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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Kitchenware/Tabletop

PRODUCT: Easier Homemade Pretzels

Here’s help if you want to make homemade pretzels (see the recipe below): the Silpat baking sheet for that Perfect Pretzel Baking Sheet.

Just lay the dough over the outlines for uniform-shaped pretzels every time.

The sheet is 16.5 inches x 11.6 inches.

While the first group of pretzels is cooling down, put the next batch in…and count the moments until you can bite into a warm pretzel.

 

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Turn out uniform shapes. Photo courtesy Silpat.

 

  

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PRODUCT: Spatter Guard For Mixers

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No more cake mix spatters! Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon.

 

Love to bake, but hate the messy mixer splatters?

Kuhn Rikon, which has helped keep kitchens clean with its Splatter Guard cover for skillets and woks and a combination spatter shield and strainer, now brings neatness to baking.

There’s a new spatter guard for electric mixers!

You can keep the batter in the bowl with the Mixer Splatter Guard, which protects your work area from spatters generated by electric mixers.

It works with bowls up to 12 inches in diameter. The transparent lid fits most handheld and stand mixers and allows you to see inside the bowl.

 
For Immersion Blenders, Too

The new mixer shield also works with immersion blenders, bringing neatness to soup-making as well.
 

Head to Amazon.com to order yours, and perhaps a few extras as gifts for your favorite bakers.
 
  

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Scrub Daddy Sponge

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Scrub Daddy, our new kitchen essential. Photos by Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

 

In the beginning, there was the sea sponge, one of the simplest animal organisms, believed to have evolved at least 700 million years ago. With no specialized organs and no locomotion, they attached to rocks on the sea bed, where they eat microscopic plants in the sea water.

Under the skin is a simple skeleton made of a soft, porous material called spongin. Sponges have been harvested since ancient times and used for cleaning.

In the 1940s, artificial sponges were developed by DuPont company, made from cellulose. Soon, cellulose sponges replaced natural sponges in America’s household. Today’s synthetic sponges can also be made from foamed plastic polymers.

But as everyone who uses these sponges knows, they fall apart and worse, collect odors and bacteria—including salmonella and E.coli wiped from cutting boards and kitchen counters. The moist environment of a conventional sponge—wild or artificial—is conducive to bacterial growth.

We are advised to regularly clean our sponges: in the dishwasher, microwave or washing machine; or by soaking in a solution of ammonia, bleach or vinegar.

 
ENTER SCRUB DADDY

Every so often, someone does create a better mousetrap. In this case, it was Aaron Krause, who created Scrub Daddy: a heavy-duty, scratch-free sponge. It is a champ at scrubbing off just about anything you want scrubbed.

And it welcomes you with a smiling face, the mouth of which can be used to scrub utensils.

Krause was washing and waxing cars for a living when he scratched a car. In response, he went home and invented a line of buffing and polishing pads, including the Scrub Daddy sponge.

His business was bought out by 3M, which didn’t want Scrub Daddy because they had Scotch-Brite (not nearly as effective).

He tried marketing Scrub Daddy himself, with minimal success ($100,000 in sales in 18 months). Then, he got an investment and assistance via Shark Tank that has generated $18 million in sales in 18 months.

 
Scrub Daddy is made of a high-tech polymer texture that changes texture with the water temperature: It’s hard in cold water, for cleaning pots and grills; and soft in hot water for dishes.

It’s safe to use (non-scratch) on just about every household surface. Like other sponges, it’s flexible to get to the bottom of coffee pots, mugs, vases, etc.

We are thrilled—THRILLED!—with the cute little guy, who is made in happy colors: blue, green orange and yellow. There’s also a lemon-scented yellow version and a larger rectangle (no face). The company has also released Sponge Daddy, in the size of a conventional kitchen sponge (we haven’t tried it).

