Cooking gadgets, household gems abound on a trip to the 2018 International Home and Housewares Show

  • Fabio Viviani, from "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," preps for his cooking demonstration during the 2018 International Housewares and Home Show at McCormick Place. Viviani offered tips for the audience and his recipe for 90 Second Pasta with Lazy Meatballs and Tomato Sauce.

    Fabio Viviani, from "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," preps for his cooking demonstration during the 2018 International Housewares and Home Show at McCormick Place. Viviani offered tips for the audience and his recipe for 90 Second Pasta with Lazy Meatballs and Tomato Sauce. Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

  • Fabio Viviani, from "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," preps for his cooking demonstration during the 2018 International Housewares and Home Show at McCormick Place. Viviani offered tips for the audience and his recipe for 90 Second Pasta with Lazy Meatballs and Tomato Sauce.

    Fabio Viviani, from "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," preps for his cooking demonstration during the 2018 International Housewares and Home Show at McCormick Place. Viviani offered tips for the audience and his recipe for 90 Second Pasta with Lazy Meatballs and Tomato Sauce. Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

 
Updated 4/18/2018 6:15 AM

Last month I took a different type of adventure and this one led me to the 2018 International Home and Housewares show. When describing the show to others, I find myself using words like innovative, exciting, overwhelming, exhausted, but as someone whose favorite place is in the kitchen, most often I described it as fun.

To help set the scene, imagine 2,244 exhibitors, four enormous exhibit halls at McCormick Place Expo Center, thousands of people, and little old me with my pen and notebook walking until my feet hurt. I spent six hours there and still only made it through one of the exhibit halls, but I had a blast.

 

While there, I saw new twists on everyday appliances, some intriguing and fun new products, along with a couple of really neat items I have since purchased and am already using in my kitchen. The frosting on the already great experience was the "Cooking Theater" and the guest chefs I was able to watch and learn from while I was there.

The Egg and Muffin Toaster has four toast slots, a space for reheating breakfast meat, all while cooking two eggs at the same time.
The Egg and Muffin Toaster has four toast slots, a space for reheating breakfast meat, all while cooking two eggs at the same time. - West Bend Electronics

Multiuse appliances, especially toasters, were everywhere. The West Bend Egg and Muffin Toaster caught my eye with its four toast slots and ability to warm breakfast meat, all while cooking two eggs at the same time. Other features include the ability to soft or hard boil up to eight eggs at a time. I'm not sure about the cleanup involved, but if you are a breakfast sandwich lover like me, an appliance like this might be worth checking out.

Courtesy of FredGrub Mugs come in sets of four; one each printed with recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and treat yo'self.
Courtesy of FredGrub Mugs come in sets of four; one each printed with recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and treat yo'self.
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A company called Fred & Friends had so many fun items I lost count, but my favorites include Grub Mugs, Funnyside Up, and the Good Measure product lines. Think back to your college dorm days where your most-used dish was a mug and you will instantly understand why I like Grub Mugs so much. Four to a set, and named breakfast, lunch, dinner and treat yo'self, the mugs come with multiple recipes printed on their sides for dishes like loaded potatoes, chilaquiles, and crispy rice treats to name a few. From now on, this will be my "go-to" high school graduation gift.

Courtesy of FredA Funnyside Up mold for cooking morning eggs with a little humor.
Courtesy of FredA Funnyside Up mold for cooking morning eggs with a little humor.

Fred doesn't stop there with humor and serves eggs "Funnyside Up" with silicone molds featuring creatures like frogs, cats, and robots where egg yolks are used for eyes and whites fill in the rest. Breakfast fun for kids, or adults who are young at heart.

Courtesy of FredAfter cooking fried eggs with the Funnyside Up mold, this is what greets you at the breakfast table. The molds come in the shape of frogs, cats and more.
Courtesy of FredAfter cooking fried eggs with the Funnyside Up mold, this is what greets you at the breakfast table. The molds come in the shape of frogs, cats and more.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Eggs may be fun for some adults, but others will prefer Fred's Good Measure, a 16-ounce glass complete with mixed drink recipes and measurements all printed on the side of the glass itself.

Courtesy of FredGood Measure Margarita glass.
Courtesy of FredGood Measure Margarita glass.

Pick your liquor; gin, beer, tequila, whiskey, rum, or vodka, and follow the directions to make the perfect cocktail, or at least that was my experience with the tequila glass. When you're all done, there is even a version for "Quality Hangover Remedies."

One of the cutest products I saw was the 12 Little Pigs in Blankets silicone mold. Place mini hot dogs in each section, fill with pancake batter and bake 20 minutes. When finished, you have twelve of the cutest 2-inch little pigs or pigs in a blanket, you have ever seen. For you corn dog lovers, there is a corn-shaped version too, just substitute corn muffin batter, and you're set. Too cute!

The Beep Egg will serenade you while you cook -- sort of. Shaped and sized like a typical chicken egg, the Beep Egg lives in your refrigerator with your eggs until you are ready to cook them. Simply add it to your pan of water, along with your eggs, and the concert begins. Mine is their base model and plays "Oh Susanna" for soft-boiled, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for medium, and "Hail, Hail the Gangs All Here" for hard cooked. There is an egg for everyone with tunes ranging from classical to country, but the most impressive thing about this product is -- it works.

My story would not be complete without sharing my experience in the Cooking Theater. I was fortunate to be able to watch cooking demos by chefs Addie Gundry, former Next Food Network Star contestant, and Fabio Viviani, a name you may remember from "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters." They were both entertaining and full of tips for the audience, but unfortunately, we couldn't taste the food they prepared. Thankfully I had my pen and paper, so I did write down and have since made, Chef Fabio Viviani's 90 Second Pasta with Lazy Meatballs and Tomato Sauce. If making homemade pasta scares you, I promise the meatballs and sauce are also tasty with packaged pasta.

What a trip! I will admit, I came home and looked at my gadgets and wished I could have brought home some of the new inventions from the show, but don't worry, I will survive as I've already started my "wish list" for next Christmas.

• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.

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