December 17, 2017

Archives for December 2007

Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Refrigerators

Continuing now with refrigerators, we bring you part two of our series on choosing kitchen appliances.  The features that most people consider when looking for a new fridge are storage capacity, ease of use, price and hopefully energy usage.  One of the first things you can do to save energy when purchasing a new appliance of any kind , is to buy one with the Energy Star seal.  A 2007 Energy Star refrigerator uses at least 15 percent less energy than a standard one. 

HowStuffWorks.com, Consumer Reports and Appliance.net have some tips we’d like to share with you that will help clarify your refrigerator needs.

While you’ll find an array of refrigerator brands, only a handful of companies actually make these appliances, with essentially similar models under several names. Frigidaire, General Electric, Kenmore, and Whirlpool account for some 75 percent of top-freezer sales and, with Maytag, more than 80 percent of side-by-side purchases.
You can still get the basic 18-cubic-foot, freezer-on-top model with wire shelves, but the most popular style offers 20 cubic feet of storage; adjustable glass shelves; meat keeper with temperature control; vegetable crisper with humidity control; ice-maker; and door bins.   These typically cost the least and offer more space than comparably sized side-by-sides. Widths typically range from about 30 to 33 inches. Fairly wide refrigerator shelves make it easy to reach the back, though you must bend to reach bottom shelves and drawers. Usable capacity is typically about 80 percent of what’s claimed (about 10 to 25 cubic feet), which brings top-freezers closest to their claims. Price: $400 to $1,200.

Bottom-freezer brands include Amana, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, Samsung, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Whirlpool. Mainstream companies have introduced high-end brand lines such as Electrolux Icon, Frigidaire Gallery, GE Cafe, Monogram and Profile, Kenmore Elite and Pro, and Whirlpool Gold. These brands cover built-ins: GE (Monogram and Profile), Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Viking. You can also get built-in-style, or cabinet-depth, models from Amana, Bosch, Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool among others. These put refrigerator items at eye level on wide shelves that provide easy access. You’ll have to bend to find items in the freezer, but you’ll typically open the refrigerator much more often. Bottom-freezers tend to cost more than top-freezers and offer less space for their size, however. Widths typically range from 30 to 36 inches. Claimed capacity is up to 26 cubic feet, though usable space is typically a bit less than for top-freezers.

While most French-door models are 36 inches wide, some are 33 inches, and some offer through-the-door ice and water. Price: $700 to $1,500; $1,600 to $2,000 for French doors. French door fridges, are side-by-side on top with freezers on the bottom and are one of the newer options on the market.

Side-by-sides are split units that have a freezer on one side and a refrigerator on the other. They’re typically equipped with through-the-door ice and water—among the most requested features—along with temperature-controlled bins and rapid ice-making cycles. Narrow doors that fit tight kitchens are another plus, though most don’t open wide enough to fit pizza boxes and other wide items. High, narrow compartments also make it hard to find items at back. Side-by-sides are typically 32 to 36 inches wide, with claimed capacity of 20 to 30 cubic feet, though we’ve found that only about 65 percent of that space is usable. They’re also pricier than top-freezer models. Price: $800 to $2,000.

Built-ins are pricey refrigerators that are designed to fit nearly flush with cabinets and counters, and typically comprise bottom-freezers and side-by-sides. Most can accept extra-cost front panels that match other elements of your kitchen. You can even buy a separate refrigerator and freezer mounted together in a 72-inch opening. On the downside, built-ins are wide (36 inches or wider), yet relatively shallow (25 to 26 inches, front to back), making them least-efficient overall. They’ve also been repair-prone in Consumer Reports’ surveys. And at roughly a foot taller than conventional models, they could be hard to fit beneath overhead cabinets. Price: $4,000 to $7,000.

Cabinet-depth refrigerators are less-shallow, freestanding and offer the look of a built-in for less money. They are available mostly in side-by-side styles, with some top- and bottom-freezers and French-door models available. Many accept extra-cost panels for a custom look, but cabinet-depth models have less usable space than deeper freestanding models and cost more. Price: $1,500 to $3,200.

Under cabinet refrigerator drawers are among the latest luxuries for kitchens where even the biggest refrigerator simply isn’t enough. But refrigerators drawers tend to be large on price and small on space. They cost little to run because of limited capacity. Price: $1,800 to $3,000.

