife Block was designed by Urban Trend, a consumer products company with a flair for the dramatic. It retails for $99.95, a small price to pay if you have some frustrated ambitions as a knife thrower yourself.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Precision Control for your Pancakes

I like a little precision when I cook: I like being sure that my chicken reaches the 165 degrees Fahrenheit that guarantees I won't have any problems after dinner. Being precise is a lot easier if you know what temperature you're dealing with. ThinkGeek's Digital Thermometer Pan can provide that information. The pan itself is a normal nonstick skillet on the outside, but it has a thermometer on the inside and a digital readout in the handle.

The thermometer has some basic controls: it can be set to notify you when dinner reaches that perfect temperature and it can give you the temperature in either Fahrenheit or Celsius. The skillet is thick-gauge stainless steel and works just fine on any range (gas, electric, induction). It has a 7.8-inch diameter, perfect for pancakes. The Digital Thermometer Pan is even dishwasher safe, as long as you remove the digital readout, which simply pops out.

The Digital Thermometer Pan is priced at $49.99. I have to admit that having a thermometer directly on a pan does simplify matters. It makes cooking dishes that have specific heat requirements so much easier when you don't have to fumble around with external thermometers.

A 1950s-style refrigerated vending machine

Anyone can open the fridge and grab a soda. And even the minifridge under the bar doesn't have quite the cachet it used to. So what's the solution, if you'd like something that sets your kitchen apart from the ordinary?

How about this 1950s-style refrigerated vending machine from Nostalgia Electric? With this in your kitchen, you can serve drinks in real style.

The fridge loads easily--just open the front door and pack in up to 18 cans of your favorite soda. When you push the button under your beverage of choice, the can rolls to the bottom for quick retrieval. Refrigeration keeps your cola icy cold for that store-bought feeling.

The machine isn't full size, so it should fit in your space. It's about 12 inches wide, less than a foot deep, and just over 2 feet tall. Pricing for the machine varies online--you can find it anywhere from $139 plus shipping to $199 with free ground shipping.

If you're looking for a creative gift idea, this vending machine could bring (cold) cheer to someone on your holiday list.

Automatic Bread Maker

Bread makers certainly make baking easier. You can have the pleasure of freshly baked bread without hardly any work. Emeril Lagasse, the well-known chef, has taken the bread maker a step further with the Emerilware Automatic Bread Maker. Not only can this bread maker produce salt-free and gluten-free breads, but it can also make pasta, cakes, and even jams.

The Emerilware Automatic Bread Maker has settings for just about everything: you can delay the start of the baking process, specify just how crusty you want your bread, and even run an express cycle to have fresh-baked bread in less than an hour and a half. This bread maker also comes with a whole list of tools beyond the actual machine: a bread knife, two nonstick baguette baking trays, a baguette baking rack, a baker's brush, a removable bread pan, a finishing blade, a graduated beaker, a double measuring spoon, a hook tool, and a recipe book. The machine is easy to take apart, making for a very simple clean up process.

The Emerilware Automatic Bread Maker is priced at $159.90, which is in line with most bread makers. But very few bread makers come with as many bells and whistles as the Emerilware Automatic Bread Maker--and they certainly don't come with any of the extra tools.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Easy peel potatos

Whoever came up with this idea must really hate potato skins. To create a device so committed to the removal of skins from potatoes, one must truly hold a disdain for them. Perhaps that person would also be a fan of this dedicated apple peeler.

As a fan of a more rustic style of cooking, I personally opt to leave the potatoes in their jackets when boiling up a batch of mashed. It's not just the fact that I don't have to deal with the dreaded potato peeler, but the flavor and texture of potato skins is something I feel adds to the overall dish. All that being said, there are times when potatoes in their skins just won't do. For those who really, really hate potato skins, this device may be just for you.

Operated by either the included AC adapter or by 4 AA batteries from your stash, the Rotato Express works by spinning the inserted potato around a stationary blade. The skin is removed in an even, consistent fashion, so I suppose this gizmo actually does more than one thing. By taking the peel and deep-frying it, you could have yourself a tasty (and crunchy) treat to eat with your mashed potatoes.

Keeping the drinks cool and the mood warm.

Mood lighting is important in any situation. However, when a bottle of wine is opened the need is even more pronounced. It just calls for having the lights down low and some pleasant tunes on the hi-fi. Of course some friendly company is an agreeable accompaniment too.

But what of the times when the lights just aren't right? Too low or too bright, sometimes it's tricky to set the proper mood.

Enter the Drink Light Bottle Cooler. Or rather, turn it on.