We’ve used ours for a few months and it makes for happy scrubbing. Independent lab test showed it remains odor-free for up to two months. Beyond the kitchen, use it for:

  • Other household cleaning. Scrub Daddy adds fun to any chore.
  • Outdoor cleaning, from grills and swings to pool surfaces and decks.
  • Personal care, from handwashing (kids may like the face enough to use it more often) to exfoliating.
  • Auto care, the use that inspired it in the first place. Use it on your car or boat to clean dashboards, upholstery, wheels, windows, whatever.
  •  
    Scrub Daddy is sold in Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, SuperValu and Wal-Mart, with other retailers coming on board. There’s also a website, ScrubDaddy.com, but we hate to send you there because it needs work!

    You can also buy it on Amazon.com.

     

    PEACHY CLEAN, A PEACH-SCENTED SPONGE

    According to the manufacturers of Peachy Clean, the bacteria on a conventional sponge double every 20 minutes A scrubbing sponge is the #1 cross contaminator of food borne illnesses in the kitchen.

    So they created Peachy Clean Silicone Scrubbers, incorporating a new technology that is anti-microbial and anti-odor, resisting most odors caused by bacteria, mold and mildew.

    These scrubbers are specially designed to be fast drying to help reduce the bacteria, mold, and mildew growth facilitated by a moist environment.

    Also non-scratch, they last on average 3-6 months (they are the only scrubbers on the market that come with a 3 month warranty). Instead of a smiling face, the sponges smell like peaches.

    You can buy them on Amazon.com, and visit the company website, GetPeachyClean.com

     

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    Peachy clean has a subtle peach aroma. Photo by Julia Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

     

    NOTE: Both of these sponges are scrubbers, as opposed to liquid picker-uppers. While they will wipe a counter, for major spills you’ll need a conventional sponge or paper towel.

      

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    PRODUCT: Fries In A Cone

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    French fry fun at home. Photo courtesy Gibson Table Compliments.

     

    If you love eating fries from a metal cone, the way some restaurants serve them, here’s a fun item from Gibson Table Compliments.

    The four-piece French Fry Serving Set has metal coned with ceramic inserts, a drip-proof alternative to the paper liners used at restaurants. There are two dipping cups that attach to each cone as an optional way to serve condiments.

    Beyond French fries, you can use the cones to serve other veggie fries and fried foods like mozzarella sticks. In fact, you can serve anything in them, from breakfast cereal to an ice cream sundae.

    A set of four is $25.00 at Amazon.com. All parts are dishwasher safe.

    If you prefer butcher paper in your cone instead of ceramic, here’s a similar cone-only product.

    The white tissue liners are sold in packs of 2,000. If you’re going to load up, consider this version, printed to look like an English, French or Italian newspaper.

    Love them!

     
    Now for more fun:

    How many different types of French fries have you had? There are almost 30!

      

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    RECIPE: Make Your Own Gummies

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    Fun project: Make your own gummies. Photo
    courtesy ChooseCherries.com.

     

    Gummy fan? We admit to a gummy habit.

    We were happy to discover that in 15 minutes, we could make our own gummies, with top-quality ingredients (including honey instead of refined sugar) and for less expense than purchasing them.

    It’s easy, so try it—perhaps inviting your favorite child to participate in the joy of making sweets. Prep time is just 5 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    The only thing you need to do is buy a candy mold—although you could use a sheet pan/jelly roll pan and cut the solid rectangle into squares. You also can try a mini ice cube tray. This recipe used a sheet mold tray with 64 molds of 3/4″ x 1″.

    This recipe is made with tart cherry juice. If you like the result, you can try it with other juice flavors–apple, cranberry, grape, etc.

    This recipe is courtesy of Mitzi Dulan, RD, of NutritionExpert.com, via ChooseCherries.com.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE GUMMIES

    Ingredients For 128 Pieces

  • 1-1/4 cups tart cherry juice
  • 1/4 cup unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 cup honey
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the juice and gelatin in a small bowl, stirring until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan over low-medium heat and add the honey. Continue stirring until well mixed. Be sure not to boil!

    2. REMOVE from the heat, allowing the mixture to slightly cool before pouring into the mold.

    3. LET cool for about 10 minutes or until it begins to gel before transferring into the refrigerator. Place in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes to allow it to set.

     

    WOW: A GUMMY-MAKING MACHINE!

