July 25, 2017

Archives for March 2009

Crock-Pot Wonders

I’ve owned a few crock-pots over the years. Right now I have two- both of them the large six quart models made by Rival. They are both basic models that have a simple central knob for choosing a low or high setting. I prefer my appliances simple and these are perfect for me.

Many people are discovering or rediscovering the humble crock-pot or slow cooker. They offer convenience, and economy. A slow cooker and turn a tough (and cheaper) cut of meat into a tender main dish, ready for dinner when you return home after a long day. Today, about 83% of American households own a slow cooker, according to the NPD Group, a leading marketing research firm. Of these households, almost half used a slow cooker within the past month.

While I heartily recommend my style of slow cooker, the folks at the Los Angeles Times, took a look at a few newer, sleeker models out there and offered these comments:

West Bend’s 5-Quart Oblong Slow Cooker promises an all-in-one slow cooker and griddle, with an insert advertised to be safe for the stove top and oven; it also comes with its own carrying case. The adjustable temperature control has five settings.
What we thought: The model promises a lot and delivers little, if anything. The model automatically starts warming as soon as it’s plugged in — there is no “off” setting — which could lead to burns if you’re careless. Although it’s marketed as oven- and stove-top-safe, in the manual’s fine print there are limitations to how high the thin insert can be heated. Only plastic or rubber utensils can be used with the insert, as metal can scratch the coating. The lid does not securely cover the insert and easily falls off. The model takes forever to heat up, as does the griddle (it took us 45 minutes to fry three pieces of bacon and 10 minutes to fry an egg with the griddle on the highest setting). About $55.

The KitchenAid 7-Quart Slow Cooker is big in capacity and power. It heats quickly with its 400-watt heating element and boasts an accurate and responsive “electronic temperature management system.” It offers 10 hours of programmable cooking time, automatically lowering the heat to warm when the timer is done. The settings: buffet, simmer, low, high and auto.
What we thought: Everything about this unit is big; there’s even a bumper at the back of the unit. The 7-quart ceramic insert is heavy and awkward on its own; filled, it requires a good amount of strength to move. However, it has large — and very convenient — level indicators, so you know the volume of contents you’re cooking. The big digital cooking display is easy to read. The lid does not always sit flush against the top of the insert. The unit heats up very quickly and adjusts throughout to maintain consistent temperature. The insert and lid are dishwasher-safe. About $130.

The All-Clad 7-Quart Deluxe Slow Cooker offers a cast-aluminum insert that is oven- and stove-top-safe (both the insert and lid can function on the stove top as a Dutch oven). The programmable timer automatically switches to warm when cooking is complete. The model features a stainless steel exterior.
What we thought: This is one massive and expensive showpiece. The exterior is big and impressive, but after a couple of uses we found the stainless steel hard to keep clean and almost unbearably hot. The stainless steel lid prevented us from being able to check on contents as they cooked; the lid itself was very thin and lightweight and the handle got so hot a potholder was required. The cast aluminum minimizes mess and eases cleanup. About $280.

And their favorite:

Cuisinart’s 3 1/2 -Quart Programmable Slow Cooker includes a ceramic insert that is stick-resistant and dishwasher-safe. The model comes with a 24-hour LCD countdown timer that automatically switches to warm when contents finish cooking. Four settings: high, low, simmer and warm.
What we thought: This slow cooker was one of our favorites. The programmable timer is a big plus, allowing the cook to set the cooking time in half-hour increments. The ceramic insert offers consistently reliable heating and cooking. The insert and lid are dishwasher-safe. About $60.

One of my favorite cooking sites, allrecipes.com has a highly rated recipe for chicken and dumplings you can try next time you want a comforting meal ready right away when you get home.

You can read all the reviews here.

Recall:Cordless Stick Vacuums by Electrolux Home Care Products Due to Bursting Batteries

Name of product: Ergorapido, Pronto and Precision Vacuums
Units: About 320,000
Distributor: Electrolux Home Care Products Inc., of Bloomington, Ill.
Hazard: The vacuum’s battery can expand and burst, posing a risk of injury to the user and bystanders.
Incidents/Injuries: Electrolux has received 34 reports of incidents in the U.S. involving damage to the vacuum and surrounding property. There have been two reports of minor injuries, including swollen hands and irritation to the eyes from contact with battery powder.
Description: This recall involves 2-in-1 cordless stick vacuums with a detachable hand vacuum and free-standing charger. Units involved in the recall have 9.6-volts printed on a serial plate on the underside of the handheld unit, and the following serial numbers: 074000001 through 085100001 and 74000001 through 85100001.

