I was successful in planting hydrangeas!

GailWright

I have always loved hydrangeas and have always wanted to have even just a pot or (my dream) an entire garden of them. The problem is that I have zero experience being a gardener and I have no idea where to start planting hydrangeas! So, I tried searching through some gardening books in the library or sites online that might be able to help me.

I found that it is important to plant them where they get pretty good exposure to the sun. They do not do well if they are under the shade all the time. One tip that a gardener told me about planting hydrangeas was to check if grass grew in the area; if there is no grass, then hydrangeas may not thrive or grow in this place (usually a shaded place!). Full grown hydrangeas may also reach up to four (4) feet tall so it is best to plant them in a place where they can reach their full potential and not be constantly pruned or cut.

My efforts were not wasted when it came to growing them (I opted to buy several small, potted hydrangea plants from a nursery). The plants I bought from the nursery were already in bloom when I got them. This is so that I know exactly what I was getting and not be surprised when the plants turn out to be something else. Some nursery workers have difficulty cataloging the plants if there are no flowers. I positioned my plants in a place that received a lot of sun during the morning and around noontime. During the afternoon, it was shaded. I planted them over soil that drained well ( I added some roughage to ensure that the roots will not rot) and I did not over water the plants. My hydrangeas turned out well! They are now about three (3) feet tall and thriving.

You Don’t Have To Buy The Sharpest Knife

For every cook and chef out there, they have their favorite knife for chopping and cooking. Knives are wonderful, and they could be very expensive, especially for the sharpest blade in the industry. But for me, any knife is just as good, it all depends on what kind of knife sharpener you use.

There are many knife sharpeners out there. But I find the best ones are the grainy stone sharpeners. All you do is wet the knife and start grinding the sharp edge of it on the stone. After a while, and if it’s done right, you will have one of the sharpest blades ever in your arsenal ready at your disposal for your chopping and cutting needs.

sharpening a japanese knife

The sharpener that I prefer is the King Medium Grain Sharpening Stone. Amazon has it listed for $73, but it is a worthy investment. The grainy stone needs to be soaked before use, and it is pretty large, an ideal product for restaurants. This stone will be with you for a very long time, and it will be a while before you have to purchase another.

The medium girt of the grain sharpener is made to perfection to help sharpen, hone, and to polish efficiently. It helps removes metal from the blades to re-profile the edges. It takes less time to sharpen your blade. But it takes practice to use this stone.

When using a knife that’s dull, it is really more dangerous than a sharp knife when you use it. Imagine using the dull knife, and when the blade fails to cut, and it slides on your finger, you will bleed. It’s important to have a knife sharpener around to avoid that accident from happening. Sharpen your knife before every use, and it will last a very long time, who knows, it may become your favorite knife that you will want to use over and over again.

The best Aroma rice cookers I have used

rice_cooker_recipe_caesar_pasta

I have 10 rice cookers. I use 4 of them, the most recent acquisitions, every day. Well, I don’t use all 4 every day, but I use at least one or two. I want to share what I learned with you in this review.

Rice cooker capacity is counted in “cups” of uncooked rice. The cup isn’t really a cup, though. It’s about 3/4 cup. Even the cup capacity listed on the package isn’t a reliable judge of the size of the rice cooker pan. The capacity is shown in 3/4 cups uncooked and (cooked) rice.

All of the rice cookers I have came with a measuring “cup” and a little paddle like spoon for serving rice.

There are 2 difference kinds of rice cookers. The original rice cooker isn’t smart. It cooks like mad and shuts down to warm when your rice is done. The newer, or “smart” rice cookers have different settings and behave differently depending on which setting you choose.

If you cook small quantities of rice in a large rice cooker, you’ll probably get very brown, crunchy rice, even if it’s white rice. All of the rice cookers will produce a bit of brown crunchy on the bottom layer if the rice is left too long. I don’t find this a big deal. I like it. I always cook too much rice. It rarely goes to waste. The fuzzy logic or smart rice cookers don’t produce the crunchy layer unless you cook a very small amount of rice in a very big rice cooker.

ricer-cooker

Desirable Features

Glass lid – so you can see what’s happening (for cooking brown rice, the rice cookers with lids that latch are better)
Lid with a hole in it – for steam to escape (otherwise it comes out at the edges of the lid and is messier)
Removable cord – for easy storage
Steamer tray – for steaming veggies and other foods (you will really want one, but you can make do with a separate fold up one from the grocery store). Most come with steamer trays now.
Non-stick pan – don’t get one without it
Measuring lines – lines on the inside of the rice cooker pan that tell let you add water without using a measuring cup. You still have to use the “cup” to measure the rice.

