September 22, 2014

Review: Cuisinart CBK-200 Bread Machine

The BreadMachineDigest, which is a very complete resource for bread machines, offers this review of a Cuisinart bread machine:

The Cuisinart CBK-200 bread machine is an interesting machine. It offers several features that are not available on any other machine. Features like convection baking for a more evenly browned and crispier crust. A beep signal when the final kneading is done telling you, you can now remove the kneading paddle from the pan so that you don’t have a large whole in the bottom of your loaf. It also has cycles for low-carb, gluten free, and artisan breads.

The machine itself is quite typical. It is a box shape with the standard side control panel. It has a small LCD screen that gives you the time remaining, the loaf size, crust color and where you are in the cycle information. To choose a cycle you just select the number that corresponds to the cycle you want. For example white is 1, low-carb is 8, etc. You set the number for the cycle you want using a menu button. Each time you press the button a different cycle number is selected.

There are also buttons for crust color, loaf size, delay timer as well as one to turn on and off the mix-ins option. The mix-ins option causes an alert beep to sound which tells you when in the cycle to add things like raisins, nuts, etc. The last two buttons are start and stop/pause. Overall the controls are easy to figure out and use.

This machine has a total of 101 cycles. However, this is a bit misleading because like some other companies Cuisinart counts variations to the main cycles as cycles. For example white bread with a 1 pound recipe and a light crust is one cycle and white bread with a 1-1/2 pound recipe and a light crust is another. If you forget about the variations this machine has a total of 16 cycles which includes:

White, rapid white, whole wheat, rapid whole wheat, French/Italian, rapid French/Italian, quick bread/cake, low-carb, gluten free, dough/pizza dough, artisan dough, sweet breads, rapid sweet breads, jam, last minute loaf, bake only.

Like some other machines on the market this one has a power failure backup feature. Should the power to the machine be disrupted it will store in memory the stage of bread making cycle and resume once the power is restored. However, unlike some other machines this backup feature is good for only 15 minutes. If the power stays out for longer than that you are out of luck.

The pan in the Cuisinart CBK-200 is called a horizontal pan by Cuisinart. However, to me it is a hybrid of the horizontal and vertical pan. This machine doesn’t make quite a horizontal loaf or a vertical loaf, it makes loaves that are some place in between. The pan in fact is the same size and shape as many of the pans included with Breadman machines like the Breadman Ultimate. It is also a single paddle pan. I don’t like this style of pan. During my testing of this machine I made 30 recipes, every single one of them required me to scrape some of the ingredients out of the corners of the pan. Had I not stuck around to do this, the loaves would have come out with floured corners. I really wish companies would either do vertical machines or true horizontal machines with dual paddles. These hybrids are a pain.

All of the recipes I made turned out great. The machine once you have all of the ingredients incorporated in to the dough kneads very well and makes a nice dough. It has no problems with white bread dough, egg bread dough, whole wheat or any of the other 30 types of bread I made.

I also have to give high praise for the convection bake feature. While I still prefer to make the dough in the machine and bake the loaf in my regular oven, the convection feature made for a much nicer and evenly browned crust. It was also crisper which quickly faded as the loaf cooled thanks to the steam.

Now for the real down side, this is one very unattractive looking machine. I think Cuisinart tried to make it look retro. However, in doing so they placed black trim all around the top of the machine (see the picture) and in doing this they made it the all time hardest machine to clean. Sooner or later you are going to need to clean flour off the top of this thing and because of the black trim it is going to be a real time consuming pain. I ended up using Q-Tips to get the thing clean. And, as I said this is in my opinion one of the most unattractive machines ever put on the market.

Would I recommend this machine? It depends, if you need its unique features like convection bake, low-carb or gluten free cycles then yes. I say go for it. If none of those features is something you are frothing at the bit for then I would recommend you look at something else. Something with a better pan and something that will be easier to clean. Finally, it comes with a very nice users guide and recipe book. I am very impressed with the number of recipes included and how diverse the recipes are. I give Cuisinart a round of applause for this excellent collection of recipes.

Review written by Robert Barnett.

