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Odds & ends and an update on the lettuce experiment

Good evening, Dear Readers:

First, please say a prayer for the city of Boston. They’ve suffered a horrible tragedy, and while I make snarky remarks from time to time, this is not one of them. Not when it comes to what happened yesterday–using an ordinary kitchen pot, no less. Please, keep them in your prayers, they need it right now. Thank you.

I’m a little late updating you, since the sink backed up in the HeatCageKitchen last weekend, and I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. Today, I headed to The Woodlands (suburb just north of Houston) for a doctor’s appointment, and am going back again tomorrow for a different reason–they couldn’t do two things in one day. A late lunch at the beloved Sweet Tomatoes, studiously avoiding anything like croutons, baked goods or anything with wheat in it, with an extra helping of that delicious Joan’s Broccoli Madness, (raw broccoli, raisins, chopped walnuts, bacon, sunflower seeds and a creamy garlic dressing, also gluten free) and it was a pretty good day!

Also in The Woodlands Mall is a wonderful little place called Oil & Vinegar. As you might imagine, they sell. . .oil and vinegar. However, this is NOT the stuff you get in the grocery store. No, this is extra virgin olive oil infused with things like rosemary, black and white truffles and blood oranges, as well as and a selection of vinegars with things like pomegranate, cranberry, strawberry and fig; the newest is cranberry. My favorites from here: lemon oil and raspberry balsamic vinegar; blended together, they taste amazing.

There are only 15 O&V stores in the USA, two in Texas (and one in New Orleans, surprisingly.)  The Woodlands Mall store is run by a very nice couple, Karla & Anton Kharoufeh, who have been open for 3 or 4 years to my knowledge (likely longer, I’m slow to catch these things.) They have a number of other small food items, herbs & spices, chocolate and other desserts as well as gourmet gifts supplementing the oils and vinegars in large containers lining the walls. O&V is a great place for a foodie to visit, and Miss Karla is always welcoming.

So I get to go back tomorrow, and will try to make it to Trader Joe’s, a grocery store well loved in the northwest. I’ve never been, and didn’t have time to go when I was in Seattle two years ago. Also want to see about visiting Frost Cupcakes for a gluten free chocolate cupcake. Or two. Dunno if I’m going back to Sweet Tomatoes; I’ll decide that tomorrow.

Also passed through a bookstore and flipped through Nigella Lawson’s new Italian-inspired book, Nigellissima. I’ll get it eventually, but today, I just looked through it. What did I find? Something gluten free! (There is actually a gluten free cake in her last book, Nigella Kitchen, Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake with Margarita Cream, on page 281, so it’s not her first.) Specifically, something called Olive Oil Chocolate Cake. Oh, I’m not waiting for my birthday for this one. Whenever I do acquire this book, that will be the *first* thing I make! Yes, there is the requisite chapter on pasta (Giada de Laurentiis wrote a whole book just on pasta) but there are other delicious looking recipes as well. Like that cake. Beautiful book in the classic Nigella style with an Italian flair. I’ll keep you posted.

OK, back to the original topic. Lettuce in a jar. This is a serious subject.

So I have one jar of lettuce left in the fridge now, and it is still sealed from last Thursday night. As I write this, it’s Tuesday, and so far, so good, for six days out. I had some twice this week using two of the jars of lettuce I sealed up. I am happy to report that the lettuce was perfectly crisp and tasty as it was when I sealed it up last week.  The remaining jar in the fridge looks to be the same, and I will likely finish it off this week, maybe wait until Thursday or even Friday. I don’t see any browning or limpness from outside the jar, and I anticipate that it will stay that way until I open it.

If by Thursday the lettuce is still as tasty and good as it was, I’ll soon be making lots more salads in jars for a week at a time.

