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
Dec 272014
 

What is a Bunion?

Hallux Valgus RemediesHallux Valgus is a painful condition that can both quite literally and figuratively knock you right off your feet. The more common term for hallux valgus is a bunion, or a visible bump on the side of the big toe caused by a bone structure problem. Bunions can cause your big toe to lean towards the second toe rather than pointing straight forward. Basically, the bunion or visible bump is the result of a bone-alignment problem which is more than likely caused by doing lots of walking in improper shoes. The more you walk on your feet this way, the more likely you are to aggravate the problem and require surgery. I had this visible bump on the right side of my toe for two years, before finally discovering what it was. The reason I didn't ever suspect I had bunions was because I've associated the pain and swelling with infrequent gout attacks and/or a fractured toe. I've had both of these ailments in the recent past. Now, having experienced all three of these foot problems, I feel pretty well qualified to describe the differences between all of them. I also believe I know how to deal with the problem of bunions in such a way to prevent the need for hallux valgus surgery which I will explain later.

The Difference Between Gout and Bunions

Gout attacks come on rather suddenly, but also heal rather quickly with an anti-inflammatory pain medication such as Indomethacin. I would rate the pain of bunions as a close second to a gout attack. The pain is not quite as severe, but unlike a gout attack, it takes my feet several weeks to heal. With gout, the pain for me can be just as excruciating whether I am on my feet or lying down. Bunions can be excruciatingly painful, but I am usually able to manage the pain a little better by simply resting my feet. Staying off my feet as much as possible is the only way to help the bunions heal. Gout pain tends to be more in the joint of the big toe. With my last bunion flare-up, the pain covered the upper and lower side of the big toe and even affected the bottom of my foot.  Bunions can also cause some very uncomfortable throbbing at night and make it difficult to sleep. Getting out of bed can be a traumatic experience, but overall, the pain is far more manageable than the worst stages of a gout attack which is constant, excruciating pain and extremely sensitive to the mere, light touch of a bed sheet.

Recognizing the Difference Between Bunions and a Fractured Toe

I couldn't have possibly been given a more confusing set of coincidences when it comes to understanding problems with my foot. I've had gout, a fractured toe, and a bunion all on my right toe within a time-frame of three years, or at least the latter two. When I first fractured my toe, I felt swelling and throbbing on my 2nd toe, rather than the big toe. I finally went into have the doctor look at it. She shook her head and told me that the swelling didn't look like gout. She was absolutely right. X-Rays proved that I had a fractured toe. The degree of pain was similar to my most recent bunion flare-up. The only difference is that the swelling and pain was pretty much limited to the surrounding toe where-as the bunion pain covered a much wider area around the affected bone. The last time I felt pain in the area of my toe, I was uncertain if I was on the verge of having a rare gout attack or if my previously fractured toe was causing me some problems. By a stroke of good fortune, my mother happened to be visiting us that day and I decided to show her my foot. She immediately recognized the bump as a bunion. I looked up the condition online and found several pictures which looked exactly like mine. Then, just when I thought my right foot was beginning to heal, I felt some pain on the bottom of my left big toe. Two days later, I recognized the visible bump on the side of my left toe. The one thing I didn't do was go limping into my doctor's office. From what I've read about bunions, there is not much a doctor can do other than prescribe prescription-strength pain killers or recommend surgery. I knew I had a bunion problem, but what would I do about it? I spent the better part of six weeks learning about my ailment and tried to avoid using my feet as much as possible (not an easy task in my line of work). I am one to avoid doctors and surgeries at all cost, so I decided to do my own research and remedies on Hallux Valgus: Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:05 pm
Jul 302014
 

VeggettiI never dreamed that veggie pasta would become one of my most desired food staples on the dinner table. The Veggetti will turn just about any reasonably sized squash or zucchini into a pasta dish in a couple of minutes or less. We've all probably seen spaghetti squash dishes used as pasta substitutes in the past. The Veggetti, though, which uses the narrower zucchini gives you a better taste and two different sized textures of vegetable pasta.  Unlike squash, the flavor won't over-power your sauce, and the texture is just as firm as your favorite brand of al dente spaghetti. Some of you are probably asking why anyone would prefer veggie spaghetti over good ol' regular pasta.

The answer is, carbs and gluten. Doctors and nutritionists are proving that our food pyramid has been deliberately and wrongly turned upside down for the last several years. Our bodies were meant to eat a diet with less carbs and richer in saturated fats and cholesterol. Books and blogs such as Wheat Belly and Grain Brain are changing the way we view carbohydrates in our diets. Furthermore, a higher number of people seem to be suffering from wheat or gluten intolerance these days, and Celiac disease is on the rise. Why wheat has suddenly become suspect in all of this is still Uncooked Veggie Pasta being debated. It could be that our bodies were never designed for grains, or it could have something to do with the way wheat and grains have been genetically modified. It is not the intention of my article to elaborate on this topic; there are plenty of other websites and books that go into that. One thing I do know for sure is that I have never enjoyed packaged spaghetti pasta as much as I used to since they started removing the eggs due to the phony cholesterol fear. My mother always had our favorite brand in the cupboards: R&F Egg Vermicelli. The eggs gave the pasta texture which as I will explain, is the most important characteristic of pasta. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:43 am