As Seen on TV- One Touch Can Opener

I didn’t see this on TV- but apparently it’s everywhere- the One Touch can opener. I couldn’t escape it. Bed, Bath and Beyond has been stacking them in the aisle and the check-out lines and I finally gave in. I can’t resist the idea of an easy to use can opener; mine is finicky and inconveniently mounted outside the kitchen in the laundry room, so I decided to give this new one a whirl.
Well, it is definitely easy to use. Just load it with the required AA batteries and you’re ready to go. As the package says, it is truly hands-free. We placed the opener on the can, pushed the button and watched it go. Kids really like the “magic” of it working independently.
It has only one negative that I can find, but it is a big one. The can is cut around the outer edge which removes the entire top. The top of the can is now razor sharp. If you want to drain the can by pressing the lid against the contents (as I do with tuna), it’s not possible because the lid fits back too tightly against the can. If you try to drain it and touch the top with your fingers, you risk cutting your hand. This edge is really sharp!

So far I would consider this can opener a part time help in the kitchen. I choose it for cans that will have their contents, such as tomato sauce, added directly to a pot or bowl, with no fingers nearby.

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Great Gadgets for Holiday Giving?

Today’s Los Angeles Times reviewed some interesting devices for the health conscious. Here’s one of their reviews for the Tanita Ironman Body Composition Monitor

If you’re planning to give someone a scale for the holidays, you’ve already shown a willingness to take risks. (Certain people would see a gift-wrapped scale as an invitation for violence.) But some gambles are doomed from the start.

Consider the Tanita Ironman Body Composition Monitor, sold for about $130. One of the scale’s main selling points is that it purportedly measures levels of visceral fat, the kind that builds up around the intestines and other organs. Experts believe that visceral fat can throw off a person’s metabolism, greatly increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Unfortunately, no bathroom scale can accurately measure visceral fat, says Kenneth Ellis, principal investigator of the Body Composition Laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “It really surprises me that they are claiming to do it,” he says. Instead, scales such as the Ironman can make only a rough estimate based on a person’s weight and the ease with which a small jolt of electricity runs through the body. (Electricity moves easily through lean tissue, but lots of fat will make for a sluggish signal.)

Two recent studies from Japan have found that electricity-based estimates of visceral fat can be off by as much as 50%. Estimates of total body fat would be somewhat more reliable, Ellis says, but they’re still limited by the fact that they can measure only the electricity that flows up one leg and down the other. Anything you’re carrying above the waist would be essentially invisible to the machine.

The only way to accurately measure visceral fat is to have a CT scan or similar high-tech test. But, in most cases, Ellis says, your body mass index — a calculation based on your height and weight — will tell you all you need know. Unless you’re muscle-bound, a BMI of 30 strongly suggests that you have too much fat — visceral and otherwise — for your own good.

If you’d like to be not only a health conscious, but well informed consumer, you can read about the StressEraser and the Sleeptracker here for more information about these health related appliances.

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Keeping Stainless Steel Clean

Stainless appliances are popular right now, but they are difficult to keep clean.  Fingerprints and smudges are a constant challenge. Consumer Reports tested six stainless steel cleaners, trying both wipes and sprays.

When it comes to smudgy fingerprints, the tests showed all the cleaners do a good job removing them. But beware of claims to prevent fingerprints. None of the cleaners could do that.

Food on stainless samples testers also put dollops of foods like peanut butter and raspberry jelly on stainless-steel samples. They also used condiments like ketchup and mustard.

Testing, the stains sat for at least 24 hours. Then testers rinsed the samples, cleaned them following the manufacturers’ instructions, and sized up how well the cleaners removed stains.

“Overall, all six cleaners were very effective, except when it came to mustard. They all seemed to leave some mustard stain behind on the surface.”

For more tips and to see which product was least likely to leave streaks, read the whole story at winknews.com.

Air Cleaners – What You Need to Know

Many people believe that an air cleaner will help their family be healthier.  Using an air cleaner or air purifier in your home supposedly helps reduce dust, pollen and other respiratory irritants.  There are three types of air cleaners,  High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, electrostatic precipitators, and ozone generators.