You can probably purchase these rice cookers at a store near you. If you want to buy them online.
ARC-2000 Aroma ARC-2000 Rice Cooker / Food Steamer ** 10 cup (20 cup). Aroma has finally added the one missing functionality that I’ve missed in rice cookers. The ARC-2000 has a slow cook setting. This incredible appliance does everything a high end rice cooker is supposed to do and more. I’ve cooked everything I can think of in this rice cooker. My latest was red beans and rice. What I love is that I use the “steam” setting to brown the sausage and onions. Then I add the beans, still using the “steam” setting. When the mixture comes to a boil, I then use the slow cook setting to simmer. Oh joy! This is what I’ve been waiting for. Buy this one! I recently saw this rice cooker in someone’s cart in Costco or you can buy it from Amazon.

ARC-727-1NG Rice CookerAroma ARC-727 Rice Cooker**: 7 cup (14 cups), 500 watts, $29.99. I like this smaller rice cooker. It doesn’t take up as much counter space as some of my other rice cookers. It does a great job on white rice, and steams veggies beautifully. It has a glass lid and the cord is attached.

Source: www.sallyskitchen.com

Making Espresso At Home with a Good Espresso Machine

drink espresso
Making espresso at home can be as easy as buying a good espresso machine, a good grinder, some fresh beans and voila, you have the right stuff to make an espresso without going to Starbucks.

So what’s a good espresso machine? Here are reviews for the best espresso makers by real people. I picked the reviews for the most popular best espresso machines.

DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Espresso Machine

“I have the EAM3200, which is the previous model version. The differences are slight but noticeable to the newer. These machines are the best in class for price and performance, produce a great espresso, and are maintainable in ways that other manufacturers models are not. The coffee from the Delonghi is just as good as from Jura and even some manual models such as Expobar and Rancillo. It is very close to what you find in Italy – not quite, but for the price it is worth it. Great crema, hot temperature, rich flavor. And the best part is you can pull out the brew mechanism and clean it – VERY key. This will ensure sound operation and function for many years. – Vatsug”

“We bought our Magnifica after using a similar machine while visiting friends in Germany. We have been using it for over 3 years now, and are still quite happy with it. My wife and I both drink a lot of coffee — tall Americanos most of the day. I am a full time telecommuter, so I will average 3-5 a day in winter, 2-4 in summer. We also love being able to fill a couple of 16 oz. insulated cups before leaving on a road trip. I would say this machine probably gets more use than the manufacturer intended. – Dale B”

Breville BES870XL Barista Express

“I’ve had the Breville BES870XL for about a week now, and I’m thoroughly pleased with the product and the quality of the espresso it can make. I upgraded from a simpler machine and a separate burr grinder, and one of the attractive features of the BES870XL was the integrated grinder. The other thing that appealed to me was the ability to adjust lots of features. – Food lover

“For expectations, here’s what I believe to be reasonable for this machine-
-It will make a mess. If you’re looking for a mess free experience, you may want to double or triple your spending and look at fully automated machines.
-You are not a hardcore espresso drinker who is looking for the perfect shot and the best components for the money. To get that, you should be looking at separate grinders and espresso machines most likely totaling more than this.
-You are looking for convenience, but something that still leaves some room for experimenting.
-You better be comfortable with having a 2 in 1 machine. If the grinder or the espresso machine goes kerplooey outside of warranty, you have half a machine left. You might look a little silly when friends come over. They’ll be expecting something super fancy from you because of all the espresso machines on your counter… – armaraas”

DeLonghi EC702 Espresso Maker

“When it was time to purchase another espresso maker, I chose the DeLonghi EC702. What a nice surprise! It heats up really quickly, and despite the owner’s manual that says let it warm up for 15 minutes before you brew the first cup, I find you can get a perfect cup after only about 3 minutes of warm-up. Then, hit the ‘milk steamer’ button and in just one more minute it’s hot enough to do the milk for a great cappuccino. The steamer nozzle is the first I’ve seen that can be EASILY dismantled (two small pieces to pull off) and rinsed. Former models had to be scrubbed with a scouring pad occasionally to scape off the residue left on the nozzle. This DeLonghi setup is far better and the steamer nozzle is always clean and ready for your next cappuccino. The drip tray (plastic with a metal grid) pulls off for easy cleaning too. Being a coffee-hound, I use the double-filter basket to make a single cup, although the photo shows two demitasse cups being filled side-by-side. Really, I’d recommend this machine without reservation. – T.Pajak”

There you go, 3 very different types of espresso machines, one of them bound to suit you.

