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Archive for Kitchenware/Tabletop

TIP OF THE DAY: Cold-Pressed Juice

“What is cold-pressed juice,” our aunt asked us recently, “and should I be drinking it instead of Tropicana?”

While we don’t focus on health foods, we’ll give the topic a bit of attention.

Cold-pressed juicing has existed for decades among health-food devotées, and generated attention in the 1990s as more sophisticated home juicers came onto the market.

But it has become much more visible over the last few years as some celebrities (Gwyneth, Kim et al) have publicized their juice fasts for dieting and/or health.

This engendered the current juicing fad, made more visible by the proliferation of shops and delivery services selling pricey cold-pressed juice. (By the same token, buying produce at retail for pressing juice at home is not inexpensive.)
 
SHOULD YOU SWITCH TO COLD-PRESSED JUICE?

If you’re a juice drinker, or are thinking about it, know that there is little scientific evidence to support the claim that cold-pressed juice contains more nutrients than pasteurized juices, or those you could hand-squeeze at home. However, when the juice is unfiltered and cloudy, it indicates a higher level of fiber.

What is known is that any juice begins to lose nutrients immediately after squeezing, and should consumed quickly if you want to capture every iota of nutrition. Those juices made commercially under high pressure processing (HPP) hold their nutrients longer. Hard-core juicers argue that cold-pressed is better than HPP. Here’s the argument.
 
PRESSING JUICE AT HOME

There are two main categories of home juicers:

  • Centrifugal juicers (top photo) have an upright design; the produce food is pushed into a rapidly spinning mesh chamber with sharp teeth on the bottom (like a blender). The teeth shred the produce into a pulp, and the centrifugal motion pulls the juice out of the pulp and through the mesh filter.
  • Masticating juicers (second photo) are horizontal in design and higher in price. Produce is pushed into the top of the tube, where it is crushed and squeezed. Because of the slower crushing and squeezing action, these juicers are better at processing leafy greens and wheatgrass, a limitation of centrifugal juicers. The process extracts more juice in general.
  • Commercially cold-pressed juice (HPP) uses a hydraulic press, crushing the produce under extremely high pressure with cold water to counter the heat generated by the process (heat destroys nutrients; the water does not mix with the juice). This gives the juice a refrigerated shelf life of 30 days or so, compared to only 2 to 4 days for those extracted without high pressure.
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    OUR AFFORDABLE SOLUTION

    Before we had ever heard the term “cold-pressed juice,” we were hooked on a Red Jacket Orchards, a family juice brand produced in New York’s Finger Lakes region that’s delicious, nutritious, unfiltered and affordable.

    They’ve been selling cold-pressed apple juices and blends for 50 years. We’re not a committed juicer; we just love the refreshing flavor as a glass of juice or a cocktail mixer.

    We like every flavor, but are hooked on Joe’s Half & Half.

    The company sells it online; use the store locator to find a retailer near you. Online, three 32-ounce bottles are $31, including shipping.

     

    Centrifugal Juicer

    Masticating Juicer

    Cold Pressed Juice

    Red Jacket Joe's Half & Half

    Top: The Kuvings NJ-9500U Centrifugal Juice Extractor, $149 on Amazon.com. Second: A masticating juicer from Omega, $299.99 at Amazon.com. Third: Cold-pressed juice at Trader Joe’s. Bottom: Red Jacket, a brand that’s been quietly selling cold-pressed juice for 50 years.

     
    That’s a lot more affordable than the 16-ounce bottle of cold-pressed juice at the juice shop on the corner!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 21st Century Uses For Ball Jars

    Blue Mason Jar

    Ball Jar Clear Lid

    Ball Drinking Mason Jar

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    Ball Jar With Salad

    Top: Ball jar in the new blue color. Second: A blue lid band enlivens clear Ball jars. Third: The jar gets a handle to make drinking hot and cold beverages easier. Fourth: A Sip & Straw lid addition for the jars. Bottom: A layered salad in a quart-size jar (here’s the recipe). Photos courtesy Ball.

