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

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Archive for Kitchenware/Tabletop

FOOD FUN: FunBites Cuts Food Into Mini Squares

Have fun with it! Photo courtesy


Typically we avoid gadgets that clutter up drawers and have limited use (mango slicer, anyone?).

But FunBites is a new kitchen tool that cuts food into 12 perfect bite-sized squares that make food fun for kids and adults alike.

The curved blade cutter and matching popper top pop out mini-squares of brownies and pound cake, cheese, fruit and vegetables, pancakes, sandwiches, and more.

This little gadget makes food so much fun that even the pickiest eaters will dig in. The little squares tempt the wary to try new things.

For kids’ recreation, you can have “make your own snack” art contests at the table.


The BPA-free plastic is dishwasher safe. At $12.99, it’s a gift idea for kids and adults alike.

Get yours at

Then, have fun making bite-size:

  • Burgers
  • Cheese
  • Grilled Cheese, peanut butter and other
  • Melon
  • Omelets
  • Pancakes, waffles, French toast
  • Pizza
  • Tofu

    What are you going to “square” first?


    We’re not lion: This is fun! Photo courtesy Fun Bites | Open Sky.




    FOOD FUN: Convert Canning Jars To Drinkware

    If you’ve been to restaurants or parties where the drinks are served in canning jars, you can be just as trendy at home or on the go.

    And you can do it with an improved approach: a spillproof drinking lid adapter.

    The Cuppow is a new invention that lets you up-cycle a canning jar into an eco-friendly beverage travel mug or sippy cup—although since glass is breakable, even extra-thick Mason jar, you’ll have to judge the portability based on your own habits.

    “The canning jar already makes an awesome platform for a travel mug,” say the manufacturers. “It’s easy to clean, made of heat-resistant glass, cheap, durable, and when sealed it doesn’t leak. The only problem is that with their large openings, canning jars are not great for spill-free sipping while on the move. So we adapted it [into] a simple, eco-friendly alternative to poor-performing and messy disposable hot cups, and over-built and expensive travel mugs.”


    Turn your canning jars into drinkware. Photo courtesy Cuppow.


    The plastic circles, that insert into the metal rim of the canning jar lid, are available in clear, blue and pink for regular jars and clear, mint green, and orange for wide mouth jars. The adapters enable you to drink sippy-cup-style or insert a straw.


    Photo courtesy Cuppow.


    At $7.99 each they are pretty expensive for the plastic inset only: You BYO jar and metal lid. For a one-off, the price is affordable; but if you want to use them for the whole family or for entertaining, you have to trade off cost versus fun. One hopes that the company will find a way to bring the price down.

    The Cuppow is made in the U.S.A. from 100% recycled BPA/BPS-free rigid plastic. It is dishwasher safe (top rack only).

    They are available at retailers nationwide and at

    The manufacturer is committed to diverting as much waste as possible from landfills and contributes 5% of profits to domestic charities and social initiatives.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Parchment Paper Vs. Waxed Paper

    Cookies on parchment paper. Photo courtesy
    King Arthur.


    We’ve gotten a few inquiries about waxed paper versus parchment paper. The easiest way to remember which to use is that wax melts when it’s near heat. So:

  • Parchment paper can take the heat. It’s coated with silicone, which is nonstick and heat-resistant.
  • Waxed paper can’t take the heat. The soybean or paraffin wax surface will melt and can even catch fire!
    For some tasks you can use either.


  • Baking. Most brands can withstand temperatures up to 420°F for up to 30 minutes. (For higher-heat and longer baking, check the package to be sure.) Popular uses include lining cookie sheets instead of greasing them. This also keeps grease from fragile cookies like meringues.

  • Cooking. The most popular use is “en papillote,” a technique of wrapping food in a pouch of parchment paper before baking. It locks in flavor and keeps the moisture in as it steams the fish and other foods—a low calorie preparation. You can also microwave leftover pizza on a piece of parchment to help crisp the bottom.
  • Lining. The elegant-looking parchment can be used instead of a napkin.
  • Serving. Restaurants use it to present cones of French fries and other fried foods. You can also use it to serve popcorn and other snacks. Use a piece of tape to seal the cone.
    Don’t use parchment in the broiler: It can catch fire. Use foil instead.

    Parchment paper can be purchased in rolls or in precut sheets that fit different size baking pans. There are two “grades”: the original silicon-treated parchment and a newer, much cheaper variety treated with Quilon. The Quilon parchment has a lower heat tolerance, but is fine for most baking needs.

