Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hurom HH Elite Slow-Speed Juicer

Photo courtesy of Hurom.
These juicer people keep upping the ante on juice-making. The newest offering from Hurom, the HH Elite slow-speed juicer has a re-designed auger that is made to extract even more juice from whatever goes into the machine.

More like a mortar and pestle slow grinding rather than a spinning sort of thing, if that makes any sense. I have to say that the pulp that came out of it was pretty darned dense and dry.

But even more amazing was how quiet it was while it was juicing. My very first juicer was louder than my blender or my food processor. This one is a whole lot quieter. You can make your juice while everyone in the house is sleeping, and they'll never notice.

The Hurom HH Elite Juicer comes with two different baskets, so you can choose more or less pulp in your juice. The machine has a cap over the juice port, so if you have different ingredients they can blend in the machine before you dispense it. Or you can leave it open to extract the juice as you make it.

If you're juicing something that doesn't want to behave, the juicer stops, and then you reverse it and then keep going. I needed to do that once when I fed it a little faster than it could eat, but for the most part, it juiced right through everything pretty quickly.

Assembly and disassembly is pretty easy, and once you've done it a number of times, it's even easier, because you know how it all fits.

Fresh pineapple and raspberry juice.
Cleanup is simple, too - run water through it to clean most of it, then take it apart and get the details. Since there aren't any sharp teeth, the baskets are easier to handle and easier to clean, and if any bits seem stuck, a quick swipe with a brush takes care of them pretty easily.

If you plan on leaving this on your counter, there's a cap that fits on top to keep dust or critters out of it when it's not in use. Good feature if you're not a daily juicer or in summer when there are flying critters that might decide to make a home in the juicer.

This is a very solidly-built unit, much like the previous Hurom I tested - no small fiddly pieces, and nothing that looks like it's likely to break. It should last a long time, so if you plan on doing a lot of juicing, this one's a good choice.

Who's it for: Serious juice lovers.

Pros: Very quiet. Very thorough juicing. Easy to clean,

Cons: A unit like this is understandably expensive.

Wishes: I personally like the silver color, but these days people tend to like more color choices.

Source: I received a unit just for review; I have since returned it.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Meatball maker from Harold Import Company.
How to you make meatballs?

If you've got a lot of practice, you can grab portions with your hands and turn out trays and trays and trays of meatballs.

If you're into super-precision, you can weigh those meatballss. If you have a disher, you can use that for portioning.

So, why do you need a meatballer?

It's sort of like a scoop or disher, but it creates actual ball-shaped balls, which is kind of handy. And it's not necessarily just for meat. As long as your mixture is the right consistency, it will work. I'm thinking rice, for example. Maybe dumplings?

Speaking of consistency, it really does matter. I used this meatball-maker quite a few times, and the first time, the mixture was much softer than I usually make, and the results weren't all that good. With a more normal consistency and a little bit of practice, I got nice, even meatballs.

When I was nearly done with the batch of meatballs I made most recently, I started getting some sticking. Next time, I'm going to experiment with spraying the inside of the meatballer with a little oil, or dipping it in cold water to see which one will get it to release easier. But even without it, it wasn't a deal breaker.

And, if I'm being honest, it was kind of fun to use.

Who's it for: People who want to make evenly-sized round meatballs.

Pros: Simple gadget, relatively inexpensive. Made from stainless steel, so it's dishwasher safe.

Cons: It's pretty much a unitasker - if you don't often make meatballs or other ball-like foods, then you probably won't need this.

Wishes: This is a good average-sized meatball, but it would be nice to have options for a smaller and larger meatballs.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sprucing up the Kitchen #OXOSpringCleaning

This dish drainer will never again be this empty.
Sometimes I think those folks at OXO are looking over my shoulder, and this time it's a bit embarrassing. I have tons of cooking gadgets, but my sink area is a bit of a mess.

Or at least it was a bit of a mess.

In their latest spring cleaning campaign, they sent out some useful items that motivated me to organize the area around the sink. I'm not promising it's going to stay this way, but at least I have a fighting chance.

The major change was the nifty new dish rack and drainer that's not going to dribble onto my counter, and that has places to arrange things neatly, and two divided utensil cups - one on each side of the rack - for standing utensils upright.

