Gadget Post – Poultry Shears

I’ve been using the wrong search term when looking for good scissors for cutting up chicken.  Amazon offers tons of listings for kitchen shears/scissors.  I have several pair that are just okay.  Then I saw these!  Had to have them!  They do a good job of cutting a chicken into smaller pieces.The red latch tab is pretty flimsy and I worried that it would break off, sooner rather than later, but it folds away into a slot while the shears are in use.  Of course they come apart for washing.  I like that they are spring loaded, and that if you need to really bear down to cut a bone you can let the bottom handle rest on the cutting board and put your full weight on the top.

Gadget Post – Tortilla Press

I finally pulled the trigger on one of these things, a brief look at Amazon led me to this one.  Great reviews, cast iron, etc.  I went though three or four batches of masa dough before finally getting everything to work right for me.  First batch was impossible to get out of the plastic that everyone recommended be used to make it easy – I cut circles out of a freezer weight ziplock bag. At least it was easy to scrape the failed tortilla off them.I Googled “wah!  the tortilla will not release” and discovered that you need to cover the dough ball for 30 minutes or more.  So I made another batch and rested the dough ball, covered, for 30 minutes.  Not a bit better!  Hmm… let me check the use by date on my masa flour – “best if used by 4/15”.  OK, time for a new bag!  Mumble mumble, toil and trouble!  OK, new bag of flour.  Not much of an improvement.  I have been following the recipe on the bag:  1 cup water for every cup of masa but I vaguely recall watching one of the TV shows and seeing oil or some other fat added to the mix.  Another search confirms that, I quickly found a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of oil or lard per cup of flour.Success!  I can, finally, peel the plastic from the tortilla.  They are fragile in this uncooked state and it takes a bit of practice to flop the tortilla onto the hot (500 degrees) cast iron. This is my best one so far, no wrinkles or folds and I managed to flip it without tearing.  Yay!

We might have tacos and enchiladas later – stay tuned!

Gadget Post: Rice Cookers

DSC_4601 [1600x1200]I mentioned using my rice cooker for the Spanish rice in my last post and I got to wondering whether I had done one of these gadget posts on it.  I did a quick search of the site and turned up several more mentions but nothing on the cooker itself.  We went with a fairly small cooker because the two of us don’t need huge piles of rice and this 3 cup version looked like it would do.  I’m no expert but this is a fine machine, well built, and works great.  Amazon put a note on the page mentioning that I had bought this one in August of 2010.  The only complaint I have about this unit is a real niggle:  The cord is heavy and stiff and just won’t lay where I want it to.  I’m guessing that the Japanese version of our Underwriter’s Lab is very fussy about wire gauges on cords for counter top appliances.DSC_4602 [1600x1200]Here I’m making 1/2 cup of rice, just about the least that it is configured for.  The white lines are for water levels, the rice is measured with their provided cup.  Note that their cup measure is just a tad shy of the US standard cup, so if you lose theirs you need to keep that in mind.  (When making rice from a box mix I use the box directions for liquid amounts.)DSC_4603 [1600x1200]

Gadget post — Amazon’s Kindle Fire

I’ve had this thing for a month or so now and it’s time to jot down a few thoughts.  It’s not an iPad killer.  It’s pretty lame as a tablet computer right out of the box.  I may do a “root” job on mine after the new has worn off some.  Amazon is promising updates soon that may help with some complaints people have been expressing about the carousel and a few other things.

That said, it’s handy to pack around the house from room to room.  I take it to the bedroom to read my books and the backlit screen lets me turn the lights off so the dogs can get their rest.  Handy for keeping up on comments on a blog post but the Silk browser isn’t all that handy for general browsing and the lack of a keyboard limits it’s usefulness.  For some reason Amazon has made it hard for the casual user to install more familiar and useful browsers.  It can be done but it is a real shame that they have made it harder than it needs to be.

I can see that someone who is handy with tech and has time to burn could have a load of fun with this thing, tweaking the operating system, downloading fun code, and sharing tips and howtos with like minded folks on various fora.

Mmm…pizza for breakfast!

