Month: March 2016

Spring Clean your Oven

Spring Clean your Oven

Spring clean your oven; Below is a completely safe, natural and effective way to clean your oven — no harsh chemicals and no high-heat auto-cleaning with smoke detector funny business. It takes a little time and some elbow grease, but the payoff is well worth it. Plus, you most likely have everything you need to take on this project already in your cupboards.

If you’ve recently moved into a house or have neglected your oven for some time, then the oven may be coated with a black, sticky grime, burnt on food as well as numerous other residue. It may look as if someone has roasted a dozen whole chickens without using a pan.

Obviously you can call in the big guns which will cost you upward of £55 for a thorough deep clean and if you are on a budget sometimes this is not an option. However if you are like myself and obsessed with cleaning and being house proud this is also not justifiable cost each month.

You can buy extremely harsh chemicals that will eat through any remaining debris, but the fumes are strong enough to singe off your eyebrows. The accompanying dizziness probably isn’t worth it either.

However there is an alternative by cleaning your oven naturally with a little vinegar, baking soda, and good old fashioned elbow grease!

What You Need

  1. Oven (obviously)
  2. Baking soda
  3. Water
  4. Rubber gloves
  5. Damp dish cloth
  6. Plastic or silicone spatula
  7. Spray bottle (use a rinsed out old cleaning spray bottle if you have one)
  8. White vinegar

Instructions

  1.  Remove your oven racks and anything else you have inside the oven.
  2. Make a baking soda paste: In a small bowl, mix a 1/2 cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water. Adjust the ratio of both as needed until you have a spreadable paste. For me this took about 3 tablespoons of water to get the desired spreadable consistency.
  3. Put on your gloves for the next part.
  4. Coat your oven: Spread the paste all over the interior surfaces of your oven, steering clear of the heating elements.  The baking soda will turn a brownish colour as you rub it in; it also might be chunkier in some places than others. That is fine. Just try to coat the whole oven to the best of your abilities, paying attention to any particularly greasy areas.
  5. Let it sit overnight: Allow the baking soda mixture to rest for at least 12 hours, or overnight.
  6. Clean your oven racks: Meanwhile, clean your oven racks with are brillo pad (or several dependant on how bad your oven is)
  7. Wipe out the oven after 12 hours or overnight, take a damp dish cloth and wipe out as much of the dried baking soda paste as you can. Use a plastic or silicone spatula to help scrape off the paste as needed. I found that the damp cloth was enough for me, but a spatula might come in handy in those hard-to- reach places.
  8. Spray a little vinegar: Put a little vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz everywhere you still see baking soda residue in your oven. The vinegar will react with the baking soda and gently foam.
  9. Do a final wipe down: Take fresh clean damp cloth and wipe out the remaining foamy vinegar-baking-soda mixture. Repeat until all the baking soda residue is gone. Add more water or vinegar to your cloth as needed while wiping to really get the oven clean and shiny.
  10. Replace the oven racks and anything else you keep in your oven, and you’re done!

Admittedly there is a bit of elbow work that goes into it however there is with any oven cleaning product depending on how dirty your oven is, but this way you will be fume free and it is less harmful to you, your children and pets as well as the environment too.

Happy spring cleaning.

As always, thanks for reading. B x

Spring Cleaning Guide

Spring Cleaning Guide

Spring Cleaning Guide: Whether or not you freely admit to it or not everyone at some point in their lives does a thorough spring clean of their homes – or if you’re super posh and not a tight Yorkshireman you’ll employ a Cleaner to undertake the mammoth task.

However if you are a tight Yorkshireman, slightly thrifty or simply love cleaning we have compiled a few pointers that should help you on your way to a beautiful sparkling home;