More:
How to drink espresso like an Italian – BusinessInsider

Great Beans Make Great Espresso

Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee BeansI’ve been shopping around for a good medium to dark roast whole bean coffee to use for Lattes and Espresso, and after several misses and near hits, I have settled on this – Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee Beans (but will always be keeping my eyes and nose open for other beans to try). I have a semi automatic espresso machine (espresso machine reviews favor this type) that I use from Breville (with the best espresso maker reviews) that allows me to set the grind size, amount, temp, volume…etc and steam the milk.

I have tried coffee from Kicking horse, Lavazza Super Crema Espresso and other Lavazza coffee, illy, and others not worth naming before finding this gem. The care is apparent in the aroma when you first open the bag and view the shiny dark beans for the first time. I like my coffee fairly strong and this intensifies the buttery light flavor of the Lavazza I mentioned above and borders on a darker roast just shy of bitter.

This packs the extra flavor I was missing in the buttery coffee without going overboard to the land of bitter. Grind size and temp can play a roll here but this bean seems to be pretty forgiving. Occasionally when I want something lighter (or straight without milk) , I find I like to mix it half and half with the Super Crema above, but for Lattes and Cappuccinos this product is perfect. By Max C.

How to Drink Espresso: 5 Easy Stepsthecoffeecompass

Order your espresso. “One espresso for here please.” should be sufficient. Most shops worth visiting only serve espresso in ceramic, but asking for the demitasse identifies yourself as a serious customer. You might be asked, “Single or a double?” Unless you’ve already had too much caffeine, make it a double.

Drink your water. The barista will probably serve you a glass of sparkling water. This is to cleanse your pallet. You’re paying a lot for that ounce of liquid, you want to taste it!

Skim the crema (optional). A freshly pulled espresso should have some nice, rich crema floating on top- a by product of escaping co2 and nine bars of pressure. Although thick, reddish crema often designates a good shot, it doesn’t actually taste very good. Some espresso aficionados recommend skimming it off with your spoon. This barista usually can’t wait that long to dig in though!
Give the espresso a stir. Espresso is not homogenous, the thick, syrupy part of the shot tends to sink to the bottom while the brighter notes float on top. To get a balanced tasting experience, give the espresso a good stir with the little spoon. Your taste buds will thank you later.
Take a sip. Let the coffee cover your tongue. Does it taste sweet? sour? Pay attention to the aftertaste. What lingering flavors are still in your mouth? Don’t be afraid to slurp!

The Best Kitchen Knives of 2016

Came across this list of the best kitchen knives of 2014, and although it’s a bit outdated, it has ended my search for the best kitchen knife.

1.Victorinox Fibrox Chef’s Knife 8 Inch

Victorinox-Fibrox1

The established Swiss brand has come up with one exceptional product. It is the same company that has   produced the world’s most amazing multi-functional pocket knife – the Swiss Army knife. The 8-inch Fibrox is great because it’s suitable to both beginners and experts. You can use it at any skill level. This is something you won’t find in many other knives on the market. Being priced around $40, it costs a fraction of what the competitors advance. Being a chef’s knife, the Victorinox Fibrox handles pretty much anything you need it to. The traits that recommend it are:

  • comfortable
  • fit for daily use
  • affordable
  • solid
  • Fibrox handle – easy to grip

2.Suisin High Carbon Steel 8.2-Inch Korin Gyutou

Suisin-Korin-Gyutou

A respectable knife like this will show you that there’s no need for a whole set. You only need one good piece. It may not deal with bones and other heavy materials, but it will do all the mincing and slicing you need. Besides, it is further recommended thanks to the following:

  • a deeply curved edge
  • excellent control
  • lightweight
  • high quality blade material – Swedish steel
  • easy to sharpen to perfection.

