Header image  
"We Entertain When It Rains"  



Web www.rainydaymagazine.com

RainyDayMagazine's content can now be licensed for your print magazine or web site. Please contact us directly here. If you want to see something reviewed, then drop us a note with a link and we'll be happy to take a look.

NOTE: Click here to read more about our approach to product reviews.

Dec 6, 2010- Rainy Day Gift Guide: Kitchen...

Finding a good gift for those who love to be in the kitchen is easy. Finding a great gift for them takes a bit more work. We love cooking and we love gear, so when we recommend something, you can be sure we think it is worth it. This year, for the RainyDayKitchen Gift Guide, we have assembled a collection we think will be perfect for cooks, food lovers, or are just useful for everyday.

The well-known Ginsu brand has moved upscale. Way upscale. Gone is the "infomercial" hard sell of cutting a can in half and then slicing tomatoes into ultra-thin slivers. Don't get us wrong, the Ginsu line still includes the EverSharp knives, but now it also includes higher quality lines of kitchen knives. The Ginsu Hanaita or "superior chef" series of knives are made from cryogenically cooled folded steel and are razor sharp. Their blades are made in the same manner as... [more]-Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen


Nov 4,2010- Stainless Resurfacing Project...

All of the new (to us) appliances in the RainyDayKitchen have a stainless steel finish. Stainless steel is a great material because it is easy to clean, durable, and requires minimal upkeep. One major appliance which has not been upgraded is the Jenn Air refrigerator.

As there is nothing wrong with the refrigerator replacing it solely for cosmetic reasons just seemed ridiculous. The solution we came up with (to solve the dilema of having all stainless steel appliances except the fridge) was to refinish the front panels with stainless steel FXSheeting from Alsa. Yesterday we posted a write-up of the Alsa Stainless Steel FXSheeting. Today we'll show you how we used the sheets to resurface the... [more]-Stainless Resurfacing Project


Nov 3,2010- Alsa Stainless Steel FXSheeting...

Stainless steel is a great material for the kitchen. We have been slowly replacing the major appliances with items we find on Craigslist (microwave, stove, sink, etc...). Buying things on Craigslist saved us a LOT of money and doing it ourselves gave us a chance to have some hands-on fun. However, not all of the appliances in the RainyDayKitchen needed to be replaced. Sometimes all that is needed is a facelift. We had considered refinishing some of the surfaces with stainless steel paint, but before we use the paint on a project such as a large appliance, we would want to see how it looked on something smaller. Someone then suggested we consider using stainless steel film.

Many of the films and foils are faux finishes which only mimic the look of stainless steel. They are quite thin, and it is unlikely that those materials will stand up to the daily wear and tear of an active kitchen. After a bit of research, the interns decided that the Brushed Stainless FXSheeting from Alsa Corporation was what we needed. The FXSheeting appeared to be heads above anything else that is on the market. There is nothing "faux" about them. FXSheeting is made using real stainless steel. The difference is... [more]-Alsa Stainless FXSheeting


Nov 1,2010- The Clam Box...

Sunday was the last day The Clam Box was open for this year. One of our editors grew up in Quincy and has been going to The Clam Box since she could ride a bike. The rest of us go back year after year because we all agree that they have the best fried seafood in Boston. We KNOW they definitely have the best fried onion rings.

Anyway, The Clam Box's last day of the season was October 31st. We had been meaning to stop by all week for one last plate of fried clams and onion rings, but the chance hadn't occurred until the very last moment. Luckily for us, Sunday afternoon was a perfect day for both a walk along Wollaston Beach and for a final taste of the quintessential Summer food... [more]-The Clam Box


Oct 22,2010 - Jura Z7 FirstLook...

Jura makes some of the most advanced home espresso and cappuccino machines around. We reviewed Jura's Impressa Z5 unit back in 2006. In general, the Z5 has been a workhorse and has provided us with freshly ground coffee, espresso, and cappuccino whenever we wanted. With normal periodic cleaning and a little bit of maintenance, these machines were made to last a good long time. Our unit works smoothly and quietly even after four years of daily service. After so many years, we thought it was time to check in with Jura and see what/if any improvements have been made to the Impressa line. Jura's answer to our query was the Impressa Z7 OneTouch.

The big box from UPS showed up earlier in the week, but we got tied up with...well, many of you know what has been occupying our time lately :-) We did not unpack the box until today. Normally, we don't make a big deal with unpacking something (unless it is from Apple), but in this case we thought it warranted a special mention. We have unpacked a lot of stuff over the years and have noticed that... [more]-Jura Z7: FirstLook


Oct 11,2010 - Columbus Day Weekend...

Food and relaxation are the two most important goals of our annual Columbus Day Weekend retreat. We used to head up to Maine to Ogunquit, Wells, or Monhegan Island. However, for the past few years, the group has been driving to our friends' place in Provincetown. The trip to the Cape is much shorter than the trek up to Maine. We left Boston at 2PM, and even with the holiday traffic, were able to make it out to Provincetown in less than three hours.

While other tourist destinations start to wind down after Labor Day, most of the shops and restaurants in Provincetown don't close until after Columbus Day. There were plenty of options for eating, shopping, and entertainment. One of the traditions with our Maine trips was the search for the weekend's best lobster roll. Fortunately for us, we were able to continue the quest as lobster roll vendors on the Cape were just as plentiful as "down east." This year's winner was... [more]-Columbus Day Weekend


Sep 30,2010 AquaPure:Installation...