    As we were looking for candy molds online, we came across this Gummy Candy Maker, $29.75.

    It includes the silicone molds to make gummy fish, worms and small bears—as well as a jumbo bear—with easy-to-use silicone molds. The central heated base holds the gelatin pot with a spout for easy pouring; the entire unit disassembles for easy cleaning.

    Reviews from 60 customers gave it 4.4 out of five stars, with many giving it five stars. If we can convince ourselves that this is an important appliance to bring into our small kitchen, we may be buying one soon.

    We think it makes a great Valentine gift.

     

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    This gummy maker has molds of favorite shapes. Photo courtesy Nostalgia Electrics.

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Keurig 2.0 Coffee System

    The Keurig 2.0 was launched this past fall, and was on Christmas wish lists for more than a few Keurig fans. If Santa didn’t bring you one, it may be the time to pick one up.

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    Make single cups with smaller capsules, or a
    small carafe with a larger capsule. Photo
    courtesy Keurig Green Mountain.

     

    The 2.0 is a game changer in the single-serve coffee category. It makes both single cups, and 28-ounce carafes; the latter provides a bit more than four six-ounce pours into eight-ounce cups. (Alternatively, it will fill almost three mugs, if you pour ten ounces of coffee into a 12-ounce mug.)

    Here are the changes that may or may not affect you:

  • It requires a new size of K-Cup. The original Keurig K-Cups won’t work in the 2.0. The K-cups for the 2.0 are larger, similar to the Keurig VUE cups, which will work in the 2.0 for as long as the company keeps producing this green packaging (which for whatever reason was made in a different size and required a different Keurig machine entirely, which has been discontinued).
  • You can’t use cups not manufactured by Green Mountain, owners of Keurig. The 2.0 has an RFID reader that reads an RFID chip in the new cups. Nothing else will work. Keurig’s K-Cup patent expired in 2012, which made way for lower cost, third-party cups (also called “aftermarket” cups). Keurig could decide to sell aftermarket manufacturers a license, but don’t expect the lower prices if they’re paying a licensing fee.
  • The K-Cups seem to cost the same. Individual K-Cups run $17.99/$16.19 for 24 cups, or 75¢/67¢ per cup.
  •  

  • Similarly, there are no coffee filter baskets for outside coffee. If you have been using a refillable cup with your favorite, non-Green Mountain coffee, it won’t work with the 2.0. Hopefully, Keurig will manufacture a compatible basket down the road.
  • You need still other cups to make a carafe. These are called carafe packs, and they’re larger than K-Cups. The new opportunity: You can brew a carafe and stick it in the fridge for iced coffee. The carafe packs are selling on the Keurig website for $14.99/$13.49 for members, for eight units. That’s $1.87/$1.68 per carafe, or 47¢/42¢- per cup.
  •  

    THE THREE KEURIG MODELS

    The Keurig 2.0 Brewing System comes in three sizes, with an option that includes a variety of K-Cups and K-Carafe packs for an additional $10.

  • All three models brew single cups with K-cups and carafes with the K-Carafe Pack.
  • All three have “strength control,” allowing you to brew a stronger or weaker cup.
  • You get another 10 ounces of water in the reservoir, or another mug of coffee, with each size increase.
  •  
    The differences:

  • K300/350, $149.99, 60-ounce water reservoir. The clock is not programmable and the touch display is monochrome.
  • K400/450, $169.99, 70-ounce water reservoir. The touch display is in color, the clock is customizable and you can save favorite settings.
  •  

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    The coffee cup isn’t included, but the basic package includes the carafe. Our suggestion: Upgrade to the sampler kit. Photo courtesy Keurig Green Mountain.

  • K500/550, $199.99, 80-ounce water reservoir. The touch display is in color and large, the clock is customizable and you can save favorite settings. There’s a customizable night light and wallpaper, and a feature called hot water on-demand, if, for example, you need hot water to use with your own teabag or hot chocolate mix.
  •  
    Our philosophy is, when offered decisions like these, spend the extra few bucks and go deluxe. If you’re counting your dollars, you shouldn’t be paying more for coffee via a single cup system.

