Aug 012015
 
cordless hedge trimmer

The Kobalt 40V Lithium Ion Cordless Hedge Trimmer

Before I purchased the Kobalt cordless hedge trimmer, I found myself searching for a battery powered chain saw and I'm not sure why. While a cordless hedge trimmer does resemble a gas-powered chainsaw with it's inch long spikes minus the chain, it is completely different in form, function, and purpose. When I think of chainsaws I think of a heavy duty piece of machinery designed to saw through massive tree trunks. I have a hard time believing any battery powered chainsaw is going to have enough power and endurance to get through a thick tree trunk. The Kobalt 40V lithium powered hedge trimmer comes with 24" duel action blades that can easily cut through tree branches and trim hedges and shrubs around the home and it does the job far more quietly than a chainsaw.

Why a Cordless Hedge Trimmer is better than a Gas Trimmer

While I have not tried any other battery-powered hedge trimmer brands, the Kobalt 40v Lithium-Ion hedge trimmer, in my opinion, puts any gas-powered tool to shame for most jobs around the house. While it is true that gas gives you more power and the ability to do larger jobs, the Kobalt cordless hedge trimmer provides you with a lightweight tool that is sure to get more use due to its convenience, ease-of-use, and instant-on operation. In the time it would take me to merely think about gassing-up and starting up an old gas hog, I could just about have the entire pear tree in my back yard pruned and trimmed. Because the Kobalt cordless hedge trimmer is so light-weight and easy to handle, it instantly creates trimming opportunities that might otherwise be pushed aside or forsaken for too much trouble and effort. In short, a cordless hedge trimmer makes you more productive

Uses for the Kobalt Cordless Hedge Trimmer

Because it is light-weight, I don't mind taking the Kobalt cordless hedge trimmer with me up a ladder to prune the higher-up limbs on our trees. It cuts through most tree limbs in one-pass though it is light-weight enough that I don't have to worry if I miss a few here and there - I simply go over them again. My wife has used our Kobalt cordless hedge trimmer to reshape bushes, hedges and trim an entire row of butterfly bushes along our backyard.  The key advantages here are ease-of-use and convenience. It is literally probably more work to clean up the branches and mess afterwards than it is to actually trim and cut down limbs, branches and re-shape rows of bushes.

Compatibility with other Kobalt Tools

The Kobalt battery-powered hedge trimmer uses the same 40V battery as my other Kobalt Tools: Kobalt Lawn Mower and Battery Powered Leaf Blower.  Now, owning all three Kobalt tools, I have more batteries and more chargers than I will ever need. If I have one and only one complaint It might be that Kobalt should offer its customers an option to buy their tools without the battery.

Demonstration of the Kobalt Cordless Hedge Trimmer

The convenience and light-weight operation of battery-powered tools has encouraged me to do a lot of little extra yard work that I normally wouldn't have done. Whenever I see something around the lawn that needs a little trimming, I know that my cordless hedge trimmer is only the press-of-a-button away from making me instantly productive. If I see a few grass blades on the driveway that I normally would have let go, I don't hesitate to put a battery in the leaf blower and get them cleaned up. When my grass was growing twice as long in the early summer, I mowed more frequently than I normally would have thanks to the easy, light-weight operation of the Kobalt Battery Powered Lawn Mower.

If you are really into keeping a neatly groomed lawn and garden, I cannot recommend the Kobalt cordless hedge trimmer enough. On the other hand, if you don't care much for doing yard work and extra trimming around the house, that is probably the best reason of all to get a cordless hedge trimmer.

 

Jul 252015
 

Aroma Rice CookerThe Aroma Rice Cooker offers a very simple, fast, and easy way to make perfect rice every time. While this product is certainly not limited to a single function, I bought the Aroma rice cooker solely for this purpose. Gradually, I became intrigued and even excited as I discovered some of the other meals that can be made using the Aroma rice cooker. First, let's talk about how to make rice with the Aroma.