    Some bakers use Silpat: washable, reusable silicon pan liners. They’re great for some needs, but don’t give cookies the crispiness they need on the bottom.



    Wax paper was designed to repel moisture. It was first invented to keep bags of potato chips from getting soggy.

  • Covering. When slicing raw meats, lay a sheet of wax paper atop the cutting board to keep the surface sanitary.
  • Lining. Line the produce drawers of the fridge, and you won’t have to remove and wash the entire bin as often. Similarly, you can use it to line kitchen drawers.
  • Mixing. Here’s a baking tip: Mix the dry ingredients on a sheet of wax paper on the counter. Lift it to form a funnel and easily transfer the ingredients into the mixer bowl.
  • Dustbuster. Mom’s favorite use: Place wax paper on top of the upper kitchen cabinets where dust and grease accumulate. Every few months, change the paper.


  • Dripping. Catch the drips from candy apples, chocolates and other foods that “drip dry.”
  • Pouring. Roll the paper to make a funnel/cone.
  • Separating. Layer squares of paper between burgers, steaks, or chops before freezing. It will be easier to separate them for thawing.

    Caramel apples on wax paper. Photo by Karcich | IST.


  • Separating. Separate burger patties or other foods prior to cooking.
  • Wrapping. While waxed paper works for longer periods to keep the moisture in, you can use either for cheese, meats, sandwiches, etc.

    Since the product is made from unbleached paper that’s coated with wax, the proper name is waxed paper.

    “Wax paper” would imply that the sheet is made of wax.



    PRODUCT: Coconut Grater From Microplane

    Your coconut cake deserves fresh-grated
    coconut. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.
    Here’s the recipe.


    Recently, the folks at Microplane wrote to tell us that their Microplane Elite Extra Coarse Grater was terrific for grating coconut. The grater has large grating holes that give fresh coconut a texture similar to commercial shredded coconut—but if you’re a coconut lover, you’ll really prefer the superior taste and natural crunch of freshly-grated coconut.

    We love moist, grated coconut in and on ambrosia salad, cakes, cupcakes, lemon-coconut bars, macaroons and ice cream. On the savory side, there’s coconut batter shrimp, coconut rice, Thai chicken and soups, numerous Indian dishes and other Pacific Rim cuisine.

    The grater also works on cheeses and root vegetables. The suggested retail is $16.95, and you can buy it online. If you have a friend who makes a great coconut dish, you can make a gift of the grater and a fresh coconut.



    Actually, it’s a drupe—a category of fruits that includes the coffee cherry (bean), mango, olive, most palms (date and coconut palms, e.g.), strawberry and all members of the genus Prunus, including the almond, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum.

    Here’s what we dug up at the Library of Congress:

    Is a coconut a fruit, nut or seed? Botanically speaking, a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe, a classification of fruit.

    A drupe is a fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing the seed (like a peach or olive) and comes from the word drupa meaning overripe olive. A coconut, and all drupes, have three layers: the exocarp (outer layer), the mesocarp (fleshy middle layer), and the endocarp (hard, woody layer that surrounds the seed). When you buy a coconut at the supermarket the exocarp and the mesocarp have been removed and what you see is the endocarp.


    So why is it called a nut?

    Food names were bestowed long ago, often by explorers and others who had no botanical training.

    Eggplants have nothing to do with eggs, but the early small, white oval varieties looked like eggs to the folks who named them. Grapefruit growing on trees looked like jumbo clusters of grapes. To Columbus’s crew, the heat in chiles reminded them of the black peppercorns back home, so they called chiles “peppers.” They were ignorant of the fact that there is no relation between chiles and peppers.

    The oldest reference to the coconut comes from a 5th century Egyptian traveler, Cosmas, who wrote about the “Indian nut” or “nut of India” (the coconut more than likely originated in the Indian Archipelago or Polynesia). “Coconut” was derived from old Portuguese and Spanish, where coco meant head or skull.

    Why skull?


    It’s not a nut, but a fruit. Photo courtesy Microplane.

    The three small holes on the coconut shell resembled human facial features. According to one source, the sailors of Vasco da Gama, who came across the fruit in India and first brought it to Europe, were reminded of a ghost or witch in Portuguese folklore called coco. The first known recorded usage of the term is 1555.


