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.

Keep your fruits fresh

I hate wasting food. Therefore, I shop for groceries with the week ahead in mind. I plan recipes in my head as I stroll through the stands of the farmers market. Some items can wait until the next trip, while some I know will be eaten right away. Unfortunately, this means my shopping is not a precise science. While it is rare for me to let food go bad, sometimes it does happen.
The Automatic Vacuum Sealing Food Preserver from Hammacher Schlemmer can help keep fruits and vegetables fresh a longer time. Measuring 10 inches tall by 19 inches wide by 9 inches deep, the large capacity is ideal for storing a variety of produce. Upon closing the lid, a vacuum is created at 16mbar of pressure, which is "the optimal pressure for preserving foodstuffs." The unit plugs into an AC outlet or uses 4 D-cell batteries.
Vacuum sealing technology is no mystery. Storing perishables in an airtight environment keeps microorganisms and decay at bay. Keeping fruits and vegetables fresh longer would ensure that less food goes to waste. Provided, of course, that shopping habits don't change. Just because there is a vacuum sealer in the house, doesn't mean I would have to fill it up with foods I know I might not get around to eating. That durian fruit won't last forever, you know.

A smart oven

When it comes to baking, you're limited to what your oven can handle. If you want to bake more than one thing, you often have to wait to get your baking done. But the Breville Stainless Steel Smart Oven provides the ability to bake in a small space--even while you've got your oven going. The Smart Oven cooks food perfectly with 1,800 watts of power, more than enough to handle even the high temperature needed to turn out a great pizza.
The Breville Stainless Steel Smart Oven can easily be preset: included in its controls are nine customizable presets, as well as a digital display. The Smart Oven is 18-1/2 inches by 12-1/2 inches by 10-3/4 inches, fitting easily on your countertop.
It comes with a 13-inch pizza pan and a 12-inch square baking tray, so you don't have to worry about buying smaller pans that will fit the Smart Oven. It has a retractable crumb tray for easy cleanup and the rack even auto-ejects halfway when you open the oven door, making it easy for you to remove your hot items. The Smart Oven does make cooking much simpler. The Breville Stainless Steel Smart Oven is priced at $249.95.

Countertop Convection Oven

If you've been wanting to add a convection oven to your kitchen but don't have a lot of space, a convection oven built to sit on your countertop may be the answer. The Hamilton Beach Countertop Convection Oven fits nicely on most counters: it's 12.5 inches by 17.5 inches by 13.66 inches. You might assume with that small of an exterior a convection oven wouldn't have much cooking space, but the Hamilton Beach Countertop Convection Oven has a 1.1 cubic foot interior--that's enough room to cook a five-pound chicken or even two 12-inch pizzas.
The Hamilton Beach Countertop Convection Oven comes with two oven racks, two backing pans, a broil rack, a crumb tray, and a rotisserie skewer and lifter. With this convection oven, you can easily rotisserie chickens and other meat at home and you can keep a close eye on the process through the large window. Hamilton Beach also makes a countertop convection oven available without the rotisserie function. Many of the parts are dishwasher-safe, making clean up a breeze for this countertop convection oven. Its controls are easy to use, with a timer, an adjustable temperature, and other standard features. The Hamilton Beach Countertop Convection Oven is priced at approximately $150.

HRB 1110 refrigerator

With its new line of fully integrated refrigerators, Liebherr is offering state of the art appliances: among other innovations available in the HRB 1110 and other refrigerators in the line is Leibherr's patented climate system. The Biofresh system controls temperature and humidity, helping food to remain fresh up to three times longer than normal refrigerators.
According to Leibherr, it has also worked hard to make sure that its integrated refrigerator line scores high Energy Star ratings and, in fact, the company's entire refrigeration product line exceeds the new guidelines for Energy Star. Leibherr is also the refrigeration manufacturer to bring its products into full RoHS compliance worldwide. The RoHS (Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment) guidelines guarantee that Leibherr uses materials with minimal environmental impact, as well as reducing the hazardous materials that might wind up in your home.
Integrated refrigerators from Leibherr, such as the HRB 1110, have a capacity of 7.1 cubic feet. The accompanying NoFrost Freezer has an additional 2.1 cubic feet of capacity. They are meant to be built into a kitchen wall but do have a variety of attractive doors available.

Deep fryer, throw your frying pan.

