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How You Could Win Food Fighters – with the Right Appliances

July 18th, 2014

graphic with the title "Win Food Fighters with the Right Appliances"
July 22nd is the series premiere of NBC’s Food Fighters.  Doesn’t the mere name bring back memories of a good ol’, down-and-dirty cafeteria food fight where hotdogs are launched as missiles and pudding cups are used as booby traps to lure innocent victims to their demise?

While watching a food-tossing food fight on TV may be captivating to some, Food Fighters is actually a legit competition between novice home cooks and professional chefs.  According to the NBC website, “Every down-home cook has that one ‘signature dish’ or ‘secret family recipe’ that always gains favor with friends and family. Now, imagine going head-to-head in the kitchen against five professional chefs, who try to cook your specialty dish even better than you – in the hopes of winning over a dinner party made up of the American public. Talk about pressure!”  http://www.nbc.com/food-fighters

So, do you have a secret family recipe that you think could actually win the show?  Well, you certainly couldn’t go into a competition unprepared and empty handed, now could you?  We know that in any cooking competition there would be top-notch, state-of-the-art cooking appliances.  All of which are very cool and very useful, but what you would really need is a secret weapon — the counter –top appliances you use all of the time at home.

We at Mr. Appliance would love to see you recognized as a Food Fighters champion.  So, here’s our list of the 5 counter-top appliances you would need to out-cook the pros.

Blender

Blenders aren’t just for milkshakes and smoothies. Think salsa, hummus and nut butter.

10 Creative Ways to Use Your Blender

10 Creative Ways to Use Your Blender

Coffee Maker

Save the stovetop space and boil your hotdogs and steam your veggies in your coffee maker.

Surprising Things You Can Make With A Coffee Pot

surprising things you can do with your coffee maker

Toaster Oven

Did you know you can dehydrate fruit and bake a cake in your toaster oven?  That’ll blow your competition away!

5 Surprising Things You Can Make in Your Toaster Oven

surprising things you can make in your toaster oven
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Waffle Maker

The waffle maker isn’t just for breakfast anymore.  You can also pull it out for lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks.

12 Recipes You Didn’t Know You Could Make in a Waffle Iron

Picture of waffle tomato grilled cheese

Coffee Grinder

Need breadcrumbs in a pinch?  Grab the coffee grinder.  It’s also perfect for spices, herbs and other garnishes.

11 Alternative Uses For A Coffee Grinder

ground parsley

That’s our secret weapon list.  If you have another counter-top appliance that would be in your personal arsenal make sure to let us know.  Happy food fighting!

Best Hot Dogs in the US

July 9th, 2014

Graphic of a hot dog that says Best hot dogs in the US

Happy National Hotdog Month!  So, hotdogs have kind of been a big deal for a long time now. Did you know the first hotdog-eating contest was at Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island back on July 5, 1916?   The event is still a crowd pleaser 98 years later.  As a matter of fact, Joey Chestnut just scarfed down 61 hotdogs in 10 minutes to win his eighth consecutive hotdog-eating contest this past July 4.  The occasion was even covered by ESPN.  We’re not really sure when hotdog eating became classified as a sport, but nonetheless, it apparently is a big deal.

We at Mr. Appliance® also like to indulge in a tasty hotdog every now and then.  But where do you go to find a really good hotdog?  Here’s our list of the five best hotdogs in the US (listed in no special order).

Fat Johnnie’s Famous Red Hots: Mighty Dog

Chicago, IL
Mighty Dog – a hotdog and tamale on a bun with chili and cheese

Picture of Fat Johnnie's Famous Red Hots signature Mighty Dog hot dog

Rutt’s Hut: The Ripper with Relish

Clifton, NJ
The Ripper with Relish – a deep-fried pork and beef link

Picture of Rutt's Hut, Clifton, N.J The Ripper with Relish famous hot dog

Hot Doug’s: Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage

Chicago, IL
Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage – foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli

picture of Hot Doug's, Chicago: Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage famous hot dog

Schaller’s Drive-In:  Meat Sauce, Mustard, Onions

Rochester, NY
Meat Sauce, Mustard, Onions – a hotdog made of pork, beef and veal topped with “hot sauce”, mustard and onions

picture of Schaller's Drive-In, Rochester, N.Y.: Meat Sauce, Mustard, Onions famous hot dog

Olneyville N.Y. System: NY System Dog

North Providence, RI
NY System Dog – 3 small franks topped with cumin meat sauce, yellow mustard, diced onions and celery salt

picture of Olneyville NY System Dog famous hot dog

There you have it.  Five hotdogs so different in flavor and style, you’re sure to find one to satisfy even the most finicky eater.  Let us know if there’s a hotdog you feel should have made the list.