How much refrigerator do you need? One rule of thumb says plan on 12 cubic feet for two people and 2 more cubic feet for each additional household member, but other considerations also matter. If you like to stock up during sales, or cook often for crowds, the more room the better. Side-by-side models are easiest to organize, but the smaller models have relatively narrow freezers.  In all cooling sections, look for pull-out, roll-out bins and baskets that make it easy to see everything without having to dig around, squandering energy (yours as well as the refrigerator’s!).  If you’re a serious entertainer, you may want to look into ice makers that fit into the space of a trash compactor and produce large quantities of ice daily.

Consumer Reports offers this extra advice:

HOW TO CHOOSE

Size is usually more important than style, since most new refrigerators must fit in the same space as the old one. Begin by measuring the available space, particularly the width. Include the space you’ll need to open doors, and check that the new fridge you’re considering can fit through halls and doorways.

Once you’ve chosen a type that fits your space, needs, and budget, keep these tips in mind:

Look for space-stretching features. These include split shelves and cranks for adjusting shelf height. Pull-out shelves provide access to the back of the fridge and freezer. In bottom-freezers, full-extension drawers help you find items in the rear.

Consider efficiency. Despite advances, refrigerators still use more electricity than other kitchen appliances, since they’re always on. Top- and bottom-freezers are typically more efficient than side-by-sides. Choose a model that scored well for energy efficiency in our tests.

Think twice about multimedia models. More brands are also pushing $3,000-plus models that include TVs, DVD players, and other features as kitchens become the new living room. But we’ve found you can save hundreds and get better performance by buying a separate refrigerator and flat-screen TV.

Don’t jump at package deals. While buying a refrigerator with other appliances from the same brand can save you money and help coordinate styling, you’ll probably have less choice, and you could sacrifice refrigerator performance and reliability.

Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Refrigerators

Continuing now with refrigerators, we bring you part two of our series on choosing kitchen appliances.  The features that most people consider when looking for a new fridge are storage capacity, ease of use, price and hopefully energy usage.  One of the first things you can do to save energy when purchasing a new appliance of any kind , is to buy one with the Energy Star seal.  A 2007 Energy Star refrigerator uses at least 15 percent less energy than a standard one. 

HowStuffWorks.com, Consumer Reports and Appliance.net have some tips we’d like to share with you that will help clarify your refrigerator needs.

While you’ll find an array of refrigerator brands, only a handful of companies actually make these appliances, with essentially similar models under several names. Frigidaire, General Electric, Kenmore, and Whirlpool account for some 75 percent of top-freezer sales and, with Maytag, more than 80 percent of side-by-side purchases.
You can still get the basic 18-cubic-foot, freezer-on-top model with wire shelves, but the most popular style offers 20 cubic feet of storage; adjustable glass shelves; meat keeper with temperature control; vegetable crisper with humidity control; ice-maker; and door bins.   These typically cost the least and offer more space than comparably sized side-by-sides. Widths typically range from about 30 to 33 inches. Fairly wide refrigerator shelves make it easy to reach the back, though you must bend to reach bottom shelves and drawers. Usable capacity is typically about 80 percent of what’s claimed (about 10 to 25 cubic feet), which brings top-freezers closest to their claims. Price: $400 to $1,200.

Bottom-freezer brands include Amana, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, Samsung, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Whirlpool. Mainstream companies have introduced high-end brand lines such as Electrolux Icon, Frigidaire Gallery, GE Cafe, Monogram and Profile, Kenmore Elite and Pro, and Whirlpool Gold. These brands cover built-ins: GE (Monogram and Profile), Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Viking. You can also get built-in-style, or cabinet-depth, models from Amana, Bosch, Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool among others. These put refrigerator items at eye level on wide shelves that provide easy access. You’ll have to bend to find items in the freezer, but you’ll typically open the refrigerator much more often. Bottom-freezers tend to cost more than top-freezers and offer less space for their size, however. Widths typically range from 30 to 36 inches. Claimed capacity is up to 26 cubic feet, though usable space is typically a bit less than for top-freezers.

While most French-door models are 36 inches wide, some are 33 inches, and some offer through-the-door ice and water. Price: $700 to $1,500; $1,600 to $2,000 for French doors. French door fridges, are side-by-side on top with freezers on the bottom and are one of the newer options on the market.

