I think we've all been taken by a kitchen tool touted to make life as easy as Jane Jetson's, only to get it home and realize it's just a worthless piece of, well, you get the idea. Here are my picks for the hot new products that really work from the 2011 International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago.
The Bunn My Café Single Serve Pod Coffee Brewer fills two of my needs -- a single, good cup of coffee on demand, and an environmentally responsible coffee pod. When I brew a pot of coffee, I feel compelled to drink every last drop -- waste not, want not, but that's a lot of caffeine for one person. Single-serve coffee brewers help my consumption, but most existing ones use coffees in environmentally unfriendly plastic containers. The My Café machine uses biodegradable coffee pods, allowing for a better brewing aroma and extraction. The whole process takes less than a minute and there is a pulse button for a richer (stronger) experience. You can also brew tea, and water for hot chocolate.
The Frieling Layer Cake Slicing Kit is made in Germany and has been around awhile, but it's new to me. And what a godsend for anyone who bakes tortes. No more dividing sponge cake batter into seven or eight cake pans. Now it can be baked in one pan and, with this handy guide, cut into even layers to make Eastern European tortes a breeze! The kit contains a slicing mold (with slots for up to eight layers), serrated baker's knife and a giant cake lifter. It accommodates cakes up to 11 inches in diameter. I'm really stoked about this one!
The Cheat Sheet Apron and Towel from The Smart Baker are simply a hoot. Daniel Rensing designed them after watching his wife stopping her cooking to convert measurements. Rensing had measurements printed upside down across the bottom of a cotton-polyester apron (in six colors) so, by raising the hem up to eye level, one can easily see how many ounces are in 1/3 cup or how to substitute a loaf pan for a square pan, and much more. The 100% cotton towel comes in white or red and features cup-to-ounce-to-tablespoon-to-teaspoon conversions. The instructions are double screened and touted not to wash out. The aprons are one-size-fits most with an adjustable neck strap. A metric version is available.
Like raindrops on rose and whiskers on kittens, paper bakeware is one of my favorite things, but this selection from Welcome Home Brands provides convenience AND style. The collection comes in cupcake size all the way up to angel-food size, loaf pan, clear plastic BAKING cups, and more. What's so hot about paper bakeware? You can bake, serve, store, freeze, and gift in them. They don't need to be greased before or washed after baking. They're disposable, recyclable, oven safe to 400 degrees, and stiff enough to place directly on the oven rack without using a sheet pan or cupacke tin. Just peel the paper off when you're ready to serve, and there's no asking for the pan back at the end of the party!
I'm a big fan of the iSi Cream Whipper and iSi Creative Whip and, now, the iSi Twist 'n Sparkle is my new best friend. This gadget uses a CO2 cartridge to carbonate virtually any liquid. So now I can make my own no-sugar-added carbonated fruit drinks, cocktails, mocktails, ice cream sodas and more without using carbonated water from an environment-unfriendly plastic bottle. The possibilities are endless. Try making your own carbonated coffee -- it's a gas!
This year, cake pops have captured everyone's imagination. And, as always, Wilton is way ahead of the trend with Pops Gift Boxes, Pops Flower Pot Kit, Flower Pops Cookie Pan, Candy Dips in microwaveable containers, sprinkles, edible glitter, favor bags. It's enough to drive a girl, who already has spring fever, insane! In a good way. Check out their latest publication, "Pops! Sweets on a Stick" for complete how-tos.
My grandmother used wooden utensils in the kitchen, my mother used wooden utensils, and now I do, too. A wooden spoon hitting a metal pot is such a reassuring sound. There's nothing better than a wooden spatula, in my book, for omelets or making sure a custard or cream sauce doesn't scorch. Apparently Cat Cora thinks so, too. Her line of Acacia wood utensils by Starfrit are large, sturdy tools that can be used on any cooking surface, even nonstick, and are available in 10-, 12- and 14-inch spoons, a slotted spoon and a turner, which I call a spatula. They're affordable and can be purchased separately or in a three-piece set. Also available is a stainless-bottomed Acacia wood crock to hold the tools.
Trudeau has a great line of gadgets, but the most recent ones I love are the Herb Saver and the Stress Less collection. The former allows you to keep fresh herbs longer at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The Stress Less collection is a line of ergonomic tools designed to make kitchen tasks easier for arthritic hands, joint mobility problems, and for anyone, really, but perfect for the growing number of senior Baby Boomers. The collection includes a pizza cutter, cheese grater, garlic press, pepper mill, and the Stress Less Can Opener, which is my favorite. It takes 50% less effort and opens the can from the side which means no sharp edges.
Joseph Joseph has some fun new products, but the Stretch Trivet caught my eye. I'm an avid entertainer and most trivets only provide enough space for a single hot pan, requiring additional trivets for the rest of the hot food. Well, not anymore. The Joseph Joseph Stretch Trivet expands, much like an old-fashioned wooden gate or cup rack, accommodating from one to several hot pots at a time. Made from a silicone-nylon composite, it's heat resistant to 640 degrees with no heat transfer to mar a wooden tabletop. It folds up into a neat packet (about the size of a blackboard eraser only thinner) for storage when not in use.
Have you ever had a disaster with a flimsy wire cupcake stand? I have. All my beautiful frosting work down the tubes. Well, not anymore with this sturdy Cupcake & Treat Stand from The Smart Baker. It comes in two-, three-, four- or five-tier sizes and different styles -- round, square, flower, holiday. The interlocking pieces are made of solid, 1/4-inch PVC material that fits snugly so no more collapses. It's durable, washable, resuable and is pristine white, which I like, because it doesn't compete with the colors of my decorated confections. The three-tier version holds at least 23 standard-size cupcakes.