3.Wusthof Classic

Wusthof-Classic-8

For the Western world, the Wusthof Classic knife is an icon. Its widely curved blade makes a rocking motion possible when mincing and chopping. It works well with herb, but also with poultry. It features a wood handle with rivets and a big bolster for a natural and safe grip. The Wusthof Classic comes in two versions: the 8-inch and the 10-inch. For more of the heavy-duty work, choose the bigger one. It will further impress you with its:

  • great balance
  • hand-honed blade
  • durability
  • stiffness
  • excellent control
  • lifetime guarantee.

4.Richmond Addict 2

Richmond_Addict_21

Fit for bigger hands, the Addict 2 from Richmond is a robust, big yet very light kitchen knife. Its 5.5cm heel ensures that knuckles never get crushed. The blade is big as well. Concerning the price, it is on the expensive side, but you will understand why. As a tool for professional, they have reported the following:

  • comfortable grip
  • rosewood handle
  • holds the edge very well.

5.Shun Hiro Santoku

shun-hiro-santoki1

These Japanese knives are known for their good finish, but they also impress through top-notch quality.  The Hiro Santoku can take you to a pro level. Its 7 inches of blade holds its fabulous sharpness and lets you achieve speed. The blade has a steel core with alternating stainless steel and nickel outer layers. Check out some more of its attractive specifications:

  • handmade
  • comfortable handle
  • great design
  • heavy-duty blade

It handles all basic tasks, which really makes it an all-in-one kitchen knife for the experts out there. We are thinking of experts here because of its price – you will pay about $200 for this piece. However, you may never need any additional knife for your kitchen work.

by knifeista

Related:
The Best Knife Set to Buy

I Recommend These Cookware Sets

best cookware setAre you looking for a cookware set? Many people get confused when choosing among available options. In this article, I am going to recommend few of the best cookware sets that you’ll like.

The first is WearEver C943SF Pure Living Nonstick Ceramic Coating Cookware Set. It is made up of aluminum with ceramic coating. It has even heat distribution. Its scratch and strain proof qualities assure you the more efficiency during cooking. I love this set because of its soft handles which are made from silicon. They also have excellent scratch resistant qualities.

The other is the Heim Concept 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set, which I have been using till date. It has a lid and made from high quality stainless steel. I am using this set with various sources like electric stove, gas stove and ceramic. Also, the thicker bottom for uniform heat distribution is another good thing I observed about this cooking stove. Since it comes around $21, it is affordable too.

One of my friends has been using Paula Deen Signature Nonstick 15-Piece Porcelain Cookware Set. He says they are easy to clean as they are strain-proof from outer side. Also, since it has teflon material, the food does not stick to the interior and thus is easy to clean. He also says they are available in various colors with tempered lids so that he can watch food being cooked continuously. However, he often complains that they have bigger pans and they can’t be used with high heat settings.

I would also like to mention about Cook N Home 15 Piece Non stick Black Soft handle Cookware Set. It comes around a budget of $40 including a package. The package consists of casserole, various other pans, oven and nylon tools. Their main advantages are excellent aluminum construction with tempered glass lids and user friendly handles. But the handles may often get loose and they are not heat resistant.

These are some of the basic best cookware sets that I would like to recommend you personally. You can choose your cookware and budget according to quality, durability, number of pans and their sizes.

Cooking Peri Peri Chicken to go with Rice

Where does peri peri chicken come from?
The name comes from the Swahili language which was used within central and eastern Africa as a way for people to communicate amongst themselves as there are literally hundreds of different languages spoken in that region. Pili pili is the name that was originally given to the African bird’s eye chilli within the Mozambican community. When this spread to the surrounding areas, most notably South Africa, people began to call it peri peri (the name we know it by today)

Mozambique has a rich cultural mix of local people, Indians (mainly from Goa) and Portuguese. This fusion of culture brought about very rich and spicy food dishes. Chillies are used in many of the meals and peri peri chicken is one the better known meals that spread across and have become a favourite in Southern Africa.