Side-by-sides are split units that have a freezer on one side and a refrigerator on the other. They’re typically equipped with through-the-door ice and water—among the most requested features—along with temperature-controlled bins and rapid ice-making cycles. Narrow doors that fit tight kitchens are another plus, though most don’t open wide enough to fit pizza boxes and other wide items. High, narrow compartments also make it hard to find items at back. Side-by-sides are typically 32 to 36 inches wide, with claimed capacity of 20 to 30 cubic feet, though we’ve found that only about 65 percent of that space is usable. They’re also pricier than top-freezer models. Price: $800 to $2,000.

Built-ins are pricey refrigerators that are designed to fit nearly flush with cabinets and counters, and typically comprise bottom-freezers and side-by-sides. Most can accept extra-cost front panels that match other elements of your kitchen. You can even buy a separate refrigerator and freezer mounted together in a 72-inch opening. On the downside, built-ins are wide (36 inches or wider), yet relatively shallow (25 to 26 inches, front to back), making them least-efficient overall. They’ve also been repair-prone in Consumer Reports’ surveys. And at roughly a foot taller than conventional models, they could be hard to fit beneath overhead cabinets. Price: $4,000 to $7,000.

Cabinet-depth refrigerators are less-shallow, freestanding and offer the look of a built-in for less money. They are available mostly in side-by-side styles, with some top- and bottom-freezers and French-door models available. Many accept extra-cost panels for a custom look, but cabinet-depth models have less usable space than deeper freestanding models and cost more. Price: $1,500 to $3,200.

Under cabinet refrigerator drawers are among the latest luxuries for kitchens where even the biggest refrigerator simply isn’t enough. But refrigerators drawers tend to be large on price and small on space. They cost little to run because of limited capacity. Price: $1,800 to $3,000.

How much refrigerator do you need? One rule of thumb says plan on 12 cubic feet for two people and 2 more cubic feet for each additional household member, but other considerations also matter. If you like to stock up during sales, or cook often for crowds, the more room the better. Side-by-side models are easiest to organize, but the smaller models have relatively narrow freezers.  In all cooling sections, look for pull-out, roll-out bins and baskets that make it easy to see everything without having to dig around, squandering energy (yours as well as the refrigerator’s!).  If you’re a serious entertainer, you may want to look into ice makers that fit into the space of a trash compactor and produce large quantities of ice daily.

Consumer Reports offers this extra advice:

HOW TO CHOOSE

Size is usually more important than style, since most new refrigerators must fit in the same space as the old one. Begin by measuring the available space, particularly the width. Include the space you’ll need to open doors, and check that the new fridge you’re considering can fit through halls and doorways.

Once you’ve chosen a type that fits your space, needs, and budget, keep these tips in mind:

Look for space-stretching features. These include split shelves and cranks for adjusting shelf height. Pull-out shelves provide access to the back of the fridge and freezer. In bottom-freezers, full-extension drawers help you find items in the rear.

Consider efficiency. Despite advances, refrigerators still use more electricity than other kitchen appliances, since they’re always on. Top- and bottom-freezers are typically more efficient than side-by-sides. Choose a model that scored well for energy efficiency in our tests.

Think twice about multimedia models. More brands are also pushing $3,000-plus models that include TVs, DVD players, and other features as kitchens become the new living room. But we’ve found you can save hundreds and get better performance by buying a separate refrigerator and flat-screen TV.

Don’t jump at package deals. While buying a refrigerator with other appliances from the same brand can save you money and help coordinate styling, you’ll probably have less choice, and you could sacrifice refrigerator performance and reliability.

Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Ovens, Cooktops and Hoods

Choosing new appliances is one of the biggest decisions homeowners make when remodeling their kitchens. You can’t make a good choice if you don’t know what’s available and what suits your needs. here’s some advice on choosing your oven or cooktop from appliance.net and HowStuffWorks.com

First, ovens:

The traditional range or stove, a single unit with cooktop above and oven below, is an affordable, space-conserving solution still chosen by most homeowners. But it’s just one of the cooking options offered today.

Some serious home cooks choose commercial-style stoves with six or eight burners instead of four, basting and grilling functions, and built-in warming ovens. (Real commercial stoves pose special challenges, such as special ventilation systems and noncombustible walls and floors, when used in the home, so commercial-style may be easier to live with.) Other people love the new modular cooktops that let you add burners, downdrafts, griddles, deep-fry and steamer units, woks, rotisseries, and grills. And these are just a few examples of what’s available!

