Category Archives: Kitchen Gadgets

Near-Instant Gratification: The Popsicle Edition

I couldn’t very well title this “Instant Gratification” because obviously that honor belongs to successfully chasing down the tinkly ice cream truck.  And by the way? Our summertime treats-on-wheels would come chiming through at 9 – 9:30 at night.  I would always wonder if they made a magical switch and started selling margaritas.  But I digress…

Today we are here to talk about the Zoku pop maker.  Yes, this thing:

Yeah, it's ADORABLE, but do I need it?

I ended up getting one of these due to a series of interweb purchases gone wrong. Long story short, I ended up with a gift card that gave me $40 to spend at Williams-Sonoma.  And since the next thing on my NEED list is a new fridge, I had to skip over to the ‘interesting idea’ list.  Basically, I let the kids pick and Zoku was the result.

First, the product itself is adorable.  And embodies a very cool idea — i.e., let’s get crazy with popsicles!  And it is super easy to use and VERY kid-friendly (just be careful about tiny bits sticking to frozen bits).  What you see is pretty much what you get.  It’s really just a mold that you pop in the freezer; the key difference being that it freezes pretty much while you watch and only goes into the freezer empty.  It’s like the freezer bowl part of a newer ice cream maker – heavy and full of some thick sludgey mystery fluid.  Out of the box, the Zoku comes with one 3-chamber mold, six sticks, six drip guards, one “super tool,” and a directions pamphlet.

I will go ahead and express my sole irritation with the product, which is that it sells recipes separately.  If you just paid $40 for a popsicle mold, the least they can do is throw in some recipes.  Yeah, I know duh popsicles, but this is the first food prep product that I have EVER owned that did not come with at least a few recipes.  Seriously, even my damn $4 dog biscuit cutter came with 4 recipes.  It just seems kind of tacky to sell recipes separately (though I should note that there are a handful of recipes on the cute Zoku Blog).  There are other extras you can buy, but I didn’t get any, because $40 seemed like enough to spend on popsicles.

K, Luli and I tested this out the other day to great success.   The mold froze in less than 24 hours, as expected. We were prepped to make 6 popsicles using pineapple juice and greek yogurt with honey and lemon sugar (add honey to plain yogurt, add lemon zest to sugar).  We put the sticks in the mold and went to town.

Team Popsicle is GO!!!

Because the instructions are adamant that the sticks MUST go in first, there was a bit of an issue with getting thicker ingredients into the mold, as there is only about a half inch of pouring space on either side of the stick.  I ended up putting the yogurt into a zip-loc baggie, snipping off a tiny corner, and effectively piping it into the mold.  Worked like a charm.

Chilly!

And then we waited…

The Way-yay-ting is the Hardest Part.

We made two sets of three pops back-to-back.  Zoku says your popsicles shall freeze in about 7 – 9 minutes.  I found this to be accurate, though the kids said it was taking forEVER and wandered off.  With just unlayered juice, the pops were ready in 7 minutes.  Layered pops took a little longer (duh).  The second set we made immediately after the first did not take any longer to freeze.  And they freeze HARD.  Mega-hard.  As in, I can hold this in the sun for a while before it drips all over hard.

Cheers to Success!

Both of my assistants claimed the treats to be perfection.

Luli Approves.

K Devours.

Aside from the voice of Alton Brown in my head telling me that it is silly to buy a product that only does one very simple thing, I found the Zoku to be good fun – and I suspect Mr. Brown would, too, though he might not admit it.  We didn’t have any issues with the yogurt pops not freezing as solid.  And we didn’t have any issues with removing the pops from the mold — even those with yogurt.   No fuss.  And very little clean up.  When we were done, we popped the mold back in the freezer (no, we didn’t clean it first, the instructions say it is unnecessary to do so).  We pulled it out again the next day and made more popsicles.

All in all, an adorable product that serves its single function exceptionally well.  The kids love it and I like that it takes up very little space and gives me something creative and culinary to do with the kids.  Just scroll through the Zoku website to see how serious I am about the creative thing.  We’ve already tried striped pops and filled pops to great success.