All photos courtesy USA Today

4th of July Grilling Ideas

July 3rd, 2014

top grilling ideas for the 4th of July with a blue grill

Bobby Flay once said, “Grilling takes the formality out of entertaining. Everyone wants to get involved.” Isn’t that what summer is all about – having fun with friends and family without a lot of fancy, formal fluff? When you think of summer don’t you think of a party on the patio, with guests wearing flip-flops and bug spray while eating on Styrofoam plates with plastic utensils? And in order to get that party started, you have to fire up the ol’ grill. We at Mr. Appliance love a good party on the patio – it’s part of a summer lifestyle. We also love a plate full of food right off the grill. So, here are our top grilled foods for a complete meal. We’d love to know your favorite grilled foods!

  1. Hamburger Patty

    Bobby Flay preparing his signature crunchburger
    Photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com

    No need to complicate the hamburger patty. Keep it simple with a little salt and pepper on each side. The pizazz in the burger will be in the Horseradish Mustard Mayonnaise. Mouths are sure to water.

  2. Onions

    grilled onions
    Photo courtesy of myrecipes.com

    Who wants to top a burger with an ordinary raw onion? Everyone does that. Make your burgers stand out by adding grilled onions. Grilling onions brings out a mellow sweetness that is sure to delight the taste buds of your guests. And as a side note, with grilled onions you won’t have the onion-breath issue you do with raw onions.

  3. Corn on the Cob

    grilled corn on the cobb
    Photo courtesy of iowagirleats.com

    Spread a mixture of salted butter, lime juice, honey, chili powder and a dash of cayenne powder on your corn cobs for a sweet and spicy treat that will leave your guests wanting, maybe even begging, for more.

  4. Veggie Kabobs

    grilled veggie kabobs
    Photo courtesy of food.com

    You have to admit, there’s something fun about eating a kabob. Plus kabobs are a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the local fresh produce.

  5. Pound Cake

    grilled pound cake
    Photo courtesy of rachaelraymag.com

Surprise your guests with a grilled dessert. Slice a pound cake and brush with melted butter. Grill each side for 2 minutes per side and top with a warm berry sauce. Delicious, yummy goodness fresh off the grill.

Go Green: Make Your Appliances Energy-Efficient

June 25th, 2014

When you step inside your home you should see green.  As a matter of fact, the greener…the better.  Why green?  Three reasons:

  1. A green home has lower energy costs
  2. A green home has a positive impact on the environment.
  3. A green home simply doesn’t use as many of our earth’s valuable natural resources.

washing machine in field of grass

So, just out of curiosity, how green is your home?  If you don’t know, Mr. Appliance® has some super-easy tips to get you seeing green in no time.

Stove/Oven

  1. Place pans on the right burner size to efficiently cook food and reduce cooking time.
  2. Make sure oven door closes tightly.
  3. Use glass or ceramic baking dishes to cook food more efficiently and allow you to turn down the heat by 25 degrees.
  4. Take advantage of the microwave when cooking small to medium sized meals.

Refrigerator

  1. Replace cracked rubber seals from around the door to prevent cool air from escaping and warm air from entering.
  2. Keep food covered – uncovered food releases moisture that affects the inside temperature.
  3. Clean door seals regularly to prevent moisture and mold build up.
  4. Defrost your refrigerator when necessary.

Dishwasher

  1. Wash full loads – the same amount of energy is used to wash half a load as a full load.
  2. Use air-dry setting instead of heat-dry.
  3. Use short-cycles as much as possible.
  4. Scrape food off instead of rinsing – pre-rinsing uses a lot of water.

Washer

  1. Use cold water as much as possible.
  2. Wash full loads of laundry – the same amount of energy is used to wash half a load as a full load.
  3. Separate loads by fabric – lighter weight fabric doesn’t need as long of a wash cycle as heavier fabric.
  4. Program washer to a high-speed spin cycle that will take out more moisture to reduce drying time.