How to Make Rice

Using the Aroma Rice Cooker

We're not huge rice eaters in my household, but we enjoy it enough to tell the difference between good rice and rice that is poorly made. Prior to buying the Aroma rice cooker, our conventional way of making rice was to add two cups of water and 1 cup of rice to boiling water, then turn it down to low and wait until it appears to be ready to eat. This 20-year old method of ours was inconsistent at best. We still have our old rice cooker, which we seldom use because it is small and inconvenient to clean. The Aroma rice cooker solves both problems by making consistently good rice very quickly and conveniently, with very little hassle cleaning up.

How to Cook RiceTo make rice with the Aroma rice cooker, simply fill the inside of the cooking pot to the indicated number line with water and add the equivalent number of cups. For instance, if I want 4 cups of cooked rice,  I fill the cooking pot up with water to the line numbered, 2. Then, I simply add 2 cups of rice using the cup that is included. Note: the cup included is specifically equal to 3/4ths cups of uncooked rice. I've included a picture of the chart showing how much water vs. rice to use. You can make between 4 and 20 cups of rice. With water and rice in the cooking pot, I simply close the lid of the steamer, turn on the power button on the left-hand side, then press the digital button, labeled, White Rice. The rice will be finished in about 30-35 minutes, will beep to let me know it is done, and then the light will go off. The rice will stay warm until we're ready to eat it. The quality, I think, is as good as it is at any Asian restaurant. It comes out consistent, thoroughly cooked, not too watery, not too sticky (unless it is sticky rice), and not crunchy at all even if left on warm for a long time. Finally, the Aroma rice cooker has a very nice 'delay-feature'. Let's say it is 3PM and I want to have 4 cups of cooked rice ready at 5:00PM. Instead of worrying about whether or not I will remember, I can simply put the rice and water in the pot and set the program for 2 hours. The rice will be completely ready by 5PM! Now, that is how to cook rice with little trouble or guess-work. I'm no expert on rice, but I think the Aroma rice cooker is worth the $30 I paid, just as a rice cooker, alone.  I would even go so far as to say that I am actually enjoying plain, ol' white rice a great deal more than I ever have in the past. I am finding that it goes well with just about anything and am finding myself looking forward to eating rice more than ever. My wife and I love the fact that the pot inside the cooker is removable and extremely easy to clean.  The other good news is that the Aroma rice cooker does a lot of other things well, too.

Other Used for the Aroma Rice Cooker

Aroma Rice Cooker FeaturesIn addition to cooking white and brown rice, the Aroma rice cooker will steam vegetables, saute, simmer, slow-cook soups, stews, sauces, and even cook an entire beef or pork roast, complete with potatoes, carrots, and vegetables.  The aroma rice cooker can actually replace our old crock pot as a slow-cooker. One particularly brilliant and convenient feature, I think, is the saute and simmer function. Let's say, for example, I want to brown some Italian sausage and/or meatballs, then simmer them in a pot of spaghetti sauce. Instead of having to use a separate frying pan to brown the meat, I can put them right into the rice cooker pot. Next, I simply press the saute-then-simmer button and let it brown for a while. Once the meat has been browned to my satisfaction, I can add the spaghetti sauce, and the cooker will automatically switch-over to simmer mode! This is handy as all get-out, and it really works as advertised. The Aroma rice cooker is one of the best things we've gotten for our kitchen since the Veggetti and Ninja Express Chop. Besides rice, the Aroma does a whole lot other things. The graphic to the right will give you a much better idea of its features and capabilities. Use your imagination. By searching YouTube, you will find a variety of other ways to cook various foods with a rice steamer or rice cooker. The Aroma is programmed and designed in a clever way to make full use of its cooking possibilities. In case, you'd like to see an actual demonstration of the Aroma rice cooker, I've located a great video for you below.

