2014 GadgetGal Gift Picks–Part 2

Christmas is little more than a week away. If you are like us, you still have some gifts to buy. Check out these new-to-the-market ideas we love.

$40 or Less

Snipper’s Find

joseph joseph scissors

Scissors are a kitchen essential for tearing through super-sealed food packaging. Creative gadget makers JosephJoseph have come up with a set that, when closed, have a unique streamlined design for space-saving storage (about the size of a table knife) and, when open, perform all the cutting chores using the spring-loaded stainless blades. Includes a serrated cutting edge for cutting cardboard and an easy-release, soft grip locking catch. Clean with a damp cloth. $15 suggested retail. Joseph Joseph Sleek 2-in-1 Scissors are available at amazon.com.

Can Do

joseph joseph can opener

This thick, round device looking a bit like a chunky jar lid offers a huge hint to its purpose. To use the JosephJoseph Compact Can Opener, set it atop a can. As you begin twisting the large knob on top, the mechanism automatically grips the can’s edge. Once the can is cut completely around, the opener releases cleanly by pressing the button. Its small sizes reduces storage drawer crowding. To clean, wipe with a damp cloth. Retails for $20. Available at amazon.com.

Let It Snow

viancin snowflakes

Charles Viancin has you covered–your food, that is. The whimsical snowflake-designed silicone lid makes a fun seasonal gift. The translucent food-safe silicone cover with a blue knob comes in three sizes: 11, 9, or 6 inches. The covers sits atop smooth rims of glass, plastic, stainless, or ceramiccontainers, making a tight seal whether cooking in a microwave, a conventional oven (up to 400 degrees F. ),  or for storage in refrigerator or freezer.  This “green” gift can be reused again and again–no more plastic wrap to toss out. Charles Viancin Snowflake Lids are dishwasher-safe on the top rack.  Set of three retails for about $40 at amazon.com.

Crowd Pleaser

gorvino beer glass

Beer and wine enthusiasts are raving about these. Now serve beer or wine to any size crowd with stunning style, function, and affordably. Govino drinkware looks as crystal clear as expensive glassware yet is made from a BPA-free polymer. Originally sold to the wine industry for showing off their wines, both wine and beer glasses are unbreakable, reusable, and recyclable. Available in several shapes and sizes for different types of beer or wine. Hand washing recommended for retaining their lustrous look. Package of 4 is $15 at amazon.com.

Posted in Gadgets | Leave a comment

2014 GadgetGal Gift-Picks, Part 1

Kitchenware gadgets always bring smiles when family or friends unstuff their holiday stocking or unwrap a gift. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite new products in a range of prices, starting with those you can buy for $10 or less. Stay tuned for more to come.

$10 or Under

Stick With It


Miss your fresh summer herbs? No problem any more. Looking a bit like a giant glue stick, the Lekue Herbstick saves your favorite herb or herb mixture, chopped and mixed with oil, in your freezer for on-call use. Simply twist the device then slice or scrape off the herbs into soup, stew, or skillet saute, or directly on a prepared dish. So handy you’ll want two or three for your favorite herbs. 5x3x5-inch silicone cylinder includes a cover for storage. Lime green. Top rack dishwasher safe. $10. Available at amazon.com.

Don’t Be a Drip


The Tovolo Sleek Spout fits into most any bottle, making it suitable for wine, oils, vinegars, liquors, and more. Pours quickly, precisely, and drip free. Six colors: blue, green, red, purple, gray, and white. $5 a piece at kitchenoutlet.com or set of 3 for $19 at amazon.com.

Give ‘Em a Hug


The Farberware Food Huggers extends the life of cut fruits and veggies, such as citrus, tomato, avocado, onion, and pepper halves, keep  them fresh, moist, and bright. Each set of reusable silicone covers includes an extra small, small, medium, and large sized hugger shaped to fit. To use, simply push the half into the appropriately sized hugger and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. (We found that first rubbing the cut side of the avocado helped color retention.) A tight seal locks in natural juices and odors and prevents spoiling and dehydration. Top-rack dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe. Set of 4 round- or avocado-shaped Farberware Food Huggers are $10 at amazon.com.