Now, if you’re a bit skittish about putting the dressing in the bottom, especially if you’re going to be transporting it somewhere, there’s also a solution: Dressing To Go, a little silicone bottle with a tight-sealing lid that holds 2 ounces of salad dressing. I got one last summer, thinking I would need it for work. . .well, I still have it, anyway. Haven’t used it yet, but it’s a solution. I actually saw someone buying little bitty one-serving containers of bottled salad dressing in Target, and suggested the Dressing To Go bottle. Buy a regular or larger size bottle of your favorite, and use the little bottle to take it with you. MUCH cheaper than single-serving sizes! (Dunno if they actually did it or not.)

Sorry to be so short, but I’m tired, and have a long day tomorrow. Just wanted to give an update on the lettuce, and brag a bit about my adventure.

Next time I’ll tell you about the Zombie Outreach Response Team I saw today. . .later!

Cappuccino and salad days

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Here at HeatCageKitchen, we strive to bring you the hip new trends in cooking and kitchen stuff. Up-to-date tricks and of-the-moment trends that you just can’t live without whether you’re just starting to cook or have been in your kitchen for a long time. The goal is to bring you these new trends that you just need to know before your friends know.

“Try” being the operative word.

I’ve got an update on my cappuccino machine and a new idea that crossed my Facebook path that I’ve got to tell you about. If you haven’t heard about this already. Your friends will be amazed. Keep reading. . .

So, I was thinking that although it would be lovely to go out and buy a brand, spanking new cappuccino machine, the thrifty side of me says, no, it’s just the frothing part that doesn’t wanna work anymore. I have on occasion seen hand-held milk frothers in different places. This evening, for the project I’m about to tell you about, I headed to Cost Plus World Market and discovered that they have these little babies at $2.99 each. They run on 2 AA batteries (like nearly everything else I own, right?) and they froth up milk. They don’t HEAT milk, they only froth it up. Online, they sell them in a set of 3 for $8.97, but in the store they sell them individually. I bought the green one, the first one the clerk handed me. I headed to Target to get a big 20-pack of AA batteries.

You never know when the milk frother is going to go out. Or the TV remote. Or the flameless candles on my altar. Or some other little thing that uses batteries. I used to carry a Sony Walkman–yes, a cassette player, and later, one with a radio–in the pre-iPod days. And I can tell you that the batteries that lasted the longest were coppered, so that’s what I buy. And nobody paid me to say that. Anyway. . .

So I put some milk in a measuring cup and warmed it in the microwave, then used the handheld milk frother to froth up the milk. It worked perfectly, and for $2.99, I now have perfectly frothy milk again when I make cappuccino. Woo hoo!

Wal-Mart also had an electric milk frothing pitcher, but that one was $35. Very nice, of course, but that’s OK. I’ll continue to steam the milk and then use the little battery powered frothers. That’s perfectly OK with me!

OK. . .now. . .this is a most momentus thing I’ve discovered, and it’s cheap. I LOVE salad, and yes, iceberg lettuce as well as Romaine, butter and red-leaf lettuce, but it tends to go bad on me, even when I keep on it. I hate that, so as a result, I don’t buy it too often.

A solution has been found. I am testing this as I type this.

Lettuce stored in Mason jars, or “Salad In A Jar.”

Let me say first that this is NOT my own idea, but the brilliant idea of one Paula Rhodes, who has a website. . .Salad-In-A-Jar.com. No kidding. I came across the idea, as many, on Facebook. Such a simple idea, but you absolutely MUST seal the jar and get all the air out to prevent browning of the lettuce.

Naturally, this wonderful lady is in Arlington, in the great state of Texas. (I’m in Houston, I can say that.)

Another idea where I wish I’d thought of it, but. . .well, you know I’m not smart enough for that. (I went to college at night.) Well, I did figure out that Scrubbing Bubbles will clean your kitchen cabinets and other surfaces by melting off the dirt. That’s another blog post.

On my trek out I went first to Cost Plus World Market for the jars, which are $2.49 there. I also have a couple of jars that I kept after the Classico Tomato and Basil is gone. The process is the same for both types of jars, but there is an essential step that you must do. You MUST vacuum seal the jars and get all the air out.

I am not suggesting you get one of those expensive Food Saver sealing thingies, although if you have one, you have an advantage, there is an attachment for wide-mouth jars and a tube for this purpose. Maybe one day I’ll get me one, but for now, I just want cheap.