Originally, we had the Aqua-Pure faucet installation scheduled for later in the month. Our plans got shuffled a bit and a slot opened up unexpectedly. Never wanting to let an opportunity to get their hands dirty pass by, the interns convinced us to move the Aqua-Pure project up the queue and get it done.

We decided to install the Aqua-Pure AP Easy because it was both the more advanced of the two systems and its appeared simpler to set up. There were three basic steps to the installation: mount the filter head, attach the cold water feed, affix the faucet. The kit was designed to minimize the tools required for installation. In fact, all we needed was a... [more]-AquaPure: Installation


Sep 29,2010 AquaPure:Water Filtration Systems...

The "new" sink we installed in the RainyDayKitchen at the beginning of the month is working out great. Unlike the old porcelain sink, the stainless steel sink had three pre-cut openings for things like a soap, instant hot water, or a filtered-water dispenser. We had asked RainyDay readers which project would be of the most interest. The installation of an under-sink water filtration/purification system was the clear preference and the systems mentioned most often by name was Aqua-Pure by 3M. So today, we are going to take a FirstLook at the AP-DWS1000 and AP Easy from Aqua-Pure. Later in October, we'll show you how easy it is to install one of these under-sink systems.

While many may recognize 3M as the maker of Scotch Tape and Post-it Notes, they are actually much bigger than just those two brands. 3M is a hugely diversified technology company with a global presence in electronic, health care, home, office, and many other sectors. With 100+ years of history and over $20B in annual sales, when 3M purchased CUNO in 2005, they acquired a company with a leadership position in water filtration and purification. CUNO's (now 3M) Aqua-Pure Water System is typically used in the kitchen to... [more]-AquaPure: FirstLook


Sep 15,2010 - Stainless steel pulls...

The handles on the doors and drawers in the RainyDayKitchen have always been a bit too "antique-ish" for our taste. As handles never wear out there was never a good excuse to get rid of them, other than just aesthetics. Stainless steel handles are typically around $6.50 online and can cost up to $13 in stores. Even though it would only cost a few hundred dollars to change them out, it just seemed frivolous to spend money on handles when there are other more important things we could use it for. However, when the interns (who seem to spend more time surfing Craigslist than actually doing their job...or IS that their job?) found an ad from someone selling thirty stainless steel handles for $40, our interest got piqued.

The ad had just posted that day, but a deal this good would not last for long. We did a quick count of how many we needed ...thirty-two, including the pulls in the two bathrooms. Hmmm...could work. The only thing we needed to check was... [more]-Stainless Steel Drawer Pulls


Sep 10,2010 - Homedics Restore FirstLook...

At the start of the Summer, we gave a quick mention to an interesting water filtering system named Restore from HoMedics. This water-purification pitcher uses an activated-carbon filter similar to many others on the market. However, they have one notable feature not available in any other system, a built-in germ-killing UV light source. Today, we'll take a RainyDay FirstLook at the HoMedics Restore system.

The HoMedics Restore clean water system is made up of a few simple elegant parts: 8-cup pitcher, filter, lid, AC adapter. The pitcher is visually appealing, feels substantial but not too heavy. The handle is rubberized and very comfortable to grip. At the base of the handle is a switch for the two modes: Purify, and Fill. The pitcher is bottom-heavy as the circuitry for powering the UV bulb is in the base of the unit. There are two steps to the Homedics Restore process: activated-carbon filtration, and UV light sterilization. Water to be treated goes into the... [more]-Homedics Restore: FirstLook


Sep 9,2010 - Installation and plumbing...

The stainless steel sink we got weighs around ten pounds, much lighter than the iron/porcelain sink it replaced. The edge of the sink has a bit of a bow so when it's locked down, the lip will be flat against the countertop. When we removed the old sink and fitted the new one, we figured it would be a simple matter of installing the clips to lock down the sink.

We, of course, had not thought at all about how the clips work. We knew they must clip onto the edges of the countertop, but did not appreciate (until we actually tried to install the clips) that if the anchor rail of the sink is inserted into a groove in the countertop, the clips would not be able to grab onto it. Doh!!! This realization meant we had to remove the offending particle board instead of just... [more]-Sink Upgrade: installation and plumbing

Sep 8,2010 - Cutting and fitting...

When we removed the old sink the extent of the damage from the rust was plain. We also understood why the rust problem had developed in the first place: the original installer never bothered to seal the rim of the sink (which would have prevented water from seeping underneath the sink). There was no caulking under the lip of the sink at all. Over time, the lip gradually rusted from the moisture and crumbled. We are not sure if the installer forgot or was just too lazy to bother. Either way it caused a lot of damage to the surface and to the exposed particle board.

We cleaned it the best we could, but some of the stains might be permanent. Most of it will be covered by the lip of the stainless-steel sink, but some of it may be visible. BTW, if you were wondering why we... [more]-Sink Upgrade: cutting and fitting


Sep 7,2010 - Sink removal

The sink in the RainyDayKitchen has been looking worse and worse these last few months. We have been saying since March "We NEED to replace the sink," but we did not get around to this project until now. We first thought this was a "drop-in" job, but then realized it would be a LITTLE more complicated than that. So we kept putting it off in favor of easier tasks. Finally, we could not put it off any longer and had to get in there and JUST DO IT.