Both of my husband's parents were born in Morocco. Consequently, my husband grew up eating a lot of traditional Moroccan foods, most of which involve oil. And deep frying.
As it turns out, if you do use a deep fryer and oil heated to the proper temperature, the food you cook actually absorbs less oil than if you used a pot of oil on the stove. What's more, a deep fryer is far less likely to spatter oil all over your kitchen (or worse, your face) than that giant pot.
But a deep fryer does have a few drawbacks. Namely, you fill it with oil, and it can get sticky and disgusting fairly quickly. So, in my mind, one of the most critical features in a deep fryer is that it comes apart easily and that as much of it as possible be dishwasher safe.
The Hamilton Beach 35020 Cool Touch Deep Fryer seems to fit the bill. The interior pot can be lifted out easily when cool, and it's easy to dump the contents and stick it in the dishwasher. Even better, the lid of the machine is detachable and cleans up easily. This is a huge benefit--if you've never owned a deep fryer you can't possibly understand how gross the lids get. Even the filter pops out and could probably be washed in the top rack of your dishwasher, although hot soapy water does the trick quite nicely.
If you want French fries, eggrolls, battered fried chicken, and other delicious foods that may not be the healthiest choices but that taste really good, check out this fryer. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

DIY jerky

We're big fans of beef jerky at our house. We make up a batch every couple of weeks and use it for snacks. But it's not always the cleanest project, and I worry a little bit about where pieces of raw meat might land. The Jumbo Jerky Works Gun offers a more controlled approach to jerky making: rather than needing to chop up tons of meat for jerky, you can use ground beef--or turkey for a leaner alternative. You mix in jerky spices and put your ground beef into the tube of the jerky gun. You can then just squeeze the trigger of the Jumbo Jerky Works Gun to make jerky sticks quickly. All that's left is dehydrating the jerky as normal. The Jumbo Jerky Works Gun is even dishwasher safe, making the whole process go quickly.

The Jumbo Jerky Works Gun is jumbo for a simple reason: you can fit an entire pound of ground beef in the gun at once. I've found that 1-pound batches are pretty ideal for having jerky on hand when I want it. The gun comes with spices, as well as three attachments for making jerky strips, sticks, and double strips. It's priced at $19.9

Monday, February 23, 2009

I love cocktail

Even if margaritas aren't your favorite frozen drink, the Margaritaville Tahiti Frozen Concoction Maker can come in handy: it comes preprogrammed for margaritas, mudslides, daiquiris, smoothies, coladas and mojitos. It's up to you whether any of those drinks are alcoholic, as well--if all you're interested in is a fruit smoothie, the Tahiti can provide. It can even mix three different drinks at once, making for easy party management. To use the Margaritaville Tahiti Frozen Concoction Maker, you fill the extra-large hopper with ice, add beverage ingredients to the individual jars, and press the button that matches your preferred style of drink or use the manual controls. In just moments, you'll have a drink with a perfect consistency--no ice chunks, no drinks watered down due to melting ice. The Tahiti is able to keep melted ice from reaching your drink in the first place: it diverts melted ice to a reservoir. Each jar holds 24 ounces, allowing you to easily split drinks between friends. The Tahiti comes with three jars. This drink machine is made from aluminum, stainless steel, bamboo wood and ABS plastic and measures 14.25 inches by 18 inches by 20 inches.

Digital life, digital kitchen

If you're a baker, you know that precise measurements mean everything. So much so, that expert bakers tell us ways to spoon flour into measuring cups in order to avoid compacting the flour and using too much. For smaller measurements, using methods like this are much more difficult, if not impossible.

Using standard measuring spoons can result in too much or too little ingredients (like too much yeast or too little baking soda), completely changing the consistency of the finished product. This precision spoon scale by Admetior alleviates this problem by having a digital weight measurement built right into the handle.
Measuring up to 2.9 ounces, the spoon takes care of most of the smaller ingredients in baking recipes, and if used multiple times, can measure larger quantities too. It has two clear interchangeable spoon bowls with printed measurements, It also saves space, fitting into your utensil crock or drawer instead of requiring a space on the shelf.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

George Foreman Grill

What do you call a portable grill that sits on your countertop and belongs in every college apartment? You might call it something else, but I, along with millions of other Americans, call it a George Foreman Grill. The lean, mean, fat-grilling machine made famous by the Olympic gold medalist and two-time heavyweight champion of the world has revolutionized the way we think about convenient cooking, and has given people without a backyard grill a chance to enjoy the same grilled burgers and steaks.
I had a Foreman grill in college and was notorious in my freshman year dorm for my Rueben sandwiches and grilled cheeses, and when I lived in my own apartment, I graduated to veggie burgers and chicken breasts, but the newly redesigned George Foreman 360 has so many cooking options that it makes my head spin.
The secret to the 360's versatility is in the interchangeable grill plates. There are five total, including a deep grill plate for traditional Foreman-style meats, a quesadilla plate for individual pockets, and a deep-dish pan for pizza, vegetables, or eggs.
It also has an adjustable tilt, so you can lay it flat for cooking or tilt it up for fat-reducing grilling.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Printer or Toaster?