Scrub A Dub Scrub


Fresh fruits and vegetables should be washed prior to eating and /or cooking. The Daylight Design Vegetable Scrub is a mitt that fits your hand for scrubbing larger items like potatoes or carrots. For small items such as cherry tomatoes, just drop into the mesh mitt and run under cold water. A woven mesh in green, for veggies, and red for fruit, it is quick to dry, comfortable for arthritic hands, and so easy to use. Retails for under $10 and soon to be available at amazon.com

A Smidgen of Chocolate With That? 

bothcupgratersLove your cocoa? Make it better with a grating of chocolate flakes on top. The Microplane Chocolate Cup Grater , a cylinder shape, fits over a cup while you grate a chocolate bar for a few shavings of chocolate and adds a perfect garnish to any whippeddessert. The grater works well for fresh coconut, carrots, and soft cheeses. The surgical-grade stainless-steel grater is razor sharp and is housed in a plastic cup with a cover for safe storage.  Want to grate spices? With the same cylinder-cup, the Microplane Spice Cup Grater has stainless steel blades for grating fresh spices, such as cinnamon or nutmeg.  Both are available for $10 each or 2 for $18 at microplane.com.

Posted in Gadgets | Leave a comment

Quince and Goat Cheese Galette


Quince is  a  firm, aromatic, almost floral, fall fruit available from October to December.  It looks like a cross between a pear and an apple.




To enjoy its full flavor, quince needs to be peeled of its sometimes fuzzy skin and cooked in a syrup until tender.  Once cooked, it often turns a pale salmon color. Because of the high pectin content, quince is popular for jams and jellies, but there is more to this firm, almost astringent, fruit than jams.  A free-form tart or galette shows off this intriguing fruit to its full beauty and deliciousness. Slice and arrange  the poached fruit on a pastry and bake for a heavenly dessert.

The pastry is made super quick in the food processor and refrigerated for an hour or overnight. Cook the peeled quince in a sugar syrup until fork-tender. Cool and refrigerate to let it absorb all the sweet flavor. After the pastry is rolled out, it is spread with a goat cheese filling then topped with the sliced quince.  Once baked, give a bit of eye-catching gloss to the galette by brushing the fruit with reserved quince syrup.

Quince and Goat Cheese Galette

For Pastry:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup  cold butter, cut up

3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

4 cups water

2 cups granulated sugar

2 star anise

Pinch salt

2 or 3  large quince ( about 1 pound),  peeled , quartered, and cored

1 cup (7-oz.) plain goat cheese

2 tablespoons  heavy cream or sour cream

2 tablespoons quince poaching syrup

1. To make Pastry: Combine flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt in a food processor bowl with the steel blade attached; pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Gradually add 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water through the feed tube and pulse just until it forms a ball. Remove pastry from the food processor  Shape pastry into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate 1 hour. (Can be made ahead. Refrigerate up to 24 hours or freeze up to one week. If frozen, thaw at room temperature.)

2. Bring the 4 cups water, 2 cups sugar, star anise, and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan over high heat; stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to low and add the quince; cover and cook 35 to 40 minutes, or until fork-tender. Refrigerate in the syrup until completely cooled. (Can be made ahead. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.)

3. To assemble galette: Slice quince into 1/4-inch slices and drain on paper towels. Pour  2 cups of the poaching syrup into a saucepan. Heat over high to boiling; boil untild reduce to 1/2 cup.

4. In a small bowl, stir goat cheese and heavy cream until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the poaching syrup; set aside.

5. Meanwhile,  heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment or foil. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 14-inch circle. Transfer pastry to prepared cookie sheet.

6. Spread the goat cheese on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge.

goat cheese filling and quince

goat cheese filling and quince

Arrange sliced quince in a circle atop the goat cheese. Fold edge of pastry over quince.


Brush the pastry and quince with  some of the reduced poaching liquid. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a deep golden brown.

7. Remove from oven and immediately brush the fruit again with the poaching liquid. Allow galette to cool on the cookie sheet before transferring to a serving platter. Serve at room temperature. Makes 8 to 10 servings.



Posted in Recipes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Carnival Squash Ragout Carnival Squash Ragout


Carnival is a colorful variety of winter squash (left in picture) popularized by local CSA’s and farmer’s markets. It has a light yellow flesh and mild flavor. You can easily substitute acorn or butternut squash for it in this recipe. To serve this side-dish ragout, let family or guests drizzle pumpkin seed oil over their serving to add a unique, nutty flavor accent.

1-1/2 lb. winter squash, such as Carnival, acorn, or butternut

1 leek, green top removed then halved lengthwise and sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons grated fresh gingerroot

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Fresh thyme (for garnish)

Pumpkin seed oil (optional)

1. Remove stem and halve the squash; scrape out seeds and membrane. If using a scalloped-shaped squash, cut squash lengthwise between scallops. Peel squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut in about 3×1/2×1/2-inch pieces.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add squash, garlic, ginger, thyme, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Add broth. Bring to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer until just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Turn into a serving bowl. Top with thyme sprigs. Pass pumpkin seed oil to drizzle over each serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.



