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December 20, 2013 |

Archive for » December 20th, 2013«

Haute and happening

If your plans to ring in the New Year include a makeover for your entire home or even a corner of it, then the MetroPlus Lifestyle Show this weekend may be the right place to get started.

The sixth edition of the show in Puducherry has household gizmos, kitchen appliances, interior décor and furniture as recurring motifs in over 35 stalls. Retailers and brands from Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad offer ideas to reinvent the hearth and home.

Right from sleek chimney tops and hobs to smart salad makers and pizza ovens, there are appliances for many a kitchen. Plush sofas, relaxing recliners and massage chairs, compact dining tables and wardrobes — the options in furniture are extensive. Imported, Italian design, teakwood, colonial, space saving — there’s furniture to suit every fancy. Nifty wallpaper, funky cushions, mosquito nets, imported plants, and accessories for women come at discounted prices.

The event managed by I Ads Events, a subsidiary of Icare Communication, Bangalore, is co-sponsored by Prestige and Leather Life International, who have dedicated stalls at the mela. The show goes on till December 23, Monday between 10 a.m. and 8. 30 p.m. at the Jayaram Thirumana Nilayam, near Balaji Theatre. All major credit cards are accepted. Entry tickets are priced at Rs. 10.

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Gift Ideas for Olympia Foodies and Cooks

 

By Katie Hurley

It’s getting down to the wire… the number of shopping days left until Christmas is in the single digits. Yikes! Following are some gift ideas for that person on your list who loves to cook. Locally owned Ralph’s and Bayview Thriftway stores offer a wide selection of kitchen tools, gadgets and cookware for the chefs in your life.

For the Beginner

Every budding chef needs a good knife or two, measuring cups, measuring spoons and cookware to start. Bialetti Aeternum nonstick ceramic pans are a great place to start. The nano-ceramic surface is free of chemicals and resists scratching and abrasions. Scrambled eggs will slide right out of these pans and cleanup is a breeze. Silicone or wood cooking utensils will protect the cooking surface, and you’ll find a wide selection of tools made from bamboo, nylon and brightly colored silicone.

For the Baker

Silicone baking mats provide a versatile nonstick surface for cookie sheets and are available in a variety of sizes. Some are printed with circles indicating the recommended spacing on the pan for cookies and cupcakes. Make a cute gift basket by packaging a baking mat, a rolling pin and a flour sack dishtowel printed with a cookie recipe. The Kuhn Rikon Ultimate Cupcake Set includes all the tools a cupcake baker needs to make and decorate cupcakes fit for a bakery case.

For Cooks with Tiny Kitchens

To combat storage dilemmas for some of the cook’s bulkiest tools, Squish colanders, funnels, bowls and measuring cups are made of silicone and collapse to fit in a kitchen drawer when storage space is limited. Instead of a knife block on the counter, flat silicone knife sheathes protect knife blades so knives can slide into a drawer.

Back to Basics

One of the most useful kitchen skills is the ability to roast and cut up whole chicken. Create a Roasted Chicken gift basket for just under $50 that includes a Zyliss carving knife, an instant-read thermometer and a silicone Roasting Laurel to place under the chicken in the roasting pan. Include a handwritten copy of your favorite roasted chicken method (I like Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken recipe) and a couple recipes that call for leftover sliced or shredded rotisserie chicken.

For the Cook with a Garden

An herb savor pod will extend the life of cut fresh herbs in the refrigerator or on the counter, and a set of herb trimming shears comes with a measuring cup specially marked to measure fresh herbs so you only have to cut the amount you need.  The Chef’n GarlicZoom chops fresh garlic cloves as finely as needed in just seconds.

Top of the Line

If you know a cook who wants the best of the best, look no further than Epicurean cutting boards. Available in many sizes from just big enough to slice a lemon or lime to boards big enough to carve a rib roast, Epicurean cutting boards are versatile and durable. They are made from a blend of natural wood fibers bonded by foodsafe resin and are dishwasher proof. Various shapes and sizes include oval cheese boards, large rectangles with a trough to catch drippings, and a pizza peel with a handle.

For the Pasta Lover

In the Bayview Deli you can order Cucina Ciancetta Pasta Dinner baskets that contain Cucina Ciancetta’s locally made fresh marinara sauce, pasta and other goodies. Microplane graters are offered in a variety of sizes and are perfect for grating or shaving Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on a plate of steaming pasta or creating delicate bittersweet chocolate shavings on top of a batch of tiramisu.

Flavorful Gifts

Gourmet sea salt flavored with habanero, roasted garlic or vanilla bean, or smoked with Yakima applewood or chardonnay oak would make a great gift for a cook who likes to explore different flavors. A bottle of truffle oil and a Microplane grater, or seasoned Thai Wok Oil, Chinese Stirfry Oil or Fiery Toasted Sesame Oil and a bamboo spatula packaged in a wine bag make a unique hostess gift or gift exchange item.

Stocking Stuffers Galore

The line of Zing! kitchen tools, almost all under $5, make great stocking stuffers. Brightly colored spatulas, bottle openers, salad tongs, mini tongs and scrapers are fun and functional. Various shapes and sizes of ceramic ramekins, many between $1 and $3, are great for many uses in any kitchen. Attractive bottle stoppers or fun cocktail napkins are great for someone who likes to entertain.

Whether you’re shopping for a cook, a chef or someone who aspires to learn to cook, you’ll find countless options for gifts large and small at locally owned Bayview Thriftway and Ralph’s Thriftway.

 

Bayview Thriftway

516 W. 4th Ave. in Olympia

360-352-4897

 

Ralph’s Thriftway

1908 E. 4th Ave. in Olympia

360-357-8011

 

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7 products that are cheaper this holiday season

If you’d like to get the best deals on your holiday shopping this year, you’ll be happy to hear that Consumer Reports’ product research experts, who monitor the prices of many of the items we test, have found several that have gone down in price in the last 12 months. For each one we’ve provided a tip to help you cut your budget even more.

If you’re in the market for one or more of these products, but you’re not in a rush, it might be worth waiting until the end of December or January to shop. Prices might be even better after the holidays (though inventories may be thin).

Since last year the prices for many comparable models have been slashed by 15 percent or more, probably because more people use their cell phones or tablet to take videos. And prices may drop another 25 percent or more around the holidays. Know what to look for by reading our camcorder buying guide.

To save even more Consider an action camcorder. These are smaller, lighter models available with rugged housing and mounting brackets for attaching it to a helmet or other object (see the photo at right). Many come with high-definition resolution. Our recommended models (available to subscribers) from GoPro, Polaroid, and Sony were about one-third the price of many of our top-rated full-size HD models. Subscribers can also check out our Ratings.

When our experts recently checked the prices of frying pans, they were surprised to see that they had dropped 20 percent since last year, most likely because of increased competition from celebrity-chef lines. Those savings should extend to cookware sets and continue after the holidays.

To save even more Check what’s in a set. Utensils and even a cookbook are sometimes counted as pieces of a set. And don’t overbuy. A set that contains lots of pots and pans might not be the best choice if the person you’re buying it for will only cook with a few pieces while the rest gather dust in a cabinet. For more tips, read our buying guide; subscribers can also check out our Ratings. To learn how we test pots and pans, watch the video below.  

Point-and-shoot camera prices have dropped 10 percent or more since last year to lure back customers who now take more pictures with their phones and tablets. But digital cameras have better lenses that produce sharper pictures, especially in low lighting and zoom shots. And prices will drop even more around the holidays in the hope of clearing out inventory for new models, which are introduced in January and hit store shelves in March.

To save even more Don’t buy based on megapixel counts. More megapixels don’t produce better prints unless the person you’re giving it to blows them up to poster size. A Nikon 12-megapixel model was tops in our recent test of subcompact digital cameras, outperforming a Sony 18-megapixel model that cost $250 more. For more tips, see our buying guide and Ratings (available to subscribers)

Unlike many other products, food processors don’t change very often. Over time their prices tend to drop. Expect most models to be about 10 percent cheaper this holiday season than they were in 2012. For example, Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB (recommended in our recent test) was $200 last year and is now selling for $179.

To save even more Don’t buy based on price. In our tests we found that some recommended models from Cuisinart (such as the one mentioned above) outperformed other models that cost twice
as much. To help you find the best models, read our food processor buying guide. Subscribers can see the models that outperformed the pack in our Ratings.

Shredding personal documents and statements before you toss them is a great way to help avoid ID theft. These munchers have dropped in price by 10 percent or more since last year. As with food processors, the models don’t change often. And prices tend to drop even more from the fall through the spring tax season.

To save even more Shop at the big box stores. Shredders are typically 15 percent or so less at places such as Costco and Walmart. Before you go, check out our shredder buying guide. To see the models that did best in our tests, subscribers can see our Ratings.

The average tablet price dropped 15 percent in the first six months of 2013. The cuts are
probably due to an increase in sales of 7- to 8-inch models (now 60 percent of the market),
which cost less than larger tablets and include the popular Kindle and Nook. Two exceptions: Apple and Samsung tablets, whose prices remain constant.


To save even more
Go with the crowd. You can get a great 7- to 8-inch tablet for $250 or less, while tablets with larger displays can run up to $1,000 or so. For more shopping tips, read our buying guide; subscribers should see our Ratings. If your looking for kid’s tablets, see the video below.

Prices have dropped by 10 percent or more since last year, and TV models with larger screens have gone down most. You can get more features at lower price ranges. November through January are strong selling months, and the competition for buyers should result in added price cuts of 25 to 50 percent.

To save even more Check out our TV buying guide. And use shopping bots. Many Internet sites are one-stop shops where you can check prices for specific TVs at hundreds of retailers. You can sort the listings by price, including tax and shipping. Some sites to consider: BizRate (and its affiliate, Shopzilla), Google Shopping, PriceGrabber, and Shopping. com. You’ll also find a price-comparison and local-shopping link in our TV Ratings (available to subscribers).

Want to know what’s on sale the rest of the year? See our calendar of deals.

Mandy Walker

Copyright © 2005-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.

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West Milwaukee’s Mad Rooster Cafe crazy about breakfast

There’s a good breakfast waiting inside Mad Rooster in West Milwaukee, past the country-themed doodads.

Mad Rooster creates a mini-universe for its guests, starting with the red barnlike facade that transformed it from the diner Vicki’s early this year. Owned by Andreas Bouraxis, who also owns El Fuego and El Beso Mexican restaurants, it’s not just a place to eat but an elaborate set as well.

Beyond baskets and such are huge, whimsical portraits of roosters, including one in what looks like a Revolutionary War general’s uniform. Eye-catching, as is the polished concrete floor.

It’s a big renovation for what is bound to be a fairly quick meal at this popular breakfast-and-lunch spot, but Mad Rooster doesn’t stint on matters such as setting and servers, and certainly not on portions.

Breakfast is big here, literally and figuratively. It takes up much of the extensive menu, and it covers most of the oversize plates.

Take the Belgian waffles. In the banana pecan ($9), pecans are baked into the waffle and strewn over it, and plentiful banana slices top it off. Then there’s butter, and whipped cream and syrup (an extra $1.50 for pure maple).

Skillets — red potatoes layered with two eggs any way and, in the case of the Loaded Greens ($9.50), broccoli, spinach, poblano, turkey sausage, feta and Portobello — come with toast. The airy omelets, such as the Carnivore ($9) with ham, bacon and sausage, come with red potatoes and pancakes or toast.

Preparation for the most part is solid at Mad Rooster, but the hollandaise sauce for perfectly poached eggs Benedict ($9) was only a suggestion of what it ought to be. A fresh and generous bowl of fruit comes on the side, typically berries, oranges, watermelon and pineapple at this time of year.

There’s more. Listed on the menu are variations on oatmeal, crepes, pancakes and breakfast entrées like the steaming-hot Mad Morning Tacos ($8.50), a trio of them stuffed to overflowing with scrambled eggs speckled with chicken chorizo, onion, tomato and poblano peppers below avocado slices. Oh, and breakfast sandwiches, including egg, Swiss and honest-to-goodness ham baked at the restaurant, a treat ($7). It’s a good sandwich, though it would be even better on sturdier bread than on the soft multigrain focaccia.

A must-have at Mad Rooster: The incredibly thick and creamy Greek yogurt, made at the restaurant with organic milk. It will put the variety bought at the grocery store to shame. A plate of the yogurt with honey and walnuts ($4) is ample, but the extravaganza called Mad Greek yogurt ($9.50) is something to behold: a halved and cored pineapple filled with yogurt and topped with granola, bananas, berries and a drizzle of honey. (The muffin on the side, though baked by Mad Rooster, had a made-from-a-mix taste to it.)

Mad Rooster serves up brunch drinks, including mimosas and a good, spicy Bloody Mary ($9) capped with a deviled egg and served with a shorty Miller High Life chaser. The restaurant also has a few beers, including Founders Breakfast Stout.

Coffee at diners can be a horror show for coffee lovers, so it’s worth noting that the joe here ($2.50) is strong and satisfying. It’s the restaurant’s own blend by way of Milwaukee’s Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.

With that breakfast menu cornucopia, it would be easy to overlook the sandwiches and salads, but Mad Rooster served up a flavorful open-faced skirt steak sandwich ($13), even if the green peppers and onions on it needed more time on the stove.

Burger results may vary. One was juicy, the Angus beef served on a toasted pretzel roll with a choice of sides, including seasoned crinkle-cut fries; on another visit, the blue cheese bacon burger ($9.50) had given up most of its juices on the grill.

Mad Rooster makes room on the menu for a half-dozen salads. Cranberry apple walnut ($8) is a huge mound, with chopped romaine, cucumbers and goat cheese in the mix. Tasty. It achieves that without help from the citrus cranberry dressing, which tasted like neither, just neutral.

There was nothing neutral about the meaty chili with black beans ($3.50 small, $4.50 large with garnishes) — it was good and spicy.

At heart, Mad Rooster is a diner, but it’s Diner 2.0, delivering a solid breakfast or lunch, for the most part. In the unlikely event anyone should leave hungry, it’s not because Mad Rooster didn’t try.

Contact Carol Deptolla at (414) 224-2841, cdeptolla@journalsentinel.com or on Twitter @mkediner.

Carol on the radio

Listen to dining critic Carol Deptolla’s reports on WTMJ-AM (620) at 8:22 a.m. and 3:40 p.m. Fridays, at 7:20 a.m. Sundays and on www.jsonline.com.  

MAD ROOSTER CAFE

4401 W. Greenfield Ave., West Milwaukee
(414) 231-9120
madroostercafe.com

Fare: Waffles, omelets and other breakfast dishes all day, plus sandwiches and salads

Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily

Prices: Main dishes, $6-$13

Parking: Adjacent lot

Wheelchair access: Yes, at entry and restrooms

Payment: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover

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A Christmas welcome Accessories like pillows and candles make home a …

By Debbe Daley

Decorating during the holiday season can be challenging. Moving furniture around to accommodate the Christmas tree and additional holiday decorations can be a bit tricky. A little creative planning can make your home’s space look warm, inviting and festive during the holidays.

Knowing how to add color with festive home decor items may be all you need without making major changes to your home furnishings or room layout.

Daley Decor

Holiday pillows can add a temporary festive look to a sofa or chair. A classy berry wreath design or pillows featuring festive winter birds are very noticeable this year in home décor. The brightly colored cardinal always makes an appearance in holiday decorating schemes.

Decorative throws in holiday colors of red, white or green depending on your room’s color scheme can add a touch of warmth. If pattern isn’t your preference, a tastefully monogrammed throw will add a touch of class to your festive decorating.

Candles always add a special touch no matter what occasion. Adding colored candles to a white tablecloth adds that festive pop of color sought during the holidays. If using a cloth of color, reverse the color of the candles to white or off white.

Kitchen dish towels are a great way to bring the holiday spirit to the kitchen. Whether you’re using it when cooking or to wipe the wine glasses dry, a decorative dish towel can add a little more fun to the kitchen.

Festive doormats are an accessory for the entrance into the home that can make a stunning impact on guests as they enter the big holiday party or dinner event. Placing a mat outside the door to catch snow and dirt being tracked into your entrance hallway or wood floor will be an important addition to your holiday decorating. Make this piece a festive one. Depending on your holiday decorating style, dancing reindeer may work for adding a lighter fare to your entry way.

All of these holiday accent décor ideas can be used tastefully throughout your home to add a festive feel to any room. Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season!

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Keep it clean and green for Christmas

The Environmental Working Group shows how to safeguard your environmental health through the holidays


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Clean Fifteen

The Environmental Working Group says it’s okay to choose non-organic produce from its “Clean 15” list of less-contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables:
Asparagus
Avocados
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Sweet Corn
Eggplant
Grapefruit
Kiwi
Mangos
Mushrooms
Onions
Papayas
Pineapples
Sweet peas (frozen)
Sweet potatoes

‘Tis the season to be in the kitchen, whether you’re hosting an event, heading for a potluck or cooking a traditional meal for your family. Whatever the reason, you’re probably going to buy ingredients, cook, clean — and enjoy some leftovers.

The Environmental Working Group recommends that you prepare your holiday feasts with your family’s environmental health in mind. Choose food low in pollutants and added chemicals, avoid toxic chemicals in cookware, store and reheat leftovers safely, clean greener, and choose food low in pollutants and added chemicals.

Food can contain ingredients we don’t want to eat — from pesticides to hormones to artificial additives to food packaging chemicals. Some simple tips to cut the chemicals:

Go organic — Make sure fresh fruits and vegetables are on the menu, and go organic when you can. Organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides. Organic meat and dairy products also limit your family’s exposure to growth hormones and antibiotics. It’s OK to choose non-organic from EWG’s “Clean 15” list of less-contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables, too (see sidebar). EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce ranks popular fruits and vegetables based on the amount of pesticide residues found on them. EWG also offers the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce as an iPhone app.

Go fresh — Cook with fresh foods, rather than packaged or canned, whenever possible. Food containers can leach packaging chemicals into food, including the estrogenic bisphenol A that’s used to make the linings of food cans. Go for fresh food or prepared foods stored in glass containers. Pick recipes that call for fresh, not canned, foods.

Avoid nonstick pans — Using a great pan makes a huge difference when cooking. But non-stick varieties give off toxic fumes over high heat. For safer cooking, EWG suggests cast iron and oven-safe glass. There are many new products on the market, but EWG says most companies won’t tell you exactly what’s in them. Even if they’re advertised as “green” or “not non-stick,” manufacturers do not have to release their safety data to the public. If you’re “stuck” with non-stick, cook safer by never heating an empty pan, or putting it in an oven hotter than 500 degrees. Use an exhaust fan over the stove.

Avoid plastic — Leftovers can extend the joy of a holiday and give you a break from the kitchen. But be sure to avoid plastic when storing and especially when heating them. The chemical additives in plastic can migrate into food and liquids. Ceramic or glass food containers, such as Pyrex, are safer. Don’t microwave food or drinks in plastic containers, even if they claim to be “microwave safe.” Heat can release chemicals into your food and drink. Microwave ovens heat unevenly, creating hot spots where the plastic is more likely to break down.

If you do use a plastic container, handle it carefully. Use it for cool liquids only; wash plastics by hand or on the top rack of the dishwasher, farther from the heating element; use a paper towel instead of plastic wrap to cover food in the microwave. Also, avoid single-use plastic as much as possible — reusing it isn’t safe (it can harbor bacteria) and tossing it out fills up landfills (and pollutes the environment).

Clean greener — Adopt safe cleaning routines. Open the window. Use gloves. Keep kids away from toxic products. Avoid anti-bacterials. Dust and vacuum often because dust often contains toxins. Microwave your sponge. Wash your hands with plain soap and water. Use a baking soda and water paste instead of commercial oven cleaner. Try natural alternatives like vinegar, baking soda and water.

Visit EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (ewg.org/guides) to find safer cleaning products and DIY Cleaning Guide for recipes and tips on how to make your own non-toxic cleaners.