That’s the real secret of HeatCageKitchen. Livin’ on the edge (of the kitchen). Cheap.

So if you’ve ever seen those Ziploc vacuum seal bags, well, there’s a vacuum pump tool that comes in the starter kit, runs about $4 or $5. Well. . .the directions are to wash and spin-dry your lettuce, chop it, put it in the glass jar, put the lid(s) on it, put a small hole in the top with a pushpin, put a small piece of electrical tape over the hole (don’t seal it), and use the vacuum tube to pull the air out.

VOILA! Sealed up lettuce! (I think I messed up a total of four pushpins, but that’s what Staples is for.)

Best part–you can make salad for a whole week like this! Put the dressing in the bottom, and the lettuce on top, with heavier ingredients like hard boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, etc, in the bottom. The picture is from Mayra Cavazos, and this what she posted on Facebook:

Utterly brilliant, people. Not only does SALAD IN A JAR save space in your fridge, it also reduces food waste and gets non-salad eaters (me) to mow down daily.
THE ARRANGEMENT
From BOTTOM to TOP:
Dressing
Shredded carrots
Cherry tomatoes
Sunflower seeds
Hard boiled eggs
Baby spinach
DIRECTIONS
1) Arrange ingredients in a large mason jar
2) Store in fridge for up to a week
3) When ready to eat: shake jar, place on a plate, and eat!

You can make any arrangement you want… you can add red onion, cucumbers, radishes or peppers. Always remember to put the dressing at the bottom and the lettuce at the top—a MUST.

****NOTE**** If your making a few salads at a time for the week, you MUST remember to vacuum seal the Mason Jars. (Mason jars can be bought at Wal-mart, and various grocery stores) They must be vacuum sealed to remain fresh and crisp 🙂 Here are two different ways to vacuum seal a mason jar 😀
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhb1gfVSB9Y
Non Foodsaver vacuum seal 🙂
http://www.youtube.com/

If you’re having trouble wrapping your brain around this idea, take a look at Mayra’s picture she posted on Facebook and see if it makes sense:

Salad In A Jar

Is that not the coolest idea ever? And it’s SO SIMPLE.

So in the HeatCage Test Kitchen (ha, ha) I have purchased said Ziploc vacuum tool at Wal-Mart, as well as jars and the milk frother at Cost Plus World Market, and lettuce (and a few other things) at Target. (I went to Target first, they didn’t have it, darnit.)  I have three sealed jars of lettuce in the fridge, right now, and am thoroughly excited about this.

Simple, using readily available modern conveniences. I love it, and am hoping for the best on my end, too. I’ll let you know what happens next.

Since I my life will be soon become very busy, this will be a great help for my weekly food prep. You see, since I was a full-time working student at Tulane University (1991-1996), I do all my weekly cooking and wardrobe prep on Sunday, so that I don’t have to do as much during the week. (The crock pot cooking helps a lot, too, especially if I didn’t get it all done in time.) When I was getting home late at night, that Sunday ritual was a lifesaver. If I missed one thing, my whole week was messed up. Bad.

Salad, much as I love it, hasn’t been a staple for me, since I don’t buy it as much, it turns brown so fast on me. I’m hoping this experiment will work. I do love salad, and hate throwing anything out.

You can read all about it at Paula Rhodes’ Salad In A Jar website, plus lots of other of her recipes and ideas. (You can bet I’m subscribing now!) You can also see her video on YouTube doing exactly what I described.

Cross your fingers. This is the best thing to cross my path in a long time. (OK, this week.)

If you try this, let me know how your experiment turned out.

Happy Dining!

Gadgets

Hello, Dear Readers:

If you’ve been wondering, well, yes, I have been sick. Sick enough to fall asleep through a class Thursday. GRRRR. . .thank heavens for recordings. It’s cold, but beautiful outside, and I’m sick. I’ve got fever, a bronchial infection, an EAR infection, and prescriptions. First time I’ve taken a pharmaceutical drug in nearly 3 years.