The interns cleared off the counter and emptied out the cabinet underneath. We thought the project would not take longer than a day (six hours), but blocked out two days just in case we ran into any problems. The project had the following tasks:

  • Turn off the water to the sink
  • Turn off the electricity to the disposal
  • Removal of the old sink (disconnect disposal, disconnect hot/cold pipes, lift out sink): time estimate - 1 hour
  • Install new sink (apply caulking, insert sink, install sink clips): time estimate - 1 hour
  • Install new PVC pipes (measure, cut, fit): time estimate - 2 hours
  • Reconnect disposal: time estimate - 1 hour
  • Reconnect hot/cold pipes: time estimate - 1 hour

The first task was to remove the sink. Milo took a look and said, "Disconnecting the disposal, the hot/cold water pipes, and the drainage pipes from the sink all seem pretty straightforward, but Dude, there is no way I'm going to... [more]-Sink Upgrade: removing the old sink


July 21,2010 - Water water everywhere...

Most folks in the US don't think about the quality of the water they get when they turn on the tap. Drinkable water from the faucet is expected. Earlier this Spring, a huge pipe which brings clean water into Boston burst and plunged the city into a water emergency. For a few days, residents had to pay a little more attention to their water. As it turned out, the water supply was fine and no one was really at risk during that period. However, we did field a bunch of questions about water filtration and the like. As the weather now hovers in the 90's more often than not, we thought it timely to talk a little about proper hydration and water-related topics.

While the water from the tap is usually very clean, it might not be very tasty. Sometimes it is because the pipes are rusty. Other times it may be due to the clorination or other processing residues. None of it is particularly harmful, but it can alter the "character" of the water. For great tasting water, running it through activated charcoal will usually take out any odor or odd taste. One convenient way to do that is to put a filter on the faucet. While this is possible at home, you can't do tht when you are out an about. This is where something like the Hydros portable filter comes in handy.

Hydros is a BPA-free plastic water bottle that has an antimicrobial FastFlow filter as a cap. The reusable filter water bottle is made from Eastman’s Tritan™ plastic, which is chemical and heat-resistant. Dropped it? It won’t break. Dishwasher safe? Of course. When the Hydros people say the filter is fast flowing, they are not exaggerating. Hydros' Fast Flow Filter™ technology reduces contaminants from tap water quicker than the typical pitcher filter. The filter uses IonArmour's natural, triclosan-free antimicrobial technology, which actively defends against odor-causing bacteria.

IonArmour®-enhanced products work by using an infusion process that durably embeds microscopic active particles into surfaces, the very places where microbes normally flourish. An untreated water filters can start to smell a little funky after a while. Surfaces of the Hydros filter are infused with these antimicrobial particles and are protected against microbes for the natural life of the product.

Having a fast flowing filter is great. We wished it would fit some of our other plastic bottles. Even though the Hydros' filter will not screw onto any of our Nalgene bottle, it will fit the openings. If we are careful, we could even use it with our CamelBak pack.

Buying and using a Hydros bottle does more than just reduce the plastic waste associated with disposable bottles. One dollar from each Hydros bottle goes toward a water infrastructure project designed to be socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. An example is Gundom, Cameroon, where 2 in 5 children drink unsafe water from tiny streams or ponds. Operation Hydros has teamed up with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) to bring clean water to this village.

By donating $1 ($1=2,000 gallons) from every bottle sale, Hydros helps EWB provide potable water that will be available year-round. You can find out more about the Gundom project here.

After we posted our FirstLook of the ZeroWater unit in March, we got a few of emails from readers who said we should check out a water purification system from HoMedics called Restore. It should be noted that neither the ZeroWater or the Hydros filters will make microbiologically unsafe water SAFE to drink. The Restore system's difference to the other two is that it cleans the water by combining germ-killing UV technology with a water filter. So in addition to removing chemicals and particulate matter from the water, it also actively kills bacteria & viruses which may be too small to filter out using the standard passive methods.

All of this water talk is making us thirsty. We'll go hydrate and will come back and take a FirstLook at the Homedics Restore filtration system next week. There are some difference with the ZeroWater unit which we'll highlight in the FirstLook. In the meantime, don't forget to drink plenty of water and stay cool. It's hot out there. [Permalink] - Water water everywhere...


July 5,2010 - Flag dessert ...

One of the things we like to do for July 4th is to head over to Castle Island (05,07,09) to watch the turning of the USS Constitution. This year, the weather was so hot that fighting the crowd for a spot on Castle Island was not all that appealing. Instead, we decided to invite a few I-am-not-driving-to-the-Cape-in-this-traffic folks and a couple of There-is-no-way-I'm-going-to-try-and-get-a-place-on-the-Charles-for-the-fireworks people over for an impromptu cookout.

We had everything we needed for a nice meal except dessert. The RainyDayKitchen folks came to the rescue by coming up with up a refreshing Stars and Stripes Pie for the occassion! The pie was not only delicious, gluten-free, and vegan, but required only minimal baking (to keep the heat down in the kitchen). Here is the recipe, should you need a last minute Lasagna-size pan dessert:

Ingredients for the crust, filling, and topping:

  • 1 tub Tru-Whip
  • 1 tub Fage 2% Greek Yogurt (pour off any accumulated liquid on the top)
  • Blueberries and strawberries

Making the crust:

  1. Heat oven to 350.
  2. Mix the flours and sugar (if using) to combine.
  3. Add melted spread, use pastry cutter to mix. Should be the consistency of small crumbs.
  4. Turn mixture into lasagna pan, and gently pat out to fill bottom (the mixture is a little dry, so it doesn't spread, you need to pat).
  5. Cook in oven for 20 minutes. This crust does not get very dark, so don't rely on what it looks like.
  6. Cool completely before filling

Making the filling:

  1. Gently mix Tru-Whip and Greek Yogurt in a bowl.
  2. Pour into completely cooled crust, and spread to cover.

Topping the pie:

  1. Slice strawberries in half.
  2. Make as many long "stripes" with the strawberries as desired (this will depend on the size of the strawberries).
  3. In upper left-hand corner, place blueberries in a neat pattern to replicate the stars on the flag.
  4. Add as many strawberry stripes to the right of the blueberry "stars" as desired.

