Thursday, December 9, 2010

Floating duck tea infuser

There's really not much to say about this guy except, awwwwww, makes me wish I liked tea.

Made of silicone, so he doesn't mind getting into hot water, he's $9.95 from Perennial Tea•Room (whose brick and mortar location is in Pike Place Market in Seattle).

At left is a picture of Mr. Duck after a hard day's work, sitting next to his personal drip catcher.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Microplane herb mill

I remember the first time I saw a Microplane zester. It was the late '90s and the Microplane still looked like the woodworking tool that it had started out as (just a straightforward rasp, no fancy handle). Flash forward a decade and Microplane has a whole range of kitchen tools with colored handles and beautiful design.

And the word Microplane has become a part of recipe language. When you write a recipe and you want to be sure that people are getting the same type/quantity of citrus zest as you're expecting them to get, you pretty much have to tell them that you used a Microplane. (See my post on the subject.)

Anyway, blah, blah, blah. Here we are in 2010, and Microplane continues to put itself in our kitchens in a way that makes it hard to imagine how we accomplished these tasks before their tools existed. Microplane's fiercely sharp cutting edges can now be found in an herb mill. Put fleshy herbs (cilantro, parsley, mint, dill) in the body of the mill and a simple twist of the handle produces perfectly minced (not smooshed and bruised) herbs.

Not content with the sleek stainless steel look of the mill standing up, Microplane also made the bottom of the mill (with it's surgical-grade blades) pretty darn cute.

The mill is available for $24.95 exclusively from Sur la Table through the end of this year. Starting January 2011, it will be available nationwide.

Friday, October 22, 2010


My grown-up side tells me that nesting glasses is a bad idea. You want the middle one and you have to undo the whole stack of glasses to get it.... Or how about those times when bowls or glasses mysteriously refuse to come apart when you've stacked them on top of one another.

But the kid side of me wants these nesting Babushkups. They're from my favorite crazy designers at Fred & Friends and sell for $18 from Perpetual Kid. The 3 glasses hold 8, 10, and 14 ounces.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When life hands you lemon zest

Sometimes you're just in the mood for that incomparable flavor that lemon zest brings to food. But you're ready to cook and, OMG, that fresh lemon you thought you had has turned into a beautiful greenish-blue science project....and you really don't want to go out to the market just to pick up a fresh lemon.

Well, here's a cool idea for keeping that fresh lemon-y flavor in good supply: Air-dry your own lemon zest*. Here's how:

With a vegetable peeler, take off strips of lemon zest (1), making sure to only take the very thin colored portion of the lemon peel, the part with all that great lemon-y flavor.

Set them aside on a plate (leaving space between the strips of zest) for a couple of days. They will shrivel up (2) and turn a brown-yellow color.

Put them into an airtight container.

When you're ready to use them, you can either throw them straight into a soup, stew, or stock; or add them to the cooking water for rice or beans.

Or, if you want fresh lemon zest for salads or baking, all you have to do it reconstitute the lemon zest. Let it sit in cold water for 1 hour and it will regain its original yellow color and will be easy to sliver or mince or whatever. (You might be able to hasten this process by throwing some boiling water on the zest, though somehow I imagine that'll wash off some of the great lemon oils. But maybe not. Worth a try.)

Do this with fresh lemons that you bought just for the juice (pull off the zest strips before you squeeze them). Or do it with lemons you bought "just in case." Surprisingly, the lemons that have the zest taken off them (but with the white pith still intact) don't seem to go bad any sooner than a lemon with its full peel still on.

This is one of those things that made me think: How come I didn't always know I could do this?

*Of course you can buy dried lemon peel. But that's different. That's the zest plus the spongy white pith part, which tends to be bitter.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You can't have these

From a blog called Stuff You Can't Have, here are some "apothecary jars" made of dried citrus rind festooned with doo-dads. I can't have them, but I admire the idea and the execution. Plus it's food related, so I'm there.

Other food-ish posts from Catherine McEver (the owner of the blog) have included a series of things you can do with Wonderbread, including embroidering it. (My sisters and I got no more creative than rolling it into small gray--a color contributed by our hands--balls, with which we then pelted one another.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Penguins at the bar

Who doesn't love a penguin? Funny little guys waddling around in their tuxedos. It's so tempting to see them as humanesque, making it a real disconnect when their facial expressions never change. Wouldn't you like to see a penguin smile? (Oooh, wait, that might be creepy.)

