Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Great Grillers

Memorial Day beckons the beginning of the grilling season. There are many wonderful accessories to help you create the best grilled entrees for your friends and families including the FYRKAT grill by Bodum which also boasts coordinating Grill Tools in coordinating colors for US $19.95 each and a BISTRO Sauce Pot for US $19.95 which is a great way to store your favorite BBQ sauce, marinade or glaze. A notable sauce to add to your grill side is the Lava Hot variety by Two Fat Guys Gourmet Sauces, which is a gluten and fat free sauce that provides a wonderful dose of heat to your favorite meats. Other notable products for summer grilling include Firewire, a flexible grilling skewer that allows you to thread your favorite kabob, marinate it in a plastic bag and place it on the grill. The Firewire is a 100% flexible stainless steel skewer resists rust, is dishwasher safe and lasts a lifetime. You will never go back to wooden skewers ever again! A set of two skewers retails for US $12 and is available at http://www.amazon.com/. Rosle has created a lovely set of steak and meat thermometers that are color coded for ease of use. Each thermometer has two functions, one for frying steak and the other for roasting meats including chicken, beef, lamb or pork. The units can be used at the grill, in the frying pan or in the oven and are dishwasher safe. If you are planning to add seafood to your lineup, Staub has a 2 quart cast iron mussel pot perfect for steaming your favorite mussels or other seafood and shellfish. The unit includes a handy stainless steel strainer and is designed to allow for easy tilting and is freezer and dishwasher safe and can be used in an oven up to 500 degrees. Made in France the unit retails for US $109.95 and is available at select retailers including Sur La Table. Grilling will never be complete without the perfect burgers. Sliders have soared in popularity over the past couple of years, and Nordic Ware has a perfect Slider Burger pan to help you create these little gems. The slider burgers grill pan is made of heavy cast aluminum with a nonstick coating. The unit can make up to 7 burgers at one time and includes a searing plate to provide grill marks. In addition, the hand press provides the user with perfectly formed burgers that fit into each cavity. The unit is sold in the US for $38. For more info on grilling contact us at cooklikejackie@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New and Notable: Portable All-Clad Induction Burner

In early April, The New York Times published an article examining the pros and cons of induction cooking. For those looking to integrate induction cooking into their homes, induction ranges that are easier to use and more affordable are available through Viking, GE, Samsung and Kenmore. All-Clad, a leader in innovative and iconic cookware recently introduced a portable induction burner which boasts precise temperature controls, safety and easy cleanup. The unit can serve as an extra burner or hot plate or for dramatic effect, used table side to create wonderful dishes to order. The burner can be used with all magnetic cookware that has a flat base and can accomodate diameters of 6"-12" inclduing the All-Clad stainless and copper core cookware lines. With a stainless steel body that includes a ceramic glass cooking surface, the burner provides heat ranges from 1-10 or extra low to high. It also features menu options that correspond to specific cooking functions including like a "melt" function in addition to a timer and a residual heat indicator. Fans of greener cookware will be glad to know that the unit uses nearly 90% of the energy produced which is far higher than 40% with gas cooking and 55% with electric units resulting in cook times of nearly twice that of other units. Sold exclusively at Sur La Table stores the unit retails for US $799.95. Cook Like Jackie readers can use our Sur La Table banner on our blog to place an order directly through their website. For more information on induction cooking please e-mail cooklikejackie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New and Notable - Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker

