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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Talk About Ceramic Knives - Good, Bad...Ugly?

    For MANY years, long before they were easy to find and more commonplace, I found a wonderful folding ceramic bladed knife. I carry it everyday and after MANY years it serves me very well. Believe it or not, it's still quite sharp. My little folding Boker Ceramic (black blade) has been long discontinued, but due to its utility and the flood of inexpensive ceramic knives on the market I decided to take another look at them for use in the RV. While I couldn't find another one like mine, I did stumble across lots of kitchen versions.

Tiny, But Useful!
Knives are useful. That's pretty obvious, I know. But in the RV environment (especially if you only use it in warm weather) steel knives can get rusty and when used a lot they can get dull. Stainless steel makes for a great improvement, but they are more expensive and a bit harder to sharpen. I know lots of techniques for sharpening knives, but when I am on an RV trip it's supposed to be a VACATION, so sharpening knives isn't really on the to speak. How about ceramic kitchen knives? They don't rust, stay sharp a long time and are a less expensive than their steel counterparts. I'm not talking about dollar store steel knives, I'm talking about medium quality chefs knives. The high quality ones are very expensive and usually not needed for traveling!

A Three Piece Set
What's available now? Well, you can buy ceramic knives in many sizes and colors. Some come in sets of three or can be bought individually. They can be had in many colors. So far, I've picked up the two smaller ones: a paring knife and a vegetable knife. They are incredibly sharp and for very little money will outlast most inexpensive kitchen knives easily. This is not to say everything is roses...far from it. The biggest Achilles heel (and strength) of ceramic blades is that they are very hard so they are very brittle. This means that a sharp blow can cause them to simply break or, at worst, shatter. It's also what makes them keep their edges so well and for so long. You SHOULD NOT chop with them, especially on a hard surface. I always use a relatively soft plastic or wood cutting board. NEVER use them on a ceramic plate! It would be bad. You also cannot PRY with them. Not that you should ever pry with any regular knife anyway, but these will break without too much force being applied.

All these downsides aren't really that hard to manage. Treat them nicely and they will last a long time. For the cost of a cheap steel knife, you can try one of these. Online they can be found for as little as $5.99 for a 3" paring knife to around $12.99 for a 6" general purpose one. There are many other sizes and price points. I suggest you buy one and try it out. I've been using mine most of the winter. So far, so good. Did I mention they are dishwasher safe? And they clean up very easily? Since they really are so sharp...fingers beware!

What's not to like?

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Editor: If you're interested, here's a link to check them out on Amazon. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Another Way Cool LED Light! - No, REALLY!

    A while ago I wrote an article about an inexpensive LED light that was so good, two of them have garnered a permanent place affixed to the side of my metal range hood. The only drawback they had, was the inability to aim the light without holding it in your hand (or more likely in your mouth!). You couldn't really balance them on anything.

Well...I ran across one that you can AIM and is less expensive and even brighter. So far...what's not to like?

It's Really nice!
Well, let's start with the good. It's brighter since it uses a newer technology style of LED bulbs and there are 20 of them! It has the same flood light and flashlight modes. However, the flashlight side is still 3 older style LEDs. It's just as bright as the old one, so I guess that's OK. Same method of operation. One click for flashlight, click again for flood light and once more to turn off. Simple to operate. It still has a folding hanger on the back, which is great. There is a stand attached with a hinge on the sides of the light -- this can act as a stand or a handle. Built into the stand is a strong magnet.  This is where it wasn't Quite as useful as the old one -- storage.

I have two of the old style lights attached to the side of my range hood. The magnets are flush with the back of the lights, so they stay flat and secure while underway. The new light forces the light to "stick out" from the surface and a bump in the road will cause it to drop off. It also sticks out far enough to get in the way, generally. I still like this light. A lot! And with a $2.50 price point (including batteries) at any Wal-Mart, it's a bargain. My other lights are usually $2.99 to $3.99, depending on the current sale. I couldn't take a photo of the light while it was on -- it's really too bright!

I often wonder if there is a "flashlights anonymous" program. I mean, I see something unique and new and I have to have one. I guess as far as vices go, this one's not too terrible.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Very Cool, Easy Way To Cook Eggs Quickly!