This combination designed by Jorge Najera takes the lowly ice bucket and transforms it into something special. Weighing in at about 13 pounds and reaching up to about 2 1/2 feet, the freestanding ice bucket makes a great piece to have set up anywhere in the room. Just watch out for that power cable as it does, after all, light up.

In case you haven't noticed, the Drink Light Bottle Cooler is from across the pond. But don't let that stop you. If you have more than $400 (?274.99) to spend, you can get it shipped right on over. Of course at that price money might be an issue, so you may want to opt for the old-fashioned ice bucket and a candle instead.

NuCool technology refrigerator

It's nice when you can buy something you want and get something that makes you feel good about yourself, too. If you're in the market for a compact fridge to fit in a small space--a bar, a dorm room, or an office, for example--consider a coolant-free 1.7 cubic foot fridge featuring Haier America's NuCool technology.

NuCool is a new technology that lets your compact fridge run as low as 37 degrees (colder than past refrigerant-free models allowed). So the only green you'll see will be the eco-friendly kind, not the disgusting mold-in-the-back-of-the-fridge kind. NuCool doesn't use a compressor and runs quietly--and it does it all with ultralow power consumption.

You can find the compact fridge in white or black. It's lightweight and easy to move and can store 2-liter soda bottles. The door can open right or left, and the adjustable thermostat and auto-defrost features will keep all your foods at the proper temperature. The fridge retails for less than $100, which makes it an affordable gift for the college student in your life.

'Stirr' - Electric Whisk

When I was little, my grandmother would often draft me to help her in the kitchen. Invariably, she would hand me a whisk, position me at the stove, and instruct me to keep stirring no matter what. Whether there was gravy, pudding, or something else in the pan, she could always tell if I stopped stirring because of the lumps or a sticky mess on the bottom of the pan.

I've found a better option for the constant stirring gravy requires, though: the Stirr is an hands-free whisk that never gets tired or bored. Just set it in a pan and let it whisk your sauces. It doesn't need to be held or adjusted once you've set it up.

The whisk is stainless steel with heat-resistant silicone legs. It's powered by four AA batteries, which come with the Stirr: all you have to do is set it in the pan and turn it on. There are no worries about cords winding up somewhere they aren't supposed to, either. The Stirr is sized for a medium saucepan. Unfortunately, it works less than ideally in much smaller or much larger pans. The automatic whisk is priced at about $23 and is offered exclusively by Lakeland.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Make wine in my kitchen

This is no "bathtub gin wine" we're talking about here. WinePod has put together an impressive product designed to help budding enthusiasts take advantage of their passion for wine. Add grapes and yeast, follow some directions, (or along in the community) and you are on your way.

The Garagiste is similar to the Classic WinePod in that it produces four cases of wine, but the price is significantly lower which should create more interest in the budget minded. While the Classic sells for $4,499, the new model is available for only $1,999. The makers, ProVina, are able to do this by removing some of the high-end features such as "USB connectivity" and a "programmable fermentation curve" that are found on the more feature-rich original model. The basic winemaking needs are all still here: all in one unit that combines fermenting, pressing, and short-term aging.

For those so inclined with the space and the time, the new entry-level winemaking system provides for a not entirely outrageous entry point into wine making. Certainly, with the support of the included winemaking software and the Web community, you will be producing good quality wines in no time. At least better than some of the other varietals out there

Enjoy a traditional campfire treat anytime at home!

This S'mores Maker lets you bypass the campfires--and the risk of blackened marshmallows--to make the sweet sandwiches in your microwave. Just fill the back reservoir with water, which is apparently the secret to even heating. Pile on the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows, and zap for 30 seconds.

Of course, anyone who's microwaved a Peep knows that marshmallows tend to shape-shift during cooking, so this gadget incorporates two arms to hold your s'mores in place. Four nonslip feet on the bottom keep it from sliding around on the turntable.

Just 10 bucks buys you a little taste memory of summer nights, even in the midst of winter. Which leaves me with just one question: are we also obliged to tell ghost stories while gathered around the microwave?

Monday, March 16, 2009

I love corn popper

If you're exhausted from preparing the Thanksgiving feast and need a break from working your way through the leftovers, step away from it all and just enjoy something simple and easy. Don't worry, you have the days ahead to work your way through all those leftovers; they will still be there. Whether you are burnt out from shopping, or stuffed from stuffing, take a moment to sit back and let the microwave do all the work.

As we all know, there are a lot of microwave popcorn varieties available. Options range from the familiar, such as kettle corn and caramel to the somewhat mysterious flavor "movie theater butter." (We all know what it tastes like, but just what is it?) Regardless of what flavor you choose, it's predetermined without any customization available to you while it is popping. Not that that's a bad thing, but for those that wish for convenience and control there is another way.