  1. Load up your dishwasher.  But not with dishes but with glass light fixtures, toothbrush holders and various toys.  Put it on a gentle cycle and skip the heated dry and detergent.
  2. Wash your windows on a cloudy day: If you try to clean windows on a sunny day the cleaner you use will dry onto the windows before you have managed to wipe it off, therefore you’re best to clean windows on a cloudy day or only clean windows that are not in direct sunlight. Use vertical strokes on one side of the window and horizontal strokes on the other side of the window, so if you see a smear you will know which side of the window needs the attention – therefore saving you time.
  3. However unlike the above, do your dusting on a sunny day – dust always appears in the most unusual places when a stream of sunlight hits it.
  4. Double up on doormats; Have one outside and one inside.  Make sure you clean them regularly so the can productively collect the dirt by hosing outside mats and vacuuming indoor mats
  5. Dust the forgotten places like curtains and lampshades.  Place curtains in a dryer for 10 minutes on a air only cycle to get rid of dust.  Alternatively if you can machine wash put them in the washer and then hang out on the line immediately so that the crinkles will drop out with the weight of the curtain thus avoiding too much ironing to be done.  With lampshades simply attack them with a lint roller.
  6. Pet hair on upholstery and curtains; scrap the lint roller for a simple pair of rubber gloves.  Simply put them on, dampen them and collect the fuzz.
  7. Spring cleaning is the perfect time to pay attention to the thing under the sheets. Press firmly with your vacuum’s upholstery and crevice tools to clean the sides.Then, spot-clean stains with upholstery cleaner or mild suds. After spraying, let dry, then sanitise with a disinfectant spray like Lysol or Dettol.
  8. Kitchen grime is a mix of dust and grease.  Make sure the extractor fan is on every time you cook to keep away grease and regularly clean all doors, cabinets, work surfaces and handles with a good strong detergent.
  9. To make stainless steel truly sparkle and remove finger marks, rub a small amount of baby oil onto it and use a dry soft cloth and work with the grain
  10. Clean your cleaners.  Make sure filters are cleaned, bags/buckets are regularly emptied and wiped clean with a damp cloth and any threads caught in the vacuum head are removed.
  11. Dig into grout, mix 3/4 cup of bleach with a litre of warm water, get a old toothbrush and a pair of rubber gloves and start scrubbing.  Be careful not to get the liquid on clothes and upholstery as it will discolour them
  12. With a cap full of flash in a small bucket of water clean all tiles in your bathroom and kitchen and watch them sparkle plus your rooms will smell lovely

Do you have any more useful spring cleaning tips that you would like to share – if so get in touch, we would love to hear them.

As always, thanks for reading.

Buying Guide to Pots and Pans

Buying Guide to Pots and Pans

Buying Guide to Pots and Pans: When you consider that most saucepans are made to last many years and are used almost daily, it’s well worth investing time and money to select a few, high-quality pieces. So, whether you’re equipping a kitchen from scratch or looking for some reliable replacements, our guide will help you decide whichsaucepans are right for you.

Getting started

First, you need to establish what type of cookware will be suitable for your hob or cooker. Many manufacturers put symbols on the bottom of their cookware, identifying which hob or heat source it is suitable for. If in doubt, ask an assistant to double check.

Ceramic

You can use any pans except copper, stainless steel with an exposed copper base and glass ceramic. Make sure the pan has a smooth, flat base to provide the best contact with the hob ring. Traditional cast-iron pans can be used, but be careful not to drag them across the hob as they may cause damage.

Electric radiant

Any type of pans, except copper.

Gas

All pans. Lightweight pans are good as they allow you to get the full benefit of gas’s controllability. Remember to regulate the flame to prevent it from extending beyond the base of the pan, which can damage the handle and also wastes gas.

Halogen

All pans except copper, stainless steel with exposed single-layer copper base and pans with reflective bases. Choose pans that have dull or dark bases – if the base is too bright and shiny, the thermal limiter may cut out to prevent the glass overheating.

Induction

These hobs are increasingly popular but you may find you can’t use some of the budget ranges with induction heat – a light on the hob will start flashing if it’s not the correct type of pan. The only suitable pans are ones made with a magnetic material in the base, such as cast iron or stainless steel. Pure aluminium or copper pans will not work on an induction hob unless the base is bonded with a magnetic metal.

Range cookers

(e.g. Aga/Rayburn) Check with the manufacturer. As a general rule, heavy-based pans, such as cast iron, are best.

Sealed plate

All pans except copper.

Decision Time

You’ll then need to decide whether you want saucepans that are dishwasher safe. And finally where you’re going to store them. Some new ranges have removable handles, making them easy to store neatly in cupboards.

Some people like to make a feature out of hanging pots and pans on a suspended pot rack, over an island or peninsula, but you may find they start to collect grease and dust and need washing before each use. You’ll also need to keep them clear of passing heads! For a more streamlined look, you can arrange your cookware in a line on the wall using a linear rack. And if you’re building a kitchen from scratch, a carousel in a corner unit is a tidy way to store them and have quick access to your pots without having to root around in a drawer.

The Options

Aluminium
Many aluminium pans have an enamel coating on the outside and a non-stick coating on the inside, making it tough and easy to clean, while the interior is resistant to scratching and staining. You can also get hard-anodised (see below), or cast aluminium – which looks like cast iron but has the weight and good heat conductivity of aluminium. Uncoated aluminium pans are not suitable for cooking acidic foods.

Cast iron
Heats up slowly but retains heat well, so good for long, even cooking at a low heat. Remember, though, that your food will continue to cook for some time after the heat has been turned off. Cast iron rusts easily on its own, so pans usually have a non-stick interior coating or a thin protective layer of vitreous enamel. Uncoated cast iron is not dishwasher safe but most cast iron pans have enamel exteriors and enamel or non-stick interiors. The pans are heavy and particularly suited to range cookers, although they can be used on all types of hob, including induction. However, because of their weight, take care to lift rather than drag pans on a ceramic surface.