NOTES: Tru-whip is a healthy alternative to Cool Whip. No gluten, no trans-fat, no wax, no...other things that you might not want to actually ingest. It is found in the freezer in the health foods section of most supermarkets. It is less than four dollars a tub. The Biscuit & Baking Mix has baking powder and sea salt in it, giving it a slightly salty taste. The sugar is to counteract that. If you are using just a GF flour mix, you will not need the added sugar.

Stay cool and have a happy 4th of July holiday. BTW, the dessert is pretty tasty the next day as well. [Permalink] -Flag Pie


June 10,2010 - Cuisinart Griddler FirstUse ...

Sometimes a piece of equipment takes a little getting used to before it works itself into the flow, other times it starts pulling its weight from the get go. Our new Cuisinart Griddler is one of the latter. We brought it out to cook the veggie burgers and tofu hotdogs for FirstGrill. However, we quickly realized that this Griddler could do so much more. The flat griddle was perfect for frying eggs and sausages/bacon for breakfast, the ridged side for grilling burgers for lunch, and in combination for searing vegetables/steaks for dinner.

The Cuisinart Griddler is exceptionally well suited for making panini and grilled sandwiches and it is this feature which we want to highlight in the FirstUse review. We had one piece of Morgan Wagyu (Kobe) Bavette steak left over from the FirstGrill. OK..."somebody" put one aside and hid it in the freezer. That same someone "found" it the other day and "sacrificed" it for this Griddler FirstUse article. We whipped up a quick marinade (soy sauce, fresh ground pepper, and salt), let the steak sit in it for a few hours, and cut it up into nice thick slices for grilling.

Grilling the kobe beef on both sides at once seared in the juices. The meat was ready in less than thirty seconds. To get a nicely toasted crust on the French bread, we liberally brushed on some olive oil prior to grilling. There was no need to clean the grilling plates because we wanted the bread to pick up the marinade and juices left from grilling the beef. As one can see, the prepared-but-not-paninied-yet sandwich was quite thick. Most grills would not be able to accommodate the thicker stack, but it was not a problem for the Cuisinart Griddler.

Thanks to the Griddler's cantilever design, the top plate was able to lay perfectly flat on top of the curved crust, enabling us to easily press down and flatten the sandwich. There was no sliding or squeezing out of the sandwich filling, so common with hinged grills. The high temperature grill made short work of toasting the outside of the bread without over-cooking anything on the inside.

We made this amazingly delicious grilled sandwich in less than 10 minutes. Thanks to the removable non-stick grilling plates, clean up took practically no time at all. If you are looking for a versatile countertop grill for your kitchen, this Cuisinart Griddler should be at the top of your list. [Permalink] -Cuisinart Griddler FirstUse

June 09,2010 - Container Garden Update ...

We had a couple of really hot days in May, which we thought might be too much for our new plantlings out in the garden, but the amount of May rain kept the plants happy and thriving (with just a few additional waterings from the hose). Currently, all the early tulips have bloomed, as have the Japonica, Forcythia, and most of the irises. The day lilies and lamb's ears have started sending up their flowering stalks. They should start to flower in another week or so. The peonies popped a week ago, but were battered around a bit by a thunderstorm. We harvested as many as we could and brought them inside to enjoy.

The new raised-bed vegetable garden really took off last month. The tomatillos and tomatoes flowered in mid-May and have started to fruit. The early peas were true to their name. The pods formed and we have already had our first harvest (ie, standing in the garden and eating them right out of the pod). The zucchinis have flowered but the fruit has yet to form. We have learned that zucchinis, while often thought of as a vegetable, is actually an immature fruit.

We acquired some winter melon seedlings when we were last in NY. They have been planted and are getting acclimated to their new home. Hopefully, they will establish themselves and provide us with a few good size gourds. If they do take, we'll try to grow them every year as Winter melons are great for use in soups and curry dishes.

The herb section has really done well. The basil and parsley we started from seed are doing great. We also added a few other (rosemary, oregano, lavender) plants to fill out the area. At the far left end of the bed, we dug up a rogue strawberry plant from another part of the garden and dropped it in to see how it would do. To our amazement, it took immediately and have already fruited.

We did notice that our neighbor's large maple tree does shade most of our grow bed in the late afternoon. Next year we'll move the grow bed forward a few feet to give it a few more hours of direct sunlight. All in all, we are really happy with the progress of the container garden. This is definitely the best vegetable garden we've had ever. If we had known it was so easy, we would started a container garden years ago. [Permalink] -Container Garden Update

May 17,2010- RainyDayGarden Update ...

The weather in Boston was all over the place at the beginning of May, but it has finally settled down. Everything we planted in mid-April survived the frost-warnings and 30º temperature gyrations in day/night temperatures. We also got some nice stretches of rain. The precipitation really helped get everything nice and green.

The tulips and the other early bloomers have mostly faded. Their blooms were replaced by the clematis, azaleas, and alliums. Many of the plants have started to fill out, but some of them are not quite ready to flower. It will be another week or two before the warmer temperature hangs around for keeps. That is when the day lilies and the peonies will kick into gear.