The Microwave Popcorn Popper from Catamount is made of microwave-safe borosilicate glass and has a 2.5-quart capacity. The best part is that it comes with a mesh top, which lets you simply place a pad of butter on top. As the popcorn pops, the butter melts and you have popcorn flavored exactly the way you want. If you still can't pull yourself away from those Thanksgiving leftovers, you can always try inventing a new flavor. Who knows? Maybe the next great popcorn flavor will be gravy.

Happy kitchen

When was the last time you had cotton candy? In my case, I'd have to travel back to the early parts of my teenage years to reminisce about the pink and blue spun sugar treat, but if you're still a practicing fan, chances are that you still haven't had it since summer.

If you can't brave the winter chill without your cotton candy fix, then maybe you should consider putting this Tabletop Cotton Candy Maker on your holiday wish list. It spins ordinary table sugar into the cotton confection we know and love so well, and can be used by all of your house guests this season, no matter how old or young they are.

The machine works in a manner similar to its larger counterparts: adding sugar to the heating chamber liquefies it, and then it is shaped into long strands that bind together to create the cottony fluff. These can be collected on a chopstick or straw and eaten as-is or wrapped up for later. You can also add food coloring if you want theme park authenticity.

The Tabletop Cotton Candy Machine can be dismantled for easy cleaning, and it includes a handy scoop so that you know how much sugar you should add. If you want to give someone this sugar-spinner, you can order one from the Hammacher Schlemmer Web site for $69.95.

Green your kithcen

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry when my friends tell me they just spent $7 for a package of "fresh" basil. Me, I just head to the backyard with my kitchen scissors and cut off a handful of leaves. The seeds I planted about a year ago cost me 89 cents. The pot was $1, and the soil was about $3. So for less than the cost of a single package, I've got myself a permanent supply of truly fresh herbs.

But I live in Houston, where year round gardening is no problem. You might live somewhere with actual seasons, somewhere where 65 degrees is not considered cold enough to leave you bundled up in blankets, as I am right now.

So you might be interested in the Prepara Power Plant Mini soilless indoor garden. If you have a kitchen window that gets good light, set the container on the sill and let air, nutrients, and water do the trick. You can use any seeds with the Power Plant, and if your first garden goes well, you can upgrade to the Pro size for more growing options.

The low-maintenance system can keep you supplied with fresh herbs (or vegetables, or even edible flowers) all year long. No green thumb necessary.

A good appliance for Cola lover like me

Even though my grocery store often puts 2-liter bottles of soda on sale, I generally buy cans instead. That's because I don't drink soda fast enough to go through a full 2-liter of soda before it loses its fizz. It's so wasteful to throw away half-full bottles, so I'm willing to pay a little more for cans so that I get to drink all the soda I paid for. The Refrigerator Fizz Saver Dispenser makes it possible to take full advantage of bottled soda. The dispenser screws onto the top of a 2-liter bottle. You then flip it over and use the dispenser as a base, flipping a switch to fill glasses with soda. Because the bottle is upside down, carbonation can't escape upwards as it might with just an open bottle. Your bubbles will last through the whole bottle. The fact that it's much easier to pour soda is just a bonus. The Refrigerator Fizz Saver Dispenser is small enough that you can still slide your soda into the fridge--avoiding worries of melting ice diluting your drink. The dispenser is priced at $12.98 and can be reused with a simple rinse. I'm thinking that I might need a second, so that I can have both of my favorite types of soda on tap all the time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Appliance for drinking flowering tea

With all the holiday gifting going on, consider taking a little time to treat yourself. This Primula flowering tea set comes with a 40-ounce clear glass tea pot and a canister of flowering teas.
Choose a flower and drop it into the pot. Then boil water in a separate kettle and pour it into the pot. The flower--which is actually tea leaves--blooms in a spectacular burst of color and design. Let it steep for 2-3 minutes as you enjoy the visual display and the enticing aroma. The presentation is spectacular, and the cup of tea is a flavorful bonus after the show.
Each tea flower can be reused 2 or 3 times within a day or so, and you can buy more tea flowers once you go through the entire starter canister.
This set makes a lovely gift, but no one would blame you if you kept it for yourself.

VillaWare V2001F UNO Farmyard Waffler

This morning I was hungry for waffles. Not pancakes, but waffles. Sometimes I keep a box of Eggos in the freezer, but those aren't really waffle-waffles. Eggos, at least to my taste buds, are more of a buttery blueberry cookie than they are a waffle, so popping a couple of those in the toaster ain't gonna do the trick. The craving is for waffles and waffles only. Unfortunately, I only have a cheap waffle iron that produces less than stellar results. It is in this frame of mind that I go window-shopping for waffle irons.
This VillaWare V2001F UNO Farmyard Waffler makes four waffles at a time in traditional animal shapes. Wait. What? Ok, so maybe having a "friendly cow, a chicken, a pig, and a classic farmhouse" as breakfast-mates isn't so traditional, but chances are if you got kids, they will love it. Just don't let them get away with nominating one shape as the "good" shape, sibling rivalry being what it is and all.
The waffle iron comes with seven different temperature settings and two browning options. The fun shapes cook in about three minutes and a timer beeps when they are done. The resulting waffles are about 3.5 inches each. The waffle iron stores vertically and the unit itself measures 11.5 inches by 7.75 inches by 3 inches while weighing in at 9 pounds.

