Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New Baster, New Technique. Happy Thanksgiving!

OXO Good Grips Turkey Baster

When Thanksgiving rolled around, I was devastated to learn that my super-cool Tovolo turkey baster had somehow gotten crunched in our gadget drawer. That meant I had to make an emergency trip to the local store for a new one. The pickings, sadly, were kinda slim (at Kohl’s, if you must know), but I found an OXO Good Grips Turkey Baster for the surprisingly high price of $14.99 (the only other model cost even more) and brought it home with me.

OXO’s baster is a clear plastic tube that’s about nine inches long with a black rubber bulb on top. A hard plastic collar locks onto the tube where the bulb attaches to the business end. The tube itself is marked off in quarter-ounce increments on one side; with 5 ml gradations on the other. According to those markings, the capacity is a bit over 1½ ounces and forty-some milliliters. The baster includes a cleaning brush comes that fits inside for storage.

There are two versions of OXO’s baster, one with a straight tube and an angled version that includes a built-in rest. I'd have preferred the angle version since it’s similar to my late Tovolo, but this store didn't carry it.
This model works like most basters: squeeze the bulb to suck up some liquid, squeeze it a second time to expel the liquid. Unlike a few basters I’ve had in the past, the bub doesn’t slide around on the slippery turkey drippings, which is a good thing.

squeeze like this
I didn't test the baster capacity, but I rather doubt that a single squeeze of the bulb would can completely fill the 1½-ounce tube. In reality, I didn't care... What I did find myself caring about is that the plastic collar forced me to change how I operate a baster. Normally, I’d just squeeze the bulb like a kid’s bicycle horn, but OXO designed this one so you hold the collar like a syringe, and press with your thumb as if the bulb were a plunger. If you try a normal squeeze, it doesn't work particularly well.

There’s nothing on the packaging to show the modified use and I didn't figure it out on my own until after I'd cooked the turkey. I guess you’re forewarned…
copyright © 2017 scmrak

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Grind Your Own Coffee: Little Muss, Little Fuss

KitchenAid BCG111 Blade Coffee Grinder

The fact is that, while I drink as much or more coffee than many people, I’m not that “picky” about the stuff. When push comes to shove, my coffee needs are pretty basic: I want it dark, and I want it strong. Froufrou infusions of vanilla or hazelnut need not apply, nor do I want artificially-flavored creamers. French roast, though? Bring it on…
KitchenAid BCG111OB BCG111ER Blade Coffee Grinder
We quit buying ground coffee a while back and went to whole bean, mostly because we were buying three pounds at a time and could taste it going “stale.” That switch necessitated a new grinder, since the one we’d had for more than thirty years was basically shot. Pretty much all we could find in the local stores was the KitchenAid  BCG111OB, in "onyx black" (it's also available in "empire red" as the BCG111ER). We’ve had good experiences with KitchenAid in the past, so it was pretty much a no-brainer.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Let's All Do the Corkscrew Two-Step

Le Creuset Waiter's Friend Corkscrew

Some time ago, one bottle of bubbly flummoxed every corkscrew in the house. It had a a muffin-top like a champagne bottle, but too small to “thumb” it out. The lady of the house liked the stuff enough to buy more, but mentioned the problem to a liquor-store clerk who claimed to have just the solution. He sold her a corkscrew he claimed would "open any wine bottle." He was pretty much right: the Le Creuset Waiter’s Friend may well be the king of all corkscrews.

Waiter's Friend Corkscrew from Le Creuset
Le Creuset's version modifies a typical folding waiter's corkscrew: you know, the kind that levers the cork out by propping a folding arm on the lip of the bottle. Their modification is a corkscrew with a "two-step" function: the levered arm has two positions based on a spring-loaded catch. You use position one to start the extraction, while position two finishes pulling the cork.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Forget the Cheap Plastic Cutting Mats!

Progressive Prepworks Cutting Mats

In the age of bacteriaphobia – when the average homemaker douses every surface with antibacterial soaps, consumes antibacterial wipes like… like Kleenex®, and sprays Purell® as if it were air freshener – wooden cutting boards are, apparently, passé. Silly people, don’t you know your gut is full of bacteria?? In reality, though, cross-contamination between meats and raw vegetables can be a problem, so even the most bacteriophilic homeowner (that's be me) uses different knives and cutting boards for meat and vegetables, even if the veggies will be cooked.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches: I Scream with Delight!

Cuisipro Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Maker

We're (fairly) hardcore about watching weight at our house, but we still cling to one vice: ice cream. We both love the stuff so much we eat it almost every day, though we try to stick to low(er)-fat versions whenever possible. While trying to cut back even further, we started eating an occasional Skinny Cow® ice cream sandwich, which – unfortunately – aren’t all that great. But wait: there’s a way to make your own at home: the Cuisipro Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Maker. Not only are the results yummy, making your own is fun!