Posted in Recipes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Splatter Guard


What It Is: Truth be told, cooking almost always requires wiping up some drips and splatters.  Cleaning up the stove just got easier when you use Kuhn Rikon Foldable Splatter guard for your cooking needs.

Why We Like It: Regardless how careful you are when cooking on the stove,  inevitability splatters occur. A splatter guard reduces the mess.  There are many versions and brands, but we paticularly like the Kukon Rikon Splatter Guard because it is made of heatproof silicone and folds in half.  Why foldable? When cooking, you can lift one side to add ingredients or stir the food, further keeping spatters down. Silicone can handle temperatures to 450 degrees F.  When not using the splatter guard for the stove top, it works in the microwave as well. After cooking, the guard folds and locks for compact  storage.

Details: The Kuhn Rikon Splatter Guard is available in two sizes: 10- or 12-inch for $16 or $20 depending on size.  Comes in three colors: red, green or black. Is dishwasher safe. Available at www.amazon.com

Posted in Gadgets | Leave a comment



What It Is: The Thermapen Instant-Read Thermometer is the Mercedes of cooking instant-reads. Yes, it is pricey compared to other models. But once you use it, you will understand why chefs and other food professional swear by it. It’s the only cooking thermometer you will ever need, and a prized gift for your at-home chef or chefs.

Why We Like It: Superb speed and precision are the top reasons this battery-operated thermometer stands out in the crowd. Once inserted into your food, the thermometer reads the temperature in an amazing three seconds, with accuracy of +/-.7 degree, even thin foods such as burgers, steaks, and fish fillets. Yet there are many other pluses. Its wide temperatue range (-58.0 to 572.0 degrees F. ) means you can use this thermometer for all your cooking needs, including candy making and deep-fat frying. Operation is extremely simple. When you open the foldable probe, it turns on; snap back in , and it turns off. There is also an auto shut-off if you forget to fold the probe. With 15 body colors to choose from, you can make your own fashion statement. One caveat: for southpaws, use your right hand to hold the thermometer; otherwise the digital screen will be upside down.

Details: The ThermoWorks Thermapen digital panel reads whole or tenth degrees in a temperature range of -58.0 to 572.0 degrees F. (-49.9 to 299.9 degrees C). The slender, fold-up metal probe is 4.5 inches long and is attached to a 2x6x3/4-inch plastic meter body. Operates up to 1500 hours using 2 coin batteries (CR3032 lithium). Water resistant. Handmade in England. Available in 15 colors for $96 at thermoworks.com or amazon.com.

Posted in Gadgets, Thermometers | Leave a comment

Italian Camponata

caponata 2

This recipe has a quirky pedigree. Nancy adapted it from one given to her by a former Better Homes and Gardens colleague that came to the colleague a few months after her brother’s unfortunate death. A friend of his who absolutely detests eggplant read the recipe, with personal commentary, at his memorial service. People laughed so hard that  near chaos broke out, because they all knew her brother expressed himself best through his cooking and writing. The real joke was that he claimed it was his Italian grandmother’s caponata when, in fact, he adapted the recipe from one that appeared in a magazine in the late ’70s, proof that good recipes keep getting better with many creative cooking hands.

Incredibly versatile, caponata is traditionally an appetizer served cold atop crackers. You’ll also love loading it along with goat cheese onto a halved baguette and baking it on a cookie sheet until the cheese melts. For vegetarians, there’s great merit piling it on hot cooked pasta; top with grated Parmigiana Reggiano.

Granted, caponata holds its beauty on the inside where all the flavor is. It goes together easily any time of year, but summer is particularly apt when fresh veggies are at their best.  It also makes perfect sense to double the recipe and stash the extra in the freezer. Pull some out during the winter to enjoy the wonderful summer flavors once again.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 small sweet green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 small sweet red pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1/3 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives (optional)

1 tablespoon capers

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Salt and black pepper

1. In a large skillet, saute onion, celery, and garlic in half the olive oil over medium-high heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; stir in red wine vinegar. Add half the parsley and all the oregano and basil. Continue cooking over medium heat until onions and celery are translucent, 7 to 10 minutes.