While most of my dishes can go into the dishwasher, there are some delicate things I wash by hand as well as some that don't fit into the dishwasher.And, since I air-dry my dishes in the dishwasher, there are sometime a few pieces that don't dry completely before the next re-load, so they need a little more air and a little more dry before I put them away. Now I have an organized way to let 'em dry.

Sponge holder, soap dispenser, and scrubby tool. 
The sponge holder doesn't sound like a big deal, but it holds sponges upright so they dry rather than sitting in a puddle or falling into the sink. There's a drip tray that catches drips, and it has feet so it's not going to get stuck to the sink if something does spill. It comes apart for cleaning, and it's dishwasher safe.

A scrubby with a handle and a drip tray is a nice thing, too. The scrubby part is replaceable, so when it wears out I can buy more. I used it on a stainless steel pan that had the remains of a cheese sauce. I thought that was a good test. Now I just need to buy refills, because I'm imagining that I'm going to use it a lot. Note: it's not recommended for nonstick.

In the photo, the soap dispenser is also an OXO product, but it wasn't part of this promotion. It's actually a hand-soap dispenser that I've had for a number of years, but I bought it to use it for dish soap. I couldn't find exactly this model online, but they've got plenty of other pump-style soap dispensers, if you're looking for one.

I also received a sink mat that's supposed to help cushion anything that lands in the sink, and it's heat-resistant, so you can put stove-hot pots right on top of it. Which means it's also dishwasher safe. That's always a plus, since the dishwasher will sanitize it as well.

Sink mat- keeping small things out of my garbage disposal!
The mat is made a fairly soft material, so you can cut it to fit your sink (Yikes! I wish my sink was this big!) and you're supposed to cut a hole for the drain.

But when I had it in the sink and I was about to mark the drain hole, I thought, gee, that's where the garbage disposal is - why not leave the mat as-is and let it catch anything that's trying to go down the drain?

Anything that doesn't fit between the mat's slats shouldn't be going into the garbage disposal, whether it's food bits or forks.

I've accidentally dropped silverware and small measuring tools and other petite items into the garbage disposal. When I see them disappear, it means I get to stick my had down there to retrieve them. If I don't see them disappear - well, I've ruined a few things that way.

If the dish drainer catches anything that needs to be thrown away - like potato peels or egg shells - I can just lift the whole drainer, let it drip a bit, and toss the bits into the trash. Or maybe into a compost bin. I got one of those, too. The city I live in is talking about adding composting to our trash pickup, so this could come in handy.

If I decide I don't like the sink mat as a sink mat, it might come in handy as a trivet for baking sheets. and hot pots and other things that I shouldn't put right onto the counter. We'll see.

Also in the photo with the sink mat is a set of three bottle brushes. They come on a ring for easy hanging ... somewhere. I might hang them inside the under-sink cabinet door, but I haven't decided yet. These will come in handy for more than bottles. And look! That little one is pretty unlikely to fall into the garbage disposal!

They also sent along a set of  4 Piece All Purpose Clips. I use these magnetic clips all the time, for clipping bags shut or for hanging notes and things on the refrigerator. There's also a large hole, so you can clip and hang things on hooks.

Photo by OXO

The Expandable Utensil Organizer that I got from OXO hasn't found a home yet - I've been rearranging some of my kitchen drawers, so it might have a permanent installation soon.  It has dividers to separate things, and it expands from 9 3/4'' to 16 1/2'' so it will fit a whole lot of different drawers. If I don't use it for utensils, I might use it to organize my pastry tips and decorating tools.

Much thanks to OXO for providing all of these tools. Now, I just need to finish my spring cleaning!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gin and Titonic

I've been making a lot of cocktails lately. They're fun. And tasty.

I don't usually go crazy with garnishes in my drinks. I tend to like more simple things like a tart cherry or a fun straw or a slice of citrus

But I also like whimsical things if they're easy to manage, so I was really excited to try the Gin and Titonic ice molds from Fred and Friends.

One mold makes four ships and four icebergs - perfect for crashing into four cocktails.

I have to say that these are fun, even if you're not making a gin and tonic. Everyone would get the joke about a ship and an iceberg, even if they don't know the pun.