There are a few things that make pizza for breakfast feasible, chief among them is this toaster oven.  I’ll use this as an occasion to add to that first gadget post.  I love this thing.  Realized this week that it will hold my 9″ cast iron skillet with the door closed.  I bought a 12″ non-stick coated pizza pan for it that works great.  There are some minor quibbles I will note for the record:  The chimes that say “I’m done” aren’t nearly loud enough.  Some of the programmed settings allow for a preheat-this period is followed by a countdown of the time programmed into the toaster setting.  With the soft chime at the end of the preheat I miss the beginning of the timed period pretty often and have to restart.  Of course the oven has reached temp by then and the preheat is short.  Minor quibbles.

The other main thing that makes breakfast pizza fast and fun is the package of pitas in the freezer.  For this pizza I used one of the pitas I bought yesterday at my favorite grocery store, the Asian place in the next town over.  I could have used one of my own.  Since that post I have learned to poke holes all over the rolled dough to keep it from ballooning-something you don’t want for a pizza crust.  Also don’t let pitas you intend for pizza to brown as much as those, just a few minutes on a side to stiffen them a bit, they will brown later as you bake the pizza.

Gadget Post


Our last toaster oven lost its ability to toast and became redundant with the recent purchase shown above.  We spent more this time on the replacement and expected to get more for it and we were rewarded with a very competent device.  It’s a Breville, sized for 4 slices.  As depicted in the photo it has room enough to take the 10″ frying pan with room to spare.  We bought a 12″ round nonstick pizza pan that fits it just right.

It does all we ask of it, makes good toast.  The controls are well laid out and intuitive.  There are settings galore.  Some initial experimentation allowed the finish on the toast to meet our desires and it remembered the settings the next time.

Plenty of reviews at the link above, and a good description of all the features.  I won’t go into any of that here.  I’ll just say that it looks and feels well put together with quality materials and gets a thumbs up from both of us.



Cool new recipe machine for the kitchen!

[Edited to add this pic]  [[“You’d better add it,” sez TaMara!]]

We’ve been busy here reorganizing stuff, recarpeting, fixing floors and doors, hauling out trash, dealing with carpenters and electricians along with the flooring guys and the furniture movers, and trying to make a little better use of the  overall space we have.  This is one component of all the fuss–a new LCD HDTV.  Not that we have HDTV we are aching to watch but this is the coming thing and 23 skidoo!

I spent some few hours playing with the screen as a computer monitor and finally I think I have it figured out.  Took a detour with a HDMI cable but it proved to be a step beyond what the TV was happy with.  I backed up to the not quite latest thing in cabling, a basic 15 pin VGA cable that let me tap into the input channel that the machine set aside for a PC hookup.

I won’t bore you with all the sordid details.  LOL!  Need I mention that it becomes an actual TV again with just a click or two?

Busy Busy

I have been having home networking fun all day long, so I haven’t put together my usual brilliant off the cuff elegant rustic menu.  I was chatting with a gentleman from Los Angeles the other day in a chat room I am admin for when he mentioned that his Time/Warner cable internet was out.  He was telling me this on the internet so my first thought was “poor guy is reduced to dial-up!  lol”.


“I have this Verizon broadband 3g thing as a backup.  It’s slow-I’m only getting 3Mb/sec download speed.”

Slow?  Pooh, that’s twice as fast as *{([grouchy old white haired dude shakes his fist at the sky])}* lets me browse.  My best go has been about half that and that’s late at night.  So I ask around the internets and find many happy campers talking about this “personal wifi hotspot” thing.

Last week I dropped by the Verizon store and talked to a rep there.  They have a demo unit and I can take it home with me!  Yay yay!!  But it wasn’t available until today.

That’s it there next to my cell phone.  The cell phone is a tad bigger.  It’s turned on and doing it’s wifi thing there.  The lights all mean something but the two that are particularly relevant to me are the ones at top and bottom.  The top led is signal strength-green is good, red is …not so good.  The bottom led, the green 3G, mens just that-the thing is operating on the 3G Verizon data network. (A red 3G means slow 2G connection-about the same as your old fashioned dial up I was making fun of earlier.)

That’s enough detail, and I really can’t tell you much more, I’m a real noob at this.  You’ll be wondering about the speed:  best I got today was in the parking lot at Kroger’s-1.78Mbs down.  That is  faster than my satellite ever delivered, I think I got almost 1.7 down one night at 2 am.  Just now I ran this test and only got 0.4Mbs down and was moping about until I connected the satellite modem back up to another computer and ran the same test from it.  0.12 and 0.13 on consecutive tries.  This thing may be a keeper.

Okay, okay, here’s a sammich:

And a little kitteh tableau: