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Gift Lab: Molecular Gastronomy Dinner Party

June 21, 2012

Background Research
Wikipedia says that “Molecular gastronomy is a subdiscipline of food science that seeks to investigate, explain and make practical use of the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur while cooking, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena in general.”

Huh?

I have heard of this food science. I have heard of different restaurants in metropolitan areas around the world, maybe even in not-so-metropolitan areas. I have seen it done on one of those cooking shows. Many friends have gone to wd-50 in NYC and said it was interesting. My friend Stephanie had a 12 course meal of different foods reconstructed at a resort in Mexico. The pictures were awesome. I mean a lemon meringue pie that looks like a SOS Sponge awesome!

Walking at the NY Trade Show I see some fun pictures of crazy foods and then a kit. I can do this at home? Yes please! I couldn’t wait to try out this new product.

Hypothesis
I will be the new Wylie Dufresne, with the help of some friends, and make a meal that will impress the masses. This will all be accomplished in 1 night without a culinary class and with little cooking skills. My most impressive meal is chicken and rice.

Experiment
Materials Needed:
1 Molecular Gastronomy Kit with all its contents
Blender
Roomy Fridge and Freezer
Hand Blender
Lots of Bowls
Stove
Lots of Pots
Friends
Wine (just in case it all goes wrong)
Ingredients for all recipes (frozen chocolate wind, arugula spaghetti, balsamic vinegar pearls, goat cheese raviolis, raspberry raviolis).
Extra ingredients to pair with the yummy food
TV
DVD player
Timer
Scale if you want to be exact

Step 1: I watched the DVD to pick the recipes I wanted to cook and get all the instructions.

Step 2: I Gathered friends and all materials.

Step 3: Watch DVD of all recipes with friends and decide what recipe has the longest cooling time and do that one first. (FYI: Chocolate wind had to cool down in the fridge and then sit in the freezer for about an hour.)

Step 4: Start cooking/ being a scientist.

Goat Cheese Raviolis

Chocolate Frozen Wind

Arugula Spaghetti

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls

Step 5: Make everything look pretty for the cameras.

Goat Cheese Raviolis with tomatoes and basil / Arugula Spaghetti and Balsamic Vinegar Pearls with Tomato / Frozen Chocolate Wind with Raspberry Raviolis

Step 6: Enjoy!

Thanks for your help Nate and Stefanie and Morgan and Sorayah!

Conclusion
The kit has very thorough instructions that walk you through each step by showing you and some great music to keep cooks dancing. It makes the process easy and super fun! And the balsamic pearls and arugula spaghetti looked the best! But maybe I need some more snacks when things are cooling in case guests have not had a snack before the party. I think I just need one more party and a little less wine, and I can open my own restaurant! So fun!

Design

Uncommon New Designs: Foodie Favorites

January 9, 2012

Whether you’re a great cook, a self-proclaimed foodie, or a competitive eater in training, you’ll love these epicurean-friendly new designs.

In fact, our community voting app contains a medley of tools to get you baking, broiling, chopping, and whipping.

The Twisk Whisk is just one of these clever kitchen inventions.

The Twisk transforms from a robust round mixer to a slim flat mixer with a simple twist, and it’s easy to store in flat form. This whipping wonder is pretty impressive, but a few other new products up for voting are just as innovative.

The Cut and Collect cleans up the prep process a bit, while Nesting Utensils and this collapsible Cookbook Stand help you stay organized.

Now, you may want to share your home-cooked creations with your family, but this can be a chore if you’re serving picky eaters. Fortunately, one of the newest additions to our assortment can help.

My Food Passport encourages kids to take tasty travels through trying new foods. Once the journey is complete, they can stamp their passport with a sticker to prove their culinary courage.

We have something new for those who are already quite adventurous and love to try a variety of flavors, too.

These Stoneware TV Dinner Trays are perfect for portioning your favorite main courses, veggies, and desserts.