Home Bakery Breadmaker

Smelling something familiar can bring us back to moments in our childhood, and one of my favorite smells of nostalgia is that of freshly baking bread. And with bread makers like this Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme Bread Maker, that smell means a much larger loaf.
The bread machine comes with a timer that can be set up to 13 hours ahead, so you can set it at night and have fresh bread for breakfast. It also comes with 10 bread cycles, including a super-speedy 2-hour Quick Bake, and an option for light, medium, or dark crust (with a viewing window to check the color). It makes a big 2 pound loaf, and you don't have to worry about the ingredients mixing consistently, because it comes with dual kneading blades.
Sound a little run-of-the-mill? Possibly, but what the machine lacks in technological novelty, it makes up for in versatility. According to the Zojirushi , it can also be used for starting sourdough and making other dough that can be baked in other shapes; it can make homemade jam; and it can be used as an oven to make cakes or even meatloaf (although I can imagine a meaty aftertaste in my next sweet bread).
You can pick up the Zojirushi for between $190 and $225, depending on where you look, which by my calculations is just about the cost of 45 loaves of bread. If a year's worth of home-baked bread sounds better than store-bought, then consider buying yourself this holiday bread maker. And hey, you can save money and just give out loaves of bread instead of gift cards!

Coffee barbecue?

Coffee is an essential ingredient to life as we know it. Maybe not chemically speaking (at least until our next stage of evolution, that is), but it is definitely essential for our social interactions. If you are not a coffee drinker and you guffaw at that remark, just imagine if for one day all the coffee in the world disappeared. You might not feel any ill effects, but most of those around you certainly would. And they would let you know it.
In case you are not sure what I am talking about, I should let you know I ran out of coffee today, so if things get a little strange around here...well, I am sorry, I ran out of coffee! Which leaves me dreaming of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Like 5 pounds of coffee. But not just any 5 pounds of coffee. Oh no. I'm talking self-roasted, delicious coffee.
This Coffee Roaster Kit for the barbecue is now stuck in my head. If I had planned ahead, I could have been enjoying a nice, calming cup of coffee right now, having roasted the beans in my own roaster. It comes fully assembled and attaches to your already-existing rotisserie unit. Instructions are included on how to roast coffee, and it is available for $89.95.
Of course, if I had planned ahead, I would have thought to pick up some coffee in the first place. Oh well. Good day all; I'm off to the coffee shop before things get ugly.

Lovely garlic chopper

I'm a big fan of putting fresh garlic in just about every meal, but that means that I spend a lot of time chopping the stuff. I'm always happy to find tools that can make that repetitive process go a little faster. The Chef'n Garlic Zoom Garlic Chopper can: rather than using a knife, you can toss your garlic into this chopper, roll its wheel against the counter, and get chopped garlic immediately. There are no more worries about the knife slicing your fingers, getting garlic in your eye, smelling like garlic for ages, or any of the other dangers and annoyances of chopping garlic. Furthermore, the rolling motion is much easier on your hands than chopping with a knife.
The Chef'n Garlic Zoom Garlic Chopper is made of plastic and has a stainless steel blade. The blade is removable, making it easy to wash the chopper--although it is not dishwasher safe. The section of the chopper that holds garlic is clear, so you can tell when your garlic has been chopped finely enough, while the wheels are black and the cogs are green. It will hold several cloves at once; it's 1.75 inches tall, 2.5 inches wide and 3 inches long. The Chef'n Garlic Zoom Garlic Chopper is priced at $9.95 at

HomeManager - Control your home

The house I live in now is truly my dream home, and a lot of that is thanks to the kitchen. We're lucky enough to have a semiopen floor plan: our spacious kitchen opens into the family room; a swinging door separates the kitchen from the formal dining room. So the kitchen is truly the heart of our home, the place where we gather with friends and cook while the kids play nearby.
I think of the kitchen as mission control in our house, and AT&T's HomeManager device could be a smart addition to our central command. HomeManager integrates an ordinary cordless phone (an essential kitchen gadget in its own right!) with a cordless touch-screen device that offers information and organization in a slick package.
The 7-inch color display lets you access a shared address book, calendar, call logs (so you can keep tabs on the teens), visual voice mail, Internet news, weather, and recipes. This kind of device is exactly what you want when you're putting dinner together while the kids do homework--you don't want to kick someone off the computer or leave the room for your laptop to look up a quick recipe for sesame noodles. Just pull it up on HomeManager and keep things moving.
Imagine a kitchen calendar that's cool enough to encourage your kids to actually write things down. I have goose bumps. Plus, you can store your digital photos on the device for a slide show display when you're not using it. It's a pricey piece, at about $300, but if you use AT&T's other services, HomeManager may be a nice addition to your kitchen.