I have never questioned the wisdom of encouraging the artistic side of a growing child (hint: I encourage it), but this toaster seems to me more than just a bit wacky. Sure, kids benefit from making mealtime engaging and fun, but if you think you had problems with them drawing their masterpieces on the wall, just wait until you train then to paint with their food!
Nevertheless, if you encourage your child's interest in art at every opportunity, this Pop Art Toaster Creativity Coloring Kit might be up your alley. It comes with six plates to burn predetermined designs into your morning toast. All the standard settings one might expect are there: level settings, slide-out crumb tray, and the like. But what truly makes this toaster stand out is the set of five coloring pens that come with it. Toast up some bread with Junior's favorite design, and set him down to eat paint.
While the pens are, of course, FDA-approved, parents should still consider the message they are sending their children. Buttering their toast with pens might seem like a good idea, until a child mistakes a Sharpie for a butter pen. Also making sure kids know how to read first would be smart, specifically the phrase "FDA-approved".

My 4-slice toaster

So maybe you're planning on getting yourself the Bella Professional coffee maker and milk frother, and you're wondering what you'll eat while you're sipping your morning beverage. How about toast? Now, if Brian had his way, you'd be drawing on your food or marveling at the warming rack on a time-traveling machine. I've got a different suggestion.
Bella Professional has a 4-slice toaster with die-cast panels and stainless steel body.
The extra wide and deep slots are perfect for bagels. And don't worry; you've got a bun-warming rack. With the back-lit controls and blue LED lights, it's got kind of a space-age look. The toaster also has a defrost setting, which is a nice touch. (You can also get a two-slice version of the toaster.)
But what if you like to pile toppings on your bagel and you want the whole thing toasted? No worries. Bella Professional also offers a six-slice convection toaster oven with a double-glazed cool window and the same good looks as the rest of the collection. The toaster has bake, broil, toast and convection-bake settings, and a 60-minute timer with an audible bell, a "stay on" function, off control, and toast-browning settings. It also has a bake pan, a reversible broil tray, and a crumb tray, as well as an interior oven light. But no markers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Make Waffles at home

Waffles are good any time of the day or night. This may be because waffles are good topped with sweet or savory ingredients. From chicken and waffles to ice cream and berries, the waffle is a versatile base for many a delicious meal.
Perhaps more amazing than the ability to have waffles with any meal is the ability to have breakfast anytime. The breakfast bar in a hotel closes at a certain hour and the biscuit-selling fast-food joints do the same. Many restaurants serve breakfast until a predetermined time. For those who want 24-hour breakfast availability, it's best to have a breakfast-making appliance on hand. After all, since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why only have it in the morning?
The Waring Flip Waffler can help you achieve your anytime-breakfast desires. Operating on the idea that batter settles while cooking, an integrated flip mechanism assures even cooking. (Well, assuming you actually flip it). The half-inch plates produce thick waffles and are nonstick for easy cleanup. An audible beep sounds when the waffler is properly heated and another sounds when the waffle is done. The handle then folds for easy storage.
Nothing beats a hot waffle served with the exact ingredients you are craving. While sweet may be the consensus favorite for waffle toppings, don't forget to experiment a little in the kitchen. Remember: when pizza is on a bagel waffle, you can eat pizza any time.

Wireless kitchen for you

I've never been a fan of cord clutter. I switched to a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard in my office, and I've delighted in the clean look ever since. Cord clutter may be annoying in the office, but it's downright dangerous in the kitchen. The kitchen--that place where I spill, where my kids come barreling through at top speed, where tangled cords are truly an accident waiting to happen.
Cordless technology for the kitchen is a great idea, but one that doesn't get as much press, perhaps, as wireless peripherals for the office. Until now.
At the Consumer Electronics Show this year, Powermat debuted its technology in a whole new way. Powermat "brings safe, simple, and efficient wireless electricity to surfaces including walls, tables, floors, and desktops. It is designed to replace the need to access multiple electrical sockets," says the Web site. In other words, you can use this technology to power your electronics in real time, with no cords, no outlets, and no batteries.
Now imagine that your kitchen countertop came with this technology. The bad news is that the coolest stuff hasn't yet hit the States, but it will, in good time. Wireless electricity. And you can spill on it. It doesn't get much better than this.

