Recently I headed to Dallas to check out the Home and Gift Market at the Dallas Market Center. The market is huge and draws more than 50,000 buyers from around the world.
Armed with my list of must-visit showrooms, I was a woman on a mission — searching out the top products and culinary gadgets.
It did not take long to spot some new trends. One company designed kitchen gadgets with space-saving technology. Brightly colored silicon trivets fold up, taking up little space in a drawer, but will expand to hold a large casserole. A fully functional kitchen scale has the same high-tech design. When folded, it is about the size of an 8-inch ruler. When open, it weighs products from a gram up to eight pounds.
A smart scale not only told how much the food weighed, but how many calories it contained. What a great gadget for those watching calories. Expensive, professional models have been used commercially for some time; these were the economical models designed for home use.
In another showroom, I sampled delicious olive oils and herb blends. My favorite was an award-winning Greek olive oil. As the sales representative was writing my order, he nonchalantly slipped me samples of a chili-infused olive oil and a wasabi-garlic olive oil. One taste and I was sold! As he added it to my order, I am sure he was thinking he got another sale. But I was thinking of all sorts of good things I could create with those.
I’m back home now and sorting through my e-mail questions.
Q. What is the difference in cooking something in a low oven and cooking something in a crock pot?
A. Slow cookers have the advantage of convenience. Food cooks at a very low temperature with a tight-fitting lid, and there is little chance of the food burning or becoming dry. The moisture is encased in a small space, does not evaporate and surrounds the food to produce succulent and tender meats and other flavorful dishes.
Technically, you could make the same recipe in your oven by using a very heavy pan with a tight fitting lid and a low oven temperature. However, the food would still cook more quickly in your oven. Because of that, it may have a slightly different consistency but would still be tasty.
Q. I like cooking winter meals in my slow cooker but have ruined two of them. They were different brands, but each of the crock pot inserts cracked when I was washing them. Have you any experience with that?
A. Yes. And the minute it happened, I realized what I had done. When the ceramic insert is hot, allow it to cool before washing it. Extreme temperature changes will cause it to crack. Once it is cracked, it is not safe to use, so you will need to replace it.