EL1000A – Pronto
EL1000B – Pronto
EL1000BX – Pronto
EL1000BZ – Pronto
PE1000B – Precision
EL1005A – Ergorapido
EL1006A – Ergorapido

Sold at: Major and independent retailers nationwide from November 2007 through March 2009 for about $100.
Manufactured in: China
Remedy: Consumers should immediately unplug and stop using the recalled vacuums and contact Electrolux for a free replacement of the handheld portion which contains the batteries.
Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Electrolux Home Care Products at (800) 932-1778 between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday and Sunday. Consumers can also visit the firm’s Web site at www.stickvacrecall.com

Dirt Devil’s KRUZ

If you like having a cordless vacuum handy for quick clean-ups, and you have a house with hard surfaced floors, Dirt Devil’s KRUZ cordless floor vac might be your next lightweight vacuum purchase.

This five pound, bagless upright offers easy maneuverability, allowing you to twist 360 degrees to reach around furniture and into hard to reach spaces. The KRUZ hard floor cleaner comes with “Soft Touch” bumpers to keep furniture and floors safe. Other features include a replaceable filter and and charging station.
You can view a short video of the Kruz here
The lowest price we found was about $70.

Buying a Snowblower?

I know, Spring is almost here – you don’t want to think about heavy snow and getting out of the driveway – but some local stores are trying to sell off their inventory of snowblowers.  This might be your best chance to snag a blower that will make next Winter’s snow removal a breeze.  Well, one can dream, right?

If you’ve been eyeing a deal at your local hardware store and just aren’t sure if it’s the right tool for your needs, read on for some guidelines and tips for buying a snowblower.

Single or Two Stage Blowers:

Single blowers are best for snowfalls of less than eight inches and on level walks or decks. It works by picking up snow and propelling it out of a chute.  They are less costly, but can kick up stones.

Two stage blowers are best for big snowfalls and long, wide driveways.  It will have a stong auger to break up snow and ice which a blower sends through a chute.   These blowers can clear up to a 28″ wide area and had drive wheels to provides traction on hills. The auger does not touch the ground, so it will not throw gravel.  Two stage blowers are heavier than single stage and are bulky making them difficult to handle.  They can also be costly – sometimes moore than $2,000.

Features:

Electric starter – is easier to use than a pull-string, manual start

Horsepower – 5hp to 7hp should do the job unless you are throw wet, heavy snow or throwing snow over a fence.  For that, look for 10hp or more.

Headlights – nice for dark mornings

Snow throwing – your neighbor will appreciate the separate controls that allow you to adjust the angle of the chute and keep the snow off his driveway

Trigger drive release – allows for easier turning

Finally, you’ll need to decide on a gas or electric model.  All two stage and some single stage models are powered by gas.   Gas blowers require having a regular supply of fuel available and regular engine maintenance.  Gas blowers are also very loud.  Electric one stage blowers are quieter, but they are limited by the length of the power cord.

Be Frugal and Eco-Friendly?

Appliance makers are attuned to the changing attitudes of consumers. Manufacturers are marketing their appliances not only as green, but as cost saving as well.  According to the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo, appliance manufacturers are pushing the financial savings because their eco-friendly green appeal alone may otherwise be a hard sell in a recession. But energy-efficient gadgets are also becoming more attractive because the price difference between them and traditional devices is narrowing.  Whirlpool now offers Energy Star-rated models of its Classic washers and dryers, which are priced between $549 and $679 and are generally cheaper than its other lines.

More appliance makers are trying to quantify exactly how much energy and how many dollars people can save in the long run. “If they can see in black and white that there is a cost savings involved, they are more inclined to buy it,” says Mark Delaney, director of the home-industry sector at NPD Group, a market research firm.

The cost savings don’t usually amount to much in the short term. And many families may not see the kinds of savings that the companies promise. That is because company estimates make certain assumptions, such as how long the new product lasts, how old your previous appliances were, and whether you are using the latest gadget with other energy- or water-efficient devices under the same brand name.

Government rebates can add to the savings, however. At least 15 states — Colorado, Arizona and Illinois are examples — have rebate programs for Energy Star appliances, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. The programs are often offered through utility companies. For instance, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in California offers rebates of up to $75 for washers and up to $50 for dishwashers and room air conditioners for certain Energy Star-designated models.

And more rebate programs may be on the way. The stimulus bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives includes $300 million to fund such rebates. If the provision is a part of the final bill signed into law, it would allow more states to adopt similar programs for consumers who want to replace older appliances, says Jill Notini, spokeswoman for the home-appliance trade group.

To be sure, manufacturers are continuing to unveil appliances that simply contain eco-friendly features and have green appeal. Whirlpool, for instance, is rolling out a Resource Saver refrigerator in March for $2,099. It exceeds federal energy-efficiency standards by 30% and uses energy comparable to the amount required to power a 60-watt light bulb, Whirlpool says. The company also released last Sept. a dishwasher priced at $799 that saves consumers 4,300 more gallons of water a year compared to hand-washing, Whirlpool says. 