Copper
Excellent heat conductivity. Good copper pans are very expensive but should last a lifetime. As copper reacts with certain foods, pans are normally lined with tin or stainless steel to act as a barrier – unlined copper pans must be kept for display only. Copper pans have to be cleaned periodically with a proprietary copper polish to keep them looking their best. Don’t use them on a glass-topped hob unless they have a sandwich-base construction.

Hard-anodised aluminium
Distinguished by their steely grey or black colour. The surface has been electrochemically treated to produce a hard finish that will not chip, crack, peel or react with acidic foods. You can use metal utensils, although these can leave marks on the surface of the pan. These pans are not usually dishwasher safe, but their surface is stick-resistant. Hard-anodised pans are reasonably lightweight and heat up rapidly, eliminating hot spots. Expensive, but perform and last well and are suitable for all types of hob except induction.

Stainless steel
Good-quality pans that should last a lifetime, but they can be expensive. Food tends to stick, so you may have to use more oil. Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat and is liable to have hot spots, so different materials such as copper or aluminium are usually incorporated into the base to improve conductivity – these are sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. Cooking on a low heat also helps. Stainless steel is dishwasher-safe and food does not react with it. Overheating and minerals in water can cause a ‘rainbow’ effect, but a good stainless-steel cleaner will remove these.

Things to consider: Pan coatings

Enamel
Usually applied to aluminium, cast-iron or steel pans. Price varies according to the metal underneath. Enamel pans generally do not pit, scratch easily or react with food. They can, however, chip if treated roughly. Heat distribution can be a problem with some pans – if the coating is too thin, food may stick and burn, so avoid very lightweight pans, which can also warp over a high heat.

Non-stick
Ideal for frying, making sauces etc. A nonstick coating stops food sticking, reduces the need for additional fat and is easy to clean. Non-stick coatings are applied to most types of cookware, from aluminium and steel to cast iron and stainless steel. Choose the coating carefully as quality can vary – look out for branded coatings such as Teflon or Silverstone that come with their own guarantee. Do not use metal utensils or abrasive scourers as these can damage the finish.

Size and weight
Saucepan sizes are measured by diameter, with the smallest being 14cm. Cookware differs in weight from range to range. Although you will obviously be buying the pans empty, try to imagine how heavy they will be to lift when full. As a general rule, the inner capacity for the most common-sized pans is:

Wok
When selecting a wok, as with saucepans, you must consider the type of hob you have. All woks can be used on gas, but for glass-topped hobs, you must look for one with a smooth, flat base to provide good contact with the hob, as opposed to the traditional rounded base.

Traditional woks are made from uncoated carbon steel. Wash in warm water (without detergent), dry and then brush with a thin layer of vegetable oil to help to prevent rusting, as well as to season the wok.

If you don’t feel you have the time or inclination for the preparation and maintenance needed with traditional carbon steel, choose a wok with a non-stick interior. These do not appeal to purists but are easier to maintain.

Look for
✓ Dishwasher-safe As a general rule, pans with plastic or stainless-steel handles or knobs are dishwasher-safe; most pans with wooden handles and knobs are not.
✓ Flat base especially for electric cooking.
✓ Oven-safe Multi-purpose pans that can be used in the oven as well as on the hob save time and storage space. Check that the handle material is oven-proof.
✓ Pouring lips on both sides Ideal for a household with both left- and right-handers.
✓ Stay-cool handles and knobs Handles should be a good length and not too narrow.
✓ Well-fitting lids But free enough to allow steam to escape if there are no vents.

Maintenance

Never leave an empty pan on a hot burner or in a heated oven.

Try to avoid putting a hot pan in cold water or pouring cold water into it. This can cause the base of the pan to warp. It’s always best to leave a pan to cool before washing, in hot, soapy water, unless it is dishwasher-safe.

Take care particularly when cleaning nonstick pans, and avoid using scouring pads, steel wool or abrasives.

To remove burnt-on food, half fill with water and add a dishwasher tablet or tablespoon of biological washing powder. Boil for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

Are Solid Wood Worktops Worth the Effort

Are Solid Wood Worktops Worth the Effort

Are Solid Wood Worktops Worth the Effort: Kitchens are one of the most important rooms in the home. It is normally the place where the family gathers for special moments together, taking a break from their busy lives. In many homes these days, it’s in the kitchen that most of the activities of the day take place: homework gets done; decisions are made; breakfasts are taken on the run and Masterchef quality meals are prepared. No matter what you do in your kitchen, it’s important that it’s a room you enjoy and make the most of.

One of the most important considerations when you’re planning to re-model your kitchen is your choice of worktops. Today there are a whole host of options to choose from; so much so, that it can often seem confusing. The options range from laminate to granite, to acrylic or resin, to marble and tile, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to solid wood worktops people often ask the question: are they worth the effort?

