Ingenious gadgets, electronics and eco-friendly storage to tempt cooks found at the IH+HS
A few weekends ago I attended the International Home and Housewares Show here in Chicago. I felt like a kid in a candy store when I entered the vast rooms full of acres of everything you can imagine for your home.
Imagine pepper mills of every shape and size displayed next to a wall made of a rainbow of colored serving utensils, complete with hammered metal handles made of copper, brass and stainless steel.
It is as exciting as it is overwhelming, but for someone who loves kitchen gadgets and cooking, it was oh so fun. This year there was a significant focus on sustainable food storage.
Drink tumblers, large and small, along with reusable straws made of a variety of materials graced the shelves of the show along with thermal cups of every shape and size.
On the go Zip Top products offered a few standouts of the show. These zippered top containers feature a flat base and wide openings for easy access and filling; no more searching your cabinet for the lid that fits the container. They come in different sizes, and three different shapes; cup, dish and the traditional bag, and are all made of 100 percent platinum silicone. They are versatile and can be used in the microwave, oven, freezer, and dishwasher. Use these and your plastic container drawer will never be the same, or as clutter free, with no lids and containers that nest perfectly inside one another. Visit ziptop.com. If you have little ones, you'll want to check out Sage Spoonfuls. The company is a one-stop shop for everything you'll need to make your baby food, from a cookbook and immersion blender to food storage containers and my favorite, the Sage Squeezie; a reusable pouch, with side zip opening, that stands up and stays open for mess-free filling. Fill the pouch with baby food, yogurt, or even a smoothie. They also go in the freezer and dishwasher.
For the toddler, they have the Sili Elephant plate that suctions to any flat surface, including wood. For your older kids, check out the Snackie and Munchie bag set to hold everything from carrots to chips. To see all Sage Spoonfuls products, visit www.sagespoonfuls.com.
I found the cutest veggie and dip containers at the Gourmac counter. Whether you like carrot, celery, or apples, there is a matching container, complete with dip storage, all in one lunchbox sized container. Your kids will love them. Visit gourmac.com.
One of the vendors I was most intrigued by was Olivelle. They feature oils and vinegars, but my favorite products were their infused sea salts.
They had so many flavors I wanted to try them all, so when I saw the Infused Sea Salt Sampler, it looked like the perfect compromise.
The sampler features 12 small containers of salt with flavors like Lime Fresco, Thai Ginger, Citrus Dill, and Sriracha, but by far the most intriguing is the Smokey Bacon Salt. I was lucky and received a sample to bring home and went right to their website for a recipe.
There were multiple recipes for each flavor of salt and before I knew it, I was looking at my choices for the Bacon Salt and a picture of some beautiful BLT Deviled Eggs. Traditional deviled eggs with the addition of some chopped tomatoes, basil, a little bacon, and bacon salt. I can promise you; they were a delicious as they sound and a perfect way to put a new twist on an old favorite. Visit olivelle.com.
The Infused Salt Sampler would make a great hostess gift or Mother's Day present, or maybe a present to yourself. Before you order, be sure also to check out their Pasta Rocks. Chunks of pink Himalayan salt that you add to boiling water allow to cook 2 minutes and then remove for future use before adding pasta for perfectly salted noodles. Add them to boiling water for cooking potatoes, vegetables, and rice. Sounds so easy! Visit olivelle.com. Earlier in the fall, my husband and I had the opportunity to make pizzas for a party in the venue's wood-burning oven. The pizzas tasted great and baked so quickly; I will admit, I wish I had one in my yard.
You can imagine my level of interest when I saw the Ooni pizza oven display. A friend of mine has one and loves it, so I decided to stop and learn more.
The ovens are meant for the home and depending on the model, run on propane gas, wood pellets, charcoal, or wood. They heat to 932 degrees in between 10 and 20 minutes and can bake a Neapolitan-style pizza in 60 seconds. The Pro model can also be used to bake bread and almost anything else you make in a regular oven. I may have to add one of these to my wish list. Visit ooni.com.
Since we are on the subject of baking I have to share one more product with you; The Fourneau Bread Oven, a cast iron baking chamber. Chicago native and University of Illinois Chicago Industrial Design instructor Ted Burdett came up with this idea when his dad shared a no-knead bread recipe.
The Fourneau is placed in your home oven and preheats as your oven heats to high temperatures between 450 and 475 degrees.
Place bread dough into the hot cast iron chamber, close the hatch and wait while the bread bakes and develops the thick, chewy crust we crave from artisanal bread, all from your home oven. Ted was quick also to share that the chamber can be used to bake flatbreads -- an exciting way to use your home oven to make a bakery style creation. For more information, visit www.fourneauoven.com.
With a pile of brochures and aching feet, I left the International Housewares Show, but I also had a long wish list and will be sure to share it with my family as Mother's Day approaches. Who knows, I may even treat myself to an item or two.
• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.