I am coughing like a smoker. I have never smoked.

I slept a quite a bit yesterday and decided to do a little sewing last night. Made a potholder that, well, wasn’t exactly to spec. It’s because I’ve taken to making my own bias tape, and when I make it, I like it a lot wider than the book says to make it. but that’s just me. What’s wrong with double wide bias tape? Used up a little bit more fabric and gave me an idea of what it will look like if I ever make one or two for a gift. Trust me when I tell you NOBODY has one exactly like mine.

I like it that way.

It started Wednesday with a wicked sore throat that made it hard to eat, drink or breathe much, and then I got tired. Got lost trying to go somewhere, and when I got home, I knew I was infected. I started using Peaceful Mountain Throat Rescue on Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon I woke up from one of my naps to have no more sore throat. (It’s also available from Amazon.com in a two-pack.) A medicine cabinet essential.

But while the sore throat is gone, thank heavens, now I just have the standard cold symptoms–sneezing, stuffy nose, and going through a LOT Of tissue. I also have pain when I cough, that being the bronchial infection (which moved into my ears–first time that’s ever happened.) My hands are seriously dried out from washing them so much. Don’t forget the headache from all that sneezing and blowing, and now my hearing is affected–feels like my ears need to pop, but can’t, because of the ear infection. Plus there’s the the general fatigue that comes along with it (your adrenals take a hit when something like this happens.) Turns out that SIX women I know who are all connected to me on Facebook are also ill. Therefore, we conclude that Facebook is spreading the germs.

Don’t get too close.

So while I was watching TV and stitching up my new potholder, I saw an advert for a newly invented kitchen gadget that helps you make “perfect” pies. No kidding. the most bizarre thing ever, called the EZ Pocket. I kid you not. You lay the dough out, fill the pockets with the filling you want, put the top crust on, use the little rotary thingy to slice the pie crust according to the grid, bake it off, and you have “perfect” little pies in perfect little shaped portions. You can even make six different fillings at once (long as you can tell the difference later for the fussy child who *only* wants cherry.)

I give the inventor credit for making something new, of course, but. . .WHAT? Of course, if you watch the infomercial, you’ll see a woman botching and bungling a pie crust so bad it would make Martha Stewart sick. Pie crust ain’t that hard if it’s made correctly!! With a food processor, you can’t mess it up. Watch a YouTube Video on how to do piecrust. But with the EZ Pocket, you use STORE BOUGHT PIE CRUSTS. Ugh. What a way to make healthy food for your family. And you can bet anyone who does that thinks it’s perfectly healthy.

It’s not. Yuck.

If EZ Pockets is just your thing, great–but please, learn to make your OWN pie crusts. Read the myriad ingredients in pre-made pie crusts and you’ll see what I mean. Do it in the food processor–it couldn’t be simpler. I started doing that with the Barefoot Contessa books. You can find Ina’s Perfect Pie Crust here; quick and easy, and will work with these silly looking contraptions.

You can find all manner of cooking inventions on As Seen On TV’s website. (Ronco Veg-A-Matic, anyone? Yes, they still make those.)  If you’re a foodie, be careful, and hang onto your Visa Card!

Well, anyway. . .it got me thinking about other kitchen gadgets. While I try not to do this, I do have a number of kitchen gadgets, bought over the years, likely on sale. Some have been better successes than others.

While I haven’t tried this one, I almost did. The Xpress Redi Set Go just looked like a great thing for a single woman to have. When I saw it, I had a boyfriend, and thought it would be great for cooking for just us when he came over, or even at his house. It came with recipes and instructions, and if you watched the long infomercial, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was ready to go get me one. . . .then I got on Amazon.com and discovered via the comments that it wasn’t as fabulous as all that.

Saved from a bad buy. This time.