In order to answer this question, it’s worth looking at the maintenance regime for a granite worktop.

“Granite or solid wood?” is one of the most commonly debated choices when it comes to kitchen worktops and from a maintenance point of view; there isn’t much difference in what’s required. With a granite worktop, like a solid wood worktop, once your worktop has had its initial treatment, ongoing maintenance will involve little more than wiping the surface with a damp cloth and some mild detergent. When it comes to more serious cleaning, granite worktops will typically require a heavy-duty stone and a degreaser to really get to the bottom of the dirt, grease and grime that has built up. Stones and degreasers for granite worktops are widely available and will help get your worktop looking great again relatively quickly.

When a granite worktop becomes stained because of spills and neglect, more drastic action is required and this normally takes the form of a poultice. A poultice is effectively a fine clay cleaning powder that is intended to draw the stain out of the granite. Often, using a poultice will cause the surface of your granite to dull and if this happens, then you’ll need to invest in a marble polish to get the shine back. From time to time, certain granite worktops will need to be sealed or re-sealed. The manufacturer of your worktop will let you know if your granite needs to be sealed or not and if so and will advise you on the best product to use as well as how often the process needs to be repeated.

As with solid wood worktops, it’s important to wipe up spills as soon as possible after they happen and never to sit hot pans or casserole dishes on your granite worktop.

So, when you look at this list of maintenance for a granite worktop, it’s hard to see how people could think that solid wood worktops mightn’t be worth the effort.

When you choose a solid wood worktop, not only do you get a quiet, warm worktop solution, you also get a solution that requires little, if any more maintenance than the likes of granite. Wood is quieter than granite simply because it’s less dense and less hard which means that when you lay something on its surface it absorbs the sound rather than resonating it like the likes of marble or granite will do.

Solid wood is also a warmer option than almost any of the other surfaces on the market. Irrespective of which species, colour or grade of wood you choose, wood has a natural warmth that’s pretty much impossible to beat, no matter where you look in kitchen worktop-land.

When it comes to maintenance, there is a huge similarity of regime between granite and wood, with neither one requiring more than the other. In fact if you keep your wood well sealed, with a high quality, food friendly oil, you’ll find that your need for regular maintenance couldn’t be simpler. Nothing more than a damp cloth and a little detergent will be required.

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What food do you turn to when poorly?

What food do you turn to when poorly?

What food do you turn to when poorly? I love homemade soup or homemade chunky chips. I think it’s because it takes me back to my childhood when my grandma would come round with a bottle of Lucazade (the proper stuff in a glass bottle with orange cellophane wrapped around it) and watch Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks or Grease with me.  My mum would make soup or chips and we would sit in front of the tv wrapped in my duvet, dosed up on medicine, stinking of Vicks and I would feel completely pampered and loved.

When my children are ill I do the same for them, after all it is a mothers right to want to ‘molly coddle’ our children for as long as possible isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong they have to be properly poorly – sniffles and a runny nose just won’t cut it.

After recent weeks of my children having scarlet fever, bad colds (mens equivalent is man flu I believe), bumped heads which has resulted in concussion to name but a few (they say it comes in 3’s but I am on number 5!) I feel like I should have shares in Lucazade, Vicks and Calpol with the amount purchased of late.

However comfort food has remained top on the list, homemade chicken soup, tomato soup and (when they got better enough to eat properly) homemade chips curtesy of their granny – have all be consumed.

And all the love, attention and ‘molly coddling’ has worked – they are now fit and healthy playing football, swimming, violin and all the other activities they so love.  Which is exactly how I love to see them.

Ironically, I now have the blasted flu; I type armed with a vat of Lucazade and chicken soup curtesy of my mum on the hob, looking like Olive off of the 1970’s TV programme ‘On The Buses’ stinking of Vicks and nodding (to sleep) like the Churchill dog.

So my question to you all; what is your comfort food and comfort place to be when you are ill??

I hope everyone is in good health, stay positive and thanks for reading, B x

Oven and Cooker Buying Guide

Oven and Cooker Buying Guide

Oven and Cooker Buying Guide: A good oven should last for years and be something you can rely on to produce great dishes every time! Whatever your budget and lifestyle, there’s a huge choice available. It’s also a big purchasing decision, so you’ll want to make sure you get it right. Here’s what you need to know when buying an oven.

The Options

Double or single ovens

Single ovens are a great choice if space is tight, if you tend to cook for one or two or don’t cook much for pleasure. Single ovens are about 60cm tall and can be slotted under-counter or at eye-level. Remember, though, you won’t be able to cook and use the grill at the same time.

Double ovens offer more versatility and are good for families. Electric cookers, where the main oven is fan or multi-function, have a smaller, traditional second oven. Make sure you can fit some of your popular weekday cookware in it; some second ovens tend to be very shallow.