    Ever since the powers that be have changed their minds about the healthfulness of fresh eggs, I have been enjoying at least one for breakfast most days. I make them lots of different ways, scrambled, over, frittata, omelette and quite a few others. Always with various ingredients I have on hand. (Leftovers are GREAT for this!) Usually I pull out a skillet and go to town. Now I have another way using the microwave oven, that has even less cleanup. And that's a good thing indeed!

This gadget purported to make 1-4 fresh eggs at a time, either scrambled, or poached or even "mcmuffin" style. It's made of very heavy-duty ceramic, nicely finished. It's about the size of a large coffee mug with no handle and has various bits of silicone to seal the container and keep your hands and fingers from burning when it's hot. Although, that didn't work out too well. this thing gets HOT! It is designed to work exclusively in the microwave. Now, I know that microwaved eggs can get rubbery and nasty, but so far...this device keeps them fluffy and delicious. Unless you seriously exceed the cooking time the manufacturer recommends.

 Depending upon the number of eggs and other ingredients you add, the time to cook will vary from 50 seconds to 3.5 minutes. The gizmo will cook up to 4 eggs at once. There is an easily read line inside that shows the maximum amount of ingredients allowed. if you go over this line, you will end up with eggs pushing the lid off and all over your microwave. Don't ask me how I learned this! Also, be very careful as the cooker is quite hot when it's finished. Use a pot holder! Clean-up is pretty easy, though next time I use it, a quick spray of some brand of cooking spray will likely make it even easier.

The Eggs DOUBLE In Size!
So far, I have used this with just plain eggs, with cheese added, with mushrooms and cheese, with peppers and cheese and with cooked bacon and cheese. All of them came out fluffy and delicious. I haven't tried to make a NON-scrambled egg yet, but I imagine it would work similar to my egg mcmuffin cooker that I have been using for years. I noticed that the ingredients cook perfectly and are ready at the same time as the eggs, so your imagination is the only limit. I wouldn't rely on it to cook raw bacon though.... Since steam is the main cooking component at work here, the cooking times are going to vary quite a bit depending upon your microwave's power levels.

Since I can cook a couple of eggs in around 2 minutes, my inverter setup (recharged by solar) doesn't have a problem with excessive draw. Your setup may be different. You could always start the generator or remain on shore power. The bottom line? If you want good eggs in a hurry with or without "mix-ins" this thing works as advertised. What more could you ask for?

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Editor: The Egg-Tastic is a best-seller on Amazon.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cool Flat Portable LED Light.

    Many years ago I used to frequent the Sharper Image shops and read through their catalogs. Every once in a while something really interesting would catch my eye. A couple of weeks ago I was in a Target and noticed a small display of Sharper Image branded items. One thing that stood out was a flat, clear LED light with an attached black handle. It was so unusual (and 90% off!/$1.49) that I couldn't resist. I wish I had purchased a few more! Yes, I am addicted to flashlights! Sometimes the strangest things can be found in the most ordinary places.

Well Put Together With Screws
This black beauty is about 12 inches long by 5 inches wide and only 3/4 of an inch thick. When I bought it, the light output was pretty abysmal. Since it took 4 AAA batteries I had to wait until I got home to replace them. Once there, with the new batteries in place, I was AMAZED at the light output of this gizmo. It's so bright as to be hard to look at directly. The light is diffused and really works well to light up a decent-sized area. It could easily replace a small lantern. It's not perfect though. The switch to turn on the light and cycle through the other features is a simple push button covered by a large plastic molded cover that matches the shape of the edge of the unit. It's WAY too easy to hit accidentally and run your batteries dead.

Did I mention "other features?" Well, it does have two other modes. Press the button once and you get the incredible light. Press it again and it turns on a small backlit translucent red strip on the front of the light. Press it once again and that little red light flashes. Ummm...why? The last press turns it off. Kind of annoying to have to press this button 3 additional times just to turn the light off. AND you have to pass through two useless features first. On the other hand, it DOES have a metal stand that swivels flush with the base when not is use. That is VERY useful. I guess everything is a compromise.

Ah, well. I'll still take a few more if I can find them. Since it's so slim, I can slide it in almost anywhere I have a narrow space. No idea, yet, how long the batteries will last. But I WILL find out!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"