Jul 27, 2009

A Cute Little Culinary Secret!

It's not often I get to share secrets but here is a little gem - about ice.

In addition to having an ice cream maker at home, I have a home ice maker or a portable ice maker as some people call it. I have mentioned it before in my blog posts when talking about preparing foods and entertaining where having freshly made ice available is relevant. However, one thing I have NOT said before, is that this little machine has an 'ice secret' all its own.

That secret is in the shape of the ice it produces. Sounds odd? Perhaps, but not so for anyone who has used one of these machines to produce their own ice for storage in the freezer.

If you have ever bought bags of ice to store at home you will know that it is usually the commercially, bulk produced kind, shaped in cubes. Take the bags of ice cubes home, put them into your freezer to store, bring them out when you need them and more often than not you are greeted with .... no, not a bag of beautifully preserved, loose cubes but the challenge of smashing apart a solid block of ice because the cubes have fused together!

Now with a home ice maker such as the one I have (in the photo), the ice it produces is nugget shaped - cylindrical is perhaps a more accurate description. This shape means that when the nuggets are stored together in a bag in the freezer, they won't stick together in a solid block as readily as cubed shaped ice does. So when you pull your bag of frozen nugget ice out of the freezer all it usually requires is a gentle tap to just free any that have become a little 'sticky'. Now that's what I call a cute little culinary secret!

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Dec 13, 2008

Christmas Shopping? There's still time ... online!

Phewww .... I've actually done all my Christmas shopping - gifts for family and friends and I've even ordered the turkey! However, many of my friends have not and according to a BBC Radio program I was listening to, this seems to be the case for most people. Not to worry though because help is at hand - courtesy of the Internet.

Let's face it, it's a wonderful resource at this time of year and for lots of different reasons ....

  • you can stock up on food for the holidays by shopping online thus avoiding braving bleak weather and long supermarket queues;

  • you can get some great recipe ideas online ahead of throwing a party or dinner - such as my ice cream recipes of course;

  • you can shop online for all your Christmas gifts;

  • you can check online to see what's on tv over the Christmas holidays;

  • you can check for the latest weather reports ahead of making any trips to visit people over the holidays;
What would we all do without it now? Strange but for young people today they can't relate to that idea. Being from an older generation though, I can not only recall what life was like before the Internet but even before there were pocket calculators! I'm digressing a bit too much here .... so back to thinking about Christmas.

This is the last post I'm going to write about Christmas shopping for this year ... just let me remind you that I have a super little Internet store for US buyers where you can buy all kinds of gifts (courtesy of Amazon) such as:

The Back to Basics CM300BR Cocoa-Latte Hot Drink Maker (pic left)

The Cuisinart ICE-30BC sorbet/yogurt/ice cream maker

There's also a great range of coffee makers and tea makers

For that ever important fresh ice at parties there are ice makers

One of my favorite gift ideas, especially at Christmas time, is the gourmet gift basket (or hampers as they're called in Britain). In the store you will find some wonderful gourmet gift baskets such as the Lindt Lovers Chocolate Gift Basket. The Sweet Wishes For You Basket pictured right is possibly one of the most stunning and appropriate gift baskets I've ever seen for Christmas.

For British buyers there's a separate online store where you can buy a similar range of gifts including this electric bottle chiller (left) for making sure that the extra special bottle of Chardonnay you've bought is served at just the right temperature. Whether it's for a quiet romantic evening in or for when you have guests to dinner, it's a great piece of kit to have to hand.

Serious lovers of ice cream could enjoy life so much more if they had this superb ice cream maker by Gaggia (right) which is really popular in Britain and Europe. Then when you've made your ice cream you should serve it in style - like in this fantastic, stunning-looking ice cream bowl and spoon set from Alessi.

Whatever you buy for your friends and family this Christmas, I hope you try to make sure it's something they will find rewarding. Happy hunting!

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Dec 9, 2007

Christmas Parties - Mulled Wine Sorbet

Many people give or go to Christmas parties - they can be for friends, family or colleagues from work or college. They can be big parties or small gatherings but whatever the type of party, the host is usually under pressure to offer something traditional yet different - a difficult task! So how about this idea .... mulled wine sorbet

Mulled wine has a long tradition, being heated up with spices to offer something revitalising. Indeed, many countries around the world have their own word for their type of traditional mulled wine - in France it's vin chaud and in Russia it's glintwein (глинтвейн) for example. My favorite is the German term Glühwein which I remember very fondly from a trip to Austria many years ago!

If you'd like to read more about mulled wine here is an interesting web page I found: The history of mulled wine

The other thing you always need at a Christmas party is plenty of ice because no matter what the weather - snow in the Rockies, rain in Scotland or sunshine in Australia - there will be people who want ice in their drinks ... and it needs to be in good supply. You can't afford to run out of what you've frozen in trays in the icebox (they're so fiddly anyway!) so this is where one of the latest kitchen/home appliances comes in - the ice maker. You can buy one of these at most department stores nowadays or online and they're great - I have one and wouldn't be without it. You don't have to plumb it in so it's portable and it's really easy to use. When Christmas has passed you then can look forward to using it for any other celebrations, bbqs etc - it really comes into its own in the summer.

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