The Process of making the marinade.
There are many variations of this out there, but this is the way that our family made the peri peri marinade:
2 to 6 African birds-eye red chillies (depending on heat required)
Juice of one lemon (take out the pips but leave the pulp in)
1/2 tsp of chilli powder
1/2 tsp med curry powder
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 cup oil
5 cloves garlic
1/4 cup tomato sauce (same as tomato ketchup)
Salt and pepper
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
50 mL wine vinegar (red wine vinegar is best)

Blend all ingredients until smooth and refrigerate until needed. You can see how the different cultures have had their say in this recipe.

Some points to note
You may not be able to get the African bird’s eye chilli where you are. You can use the chillies that you find in you areas or shops. You would be better off going with the hotter chillies and just using less (this is what we did depending on who had joined us for food) I would always advise starting off with a little less chilli and adding more as opposed to the other way round.

Preparing the chicken for the braai
I find that it is best to do this the night before you are planning to have the BBQ (Braai).

Many people like to cut up the chicken into pieces. Personally, I like my chickens whole. I like to spatchcock my chicken and then once cleaned, add it to a deep set container and cover with the marinade that you have just made. You can do this the on the day of the BBQ but I think that it tastes better when it has been left over night.

If you want to get really fancy you can stab the chicken in the meaty bits like the breast and thighs as this will help get some of the marinade in there. Make sure that you cover the chicken when you have it in the fridge.

Cooking the chicken
It is time for the BBQ, you have a fire going and everything is ready for your feast. In Zimbabwe it is the men that cook the meat and the woman that make the salads and sadza or rice. Having a Braai (BBQ) has always been one of the best ways to spend a sunny afternoon. For red meats I love sadza but for this meal I like rice, if you have the best rice cooker you can find out how to cook different types of rice from this article

Cook Rice in a Rice Cooker

rice cooker
For cooking white rice using the best electronic rice cooker, the rice-water ratio is usually 1 part of rice & 1 part of water. Rice:Water=1:1
The ratio may vary a little depending on the brand of rice and your personal preference. Some people like their rice more watery than others.

Examples:
2 cups rice -> 2 cups water
3 cups rice -> 3 cups water
4 cups rice -> 4 cups water
5 cups rice -> 5 cups water

If you use a pot the ratio is different. See cooking white rice in a pot.
For mixed (multigrain) rice, the ratio is completely different. See cooking multigrain rice using a rice cooker and cooking multigrain rice in a pot.

1. Wash rice
Wash 1 cup of rice in cold water. Do not rub it too hard or too long as it will lose nutrients. Wash twice in total. Second time, drain the water as much as possible without losing the rice grains.

2. Add water
Add 1 cup of water. *See tips for water ratio for different amounts.

3. Cook
Place it in the rice cooker and select white rice (if there is an option). It’s best to leave it (don’t open) for 5-10 min even after the cooking completion light has come on.

4. Serve
With a rice spatula, flip through the rice very gently. Serve in a rice bowl.

by crazykoreancooking.com

Stainless Steel Cookware Tips

stainless steel cookware
For the longest time I resisted the idea of cooking with stainless steel. It’s ‘stick cookware’, right? And who wants to spend their time scouring pots and pans? Let’s face it, once you’ve gotten used to non-stick pans, you get used to the idea of food not sticking to the pot and effortless clean up of the pans.

But there is something about stainless steel cookware. Apart from the nice and shiny appearance, of course.

For one, you just can’t get the same sear on meats with non-stick as you can with stainless steel cookware. And don’t ask me why but food does taste better when cooked in stainless. And seriously, it’s pretty low maintenance… you can scratch it, stack it, use metal utensils, bang it together (those with kids will understand!) it’s still intact and still performs.

So it was time to look at cooking with stainless steel cookware as an option. And that’s when I discovered:

The Five Secrets to Cooking with Stainless Steel!

1. Non-Stick. The trick to making a stainless steel non-stick can be summarized as ‘hot pan, cold oil’. Heat the empty pan on medium high till you can place a hand above the pan and feel the heat rising. Add a bit of oil at room temperature, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Wait for the oil to become hot. You will notice a tiny bit of smoke coming out. This tells you the pan is ready. Voila, you just turned your stainless steel pan into a non-stick cooking pot.

2. Searing: When searing meat, don’t force the food to flip. Meat will stick to the pan but will release when ready.

3. Heat: Another secret to cooking with stainless steel is to cook on medium heat. Cooking at too high a heat can also cause foods to stick.