So,  take the time to shop around, and compare not only prices, but the long-term cost savings that can come from using an energy efficient appliance over a number of years.

Fisher & Paykel Struggling – Whirlpool Not Buying, But Sears is Selling

Appliance manufacturer Fisher & Paykel’s debt is predicted to rise to next month as a result of the depreciating New Zealand dollar and a drop in sales. Its profits were expected to drop up to fifty-four percent.

The New Zealand company told investors in February that it was in talks with a number of parties in a bid to raise capital to help with debt levels, Whirlpool was thought to be one of the contenders.

David Graham, Whirlpool general manager of marketing for Australia and New Zealand, told the New Zealand Herald his company would not be the white knight. “At this juncture we are not seeking to acquire Fisher & Paykel New Zealand,” he said.

Commentators said there was only a small chance Fisher & Paykel would find a cornerstone investor to help take on more than $500m in debt when many companies were struggling themselves.

A Government bailout was unlikely and a capital raising from shareholders was the only real option for Fisher & Paykel, they said.

At the same time, Fisher & Paykel Appliances will launch a new brand of home appliances at Sears outlet stores beginning in April. The new Elba by Fisher & Paykel brand will be manufactured in Fisher & Paykel’s North American facilities.

Commenting on the new brand launch in the U.S., Mike Goadby, North American president for Fisher & Paykel Appliances, said, “The company is adapting a strategy it employed in the New Zealand market for the past 12 months with promising results. Fisher & Paykel’s decision to extend its brand is necessary to continue to promote company growth.”

Bosch Refrigerators Now at Sears

If you’ve always wanted to own a Bosch refrigerator but don’t have a Bosch reseller in your town, Sears may be able to help you out. Many Sears stores have been carrying some Bosch appliances. Now consumers can view a complete kitchen suite of Bosch appliances at Sears.

ENERGY STAR®-qualified Linea joins other eco- friendly Bosch appliances available at Sears, including dishwashers, laundry, wall ovens, cooktops, ventilation and ranges.

About Linea Refrigeration

Linea brings a perfectly flush, built-in look to the full-line Bosch kitchen, making it ideal for new kitchens, or as a stylish replacement for high energy-consuming refrigerators.

Convenience:

— Height-adjustable EasyLift(TM) door bin and shelves provide an easy way to accommodate over-size food items without having to unload and reload the contents of the fridge.

— Detachable CoolPaks(TM), perfect for portable coolers, free up valuable space in the freezer.

— Linea’s unique LED lighting solution, CoolGlow(TM), brightly illuminates the entire refrigerator and freezer, ensuring no food gets overlooked or forgotten.

— The exterior ice/water dispenser is integrated flush and frameless to accommodate tall glasses and pitchers to fill with crystal-clear, filtered water, ice cubes and crushed ice.

— Exterior touch controls enable all refrigerator and freezer functions to be controlled without opening the doors. This improves food preservation and reduces energy consumption.

— Sabbath mode helps families honor this religious observance by turning off interior lighting and acoustic signals while temporarily locking the display panel buttons.

Performance:

— Linea’s Dual Evaporator System keeps the air-flow and aromas separate between the fridge and the freezer while an AirFresh carbon filter further reduces unwanted odors.

— AntiBacterial wall linings provide a hygienic atmosphere.

— The FreshProtect(TM)Box temperature controlled drawer provides three precise optimized storage settings for fish and meat, dairy and produce.

— SuperCool and SuperFreezer modes protect all the food in the fridge when freshly-prepared foods are introduced.

Efficiency:

— Linea is ENERGY STAR-qualified, the industry standard in environmental responsibility.

— Linea’s Eco and Vacation cooling modes help reduce energy costs compared to continual operation in standard mode.

Design:

— The long door with hidden hinges provides a seamless built-in look.

— All metal handles, high end glass shelves, and metal look trims give a premium appearance.

— A hide-away water filter is stowed away in an easy access compartment in the interior ceiling. This unique space solution maximizes storage capacity.

Models:
— 800 Series available in Stainless Steel
— 500 Series available in Stainless Steel, High Gloss Black and White
— 300 Series available in Stainless Steel
— Suggested MSRP $2,299-$3149, but customers should check their local Sears store or sears.com for sale pricing.

Cook Microwave Ready Meals Safely

After more than thirty people in twelve states contracted salmonella from microwaveable dinners, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a warning on February 12th about microwaving food.

“Foods cooked improperly in the microwave have the potential to make people sick,” said Graciela Padua, a research associate professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Padua added that one of the main reasons for the salmonella outbreak is because people simply don’t follow the directions on the food’s packaging. If consumers read the instructions more carefully, the risk of sickness would be minimized, she said.

When you heat up a microwave ready meal, be sure the food is heated thoroughly, all the way through the package. If possible, stir the food to distribute the heat and continue cooking until the entire meal is hot to the touch.