Enjoy fresh steaks from your microwave

If your microwave has been getting away with making popcorn and reheating leftovers, maybe it's time you showed it the door and ushered in a microwave that really knows how to cook.
Whirlpool has a new model that offers grilling. In a microwave.
To deliver, the GMH5184XV (catchy name, no?) uses a quartz heating element that alternates with microwave energy to grill and brown food. So, you can enjoy that barbecue without standing outside in the chill of winter or firing up the indoor cooktop and filling the house with smoke.
Whirlpool's microwave is a microwave-hood combination with an industry-exclusive nonstick interior and newly designed hidden vent you can clean with a damp cloth. The new 6th Sense-sensor cooking detects the humidity level of the food, and adjusts the time and temperature as needed during the cooking process.
Look for the GMH5184XV in June. It's currently set to retail at about $520.

Grilling in your kitchen

I know it's cold out there across much of the land. While it's never too early to plan on having good times (and food) under the sun, it also doesn't hurt to keep your indoor plans on the tasty side of deliciousness. Though the outdoor grill will have to remain outside and frozen for the time being, there is another option.
The Kalorik Reversible Indoor Tabletop Grill is a versatile appliance for bringing the joy of grilling in from the outside. The two-sided, nonstick cooking surface features a ribbed side for grilling and a flat griddle on the reverse side. The unit measures 20 inches long with a depth of 12.5 inches and it stands 5.5 inches tall. The fair amount of cooking real estate helps to ensure plenty of room for pancakes and fried eggs for all. The cooking plate is detachable and fully submersible, which allows for easy cleanup.
Unlike your lonely outdoor grill, this appliance has cool handles to facilitate easy movement of the unit while hot, so you can move the grill from kitchen to table. For a more interactive experience, consider involving the family in the cooking process. With ease of use and portability in mind, the grill can serve as a delicious hotspot of warmth during those cold winter months.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fuzzy logic rice cooker - like a human cooker

I like mind readers. I frequently expect my wife and children to know exactly what I'm thinking and do what I want. And my appliances? Well, more than once, I've been known to shout at the microwave or the bread machine.
Turns out that there are a few appliances that--if not mind readers--at least try to think. A fuzzy logic rice cooker, for example, works much like a real cook. The machine uses its senses to observe the rice as it cooks, adjusting for it type and volume, and intervene--by changing the temperature--when necessary.
These rice cookers cost more than the simple on/off versions ($200 versus $50 or less), but they deliver consistently fantastic rice. Also, a fuzzy logic rice cooker has many uses. In addition to producing perfectly cooked rice of any type and texture, and similar foods such as porridge and oatmeal, a fuzzy logic rice cooker can also be used to make all kinds of dishes.
Zojirushi makes some great rice cookers, including the Zutto Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker and warmer. It can cook up to 5.5 cups of rice in its spherical inner cooking pan. The cooker's heating system allows the heat to distribute evenly and cook the rice perfectly. You can set the cooker for white/sushi rice, porridge, and mixed rice. Other features include automatic keep warm, LCD display, clock and timer function, and a detachable inner lid.

Fresh box, fresh life.

I find it impossible to eat an entire cake before it goes stale. While that might be a good thing for my waistline, I'd like it if my cake lasted for just a few more slices. I've tried careful wrapping, cake keepers and more, but none of them really extended a cake's life. The Fresh Box, however, can add days to the time that I have to eat that whole cake. When you put a cake, loaf of bread or even fruit into the Fresh Box, it uses a vacuum pump to remove air from the box. The automatic pump eliminates moisture, as well, keeping food fresh.
It takes about two minutes for the Fresh Box to create a vacuum seal. The box is available in three sizes: the Large, Personal, and Round Fresh Boxes range in price from $49.95 to $59.95. All three use an AC adapter, but the large box also can operate on four D batteries. Both the large and round boxes have removable, dishwasher-safe trays. While the Fresh Box is an ideal option for anyone who does a lot of baking, I'd also recommend it if you only have one or two people eating in your home. It can extend the life of those loaves of bread and other food that never seems to get finished.

Wall range hood fabio

Any kitchen appliance that goes by the name Fabio is setting itself up for some high expectations, wouldn't you say? Futuro Futuro, an Italian kitchen appliance manufacturer, just unleashed its version of the long-haired beauty to the North American market--in the form of a wall-mounted range hood.
The Fabio packs its technology--last setting memory, delayed shutoff, boost mode, multiple speed settings, and halogen lighting designed to showcase cooking creations--into a sleekly rounded body.
Flexible installation options include ducted and ductless (convertible) capability, adjustable chimney height, remote blower, wireless remote control, and custom soffit design.
To address the most common complaint among range hood owners--noise and vibration--Futuro Futuro uses a specially designed blower chamber that insulates the motor from the hood body. The design minimizes vibration and noise. Optional add-ons include the Silent System and Remote Blower Kit.