Dryer

  1. Clean lint tray after each use.
  2. Dry full loads of laundry – the same amount of energy is used to wash half a load as a full load.
  3. Separate loads by fabric type – cotton takes longer to dry than synthetic fabrics like polyester.
  4. Avoid over stuffing the dryer because an overloaded dryer has to work harder.

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas for a Summer to Remember

June 18th, 2014

Woo hoo! Summer is here. Wallace Stevens once said, “The summer night is like a perfection of thought.”  And we couldn’t agree more.  Seriously, what’s there not to love about summer?  Sunshine, flip flops, good food, and old friends – roll that all together and you’ve got yourself the makings of a perfect party on the patio.

But don’t stress if you don’t have the end-all, be-all of outdoor kitchens.  We at Mr. Appliance have five DIY outdoor kitchen must-haves to create the perfect atmosphere and ambiance for your next outside party.

Grill

outdoor barbecue grill
Photo courtesy of ehow.com

Let’s face it.  You really can’t have an outside patio without a grill.  Food is kind of a big deal at a party.  And you have to admit, there’s something fun and nostalgic about waiting around for your food to cook as the fragrant aroma teases your taste buds to the point where you’re almost drooling.  But outside grill setups can be pretty pricey.  No worries.  Here’s a great how-to with instructions to build your own outside grill – easy and impressive.

How to build an outdoor grill

Lighting

outdoor diy lighting options
Photo courtesy of buxxfeed.com

Patio lighting helps set the mood as the summer sun fades into the night sky.  You can go fancy or casual.  How about using cupcake holders and twinkle lights for a fun twist or stringing lights around a hula-hoop for a fancy chandelier?  Here’s a great link with ideas to get you started on a DIY outdoor lighting project.

Outdoor DIY lighting ideas

Sink

Summer is just naturally a time when things can and will get sticky.  Having an outdoor sink is not only convenient for the chef, but it’s also great for those seasonally sticky situations.  The cool thing is you don’t have to break the bank on a sink.  You can actually do it yourself, even on a limited budget.

VIDEO: Installing an outdoor sink

Sitting Area

DIY outdoor seating area ideas
Photo courtesy of vintageromancestyle.com

You want folks to be comfortable, but you also want your sitting area to match your style and personality.  Anything goes…from lawn chairs and beanbags to benches and swings.  You can even make your own furniture to add a bit of a personal pizazz. The possibilities are really endless.

DIY outdoor seating area ideas

Music

surfer listening to music
Photo courtesy of billboard.com

What’s a patio party without some good ol’ summer tunes?  Keep the music lively and fun, but not so loud that folks are screaming at each other.  And if you need some help getting your playlist started, here’s a listing of top summer songs that can help set your summer-time mood.

Billboard Top 30 Summer Songs

So, there you have it – five easy steps to get your outside kitchen ready for a party on the patio.  Have fun and enjoy your summer!

Outdoor Entertaining Mistakes: How to Avoid Them

June 11th, 2014

people sitting around a fire pit

Summer’s here and it’s time for outside get togethers with friends and family. Planning an event can be hard, but take our advice to avoid outdoor entertaining mistakes.  You certainly don’t want to sacrifice your summertime outdoor lifestyle because of a few preventable mishaps.

  1. Be prepared for any natural inconveniences
  2. Watch your weather forecast and be careful to not have your event at the hottest time of the day. Plan for rain, whether it’s bringing it indoors or arranging a tent or canopy to shelter your guests.  You can take some simple precautions to make sure your celebration can continue no matter what happens. Don’t let your party be blown away, use decorative anchors to keep everything in place.

  3. Have more than enough food, drinks & seats
  4. Ask your guests to formally RSVP with the number of people they are bringing so you can be sure to have more than enough food and drinks. Having more food is better than not enough and you can send leftovers home with guests. Have enough seats for everyone to sit down and a couple extras just in case.

  5. Ask your guests for special food accommodations
  6. Allergies, vegetarians, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegans are only some of the things you can run into, so make sure you have dishes that accommodate to your guests’ special diets. Check out these vegetarian BBQ recipes for ideas, http://www.delish.com/entertaining-ideas/parties/barbecue-grilling/vegetarian-bbq-recipes and this sugar-free chocolate ice cream that’s perfect for a hot day, http://www.delish.com/entertaining-ideas/parties/barbecue-grilling/vegetarian-bbq-recipes.