Cook Like Jackie readers may have been feeling that I have been a little heavy on the tea items, but that is only because this area is exploding. Not only are there great loose tea varieties available and wonderful tea shops to explore, but there are a host of new products on the market that will provide you with maximum tea enjoyment. New and notable is the Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker, a two-part brewing system that allows you to make up to 66 ounces of your favorite loose or bagged tea at one time. The system comes with two cylindrical AcraGlass food safe and BPA-free pitchers that can be easily integrated into any casual dining environment. When I initially looked at the product, I thought that using two pieces would perhaps be too cumbersome especially for someone like me who is already heavy on the kitchen gear. However after using the system for several days, I came to appreciate the design and the usefulness that the two pitchers provide. The smaller pitcher houses a removable rotating infuser which can steep up to 8 teaspoons of your favorite tea. While you are brewing your tea in the smaller pitcher, ice can be added to the larger pitcher. After steeping, you can simply pour your brewed tea over the ice and turn the lid to seal it in place. If you choose to do so, the smaller pitcher can now be used to brew a backup batch that can replenish your tea when needed. The lids are one of the most remarkable aspects of the tea system because they are designed to be airtight. Each lid has direction labels on the top to help you to lock them in place, and thin slits on each side which when the placed in the proper position, allow for easy pouring. The handle is easy to grip and my was in the avocado/olive color scheme. Other lid color options include orange, blue, white and black. The parts are lightweight yet sturdy, dishwasher safe and the aggravation of having two pieces is easily overlooked when you realize that you can create a backup container which makes refreshing your larger jug a breeze. I would have liked to see a more substantial infuser that contained a heavier plastic or even stainless steel on the basket. I also felt that the mesh part of the infuser is soft and fine, which will keep tea leaves out of the water, but the mesh is a bit flimsy. Fragrant or colored teas may stain the infuser with repeated use, so be sure to clean that part frequently and allow it to dry properly. Overall, this is a great product, especially for iced tea aficionados. The set retails for US $39.95 and is available at many retailers including http://www.amazon.com/. For more information on making the most of your iced tea e-mail cooklikejackie@gmail.com. FTC Disclaimer - Sample product was provided for this review.

Viking Grill Giveaway!

Facebook users can enter to win a free 30" grill from Viking Corporation by selecting the "Win a Grill" tab on the Viking Corporation Facebook page! Enter to win today! For more information e-mail cooklikejackie@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cook Like Jackie Q&A - Vitamix

Cook Like Jackie loves to receive reader questions! Thanks to Shayna from Atlanta for the following question:

Q: I read your articles about kitchen gadgets and things and was wondering what you thought about the Vitamix? Your post about Costco led me to ask you as it is one of the few places here where it can be purchased. Ever heard of it? If so, thoughts?

A: I too have seen the the Vitamix demonstrated at Costco and its claims that it can do so many things in one machine are impressive. The company has a long, storied history of innovation and for the right person it is a great product. However, after looking at the price tag and my lifestyle, I have passed on it for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that after so many years of demonstrating products I realize that most small electrics usually do one or two things well, so general skepticism creeps in because I do not believe that there are truly one size fits all machines. Secondly, knowing that I am a person who loves the next best thing, being wedded to a $650 machine like this is not something I am inclined to do. Third, style is important to me, I want all of the gadgets that I buy to have a common theme or thread, to look contemporary and to essentially bring artwork into my kitchen. Finally, I am very stringent about not doing too many things with the same machine. I don't want to mix ice cream in the same machine I use to make salsa for example. Your question led me to share with you and other readers some of the rules of thumb that I use as a guide for selecting products that suit me:

Determine what you like to eat versus what you like to cook. Most people know what foods and dishes they like to eat, but asking them to prepare something is totally different. Try to find products that will enhance what you are already inclined to do, but would like to do in a more efficient way. For example, I love fresh squeezed juice, but I usually find it easier to buy a concentrate and just add water. However, when I started to use a citrus press, it made the job of squeezing fruits easier and led me back to a more authentic taste with less sugar because it is easy to use and easy to clean.

