Thursday, November 25, 2010

Speed up air-drying dishes

Doing the dishes should be its own reward. After cleaning a sink full of dirty dishes, a whole rack filled with fresh plates waiting to be used again should be enough to satisfy any home cook. But it's not. They have to dry. Of course, one could use a towel to simply speed up the process, but there is another way.

The Bon Home Heat And Dry Dish Rack ($99.95) makes dishes available to use again at the flick of a switch. Disguised as an ordinary dish rack, this particular model hides a convenient fan underneath. Air is heated and directed over the dishes, drying them quickly and automatically. Measuring 20.5 inches wide by 16.25 inches, the 7-inch tall, 750-watt appliance offers quiet operation while blending in next to the sink.

With space for six place settings, the dish rack is large enough to accommodate most any household. Movable wire racks allow for customized configuration, and an elevated shelf keeps stemware and other fragile items separate from dishes. A multicompartment utensil holder features specialized slots designed to protect cutlery while at the same time accommodating general flatware. Though the sink full of dirty dishes still has to somehow make it on to the contraption, the drying appliance finally validates the excuse to just let the dishes air-dry.


Heat lamp for home use

There is no denying the deliciousness of much takeaway food. First of all, many might say the convenience alone ups the flavor factor. Certainly every maker of microwaveable food would agree. But there is more to it than that: Since the beginning of comfort food itself, people have tried to capture that elusive essence that can make a meal felt down to the bones. (And not just the ribs either.) No, the common quality is not necessarily fat (although we all know that equals flavor) or freedom from the kitchen; the elements that all comfort foods have in common are warmth and heat.

The Bon Home Culinary Heat Lamp won't help you cook up a batch of mac 'n' cheese or a chicken pot pie, but it will help keep food warm. Mimicking a restaurant heat lamp, which may be a necessary evil in some sectors of the service industry, the fold-up, adjustable-height gadget designed for home use can be seen in a whole new, uh, light.

The 205-watt bulbless heat lamp provides infrared heating that could be used in a variety of ways. Pizza delivered cold again? Heat lamp. French fries don't quite have the same kick as in the drive-through? Heat lamp. Or perhaps the heat lamp can be used for more practical purposes; lamps can be linked together to keep food warm at a buffet or carving station. Whatever the use, nothing quite warms the heart(burn) like a heat lamp for the home.

Popcorn maker stirs up some flavor

Homemade fresh popcorn is really where it's at. Aside from the important aspect that most anything freshly made is at the peak of its potential, when it comes to homemade popcorn the flavor can be precisely controlled. However, getting all that great flavor incorporated can be a tricky undertaking. And more than a bit messy when using sticky ingredients.

The Cuisinart EasyPop Plus Popcorn Maker offers a convenient method for popcorn popping, and adds the capability to stir in flavorings to the resultant batch. After all the popcorn has popped, the switch can then be flipped over to the stir position to continue the process and mix in caramel, spice mixtures, and anything else you can dream up. (It may or not taste so great, but hey, popcorn is a good thing to experiment with.)

Sometimes plain popcorn is what the situation calls for. With the capability to produce up to 10 cups of popped popcorn using just one tablespoon of oil, the mechanized popcorn maker allows for the option to keep it simple. The 550-watt machine stands at just more than a foot tall, and while not everybody may approve of your choice of additions, the fact that the unit can be easily cleaned (the BPA-free plastic lid is dishwasher safe and the base wipes clean with a damp cloth) means a fresh batch of popcorn is always just a countertop away.

Make space for the pie maker

Few foods are as versatile as pie can be. Food in pie form has--and always will be--popular with adults and children alike. Those who tend to lean toward the sweet side of the menu are well represented, as are fans of savory foods; plenty of choices exist for all. However, though endless options are great for eaters, those who actually prepare all these pies have many recipes to learn. Sometimes a whole full-size pie can be just too much. Whether trying new recipes or just looking to make smaller servings, pie fans (i.e. everybody) no longer have to commit to six or eight slices.

Creating four individually sized pies at the same time, the Breville Pie Maker offers something for everybody. The 1,200-watt countertop appliance measures 11 inches by 15 inches with a height of 5 inches. Weighing just over 7 pounds, and with a power cord that wraps into the unit, the pie maker could be easily stored, but with a cooking time of only 8 minutes for most pies, the appliance may be too tempting to ever store away.

Pie production is made easy with the inclusion of an appropriately sized pastry cutter, which is two-sided for cutting both top and bottom pieces. When cooking, all the pies are automatically crimped shut, meaning about the only thing to worry about is just what kind of pie (or pies) to make. With nonstick cooking plates that make cleanup a breeze, finding the right pie is only a matter of finding space on the countertop.


Stir-fry the modern way

Countertop appliances come in all shapes and sizes. Most have specialized appeal, but sometimes it is versatility that makes them attractive. No matter what the appliance, one thing they all have in common is accessibility; perched on the countertop they stand ready to be pressed into service at a moment's notice. Sometimes that accessibility transcends simple convenience, opening up a window into new culinary options.

The Breville BEW600XL Hot Wok marries rich Eastern culinary history with the Western penchant for convenience. More than just classic styling in a modern package, the electric wok offers contemporary features that bring the timeless cooking vessel up to date. Featuring a nonstick interior, a unique butterfly-shaped heating element and fifteen heat settings, the countertop wok offers precision control.

The (not-so) secret of wok cooking is the concave shape of the vessel itself: the high walls offer distinct cooking zones that allow cooks to manipulate foods as needed. Mimicking this heat distribution, the electric wok provides 1,500 watts of power, complete with the ability to sear foods at the highest heat setting. Old and new mingle and merge in this one appliance, providing modern households with an updated take on classic cookery--perfect for putting through the paces with some online-procured exotic ingredients.

A toast to robot cupcakes and ice cubes

Much has been written about the eventual robot uprising. However, until that time comes, Earth and the sky above are the domain of humans; clearly, we should make the most of it while the time is ours. With Skynet in its incubation stage, we humans are free to toast and enjoy the fruits of our creations, with a cold drink and a cupcake, of course. Naturally, the best way to enjoy this meal would be with robot-themed accessories.

For whatever reason, finding a robot drink to toast over a robot cupcake has never been too easy. Luckily (or not), times have changed and the good folks at Fred & Friends have foreseen this demand and unleashed appropriate gear upon the masses.

Toasting with robots has never been easier. The ChillBots Ice Cube Tray is a bright-red silicone mold used for producing four robot ice cubes. The fun kitchen accessory is made to produce ice resembling something of a '50s-style robot. (The wind-up key kind of gives it away.) All that is missing is the bright paint job and sparks flying out of its mouth.

Appealing to young and old, techie and Luddite alike, the YumBots are a set of four robot-shaped silicone baking cups. All that is required is to fill them with batter and bake. As an added bonus, the heads are movable and capable of swiveling around to keep an eye on you for your amusement.

Hmm, perhaps to be on the safe side, use these robot-style utensils. Just in case.

This rotisserie doesn't spin

Rotisserie cooking has become a commonplace occurrence. It can be done at home in the kitchen or the backyard, thanks to a wide assortment of appliances. For those who prefer to have their meal cooked for them, quality rotisserie is available from many restaurants and even some food trucks. Supermarkets are also in on the act, with many of them supplying customers with hot cooked whole chickens ready to plucked up and placed in the grocery cart. While there is no lack of options when it comes to rotisserie, most follow one basic method: rotate the food around a heat source.

Not satisfied with the status quo, the Kalorik DGR 31031 S.S Rotisserie instead opts to rotate the heat around the food. The 1,420-watt countertop appliance measures 15.4 inches by 16.1 inches by 16.5 inches and appears similar to other models of the same ilk. However, with four heating elements the Kalorik model has some distinct differences. In addition to the unique method of heating in a circular pattern, the rotisserie has an emerging feature that many other methods simply cannot provide in the fact that the center spit also acts as a heating element which can be turned on and off.

The lack of moving parts makes for an interesting kitchen gadget and has some obvious benefits, reduced wear and tear being most notable. Considering rotisserie cooking's time-tested popularity, as well as its versatility, having a countertop unit at the ready can only be regarded as a good thing--no matter how you spin it.

Convenient coffeemaker rolls into good taste

Coffee convenience is almost as important as the coffee itself. The continuing proliferation of coffeehouses can attest to that. Though it is certainly easy to simply walk into a cafe and order a coffee drink, that method doesn't necessarily represent the apex of coffee convenience; you still have to manage to get to a cafe, after all. About the easiest way to get a cup of coffee--other than having somebody go get it for you--might just be a particular honor saved for single-serve capsule coffeemakers.

Making coffee doesn't get much easier than inserting a coffee-filled capsule into a machine. Not only is it easy, but it's also practically mess-free and has the added benefit of producing single-size servings. The lack of ability to use freshly ground beans is certainly worth mentioning, but also notable is the fact that with capsules, nobody has to clean up the grounds either. An additional factor that distinguishes many capsule coffeemakers from more traditional models: they often just look too institutional.

Bland design is certainly not a problem for the Krups Dolce Gusto Circolo. Available in red or a titanium finish, the distinctive coffeemaker is made to bring what is often seen as a workplace convenience into the home. The unique machine comes complete with features designed to maximize coffee enjoyment such as a 15-bar pressure system and a control lever to customize the strength of the resultant brew. Convenience, mechanical intrigue, and design don't always roll up well together, but with the Circolo all three combine to make coffee-making about as easy as can be.

Bread-maker mixes in the add-ins

Automation has been great for the kitchen, particularly breakfast. After all, upon waking up in the morning, it is only the best of us who seem to be capable of the simplest of tasks. (Coffee helps--that is after somebody manages to make it.) This desire for food and coffee to be waiting for us in the kitchen has sparked the imagination of Hollywood and the particularly industrious alike. (For Rube Goldberg breakfast-making machines see Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Back to the Future.) We may have automatic coffee makers (thankfully), but that is only just a start.

One small step forward in the chain of automation can be found with the Panasonic SD-RD250 Automatic Bread Maker with Fruit/Nut Dispenser. Featuring the next logical step regarding usage of the delay bake option seen on most bread machines, this particular model ups the ante by automating the process. Dropping 150 grams of mix-ins at just the right moment, the bread machine produces loaves of cinnamon-raisin-walnut bread (for example) hot and ready in the morning.

More than just a breakfast-bread-making-machine, the automatic bread-maker is also capable of other tasks. Naturally, a choice between having the crust come out light or dark is an option, but the bread-maker also lets users choose between two loaf sizes. In addition, a bake-only mode is incorporated. If just dough is desired, the machine can handle it, giving users the choice of pizza or pasta dough. Of course, such options require some user intervention, but properly fueled with coffee and breakfast bread, the task will seem a lot less daunting.

Hands-free candy dispensing

Germs are no fun; candy, however, is. Those most notorious of candy addicts, kids, aren't particularly well-known for their fastidiousness. But when it comes to candy, they harbor no ambivalence. Attacking bowls of candy with no regard for others is a common trait, and one that is hard to avoid. Kids will be kids, after all, but don't let that ruin the candy bowl. For the hygienically challenged (of any age), there is hope.

To the sweet-toothed germophobe, the CandyMan Motion-Activated Candy Dispenser is the best idea since individually wrapped candy. Operated with only a swipe of the hand, the machine dispenses unwrapped candy, unsalted nuts, and gumballs automatically.

With a 12.5-cup capacity, the battery-operated gadget (an AC adapter is sold separately) holds a good amount of treats, meaning there is less time spent refilling and more time for snacking. Not limited to just dispensing small handfuls for small hands, the automatic treat-giver can be adjusted to give two larger portions, "large handful" and "bowl." Of course, with sugary treats always on hand, the device may be good for peace of mind but the waistline may suffer--quite possibly in direct proportion to the number of candy-hungry kids running about the household.


Open and shut case for doughnuts

Doughnuts aren't typically the type of things one thinks too often about creating at home. Most every community has a doughnut shop nearby, and if it doesn't, then the next one over certainly will have one. Aside from the ubiquity of doughnut purveyors, the simple fact is one (or a dozen...) will usually suffice. But don't let all that stop you from whipping up a batch of five at home.

The Sunbeam FPSBDML920 Donut Maker is a bright-yellow countertop appliance that screams for attention. If the color doesn't grab you, the doughnut-shaped design will. The clamshell-type baker flips open to reveal five cavities (or perhaps it would be better to describe them as impressions) in the shape of doughnuts. Just fill with batter, shut the lid, and wait.

Measuring 10.8 inches by 8 inches with a height of 3.8 inches, the gadget looks good on the counter in any doughnut-themed kitchen. (Probably regular kitchens, too.) Since the doughnut-making machine is endowed with a nonstick interior, doughnut making doesn't require the addition of any fats or oils. With good looks and the promise of being released from the gripping hold of the local doughnut establishment, the doughnut maker might never leave the countertop. If you must put it away, however, the hinged lid does clasp shut for easy storage.