Our new raised-bed vegetable garden is in full swing. Most of the 1'x1' squares have been filled. Everything we planted took. The tomatillos have already started to flower. The herb section is coming along quite well. When we were last in NY, we got some winter melon seedlings. Half of them were planted last week, but the seedlings hadn't been sufficiently acclimated to the sun and got a little burnt. We hardened the rest and planted them this weekend. Hopefully, they will fare better.

Maintaining a garden in the city is really very easy. We only plant perennials, propagate what we have, and don't bother with the grass. We love tending (pruning, weeding, etc.) the garden, but don't believe in watering the plants or the lawn. These simple rules minimize the amount of work needed while giving us plenty of time to enjoy the greenery. We are going to look into some rain barrels for catching storm run-offs that we'll use in watering the vegetable garden, but that will probably be a project for next year. [Permalink] -RainyDayGarden Update

May 1,2010- FirstGrill Event...

This weekend's FirstGrill event was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect, the food was fantastic, and the guests all appeared to have enjoyed themselves. In honor of the 136th Kentucky Derby, Kathy and Dave arrived early and started making mint juleps for everybody. It was amazing we didn't all fall down before things came off the grill!

We had four grills going this year (3 outside, 1 inside). The two gas grills were used for the pork, chicken, and burgers. The charcoal grill had the hottest fire so it was reserved for grilling the steaks from Morgan Ranch. the The new Cuisinart Electric grill was dedicated for grilling the vegetarian burgers and other none-meat items. Having all the different grills going at once made it a lot easier to get everything ready at the same time.

Grilled food and new kitchen gadgets were not the only things entertaining our guests. The Apple iPad also made the rounds for those who have not had first hand experience with the device. When was the last time anyone made a computer with an interface that was understandable by both an 80-year old grandmother and a 4-yr old pre-schooler?

One of our guests Eric was explaining the benefits of the iPad's oleophic touchscreen to his son Raj while our intern Sarah demonstrated. This was Sarah's first time with the iPad. Apparently she got sucked in by the shiny gadget and completely forgot that she was at a social function. Fortunately, Sarah's friend Chase took her aside and snapped her out of her trance.

There was a wide mix of folks at the event this year. Some were intrigued by the new above-ground vegetable garden, others were more interested in the Soda Stream and Cuisinart equipment. A few of the younger ones (Raj and Ray) just want a quiet spot to relax after they had their fill.

When Ray got his second wind, he decided to break out his new puzzle. We thought it would keep him occupied for a while, but apparently he is some kind of a puzzle-solving genius and the thing was solved in short order. We really should not have been all that surprised since it was rumored, although never indpendently verified, that Ray had cracked the BluRay DVD DRM encryption because he felt strongly about making copies for "personal use." Of course, we came in at the tail end of the conversation and it may actually be that Ray had just cracked the DVD...

The one cooking-related problems we ran into was with the new Cuisinart ice cream makers. The lemon basil sherbet we tried to make never got frozen. We are still analysizing what went wrong. It is starting to look like user error as the ingredients may have been added too quickly into the bowl. The mint juleps may have had something to do with that. In any case, we are going to repeat the FirstUse test for the ice cream maker at a later date and under more "controlled" conditions. [Permalink] -FirstGrill Event

April 30,2010- FirstGrill gear...

We mentioned yesterday that there will be some new gear making an appearance at this weekend's FirstGrill event. Both items are from Cuisinart. The first is a 5-in-1 electric panini machine with both grilling and griddle capabilities. The second item is an improved ice cream maker which can make frozen treats in less than 30 minutes. We thought we would take a quick FirstLook at both today and put them through their paces this weekend...sort of a trial by FirstGrill fire :-)

The Griddler packs a lot of grilling into a very compact size. We have lots of room in the RainyDayKitchen, but we wanted to check out the Griddler because of its versatility. With five separate cooking options (contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, half grill/half griddle), the Cuisinart Griddler can handle breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The floating cover and reversible plates makes setting up the exact Griddler configuration fast and simple. The front-mounted dual temperature controls allow precise adjustments and ensure everything is perfectly cooked.

The floating hinged cover and panini-style handle automatically adjusts to the thickness of the items being cooked. The integrated drip tray collects grease from the drainage at the rear of the grill. The tray is located underneath, slides out from the side, and is easily accessed for cleaning. Note the cord-wrap notches built into the stand...nice touch.

The cooking plates are non-stick and reversible, dishwasher-safe, and removable for easy storage. The unit measures 13" x 11-1/4" x 6-1/2" and carries a limited three-year warranty. The housing is brushed stainless steel and it will look great in the RainyDayKitchen.

FirstGrill desserts will be an assortment of yummy concoctions created using the Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker. This device is deceptively simple to use. Just put the bowl in the freezer to chill, add the ingredients, turn it on, and in 30 minutes, the ice cream will be ready.

The double-insulated freezer bowl holds up to 1 1⁄2 quarts of frozen dessert. There is a large spout for adding ingredients. The Easy-lock transparent lid makes assembling the unit for use practically fool-proof. The integrated "catch" in the lid automatically aligns with the mixing blade when the motor is activated. Everything comes apart for easy cleaning.

The heat from the motor vents from the bottom and side. For those new to making frozen desserts, Cuisinart has included a book with a nice collection of recipes of frozen yogurt, ice cream, sherbet, sorbet or frozen drinks designed specifically for the ICE-21.

We'll have a full write-up on the event next week with comments from our guests on the ice cream maker, the electric grill, and other gear in the RainyDayKitchen. It is going to be beautiful weekend. Enjoy it and we'll see you next week. [Permalink] -FirstGrill gear

April 29,2010- FirstGrill ...