There are two types available – double built-in which measure about 90cm high and built in at eye-level, and the smaller double built-under, measuring 72cm high, which are under-counter.

Remember: main ovens or double built-in ovens are usually roomier than the smaller, double built-in under-counter ovens. You may be better off with a larger single oven which may offer more space for a large roast. When it’s an under-counter model, don’t necessarily think double is larger.

There is always a grill on a double oven in the top oven, and on some of the pricier models you may find a second grill in the bottom oven.

Electric ovens
Conventional (static)

These are less widely available and generally found in basic models. There are electric elements are in the sides or top and bottom of the oven. These have zoned heating: the top of the oven is usually hotter than the bottom. Some top and bottom elements work independently, which is ideal for base crisping, or browning the surface of some foods.

Fan-operated

Most electric cookers and ovens now have a fan to circulate heat more evenly, so the temperature is the same throughout the oven. In ‘fan-assisted’ ovens, the air is heated by electric elements in the oven sides and is then circulated by a fan, while in true fan or convection ovens the element is wrapped around the fan. The advantages are:

✔ Cooking is quicker.

✔ Colour is even, but usually paler and less glossy than on food cooked in a conventional oven.

✔ Pre-heating is usually unnecessary.

✔ Repositioning shelves is unnecessary, as is swapping trays hallway through cooking.

✔ Good for batch baking (cooking on more than one shelf) because of the even heat distribution.

✔ Cooking times and temperatures are always less than traditional ovens but by variable amounts depending on the make of cooker. So follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

✔ The food surface may be drier and less crisp.

Gas ovens

Conventional (British) gas ovens

The gas mark you set relates to the temperature at the centre of the oven. The hot air rises so, you’ll find the top shelf is slightly hotter, lower shelf slightly cooler and the base cooler still. ‘Zoned heat’ is ideal for cooking complete meals, where dishes require different temperatures. Gas is a much moister form of heat than electric, particularly noticeable when baking. The end result is food with a glossy appearance on the outside and a moist texture inside.

Imported gas ovens

Many built-in gas cookers sold in the UK are of European origin. The burners are concealed under the base of the oven, so food is crisped from underneath. They are ideal for pizzas and pastries, but don’t be tempted to use the base plate of the oven as a shelf. Cooking techniques are similar to fan cooking, and heat is more evenly distributed throughout the oven, and cooking tends to be quicker.

Freestanding cookers

More traditional in design, you can get gas or electric freestanding cookers. Around 10% are duel fuel -with an electric oven and gas hob – obviously, this makes them more expensive. Check the oven is at a comfortable height for you. Some models have a storage drawer, which raises the oven above ground level.

Freestanding cookers offer great value for money and there’s a wide range of styles available to suit most kitchen designs. If you have an existing gap in your kitchen they’re easy to slot in and, of course, you can easily take them with you if you move home.

Choose from a double oven, a single oven with a separate grill, a single oven with built-in grill, and a single oven with a grill at eye level. An eye level grill means you’re not continually bending down to keep an eye on something that’s grilling. Some freestanding cookers have a drop down lid which covers the hob when not in use. This can be used as extra work surface if counter space is tight.

Freestanding cookers come in three standard widths: 60cm, 55cm and 50cm. Most are about 80cm tall and 60-65cm deep, so they should sit flush with your work counters. If you’re planning on buying one with an eye-level grill, make sure you have enough space above as they stand about 150cm tall.

Slot-in

For the built-in look. A slot-in oven is streamlined because the cooker is the same height as the adjoining work surface. Unlike a built-in cooker, you can take it with you when you move. Grills are low level, situated in the main oven cavity or in the second smaller oven. Some manufacturers recommend grilling with the door open, others with the door closed – it’s important to follow manufacturers’ instructions on this for safety reasons.

The type of hob depends on the price- most have a ceramic top but top of the range you’ll find induction hobs.

Range ovens

These have either two side-by-side ovens or one extra-wide oven with an internal grill, plus a storage or warming compartment and a substantial hob. You will not, however, get more cooking space than with a conventional oven – external dimensions are larger but the oven may be of normal size or even smaller. Check the number of shelves supplied and usable space. In most cases, the hobs put range cookers in a class of their own because they are quick, powerful and versatile. Most have useful extras such as a wok burner, an extra burner for fish kettles, a griddle or barbecue plates and warming zones.

Heat storage ovens

Heat storage or Aga-type cookers use stored heat. They take approximately six hours to heat up so once on you leave them on. Heat inside the oven stays relatively constant, but there is a large variation in temperature between gradients, so you’ll need to move dishes up and down to control how wuickly they cook. Aga-type cookers look beautiful and help to create a warm heart to the home, but they can be expensive to run and require practice to use effectively.

They can use various types of fuel, including electricity, gas, oil, wood and solid fuel. Most, except all electric, require a flue and are very heavy to install.