Healthy life with the digital food steamer

When it comes to cooking food, it seems like when using steam it is easy to overlook. But Oster's Digital Food Steamer makes steam one of the easiest ways to cook up a healthy meal quickly. It's programmable, giving you a whole list of options like delayed cooking, warming settings, and timed steaming. The hardware is just as good as the software: it has a capacity of 6.1 quarts, divided into large (3.8 quarts) and small (2.3 quarts) steaming bowls--you can easily steam multiple dishes in one go. The Digital Food Steamer also has egg holders that let you make either soft or hard eggs as well as a 10-cup rice bowl.
The steaming bowls are removable and collapsible, making them easy clean and store. The Digital Food Steamer also has a few safety features that make it an even more reliable machine. It has an auto-off that turns off the steamer after 95 minutes, as well as a transparent water reservoir that makes it easy to see at a glance if you need more water. You can add more water through an external access point--no juggling hot trays to try to add more water to your steamer.

Mini robot vacuum cleaner help cleaning your kitchen table

Powered by two AA batteries, the Mini Robot Vacuum skirts across your kitchen table (or Super Bowl spread) picking up crumbs or other small bits of unwanted trash. All you have to do is push the button on top of its little robot head and off it goes.
The small robot vacuum cleaner measures 5 inches by 4 inches, and comes in three different colors. As a regular addition to your normal tablescape it should fit right in.
At only $20, the Mini Robo Vacuum isn't going to compare with a powerful robotic vacuum cleaner such as the Roomba. However, I would rather have one of these little guys scuttling about my kitchen countertop.
Certainly this weekend, robot cleaners large and small will be put to good use. Considering the amount of pretzels, potato chips, and crackers that will be consumed over this Super Bowl weekend, the robot cleaners are going to be working overtime no matter how close the game is.

Introduce the Roasted Garlic Express

All right, so the Valentine's Day is passed, you're probably not thinking of garlic, but it's definitely the way to this girl's heart. I love roasted garlic, but who wants to fire up the whole oven for a few measly cloves? Plus, the wait time is excruciating--when I want garlic, I don't want to wait an hour.

The Todco GR300 Roasted Garlic Express might not be a traditional gift, but it's one that would make me happy. It's an electronic garlic roaster that sits on your counter and roasts up to three cloves of garlic in just 27 minutes. You don't have to heat up the whole kitchen, and by the time you get your pasta cooked or your table set, the garlic is ready to go.

The roaster is easy to use and easy to clean, and reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive. It comes in a few colors, so you can find one to match your kitchen d?cor.

Worried about garlic breath putting a damper on your Valentine's Day fun? The RGE Web site points out that if you and your partner both indulge, you'll cancel out the smell for each other. Go ahead, make Cupid proud.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Use a Powful Juicer for a Healthy & Simply Life

Sometimes it's the simple things. After a weekend that has most likely been filled with ribs, hotdogs, chips and dips, a welcome retreat from the fatty and greasy is necessary. At times like these, I crave juice. Lots of juice. Super-size juice. Freshly squeezed, please. Nothing beats the healthy feeling that comes from drinking a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. You don't even have to spend the day recovering from Super Bowl food to enjoy; juice is great at anytime.
This Cuisinart Citrus Juicer (which even somewhat resembles a football) could be the solution for your Super Bowl hangover. With a brushed stainless-steel exterior, the simple machine fits in with any kitchen d?cor. The reamer works clockwise and counter-clockwise, which gives the ability to extract more juice from your favorite fruits. The juice is funneled through the included snap-up spout, which prevents drips after use. For storage, the juicer has a cord wrap feature. The removable parts are top-rack dishwasher safe.
Super Bowl food doesn't have a reputation for being healthful. Similarly, much of what was prepared and eaten over the weekend was complicated: from special secret sauces to multistep planning, people take Super Bowl food very seriously. Now that the hoopla is over, it is nice to see something as quick, simple, and healthy as a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Digital Control for the Best Toast

Toast can be a battle at my house. Everyone likes it just a little different--and if their toast isn't perfect, I'll be getting an earful. The Philips HD2618 Toaster offers a little more control of the toasting process, though, making it possible to get bread to the right level of toastiness--and avoid plenty of whining. It offers an LCD display with a digital countdown timer that gives you all the warning you need to get bread out before it crisps too far. The toaster uses a full 1,200 watts of power to speed up breakfast--as if the fact that it's large enough to hold multiple slices of bread in one go didn't speed things up enough. It even offers a one-side toasting option, allowing you to toast bagels easily.
In addition to the HD2618 Toaster's power and controls, the casing has been updated. The toaster's housing is anodized aluminum: it's rust-resistant, scratch proof and even resists fingerprints from toastmakers both big and small. Clean up is just a matter of wiping down the toaster and occasionally emptying the removable crumb tray--it's nonstick to make cleanup even easier. It doesn't hurt, either, that the HD2618 Toaster looks like something straight out of the future, either.