4. Cool off: After you are done cooking, I know you are in a hurry to soak the pan so that nothing stays stuck (guilty!). But wait! Let the pan cool to room temperature before adding water. Otherwise you could end up with warped pans.

5. Soak: Once the pan is cooled off after cooking, soak it in soapy warm water for a while. Then when you are ready to clean, the food easily wipes off.

Stainless Steel Pan Advantages:

— does not react with foods e.g., tomatoes and wine
— makes excellent sauces after sautéing by dissolving products of caramelization and mallaird reaction

Stainless Steel Disadvantages:

— stainless steel heats uneven
— many types of food stick to surface of stainless steel unless proper techniques are applied.

Why food sticks to stainless steel pans?

Food that sticks is caused by chemical bonds that form between the food and the material of the pan – almost always a metal. These bonds may be relatively weak van der Waals forces or covalent bonds. Protein-rich foods are particularly prone to sticking because the proteins can form complexes with metal atoms, such as iron, in the pan.

How to prevent sticking or why hot oil prevents sticking?

The oil, being liquid, fills in the valleys and caves of the pan surface. Although the pan may look smooth at a microscopic level the surface of even the smoothest metal pan looks rough with hills, valleys and even caves. Hot oil is less viscous than cold oil and will immediately flow filling the gaps.

When oil in the pan gets hot enough a steam effect begins to occur —

“A small amount of oil added to a very hot pan almost instantly becomes very hot oil. The oil quickly sears the outside of the food and causes water to be released from the food. This layer of water vapor (“steam”) lifts the food atop the oil film and keeps it from touching the hot pan surface. If the oil is not hot enough, the steam effect will not occur and the food will fuse to the (too) cool pan surface.” Source: Ask a Scientist, Newton BBC

In addition very hot oil will react with the metal atoms of the pan and form a coating called a patina. This leaves few free metal atoms to react with the food. This coating can easily be removed by detergents, however, so it has to be reapplied before each use of the pan. In the case of cast-iron pans the patina becomes more permanent. It has been suggested that the patina could form by a sequence of cracking followed by polymerization. Source: Kitchen Chemistry, RSC

Related:
http://www.edinformatics.com/math_science/science_of_cooking/why_food_sticks.htm

Crash Course on Using Your Kitchen Knives

knife
The foundation of a perfectly cooked meal is good prep work, and that begins with cutting technique, says Shape contributing editor Judy Joo, executive chef at the Playboy Club London, a judge for Iron Chef America, and an Iron Chef on the U.K. version of the show. Here, she shares her expert tips on how to slice everything right.

Step 1: Use a “choke” hold
Home cooks tend to hold their best chef’s knives by the handles, but it’s safer to move your grip higher. The pros call it “choking up”: Your hand should straddle the finger guard, or the ridge where the metal meets the handle, with your thumb and index finger grasping the flat edge of the blade. The hold balances the weight of the knife, so you have more control when chopping. For smaller, blades, like paring knives, you can simply grab the handle.

Step 2: Center yourself
Most of the time, you’ll slice with the center of the blade. But when working with harder-to-cut items, like carrots and bone-in chicken, shift the focus to the back, or “heel,” of the knife to offer heft and leverage. For delicate items or scoring (small cuts in meat, fish, and veggies to allow marinades to penetrate), use the tip rather than the center.

Step 3: Safeguard your digits
Curl your fingertips beneath your knuckles and place them on the food to hold it in place. Then slice so the blade of the knife is alongside your knuckles while your fingers are safely tucked away.

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, watch the instructional videos for more advice on tackling tough-to-chop items and mastering the art of julienning vegetables.

My Kitchen Knives Make My Kitchen Look Amazing

Everybody you talk to about kitchen cutlery will go on about the sharpness and the various options each knife set comes with. I personally don’t think those are the type of questions and considerations that matter. Granted, I’m not the typical shopper, but when I saw my knives, I instantly knew they would be mine. I also knew why — it was how great they looked.

knife

Not only did the knives I ended up with look so great in general, but they matched my kitchen decor to a tee. With stainless steel handles and sharp black accents on the handles, they match my onyx black countertop and stainless steel appliances. Surely, the designer of the knives I got must have expected a number of people to have made similar design choices in their kitchens.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting to even find a kitchen knives set that would match my kitchen decor so well, but when I laid my eyes upon the set, I knew instantly that it was my pick. The only factor that could have prevented me from making my decision was the customer feedback. If I saw that people were complaining about my potential future knife set being too dull or it having a tendency to corrode quickly, then I would have had to pass up the great design. (Learn more: How to choose the right knife for the job)

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to make a difficult decision as the classy and charming set I got was also getting great customer feedback everywhere I looked.