Grills

Grilling is done by intense radiant heat at close range. It is quick, and provides even browning over the whole heated area. Depending on the type of cooker, there is a grill either at the top of the main oven cavity, in the small oven, in both ovens, or in a separate grill cavity.

Electric grills

Most cookers use radiant elements that need about five minutes of pre-heating. On the more expensive cookers, grills are faster and more efficient and require little or no pre-heating.

Gas grills

  • Sometimes separate or in the main oven cavity. There are three types to choose from:
  • Fret burners: Sited either at the back or in the middle of the grill cavity. They require no pre-heating, but browning can be uneven, especially when the grill pan is at full capacity.
  • Ceramic grills: Sited behind a heat-resistant glass panel giving a very even heat distribution. Easy to clean, but takes longer than a normal gas grill to heat up. Once pre-heated, grilling is very fast.
  • Surface combustion burners: These concealed behind mesh and provide a more even heat distribution, resulting in even browning.

Things to consider

•If you batch bake and cook traditional foods, opt for a multi-function oven.

• If you only cook traditional foods choose a static type; otherwise a fan oven is better for batch baking, quick cooking (reheating ready meals) and defrosting.

• Alternatively, look for a separate grill and main oven for versatility and convenience.

• Check for cool-touch oven doors, especially useful if you have young children. Even on a high temperature the oven door will remain warm only.

• Eye-level grills are the most convenient to use but don’t look as streamlined. Otherwise, check that a grill below the hob is comfortable for you to use.

• To save money and energy choose a half-grill facility for small batches of grilling.

• Check the oven is at a comfortable height for loading.

• Choose side-opening or drop-down doors to suit your needs.

• Clearly marked and easy-to-use controls. Some are illuminated for easier use.

• On gas appliances look for safety and flame-failure devices.

• BSI approval or equivalent Continental standards.

• Storage drawer and plate-warming racks. Grill can double for plate warming.

• Reversible door hanging to fit in with your kitchen layout.

• Minute minders may be useful.

• An oven light and clear door-viewing panel.

• Automatic timers that will switch the oven on when you are out.

• Childproof controls.
Energy efficiency

Electric ovens are graded from A – G with A being the most efficient.
Maintenance

Most ovens are finished in hardwearing enamel, which is resistant to grease and food particles burning on, making them easy to clean. Normal linings are less expensive and may be cleaned with an oven cleaner.

Some models have catalytic stay-clean liners which make the oven self-cleaning at high temperatures. They should never be cleaned manually and may need replacing during the lifetime of the cooker. You may need to ‘service’ the liners, by putting the oven on its highest heat setting for approximately one hour.

Top-range ovens use a high temperature Pyrolitic cleaning system that cleans every part of the oven’s interior. During the cleaning cycle the internal temperature rises to around 260°C/500°F and soiling is converted into ash, which collects on the floor of the oven, and can then easily be swept out. You’ll need to do every few weeks and the process takes two to three hours to complete.

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How to buy a fridge-freezer

How to buy a fridge-freezer

 

How to buy a fridge-freezer: Below is a list of things you need to consider before you buy a fridge-freezer;

How much space do you have?

One of the first things to think about is the space that it will take up in your kitchen. An extra-wide American-style models are definitely big is beautiful, and come in two different layouts.

  • Side by Side (SxS) models consist of a tall fridge on one side and a freezer on the other; these are popular since you don’t always have to bend down to reach for things in the freezer,
  • DxD (Door and Drawer) designs are increasingly becoming popular. They have a fridge at the top, with two French doors opening onto wide shelves that can accommodate platters of food. The freezer is located in drawers below, where it’s easy to see what’s stored inside.

But while American-style fridge-freezers look amazing and can be packed with food and drink, not everyone has room for one in their kitchen.

With an upright fridge-freezer of around 60cm wide, you can still take advantage of the latest features and technology, just in a smaller size.

You might also want to consider an integrated appliance, which will blend in well but may offer fewer functions than freestanding models.

Always consider the following;