This weekend is the 5th annual FirstGrill event. The folks here are looking forward to hosting our various guests from Providence, NYC, and Los Angeles (and of course, Boston). As with all RainyDayMagazine events, it is the perfect opportunity for our guests to get a first-hand look at some new gadgets in the RainyDayKitchen. On hand will be the new ZeroWater filtration pitcher, Soda Stream Penguin soda maker, and a couple of items from Cuisinart: Frozen Yogurt-Ice cream-Sorbet Maker(ICE-21), Electric Griddle (GR-4N). We'll have a more detailed FirstLook at both Cuisinart items after FirstGrill, but thought we would give them a quick mention today.

The ice cream maker has a large capacity (1.5 quarts) double-insulated bowl lined with a cooling liquid that eliminates the need for ice, and a unique paddle that mixes and aerates at the same time. Cuisinart's claim is that the combination of these two features enables the unit to crank out frozen desserts in less than 20 minutes. We plan on giving it the FirstUse test at the 2010 FirstGrill event. This new addition to Cuisinart's ice cream maker line is not available yet, but will be in stores by June 2010.

We will also be adding a new grill to our standard lineup (Weber, Coleman, Thermos). The grill is the Cuisinart Griddler, a unique 5-in-1 design that handles many of the common grilling and griddle tasks like pancakes and sausages, grilled cheeses, steaks, and hamburgers. The Griddler is definitely not your father's George Foreman grill.

We served Wagyu Beef from Morgan Ranch at our 2006 FirstGrill event and the reaction was incredible. This year's guests will be happy to know that the amazingly delicious beef from Morgan Ranch will once again be on the grills!  Located in Burwell, Nebraska, the Morgan Ranch sits in the heart of the Sandhills. With its abundant grasses, perfect climate, and plentiful spring-fed streams, the region is widely recognized as among the best cattle-producing areas in the world. In 1992, at the urging of many of Morgan Ranch's Japanese customers wanting ever finer quality meat, they introduced its first Wagyu herd to their operation.

Kobe beef refers to cuts of beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Kobe beef is world-renown for its exceptional marbling, smooth texture, and rich taste. We will be serving ribeye, striploin, sirloin (filet, bavettes, tri tips), and burgers. The meat arrived yesterday via FedEx. it is being slowly defrosted (48 hrs) now and should be perfect when it is time for FirstGrill.

Even though it was 40º yesterday in Boston, the forecast is for 75º this weekend. We are looking forward to hosting our guests, testing out the new gear, and a delicious kickoff to the 2010 grilling season. [Permalink] -FirstGrill 2010

April 23,2010- Planting tomatoes in April...
One of the advantages of a raised-bed garden is that the above-ground soil has an opportunity to heat up during the day. The warmer soil allows vegetables to be planted earlier than would be possible otherwise. We sprouted beans in March and planted them on April 8th. They have been in the ground a few weeks now, have clearly established themselves, and have begun sending out climbers. This encouraged us to think about getting some tomatoes and other plants into the GrowBed.

April 13th was another above-65º day. We didn't have much on our schedule and thought it would be a good time to make a Home Depot run. Fortunately for us, it was also the day of their first delivery of vegetable plants from their supplier. We had "first pick" of plants as they were being unloaded from the truck onto the shelf. Home Depot's supplier is Bonnie Plants of Union Springs Al. All of the seedlings looked vigorous and were shipped in biodegradable pots. We purchased two indeterminate and one determinate variety of tomatoes. We used zinc garden markers to label everything once we got them planted. The metal markers are helpful because we mark the date of planting as well as the type of plant. Unlike the short plastic labels, the metal markers have long stems so they stay put in the garden.

The nice thing about biodegradable pots is that they are better for the environment and the plant. Being able to plant the tomatoes without having to take them out of the pots meant no "root shock" or accidental damage to the main stem. All that was needed was to give the pots a good soaking, dig a hole, and put in the plant. The two indeterminate ones (Husky Cherry Red, Beefmaster) will get the taller cages and the determinate (Celebrity) one will be planted in front and supported by the short cage.

All the photos above were from at least a week ago. The photos below were taken on April 22nd. The irises in the back of the GrowBed have started to bloom. The average daytime temperature last week was around 65º, but some nights still went below 50º. The rule of thumb for planting tomatoes is to do it when the ground stays above 50º. We were able to "violate" this rule because the GrowBed's soil temperature is warmed by the sun during the day and dissipates slowly at night. This has enabled our tomato plants to get almost a three-week head start compared to last year.

The rest of the RainyDayGarden has also started to fill in nicely. The tulips have been popping up for weeks and many of the early bloomers have already dropped their petals. The hostas, alliums, and daylilies are all coming along well. They should be starting to bud in another couple of weeks.

We have been slowly spreading the violets and japonicas around the garden. This year was the first year where we really notice a nice healthy growth of both in several spots around the grounds. The japonicas have these wonderful yellow flowers which bloom the length of the branch. They are easy to get established, are very hardy, and make a great separator between properties. They are an especially good plant to use if your neighbor's property is not all that well kept, as they enhance the view very nicely.

While many of the early bloomers have started to fade, the next in the sequence are beginning to unfurl. The best part of planting a perennial garden is seeing the plants come and go each year. They are much like friends who come to visit year after year. They bring a smile, help us mark the seasons, but never overstay their welcome. [Permalink] -Planting tomatoes in April

April 20,2010- Cuisinart Elite Food Processor...