Enjoy freshest fruit juice

Fruit juice is a fast way to get all your daily vitamins, and a tasty treat, but the stuff you buy at the store often tastes like it's been sitting in the bottle a little long. On top of that, store-bought juice can sometimes include all sorts of preservatives. Rather than messing with all of that, I prefer to make my own juice. It only takes a minute and I don't have to worry about running out of my favorite flavors. The Orka Fruit Juicer/Press makes the whole process easier: rather than juggling both a fruit press (the tool you need to turn berries, melons, and grapes into juice) and a citrus juicer (the tool you need for oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus), you've got both in one tool.
The Orka Fruit Juicer/Press is made of dishwasher safe plastic and is easy to use and clean. It even has a nonslip base so that you don't have to worry about fruit going everywhere when you're trying to make juice. The Juicer/Press is 7.5 inches tall and 4.25 inches wide; it holds 16 ounces of juice at a time. The Orka Fruit Juicer/Press is priced at $9.95.

My Nespresso coffee machines

Nespresso machines use proprietary capsules (pods), which means you can make espresso drinks in moments, without the mess and effort involved in grinding and tamping beans. And the most shocking part of these nontraditional coffee makers is that you're not sacrificing quality for a cleaner kitchen. In fact, loyal Nespresso drinkers wind up preferring their brew to more complex solutions.
Ever since our first Nespresso machine joined the family, about four years ago, my Starbucks jaunts have been limited to airports in foreign countries. For 55 cents a cup, I can make my own cappuccinos, lattes, and even caramel macchiatos right in my own home. It's my 5-minute morning ritual at this point, and it can be yours, too.
The D290 features a 19-bar high-pressure pump, one button operation, and super-easy clean up. And you don't even have to take my word for it -- reviews for this particular machine are great at Amazon. And if that crazy high price has you shaking your head at my foolishness, do yourself a favor and check out Nespresso's own refurbished outlet at eBay. That's where mine came from, at half the retail price.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Good news for hot chocolate lovers.

Hot chocolate season really snuck up on me. It seems as if only a few weeks ago I was complaining about the heat. Well, since I am in San Francisco, that very well could have been the case, but there is no mistaking it now: it is cold. We may have oddly timed summers around here, but winter still gets the cold treatment. Granted, not like elsewhere, but it is still definitely time for hot chocolate.
As a fan of the Bialetti stove top espresso maker, I am drawn to their version of the hot chocolate maker. Bialetti teamed up with Williams-Sonoma to create this exclusive Hot Chocolate Pot. The maker works by slowly heating chocolate (or cocoa mix) and milk in the reservoir. A timer is integrated to let you know when it is ready. The hot chocolate is done, but the extra element for a truly delicious cup of hot chocolate is the included frothing attachment. Simply put it in place and the maker whips up a nice head of froth.
If this sounds like your cup of tea hot chocolate, you might have to let Williams Sonoma know about it. The hot chocolate pot gets unanimously positive reviews on their Web site, but it's already sold out. Looks like everybody was ready for winter this year. Stay warm!

A electric pressure cooker is your friend

When I was first venturing into the kitchen, one appliance in particular scared me: the pressure cooker. Even the name--while being an accurate descriptor--conjured up images of tortured carrots and screaming potatoes. I was afraid to go near the thing, let alone use it for some innocent task like boiling water. Eventually however, I recovered from my appliance paranoia and now can operate all manner of kitchen appliance and gadget with no hesitation. Still, I get the occasional shiver when pulling out the trusty pressure cooker. While the older pressure cookers resemble medieval torture devices, this shiny new Electric Pressure Cooker from Cuisinart looks positively harmless.
Operating on the same principal as its ancient cousins, the electric version offers precision control and timing features. Besides low- and high-pressure options, settings include browning, simmer, and saut?. An LED timer counts down remaining cooking time. When done, the lock will not open until the pressure is released and the unit switches over to an automatic warming mode. The cooking pot is dishwasher safe and has a 6-quart capacity.
Pressure cookers a classic way to speed up cooking time and produce healthier results. They are simple to operate, as expanding steam does all of the work. Just put your raw veggies and meat inside, add water, and fire it up. However, it's not the type of thing you can set and forget; it is best to keep one eye always on those sneaky pressure cookers, even if the modern ones aren't as menacing as past versions.