Another time I bought the infamous Eggstractor. If you’re not familiar with this one, it came out at the apex of the low-carb thing in about 2003 or 2004. It’s a little thing to help you peel large quantities of hard-boiled eggs. There’s a trick to hard-boiled eggs, but never mind. I thought this would be a great thing to have, but. . .well, it didn’t work out too well. You have to smash the top real hard, and between me and the man of the house, it didn’t really do the job well. I returned it about a week later.

When I told my brother about this, he was curious. Then I sent him the link, where the infomercial was running. He couldn’t stop laughing and never lets me forget The Eggstractor. To this day. Out of the blue, he asks about The Eggstractor.

I have seen those little Eggies, where you crack the eggs into a plastic boiler, then remove them when done. I have not bought those. On the other hand, maybe it would be a good idea. . .I think there’s another version that makes them square, but I won’t swear to it.

Now, some friends of mine have the Nu Wave Induction Oven, and have used it, but I don’t know that they are completely thrilled with it. I recently saw the Nu Wave Induction Cooktop, and of course it looks like the best new thing, but. . .I’ll wait a while on this one, too. Turns out induction cooktops have been around for some time. Makes me wish I’d bought one by now; I just don’t need all those extra pans.

When I got married (in 1996, the last time) one of the things I put on my registry was the Braun Open Master. So cool, so contemporary, and safely opens cans. My grandmother bought it for me, and I loved it. I still have it and use it, but at some point, cans were re-designed, so it only works on about 50% of the cans now. Braun, of course, doesn’t make them anymore, but it was a great product.

Another favorite is the Braun Multi Mix. Braun doesn’t make these anymore, either, but I still have mine. Actually, I have more than one, sort of. I have, unfortunately, used the heck out of mine, and have replaced it, so I have a second set of accessories. Okay, actually, I’m on my third (and obviously last) one. Hope I can buy a suitable replacement one day, or I’m just going to be buying multiple items. The mixers work great, but do one thing wrong and it doesn’t work right anymore.

I really USE my gadgets.

The former husband believed himself to be of a certain sophistication, and insisted we have an espresso/cappuccino machine. Well, I don’t have the husband anymore, but I still have one; it’s about ten years old. Once in a while, I actually use it. See, I don’t keep cow’s milk around, I have almond milk. I don’t know if it will froth, so I don’t use it very often.

Many years ago, I was also given a black KitchenAid stand mixer, just like the ones you see on The Food Network. It was secondhand, but works perfectly, so who cares?  I was saving up to buy the copper model, but this one is just perfect.

I have two food processors–one from Wal-Mart, bought when the one I had prior gave out the day before Thanksgiving, and a smaller one that came with the Cuisinart Deluxe Duet blender, bought with a coupon at Bed, Bath and Beyond. The one I bought in like 1991 or so finally croaked.

The Toaster Oven. Now, I always thought this was a bit more than I needed, then someone gave me one and I was hooked. I took to roasting chicken leg quarters in mine, and it didn’t heat up the kitchen. YES! I’m on my third; this one came with a convection setting, so I use that occasionally too. I can bake all manner of stuff, cook dinner in it in the middle of summer and it’s great. If you have the room, get one. I have the Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven, again, bought with a coupon at BBB a few years ago. I didn’t want the convection part, but that’s the one they had when I went to buy it. If you have the room, I can highly recommend having one around. This one has an even-heat sensor, a timer, and lots of bells & whistles. You may want one not quite as pricey, but if you like to cook, it’s certainly worth having to bake/cook/roast smaller items, especially in the summer.

I really love ice cream, and although I don’t get to use it regularly, I do have this wonderful Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. I had a couple of gift cards a couple of years ago from Macy’s and decided to splurge on this baby. The old one I had used ice and salt and all that; this just has a bowl you stick in the freezer. And since I have a small freezer, well, you see why I don’t get around to using it as much as I’d like. However, I’ve also made gelatos and fruit sorbets with it, adding Somersweet instead of sugar. Cuisinart also has a more expensive model that has it’s own self-contained compressor so you don’t have to freeze the bowl, you just plug it in. Well, they don’t sell those at Macy’s, or maybe they didn’t when I went to buy mine. Next one I get will be that one, you just plug it into the wall and go for it.

