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Cooking and baking | Manolo for the Home
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Making Your Home a Fun Place to Be

Sure, it’s possible to get by with plain old pots and pans, no pillows or throws, bare walls, and nothing but objects of utility. But what fun is that? You should always look for fun stuff – sometimes that means finding that one-of-a-kind thing, by thirfting or raiding your grandparents’ closet. Sometimes it means buying yourself something new. A little treat. We all deserve them! And here are two treats I’m loving:

First, so much better than your typical cutting board… a solid acacia puzzle board server from Viva Terra. If you’d like bigger puzzle pieces (for bigger pieces of focaccia, naturally), here’s a similar serving platter in sustainably-grown teak sold by Gaiam.

And second, a delicious pink and patterned skull print from Made By Girl. Since when are freaky-deaky skulls so darn cutesy? I’d love to put this in my daughter’s room if I didn’t think it would totally break her brain once someone tells her that skulls are meant to be scary.

What wee treats are you digging on right now?

A Kitchen With Flow

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Love her or hate her, Julia Child exerted a great deal of influence over the evolution of American cooking — a book I love, Something From the Oven, touches briefly on just how much. But that sort of history is best left to authors of food tomes and cookery bloggers. What I’m interested in is her kitchen. Want to see it? There’s an amazing reproduction of Julia Child’s kitchen in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I’d post a picture here, but I’m unsure about the legality of doing so, which means you’ll have to be satisfied with the link above.

Isn’t that a beautiful kitchen? Julia Child’s kitchen was not particularly pretty in the sense that a staged kitchen in House Beautiful is pretty. Rather, it’s a lived in kitchen… a worked in kitchen… a kitchen that is beautiful in its perfect usefulness. The knives, the colanders, the parts for the KitchenAid are all accessible. I somehow imagine that I could walk right into Julia Child’s kitchen and start whipping something up without much trouble. I doubt anyone could say the same for my kitchen, since not much beyond my cast iron pan and my teapot is accessible without digging around in cabinets and drawers. Could someone say the same for your kitchen?

Serious Espresso

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How cool are these? De’Longhi recently commissioned 10 professional artists, interior and graphic designers from the US and abroad to create original designs that were laser-etched on the front panels of De’Longhi’s Perfecta Fully Automatic Espresso Machines.

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The engraved Perfecta machines, produced in limited edition, are set to be auctioned to the public through eBay Giving Works from October 4-17 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Oxfam America. Expensive? You betcha, but that’s the whole point. If you think that the Artista Series will be just a wee bit out of your budget, there’s always the EC5 steam driven 4-cup espresso maker, which costs less than fifty bucks. You can’t beat that!

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Sticky Fingers, Homemade

Remember those hot summertime days that seemed to stretch on forever? Joy came easily in the form of a fast-melting popsicle that dripped down onto fingers and wrists and the sizzling blacktop. Luckily, some things never change, and easy joy is still obtainable, at least on the weekends. I will, however, recommend that you leave the HFCS to the kiddies and make your own popsicles at home using body-friendly ingredients like pomegranate juice and muddled blueberries.

zoo pops

Forget secondhand popsicle sticks and paper cups — nowadays you can DIY up yourself an old school treat with Tovolo Rocketpop molds. Just like Rick the ice cream man used to deliver, and why were all the ice cream truck drivers named Rick, anyway? Or get funky with Zoo Pops molds, which I somehow doubt will look anywhere near as good as they do in the picture. Oh well! When it comes to drippy, delicious popsicles on a hot summer day, looks aren’t all that important, right?

*CHOMP*

Ever tune into the Home Shopping Network? There’s something a little naughty about watching uppity women desperate to sell you something you don’t really need in the next 15 minutes. I don’t have a television, but the Home Shopping Network has gotten around that by putting their inventory online. How else, after all, would reclusive people like myself ever discover how empty their lives are without the FreshPrep Toss & Chop Salad Tool?

FreshPrep Toss & Chop™ Salad Tool

Now I realize that staring into its gaping maw doesn’t tell you much about how this apparent miracle of a kitchen tool functions. Luckily, HSN is there to clarify things.

Toss, mix and chop your food all in one step with our FreshPrep Toss & Chop™ Salad Tool. This amazing cutlery device allows you to quickly make healthy, fresh meals. Conveniently and swiftly prepare all the ingredients to make egg, chicken, tuna or chef salads, holiday stuffing and more—all in one bowl. Simple and easy to use, this great little tool saves you time in the kitchen so you can spend it with friends and loved ones.

I can’t deny that I do like spending time with friends and loved ones! Who doesn’t? Fascists, that’s who! So toss out your knives and your forks, and fill your kitchens with cooking and prep gadgets that don’t have any kind of cross-functionality. It’s the American way!

The $243.40 Toaster

A wonderful post over at Carpe Diem illustrates just how far we’ve progressed when it comes to the price of consumer goods. Of course, when I say progressed, I only mean that we can get just about any tool or accessory for the home (be it curtains, couches, or the old fashioned toaster) for much less than our grandparents would have paid. Relatively, that is. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is for the economists to decide. Being that one can buy a toaster for a mere $12, I’m just fascinated by the overall difference in price.

Toaster

Observe… The cost of Sears Toaster in 1949 was $16.95, which doesn’t sound like much but adds up to a whopping 13.5 hours of work at the average hourly manufacturing wage of $1.26. Whereas the cost of a Sears toaster in 2009 is $19.99, or 1.1 hours of work at the average hourly manufacturing wage of $18.03. That explains a lot about why my grandfather will repair a toaster that’s on the fritz while my father will just toss the old one and go and buy a new one at Wal*Mart. Me? I don’t have a toaster; I just use the oven.

A Minimalist Kitchen

I remember long ago living in a Brooklyn apartment that was totally tiny. The kitchen? Smaller than my mother’s walk-in closet. Luckily, my roommate had already stocked the kitchen cabinets with all of the pots and pans and dishes we could want. Well, as many as could fit in those minuscule cabinets, anyway. Nonetheless we had just about everything we needed to cook almost anything.

Now I’ve heard people say that you can’t make a gourmet meal in an itty-bitty kitchen, but I’m going to say they’re wrong. Check out the Portable Kitchen guide, which is a PDF geared toward traveling cooks, but way useful for those of us with no space to spare.

minimalist kitchen

The best part is that you can get everything you need on the cheap. I mean all these things. As cookery book master Mark Bittman found out, you can outfit your kitchen without spending a gajillion dollars.

I contend that with a bit of savvy, patience and a willingness to forgo steel-handle knives, copper pots and other extravagant items, $200 can equip a basic kitchen that will be adequate for just about any task, and $300 can equip one quite well.

He started with an eight-inch, plastic-handle stainless alloy chef’s knife for $10. Nice. Next up was an instant-read thermometer for $5. Then three stainless steel bowls for $5 and tongs for $3.50. A sheet pan set him back $6, and he continued on with a paring knife, a colander, and a can opener, among other things. He also bought pots and pans, in case you were worried he was starting off with an unfair advantage. Remember, cast iron is cheap!

Tea For Two Will Sometimes Spill

When it comes to things you can’t live without, make sure they are steeped in style.

TEA TOWELS

Everyone needs a few absorbent strips of cloth — most commonly known as tea towels — in the kitchen for the wiping up of spills and the drying of digits, so why not choose display-worthy specimens? I’m currently loving these colorful tea towels from ferm LIVING. Yes, they are a tad pricey at nearly twenty bucks a pop, but one hopes that ferm’s 100% organic cotton will last a goodly long time.

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