So, if you’ve coveted the Zoku and have $40 to spend, I say go ahead and get it.  Is it necessary? Hell no.  Is it fun? Hell yes.

I can’t WAIT to try margarita and mojito pops…

 

 

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Le Creuset? Pas Pour Moi.

Ahhh, Le Creuset.  Most coveted, touted, and blingy of kitchen bling.  So sexy with the deep, gorgeous colors. So exciting with the bewildering and seemingly endless array of shapes and purposes.  And such a safe buy, given the nearly unanimous thumbs up for Le Creuset products across time, geography, and mindset.  But, for all the glorious awesome that is Le Creuset, there is one gigantic NON — the price.

Which is why I do not have a single piece of it.

I’ve put my kitchen together bit by bit, piece by piece over the course of 20 years.  I started with the cast iron skillets that belonged to my Nannie and cheap things I picked things up at garage sales, Salvation Army, and via dumpster diving.  For years I’ve kept a master list of (A) things that I need and (B) things that I want.

And except for a Robot-Coupe, a vintage french stove, and a new fridge, I’ve pretty much gotten just about everything in A covered. I’ve slowly upgraded my econo set of Wusthoff cheap-ass plastic handled knives to Wusthoff Classics.  I have an amazing old Waring clover-leaf blender that was refurbed by a dude I hooked up with via Ebay.  Same dude refurbed my awesome KA Pro.

So yeah, I covet, but I’m also frugal and patient.

I used to think that I “needed” several key Le Creuset items – specifically a 6 qt dutch oven, two loaf pans, a 2 qt casserole, and a tagine.  I moved these items to the “want” side as, save for the tagine, I had perfectly serviceable albeit non-ceramic versions of most of these.  And then finally I decided that I needed to upgrade to a ceramic over cast iron dutch oven.  Not to mention, I desperately needed a covered casserole that could go from range to oven.  But there was no way in hell I could afford the Le Creuset. So I did a little research.

Turns out the perfect solution is right here, practically in my own back yard.  Lodge, a Tennessee business, has been making all things cast iron for over 100 years.  So, after sifting through hundreds of reviews and reading about processing and temperatures, I bought the Lodge 6 qt dutch oven in cafe and the covered casserole in caribbean.

 

Pass the Dutchie

I’ve been using both for a couple of years now.  I have used the dutch oven to make everything from chile, roast chicken, and braised meats to jams, caramels, and bread pudding. The casserole is hands-down my most treasured piece of cookware and is second overall only to the KA mixer. I use it so often and for so many different things that it pretty much resides on my range top.

In my opinion, the Lodge wares are comparable in every way to LC, but are nowhere near as pricey – usually ranging from 1/4 to 1/2 what a similar LC product might cost.  Temp tolerances are roughly the same — the one exception being the knob handles on some of the lids.  And while Lodge may not have quite the sexy rainbow of finishes that LC offers, they are catching up, with four deep, jewel-tone colors that have an almost “burst” (think guitar finishes) look to them.

Cleaning is easy, just use a soft sponge and soapy water and hand-dry immediately.  If stains linger (and they will, especially if you are a sauce freak like me), just use a little baking soda and scrub GENTLY with a sponge.  And yes, the more you use them, the more likely they are to chip.  It’s cast iron, people. They are heavy.  Don’t swing them around.  I also suggest buying appropriate utensils — I especially like the silicone-dipped whisk from Chef’n.

And before you start wondering if I am on the payroll of Lodge, Chef’n, the Ebay dude or indeed, ANY company I discuss here, please know that I don’t make ANY money off of this. Or anything I do, for that matter. I don’t have ads, I don’t get samples, and I don’t get paid to shill.  I’m not ruling it out as a career option or anything, I just wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page. In this specific instance, I wanted to praise Lodge because they are a great company with a great product, and I really want people to know that Le Creuset is not the be all end all to ceramic goods.

I’m going to get off the interwebs now and make some shortbread bars with caramel and dark chocolate, partially because I have a bunch of chocolate bits to use up, but mostly because holy hell doesn’t that sound good?

 

 

 

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Filed under Cleaning Tips, Hussy Recommends..., I Jam Econo, Kitchen Gadgets, Things I Like, Things That Rule