New kitchen favorites

Not so new as much as re-discovered.

The Nespresso espresso maker. I use this machine every morning. It makes the most perfect espresso. Nespresso has about, oh, 15 to 18 different types of coffee, each packed into individual capsules in an array of pretty colors. The colors are (sort of) indicative of

Nespresso, what else ? ;-)

Image via Wikipedia

their intensities (not necessarily caffeine content). Black, the darkest one, has an intensity of 10. Purple is 9; green is 5.  The “brewing” time is different for each pod (black is slowest; yellows are pretty fast), and so is the crema on top. Each capsule is 55 cents, unless you get one of the new fancy blends from some exotic spots — those are 62 cents. Even at two shots, it’s still cheaper than getting a cup of coffee (that was my justification). We got this machine at Williams-Sonoma while shopping for a new coffee maker, but we were sold on it (there was a deal too! more justification!) when the sales associate said something about having the biggest thermal block of all of them. We decided on the spot that, of course, biggest means best.

 My second favorite equipment (not in any order) is the FoodSaver. It had gotten to the point where all I would do is cook dinner every night in order to make lunch for the next day. The concept of making extra food isn’t a bad one. But if I should miss dinner one night, that means no lunch the next day. I know lots of folks eat out, but after a while, you get tired of the same old stuff. Plus, it’s pretty expensive downtown. So, with a little pre-planning, and a lot of cooking one weekend day, we can have lunches for the whole week. The machine came with a roll of double-sided plastic (although you can also purchase pouches). You cut the roll to the size you want, seal one end, put the food in, and then vacuum and seal the other end. It is much more compact than Tupperware, so you can put a lot of them in the freezer. The bags are apparently microwaveable and boilable, although I haven’t tried that. I usually cut the bag open and put the content in a bowl at work, before microwaving it. Anyway, this machine has saved me a lot of work. There are other brands on the market, but since this is my first one — it will be a while before I can give a comparative rating. It’s working fine right now.

My last new favorite kitchen equipment really is a rediscovery. One year Juniper gave me a pressure cooker for my birthday (because I asked for it, not because she couldn’t think of something more creative). I tinkered with it a little bit, but then put it away because the menu seemed a little limited. What I have rediscovered, since we are now proud dog keepers, is that a pressure cooker makes a mean chicken broth, amongst other things. It retains all the flavor and cut the cooking time down by, like, a tenth. OK, maybe a small exaggeration, but it is incredible how tidy this little gadget is. One day, I decided to make chicken stew for the dogs. Since we usually get whole chickens, that means there is usually a lot of “carcass” left. I stuck the whole thing in the cooker and cooked it for about an hour, because I wanted the bones to be soft enough for them to eat without worrying about splintering. The most surprising thing is that after an hour, the bones are mush, easily crumbled between my fingers and yet the meat, while soft, still retains its texture and shape. I then would throw in whole zucchinis, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, or whatever vegetables, and pressure cook that in with the chicken for another 10 minutes. It is so delicious that I was afraid the girls would never go back to eating “dog” food again. Actually, I am having a hard time with Madeleine (Gingersnap! would pretty much eat anything she perceives as food.) Madeleine absolutely refuses most commercial dog food now, even the higher-end stuff. I am down to just one:  Wellness Stews.

Michelle just got me a huge dehydrator to replace the old plastic one I have. I’ll have to report in on that later — after we figure out where to put the thing. It is massive!

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