Would you love to get cooking with new foodie favorites? Visit our community voting app to add your comments to the mix, or stop by our this just in page to see more uncommon new designs!

The Uncommon Life

5 Original Christmas Cocktails

December 13, 2011

The first bloody mary was mixed at the St. Regis in NYC. Mojitos were invented by Cuban sailors. And apparently Mai Tais were first enjoyed in the tropical paradise of Oakland, CA.

Unfortunately, some cities aren’t lucky enough to have a hometown drink. To help fill this need, we’ve concocted some cocktails for several identity-starved cities. After all, it’s holiday party season, and every city deserves a reason to say cheers. Whether you hail from these cities or not, you can celebrate by toasting with these unique traditions-to-be.

Wondering how we picked these cities? Well it’s funalytics my friend! We wanted to find the thirstiest cities in America, ones who would really appreciate our cocktail chemistry. So we looked at sales data from our popular Whiskey Stones and Bike Chain  Bottle Opener. We figured that if a city was buying up whiskey stones at a faster rate, they would probably love our amateur mixology skills.

Here’s a toast to the thirstiest cities in America. Join us in raising a glass, won’t you?

DUMBO BUBBLYORLANDO, FL

(image courtesy of Disneyland Bronze-Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse; Denise Cross)

Remember when Dumbo got drunk with Timothy Mouse? Here’s a Disney-inspired punch that will have you hiccuping and seeing everyone through a rose-colored glass.

– 2 bottles of champagne, chilled.
– 4 oz X-Rated Fusion Liqueur
– 1 cup passion fruit juice
– 2 blood oranges, juiced

Mix ingredients in punchbowl.  Serves 8.

FROSTY THE SLUGGERLOUISVILLE, KY

(image courtesy of Baseball on a Mailbox; Noah Sussman)

Iced and peanut-flavored, it’s equal parts snow balls and ball park.

– 6 oz. coffee liqueur (Kahlua)
– 12 oz. milk
– 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
– 4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
– Club soda

Blend liqueur, milk, ice cream and peanut butter until smooth. Pour and top with splash of club soda. Serves 4.

GOVERNMENT GRADE EGG NOGARLINGTON, VA

(image courtesy of the nog, the stache or the sweater?metropolitician)

This ‘nog could be considered a weapon of mass deliciousness- thick, creamy and not intended for civilians.

– 12 egg yolks
– 12 egg whites
– 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
– 1 quart brandy
– 1 pint rum
– 1 gallon heavy cream
– 1 cup powdered sugar

In an extra large mixing bowl, beat yolks until lemon colored. Add sugar and beat until creamy. Add brandy and rum, alternating between the two. Mix well. Stir in 3/4 gallon heavy cream. In a separate bowl, lightly beat 6 egg whites and then fold into the large bowl mixture. Reuse bowl to beat remaining whites until very stiff, and add powdered sugar and rest of heavy cream. Fold remaining egg white mixture into eggnog mix. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 12.

COLUMBUS WASSAILING CIDERCOLUMBUS, OH

(image courtesy of Christopher Columbus; Conspiracy of Happiness)

Columbus wassailing, and now he’s not.

– 2 quarts apple cider
– 1 1/2 cups orange juice
– 3/4 cup pineapple juice
– 1 tablespoon brown sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
– 2 cinnamon sticks (3 ins)
– dash ground cinnamon
– dash ground cloves

In a large saucepan, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-30 mins. Remove cinnamon sticks. Serve pioneering carolers in blue vessels for a mariner feel.  Serves 10.

SWELTERING SANTAPHOENIX, AZ

(image courtesy of Arizona Christmas; Kevin. Cochran)

A festive, frozen margarita to get you in the (slightly sweaty) spirit.

– 6 oz. white tequila
– 6 oz. Triple Sec
– 8 oz. cranberry juice
– 6 oz. lime juice
– 6 oz. sour mix
– 8 cups ice

Mix ingredients in blender until smooth. Serve in a coupe glass. Serves 4.