The first decision in range shopping has always been gas versus electric. Many serious cooks prefer gas for its instant response, precise controllability, and lower operating cost over time. Others praise the evenness of electric heat and the lower initial cost of the appliance Today, you can get the best of both heating methods with “dual fuel” ranges that let you mix gas and electric heat sources; for example, gas cooktop burners and an electric convection oven/broiler. Convection ovens, most often electric, use heated air to cook up to twice as fast as conventional ovens that rely on radiant heating action. You can even get a combination microwave/convection oven.

Electric coils are the most popular kind of electric burners, and the least costly. Smooth-top surfaces are offered with one of three heat source types: radiating electric coils beneath the glass surface, halogen burners, or magnetic-induction elements. All require thick, flat-bottom cookware. If gas is your choice, sealed burners are easiest to clean, and a pilotless ignition system means no hot spot when burners are off. Commercial-style glass stoves offer high BTUs (British thermal units, the measure of cooking heat) and high style. They require heavy-duty ventilation systems.

What about controls? Controls that are located on the front or on the side of the appliance are most common and convenient, but universal access means just that: While someone in a wheelchair can reach front-situated controls easily, unfortunately, so can a curious toddler. People with young children may prefer controls located on the backsplash, out of reach of exploring fingers. Wherever they’re located, controls should be easy to understand and operate. Top-of-the-line ovens may include electronic temperature readouts and touch-pad, rather than knob or dial, controls.

There is also the option of under the counter ovens that blend into the kitchen design rather than stand out. Just be sure the oven is designed for under the counter use. This type of oven can have a cooktop installed directly over it or elsewhere in the kitchen. On eof the considerations in choosing a cooktop is ease of cleaning. “For easiest cooktop cleaning, consider ranges with ceramic glass cooktops housing electric or halogen burners; simpler knobs and handles; and a top and backsplash constructed from a single piece of metal, so there’s no seam to collect spills. Self-cleaning ovens come in two varieties: one that uses a high-heat cycle that turns cooked-on spills into ash you can wipe away, another that offers a continuous-clean function.”

On to hoods:

If you don’t have a ventilation fan above your cooktop that vents to the attic or outside, you’ll want a range hood with ventilation fan built in. Why? Even if you don’t find some cooking odors objectionable, vaporized grease can dull beautiful new kitchen surfaces, and moisture can compromise the efficiency of home insulation. The solution is an updraft range hood that funnels cooking grease and smoke into one area so that the fan can draw it through a duct to the outside.

Filters capture additional grease and odors. Look for range hoods that come in copper, stainless steel, and other good-looking, easy-care materials, or customize a standard hood with ceramic tile to create a major focal point, furthering your decorating scheme. As an alternative, down-draft ventilation, usually part of a cooktop or grill, also employs a fan and duct arrangement. Units that rise above cooktop level provide the most effective venting.

Slow Cooker Tips

The wind is blowing here, the temperature is dropping and we’re expecting rain.  On days like this we look forward to hot, comforting dinners.  A slow cooker (Crock-pot is one brand) is a convenient way to have that satisfying dinner ready when you come home at night.

Here are some helpful tips for making your slow ccoker dinner simple and tasty.

  • Less tender cuts of meat such shoulder, chuck roast, brisket and poultry legs work best for slow cooking.
  • Fish and seafood are not well suited unless they are added during the last hour or so of cooking.
  • Ground meat is also not recommended as the texture changes during long cooking and becomes mealy.
  • Slow cooking tends to intensify flavors, especially black pepper, chili pepper and garlic.  Dried herbs may loose some flavor with long cooking times and fresh herns are best if added right near the end of the cooking.
  • It’s not necessary, but flouring and browning meat for stews will add a richer flavor and color and will help to thicken the sauce.  Be sure to scrape the browned bit from the bottom of the pan to add to the pot.
  • Plastic liners are available in the foil aisle of most major grocery stores.  They make clean-up almost nonexistent.
  • To ensure even cooking, be sure to fill the cooker at least halfway, but not to the brim.  also, try not to stir as it will break up the vegetables.
  • It generally works best to place the vegetables (chunks of carrot potato and onion, for example) on the bottom of the pot followed by a layer of meat.
  • Meals can be made even easier by prepping many of the ingredients the night before and then just adding them to the pot straight from the fridge the next morning.

One of my family’s favorite slow cooker meals is exceptionally easy.