Stovetop Smoker

It's a bit cold out to be tending a smoker outside right now, no matter how much you enjoy the taste of perfectly smoked meat, fish, and vegetables. That means we need a smoker usable indoors--and the Stovetop Smoker from Sur la table is ideal for that purpose. With it you can get the taste of smoked fish or meat without the hassle. The Stovetop Smoker comes with four different kinds of wood chips, offering you a variety of options that you can mix and match for your favorite meals. It's 7 inches wide by 11 inches long and fits comfortably on top of the average stove. The Stovetop Smoker is made of heavy-gauge stainless steel and includes a drip tray to collect fat while it's tenderizing dinner to a juicy perfection. The smoker also comes with a recipe book. When the weather warms up next spring, don't box up the Stovetop Smoker. You can use it outdoors as well, and it will turn out some delectable treats for your cookouts--although you may need to stock up on some more wood chips for the warm weather. The Stovetop Smover is priced at $39.95, and while it might be smaller than some other smokers, it can definitely handle dinner.

Fruit tablets

If you frequent farmers' markets in the summer, then you know the stark contrast between produce you can find in the heat of July and that found in winter. Fruits that are normally sweet take on a sour, bitter, or dull flavor that doesn't improve until the weather does.
Some of us are trained, at this point, to eat with the seasons for the freshest flavors. That being said, there's nothing worse than biting into a piece of fruit and being rewarded with a sour taste that feels something like getting punched in the taste buds. Apparently, the way around this kind of unpleasantness for the palate is through these Miracle fruit tablets.
According to the manufacturers, these "miracle berries" cause a protein reaction in your mouth that causes things that would normally taste bitter or sour to taste sweet. According to a certain group of taste-testers at ThinkGeek, oranges that were already sweet tasted like "they were plucked from the Garden of Eden."
One tablet lasts for an hour, but even just a half tablet is enough to sweet even the tartest foods. You can pick up a box of 10 tablets for $20 from ThinkGeek.

4-in-1 Breakfast Maker

I'm a person who treasures my sleep. I'm also a person who can't start the day without a full breakfast, and so I'm constantly facilitating a battle between these two opposing forces of sleep and morning hunger. I rarely have enough time while I'm eating breakfast to read more than a couple of pages of the newspaper and check my e-mail, and so I find myself often being out of touch with current events and my friends and family. Although the morning multiple snooze and hot breakfast routine has become a standard in my life, it sure would be nice to have a few extra minutes.
Done and done, says the 4-in-1 Breakfast Maker by Sunpentown. It packs the breakfast power of four machines in one, so I can get my beauty sleep, cook a hearty breakfast, and still have time left over to read up on what's going on in the world.
The multipurpose breakfast machine boasts a 10-liter toaster oven, a 6-cup coffee maker, a nonstick frying pan, and a steaming tray. The toaster oven has a timer on it as well, so I can throw on my clothes while my toast is cooking. The addition of a steam tray is although perfect for my health-conscious side, since I can include freshly steamed veggies with breakfast (precut the night before, of course).
The space-saver is also perfect for urban apartments like the one I have in Brooklyn, since it packs the same cooking punch into a much smaller package. So, instead of stacking four appliances on top of each other on metal baker's racks, I can keep one compact breakfast powerhouse on my countertop.

Aurora cooktop

Electrolux has introduced a sleek induction cooktop called Aurora. This low-profile appliance uses electromagnetic fields to transfer heat to your pots and pans and has minimal radiant heat on its surface, making for fewer kitchen mishaps. The Aurora cooktop has patterned ceramic glass covering the cooking surface, surrounded by an LED-lit perimeter that reminds you when the cooktop is in use. The minimalist design makes for a cooktop that can easily match any kitchen design and is subtle enough to appear to be simply part of the counter. It offers easy-to-use controls, complete with a child lock and safety cut-out. The cooktop is less than 2 inches tall (only 46 millimeters), and measures 35 inches (904 millimeters) by 22 inches (556 millimeters). The Aurora cooktop will fit comfortably on most kitchen counters. The Aurora cooktop offers a faster, more responsive cooking surface than a gas range--and you can more easily control heat with the Aurora, offering the high power needed for deep frying as well as the delicate touch necessary for candy-making. At this time, Electrolux has only made Aurora cooktops available to Australian customers--it has already won an Australian Design Mark. The cooktop is priced at $10,000.