  • Make sure you consider the capacity split between the fridge and freezer when choosing.
  • If you like to cook from scratch every night with fresh ingredients, look for a big fridge. Prefer to bake in batches or are you a sucker for three-for-two offers? Then prioritise freezer space. A total capacity of 260ltr is adequate for most households.
  • Think about the location: Make sure you have good ventilation for any stand-alone appliance, or else the compressor will work overtime, creating a build up of frost. If you are investing in a machine with an ice and water dispenser, be aware that it needs to be connected to a water supply. Most will need to be plumbed into the mains, which may result in extra installation costs and can limit where you put your appliance. You’ll also need to change the water filter regularly. However, models like LG’s GWL227HHXV American-style fridge freezer have their own refillable water tanks.
  • Energy Rating American-style fridge freezers guzzle more power than your average 60cm-wide appliance, so energy efficiency is all the more important. Go for at least an A+ rating to keep bills down.
  • No frost/frost free prohibits icy build-ups that can steal away freezer space and means there’s no need for defrosting.
  • Humidity-controlled crisper prevents cucumbers from going soggy or drying out by keeping them at a higher humidity than the main fridge. This is also helped by…
  • Twin cooling systems that keep the airflow in the fridge and freezer separate.
  • Cool zone preserve meat and dairy more effectively by keeping it close to 0°C, as opposed to the 2-5°C of the main fridge.
  • Fast freeze activate after a trip to the supermarket or batch cooking session to lock in the moisture and flavour of fresh food.
  • Fast cool Quickly chills freshly prepared desserts, or wine, lager and other drinks for a party.
  • Holiday mode Keeps your freezer running, but saves energy either by switching off the fridge completely, or raising its temperature to around 14°C so that eggs, butter, etc stay fresh.
  • Inverter compressor where some fridge-freezers have just one power level, inverter models have several, so if you only open their door for a second or two, they’ll use the lowest power level to cool it – in other words, the appliance never uses more energy than it needs to. They’re quieter than regular compressors, too.
  • Safe and sound glass shelves are more hygienic and easier to clean than wire racks, and for ultimate hygiene, fridges with anti-bacterial linings use silver to kill germs witout harming the food itself.
  • Transparent freezer drawers allow you to see what is stored without opening the drawer, increasing energy efficiency.
  • Even temperature hot air rises so foods in the fridge should be stored accordingly. An airflow system does away with guess workby circulating cold air around the cavity, maintaining an even temperature throughout.
  • Beverage doorlet access milk and drinks via a mini flap in the fridge door.

Why do fridge freezers need safe disposal?
Refrigeration equipment contains ozone depleting substances (ODSs) and CFCs that are harmful to the environment and these must be professionally removed before the item can be scrapped or recycled.
How can I dispose of my fridge freezer?
Many manufacturers will now collect your old appliance when they come to deliver your new one. Alternatively, take your fridge freezer to a recycling centre, or contact your local authority to come and collect it. There are also independent companies that offer disposal services of harmful waste.

 
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Kitchen Trends

Kitchen Trends

Remodelling your kitchen whether it is a lick of paint or a complete revamp can not only be a huge commitment but also a stressful affair, here we give you a few kitchen trends that may help with your decision making;

Your kitchen is the one place where you want to be really careful about trendy choices. The last thing you want is a kitchen that’s out of fashion in just a few years simply because you followed a trend.  Our advice would be to look at the trends in terms of the value they bring to your life and your home.
Here are some trends that are popular now, but have staying power because they address lifestyle needs, convenience, and savings — ensuring you’ll enjoy your kitchen for many years.

1. Love White? You Won’t Go Wrong

It’s hard to believe that white kitchens could get any more popular. But the preference for white cabinets continues to soar. Sixty-seven percent of National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) members said that white is their top choice for cabinets.

Whirlpool’s White Ice collection, with its glass-like glossy sheen, is being hailed as the first appliance exterior to rival stainless steel.

White appliances are so much easier to keep clean than stainless, which smudges if you as much as look at it. Plus, the new icy look is simple, cool, and able to blend into transitional and contemporary styles.

And since stainless has filtered down to the masses, it no longer has that expensive and exclusive cache it once had. But white will always have staying power.

2. Want Color? Go for Neutral Gray

The popularity of sleek, sophisticated grey colour schemes is soaring. Seventy-one percent of NKBA designers said grey is the fastest-growing colour scheme for kitchens.

But grey can be tricky. In cold, cloudy climates, grey can appear frozen unless you use it on warm materials like wood cabinets, or pair it with hot colors likes reds and yellows. On the other hand, grey can appear pleasantly cool in sunny, hot climates — a breath of fresh air in heat and humidity. So while white kitchens are a safe bet, grey is neutral and close enough to white — to have staying power if you use it well.

3. Embrace Smaller Appliances

Small is big these days. Micro-living is taking off for millennials and retirees. Owners of multigenerational homes are installing tiny, secondary kitchens for returning adult children and elderly parents.

Typically, these micro-kitchens feature a two-burner cooktop, combo microwave/convection oven, 18-inch dishwasher, and 60-inch fridge or refrigerator drawer.

GE, in fact, is developing an entire kitchen the size of a 6-foot-wide chest of drawers. The unit is expensive — hey, small isn’t necessarily cheap — contains an induction cooktop, two ovens, a sink, a dishwasher, and two cooling drawers that can function as a fridge or freezer.

4. Choose Quartz Counters Over Granite

In 2013, quartz and granite almost tied in countertop popularity. But since 2014, the trend is definitely toward quartz.