The Uncommon Life

Holiday Party Hosting Perfected

December 7, 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  We’ve got gift-giving covered, but we’re leaving the party planning to other experts.  Take a look at some ideas we’re building on and borrowing from in order to host the perfect holiday get-together.

Set the scene for your party with DIY decorating ideas from interior designer and stylist Matthew Mead, who shared his tips with blogger Centsational Girl.  His number one piece of advice?  Keep it simple, which will help both you and your guests feel at home.

(Image courtesy of Centsational Girl)

Once the table is set, fill it with delicious dishes to impress your guests.  Food blog 101 Cookbooks has a comprehensive collection of holiday recipes to draw inspiration from, including hearty dishes like this Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad and festive snacks such as these Butter-toasted Hazelnuts.

(Image courtesy of Heidi Swanson)

Don’t let your dinner table take all the attention – just because you’re staying in doesn’t mean you can’t dress up!  Refinery29 has a variety of outfit ideas, ranging from celebrity-inspired looks to key bold red pieces.  Just don’t fall prey to any of these common holiday faux pas pitfalls!

(Image courtesy of J. Crew)

For a comprehensive guide to hosting a holiday cocktail party, the Drinks team at Serious Eats has compiled a complete how-to for hosting.  Michael Dietsch suggests crafting and creating signature cocktails in advance, anticipating 1-2 drinks per guest per hour, and stocking up on bagged ice.

(Image courtesy of Jennifer Hess from Serious Eats)

Close out the night with a variety of Christmas cookies to serve as dessert or to give as parting gifts.  Bree Hester of Baked Bree is sharing 12 weeks of Christmas cookies, including these unique Hot Chocolate Cookies and the Canadian classic, Nanaimo Bars.

(Image courtesy of Bree Hester)

And if you can’t share the joy of the holidays with friends and family in person, make sure to send along season’s greetings with an uncommon card, stocking stuffer, or personalized gift.

The Uncommon Life

An Uncommon Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

November 22, 2011

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year or attending a potluck, consider taking inspiration for uncommon foods from a few of our favorite blogs. Who knows, you might end up creating a new tradition by cooking up one of the following dishes!

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s unique city-to-country transformation and trademark style have landed her a book deal, Food Network show, and even a movie (to be released next year). Give your guests a taste of pioneer goodness with this unique pumpkin soup, and save yourself from dirty dish duty too!
 (Image courtesy of The Pioneer Woman)

For another stuffed squash dish (and potential main substitute for any vegetarians at the table), Honest Cooking presents a Winter Squash With Stuffing and Goat Cheese that’s just as flavorful as any typical turkey.
 (Image courtesy of Honest Cooking)

Finally, if you’re seeking an alternative to pumpkin or plain apple pie, Jenna of Eat, Live, Run suggests a Chocolate Angel Nut Pie that’s unique and uncommon, but still evokes all the flavors of fall.
(Image courtesy of Eat, Live, Run)

Whether you’re sticking to the classics or making something new, we wish you all an equally Happy Thanksgiving from UncommonGoods!

The Uncommon Life

DIY Gifts that Keep On Giving

November 17, 2011

We love the internet – there’s a treasure trove out there of inspiration.  Here’s what’s caught our eye recently in the world of DIY gifts, a trend we’re totally on board with.

(Image courtesy of Design Boom, from Sabine Marcelis)

Our own Jonathan and Kira tested the Beer Making Kit earlier this summer, and it looks like they aren’t the only ones experimenting with DIY distilling: Design Boom brought to our attention Netherlands artist Sabine Marcelis’ “Housewine,” a beautifully simple and functional display of the wine-making process.

(Image courtesy of My Baking Addiction)

Another recent trend that’s right at home with UncommonGoods is indoor gardening, and now that flu season is upon us, a great way to stay healthy is by adding herbs to your repertoire of recipes. Consider making Jamie of My Baking Addiction’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil Herb Dip. The Dip includes oregano and basil, which can both be grown in our recycled Grow Bottles!