But I digress.

Penguins have a great shape, and the designer of the above cocktail shaker clearly thought so too ($17 at Amazon).

After you shake it all up, pour that concoction into one of these glasses sporting an image of a gentoo penguin ($18 from Cafe Press). Had to look up the gentoo. It's a little unclear where their name comes from, though it's been suggested that it derives from a word meaning nice or gentle. I like that. Let's stick with it.

To keep this theme going, how about a Penguin seltzer maker? It's about $200, but if you drink a lot of seltzer, you'll end up getting your investment back in fairly short order. And the reusable glass bottles that come with the seltzer maker are really cool looking. (On a side note, this guy could also be one of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal.)

Last but not least is penguin ice cubes. This particular mold makes a big block of ice with two little penguin bodies riding on top—like an ice floe floating in your drink. The penguin mold comes with a companion mold with 2 polar bears on it. Last I checked the link, you could get them at houzz for $17.
(Or for a mold that makes multiple penguin cubes, read my post about them here.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


It's true. There really is a website for everything.

A website called Jim's Pancakes declares its purpose to be "just trying to make some cool pancakes for my daughter." And that's what it is, pictures of pancakes Jim has made for his daughter.

But they are indeed cool.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

High-concept bowls

One thing I find frustrating in the world of blogs are the design blogs that show you the cool one-offs that artists and industrial designers come up with that will never see the light of day...or I mean the light of "you can buy it somewhere" day. I usually avoid mentioning those interesting but unattainable things.


...had to show these anyway. They come from a design duo from Vienna named Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler who make what they call "reversed volumes" by filling a bowl with a pigmented ceramic mixture and then pressing a fruit or vegetable into it. When the ceramic hardens, the fruit/vegetable is removed, leaving a "reversed volume."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cake pops

I am not a cake fan. I actively dislike cupcakes. And I have resisted--so far--doing anything with the current fad for food-on-a-stick. However, I simply could not pass up these chicks. They are supposed to be for Easter, but just change up the colors and make them some other kind of bird and they're good to go any old time. See how to do it at

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homemade brownie mix

Q&A with Myself
Q: What's one of the fastest desserts you can throw together that is almost universally loved?
A: The brownie.
Q: Where do most people get their brownies?
A: From a packaged mix.
Q: Why?
A: It's fast and the brownies are actually quite good.
Q: But you still have to add the oil and the eggs and mix the batter and bake them, right?
A: Yes, but you don't have to measure all the dry ingredients. That's a big pain...and it's messy.
Q: So why don't you make your own brownie mix and keep it on hand for when you're in the mood for brownies?
A: I don't have a comeback for that. It's a good idea.
The upside is you'll have something just as convenient as a store-bought brownie mix but without any additives. And when you finally bake the brownies, you'll actually be baking from scratch.

P.S. While you're at it, mix up multiple batches to make all that messy measuring worth the effort. Or get together with friends and treat the event like a cookie exchange. Chip in together to buy the main ingredients in bulk, then let each person come up with some interesting additions to personalize his/her brownie mix (espresso powder, cinnamon, chopped peanuts, white chocolate chips, diced dried pineapple, toasted pine nuts, etc.). Then swap containers so you go home with a bunch of different brownie possibilities.

Brownie Mix
I made the mix in a 1-quart deli container. I threw all the ingredients in and then just shook it up to mix them. It worked great. Just be sure to label the container so you know what mix-ins you put in (if any). And stick a little note inside to remind yourself of the other ingredients you'll need for the batter (oil, eggs, and vanilla), as well as the oven temperature and baking time.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder or nonfat milk powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup add-ins, such as chopped nuts or dried fruit (optional)

In a medium bowl (or deli container), combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, buttermilk powder, baking powder, salt, and whisk (or shake) to blend. Stir in the chocolate chips and add-ins (if using). Store airtight.