2. Add remaining oil, the peppers, eggplant, remaining parsley, and cayenne pepper. Stir in tomatoes and wine. Continue cooking, covered, over medium heat until eggplant is thoroughly cooked, about 30 minutes.

3. Stir in olives, if desired, capers, and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is evaporated, another 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot atop pasta or cold with crackers. Makes about 4 cups.




Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Watermelon Pickles

watermelon pickles

watermelon pickles

Watermelon pickles, today’s great example of recycling, are appearing on many new popular high-end restaurant menus. You can make your own. First enjoy the sweet nutrition-packed fruit, then cut off the green outer rind and discard; trim the white inner core and cut it into bite-sized pieces to make the pickles. With the the aid of the VacuVin  Instant Pickler, it will take only hours to taste your own watermelon pickles. Watermelon pickles are versatile, going well with a variety of foods, from burgers, steak , chicken to simple cottage cheese. They are a great pick-me-up.

4 cups cubed watermelon rind (white part)

4 cups water

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup white or cider vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh gingerroot

2 dried whole red chile peppers

8 whole peppercorns

1. In a large saucepan, heat watermelon rind and water to boiling. Cook 5  to 10 minutes until tender. Drain.

2. Return the rind to the saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool mixture completely. Once cool, spoon into the bottom of the VacuVin. Cover and extract the air.  Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Store in the refrigerator up to 6 months.  Makes two 16-ounce jars of pickles.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Vacu Vin Instant Pickler






What It Is:In a pickle? Now you can make small batches of pickles in no time with the VacuVin Instant Pickler. Homemade pickles are very popular. Select the food you want to pickle and get chopping.

Why We Like It: Most classic pickle recipes take days to prep. Not with this device. Extracting the air out of the VacuVin container opens up the pores (cells) of the food, making flavor pickles in about 4 hours.

Pickles of all sorts are the rage at the moment for a variety of reasons, including their health benefits, flavor intensity, and variety. All kinds of food lend themselves to pickling: fruits, vegetables, even eggs. Start by combining the pickling ingredients, a mixture of brine (vinegar and seasonings) and fruits or vegetables in the VacuVin pickling container. (Note: if your brine is cooked first, then cool it before covering and vacuum-sealing). Cover with the lid, and use the vacuum pump provided to remove the air and create a vacuum. Refrigerate the pickles for a few hours or overnight for fuller flavor. To eat, release the pressure knob atop the lid by wiggling it to one side to remove the air pressure, open the top and pickles are ready-to-eat. To keep making more pickles, transfer the newly made pickles into a clean jar and begin anew with the instant pickler. Refrigerator pickles have a crisp crunchy texture. We’ve included a recipe for making homemade Watermelon Pickles so you can see how easy this device is to use.

Details: The VacuVin Instant Pickling set includes a 1.2-quart clear plastic  container, the Vacu valve airtight lid,  a vacuum  pump, and recipe booklet. When not pickling, the set can be used to marinate foods. Hand washing recommended.  Retails for $25. Available at  BroadwayPanhandler.com.


Posted in Gadgets | Leave a comment

Watermelon Gazpacho

driver-71There are  all kinds  and flavors of  gazpachos, the cold soup traditionally made with tomatoes. With the popularity of seedless watermelon, making the soup with the sweet melon, just got easier. Like all cold soups, this one tastes better if  chilled at least a couple of hours before serving. The secret ingredient that gives this soup its depth and sweetness  of flavor is the mint simple syrup.

12 cups cubed, seedless watermelon (about 3 to 4 pounds)

1 medium  cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1/4 cup chopped green onions, white party only

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1/4 cup mint simple syrup (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes, for the syrup

1. In a blender container, add half of the watermelon, cucumber, and pomegranate juice. Cover and blend until pureed. Pour into a large bowl. Continue with the remaining water- melon, cucumber, and pomegranate juice. Pour into the bowl with the  other mixture. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.

To serve, ladle into chilled cups or bowls. Garnish each with 1 tablespoon crumbled goat cheese and mint leaves. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

To make Mint Simple Syrup:  In a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup water and 1 cup granulated sugar to a boil over high heat . Boil for 2 minutes, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add 1 bunch mint leaves. Cover and let stand until cool. Strain into a pint glass jar; discard the mint. Cover the jar and store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Makes 1 pint.  This simple syrup makes more syrup than the gazpacho recipe requires.Use the extra syrup for sweetening iced tea and other beverages. Or, freeze in 1/4- cup amounts for making more of this soup.



Posted in Recipes | Tagged | Leave a comment