I have to say, though, that they looked a heck of a lot better in person than they did when I tried to photograph them. I needed a fairly clear liquid so you could see the ice - but then the ice sort of disappeared from the photos.

I solved the problem by adding some B'lure bitters to the molds to add some color to the ice, and then I made a drink with a bit of acid, so the liquid would turn pink as the ice melted.

For more about B'lure bitters, see this post.

Coloring the ice made them more visible for my photos, but in person, you could use plain ice cubes. When someone's drinking it, they'll see the shape of the ice, even if the mixer is cloudy or the drink is made with cola or another dark mixer.

And of course (duh) you don't need to freeze plain water or use a coloring - fruit juice like cranberry (or whatever matches your drink) would be very appropriate in a cocktail.

One huge tip for serving the best-looking ships and icebergs is to create the drink with liquid that's as cold as possible to keep the ice from melting. That way, people will see the details.

Obviously, keeping your ingredients refrigerated will help, but there's one more thing you can do to make sure the drink is really cold - put the cocktail ingredients (not including carbonated mixers) in a shaker with ice, then shake and strain the liquid into your serving glass. Then add the fun ice and you'll have a colder beverage to start with.

As far as those carbonated mixers, just make sure they're well-refrigerated before you add them to your cocktail.

I have to say that there are definitely fun for cocktails, and maybe best for a gin and tonic, but they'd also be fun for kids - use a bunch of different fruit juices to make different-colored ships to make it really fun.

While I haven't tried it, it might be possible to make those super-dense Jello treats in these, too. I'm not sure how easy they'd be to unmold, but it would be worth trying if you already had this for drinks and you have kids.

Who's it for: People who like fun ice cubes.

Pros: They're just plain fun. Not something you absolutely need, but very fun floating in a glass.

Cons: Maybe sure you've got a a flat place for the ice tray in your freezer so you don't end up with lopsided ships.

Then again, they're capsizing anyway, so it might not matter all that much.

Wishes: I think I'd like more icebergs per drink.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Silicone Cutting Board

This has got to be the most unusual cutting board in my arsenal. I've got wooden ones, plastic ones, flexible plastic ones, and one made of ... something like plastic, but isn't.

This is thick, flexible, sort of squishy/spongy. It's made from a textured, rubbery-feeling silicone, and sold by a company called Foodie's Kitchen.

I was skeptical. Wouldn't I be slicing and dicing it right along with my meat and vegetables? Hmmm? 

So, I tossed it in the dishwasher to make sure it was clean (I wash everything before I use it, even if it's securely packaged - don't you?) and then it landed on my kitchen counter. Cutting on it was interesting. Unlike cutting on a hard surface, there was no thunk or feeling that I'd bottomed out on the cutting surface. Instead, there was a soft, bouncy "give" and bounce-back when I hit the board.

Interesting. The silicone didn't get cut - I checked.

Now, I'm not saying that this think will never get cut. If you're whacking through frozen meat and you really hit the board hard, I'm guessing it will cut the board. Or if you're sawing like mad and keep going when you hit bottom, you'll probably gash the board. But that sort of knife-abuse shouldn't happen very often, right?

The real test of this is whether it's still usable after 6 months or a year. I'll reserve final judgement until then. For now, it seems like it could be useful in ways that my other boards aren't. For one thing, the flexibility means that I can bend the board to help me get food neatly into a pot or bowl. For another, it's very heat-resistant, so I can use it as a trivet. I could put it on top of a pot to cover it, if I didn't have a lid at hand, I could put it in the microwave - I'm not sure why I'd do that, but I could. I could put it in the oven. Again, I'm not sure why I would do that, but I could.

Unlike my wooden boards, it's dishwasher safe, which is important. Since it's flexible, I can bend it to make it fit a different way if I need to. Unlike my thin, bendy plastic boards, it's sturdy enough to not bend permanently. And the handle slips into the hole on the opposite edge, so you can keep it in a tubular shape, if that's something that's useful for you.

And since it's silicone and not a harder material, it grips my counter surface, so it's less likely to move around.

Who's it for: Everyone needs a decent cutting board. This is one option.