To make fudgy brownies
Brownie Mix (above)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

To make cakey brownies
Brownie Mix (above)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.
2. Dump the Brownie Mix into a bowl. Add the oil, water, vanilla, and egg(s), and stir just to blend.
3. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.
Makes 16 brownies

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eye Candy

Eye Candy is a food blog written by Jojo Krang, a blogger living in Switzerland. The 3-month-old blog is a compendium of Krang's food projects, which are incredibly artistic and curious and cool. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. I already love the homemade spiral ravioli made with black and white pasta dough, and the "recipe" for making natural blue food dye from red cabbage.

But my current favorite is a story called "15 Ways to Naturally Colour & Flavour White Chocolate." All 15 flavors/colors are in the photo above and include cinnamon, kinako (toasted soybean powder), beet, turmeric, chili powder, orange zest, green tea, black sesame seeds, cornflowers, and poppy seeds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Salad servers

The mild weather in New York is putting me in an ohmigod-summer-is-not-faraway mood, which is very similar to my time-for-big-salads-again mood. This cute salad set from Fred & Friends (the masters of the whimsical everyday object) is made of brushed stainless steel and is 11 inches long. InSet sells for $15 from Perpetual Kid--another monument to whimsy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Buddha bowls

I've got a little bit of a bowl fetish. I like them in all shapes, sizes, and materials. I like itty-bitty silicone prep bowls and giant British stoneware gripstand bowls, and everything in between: cereal bowls, soup bowls, pasta bowls, ice cream bowls....There is something extremely satisfying about eating food out of a bowl. (And key to the satisfaction is matching the bowl size and shape to the food you are about to eat. There are no rules for matching: You just look at your bowls and pick the one that feels right. You'll know it when you see it. It's a personal journey.)

So although I have more bowls than I know what to do with, it doesn't keep me from lusting after new bowls, like these Buddha bowls designed by California artist Elan McPherson. The Buddha bowl holds a respectable 18 ounces and looks like the love child of a bowl and a coffee cup. Use it as a bowl for soup or cereal, or pick it up and use it as the French would for chocolat chaud or cafĂ© au lait.

The bowls sell for $30-ish at Uncommon Goods.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Siliskin glass

A company called Silikids creates silicone items called Siliskins that slip over glass baby bottles to make them safer--as in easier to hold onto and protective in case the bottle falls. Siliskins are for those parents who have opted for glass because they are are worried about the safety of plastic baby bottles (especially when heated in a microwave).

There is also a Siliskin that comes with a 6-ounce glass for toddlers who have graduated to the big-kid category.

Now here's the thing. I no longer have a toddler in the house, but I want these Siliskin glasses for me. They're just cool looking. Siliskin glasses come in aqua and lime green and cost $7.95 from Amazon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Message cookies

Two weeks to Valentine's Day.

But instead of those tiny candy hearts (which are gross anyway), let your feelings be known in a big way.

With a set of cookie cutters (three shapes: heart, star, and scalloped rectangle) from Williams-Sonoma, you can deliver your message(s) very taste-fully.

Each of the cutters in the set has slots for typesetting your own two-line message. The set comes with three full alphabets and some premade words/phrases (Happy, Birthday, Holidays, Thank You, I Love You, etc.). When you press the cutter into the dough, the outer edge cuts out the cookie and a plunger impresses your message into the center. The set comes with a dishwasher-safe mesh bag for storage and easy cleaning (because oh my lord, imagine cleaning all those little letters by hand). $19.90 from Williams-Sonoma.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bunny bowl

A bunny bowl. Brilliant.

The bowl comes from a ceramic artist in Texas whose day job is middle school art teacher. The stoneware bowl is 5 inches across and is ridiculously cute. Adrienne Speer (the artist) sells a white version of the bunny bowl at The Clay Studio. There used to be an Etsy shop with all manner of other colors as well as other animals, like foxes and elephants. But the Etsy shop appears to be closed now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Seed Safe

I find this stoneware vase, called a Seed Safe, completely charming. It was created by Spanish designer Marti Guixe for Alessi, the Italian kitchenware and tabletop company. It is being introduced at the Alessi showroom in NYC this week.

The idea behind Seed Safe is that you store up the seeds of the foods you've eaten so you can plant them later. I know you could just throw the seeds into a plastic takeout container or a paper bag, but come on, where's the whimsy in that?

The nicest part of this design is Guixe's drawing explaining the purpose of the vase.