For the best ice cream recipes, I highly recommend Bruce Weinstein’s Ultimate Ice Cream Book. Canteloupe sorbet? Yes, it’s fabulous, and it’s nothing like store bought.

A few years ago I was asked to make an apple dessert for a party. Well, I had to peel a lot of apples for it. I mentioned it to a gent I worked with, and he offered to loan me his apple peeler/corer. He went on vacation for two weeks, and um, I broke it. I didn’t know how to contact him, so I went online and bought an identical item. THEN, seeing as they were not expensive I bought one for myself! I’ve used it once or twice since then, but haven’t done a lot of baking lately.

Then there’s the grill thing. That same brother bought it for me, a knockoff of the George Foreman Grill, and while I’ve used it a few times, it’s very hard to clean. So it collects dust. Likely to go out one day. . .

For Thanksgiving, and other rare occasions that I think about it, I have one of those big turkey roasters. Really, it’s great for roasting two chickens at once, and this one has take-out dishes for things like stuffing and veggies that you can leave in and keep warm. I keep it around. . . .

When I got married in 1981 (the first time), someone gave us a waffle iron/griddle that was just wonderful, similar to this model (but not so god-awful expensive.) I don’t know what happened to it, but in a divorce, I think you can figure it out. . .I used to have another one, but when I quit doing grains, I gave it away. Then I got ahold of the second Babycakes book, and suddenly I needed a waffle iron! (The gluten-free waffles in this book are fantastic, and real maple extract for the syrup is worth hunting down.) I now have a $10 waffle item from HEB. What I’d like to eventually get is Cuisinart’s Griddler, even though the waffle plates are sold separately. Admittedly, it will be quite some time before I get mine, even if I go to BBB with a coupon.

Several years ago I re-discovered the French Press coffee pot. I was at work one evening when one of the ISS people put some hot water in it. I used to know someone who used it, but that was a long time ago. Had no idea what I was missing., and now I own five. I got a small one and put decaf Eight O’Clock Coffee in it, and was amazed at how great it tasted. No more Mr. Coffee for me–and, it’s ecologically friendly, since the filters are metal. The one I use most regularly is this 4-cup French Press from Bodum, so I keep a spare glass around since I’ve had one break. I also have the 3-cup Chambord that stayed at my desk so I could have decaf in a non-decaf office, a 3-cup Brazil model for travel, an 8-cup Bodum Shin Bistro (for when I used to have a boyfriend to make coffee for) and this 8-cup model from Cost Plus World Market that I left at his house for the weekends I was there. (He brought it back but kept my coffee cup. No great loss.) I made cozies for both 8-cup pots to keep the coffee warm, as well as the 4-cup pot. Maybe I should sell one or two of them soon.

Now, many kitchens have a teapot on top the stove, and admittedly, I had one too–but then you had to turn on the STOVE to heat it up. This baby from Hamilton Beach solves that problem, and boils water faster than Superman can by looking at it. Boils and then cuts off, and cuts off if you pick it up off the heating element. Clean it once or twice a week by filling it halfway with water, halfway with plain white vinegar, boil, and let it sit for an hour or more to clean. Rinse it real good, and you’re ready to go. I love this kettle.

One more gadget–my electric indoor grill. Also a wedding present in 1996, it’s ceramic base tends to crack, and you can’t adjust the temp, but it works great for grilling. There is a heating element in it that’s similar to one on the stove, but bigger. And you just clean it and put it away. I have it on my big shelf. . .and when I think about it, I dust it off and use it. But I forget about it most days.

I love my kitchen stuff. In a small condo. Nevermind the books.

Well, that’s it for tonight. I’ve got to concentrate on healing and getting rid of whatever bug I managed to pick up this week. I’ll be missing a religious activity tomorrow, because I just don’t want to make babies, children and elderly Japanese ladies sick. Hopefully I’ll be writing another post soon.

Happy cooking!

