Friday, April 18, 2008

Kitchen Toys

(Butterscotch brownies from the book "My Sweet Vegan", baking away)

I guess by now, everyone knows how much I love my kitchen toys. I don't think it's quite at the point of needing an intervention, but I do love a fun kitchen toy or appliance. Just to set the record straight, I do have some pretty tough criteria. First of all, it needs to function really well and take the place of another tool/appliance, because let's face it, I have a pretty small kitchen. Real estate is at a premium here, and, I have a "deal" with my husband that as one tool arrives, another must go. Sometimes this works better in theory, but I really try to stick to the plan. And in case you're wondering where the previous "tenants" go, that is usually straight to my brother or mother's kitchen (my brother is a chef too). In my family, kitchen toys become a game of musical toys.

(The oven with freshly baked vegan hot artichoke dip. The oven did an amazing job baking it)

As well as enjoying playing with the new toys, I think it's important to offer feedback on these products, sharing how they hold up to a lot of wear and tear in a busy kitchen. Believe me, not everything makes that cut. I will try to give everyone feedback on products that I am really enjoying and think are worthwhile or could be a good addition to someone's kitchen.

Another reason for some of my counter top appliances is that I do a lot of cooking segments on television (I am the "entertaining editor" for a morning show called Better), and there isn't a kitchen set-up -just a table and an extension cord. I need to be able to bring these appliances with me, so that I can actually cook on set. In other words, my "toys" are also part of my lively hood. Anyways, on to a few new favorites.

The first is the Cuisinart Brick Oven. This is a counter top oven which really performs. I first heard rave reviews about it from Bryanna Clark Grogan. She was having an awful time baking bread and pizzas in her new oven, unable to get it hot enough to blister the crust. This began to pique my interest, because how cool would it be to use a counter top oven that not only baked extremely well, but actually saved the energy of turning on a large gas or electric oven/range.
As an added bonus, the oven is really well designed and beautiful too. In addition to standard and convection baking and broiling, it also toasts. Plus, the oven has built in brick/stones on the sides of the oven, as well as a removable one for baking directly on.

I have been having so much fun with this oven. It bakes extremely well and I was blown away with the results, whether cakes, cookies, bread or roasting or broiling. It's fairly large, which is nice because I can easily fit pie plates and brownie pans in it. I have it tucked into a corner of my kitchen. I give this oven 2 big thumbs up. If you have a sketchy oven or are just looking for a great counter top oven, check out the Cuisinart Brick Oven.

The next toy that I want to share is The Garlic Twist. This gadget was also recommended to me, and it did not disappoint. I use a ton of garlic in my cooking, so anytime I can mince it quickly it's appreciated. I know I could use a knife, but this gadget is awesome. I can do about 4 peeled cloves at a time with a quick couple twists of the wrist. Another benefit is that you can smash the garlic and store it temporarily in the container. This is an added benefit, because in order to get all of the healthy benefits from cooked garlic, it needs to sit for 10 minutes after mincing/pressing/smashing before being cooked. No problem with the Garlic Twist. It also smash/minces the garlic, which I think releases more flavor and oil than by simply chopping it.

(The Garlic Twist. I didn't take this pic, but rather borrowed it from their website. Our dark gloomy weather today wasn't too conducive to photography)

Another great item I've discovered recently is the new Zyliss Smart Touch salad spinner. It makes quick work of washing lettuce, greens and herbs, spinning them dry with ease. Obviously I wash a lot of greens, so this is a great time saver. My old spinner was tiny and you pulled a cord to spin the veggies dry. Well I had used it so much that the cord had cut a nifty rut into the side of the spinner. It seemed like an appropriate time to retire it and try something new and more efficient. Instead of a cord for this new spinner, there's a flat paddle on the top that you place your hand on, effortlessly pressing up and down. It's almost meditative. Suddenly my kids are volunteering to make salads. This can't be a bad thing, right? We all need to eat more greens, so why not make the task easier, and do it with a bit of flair? I am loving this stylin' new spinner.