From the Arizona Daily Star:

1. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters: Consumer Reports says air cleaners with these filters are among the best performers. But homeowners can more easily improve their indoor air with other methods, such as banning indoor smoking, keeping pets out of bedrooms, removing carpeting and other dust-mite havens and opening windows, the magazine says.
2. Electrostatic precipitators: They apply an electrical charge to particles and deposit them onto filters. They commonly emit small amounts of ozone as a byproduct. This month, Consumer Reports withdrew its endorsement of them after 15 years of recommending some models, saying, “We now believe that air purifiers that emit even small amounts of ozone are not your best choice.”
Ozone is a common air pollutant, an indicator of smog’s presence. The Environmental Protection Agency says that relatively low ozone levels can cause respiratory problems.
3. Ozone generators: Manufacturers say that ozone will purify the air, but Consumer Reports recommends against such machines, saying its tests have found that their ozone production generally exceeded federal Food and Drug Administration limits of 50 parts per billion set for medical devices. The California Air Resources Board just approved new rules, requiring such generators to limit ozone to 50 ppb by Dec. 31, 2008.

Newer houses with better insulation, double-paned windows and weatherstripped doors save energy, but they also seal pollutants into our homes. I try to limit my impact on the environment. Air cleaners are just another electronic device to run, with uncertain results. My choice is to vacuum and wash floors and bedding regularly and to open windows daily. Those are results you can see.

Review: KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer

KitchenAid produces a whole line of stand mixers with a range of sizes and power to suit your particular needs. Recently, we reviewed the KitchenAid Professional 600 series here and found it to be a powerhouse that can tackle truly large jobs with ease. Now we’ll take a look at the Artisan stand mixer, also a KitchenAid product.

The Artisan has a 5 quart capacity bowl which can knead 9 cups of flour with its 67 point planetary mixing action. Our first thought on seeing this beauty was that it seemed small enough to be used in most any size kitchen, yet sturdy enough to tackle any job. So we put it to work.

Let’s start with ease of use- the dough hook, flat beater, and wire whip all attach with a simple push and twist. Just reverse the maneuver to remove them. The bowl also stays put easily with a counterclockwise turn to lock it in place. The rubberized feet keep it from moving around while mixing heavy doughs. We tested this while making 9 cup batches of bread dough and this machine performed beautifully, producing a firm dough in just about 5 minutes without even getting warm. Although the Artisan weighs over 22 pounds, I did not find it too difficult to maneuver around the countertop.

We put this mixer through a range of jobs, using the whip, dough hook and flat beater all of which come with the mixer. We brought egg whites to very stiff peaks in under 5 minutes, mixed countless batches of cookies, cakes, and loaves of bread. One my new regular tasks for this mixer is making our favorite banana bread by using the flat beater to mash the bananas first, and then adding the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. It comes out great and I have only one dirty bowl to wash. Each experience endeared this machine to me more.

I am a hardcore mix-by-hand baker and use a hand mixer sparingly for jobs like meringues and whipped cream, but this mixer has changed the way I bake. If you are a frequent baker and have the space (Maybe you can make the space!) to leave this out on the counter, I believe you will find that you turn to it as your first choice for mixing.

Product Features

Mixer Style Tilt-head
All-Metal Construction
Direct Drive Transmission
Bowl Finish Polished Stainless Steel
Bowl Handle Contoured
Motor Wattage 325 Watts
Flour Power™ Rating 9 Cups
Mixing Bowl Capacity 5 Quart
Planetary Mixing Action 67 Point
Mixing Speeds 10
Multi-purpose Attachment Hub
Flat Beater
‘C’ Dough Hook
Wide Chute Pouring Shield
5 Qt. Stainless Steel Bowl w/Handle
Wire Whip
Weight 22.8 US pound
Depth 14 3/32 in.
Height 13 29/32 in.
Width 8 21/32 in.

If you want to read more about the Artisan Stand Mixer, click here for the Care and Use Guide.

Samsung SilverCare Washer – Does it Work?

Invisibly small silver ions that eliminate bacterial growth that cause odor are the idea behind Samsung’s SilverCare washer. Channel 4 news in New York met with Consumer Reports who conducted a study on the washers. See their report here.

Viking Fridge Review

If you are in the market for a new, large refrigerator and you would like to get a custom, built-in look with standard cabinets, this just might be the fridge for you.