Countertop dishwasher

I love clean dishes, but in many of the apartments where I live, dishwashers are a rare commodity. I'm one of the nutcases who finds dishwashing therapeutic, but I realize that mine is a sentiment not shared by most other people I know. In any case, a gigantic rack full of drying dishes makes a kitchen look cluttered and unkempt, and washing dishes primarily by hand, though a more conservative method of cleaning, takes a lot of time.
This Danby countertop dishwasher fits conservation and convenience into one cute little package, accomplishing what a normal dishwasher can do, but using less water and space. It sits right on top of your counter, leaving your floor space free for more cabinets or furniture, but still has enough power to clean just like its larger counterpart.
It has five cycles to choose from: Prewash, Economy, Rapid, Normal, and Intensive (which uses high temperatures to blast through the dirtiest dishes). You select wash cycles using push button controls, and because it has an automatic detergent dispenser, you don't have to worry about pouring it in when the time is right.
The Danby's penchant for conservation doesn't end with space: it uses less than 10.5 liters during its normal cycle of water drawn from your kitchen tap, earning it an Energy Star rating, and even less for the Economy cycle.
The Danby countertop dishwasher pictured above is available for around $230, much less than a full size model, and if you ever decide to move out, you can take the portable powerhouse along for the ride.

Did you hear about electric knife before?

The electric knife is the unsung hero of the kitchen. The food processor and stand mixer take all of the glory for their multitasking capabilities, while the oven and the refrigerator get the credit for being the foundation of the kitchen. However, it is the seemingly small things that really make the kitchen go when it comes time to shine. The electric knife is a surprisingly simple creation I used to think was overrated, but this being the time of year for turkey, I recently rediscovered the ease of carving via electricity.
But wait, there's more!
Taking the electric knife and extending its usefulness out of the kitchen, this Ginsu offering is designed with the fisherman in mind. Two sets of double serrated stainless steel blades are included, for both freshwater and saltwater use, and the knife includes a 12 Volt plug and a 100 Volt converter. The Ginsu Outdoors Electric Fillet Knife features ergonomic contoured housing and is lightweight and attractive.
Nothing will ever replace a nice, sharp knife for control and ease of use, but electric knives might be worth a second look. In addition to quick and easy slicing and filleting, the electric knife could be an invaluable kitchen tool for many people. Taking the electricity out of the kitchen and into the great outdoors only furthers the possibilities for the often underappreciated electric knife.

Very useful stand mixers

When it comes to the kitchen, options are a cook's best friend. Stand mixers have long offered versatility and performance to help cooks save time. Cuisinart has two models of stand mixers, the SM-70, a 7-quart model, and the SM-55, a 5.5-quart model.Both stand mixers have several attachments designed to do many tasks. In addition to standard paddle attachments, accessories include a pasta maker, a mincer and grinder, food processor, juicer, and even a blender. In addition to the accessory attachments, the convenience of power is also included. The larger stand mixer has a 1,000-watt motor, while the 5.5-quart model has an 800-watts motor. Both models have 12 power settings and three included outlets. Cuisinart included other desired features besides power, capacity, and versatility. Both models have a tilt back head for easy bowl access and accessory attachment. A 15-minute countdown timer automatically turns off the stand mixer and chimes to alert you when finished. A pause mode lets the user interrupt the countdown if needed. The 7-quart model has a suggested retail price of $399 and the 5.5-quart model costs $299.

Keep your wine in a special position

Keeping wine chilled has been a little bit of a problem for me. If I try to put more than a bottle or two in the refrigerator, I don't seem to have room for everything else that should go in there. But my kitchen barely has room for me--it certainly doesn't have the space for a standalone wine cooler. I'm not about to give up any of my counter space for anything like that, either. Solutions seems to have found the one spot in my kitchen that I can fit a wine cooler in, though: the Under-Cabinet Wine Cooler mounts to the bottom of a cabinet, just like a microwave. I know my kitchen has a cabinet this wine cooler will fit under, and I bet most other kitchens are the same.
The Under-Cabinet Wine Cooler holds up to four bottles of wine at a time and you can easily control the temperature for either red or white wines. This wine cooler uses thermoelectric cooling--there's no danger of a compressor's vibrations disturbing sediment. You aren't limited to mounting the wine cooler under your cabinets, either; it can mount alongside a cabinet if that works better in your kitchen. The Under-Cabinet Wine Cooler is priced at $199.

