Welcome to The Gadget Chef

Ok so I'm not really a chef, but I do like to play one in the kitchen. I'm your everyday average guy, who is really into 2 things, food and gadgets! And I love combining the two and experimenting with that.

I've tried many gadgets out there, some with success and some with miserable failures. But my biggest goal is to limit what space I take up with what gadgets. As a person with a less than sizable kitchen, counter top real estate is so important I can't be the type that has several gadgets out all the time, and I'm also the type that if it's not out and handy, I'm likely not to use it.

So through the course of this blog I will give out some info on those items I've gotten over the years and how I use them, and some recipes, and be sure to share yours too, or comment if you've tried them

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Infrared Halogen Oven

Ok I admit it, I am guilting of sitting at night or Sunday afternoon watching infomercials.  Heck you already know I have a Magic Bullet.  I have watched many and some have definitely caught my eye, but I am very cautious with them, besides whether or not the product can do what it says, there is also the poor customer service, the outrageous shipping fees, and sometimes very poor quality.   Of course now we have other options, since quite a few of these "As Seen on TV" products are at our local stores, so we can avoid the additions, shipping charges, and other hidden fees.  Sometimes though there are other alternatives out there too.

The one that intrigued me for quite a while was the NuWave Oven and Flavorwave Oven.  Their claims of frozen to the dinner table intrigued the heck out of me.  Could it really do it, does it save you time and money?  Would I spend over a hundred dollars to find out?  The answer to all was found in the last question...OH HECK NO!!!!  Over a $100 for a gadget that may or may not live up to it's claims?  Not for me!  But while shopping at my local Menards, I found a small Infrared Halogen Oven from Bellini, that looked very much like the Flavorwave oven, albeit a bit smaller, and it was on sale for $30, now that is a price to test out a new gadget!

First let me say I liked the concept of the Flavorwave oven over the NuWave, because you cooked in a bowl, so clean up seemed like it would be quite a bit easier, and it was a solid glass bowl, not some plastic dome.  So to see a smaller version for that price I had to try it.

Let me tell you first and foremost, I was pleasantly pleased with the results!  Although taking something from frozen to cooked was no faster than cooking it thawed and sometimes it did take a bit longer, the fact you can save time not thawing something out was rather nice.  Decide on chicken when you get home from work, take it out of the freezer, toss some seasoning on it and throw it in there, and in 30-40 minutes (depending on the thickness of your chicken it could be longer)  and you are ready to eat.  I even have tried the little trick of putting my fish/chicken on the lower level and some tator tots on the top to have a full meal.  It worked as well as the oven did.

I only have a few gripes really and at least with this device the directions didn't tell you some of the real tricks to using it. 
Trick 1:  Frozen meats should be relatively uniform in their thickness, a chicken breast is going to have a fairly dry end by the time that thick section is done, but strips, loins, and nuggest come out very well. 
Trick 2:  Preheat the device.  while it doesn't say to, and there is no easy way to do so since it's operation is pretty much solely based on the timer, preheating it some does have an impact on the performance.

Now for the bad news, and remember that mine was smaller than the NuWave and the Flavorwave.  Cleaning it while not bad, is a bit of a hassle, racks to me are always a pain, and the glass bowl that makes up the cooking chamber is still big and heavy, so to wash and dry it, it takes up a good bit of space all on its own.  The other thing too is that mine is smaller, for a family it doesn't really cut it, but I can honestly say I wouldn't want the larger versions like the NuWave or Flavorwave because they would take up some serious countertop space.

My take on it:  Single or couple could make for some nice meals, family size it and you might as well use the oven. 

Bellini Infrared Halogen Oven
        Smaller than Flavorwave and Nuwave
        Way cheaper than it's "As Seen on TV" counter parts
        Cooks frozen to Ready without drying out
        A lot to clean up
        Heavy bowl
        Hard to store because of it's shape.

Let me know what you think if you've tried any of the items mentioned in this post!

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Addition Old Gadget

Well I have been away far too long, so now is the time to update.  Lately I have been very busy due to a new addition to my family, I now have a  lovely baby girl.   With this in mind I thought this would be a great time to mention an old gadget of mine that has a new model out that is geared more towards the parents out there.  I am talking about the Magic Bullet, you all have heard the slogan, "Your personal, versatile, countertop magician!".  Now out you might have seen the Baby Bullet, geared towards making your own baby food for that bundle of joy.