A Video Demonstration

How to Make Rice with the Aroma

A Video Demonstration

Making Spaghetti Sauce

No doubt, I probably made everyone a little hungry talking about spaghetti sauce. I was not able to find a good video demonstrating the saute and simmer feature of this versatile steamer/rice cooker, so I will have to come up with my own in the very near future. I promise to include a video using my recipe, Homemade Spaghetti Sauce from Scratch, using the Aroma rice cooker next time it's on our household dinner menu. It's not just a rice cooker, the Aroma really does do a lot of things very well. If there is one limitation I can think of, it's that the 20-cup capacity will probably not be enough to handle a large, Italian family dinner. Still, the Aroma is a great rice cooker, and more!

Apr 282015
 

Kobalt Battery Powered Leaf BlowerThe Kobalt Battery Powered Leaf Blower is the third in a series of cordless lawn and garden tools I've bought from Kobalt. Last year, I bought the Kobalt Battery Powered Mower and have been pleased with both its performance and reliability thus far. Next, I purchased the Kobalt Battery Powered Hedge Trimmer. So far, I have been impressed with this light weight chain-saw substitute, but I have not had enough experience with it to complete a review. I hope to give the hedge trimmer some use in the next few days and will review it soon, so check back soon. One thing all of these cordless tools from Kobalt have in common is that you can buy them from here: Lowes Sells Kobalt Tools. Now, back to the Kobalt leaf blower. Before, I get into the specifics of this product, let me do something I rarely do and give you a quick run-down on the pros and cons of the Kobalt battery powered leaf blower:

Pros and Cons of the Kobalt Battery Powered Leaf Blower

Pros

  • Convenient - no cords. Quick charge.
  • Affordable for a lithium ion re-chargeable tool.
  • Light Weight and small for portable, easy storage.
  • Easy to Handle - nice ergonomics.

Cons

  • Weaker air flow  than with other corded and gas blowers - Only good for grass blades, leafs and other light-weight, dry debris.
  • Kobalt forces you to buy both the battery and charger whether you need them or not. With my hedge trimmer and mower, I have more than I can use.

Do the Cons outweigh the Pros?

Continue reading »

Mar 152015
 

iCoffee Opus ReviewAs you have probably noticed from my dozens of coffee-maker reviews, coffee brewers are a bit of a habit with me. I've tried percolators, drip makers, thermal carafe brew stations, grinder-drip makers, various single-cup Keurig machines, Tassimo single cup brewers, and French Presses.  The latest addition to my coffee maker addiction is a new and improved, off-brand version of the most popular, single-cup, K-Cup brewer, the iCoffee Opus. While there are a few other off-brand, K-Cup brewers, the iCoffee Opus utilizes a unique technology not found in other coffee makers.

What's Different about the iCoffee Opus?

SpinBrew Technology

Have you ever wondered if you're getting the full flavor of your cup of coffee as you watch the hot water pour consistently right through the center of the K-Cup? I have not only wondered about this, but have noticed that the coffee from my Keurig is often inconsistent from one cup to the next. My typical 8 ounce serving will taste really good sometimes, but too weak at other times. I've noticed regardless of what brand of coffee I am using. I often wondered how carefully the coffee manufacturers are about measuring the actual contents of coffee that goes into each cup. Or, it could simply be that the brewer itself does not do a consistent job of extracting the complete flavor of the grinds in the k-cup each time?  Either way, the the iCoffee Opus aims to solve this problem by adding an extra operation to the brew function. The iCoffee Opus utilizes a unique brewing technology. The little rod which punctures the hole inside of the k-cup remains inside of the pod and continuously spins inside of it as hot water is being poured through. The idea behinds this is that the water is being dispersed more evenly among the grounds, resulting in a bolder, smoother tasting cup of coffee. According to the iCoffee manufacturer, the grounded coffee beans in traditional k-cup brewers are being over-extracted, resulting in a bitter taste. Personally, I have not been too terribly troubled with bitter tasting k-cup coffee, only disappointed in the inconsistency of strength from cup to cup. In theory, the SpinBrew concept makes good sense. The needle sprays water out the sides, while it is spinning in circles, ensuring that all of the coffee is being evenly saturated throughout the k-cup pod. As we all know, however, not everything in theory turns out as well in reality. Before I get into the actual results and how good iCoffee coffee really tastes, I would like to emphasize one other important advantage of the Opus Coffee Maker..