Last Fall we gave our FirstLook at the Cuisinart Elite food processor. The unique Elite Collection™ 12-Cup Food Processor is Cuisinart's next generation of kitchen appliance. It features a unique 4-cup work bowl nested inside the larger bowl, an adjustable 6-position slicing disc, and reversible shredding disc. This updated Cuisinart is like having multiple food processors in one.

The Elite's basic features are:

  • 12-cup Large Bowl and 4-cup Small Bowl
  • SealTight™ Advantage System
  • Push-Button Release
  • Stainless Steel Adjustable Slicing Disc (1 to 6mm)
  • Stainless Steel Reversible Shredding Disc (fine/medium)
  • Large and Small Stainless Steel Chopping/Mixing Blades with BladeLock System
  • Dough Blade
  • Cuisinart® Supreme® Wide-Mouth Feedtube and Cover Assembly
  • Electronic Touchpad Controls – On/Off/Pulse with Blue LED lights
  • 1000-Watt Peak Power Motor

As part of the FirstUse experience, we thought we would make two of the recipes from the Cuisinart's enclosed cookbook, spinach-stuffed mushrooms and fresh hummus. We chose the stuffed mushroom recipe because it made use of both bowls and a few different blades.

Having a smaller bowl made chopping the artichoke and other ingredients (pine nuts, garlic, etc...) much easier. Switching to the larger bowl for making the rest of the stuffing was quick and easy. We were able to make everything in less than 30 minutes.

The food processor is a perfect tool for making hummus. Fresh hummus is both tasty and healthy. The basic ingredients are chickpeas, parsley, and garlic. Tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and olive oil rounds out the flavor. The whole process from start to finish took us around 10 minutes. The chopping blade and the large bowl was used for this recipe.

We chopped the parsley, garlic, and the other flavors first (about 6 seconds) and mixed it with a few cans of chickpeas. The entire mixture was processed for about a minute, scraped down, and processed again. The hummus was ready to eat right out of the bowl :-)

The Cuisinart Elite food processor is easy to set up and use. The base is stable during use and does not "walk" on the counter. Cleanup is not difficult. The stainless steel body is easy to wipe down and the bowls easy to wash. However, the lid took a little more work as bits got trapped by the rubber seal. After having the Cuisinart Elite for a few months, we have found we use it often enough to leave out on the counter.

If you are looking for a new food processor, the Cuisinar Elite should definitely be on your short list. [Permalink] -Cuisinart Elite Food Processor FirstUse

March 24,2010

We are thrilled with the signing of the landmark healthcare reform bill yesterday. The fight was brutal and those opposed to the new law are still actively seeking to hinder it in any way possible. We would like to ask...did any of the following pass without opposition?

  • Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln
  • Women's suffrage by Wilson
  • Lend/Lease by FDR
  • Desegregation of the military by Truman
  • Civil Rights Act by Johnson

Who would stand against these today?

Regardless of how people feel about the new law, staying healthy is probably one of the items on most people's top-ten list. There are many ways to approach that goal: eat properly, exercise appropriately, and have regular medical checkups. When we do get sick, today's pharmaceuticals have a cure for many of the the things  that in previous genenerations would have caused our demise. There are also things we can do for ourselves when we have some of the more common conditions like acne, anxiety, cold sores, and general aches and pains.

Herbs and plants have been used for thousands of years to treat common ailments. The common view is that plant-based remedies are natural, inexpensive, and less harmful to the body than manufactured drugs. Plants have provided Western medicine with some of its most effective drugs: penicillin, morphine, aspirin. Of course, there are plenty of plant-based "treatments" that are poisonous, do not do much of anything, or are just plain useless. The same can be said of some pharmaceuticals. The key is knowledge of what is effective and why.

James Wong, a 27-year-old ethnobotanist, believes that safe, natural remedies can be made from the everyday plants we can grow in our own garden. Grow Your Own Drugs: Easy recipes for natural remedies and beauty fixes, is a book which shows how we can grow, make preparations, and use plants to soothe the symtoms of everyday ailments the natural way.

The second book, A Year With James Wong, has 100 new remedies, a seasonal guide and planner, and foraging tips. The planner takes the reader through from Spring to Winter, advising on what and when to plant, the best time to harvest, and how to create a mini-apothecary at home.

Both books (GYOD, GYOD+) help interested readers navigate the old wives' tales, look beyond the aesthetics, and to see plants as sources of medicine. The books are informative, beautifully photographed, and are wonderful additions to any library. We will try many of the recipes, adding some of the plants to our garden, and report back on how they perform as part of our Backyard Biotech series. [Permalink] -Grow Your Own Drugs

March 17,2010

The average human body is about 70% water. Water is so central to our well being that while a person can live for a few weeks without food, a person can't survive more than a few days without water. Having access to clean water is something many of us take for granted. The water that comes out of the tap is perfectly fine, but there is an easy way to make it almost perfect.

There are dozens of water filters out in the market. Unlike conventional gravity-fed water filters, ZeroWater's 5-stage ion-exchange filter is designed to remove everything from the water but the water. The ZeroWater package comes complete with everything needed: dual access pitcher, filtering reservoir, lid, and 5-stage filter.

ZeroWater is so confident in their product that they include a laboratory-calibrated water tester in the package. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is a measure of the amount of dissolved substances (in parts per million) in the water. How hard the ZeroWater filter will have to work depends on the quality of the water (level of TDS) being used.