(Image courtesy of Astronomy Today Sky Guide; photo by Jenny Rollo)

While UncommonGoods specializes in gifts that are great for the home, we’ve also got goods that are out of this world – the Planisphere Watch tells the time and maps the night sky.  If you’re interested in DIY astronomy, check out Astronomy Today’s Sky Guide, a handy tool for tracking otherworldly occurrences.

Design

This Just In: Mushroom Kit

October 12, 2011

It can be hard to get kids (and some adults) to try new foods, especially if those foods are kinda funny looking. Mushrooms, for example, are quite delicious, but some folks just aren’t in to fungus.

Those caps can seem a bit strange, plucked from the dirt, packaged in foam, and wrapped up in plastic at the grocery store. But, you don’t have to go to the supermarket to find edible mushrooms. You can actually grow them easily at home, so picky eaters can see from just where their food is coming.

Continue Reading…

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Summer Treats

May 23, 2011

Customer Service representative Meya made some colorful fruit and veggie mango pops with the new Quick Pop Maker, and a recipe she found in Perfect Pops. But will her teething daughter find them as tasty as they are healthy?

1) Product Name: Quick Pop Maker & Perfect Pops

2) Background Research:

Summer’s coming and as a parent to a teething infant, I know the best thing to help sooth them is something cold for them to crush on. So my goal was to find an ice pop recipe that I can make in a jiffy that my teething 8 month old could enjoy as well as the rest of the family.

3) Hypothesis:

I will no longer have to worry that I forgot to pop the teethers in the freezer when the moment hits.

4) Experiment:

My mission: Use the book to find a pop that my whole family will love and with the magic of the Quick Pop Maker create instant ice pops in a flash.

I unpacked, washed, dried and immediately stuck the quick pop maker in the freezer. Then I set out to find the perfect pop recipe. My criteria for my recipe was a pop made of fruits/vegetables, with no added sugar (natural sugars are okay) or salt. A recipe on page 60 caught my interest>: watermelon-beet juice and carrot-apple juice striped pops.

But going over the ingredients I thought, “I must have lost my mind.” Beet juice stains are no joke, and even with the small amount required (2 tbs) I wasn’t willing to risk it. I decided to omit it from the recipe. In the end I also omitted the agave nectar because I couldn’t find any that was pasteurized. I tasted the carrot and apple juice mixture and it really did need something to sweeten it up so I added some mango puree. While it succeeded in sweetening up the mix, it also really changed the color.

Here’s what I did next:

1. Remove Quick Pop Maker from the freezer. Insert sticks and pour about ¾ ounce of 1st mixture or Puree; allow layer to freeze completely.
2. Pour ½ ounce of next mixture or puree into each cavity directly on top of the 1st layer; allow layer to freeze completely.
3. Pour another layer, fill the base up to fill line in each cavity; allow layer to freeze completely.
4. Remove the pops with the Super Tool.

Pretty easy!

5) Results: From start to finish the whole process took about 20 min. I decided to juice or puree fresh fruit, so that added to my time. As did making the striped pops, because I had to wait for each layer to set.

6) Conclusion: I was surprised at Leya. She really loved these popsicles. I took this first picture thinking that I had sometime while she ate her way through the pop.

Little did I know! By the time I texted my mother a picture of Leya eating the pop, she was 2/3 done. As for her sore gums, I had a very happy baby on my hands. So much so that I decided to make her another the very next day (this time it was only an apple-carrot puree). Okay, so I guess I’m not that great at following a recipe but these pops were so good and were quick and easy to make. I can’t wait to try some of the other recipes. If you don’t think your infant can handle the pop stick or you just don’t want the mess, you can always cut a piece off and put it in a mesh feeder.

The Quick Pop Maker is $50 and comes with everything you need to make a batch of pops in just 9 minutes. Pick up a copy of Perfect Pops, $16, for some fun recipes to get you started.

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