"Cold" Hot Plate?

Hot plates aren't hot any more. At least if you are calling portable induction burners hot plates. Which doesn't really make sense, because, well, they don't get hot. Cooking via induction does not heat up the surface material. Instead, heat is transferred directly into the cooking vessel via magnetic induction. All of this means that food cooks more efficiently and safer, to boot. Both of which are qualities that make sense in any portable cooking surface.
The Fagor Portable Induction Burner is a small, lightweight device that can be easily (and safely) transported. It measures only 14 inches by 12 inches, with a height of less than 3 inches, while rated for 1,300 watts. With 90 percent efficiency and six temperature control settings, the burner is at once efficient and precise.
Beyond portability, efficiency, and safety, the burner is an elegant, nonobtrusive piece of equipment. The touch controls are integrated into the design, and feature a timer and a control pad lock. The lack of dials or knobs means that spills can easily be wiped away. Considering that the burner is constructed of heat-resistant glass, further cleanup is a snap as baked-on foods are avoided. Certainly the same could not be said of the hot plates of old.

DIY Popcorn

I like popcorn. Considering how much popcorn is sold in this country, I'm betting a lot of you do, too. Whether you think of it as a movie-viewing essential, or a casual TV snack, the popped kernel of corn is a staple of American snack food. And, popcorn is one of the rare snack foods that actually isn't bad for you! That is, until you dress it with gobs of flavorings.
I'm not against flavored popcorn. I enjoy as much as anybody else the myriad flavors that are out there: kettle corn, caramel, cheese, butter, extra butter, movie butter. They are all delicious. However, there is one flavor that doesn't get enough attention: plain with salt.
For quick and easy home popcorn preparation, pass up the preflavored microwave bag and dive into the hot air maker. I've tried using the type of corn poppers that are supposed to pop the corn out into a bowl, but, ultimately, popcorn and hot-but-not-popped kernels go flying everywhere.
The Salton Popcorn Popper keeps the popcorn entirely enclosed during the popping process. Like a hot air popper, it can pop corn without the use of oil. It works by heating the kernels on a nonstick surface, using a bidirectional rotating stirrer to keep the kernels moving. After a few minutes, the popcorn is done and the cover doubles as a serving bowl. Not only do you get to control the flavors, but you get to make sure you have no more unpopped kernels scatted about the room.

DIY Chocolates

I'm a big fan of the fancy hot chocolates that come from coffee shops--the ones with little shavings of chocolate and a big dollop of whipped cream on top of the actual drink. With the Chocolate Mill from Williams-Sonoma, I can add those little tastes of chocolate to drinks at home. Using the Chocolate Mill is just a matter of loading it with the chocolate chunks of your choice, holding it over your drink, and turning the hand crank. You can choose chocolate a little more out of the ordinary than the typical milk chocolate most coffee shops seem to use, too. Dark chocolate, or even white chocolate, work just as well as the Chocolate Mill cranks out paper-thin shavings of chocolate. It's perfect for adding a finishing touch to desserts and candies, as well as hot drinks.
The Chocolate Mill does require a little hand-cleaning, although you can store chocolate in it, rather than emptying it out and cleaning it after each use--just as you might leave peppercorns in a pepper grinder indefinitely. However, it's probably best to store the chocolate mill in your refrigerator between uses. The mill is priced at $35.

A New Hot Stone Grill

Here's an interesting combination device from across the pond: The Hot Stone Grill from Giles and Posner. I've come across similar things here in the States, but most stone cookware seems to be pizza stones, or raclette grills, like the one I recently wrote about. This grill takes the concept of stone cookware, while using the same heating element to provide for broiling in the area underneath.
Combining a hot stone with a grill, the unit allows for the cooking of meat and vegetables without use of oil. In addition to the heating unit and cooking stone, the appliance comes with a grill rack and grill tray for use underneath. The four parts combine to create a different way of cooking. Simple in concept, yet rare in execution, cooking with stone offers individual control, and necessitates an involvement in the cooking process.
You won't be making bangers and mash or fish and chips with the Hot Stone Grill, but there are some good possibilities here. Mashed potatoes have little hope of surviving the cooking process with the grill, but a stuffed baked potato and seared sausages might just fit the bill. One thing I look for in any kitchen appliance is the amount of creativity it affords. With hot stone cooking, look for new possibilities in how to prepare your meals.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Green up the kitchen