    Botanically, the coconut palm is not a tree since there is no bark, no branches, no secondary growth. The coconut palm is a woody perennial (flowering plant) called a monocotyledon; what we see as the trunk is a very thick, woody stem.

    Other monocotyledons include the true grains (maize, rice, wheat, etc.), the pasture grasses, sugar cane, bamboo, banana, ginger and the amaryllis family—which includes onions and garlic plus flowering plants such as the amaryllis, daffodil, lily, iris, orchids, and tulip.

    Isn’t botany enlightening?



    TIP OF THE DAY: Beat The Heat With A Pressure Cooker

    The Kuhn Rikon 7.4-quart pressure cooker.
    Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon.


    We’re in the middle of a heat wave, so the less the stove and oven are on, the better. We’ve turned to our trusty pressure cooker to make an entire meal from scratch.

    This is not your mother’s (or grandmother’s) pressure cooker. Totally safe and user-friendly, there’s no scary hissing or rattling. It’s a must-have appliance for any busy person.

    A pressure cooker does the opposite of a slow cooker. Instead of long, slow cooking, pressure cooking is short and fast. You can cook high-fiber, low-fat foods in record time, preserving vitamins and essential nutrients. Recipes that normally take four hours are ready in 45 minutes.

    And pressure cooking creates a greener kitchen, since faster cooking means less fuel burned.

    And when it’s too darn hot to stand over a stove, there’s no checking up on your recipe as it cooks. Just turn on the heat and come back to take the pot off the stove.


    You can make anything in a pressure cooker, from soup to main to side to dessert. The potatoes for potato salad cook in five minutes. We made a cheesecake in 20 minutes that you’d swear was baked in the oven for more than an hour. And as the temperature here refuses to leave the high 90s, there’s no need to turn the oven on.

    We use a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. It’s not inexpensive, but when the food emerges with so little trouble, moist and delicious, we’d be happy to pay double. Almost.

    Check out our article on pressure cooking.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Panasonic Electric Kettle

    Summer is iced tea time. If you’re a fan, here’s a question:

    Why take the time and effort to brew iced tea? You can buy it in individual bottles and large formats just about everywhere.

    The main reasons to brew your own are sustainability, cost and, if you have a good palate, better quality tea.

  • Save The Environment. Just as with water bottles, all of that extra plastic goes into landfill. Some people recycle, but that, too, requires energy and expense.
  • Save Money. How much does a 16-ounce bottle of iced tea cost? About $1.79 where we live. Even if you buy them at club stores, you’re still paying a dollar—as opposed to pennies to brew your own.
  • Please Your Palate. Brew iced tea from loose tea or quality tea bags and enjoy superior tea flavor. We use great tea that’s so complex and flavorful, it never needs sugar.
  • Decaffeinated Tea. People who limit their caffeine can enjoy decaffeinated iced tea to their hearts’ content.

    Panasonic’s sleek new electric kettle. Photo courtesy Panasonic.



    Electric kettles have been around for generations, but they keep getting better and better.

    Introduced last month as part of Panasonic’s new Breakfast Collection, the The Panasonic C-ZK1 is a sleek 1.4 liter tea kettle with 1500 watts of power. It’s $179.95 on You can find an electric kettle for $25.00, but it doesn’t have these features:

  • Quick to heat. Heats up water faster than a traditional tea kettle. The 1.4 liter capacity equates to 47 ounces. Our pitcher holds 64 ounces. The water for the the extra 16 ounces heats in two minutes.
  • Cool to touch. It has a cool-touch exterior.
  • Automatic shutoff. A welcome safety feature, here’s automatic shutoff when the water has boiled.
  • There are more benefits. Read the full review.

    Or head on over to to buy one.




    tFATHER’S DAY GIFT: Bialetti Espresso Maker

    The Bialetti Mini Espresso: It’s neat, petite
    and produces great espresso. Photo courtesy


    We’ve been enjoying our Bialetti Mini Express espresso maker every day for the last six months. So if you’re looking for a great gift for an espresso-loving dad, check it out.

    A no-mess capsule machine with a modest footprint—7.5″ wide x 10.5″ deep—it fits easily onto the kitchen counter. At $149.95 on, it’s much more affordable than other options.