    For more information, visit Keurig.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker

    Some gadgets are a snore. Others really make a difference. In the latter camp is the Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker.

    The device enables you to create bite size, multi-layered gourmet appetizers using everyday ingredients. Yes, even peanut butter and jelly or egg salad seems “gourmet” when made in this format!

    The manufacturer claims that this can be done in “just five minutes,” but that’s just for simple layering, slicing and plating. You need to add a bit of time for any prep work—making crab salad, slicing olives and pimentos, chopping nuts, whatever. But what you end up with is worth it: fancy and fun appetizers or dessert bites that can become a signature offering at your home.

    If you have great knife skills, you don’t need this gadget. Just build a loaf of layers and slice your own.

    If, however, you’d never get even slices without help, this is your gadget for triple- or quadruple-layer appetizer or dessert bites that delight adults and kids alike. The instructions are easy to follow and deliver perfectly proportioned pieces. The device is fool-proof: Anyone can turn out impressive, professional looking appetizers with inexpensive ingredients (or, feel free to load in the pricey ones).

       

    Stacked layers of crab salad, garnished with crème fraîche and celery. Feel free to add more complexity to your stacks: some watercress atop one of the crab layers or some pimento strips, for example. Photo courtesy Architec.

     

    HOW IT WORKS

    You layer the ingredients in the plastic mold (see the photo below), then use the slots in the mold to cut the loaf into even pieces.

    You start and ending the stacked loaf with bread or another base. The base can be polenta, tortillas or even sushi rice.

    The fillings can be anything that’s a bit moist or creamy—the ingredients need to be “flexible” since the mold presses them into bites that hold their shape. So avoid a hunk of iceberg lettuce (but arugula, cress, mesclun or baby spinach work) or roast turkey. But if there’s something you really want, you may be able to figure out how to make it work. (Shred the lettuce and dice the turkey into mini cubes in a layer with moist stuffing, for example.)

    The layers are pressed to your desired thickness, and you can keep adding layers until the body of the mold is full. Then slice. When you remove the mold, the appetizers can be served from the plastic bottom tray. But for impressing your guests, you’ll probably want to re-plate them.

    And of course, you can garnish them with whatever you like, from crème fraîche to caviar, or whipped cream for dessert stacks.

     

    Layers of pimento, goat cheese and black olives. In this photo, the bottom tray has been removed from the mold and the individual stacks are being separated for serving. Photo courtesy Architec.

     

    WHAT TO MAKE

    Kids will enjoy peanut butter, jelly and banana bites; ham and cheese; bacon and egg stacks on a toast or waffle base; and mini pizza stacks.

    Foodies will enjoy crab salad, smoked salmon, goat cheese, chicken mousse, and a garnish of caviar.

    For everyone else: you know what your friends and family like (onions? pickle relish?), and where your own creativity will lead you.

    For desserts, you can layer angel or pound cake with jam, fruit compote or pudding; make zebras from brownies, cheesecake and perhaps some jam; and otherwise layer your fantasy dessert ingredients.

    The fun of the Stackable Appetizer Maker is playing around with different ingredients to find what works for you. Do your experimenting right before lunch, so you can eat your experiments.

     
    WHERE TO BUY IT

    The Stackable Appetizer Maker is $19.99, available on Amazon or from the manufacturer, Architec, in your choice of black, blue or red.

    Customers have posted a lot of good comments on Amazon—that the cutting tool isn’t effective (use your own bread knife), that the recipe booklet is a mess (you’ll have no problem putting together your own combinations).

    There are also great tips not provided by the manufacturer, including:

  • Watch the video before you begin.
  • Use “squishable” ingredients with enough fat or moisture content to act as glue when the stacks are compressed. Spreads and salads (chicken, crab, egg, shrimp, tuna) work with a bread base.
  • Be sure that all the ingredients are cold.
  • Dip your knife in ice water after each cut to prevent sticking.
  •  
    You can watch the video and download the recipe book for free on the Architec website (the video link leads to YouTube).