The return of Suzy Homemaker

Greetings, Dear Readers:

Once again, I have been OBE (overcome by events) and not had much to write about. I think winter may be over here in Houston, darnit. But earlier this evening, I was prowling on Amazon, Half.com and eBay looking for something (never found it.) I also was on Suzanne Somers’ website, because I need to get more Somersweet. I glanced at her section on Cooks Tools, and when I looked at the hand mixer and ice shaver, two words came to mind.

Suzy Homemaker.

For those who are not old enough to remember Suzy Homemaker, it was a line of toys produced back in the 1960s and early 1970s, back when women were still considered primarily homemakers. (There was eventually a doll with the same name, second in popularity only to Barbie. Source: Wikipedia.)  These were working appliances–mixers, blenders, irons, and other everyday domestic appliances–adapted for a kid’s use with adult supervision. I myself had both these items:

SuzyHomemakerMixBlend

And, yes, I used them, along with the iron, when I started sewing. It was the early 70’s. We hadn’t yet been told to take off those aprons (and get splattered with tomato sauce) and be free from our domesticity.

OK, I’ve benefitted in some ways from said “liberation,” as we all have. But bear with me on this one.

Eventually it happened, and women began to shun the finer points of homemaking. Toys of this sort fell out of favor, although were still produced in different forms.

I also had one of these in yellow, which I used with great joy to make itty-bitty cakes (until Mom stopped buying the itty-bitty mix boxes; we didn’t have Amazon.com back then):

EasyBakeOven

Light bulb technology. Worked like a charm. Just make sure you watch it, because there was no timer on these.

Remember, domesticity, we were told, was bad for us girls. REALLY? Guess what? The Easy-Bake Oven is still made by Hasbro, and marketed as the Easy Bake Oven For Girls. That’s what it says on the home page. You can also buy the mixes and accessories on their site as well as Amazon.com.

What I really wanted (but never got) was this one:

SuzyHomemakerStove

Oh, the things I could have whipped up with this bad boy! I was the oldest of four, with two bruiser brothers and a fussy baby sister–I could have cooked for all four of us! But no, I had to stick with what I had. Still, I did OK. Kept me out of Mom’s hair for a while. And, eventually, I started cooking on the regular stove in the kitchen, much to Mom’s chagrin.

I dreamed of one day having the entire collection of Suzy Homemaker appliances. A fully functional kitchen. In my room. Basically, I wanted my own apartment.

These images are from current sales on eBay. If you look on some of the listings, you’ll see how much these now-antique items are going for–YEOW. A lot more than they sold for new. Many of them also work–but it won’t replace your KitchenAid stand mixer, OK?

In addition to what I’ve shown here, there was also a dishwasher. If I remember correctly, there was an entire kitchen assembly, similar to what you might see as a freestanding kitchen in IKEA. (IKEA actually carries three kid versions, too–you can see one here.)

Are you starting to get where I’m going with this? Keep reading. . . .

The term “Suzy Homemaker” eventually became a feminist insult to be thrown at women who did the domestic/child raising thing, but women still did it despite all that. So how did all those “Suzy Homemaker” generation women and girls turn out?

Take a look at the great mixing bowl you can get from the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy’s. That color is, reportedly, Martha’s favorite, and figures into quite a lot of her collection (as well as packaging and labels) at Macy’s, Kmart, Staples, Michael’s and other stores that carry the Martha name. Heck, it even backs up her website.

It’s the same color as the Easy-Bake Oven and the Suzy Homemaker stove. Are you still wondering?

Today we not only have the Food Network, and it’s digital cable child, Cooking Channel, we have a million websites devoted, in one way or another, to cooking. In addition to very modern home diva Martha Stewart, there is the gorgeous Nigella Lawson, whose book How to be a Domestic Goddess was a best seller, as were others–with good food in them. There’s the movie-star-lookalike Giada de Laurentiis, who also writes cookbooks with easy Italian food. The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, whose cookbooks have tried-and-true recipes that really are foolproof. There are many others, like Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, Rachael Ray, Tyler Florence, as well as others you may not have heard of, like Rose Levy Berenbaum and Barbara Kafka.