Microwave with touch screen

Touch screen has made its way from cell phones and computers into the kitchen via the control panels of many of the modern ovens and ranges. Though not the first of its kind, the LG WaveDom is a beautiful example of a touch screen on a convection microwave oven, and it boasts several other fancy features as well.
The microwave is large (30 liters) in a round cavity configuration, and has a large turntable that can hold meals big enough to justify using one of the four auto roast programs that come included in it. In addition to roasting, it can automatically cook, reheat, and defrost with four separate settings for each. Quick Start and Quick Defrost can be used if the thought of preprogramming your microwave oven makes your head spin.
A cool bonus is the Keep Warming function, so you can answer your phone call without worrying that your leftovers are going to have to be heated a third time.
The touch-screen exterior is pretty too, made out of stainless steel and black glass. It has a dial control and VFD display, and it's available in white, black, or silver.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Some pretty Kitchen Electronics

Sometimes, you want a kitchen gadget that just looks good. You want people to walk into your kitchen and say, "Wow. Cool." And when that's what you're looking for, the Bella Professional line delivers.
It's not that these appliances don't work well--they do. They're made by Sensio and designed with the most advanced features in mind including the same die-cast metal used in professional appliances. But in addition to their quality, these pieces are, simply, all about the pretty.
Imagine the coffee maker on your counter. With its built-in blue backlight analog clock and die-cast and stainless steel body, this machine is like an instant kitchen makeover. And it has the features you want in a coffee maker--12-cup capacity, 24-hour clock/timer that you can program for hot coffee when you need it most, a brew pause function, an audible ready signal, auto shutoff, and a built-in charcoal water filter and gold tone coffee filter.
If that's not enough for you, why not partner the coffee maker with the milk frother? The stainless steel cup with nonstick coating will let you froth up your milk at 150 degrees for lovely lattes.
The Bella Professional line hits Macy's, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Fortunoff, and other major retailers in February 2009; the milk frother is currently available at Macy's.

Make sandwich for breakfast

As a fan of the breakfast sandwich, this product photo jumped out at me, not only because this toaster looks like something form 1950's futurism, but also because of the delicious looking croissant perched atop, seemingly just waiting for an egg, cheese, and bacon to come along.
As it turns out, the Kalorik Aztec Toaster isn't some new fangled breakfast machine (aw, shucks), but instead appears to be a pretty standard toaster, albeit with a pretty face. The grate upon which that croissant rests turns out to be a "bun warming rack", which in turn, rests over the heating elements. If it appears to you, as it first did to me, that the rack actually lowers somehow, well, it doesn't; it's just a place to rest your breadstuff on while you warm it up. It can, however, be used as a handy toast rack for freshly toasted slices, which would be quite efficient in keeping moisture from collecting underneath your toast. When not in use, the bun warming rack hangs from two hooks provided on the backside of the toaster.
The big chrome central knob is the browning control for the toaster, while the smaller buttons on either side are for specific settings including: reheat, defrost, bagel, and cancel. The two extra-wide slots accommodate thick-sliced bread and bagels, and an alert sounds when your toast is ready. Now just apply eggs, bacon and cheese, and enjoy.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My crazy splat stan coaster

Few coasters will go so far to protect your table tops as the Splat Stan Coaster. Nicknamed the kamikaze coaster, Splat Stan has caught so many coffee cups that he's now flat. He'll do whatever it takes to protect your desk or table from drink stains. The coaster was designed by Suck UK, a gift and accessory design company specializing in unusual items. Suck UK took the typical, plain coaster and turned it into a conversation starter. While most coasters are designed to blend into the background, the Splat Stan Coaster makes a point of being visible.
The Splat Stan Coaster is made from silicone rubber, more than capable of keeping moisture away from table tops. The bright orange color is just an added bonus--I'm not sure how well it will match your decor, but at least it will always be easy to find. It is approximately 5 inches by 4.5 inches--while it's sized for a coffee mug, the Splat Stan Coaster works equally well as most other beverage holders. Unfortunately, it's not such a great coaster for square, or otherwise oddly shaped, glasses.
You can purchase the Splat Stan Coaster for $11.99. It doesn't appear that the Splat Stan Coaster is available in the standard set of four that most coasters come in, unfortunately.

DIY butter at home

Making even staple food items has become more popular lately: many people are concerned about where their food is coming from, and they want as much control over it as they can. Among the many items you can make at home with a little extra effort is butter--it's actually one of the easiest staple foods to make at home, provided you have the right equipment. The right equipment is the Paderno World Cuisine Butter Maker. Making butter with a butter maker is just a matter of pouring in cream--available at any supermarket--and turning the crank until the cream stiffens.
In the case of the Paderno World Cuisine Butter Maker, the crank is turned by hand. It may sound like a little more work than you're used to, but it can be well worth the effort and you don't need to find a power outlet in order to plug in a hand-cranked butter maker. While you can purchase automatic butter makers, there is a discernible taste difference between the two--though the differences between fresh butter and store bought is huge. Fresh butter has more flavor than any butter purchased at the store. Paderno's butter maker is priced at approximately $80.