Did I mention that the base of the set is also black to match the countertop? In the right lighting, it actually looks like my knives are floating in mid-air because the base blends into the color of my counter so well. If I had to pick a drawback to the use of stainless steel knives is the tendency of the handles to show fingerprints. While this is true, I have a nice soft cloth that I keep in my silverware drawer for just such a reason. So far, the extra cleaning effort has been worth the amazing look of my favourite knives ever.

Bought My Espresso Machine

Something is really wrong with this world. Nowadays, we can often find ourselves buying the products that we do not really want and that is solely because of the influence given by the salespeople of the product. Well, I would say that is the power of persuasion – it drives people crazy. This time round, I decided not to listen to the salesperson when I buy my coffee machine. Instead, I read espresso maker reviews and ratings to aid my decision making. These ratings are just so awesome.

DeLonghi EC155 Espresso Machine
“I put off writing a review in order to make sure that the DeLonghi was going to last until we had at least broken even on it. We received it in mid-July and since then it has produced about 200 double shots flawlessly. By my reckoning, that’s about $400 worth of Americanos at the local cafe. Even considering the price of the coffee, we have more than broken even. So, here’s our pros and cons:

PROs
– Price–we paid $91.28.
– Crema Production–this unit consistently produces a thick layer of delicious crema.
– Powerful Stream Wand–Easily froths milk.
– Mechanicals–After six months of nearly daily use this mighty-mite works as well as it did the day it arrived.
– Easy Cleanup–Filter cleans easily.

CONs
– Ergonomics–As other reviewers have noted, there could be a little more room between the area where the cup sits and the output nozzle. Also the steam wand could be longer.
– Features–No cup warmer. Not a big deal to us, especially considering the price of the EC155, but it will put off some buyers.”

By OhioGardener

Mr. Coffee ECM160 Steam Espresso Machine
“I’ve had this machine for over a year. I have tried other machines, even a pump. It makes good cappuccinos/lattes when the milk is steamed properly at the right temperature. If your only into espresso shots, I would go with a different pump driven machine.

PROS
-Inexpensive, Small
-Frother is strong, plastic tip is removable
-Quiet (then a pump machine)
-Latte art hearts (SEE picture)

CONS
-Supplied tamper is just a slightly flattened end of the coffee scooper.
-No frothing pitcher.
-Multiple shots requires de-pressuring the machine.”

By Dassit

DeLonghi ECP3420 Espresso Machine
“I’ve had this machine for a month and so far it’s been fantastic. I love lattes and mistos and having to go to Starbucks every morning just isn’t something I want to do.

So, armed with my espresso beans, my white mocha sauce and my Keurig, I’ve been able to make my favorite drinks from the comfort of my home!

What I’ve found so far:

PROS:
– The froth, though not very dense, is great. It wand will froth 6 ounces of soy milk in less than 45 seconds.
– The warming plate gets hot!
– I turn the machine off when I’m done so warming it back up takes less than 30 seconds before the green light turns on
– The water level is visible so you know when you need to add more without moving the machine

CONS:
– The warming plate gets hot! It’s a little too hot in my opinion but I don’t use it.
– The water reservoir MUST be all the way down. When it arrives, it’ll look like it’s in place. It isn’t. Gently push it down.”

By Caiapfas

Buying my espresso machine after looking at the best espresso machines 2016 would be the same like buying one after consulting for advice from professional users as these ratings are written by product testers who are experienced in such field. Well, at least I won’t have to listen to unwarranted claims by irresponsible salespeople whose aims were just to sell their products. Now, I can judge for myself what is good and what is bad for me, without having to be influenced by anyone.

Advice for Your Nonstick Pans

non stick
THIS all began when I was trying to come up with a clever idea for a Hanukkah present for my older son. Having exhausted all the sports-themed possibilities, I decided to buy him a griddle since he has become quite the pancake chef.

My son greeted the present with more enthusiasm than I expected. A couple of days later, I realized it would be perfect for making holiday latkes. Usually I use two frying pans, but since we had this nice new nonstick griddle, why not make things easier?