Pros: So far, it seems like a really good idea. It has measurements along the edges, if you need them.

Cons: Time will tell if it remains to be useful. But if I can't cut on it, I imagine it will still have use as a trivet.

Wishes: It seems that blue is the only color. It would be great if it was available in other colors to match decor or color-code uses, or just for the fun of it.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Leaf Vodka - organic and unique

Gone are the days when vodka is a colorless, odorless and somewhat harsh substance that you mix with cheap orange juice.

Leaf Vodka is a whole new thing. It's organic. And there are currently two different option - based on the water they're made from.

Yup. Water.

One variety is made from Alaskan glacial water and the other is made from Rocky Mountain mineral water. Since there were two types, I had to taste-test them side-by-site, right?

They were distinctly different. The Alaskan was slightly sweeter, with citrus notes. The Rocky Mountain was sharper with hits of ... well, minerals. Both of them were very sippable and very very smooth.

This is the kind of vodka you'd use in a drink where the vodka is a prominent flavor - like a martini. Or in a cocktail with a mild-flavored mixer, like tonic water or club soda. Or if you're mixing it with a small amount of fresh juice or a quality prepared juice. This vodka really deserved to shine. Save the cheap orange juice for something else.

Possibly irrelevant is that the bottles look really cool. Not important if you shove them into a cabinet, but if you display your liquors, those will stand out. I tend to re-use interesting-looking bottles, so these will probably be around for a while after the vodka is gone.

Do you like quality vodka? Seek these out.

I'll have a cocktail using these over on Cookistry later. So look for it.

Who's it for: People who like quality liquor.

Pros: Tasty.

Cons: Might be hard to find in your local area.

Wishes: Hoping they'll come up with more versions, since the first two are so good.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Purple Canning Jars from Ball. Purrrrrpleeee.

I have to say that when I found out that Ball was making purple canning jars, I might have let out a little "squeeee!"

Purple is my favorite color, so of course I had to have some jars. Of course. I mean, I already had a few blue and green jars from previous years.

While my desire for purple jars is all about the color, there's a good reason I think serious canners might want to use jars of different colors.

Can you guess?

How about this? Use a different color every year, or every batch - it's an easy visual way to make sure you use the oldest product first. Of course you should label your jars, but if you're color-coding, you can tell without having to read the labels.

Or, you can use different colors to indicate which jars are spicy and which are mild.

Or which ones you're keeping and which you're giving away.

Or anything else that you want to color code.

Or ,,, you tell me. Why do you want canning jars in different colors?

Who's it for: Anyone who does any canning or uses jars for storage.

Pros: Color! These are standard ball jars, but with color

Cons: Some foods might look weird in colored jars.

Wishes: More colors! More colors!

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Edgy Foil Cutter for Wine Bottles

Back when I first started drinking good wine, I didn't know there was such a thing as a foil cutter.

I had a corkscrew, of course. But when it came to removing the foil (or plastic, or whatever else covered the cork and bottle neck) I would go after it with the tip of the corkscrew. Or I'd use scissors or a knife.

It wasn't particularly safe, and it sure wasn't the easiest thing to do.

Since then, my corkscrews have gotten better and now I know what a foil cutter is. Basically, you put the cutter at the top of the bottle, squeeze, so it grips the top of the neck of the wine bottle, and then twist until the cutter has gone through the foil or plastic that covers the cork.

Once you've cut through, you can remove that little top piece and get to the cork. Not need to unwrap the whole neck, and it makes a nice, neat, attractive cut.

The one I received (at no cost to me) from Edgy is made of red plastic with four round metal blades on the underside. The cutter comes in a "presentation box" should that matter to you - it's a nice option if you're giving this as a gift, since it makes wrapping a little easier.

On the other hand, if you're buying it for yourself, the packaging is less important, except to protect it during shipping.

Who's it for: Wine drinkers. This would be a nice add-on gift with a bottle of wine that has a cork. It would be sort of silly if your gift wine has a twist off cap, right?

Pros: Works well. Red color is easy to see when it migrates to the bottom of the drawer of doom.

Cons: Plastic is a little lightweight, but then again, it's not really a heavy-duty tool.