Do not overlook the social aspects of food. As a seasoned demonstrator who has worked on a variety of machines, I have a kinship with the people who demonstrate the Vitamix and other gadgets. For example, many of the customers I have demonstrated espresso machines to go to coffeeshops almost daily. They are likely spending thousands of dollars a year on lattes, espressos and cappucinos and could practically buy more than one of my machines if they really took a hard look at their finances. However, what I have to remind myself is that for some people, buying that cup of coffee is about more than just ingesting it, some people like to go to the coffee shop and have someone take their order, others go to socialize and network or to take a break from a stressful day. Personally, I want to be able to replicate what I can get at a shop or restaurant at home because I like for things to taste a certain way and I am concerned about quality. So if you find yourself in the same boat as me, save up a few dollars a week and treat yourself with a premium machine so that your culinary experiences will be seamless.

Make a budget and stick to it. Over the past few years I have dedicated a good amount of my disposible income to buying things for my kitchen, but I view it as part vocation and part avocation and an investment in my personal happiness. Each year I make a list of things I would like to purchase by category and get what makes the most sense while being on the lookout for sales and coupons especially for high priced items. I also try to give things away or sell used items that I no longer use. I also start small knowing that I can always upgrade later a great example being the knife set I featured in my previous Q&A.

Seek out demonstrations where you can view the products live. Years ago I used to pass up demonstrations while in stores, but when I started to do the work myself I realized just how beneficial they are in helping me to make wise decisions. By simply visiting most product websites, you can find information on locations, dates and times of live demonstrations. You should never be afraid to ask the demonstrator questions, if they are knowledgeable about their products they should be able to answer intelligently. Ask if you can try to the use the machine yourself on the spot, if you find that it is difficult to use, or that it requires too many steps, or better yet if the demonstrator is reluctant to let you do so, that may be a sign that it is not the right product for you. Downloading instruction manuals is also a great way to get a feel for a product before you buy it as well.

Pay attention to the warranty and shelf life. Most machines are vigorously tested to determine how often consumers will use them and to account for wear and tear. You should look into at least two things when investing in housewares, the first is the warranty. How long do you have protection should the machine break on you? Are you willing to take the time to learn how to use it properly? How about storage? The second issue is the shelf life. Durable goods no longer mean that something is going to last you for 30 years or more, instead most small electrics will probably give you a good 5-10 years before something conks out whether it be a finish, a part, or a motor for example. Most reputable companies provide at least a one year warranty on their products and some even extend them to two years or more. Seek out companies that do not give you hassle if you try to return something under warranty because it signals that they stand behind their products and they want you to be a loyal customer.

Do you have a question for us? E-mail cooklikejackie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Handstand Kids

A highlight of the International Housewares Show was the Handstand Kids Cookbook Company. HSK features a line of international cookbooks that introduce children to food, language, culture and foreign cuisine. The line currenlty includes Mexican, Italian and Chinese versions, each with its own unique packaging (a tortilla bag holds the Mexican kit, a pizza box for the Italian kit and a takeout box for the Chinese kit). Other accessories including coordinating cutting boards, chefs hats and aprons are sold seperately. The series is the brainchild of Yvette Garfield, a lawyer who has worked for various not-for-profit organizations and at the Deparment of Justice. She conceived of the cookbooks while on a long flight back from India and has used her talents along with those of many talented authors and illustrators to develop a line of cookbooks that is contemporary and encourages children to develop cooking skills and an interest in foreign languages and cultures. The cookbooks already featured on The Today Show and in Paula Deen Magazine includes a diverse cast of characters including Felix, Izzy, Ari, Gabby and Marvin whose differences go beyond race and expose children to concepts like special diets including cooking for diabetic siblings and cooking for vegetarians. The cookbooks provide a foundation for authentic recipes from each country while also providing translations for the ingredients and utensils in the country's primary language. In addition, the books introduce the concepts of philanthropy and volunteerism by incorporating information about various charitable causes and ways that kids can volunteer their time. Cinco de Mayo provides a perfect opportunity to delve into the Mexican cookbook. Jamie's Kitchen in Huntington, West Virginia, brainchild of renowned chef Jamie Oliver will offer a class featuring the Farmer's Market Tostada on tomorrow. The books and accesories provide wonderful gifts and can serve as unique party favors with prices ranging from US $6.95 for an oven mitt to US $25 for a cookbook kit. Those interested in cooking classes and private cooking lessons in their area should contact the company through their website. Cook Like Jackie readers will receive a 20% discount using coupon code HSK20 at checkout. For more information please contact cooklikejackie@gmail.com. FTC notice - Sample was provided.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ciao Bella Introduces New Novelty Items and a Cookbook