  7. Make sure there is easy access to bathrooms & trash cans
  8. Let everyone know where to find the bathrooms, and try to have more than one available to avoid a wait. Having multiple trash cans can make clean-up easier and prevent you from having to replace trash bags often.

  9. Create a playlist
  10. Make the playlist long enough to not replay the same songs, include classics that everyone will enjoy. Consider asking guests for requests before the party so you include everyone’s favorites. Make sure to keep the volume down to not disturb neighbors or guests’ conversation.

  11. Space out & light up your entertainment area
  12. Don’t cramp your guests in a tiny space filled with tables and chairs. Space it out so they have room to breathe and converse comfortably. If your activities are planned for after sunset, make sure to have appropriate lighting to keep your guests from falling in the dark.

  13. Provide fans, sunscreen & bug repellent
  14. Your guests’ comfort is of upmost importance. DIY hand fans are easy to make with decorative paper plates, tongue depressors and a glue gun. Keep flies away with jars filled with water and pennies.

  15. Keep the kids entertained
  16. If the kids are unhappy, everyone is unhappy. Try these DIY backyard games to keep the kids amused, http://www.listotic.com/32-best-diy-backyard-games/.

With these helpful tips, you can enjoy your outside activities without the dreaded don’ts that can get in the way.

Simple Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

May 20th, 2014

By: Katie Koleas

With the birth of spring comes backyard cooking and barbeques. Creating a picture-perfect outdoor kitchen may seem stressful and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Building a backyard cooking space can be easy and affordable with these simple ideas.

Purchase a pre-made grill structure

A stylish and multifunctional grill is the main centerpiece of any outdoor kitchen, but don’t want to feel like you’re undergoing an entire renovation. Basic grill structures with attached islands and bar space eliminate unnecessary custom improvements and won’t break your budget.

photo of a pre-made grill set up
Photo courtesy of outdoor-kitchen-hom.blogspot.com

Lighten Things Up

No one wants to fumble through the dark while trying to enjoy a relaxing night of outdoor dining. Lighting illuminates your outdoor kitchen and enables you to use it all hours of the day.  Battery operated and adjustable lamps are an inexpensive alternative to running an electrical line through your backyard.

Asian Outdoor Lighting by Oakland Furniture & Accessories Cost Plus World Market

Install a Sink

Nothing is worse than having to run to and from your home to wash raw chicken off your hands. Look for a sink that hooks up to a garden hose and drains into the ground for a fantastic money saving option.

Picture of an outdoor sink hooked up to a garden hose
Photo courtesy of ths.gardenweb.com

Cover Up

An outdoor canopy provides shelter from any type of weather that may arise. Form hiding the sun to shielding the rain, a canopy covering is a necessity for any outdoor kitchen.

picture of an outdoor patio cover
Photo courtesy of hgtvremodels.com

Don’t Forget the Basics

Store organizational necessities under grill counter tops such as baskets for napkins, utensils, dishware, glasses and cleaning supplies. Most importantly, be sure to have trash and grilling utensils close by with hooks to hang above the cooking station.

Picture of an option for outdoor grilling storage
Photo courtesy of thisoldhouse.com

Cheat Sheet for The Ultimate Mom’s Night Out

May 9th, 2014

Moms, you remember the carefree days of calling up your girlfriends on a whim to meet up for some dinner, cocktails, manicures, pedicures, shopping, and maybe dancing until the early morning hours? Remember when you could really do anything “on a whim?”

graphic of three women out on the town
Graphic courtesy of laracoffee.com

Now getting together with your girlfriends takes a good month to plan, and sure enough half of you won’t be able to make it because one of your kids catches a cold. And your idea of a fun night out still includes being home by bedtime.

At Mr. Appliance, we know that moms are the backbone of the family. With all the responsibility on Mom’s shoulders, she needs to de-stress and let loose every once in a while in order to keep her sanity. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, Mr. Appliance has come up with the ultimate cheat sheet for planning your Mom’s Night Out.