Wishes: I'm not sure if this comes in other colors, but that would be sort of cool.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Aroma R-evolution

While much of my cooking is done by touch and feel and taste, I'm also interesting in the science behind food and flavor and cooking and nutrition.

One interesting thing is how much our sense of smell affects what we taste. We all know how lousy food tastes when we're sick, right? That's because when we're all stuffed up, we can't smell the food we're eating, so all the flavors are dull and muted.

The Aroma R-evolution kit from Molecule-R is designed to play with the connection between your sense of smell and your taste. The kit comes with a number of vials, some wacky forks, some little pads that fit into the forks, and some plastic droppers.

The idea is that you put the pad in its place on a fork, put a drop of one of the scents on the pad, and then taste food while purposely inhaling the scent.

It's an interesting experience as the scents actually cause you to taste - really taste - the flavors of things that you're not eating.

It makes the most sense to try compatible flavors. Probably the best I sampled was a mint scent while eating chocolate cake. I tasted the chocolate first, and after I swallowed, the mint was distinctly there, just like I had eaten a chocolate mint. It was pretty surprising.

The kit divides the scents into six categories and includes 21 scents: beans (chocolate, coffee, and vanilla); fruits (banana, lychee, passion fruit and strawberry); herbs (basil, cilantro and mint); nuts: (almond, coconut and peanut); spices (black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and wasabi) and  umami (butter, olive oil, smoke and truffle).

While this kit is fun, I doubt anyone's going to eat a whole dinner with these forks and scents. But there is a practical purpose, and it's something I actually do with some spices when I'm cooking.

What I do is taste the food while I sniff the spice jar, and it gives me an idea of whether that spice will go well with whatever I'm cooking. Of course I already know what spices I'm likely to use in a spaghetti sauce or chili, but if I'm winging it with a soup or stew, there are times when I think it needs a little extra something, but I'm not sure what. So I taste and sniff to see what spice might fill that flavor gap that I think might be missing. It's possible someone might use the kit in the same way, sniffing to see if more butter or smoke or banana would make the dish better.

Or, you know, it's just a fun thing to have around when you make that vanilla cake and your guests want to try coconut, ginger, and chocolate - or a mix of flavors. Smoky mint, anyone?

I received this kit as a gift.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Kitchen Buddies Silicone Muffin Cups #Giveaway

Silicone muffin cups, 2 of each of 6 colors
When silicone muffin cups first arrived on the scene, I was pretty skeptical. Paper liners were traditional and easy and cheap and they were what I was used to.

Silicone muffin cups are obviously more expensive than paper liners, but they're reusable, so if you bake enough cupcakes and muffins, they pay for themselves. Of course, if you win some, they don't need to pay for themselves, right?

Another objection I had to silicone liners was that I imagined that people would throw them away, just like they toss the paper ones. But I think that these days, people know they're reusable, so they're not as likely to throw them away.

But now that I've gotten used to having silicon muffin cups around, I'm hooked. For one thing, I can bake in them without using a muffin pan. I still do use a pan when I'm making a dozen cupcakes. But when I'm baking one or two, it's nice to just use the silicone cups.

Krusteaz chocolate chunk muffins cooked in silicone muffin cups.
And there are other uses for the silicone muffin cups. You can freeze things in them, use them for mise en place, or use them in the microwave. I actually wrote a whole post about what you can use them for, besides baking. And they're dishwasher safe.

So, when the folks at Kitchen Buddies asked if I wanted to give some away, I said heck, yeah. They sent me samples, and I compared them to other silicone cups I already have. They're a nice thickness - a tad thicker and some that I got free with a muffin pan, but still thin enough so you can easily turn them inside out to remove the muffins or to clean them. They're also slightly larger than some others I have, giving you a little more room for the cupcakes or muffins.

I'm giving away three sets of the silicone muffin liners - one to each of three lucky winners, but if you need some right away, you can find them on Amazon. And, to make the deal sweeter, if you use the coupon code P2IUU5XV, you'll get $3 off your purchase, making these super-affordable.

Just go to THIS LINK to find them, toss them in your cart, and use the code when you buy to get your $3 discount. It's good until March 31, 2015.

If you want to know more about the company, you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Product was provided at no cost to me; the manufacturer will be shipping directly to the winners.