     

    Whether you call them Ball jars, Kerr jars, Mason jars or some other name, canning jars, a 19th century product, have been repurposed in the 21st. (See the history below.)

    First, there’s a color version—blue—in both the three sizes of jars, and color-banded lids. The blue jars join the limited edition green and purple jars. Both products—jars and lids—are sold separately.

    They join other recent product innovations:

  • Ball Drinking Mason Jars, with a handle to make holding the a hot or cold beverage much easier. They can be used with Sip & Straw Lids, the Infuser, or any Ball lid (third photo).
  • Ball Sip & Straw Lids for regular or wide mouth Ball jars, for easy sipping. They come with a reusable straw that is wide enough for sipping smoothies and milkshakes (fourth photo).
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    See the entire line at FreshPreservingStore.com.
     
    OTHER USES FOR BALL JARS

    Fans have come up with the most ingenious uses to repurpose Mason jars, from liquid soap dispensers to smartphone speakers. After-market hardware is manufactured to create them—that’s how many people repurpose Mason jars.
     
    We’ve also seen these clever applications: blender jar, night lights and party string lights, salt and pepper shakers, sewing kit, terrarium and twine dispenser. Take a look at these.

    But for us everyday folks, beyond canning there are:

    Food Uses

  • Airtight canisters for coffee, crackers, nuts, spices, tea, trail mix, etc.
  • Baking vessel for individual mini cheesecakes, muffins, pies, etc.
  • Cake-in-a-jar
  • Gift packaging for candy, cookie, etc.
  • Leftovers
  • Refrigerator storage (olives, pickles, etc.)
  • Serving individual portions of anything (cereal, cobbler, muffin, salad, etc.)
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    Non-Food Uses

  • Airtight jar for paint, etc.
  • Desk organizers, from crayons to paper clips
  • Tea candle holders or homemade candles
  • Vase
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    What’s your favorite use?

     
    THE HISTORY OF CANNING

    The first can was a glass jar.

    We take canned food for granted, but it is a relatively recent invention—and we owe it to Napoleon Bonaparte. In his time (1769-1821), food preservation was limited to salting, drying and pickling, techniques that had existed for thousands of years.

    Needing a better solution for his troops, in 1795 the French general, known for declaring that “an army marches on its stomach,” got the French government to offer 12,000 francs to anyone who invented a new way to preserve food.

    The prize was ultimately won by Nicholas Appert, a chef, confectioner and distiller, who began experimenting when the award was announced and finally submitted his invention 14 years later, in 1809.

    Appert hermetically sealed food in airtight glass jars and heated them—a method similar to today’s home preserving in Mason jars. Appert thought that driving the air out of the containers prevented the spoilage, but 100 years later, Louis Pasteur showed that it was the elimination of bacteria through sterilization that did the trick.

    Napoleon tried to keep the new process a secret so that enemy armies would not have the advantage, but the word leaked out. Appert’s method was so easy that it quickly became widespread. Appert, who also invented the bouillon cube, became known as the “father of canning.”

    The following year another Frenchman, Pierre Durand, patented a method using a tin container. The lighter, breakage-proof tin cans would become the norm for commercial use, although homemakers, lacking canning equipment, continued to use the jars. In 1812, an English company purchased both patents and began producing canned preserves.

    While canning crossed the ocean to America and canneries began to preserve seasonal foods and perishables, most Americans still cooked with fresh and dried staples—plus whatever they “put away” in Mason jars. Canned food did not become the everyday food delivery system we rely on until the beginning of the 20th century.

     
    The Invention Of The Mason Jar

    In 1858, the first Mason jar was designed and patented. Philadelphia tinsmith John Landis Mason developed the jar specifically to withstand the high temperatures necessary for sterilizing pickles. He received a patent in 1858, but ultimately sold his rights and never enjoyed the financial rewards of his invention.
     