Let me first say I have NOT used the Baby Bullet, nor do I think I will, since I already have the Magic Bullet, it would seem silly to me just to get it because it is marketed towards making baby food. So now on to the review.

I recieved the Magic Bullet as a gift ages ago, back in my bachelor days.  Yes I had asked for it, thought it would be great for a single guy, much easier to use and clean than a full size blender and plenty of capacity for myself.  It sure looks like it and they tell you that on the infomercial.  But I'm not so sure about those claims. 

My set included the Magic Bullet, the chopping blade, the whipping blade, small and large containers and 4 mugs with their little covers for the threads.  Of course later they had the larger set that included a larger mixer bowl and a juicer attachment, but sometimes it's heck being an early adopter and only getting the basics, my set lacked what could have made this a much more enticing item.

I started off with smoothies of course, I mean thats probably what it seems most blenders are used for anyway.  It did a splendid job with this task, although I learned very quickly it's better to over mix your items than to have to put that blade back on after you take it off.  Right away I started with smoothie dripping over the edge as I tried unsuccessfully to screw the blade back on with smoothie already covering it.  This seemed right away a design oversight on their part.  You have to guage your consitancy on looks alone if you don't want a bit of a mess, or you are rinsing the blade bases every time you check.  Admittedly I overlooked this flaw as I didn't really think you'd be checking too often when blending things.  I'm sure some of you are saying, just look at the flow of it to see it's consistency, nice idea, but you put in your ingredients on the bottom, which becomes the top when put on the power base, and trying to see the consistency through smoothy or any other item, not so easy.

Overall, despite some general frustration at this point I was happy with my new gadget.  Now it's time to start trying some recipes.  I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and I absolutely love cheesecake, so I had to try their included recipe of cheesecake, it seemed so simple.  And it wasn't too bad,  although to get it to completely mix, required a few times opening it up (or the more forceful method of a few good taps on the counter).   Anyway I managed to make a smooth concoction and then toss into a grahm cracker pie crust, bake and eat.  My only complaint, this wasn't REAL cheesecake, it was a thin representation of cheesecake.  I really wanted a full size cheesecake baked in a springform pan, and I eventually made that, but that brings you the first biggest problem with this device.  In order to make a real sized cheesecake I had to make 2 batches, 1 at a time and pour them into the pan.

Oh and on the cheesecake note, while it touts it's power, it had a rough time with the cream cheese, since my impatience felt no need to wait for it to warm up any.  It even stopped on me a couple times.  I have to admit that it always recovered and worked at a later date, but there were a few times I thought I had created the Magic Paperweight!

Their claims on it being perfect to pulse chop things, are more like wishes and hopes.  Their perfect fresh salsa, either comes out with half a tomatoe in there or no chunks at all, and the guacamole was even worse, as the avacodo stuck to the side and didn't even get mixed.

You might be wondering will we be making baby food in the Magic bullet, and my answer is, more than likely not.  While it's a nice size for such a job, I'd rather take out my full size food processor as it's much easier to clean and get better consistency, as I had quite a few issues with anything other than liquids at easily getting a smooth result.  While I believe I got my money's worth out of that little blender, I think it's one item that is destined to be retired.  It's been replaced for a full size blender at 1/3rd the cost and a food processor, both of which I find much easier to clean and do a better job.

My final result while cute and a definite talking piece,  I'm not sure it's entirely worth the money.  The look of it isn't something that most would leave sitting on the counter, and the effectiveness at getting a consistent end result are my biggest issues with it, I think for my money I'd rather get a small 3 cup food processor for chopping jobs, and a cheap blender for my smoothies.

Final Results:  Pass it up.

        Size, doesn't take up much counter space, and the pieces don't take up much room to wash.
        Excellent for a quick single serve smoothie
        Too small, unless you are making a single serve smoothie for yourself you will be doing multiple batches.
         Doesn't chop or mix evenly at all, unless you are liquifying things.
         Cleaning out the the larger "cup"  is a pain.
         Motor can struggle mixing things like cool cream cheese.