Assembing the filter is a straightforward process. The filter screws into the reservoir from the bottom. There is an integrated silicon 0-ring in the filter for a water-tight seal. Once assembled, the unit is lowered into the pitcher and ready for use.

To use, fill the reservoir with cold tap water and let the filter do its thing. The rate of filtering is automatic. It took about 4 minutes (with a new filter) to filter one full reservoir of water. The filtered water may be poured from the pitcher spout on the top or from the bottom via the push-button spout.

Now that we have some ZeroWater, we plan to give that probe a workout. In our FirstUse write-up we'll see how it compares to: the Pur filter we have been using on the kitchen faucet; a few different brands of bottled water; and Boston's own tap water. It could be quite an eye-opener! [Permalink] -ZeroWater FirstLook

March 11,2010

Summer is still months away, but now that The Clam Box has opened its doors for the season the waiting just got a lot easier. One of our editors is a Quincy girl, and last summer she introduced us to Wollaston Beach and the amazing food available at this restauant favored by the locals.

When we realized on Monday that The Clam Box had opened, we packed everyone up and went for lunch. We were not disappointed. The crowd was a lot lighter than in the Summer, but the food was every bit as tasty as we had remembered.

The Seafood Platter Special (large plate of clams, shrimps, scallops, and calamari) is a great value, more than enough for two and perfect for sharing (if you had to). Fortunately, half of the crew are vegetarians. While the Clam Box is famous for their freshly fried clams, their fried onion rings are awesome and is our Quincy girl's favorite (who, by the way, does not really share).

On the other side of the road from The Clam Box is Wollaston Beach. The beach is quiet this time of the year. The sidewalk runs for three-and-a-half miles and has a nice view of the city of Boston. The best part is that this relaxing retreat is just a quick 15-minute drive from Downtown.

If you are tired of the cold weather and are hankering for a taste of Summer, get some folks together and head over to The Clam Box for lunch. The walk along the beach is also a great way to work off some of that food, get some fresh air, and clear your head before going back to the grind :-) [Permalink] -The Clam Box


March 5,2010

March can be a difficult month because it is no longer Winter, but Spring is not yet here. We use it as a "transition month" where we look at gear which we'll use in the Spring, finish a few indoor projects, and start some others that will give us a jump on the upcoming longer and warmer days. Judging from the gear and gadgets queued up in our review pipeline, we are going to have a lot of fun this month. Folks here have been kicking around quite a few project ideas. Today, we thought we would give readers a preview of what's on deck for Spring 2010.

When we looked at the Handpresso portable espresso maker a few years ago, more than a few readers commented that it would be a great item for the picnic basket. We knew the Handpresso people were thinking in the same direction. This Spring, we are going to give you a closer look at their luxurious Outdoor Set.

Great tasting espresso starts with good clean water. ZeroWater is looking to raise the bar on home water filtration with their new filter/pitcher system. To back up their "zero contaminants" claim, they have included a meter to let users monitor the particulate levels for themselves. We'll take that challenge and put ZeroWater to the test.

One of the more satisfying DIY projects you can do is to print and hang a group of your favorite photos to liven up a wall or a room. However, getting them to all line up can be an exercise in frustration. The great news is we may have found a simple-to-use tool called Hang&Level to turn that hit-or-miss task into a "sure thing." We'll take a closer look at it in a few weeks.

Remember a little while back we had purchased a large industrial cart via Craigslist? And we hinted that we had some ideas on how to raise the top to the proper "dining height?" We squeezed in a stop at IKEA and found some stainless steel brackets ($10/pair) which may be perfect solution for the problem. It will involve some drilling...very exciting!!!

Another recent Craigslist find was this excellent, practically brand new, Moen faucet/stainless steel sink combo. At first we thought it would be a simple "drop in" job, but then realized that the right sink is four inches deeper than our current one. As the disposal is on the right, we don't have a lot of room to maneuver and will have to configure some of the pipes to fit. It will be our first PVC plumbing project!

We also have a whole bunch of RainyDayGarden project ideas that are still in the formulation stage. Once we have them firmed up, we'll tell you all about them. There is a lot to do before Spring, but fortunately for us, our interns will work for food. [Permalink] -What else is coming in Spring

January 12,2010

Meausuring cups are not normally "high-tech" items. Their function is simple: they measure amounts of things. Most of us have a few of them in the cupboard, drawers, or shelves.  Some of them stack together well, some do not, but none of them flex...unless they are made of bendable, heat-resistant silicone.

From a fortunate turn of events at a recent holiday party/Yankee Swap, we became the proud owners of a set of three Flex-it measuring cups:1, 2 and 4-cup capacity.; 6 1/2", 7" and 8" high. These cups can stand the heat...up to 490°F, and are microwave and dishwasher safe. The food-grade silicone won't yellow over time and they nest nicely for compact storage.

The material has a firm yet flexible feel. They are handle-free because their textured outer surface provides a secure grip.  Their rims automatically form spouts for smooth pouring and superb control. No funnels needed. Calibrations are on both sides for easy-to-read measuring.

Note the cups' narrower shapes. The slimmer profiles are especially helpful when adding ingredients to bowls. The large cup may also double as a mixing bowl for use with an immersion blender.

The folks in the RainyDayKitchen have used measuring cups made from other kinds of materials (glass, plastic, metal) at one time or another and are eager to put this new silicone set through the paces. Look for a full write-up next month. [Permalink] -iSi Silicone Measuring Cup

Kitchen GEAR*
RECENT 'fests *

Rainy Day Magazine is a Publication of Rainy Day Entertainment© 2010