    The jars also became known as Ball jars after an early producer, Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company. In 1903, Alexander H. Kerr founded the Hermetic Fruit Jar Company and created the Kerr brand, including the first wide-mouth jars (easier to fill) and jars with a metal lid that had a permanently-attached gasket.
     
    This made the lids easy to use and inexpensive. Kerr subsequently invented the threaded metal ring that held the lid down during the hot water processing and allowed re-use of canning jars: the two-part lid on the jar we know today.

    Today the Ball and Kerr brands are manufactured in the U.S. by Jarden Corp. Here’s a more detailed history.

    Currently, the history of the Mason jar ends with the wane of home canning. The growth of the artisan food movement helped sales, but on a small scale.

    Ball pursued expanding the use of the jars for 21st-century consumers. The result: today’s fashion of serving drinks and food in the jars—and jars and lids adapted for those purposes.

    What’s next? We eagerly await the news.

     
      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Low Calorie & No Calorie Gifts

    Keurig Pantone Red Brewer

    Rick's Picks Assortment

    Top: The Keurig 2.0 H200, which makes single cups as well as carafes. Bottom: Rick’s Picks: Great flavor, few calories.

     

    As you eye the sea of Valentine chocolates, what can you get for loved ones who can’t have (or don’t care for) chocolate?

    Some people don’t want the calories, others can’t have the caffeine or the sugar, and rarely, a few are allergic to chocolate.

    For those who avoid caffeine and chocolate, there are scrumptious macarons, artisan (“gourmet”) marshmallows, creamy fudge, fine red licorice and other confections. But they’re still packed with sugar.

    But what if you need to avoid the sugar entirely?

    There’s sugar-free candy, but it’s pretty unexciting. Here are what we’d like to get for Valentine’s Day.
     
    FOR COFFEE LOVERS: KEURIG 2.0 K200 SINGLE CUP BREWER

    This new model comes in seven colors, including red for your Valentine. It not only brews a single cup, but a 4-cup carafe, with a single touch.

    There’s a separate setting for specialty beverages such as chai, hot cocoa and mochas. And with more than 500 varieties of coffee, tea, specialty beverages and iced beverages, your Valentine has lots of choices.

    The carafe is sold separately; you can also add a Valentine mug (something with hearts?) to express your affection.

    Get yours at Keurig.com. The list price is $109.99.

    If you don’t want to spend that much, head to the nearest housewares department and get a red water bottle or red implements—spatulas, slotted spoons, etc.—to fill a Valentine mug.

     
    FOR PICKLE LOVERS: RICK’S PICKS PICKLE CLUB

    Good pickles are on our list of yummy foods with few calories.

    One of America’s great pickle makers offers a club that delivers four varieties, four times a year. The club is $ 199.95, including shipping.

    There’s also a Top-Seller Pack, $ 48.95, and a Rick’s Picks Sampler for $64.95.

    Order yours at RicksPicks.com.

    For a less expensive gift, head to your nearest fine market or specialty food store, pick up a single jar of Rick’s Picks, and tie a red ribbon around the neck.
     
    NOT INTO PICKLES? TRY STRAWBERRIES

    If your Valentine prefers sweet to tangy, consider Edible Arrangements or create your own strawberry basket. Look for the biggest, freshest strawberries, find a lovely small basket, and don’t forget the red bow!

     

    FOR SODA DRINKERS: SODASTREAM SPLASH PLAY

    There are red SodaStream machines that make calorie-free sodas and flavored waters. The brand has recently released a new machine, the Sodastream Splash Play, designed by Yves Béhar, a Swiss designer and sustainability expert.

    It carbonates water with touch button activation as well as quick snap-lock bottle insertion. It requires no electricity. It has a small footprint.

    Not only is it fun; it saves you from hauling home bottles of soda, and from tossing the empties into the landfill.