Bar-B Que Beef

Place chunks of carrot, potato, and onion on the bottom of the slow cooker,
cover with a layer of beef short ribs or stew meat. Cover with one bottle of your favorite bar-BQue sauce and an equal amount of your favorite beer. Cook 8-10 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high. Vary the amounts to suit your personal needs and tastes.

KitchenAid Standmixer Video

If you’d like to see how the KitchenAid Artisan mixer looks in action before you buy, check this out and then check out our reviews of the Artisan Mixer and the Professional 600 Series.

HEPA Filters – What You Need to Know

Do you need a HEPA filter on your new vacuum?  First, it helps to know what a HEPA filter is.  HEPA is an acronym for “High Efficiency Particulate Air”, which means that it traps smaller dust particles than an ordinary filter.  A vacuum with a HEPA filter should not blow as many dirt particles back into the air as one with a standard filter.  The catch is that not all HEPA filters are alike.

The first is a True or Absolute HEPA filter which must pass tests to be certified as True.  A True or Absolute filter will have a serial number attesting to its status.  It must be able to trap at least 99.97 percent of particles of .3 microns. These test results will be printed on the filter. True or absolute HEPA filters may be more expensive than other HEPA filters, but they must perform at a certain standard to receive the distinction of True or Absolute HEPA.

The second is a HEPA type filter which look like HEPA filters and may be made similarly, but often capture only 85 to 90 percent of particles and that percent can fall even lower for particles of 1 micron and below. HEPA type filters are less expensive than true or absolute HEPA filters.

In order to know what you are buying, look for serial numbers and test results if you want to purchase a True or Absolute HEPA filter.  Check the test results at .3 microns to make sure your filter is a True or Absolute HEPA.

Allergy sufferers might find some relief with HEPA filtration, especially in home with pets.  Before you spend the extra money on a HEPA filter, make sure your family needs one, then just just the packaging to make sure you are getting what you pay for.

Make a Solar Oven- Have Fun with a Different Take on Boxing Day

Tis the season for too many empty boxes around the house.  Tis also the season for trying to figure out what to do with the kids home from school.  If you are feeling adventurous, here are the step-by-step instructions for using some of those boxes to create your own solar oven. 

Things You’ll Need

  • Aluminum Foil
  • Cardboard
  • Large And Small Cardboard Boxes
  • Non-toxic Glues
  • Non-toxic Invisible Tape
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper
  • Pencils
  • Black Construction Paper
  • Staplers

Steps

Step One

Find two boxes. One should fit inside the other with a 2- to 3-inch space on each side. (This can vary slightly – the space will be filled with newspaper.)

Step Two

Line the bottom of the large box with crumpled newspaper.

Step Three

Place the smaller box inside the large box.

Step Four

Fill the space between the sides of the two boxes with crumpled newspaper.

Step Five

Line the sides of the inside of the smaller box with aluminum foil. You can use a non-toxic tape or fold the edges of foil over the top of the box to hold it in place.

Step Six

Line the bottom of the inside of the smaller box with black construction paper to absorb heat.

Step Seven

Lay a piece of cardboard on top of the large box and trace the shape of the box onto the cardboard.

Step Eight

Add 2 inches around the trace line and cut out to make a reflector.

Step Nine

Cover the cardboard piece with aluminum foil. Smooth out any wrinkles and secure the aluminum foil to the cardboard with non-toxic glue or tape.

Step Ten

Staple the reflector to the outside back of the large box.

Step Eleven

Situate the oven with the box opening up and the reflector facing the sun for maximum heat.

Step Twelve

Place food to be cooked in the solar oven.

Step Thirteen

Stretch clear plastic wrap across the top of the large box. Secure the plastic with tape around the entire box.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cooking time is about twice as long as in a conventional oven.
  • Preheating takes about 30 minutes.
  • Use bigger boxes for a larger oven.
  • A small pizza box oven is good for kids to make s’mores or mini-pizzas.
  • Do not use any materials that could give off toxic fumes when heated, such as duct tape or Styrofoam.
  • Do not use a solar oven for foods that must reach a high temperature or cook rapidly.

 Ehow.com has step-by-step instructions on how to use your solar oven, including recipes for s’mores and chocolate cake.

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How a TV Works

If you have ever wondered how your television works, HowStuffWorks has just what you are looking for. They cover the basic technology in the back of your TV: the four parts, electron gun, steering coils, phosphorus screen, and steering coil. It’s so much easier to understand if you watch the video.