  1. Pick a stress-free activity. Pick a fun and fulfilling activity like dinner, drinks, shopping, movie, concert, or wine tasting.
  2. Plan well ahead of time. With soccer and dance practices, school activities, and play dates, your schedule fills up quickly. So, make sure you can plan a day well ahead of time. It’s a good idea to send an invitation — either mail or an Evite— that other moms can place on their calendars.
  3. Book babysitters. If the dads can’t handle the job, hire a few babysitters that can come to your house. All the kids can hang out together and play while you and your girlfriends are out.
  4. Set the rules. Before you head out for your evening of fun and frivolity, inform dad and the kids of when they should or should not interrupt your evening. Really, does a hole in your son’s sock constitute an emergency?
  5. Plan the next MNO. Before the evening ends, commit to getting the next get-together on your calendars. Let another mom plan the next get together with the girls. Each mom will have the chance to plan a fun activity and you’ll get to look forward to the next Mom’s Night Out!

Cheers!

Five Kitchen Gadgets You Didn’t Know You Needed

May 5th, 2014

A cook is only as good as his or her tools. When whipping up meals in the kitchen, it’s always helpful to have the best tools of the trade, making creating gourmet meals nearly effortless. Mr. Appliance works hard to maintain a high level of culinary knowledge, and is always on the lookout for ways to make life in the kitchen easier. Here are the top five kitchen gadgets that we feel have revolutionized the kitchen and brought convenience and fun back to life in the kitchen.

See-Through Toaster
Mondays just got a little better; burnt toast is no more thanks to the Robot-Coupe Vision Toaster. Keep an eye on your toast, and get it right every time!

see through toaster from Williams Sonoma

Pot Clip
Tuck a spoon or spatula into this clip to keep messes off the kitchen counter. Utensils stay in plain sight, instead of sneaking away, and counters stay spotless.

Spoon holder that clips onto a pot

SmartMeasure Cup

An affordable solution for all who pursue perfection in the kitchen! SmartMeasure Cups automatically convert ounces to cups and deliver the perfect measurement each time.

Smart digital measuring cup

Stainless-Steel Finger Guard

Don’t worry about nipping fingers in the kitchen. Protect them while slicing and dicing your veggies with a stainless steel finger guard.

stainless steel finger guard

Silicon Baking Ribbon

The freedom of creativity is in your pan. Mold desserts into any shape you desire with flexible, heat-tolerant silicon. The choice is yours; what shape will it be?  Unfortunately this one has not yet made it to the market and is still being judged by the Quirky staff.

flexible silicon baking pan

Feeding a Large Family on a Shoestring Budget

May 2nd, 2014

“♫♪ Here’s the story of a lovely lady. Who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them had hair of gold…♪♫” Yes Mrs. Brady was bringing up three lovely girls, and also three sons, but she had help! What would she have done without the assistance of Alice, the trustworthy housekeeper, who handled not only the cleaning, but also cooked all the meals.

Alice from The Brady Bunch

Photo courtesy MSN Entertainment Canada

Ann B. Davis played Alice not only in the original TV show but in follow up specials, and even wrote a cookbook! In celebration of the leading lady, whose birthday is today, here are some tips on ways to feed a large family on a budget, much like Alice did!

  • Evaluate what you currently spend and see where cut-backs can be made.
  • Determine what foods kids will actually eat and stop buying what they won’t.
  • Buy in bulk as this always offers a discount and has a bonus of having often used items on hand when you need them.
  • Plan meals a head of time to make sure you only buy what you need – this helps avoid impulse buys.
  • Learn how to make great dishes from less expensive cuts of meat – more cooking time and a few tricks can turn tougher beef cuts in to tender meals.
  • Don’t shop when you are hungry as people tend to buy more junk food and already prepared foods.
  • Use coupons when you can – why pay more for the same thing when you don’t have too?
  • Watch for weekly specials and stock up!
  • Try more veggie dishes – if you go meat free once or twice a week you will save money.
  • Buy local and seasonal produce as the prices are cheaper. Strawberries in January are great but not practical on the pocketbook.
  • Watch waste – don’t dish out more than someone will eat as they can always go back for more.
  • Use leftovers for lunch the next day, or turn in to a new dish for dinner.
  • Start a garden to grow your own veggies – cheaper and fresher.
  • Make your own meals from scratch and avoid pre-packaged, processed, ready-made meals – you will save on fat and salt content as well as dollars.

While you may not have a Brady Bunch sized family to feed, these tips are sure to help you cut down on your grocery spend. Let us know your tips and tricks to feeding a family on a budget!