Ciao Bella recently introduced Key Lime Graham Gelato Squares just in time for spring! The bars are part of a line of novelty items introduced by the company already renowned for its gelatos and sorbets. The squares--a blend of lime juice, graham cracker and pure cream--join Sicilian Blood Orange Bars and Tahitian Vanilla Raspberry Gelato Dips as expanded offerings. Ciao Bella will also publish a new read this summer, The Ciao Bello Book of Gelato and Sorbetto written by Ciao Bella founder F.W. Pearce and Executive Chef Danilo Zecchin. The book includes exclusive recipes and highlights some of the company's culinary highlights since it began in 1983. For more information please e-mail cooklikejackie@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

OutSTANDing Stand Mixer by Breville

The stand mixer sends a serious statement to anyone entering your domain that you are serious about your cooking and serious about the equipment you use. Whether you use your mixer to mix batters for cakes, meringues for pies, or to give potatoes a good whipping, or you wish to use accessories which allow for other functions like grinding meats, kneading breads, stuffing sausages or making pastas--a stand mixer is hard to beat based on its versatility and its ability to make tasks like whipping and beating simple. Up until this point, this niche has been almost exclusively dominated by The Kitchenaid Company which first introduced the H-5 stand mixer over 90 years ago in 1919. Kitchenaid now boasts a full line of stand mixers in a variety of colors and specialty models including the pink Artisan "Cook for the Cure" stand mixer honoring Breast Cancer month, the red 90th anniversary edition released last year and even a US $900 Coppertone model. I say all of this to say that despite these prolific offerings already on the market, there is clearly room for competition. Breville, the Australian housewares company known for many products including panini presses, juicers, blenders and espresso machines has taken a bold step by introducing a new stand mixer this spring. By going where few other companies have gone before, they have developed a mixer that adds modernity, useful features, sophistication and a great price point that will undoubtedly provide many cooks in the market for stand mixers with a tempting option. This new stand mixer is a delight to use with many surprising features not found on other models including an LCD screen that indicates your mixing level the way that a stereo inflects the treble and bass of a pop tune. The design which includes a beautiful die cast stainless finish, harnesses the motor and includes a handle that is easy to manuever. The push button release ensures that the machine head locks in place both when in use and when in the tilt-back position. A ten-minute backlit LCD timer allows for a unique countdown feature which allows you to effectively time your mixing, a perfect feature for a novice baker and a convenient one that allows the experienced baker who also likes to multitask and move between the stove, refrigerator, oven and other appliances to do so without always having to monitor the mixer. Twelve different mixing speeds allow you to perform every task from folding to mixing to whipping to aerating with ease. Sold exclusively in the US at Williams-Sonoma, the mixer retails for a competitively priced US $299.95 and comes equipped with a 5-quart stainless steel mixing bowl, a splash guard and three additional attachments including a flat beater, dough hook and wire whisk. The scraper beater syncs with the planetary dual mixing rotation action of the head to effectively scrape the sides of the mixing bowl, to effectively mix all ingredients which provides professional results. The dial is also a wonderful feature that lets you easily turn on the machine, pause it and increase the speed of the mixer. The mixer has a powerful 550 watts and is an easy to move 16 pounds. The motor purrs like a well-tuned engine in a luxury vehicle at both high and low speeds. For more information on using a stand mixer contact us at cooklikejackie@gmail.com.