I asked Ben if I could borrow it and he graciously agreed. I fried 89 latkes (but who’s counting) for a get-together. The guests were happy, but the griddle was burned.

I soaked. I scrubbed with little plastic scrub brushes, as suggested. It still looked nothing like new. Before admitting to Ben that I had ruined his present, I looked up “cleaning nonstick griddles” on the Internet.

I came across a lot of advice about cleaning, but also how to use this type of cookware in the first place. And to my surprise, I have been using nonstick pans in an inappropriate manner for, oh, the last three decades or so — in fact, ever since I started cooking for myself.

So as a holiday gift, I am going to share with you what I have learned in hopes of saving you from my mistakes. And as a treat, I’ll throw in a few other cleaning tips as well.

Let’s start with nonstick cookware. Teflon is the patented product made by DuPont, but most people use the term generically to refer to nonstick pans.

For our purposes here, I am not going to delve into the health issues. I did write a column about these concerns about four years ago, weighing the health risks of using pans with nonstick coatings. I didn’t come down on either side, but the reality, according to Consumer Reports, is that non stick cookware accounts for about 70 percent of all such sales in the United States.

So millions of us are cooking with nonstick pots and pans. But in the wrong way.

“A lot of people buy pans and don’t read the directions,” said Reed Winter, director of research and development for Nordic Ware, a maker of household goods and the manufacturer of the griddle I bought my son.

Ahem. I confessed right away to Mr. Winter that that was true in my case. I barely read the manual when I buy a new car. Am I really going to pore over the directions for a pan?

So this is what I should have known. I should have “preseasoned” the pan by rinsing and drying it and rubbing it with a paper towel with a little oil on it. Pretty much any type of oil will do.

It’s a good idea to rub about a teaspoon of oil or butter on a cold pan each time you use it, Mr. Winter said, because despite the name nonstick, most of the cookware needs some kind of lubricant.

Just don’t pour oil or butter on the pan and then slosh it around (my method).

“Then the oil is not adhering to the pan but being absorbed by the food,” he said. Not only will you have butter-soaked pancakes, but after a while they’ll start sticking because there’s no grease.

But what about PAM or other cooking sprays? I often put a few squirts on my nonstick frying pans.

Not a great idea, I was told. After a time, the build-up in the areas where the heat doesn’t burn the spray off — like on the sides of a frying pan — becomes sticky and pasty. I found this to be true of my pans, but didn’t know why.

Mr. Winter said it’s the soy lecithin in the spray that causes that stickiness. Instead, he recommends just using oil or a spray called Baker’s Joy that also contains flour.

For due diligence, I checked in with DuPont, the makers of Teflon, and a spokeswoman said in an e-mail that “it is acceptable” to use nonstick cooking sprays although “not necessary.” And a spokesman at ConAgra Foods, which makes PAM, said, “You should check with your cookware manufacturer” to see if it is safe to use with PAM.

Another thing I shouldn’t have done is put the griddle on a high heat. High temperatures cause the coating to crack, Mr. Winter said, and don’t even cook the food as well. The food tends to be partly burned and partly doughy, he said.

“Using a lower heat means it will turn out perfectly,” he said.

Also, don’t use any metal or sharp objects to stir or turn food, because it can pierce the coating.

Now as far as cleaning, I did scrub with a plastic scrubby sponge (never steel wool). Then I soaked with baking powder and hot water. Then I used some vinegar and water. It looks better, but not perfect.

Although I don’t usually put my cookware in the dishwasher, I did as a last-ditch effort — another bad idea. Most experts I talked to said to hand-wash nonstick cookware, because the high heat and harsh detergents can ruin the coatings.

In the end, the griddle looks, shall we say, well used. I showed it to my son and apologized. He took it with good grace.

A few more tips. Store your pots and pans properly, said Mariette Mifflin, who writes about housewares and appliances for About.com, which is owned by The New York Times.

If you nest them, they can scratch. Putting a napkin between the pots prevents that.

And realize you’ll probably have to replace nonstick cookware more often than other types. Once the cookware peels or looks pitted, you want to get rid of it.

Much depends on how often and how well you use and clean them, but Ms. Mifflin said even with her vigilant care, her nonstick pans rarely last more than five years.

Here are a few more tips regarding questions about cleaning.