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:18 am
Mar 012015
 


Best Tequila for MargaritasIn a perfect world, the best tequila for margaritas would be the one that tastes best by itself. Enjoying those kinds of margaritas on a consistent basis, however, is outside most of our budgets. When searching for the best tequila for margaritas, one key is to find the brand that tastes the best at an affordable price. There are other considerations for margarita drinkers.  While we would all agree that smoothness is important, the taste and character of tequila are subjective things that may or may not add to the overall enjoyment of a margarita. It might be that the best sipping tequila in the world has qualities and characteristics that are too bold to make the perfect margarita. It is also likely that the unique taste of world class tequilas is completely lost and unappreciated.  Before I provide my Best Tequila for Margaritas list, I would like to provide some general criteria.

 

Rating Criteria

The Best Tequila for Margaritas

I have come up with three categories that I think are important for margarita drinkers:

  • Smoothness – A smooth tasting tequila obviously makes a smooth tasting Margarita.
  • Price – For the vast majority of us, it doesn’t make sense to use expensive sipping tequilas for Margaritas.
  • Neutrality – This category sort of works hand-in-hand with price. Very pricey tequila full of bold character and flavor will either be underappreciated or over-shadow the margarita mix. Speaking of margarita mix, I believe the simpler, the better. I will share with you my own recipe.

 

Recipe used to rate Best Tequilas for Margs

Even an affordable and good tequila will go to waste in a bad mix. I am not a fan of the overly sweet or sour cook-aid type mixes that most restaurants serve. I use three simple ingredients: 1 part fresh-squeezed lime juice, 2 parts tequila, and a splash of Contreau or Stirrings triple sec.   I like to shake the ingredients vigorously for about 30-40 seconds and serve up (or neat) in a glass with salt around the rim. One thing to beware of is that a bad lime can spoil everything. Good, fresh limes are usually shinier on the outside with bright green color and have a thick skin when they are sliced. Getting a good lime can be tricky, but it is well worth taking the time to find a grocer where they are consistently good. A sour lime will pretty much drown out everything that is good about the drink, including the tequila.

About my Tequila Ratings

I’ve decided to use a few of the familiar tequilas that I’ve tried and rated here on Product Review Ratings. Each tequila is rated in each criteria on a scale of 1 – 10. Of my two favorites, I will warn you that the Rancho Alegre does give me a headache. I didn’t think it would be fair to use that criteria in my ratings since so far, I am the only one I know that complains of this unwelcome phenomenon. I have not done nearly enough research to make this a thorough review, but hopefully these ratings on the best tequila for margaritas will lead you in the right direction.

Best Tequila for Margaritas

Rated by Smoothness, Price, and Neutrality

Tequila Smoothness Price (750ML) Neutrality RATING
El Ultimo Agave Reposado  8 9 ($14.00 - $15.00) 8 83%
Rancho Alegre Plata 7 9 ($13.00 - $15.00) 9 83%
Rancho Alegre Reposado 7 9 ($13.00 - $15.00) 8 80%
Olmeca Altos Plata 8 8 ($16.00 - $18.00) 8 80%
Olmeca Altos Reposado 8 8 ($16.00 - $18.00) 8 80%
El Charro Reposado 7 9 ($14.00 - $17.00) 8 80%
Camarena Reposado 7 8 ($17.00 - $19.00) 8 77%
El Zarco Silver 8 7 ($14.00 - $17.00) 7 73%