Pull together these tips to make the kitchen, and your wallet, a little greener.
1. Recycling Ideas
You know you should recycle, especially all the packaging that food comes in. Want to eliminate waste even before you buy? Cut down on prepared foods, especially those with loads of sodium, bad fats and additives.
If you recycle glass containers at home, not only do you avoid plastic, but you can see what you put in them. More on that later.
2. Bulking Up
Your first shopping change? Buy in bulk. Now, that doesn't mean going to a place that sells five-gallon containers of mayo for large families and small businesses. Bulk means loose and unpackaged.
Even at a regular supermarket, you'll notice that some foods - loose dried pinto beans or nuts in the shell, for example - can be found in bulk. But for other staples like sugar, flour, oatmeal, spices or dried fruit, look for health-conscious stores with many large bins.
You'll soon get the hang of it. Grab a plastic bag, shovel in what you need, and enter a code number from the bin onto the twist-tie. You'll be surprised by the money you save at the register.
Here's where those glass containers you saved come in. Pour that bag of nuts - carefully! - into a jar, and you've just recycled packaging. You can reuse/recycle the plastic bag.
3. Think Global, Buy Local
Your next step to greener shopping is buying local produce. Again, you may want to look first at your usual food store or at produce-only stores, where vegetables grown in the area may be proudly identified. I've even found local produce (though not from small farms) in dollar stores that carry food. A buck for three heads of organic romaine, a bag of limes or of gourmet shallots? No kidding.
Many Southern California neighborhoods have farmers' markets. Some are more general open markets with packaged items, clothing, or prepared food for sale in addition to produce. If you've never been, you owe it to yourself to check one out. You're almost guaranteed to meet lots of friendly shoppers and knowledgeable vendors. When was the last time your food shopping felt like a street party? Yes, it can actually be festive, and the more often you go to a market close to home, the more you get to know your community.

Thinking of Connected Kitchens

The kitchen has been the center of the home — a place where families not only eat, but where they can gather to talk about their day — for several generations.
With technology becoming more prominent in homes, “connected kitchens” with their technologically advanced appliances and networking are adding convenience and smart technology to cooking, shopping and other household needs.
Connected appliances have been in the market for more than a decade, but until now Internet-connected refrigerators, washers and dryers and even microwave ovens have not worked or been as popular as they could have been, which has dampened the popularity of the connected kitchen.
It's not that consumers don't want connected devices in their kitchen, however. The Internet Home Alliance, a cross-industry network of leading companies advancing the connected home market, has conducted research that found consumers want six key technologies in their kitchens:
* A home control station* An energy usage monitoring and control system* Wireless Internet access* A recipe projection system* A digital calendar* A universal charging station
These controls are in addition to appliances such as refrigerators and ovens that will enable homeowners to begin preparing their meals before getting home.
While control and monitoring have been the major focus of kitchen connectivity until now, audio/visual, information-sharing and entertainment-oriented technologies are emerging in the connected kitchen as well.
The following are several technologies that are becoming increasingly popular in the connected kitchen:
* Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) — Radio-frequency identification enables various products to “talk” to each other and share information.* Touchscreen Computers — Computers with touchscreen control capabilities give home owners easy and convenient access to information from their kitchen counter or table.* Westinghouse PT-16H610S Flip LCD — This and similar high definition televisions are designed to be installed on kitchen countertops or to hang beneath kitchen cabinets. This particular model can swivel 180 degrees, has built-in speakers, weighs 7.7 pounds and can display photos.* Whirlpool Centralpark Refrigerator — Featuring a Wifi digital photo frame, iPod dock, hidden power port and Internet-connectivity, this refrigerator not only can eliminate the clutter of refrigerator magnets, it can upload and display photos and recipes and enable home owners to enjoy daily weather, sports and news updates with their morning coffee.* Concierge Services — AMX, Crestron, Control4 and Criteria are connected products that enable home owners to order concierge services, such as ordering groceries or making restaurant reservations, or having a car waiting or washed. Concierge services are becoming popular in communities with multi-dwelling units.* Miele's RemoteVision — This module features a small chip with wireless WLAN technology that can link appliances to a monitoring center that can notify the home owner via e-mail, a text message or phone call — when the refrigerator is open, the oven is on or other mishaps.* TMIO Intelligent Oven — This oven can be controlled remotely over the Internet and has the capabilities to keep food refrigerated during the day and enable the home owners to start cooking it before they get home.