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Nespresso Inissia

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    The Inissia: just 4.7 inches wide by x 12.6
    inches deep. Photo courtesy Nespresso.

     

    So many of us these days can’t live without a great cup of coffee, often leaving our posts one or more times a day to obtain one.

    The folks at Nespresso want you to have a great cup at your fingertips. They’ve created a new petite model, the Inissia: a single-serve coffee maker with a teeny footprint that fits in small spaces, from office desktops to dormitory rooms.

    And it’s only $99!

    Streamlined for maximum efficiency and simple to use, the small footprint (4.7 x 12.6 x 9 inches) weights a bit more than five pounds. The Inissia uses the same premium coffee capsules as the larger models. The water will be read in 25 seconds: an espresso (including the shorter ristretto and the taller lungo) or a full cup at the touch of a button.

    You can make up to 9 espressos without having to refill the water tank.

     
    A great gift for a college student or new member of the workforce, the Inissia is available in:
  • Blueberry Blue
  • Intense Black
  • Lime Yellow
  • Pure White
  • Ruby Red
  • Vanilla Cream
  •  
    It can be bundled with Nespresso’s wonderful Aeroccino Plus milk frother for $149.

     

    LARGER, WITH CREMA

    Another Nespresso innovation this year is the Vertuoline. It handles the larger American-style mugs as well as espresso cups, and tops both with rich, luxurious crema.

    Available in Black, Chrome and Red, the VertuoLine is priced at $299 and takes a new, flatter, rounder capsule than the original Nespresso machines.

    Check out the entire line at Nespresso.com.

     

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    A side view of the petite Inissia. It’s just 4.7 inches wide x 12.6 inches deep. Photo courtesy Nespresso.

     

      

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    GADGET: SKrAPr

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    The standard SKrAPr with the free mini version. Photo courtsy SKrAPr.

     

    Tired of expending elbow grease to clean burned on or dried food from cooktops, stoves, ovens, barbecue grills, baking pans and counter tops?

    So was Richard Lambert, who solved the problem by inventing the whimsically-spelled SKrAPr. This kitchen gadget looks like a merger of a spatula and a paint scraper.

    The non-scratching blade scrapes residue off of smooth surfaces. The material is a patented composite resin that works on all smooth surfaces: aluminum, ceramic, glass, granite, hardwood, marble and stainless steel.

    Most messes can be SKrAPed up with water as the only lubricant—no chemical cleaners required.

    If SKrAPr looks like a device that can scrape off paint splatters or de-ice car windshields—well yes, it is.

     

    The Skrapr website isn’t up yet, but there is a Facebook page. You can buy it on Amazon.com ($14.51) and at retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond.

    There’s a limited lifetime warranty.

    The company makes other tools as well, including:

  • Grill Cleaner
  • Curv Spreading Tool (spatula)
  • Spreader Set
  • Ice cream Skoopr
  •  
      

    Comments

    TIP: Christmas Pie Crust Cutters

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    Use pie crust cutters for a professional effect. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Make your holiday pies Christmas-special with decorative crust cutters. The cutters make it easy to add seasonal fun to your pies.

    Just press them into the dough to form appliqués to go atop the pie, or to create cut-out designs in a pie’s top crust.

    You can also use them to garnish soups and salads. Or, cut out cookie dough for a dessert garnish.

    This year’s exclusive cutter set from Williams-Sonoma includes a Christmas tree, reindeer, Santa in sleigh and a snowflake.

    The shapes change yearly; you can build a collection of festive shapes over time.

    The durable spring-loaded cutters are designed for maximum precision, safety and easy of use. The spring mechanism creates delicate shapes embossed with fine detail. Even a child can use them.

     

    Get yours at Williams-Sonoma stores or at WilliamsSonoma.com.

    Give a set to your favorite pie baker.

     
    TIPS FOR USING PIE CRUST CUTTERS

    For fun, color the dough red (for Santa), green for leaves, etc.

    Here are lots of tips for making pie crust cut-outs from King Arthur Flour, including helpful photos.

     

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    A Thanksgiving pie using fall-themed cut-outs. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

      

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