“Consumers Reports” says quartz is the toughest countertop material, which resists scratches, burns, and chips. Crushed quartz stone is mixed with resin to produce countertops that range from solid colors to the look of real granite, but they’ll beat natural stone in toughness. It’s easy to maintain, and unlike granite, you don’t have to seal it annually to prevent stains.

5. Invest in LEDs

Ribbons of LEDs are showing up in the weirdest — and most wonderful — kitchen places: Along toe kicks as nightlights; on the inside of cabinet doors to show off grandma’s china; concealed in crown molding to wash ceilings with light.

LED rope or cove lights are gaining in popularity because:

  • LEDs come in a rainbow of colors, from bright to soft white, red, blue, and green.
  • You can get creative about where you install them.
  • LEDs emit virtually no heat, so you can keep them on forever without burning cabinets or walls.
  • LEDs are energy efficient, lasting 50,000 hours on average — five times longer than CFLs.

And they’re coming down in price, making them more affordable for the average homeowner than they were a few years ago.

6. Rethink Your Fridge

Refrigeration is no longer limited to a single, hulking unit. Homeowners are customising their cooling needs with “point of use” refrigeration, adding cool where they need it.

That could mean adding a counter-height produce fridge in your prep island, next to a wine cooler for the adults, and a juice fridge for the kids.

7. Install a Touch-Activated Tap

Touch-activated Taps are bursting out the fad category into the kitchen must-have column. In fact, in 2013 their popularity jumped to 30% from 20% the year before.

On the face of it, touch-activated seems a little gimmicky, and with prices starting around £300, it’s certainly a lot of money. But it’s great for those times when you’ve got dirty, chicken-goopy hands, and for those in your household who refuse to turn water on and off between tasks because it’s too much hassle. And as water becomes scarcer, anything that saves gallons will have value — and save you on your water bills.

8. Stick with Transitional Design

More than 60% of NKBA designers say contemporary, with its sleek simplicity, is the fastest-growing kitchen style.

Contemporary looks sleek and clean, but can also come across as cold. The design encourages a non-cluttered look, which can be hard to maintain in a busy home. So it’s better to hedge your bets with a transitional design, which combines contemporary and traditional to exploit the best parts of each.

9. Embrace Accessibility Because It’ll Make Your Life Easier

Aging in place is a big snore — until you get to that age when the right modifications will allow you to stay in your home. And since a large part of the population is reaching retirement age, accessibility finally is catching on — even with homeowners who aren’t intentionally seeking those features. Why? Because the designs make so much sense.

It’s not a trend that’s going away. The NKBA’s survey shows that 56% of designers specified accessible/universal design features in kitchens, and most believe they’ll add more and more features in the years to come.

Three here-to-stay trends:

  1. Side-opening ovens at counter height: You don’t have to reach up or bend down to fetch your turkey, just comfortably slide it out. It’s one of those slap-your-forehead tweaks that make cooking so much more ergonomic and accessible for everyone.
  2. Drawers with deep pockets: Base cabinets have evolved from back-bending storage for pots and pans to deep drawer space — typically 24 inches deep — that can hold just about everything in your kitchen.
  3. Microwave drawers: Just like the side-opening oven, by installing the microwave below counter height in a drawer, it’s easier for everyone to use. Just open it up put your food inside, close, and start it. That’s better than above-oven height, which has been the typical location for many years.

As always, thanks for reading, B x

Childhood Food Experiences

Childhood Food Experiences

Memories of family cooking and childhood food experiences aren’t all rosy and nostalgic. Our experiences with food as we grow up shape all our preferences, including our strong, can’t-change-’em, never-shake-’em food avoidances.

What were your worst childhood memories and experiences of food? Anything that scarred you so bad you won’t eat it to this day? Or have you overcome all of your childhood food loathings?

My childhood avoidance was fairly cliché: Bananas are the devils food.  The whole texture, taste and smell of this loathsome fruit repulses me.  My trainer and physiotherapist encourage me every time I see them to eat them as a good source of fuel blah blah blah…………but NO! I will not have it.  Don’t get me wrong, because of their wholesome, nutritious goodness I have tried time and time again to eat them only to spit it out and hug the glass of wine as a deserving prize for trying.

When I was 18 and in the summer before I started university I worked in a chicken factory for two days and a mushroom factory for a day.  The chicken factory was horrendous, disturbing and afterwards I refused to eat poultry for 6 months due to the experience…….however Christmas came and so did the smell of dinner cooking, especially the Turkey, and I caved tucking in like I had never eaten a piece of poultry before in my life.

My dear friend is another who can not abide sweetcorn. If it is on pizza, in a  tuna pasta dish, in a sandwich – whatever it is in or on she can not eat it and will pick it out a piece at a time until all remanence of sweetcorn are removed. Like my experience with bananas she can not even stand the smell.

What about you? What are your worst childhood memories of food or personal dislike?\

As always, thanks for reading, B x