Kitchen Revolution: No Refrigerator

How green is your kitchen? If you’re part of “small segment” of the eco-conscious, you don’t have a fridge.
Here in New York, it’s not uncommon to help the environment by burning less natural gas; you eat out and use your oven as it was meant to be used in tiny apartments – to store sweaters. But some folks – apparently, ones who give up readily cold beer and live in chilly climes where they can store their mayo on the porch – have gone the extra mile by disconnecting their refrigerators.
“It seems wasteful to me to use even an Energy Star-rated fridge,” one satisfied, fridge-less woman, Rachel Muston of Ottawa, tells the newspaper, “because I’m getting along fine without one.”
It's not a radical idea to want to reduce the carbon footprint of your kitchen – alt-energy companies are building solar refrigerators, and even Einstein and fellow physicist Leo Szilard patented three prototypes that operated without moving parts. But is it really necessary to junk your icebox in the process?
Consider this: refrigerators use the least amount of energy of all common household technologies, according to data released last month by the Department of Energy. Home heating uses the most, followed by, as a group, lights and appliances including dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, computers and TVs. Water heaters make up the third largest share of household energy, followed by air conditioners. So exactly how many people in the U.S. have actually sworn off refrigeration? Deanna Duke of Seattle, who runs an eco blog called The Crunchy Chicken where visitors have debated the practice, tells that she's not aware of a formal stat. But of the 50,000 unique visitors to her site, she estimates that roughly 11 have disconnected their fridges. Another eight, she says, "sounded willing."
Duke published a blog post last month listing reasons why forsaking the fridge isn't worth it: additional tailpipe emissions from those extra supermarket runs, food that goes bad before you eat it, and the extra packaging from buying more frequent, smaller quantities. Her online adversary, a blogger known as "Greenpa," has rebuttals, among them, that city dwellers can easily pick up food on foot, and that many foods you think require refrigeration (such as butter, eggs and cheese) don't.
Other greenies aren’t convinced that life without a fridge makes sense. “It’s silly not to have one,” Texas mom Gretchen Willis told the Times, “considering what the alternative is: drinking up a gallon of milk in one day so it doesn’t spoil.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How to clean kitchen electronics

Are your kitchen workhorses -- toaster, microwave and coffeemaker -- screaming for a cleaning?
You can spiff them up fast with these tips from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. For easy tips to remove stains from any surface, go to
FASTEST FIX: Unplug it and remove the crumb tray, rack and any soiled pans, and spray them with an all-purpose cleaner. Use a non-abrasive scrubbing sponge to get off gunk. Rinse and let air-dry.
As for the oven, spritz a plain sponge (for non-stick interiors) or a scrubber sponge (for regular interiors) with more cleaner. Never spray appliances directly. Steer clear of the heating elements inside.
Wipe down the inside surfaces, including the glass door; now hit the exterior. Thoroughly rinse and wring the sponge (to avoid streaking); go over the same areas. Be sure the oven's dry -- about five minutes -- before plugging it in.
MAKE IT EASIER NEXT TIME: Clean the toaster oven's drip tray regularly to keep spills from baking on. Though lining it with foil is tempting, don't -- it can cause overheating and even a fire.
FASTEST FIX: The easiest way to clean cooked-on bits of food is to heat a cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl on high for five minutes. The steam should make any mess wipe right off with a sponge. Remove the bowl and microwave turntable; wipe down the latter, plus the inside surfaces of the oven, with an extra pass around the frame to ensure a tight seal when the door is closed.
For the exterior and the control panel, spray a cloth with all-purpose cleaner and wipe. Rinse.
MAKE IT EASIER NEXT TIME: Keep a paper plate near the microwave oven to cover foods and prevent splatters. And pierce foods with skins, such as potatoes, to keep them from bursting during cooking.

FASTEST FIX: If your coffeemaker's taking longer to drip these days, it may be clogged with hard-water minerals. To flush them out, follow the owner's manual, or try the following tested trick.
Fill the chamber with equal parts white vinegar and water. Insert a paper filter into the empty basket, and put the empty carafe in place. Allow it to brew halfway; turn off the coffeemaker. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Turn it back on, finish the brewing and dump the vinegar water. Rinse the machine by putting in a new paper filter and brewing a full pot of water; repeat.
To clean a dingy glass carafe, fill it with warm, sudsy water and add some rice as a light abrasive. Swirl the mixture inside the pot. Empty the pot and use your scrubber sponge to remove the loosened gunk.
MAKE IT EASIER NEXT TIME: Wash the coffeemaker well once a week. To cut down on cleaning, consider a coffeemaker with a built-in filter that captures clog-causing minerals, such as the one made by Cuisinart.
On another matter: Detergents in dishwashing liquid are great for degreasing pots, but they also can strip hands of natural oils. New Dawn Plus Hand Renewal ($3) claims to leave hands looking and feeling better after only five uses because of an exfoliating enzyme. In tests Good Housekeeping volunteers measured moisture levels on their hands before and after cleaning sessions. Not only did Dawn Plus Hand Renewal leave dishes squeaky-clean, it did not dry out washers' hands.