    We like the different espresso blends, and decaf is one of the choices (great for that midnight latte!). We also like that:

  • It’s easy to brew as short or tall an espresso as you want (we always like a double). The cup platform easily holds an eight-ounce-size American cup.
  • The water reservoir is on the side. It’s so much more convenient than the typical reservoir-in-the-back design, which requires pulling the machine away from the wall to check the level and refill the water.

    It’s a gift that keeps on giving every day, at breakfast, after dinner and for a cappuccino or latte in between.



    FOOD FUN: Homage To The Square

    As a student, we loved the “Homage To The Suare” paintings of Josef Albers, who created more than a thousand squares-within-squares over a 25-year period.

    When we saw this photo of a dish from Daniel restaurant in New York City, we thought: square food, square plates.

    You’ll be the opposite of a square when you present guests or family with fun squared food. While our list below is dinner fare, you can easily square off breakfast and lunch.

    Cutting certain foods into squares can produce a lot of trimmings, but it’s easy to use them in omelets, salads, hors d’oeuvre and snacks.


    A dinner plate from Daniel. Photo courtesy Thomas Schauer Photography.

    You can square up rice, vegetables, and other foods with:

  • A square egg mold
  • A square cookie cutter or other square cutter
    These square glass dinner plates from Libbey are inexpensive; or you can spring for these square white porcelain plates.


    A composite of some “Homage To The
    Square” paintings. Photo courtesy




  • Beef, lamb, pork loin
  • Casserole
  • Grilled fish steak
  • Grilled tofu
  • Lasagne
  • Moussaka
  • Polenta with mushroom ragout
  • Quiche (bake it in a square pan)

  • Corn bread
  • Diced vegetables
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Rice or grains
  • Stuffing or other dressing
  • Vegetable pudding: carrot, corn, potato, zucchini, etc.

  • Brownies and bars
  • Flan or other custard (bake it in a square pan)
  • Ice cream (sliced from a rectangular quart)
  • Loaf cake
  • Melon
    What would you add to this list?



    PRODUCT: Keurig Vue Custom Brewing System

    The tag line of the Keurig Vue single-cup custom brewing system is “Brew Stronger. Brew Bigger. Brew Hotter.”

    We’d like to add: Brew Sustainably. The Vue cups (an improvement on K-cups) are made from recyclable #5 plastic (polypropylene). While it doesn’t matter to some people, we strive to do our small part to help the environment. Finally, with Keurig Vue, we can enjoy a K-cup-type system with the improved Vue cups.

    We’re excited about this appliance for other reasons, too, including the total control it gives you to customize your brew exactly as you wish:

  • Hot enough for you? The Keurig Vue lets you decide how hot you want your beverage. We like ours hotter than other single-cup systems and conventional coffee makers deliver.

    A great addition to the kitchen, a great gift. Photo courtesy Keurig.


  • Cold enough for you? You can brew iced coffee or iced tea directly from the machine into your glass. Terrific!
  • Large enough for you? The intuitive, color LCD touchscreen lets you customize brew sizes from 4 to 18 ounces, to accommodate everything from espresso cups to travel mugs.

    Vue cups: Take your pick! Photo courtesy Keurig.

  • Strong enough for you? Touch the screen to produce a more robust cup.
  • Looking for a great Father’s Day gift? Keurig Vue gets our vote.

    Keurig makes the biggest-selling line of single-cup brewing machines, and the capsules (K-cups and Vue cups) used to make coffee, tea and hot chocolate. As is common knowledge, it’s more costly to brew a single cup of coffee than a carafe of it; but with no hassle or mess, and perfect coffee every time, Americans have more than embraced single-serve.

    In fact, single-serve coffee is one of the fastest-growing segments of coffee sales worldwide. For busy people, no fuss or mess is a valued tradeoff for economy.

    Head over to to browse the options. Hopefully, there’s a Keurig Vue in your future.



    PRODUCT: Drink Covers

    Keep the bugs from your drinks. Photo courtesy Charles Viancin.


    Here’s a solution for keeping insects from your drinks: drink covers from Charles Viancin.

    The cold drink lid is solid; the hot drink lid has mesh inserts that allow steam to escape. They’re $7.95 for a set of two at

    The Sunflower Lid is available in five diameters from 4″ through 11-3/8″, so matching lids can protect bowls of food. The dishwasher safe, freezer-safe, BPA-free silicone seals airtight on all smooth rims for reheating (up to 500°F) and storing.

    They’re a sustainable solution to foil and plastic wrap, and s nice gift to bring to the host of an outdoor party.



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