Post 1.4 - Gadgetworld

I admit it. I am one of those people who orders infomercial gadgets. I am drawn in by the idea of replacing a multitude of appliances with one simple device. I am hypnotized by promised savings of hundreds of dollars per month thanks to the efficiency the new device will offer my life. I am ready to lose weight by this new, healthy way of cutting the fat and calories, thanks to some fat-absorbing, fat-destroying, fat-free method of cooking.

But I actually do use these devices if they work. And some of them really do.

  • We'll start with one of my first infomercial purchases - the Showtime Rotisserie Oven from Ronco. Yes, the man responsible for spray-on hair, the pocket fisherman, and other unusual devices, Ron Popeil, created a cooking appliance, and his infomercial blanketed the airwaves for a number of years and snared me.

    But it is one of the BEST things I ever bought. It works exactly as advertised, and the food is amazing. In the beginning, I used it for turkey at Thanksgiving, but I eventually branched out into hamburgers, steaks, even roasted vegetables. The turkey remains the best dish -- moist, cooked thoroughly and completely, and it just melts in your mouth. It freed up my standard oven for pies or anything else I might have to bake, and when I didn't have to bake, my kitchen was not overwhelmed with heat. The steaming pan was great for vegetables or keeping already prepared sides warm -- really, I could not be happier with it. Just an amazing appliance, especially at the holidays or for dinner parties of really any size.

  • The George Foreman Fat-Burning Machine, also known as the George Foreman Grille in later generations, was my next product. I had an early version, and while the food was tasty, it was small and a real pain to clean effectively. Later generations incorporated not only a significantly larger size, but removable grill plates that are dishwasher-safe, and that has made all the difference. As I now live in a hot climate, especially in summer, barbecuing is not always a pleasant option, and this grille makes up for that. I can grill my food -- a healthier option than frying -- any time of year, and the fat really does drain off. I have used it to grill chicken, hamburger, even make paninis.

    My mother has a version with waffle-plates as well as flat griddle plates, adding to the cooking options available. It really is a great product.

  • The Magic Bullet is basically a pulse chopper and mixer, and comes with a blender and juicer attachment. For some things, it really does work well - like chopping nuts, grinding coffee, even blending pancake batter and other minor mixing efforts. It is also very easy to clean, as all the parts outside of the motor itself go right in the dishwasher. But if you have a major mixing job, you really still need your food processor. The bullet can't handle some solid ingredients, like hard cheeses -- things get stuck, just like in a regular blender. You end up with part of the mixture liquefied while another part hasn't touched the blades. The motor can also overheat if you have to leave it running rather than pulsing, which means it shuts down and can be really annoying.

    I still use it quite a bit, as it's great for quickly chopping up vegetables and mixing them with eggs or egg substitute for a veggie omelette, making smoothies, even batter for muffins, like they show on the infomercial. I can't say whether it really replaces a lot of appliances, but it is handy and overall, I do like it.

  • Next came the Redi-Set-Go Oven. Similar to the George Foreman Grille, the food cooks between what are basically two plates, which are incorporated into the base and the lid. The product works well, but this design is the ultimate downfall, as it is very difficult to clean. I have used it to make not only the recipes they suggest, which run the gamut from breakfast to lunch to dinner to desserts, but also meals-for-one of my own design, like a fillet of tilapia. The device comes with insertable plates for sectioning or shaping some foods, but unless I am making a recipe that calls for them, I haven't had much use for them. I have taken to lining the base with foil and place foil on top to make the clean up easier. With luck, future versions will have removable plates, because it really isn't a bad product otherwise.

  • Finally, my latest purchase goes by a few names - the Pasta Boat, or the Pasta N' More. It is designed to let you prepare pasta in the microwave, then attach a lid to drain the water. The handles are sized for serving/portion measurement for standard spaghetti and similar pasta types like fettuccine, linguini, vermicelli, etc. There is also an insert that lets you steam vegetables, and another lid for storage of leftovers -- so you can mix your pasta sauce or other ingredients right into the pasta, and then put the whole thing away without dirtying another dish.

    And this works pretty well. I have made several kinds of pasta with it, and the draining lid has only failed me once. It had expanded due to the heat from the pasta and lost its grip - so I lost an entire box of risotto down the garbage disposal. But I've managed to avoid that since. :-) It is also worth noting that it costs less in electricity to prepare pasta using the microwave than it is to boil water on an electric stove and prepare it the old-fashioned way. This approach also frees up burners, so if you are making a sauce from scratch or some other recipe to go with the pasta, you have the space, and the microwave takes care of itself -- just becomes a question of timing.

I also have to recommend one more device - the Ninja. It's a top-down blender, and it is nothing short of a miracle. Finally, someone has figured out how to set up the blades properly! The model I received for Christmas is a motor that fits on the top of the blender lid, and there are three sizes of pitcher. The smaller two sizes have blade placed low in the vessel, but the largest size has blades up the column -- so EVERYTHING gets chopped and blended regardless of where it is sitting in the mixture! No more stopping to scrape down the sides or trying to rearrange ingredients to get to the blending blades -- this works perfectly every time! And it's great for anything, even batter for brownies!

So yeah, I love my blender. :-)

It has made a huge difference for me in how much I enjoy cooking or preparing recipes from scratch as to whether the appliances work well, are easy to use, or are convenient and easy to clean. The end result may be fantastic, but the journey to get there may put many of us before we even start.

I hope this feedback has helped you. :-)

Next week, a recipe for low-calorie chicken fajitas. :-)

Have question or a suggestion for a topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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