And then there’s me, who cooks out of every one of them and loves to eat, as well as write about all this stuff.

Sure, men cook too, and very well–but after all that fuss about cutting the apron strings, we’ve come around again. Fifty years after Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published, launching the second wave of feminism, more women love to hang out in the kitchen again, want the best appliances and cooking tools, buy cookbooks and use them (as well as apps for recipes and videos for technique) and enjoy cooking delicious and healthy meals for their families, as well as have fabulous meals for holidays.

I really can cook, despite what my brother says. Honest.

We’re more sophisticated now–we buy sugar snap peas, free-range chickens and eggs, grass-fed beef, almond milk, agave syrup, and other things our mothers and grandmothers didn’t have. Stores like Target, Wal-Mart, Bed, Bath and Beyond (never mind the myriad of websites) are filled to the rafters with not only sophisticated cooking tools, but endless amounts of home decor for discriminating decorators.

I myself own five French press coffee pots of varying sizes. Long story.

Homemaking is still an art, however you enjoy it, whether you’re a man or a woman, wherever you live.

And hey–men join them in the kitchen to cook, help out or do the washing up. They have their own decorating styles, from the minimalist to the sophisticated “man-cave.” There is now equality in the kitchen, with like-minded spouses. We are again getting suited up, booted up, and into that kitchen to cook–with aprons, people!

There are also a number of blogs called “Suzy Homemaker,” too. Take your pick.

For your entertainment, I found an original Suzy Homemaker video on YouTube. Check it out for some antique marketing. Here’s another, and another. (I really wanted that ice maker thing, too, so I could make snowballs at home for the fam.) Here is a longer one introducing new colors. . .circa 1971.

OMG–I was just a little bitty kitty!

Suzy Homemaker is still around. She never really left. She’s just been waiting to make a comeback. And, she has, finally.

Long live Suzy Homemaker!

Enjoy!

MarthaMixingBowl

Splayds

Today I’m going to tell you all about the BEST way to eat food. No, not with your grubby paws, darnit (and wash them before you eat, OK?) No, eat like the Aussies. Use a Splayd.

A what?

Splayds were invented in Australia by Bill McAurthur of Potts Point, New South Wales in the late 1940’s. (Source: Splayds.com.au) He noticed that when eating at a party, it’s difficult to balance a knife and fork, and came up with a 3-in-1 tool that’s very easy to use. They became *the* wedding gift in Oz and has also spread to other countries. Except, unfortunately, this one. But there are those of us who know about these incredible utensils and favor them.  You can read a little more about it here.

How did I come across these, you wonder? I was, in 1996, a bride (for the third time), and received a set of four from a friend in Melbourne, Australia:

The first set of Splayds, received as a gift

I’ve had these since 1996, and won’t part with them.

She explained that they are what you give for a wedding present in Australia, and hoped that I would enjoy these. Well, DUH! Of course I did–and made sure to thank her for them, of course. Although the husband (who’s been an ex since 2001) tried them, he never really got used to them. No matter, I have forks, but I prefer the Splayd. If you’ve never tried them, you don’t know what you’re missing. They are so much easier than a standard fork–and not like the plastic “spork” you get in some fast-food establishments.

I always wanted more of them, and finally, a couple of years ago, Amazon.com started to carry them, the real thing, so I bought some:

Stainless Steel Splayds bought in 2010. Even better than the originals!

I love these even more than the originals! They really are a joy to eat with, and the clean design of both models goes with any flatware you already have. You can find them here, and they even come with in a nice box, in case you decide to give them as a gift. Amazon also now carries the mini-Splayds, which I didn’t know about until just now, but that’s going to have to wait a while.

But to put them side by side, you will see that they are the same thing (and, because it’s marked on the back.)

Side-by-side pics of my original Splayd, and the new one.

Really, I can’t say enough about how good Aussie made and designed Splayds are. I’m a native-born American, but I like to find new stuff that maybe we don’t know about and can use. Like Splayds. They’re not dangerous or illegal, they just make life a teeny bit better, you know?

Enjoy!

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