Source: Environmental Working Group: ewg.org.


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What the baker in your life really wants for Christmas – Yakima Herald

Phone: 509-577-7752

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This time of year, I see a lot of wire stories moving about the cookbooks that the baker in your life would love to have this year.

As a baker, let me make one thing clear: If I get one more cookbook, I’m going to go totally bonkers. For the love of pete, don’t buy me a cookbook. Every recipe I want is online. Why do I need yet another book cluttering my counter space?

Instead, here’s some real insight into what bakers might really enjoy this season:

1. Cute aprons. Whenever I bake, I end up wiping my hands on my pants and covering myself with flour. For Christmas this year, my mom bought me a reversible one she found at a bazaar: It’s pink polka dots on one side, and candy stripes on the other. Totally adorable. Now I will stay clean and be ultra fashionable.

2. Ingredients. There are some things us poor bakers just won’t pay for: Like really nice vanilla. Or gourmet baker’s chocolate. Figure out what your baker loves to make, and put together a gift basket of premium goodies to help her out. Does she like to make cookies? Pick up fancy different flavors of extracts, really pretty sprinkles (check out The Cake Decorator’s Shoppe for ideas), or an assortment of nice metal cookie cutters. (Hint: Those huge assortments of cookie cutters you can get for $5 aren’t quality cutters. Spring for one or two really high-end ones instead).

3. Tools. Again, specialize to her needs. Does she make cakes? Buy her some Wilton cake pans or new frosting tips or bags. They aren’t as expensive as you’d think, and they make a huge difference. Is she a candy-maker? Order a digital thermometer. Pies and cookies? Buy her an assortment of nice rolling pins — yes, different kinds really do different things.

Caveat: I hate one-purpose gadgets (such as avocado peelers or strawberry slicers). There just isn’t enough drawer space in the world for all that stuff. But baking rules are different. Yes, you maybe will only use a digital candy thermometer for one week a year and on one recipe, but it will save your life for that week. Baking gadgets are generally worth it, particularly if she is passionate about her craft.

4. Experience. If she’s not as good of a baker as she’d like to be (who is?), help her out with a class. The Cake Decorator’s Shoppe and other local craft stores offer Wilton cake decorating classes that are a blast and you learn a lot. Or check out La Maison cooking school or Alexandria Nicole Cellars for classes.

5. Equipment. This is different from “tools” in that “equipment” usually needs to be plugged in. Early in our marriage, my husband bought me a new handmixer with a retractable cord. It’s a cliche don’t-ever-buy-your-wife… kinda gift, but I was thrilled. I lovelovelove that mixer, especially the retractable cord. My mini-food processor was another win. And if you really love your foodie, a Kitchenaid stand mixer (or accessories for it, if she already has one) is a sure way to her heart.

The great thing about equipment is it can always be upgraded. If she’s had something for a few years, odds are good she could use (or would like) a shiny new one.

6. Aesthetics. I’m a baker, and I like pretty things. Yes, my plain ol’ Pyrex glass bowls are functional, but every time I see sets of brightly colored glass and ceramic mixing bowls, I think, “oooooh…I want those.” I own three sets of measuring cups and spoons, because they’re pretty (and really, you can never own enough measuring cups and spoons). Adorable kitchenware is a great gift, assuming that it is as functional as it is attractive. (Exception: Sets of “flour,” “sugar,” etc. canisters. You really only need one set of these. I mean, how many jars of flour can one woman need?)

Other miscellaneous ideas:

• A cookbook stand: Yes, I do still use the cookbooks I have, and every time I do, I wish I had a stand. But cookbook stands can also be used to hold up my husband’s Kindle, which I often use as a cookbook.

• Apps and accessories: Speaking of that Kindle, there are some great cookbook apps and gear out there for tablet users. (See this post for more info)

• Recipe organizers: This year, my mom bought me a 3-ring binder recipe card organizer. It’s divided up by categories. I can put my hand-written recipes in it and not have to go flipping through a recipe box. This is actually the third one I’ve owned. I use it so much, I keep destroying them. This one seems a bit more high-quality, so hopefully it lasts for a few seasons.

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