The little maker is actually pretty simple: you have a hollow plastic (BPA-free, of course) tube with a piston in the top. The bottom edge is just sharp enough to cut through a soft cookie, which is the way you start making your sandwich. Cut a cookie (microwave it for 10 seconds or so if it’s too brittle), spoon in an ounce or so of ice cream, any flavor, then cut a second cookie. 

Now hold the bottom of the tube against a plate and compress the cookie by turning the handle. Lift the bottom off the plate and keep turning the handle to shove the completed sandwich out the bottom onto the plate. Voila! An ice cream sandwich in just a minute or so! Since the edges of the tube are only sharp enough to cut through a soft cookie, this is pretty much kid-safe. 


The kit comes ready to make sandwiches in three shapes – heart, circle and star. A completed sandwich is about 1½ inches across, and can be up to about 2½ thick. They may be small for adults, but they’re a great kid-size treat. You can make up a plate in advance and freeze them for parties, etc.

Everything is dishwasher-safe (top rack) and disassembles pretty easily for adults (they’re designed to be tough for little hands to take apart). There aren’t any small parts to disappear or swallow, either. You may need to soak a maker for a while to get cookie crumbs out of them before washing by hand.

Making treats with a Cuisipro Ice Cream Sandwich Maker is yummy and fun – what’s not to like!?


Plus: fun to use, kid-friendly, yummy results
Minus: a bit hard to clean out crumbs, sandwiches small for grown-ups (eat two!)

What They’re Saying: When you cut the cookies to make your own ice cream sandwiches, all the calories leak out… you wish…
copyright © 2015-2017 scmrak

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

There are Foodpod People at My House

Fusionbrands Silicone Food Pod

We love silicone! Not because of those…because of the great silicone products that are cropping up in kitchens these days. It’s not just hotpads and trivets, though; once in a while there’s a product we’d never thought about, products like the Fusionbrands Foodpod from HIC (Harold Imports Company). 


There’s no way to be nice: this thing is weird-looking. It resembles a collapsed balloon with lots of holes torn in it plus a thick plastic stem like a pumpkin. The basket is 6” in diameter and about 3” high; made from translucent silicon. The stem is 6” long and ends in a hook.
The top comes off for an opening about 2½ to 3” in diameter. It closes simply: the stem is attached to a hard plastic disk that has prongs matching holes around the opening. The basket’s surface is covered with oval holes, some as much as 1” long.  It’s about the size of a 3-quart saucepan, but will fit into something smaller if needed. 
A foodpod is designed to use when blanching or boiling foods like greens, eggs and potatoes. Because the holes are fairly large, it doesn’t work for small vegetables. We’ve used ours to boil eggs and potatoes; and to blanch beans and sugar peas. The small pieces leak out the holes and into the pot, so a skimmer or strainer may be necessary. We clip the hook over the pot’s rim, or let it stick out the top of smaller pots.The hook doesn’t get hot, even when the pods dunked in boiling water. All those holes allow for good water circulation, and the long handle means it’s easy to swirl in hot water and then pull out the basket and drain off excess water. 

The silicone material won’t pick up color or flavor from foods boiled in it, and it’s definitely dishwasher-safe. Around our house, it’s been a useful, though not essential tool to have. 

Using the FoodPod

Just drop in whatever and close the lid, then dunk the whole thing in hot or boiling water. When the time is up, pull it out by the handle. With most foods, excess water drains off quickly. I might like it better if the holes weren’t this big, but I’ll overlook the occasional floater ‘if it means fewer singed fingertips. 


PLUS: easy to use, strange-looking kitchen conversation starter
MINUS: holes large enough that small stuff falls through
What They're Saying: A Fusionbrands Foodpod can be handy for boiling and blanching. Small items will slip through the holes, however, so be prepared.
copyright © 2015-2017 scmrak

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Great Scale for Cooking and For Watching Your Weight

Cuisinart KS-55 Weight Mate Digital Kitchen Scale

There used to be a commercial that said (of prunes, no less), "Is two enough? Is three too many?" It may be easy to count your prunes and bowls of All-Bran, but have you ever tried eyeballing six ounces of pasta or three ounces of cream cheese? So many recipes giving measurements in weight instead of volume, we decided a kitchen scale was pretty much a necessity. That’s why a Cuisinart KS-55 Weight Mate Digital Kitchen Scale now lives on our kitchen counter.

What’s to like about a Cuisinart KS-55