(I didn't take this photo either. It's courtesy of the Zyliss website. Darn gloomy weather)

I don't sell any of these items, but have truly enjoyed using them. I'm sure that they can be found online with a quick Google search, or your local kitchen store. It's fun for me to share and pass my thoughts on to other kitchen enthusiasts.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!


Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Ooh, three things I would love to have in my kitchen! My oven is the devil, but I only have one little square of counter space & it's covered in canisters! I usually press all my garlic, but that twister looks good! Also, I don't have a salad spinner, yet we eat a ton of greens!

jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

I could listen to you talk about this for hours! You were holding out on us! ; )

And that is the salad spinner I've been eyeing to buy with a target gift card I have, you are pushing me to actually do it! I think kim recommended it as well.

Jan Scholl said...

I saw the brick oven at Costco and almost bought it. I just have no room left. Since I bought an Aerogrow for my herbs, all my counter top is full. dang.

BitterSweet said...

Kitchen gadgets are so much fun, and it looks like you've picked out a bunch of winners to share.

I hope you liked the butterscotch blondies, by the way. ;)

John Plummer said...

I need a new salad spinner - thanks much for the report!

Vegan_Noodle said...

It's so hard to resist new kitchen gadgets. My husband keeps asking how many more I need!!
I have that garlic thing as well and really like it. The oven is a no-no for me because of space (plus my oven is pretty decent), but I am now really wanting a salad spinner! Great reviews ;-)

Spice Island Vegan said...


Thanks for this blog. I can't afford the brick oven yet but the Garlic Twist will be helpful for me. Korean market sells peeled garlic in huge 10 lb. bags. I don't buy 10 lb. peeled garlic, of course. :-) I buy a small container which has about 20 to 30 peeled garlic. I found that it is convenient not to peel it myself but I still need a mincer. Great idea! I am going to look for it.

I have the Zyliss spinner with a cord. Man, there is always something new! I can't keep up with it. I like your comments about musical kitchen toys. :-)

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

i enjoy product reviews - thanks! a game of musical toys sounds like fun esp. with a couple chefs in the family! thanks for sharing the garlic secret. Happy Earth Day!

K.E.N. said...

hey, julie!
are you ever on Better or do you do behind the scene stuff? i have, on occasion, watched it in the mornings as i get ready for work.
i had no idea about the 10 minute garlic wait. where did you learn that? (not that i'm doubting you! i'm just curious about it. food nutrition is of great interest to me.)
i would love that brick oven and salad spinner. kim got me one of those zipcord spinners but she got me the bitty one so for one head of lettuce i fill it about 4 times.

VeganFabulous said...

When is Better on? What channel? I don't have broadcast TV at my house anyway but somehow I want to see your show! I love seeing pictures of your house. keep 'em coming!

ps. I dream of being on your hand me down list!

Kelleen said...

As someone who uses her toaster oven more often than her oven, (to keep the kitchen cool as possible in the Florida heat), I am so excited to learn about the counter top brick oven, as is my pizza and bagel loving husband. It is going straight to the top of my kitchen wish list! The garlic twist is right up there, also. I get tired of relying on jarred minced garlic when in a hurry. The salad spinner I have and love. I can't imagine washing greens without it!

Emilie said...

thanks for passing on the lessons learned from having taken these toys on some test drives. i'm really intrigued by the counter-top oven since i am so averse to heat in the summer and it really limits my cooking. keep the recommendations coming--i live for reviews of food and the implements that may be used to make the making easier!

Wheeler's Frozen Dessert said...

Interesting post! That artichoke dip looks awesome :)

Anonymous said...

One of the things my kitchen needs desperately is a salad spinner. Next on my list! I was finally able to get the mixer off the list.

I also just purchased "My Sweet Vegan"..I can't wait to try out some recipes!

Hoping you post the artichoke recipe soon! *wishful thinking*..

K.E.N. said...

hey megan/vegfabulous
Better is on Fox which is channel 12 on noncable. it's ob at 9am

Scott Carlson said...

I love the garlic twist so much I stopped a complete stranger from buying a garlic press at a local store. I told them to buy the twist instead.

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