    For calorie counters and water enthusiasts, SodaStream also has a new line of waters, made with all natural sweeteners and colors, called Sparkling Gourmet. It has chef-inspired flavors, including Green Apple Cucumber, Blackcurrant Lime, Coriander Apple Blossom, and Lime Basil. All with 45 calories per 8-ounce serving.

     

    Sodastream Play

    Give a Sodastream in Valentine Red.

     
    There are also calorie-free flavored water options, and plenty of diet sodas.

    AND, if you own a Sodastream, you know that there are two different sizes of carbon dioxide tanks for different models, and they aren’t interchangeable. The Splash Play can use either of them! Bravo, Sodastream.

    Get yours at Sodastream.com. It’s $79.99.

      

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    GIFTS: New For Coffee Lovers

    We were recently asked about what gift to give a college student who lives in a dorm. Our thoughts immediately went to the new Keurig 2.0 K200/K250 Brewing System.

    KEURIG 2.0 K200/K250 SINGLE SERVE BREWER

    Designed with a smaller, more compact footprint, the K200/K250 (the difference is extra accessories) is sized right for small kitchens, dorm rooms, small office spaces (we have one on our desk).

    The best small footprint single-serve machine we’ve tried, it takes up half the space of our Keurig 2.0 K450. The Keurig 2.0 series brews a single-serve cup or 4-cup carafe (the carafe is an extra purchase and uses a larger pod).

    It’s also good for homes that don’t brew a lot of single-serve coffee. If you just brew one or two cups in the morning and/or evening, why take up the space with a 70-ounce water reservoir?

    The SRP is $109.99. Learn more at Keurig.com.

     
    K-CUPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

       

    Keurig K200 Single Serve

    Small footprint, big convenience: the Keurig 2.0 K200 series. Photo courtesy Keurig.

     
    Keurig offers an astounding 500 K-Cup varieties from more than 75 brands. For the holidays, you can give some of these to anyone who has a compatible brewer:

  • Green Mountain Coffee Holiday Blend
  • Green Mountain Coffee Gingerbread
  • Green Mountain Coffee Wicked Winter Blend
  • The Original Donut Shop Holiday Buzz
  • The Original Donut Shop Peppermint Bark
  • The Original Donut Shop Sweet & Creamy Maple Crème
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    Kyocera Slim Adjustable Coffee Mill

    The ceramic grinder is better than a metal
    blade. Photo courtesy Kyocera.

     

    KYOCERA SLIM ADJUSTABLE COFFEE MILL

    Coffee purists won’t use K-cups. They want their beans freshly ground.

    There have long been single-cup coffee makers, but this is the first grinder we’ve personally that’s great for small brews. It’s sized to grind the beans for one or two cups, instead of an entire pot.

    It’s the right gift for the coffee lover who wants to brew freshly ground beans.

    The grinder has a highly durable ceramic grinding mechanism; the adjustable dial enables fine to coarse grinds. A nice addition is the non-slip silicon base that provides stability when grinding.

    It’s $44.95 at KyoceraAdvancedCeramics.com

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Silicone Oven Mitts

    When silicone potholders and oven mitts appeared on the market, we traded in all of our cloth versions for the superior heat protection when baking, cooking and grilling. But lots of the mitts are very clunky, and also sized to fit men’s hands.

    Finally, here are women’s silicone oven mitts that are sized right, flexible, and available in 10 colors: Coral Red, Fall Orange, Fuchsia, Lime Green, Mustard Yellow, Navy Blue, Pink, Steel Gray and Teal.

    Made in Italy, they appear to be discontinued by their U.S. retailer, because they’re marked down from the original $47.00 to $19.99 with free shipping on orders over $35. Bargain time!

    We’re loading up on holiday gifts. We can’t think of too many other $20 items that are as universally needed and long-lasting.

    Get yours on Amazon.com.

     

    polka-dot-gloves-lovethiskitchen-230

    Teal, one of the 10 colors of these nifty heatproof silicone kitchen gloves.Photo courtesy Love This Kitchen.

     

      

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