What's Hot in Cooking

What's Hot in Cooking
What's Hot in Cooking

Monday, May 30, 2016

What's Hot in Cooking

Are you considering changing your cooktop and/or oven sometime soon?  I had the opportunity to attend sessions at the Dwell magazine/Monogram classes held recently in Seattle. I know in my home, we cook regularly (probably 90% of the time) and I’d love to have a cooktop and oven that made it: 
  • easier, 
  • better tasting, and 
  • better for me 
than our current traditional radiant oven and cooktop.  Below are some choices for your consideration when you start thinking about your choices on the market.

Induction Cooking:
Do you yearn for the ease and fast-paced heating of electric (radiant) cook tops but also want the temperature control to be more responsive? If your favorite TV cook has made you long for gas, but tearing up the kitchen to put in gas lines isn’t in your plans, then consider induction cooking, which uses electromagnetism to heat the food in the cookware itself.  You’ll find it:
  • provides an extremely fast boil, 50% faster than gas or electric. 
  • heats food faster and therefore saves energy,
  • uses 90% of the energy produced compared to only 55% for a gas burner and 65% for traditional electric burners. 
  • more powerful, and heats hotter and faster than gas or electric. (A typical induction cooktop is 84 percent efficient, while a gas range is only 40 percent efficient, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.)
  • cooks evenly,
  • reduces heat in the kitchen,
  • safe, as you can’t burn yourself on the cooktop, & pots stay mostly cool while cooking,
  • many models turn themselves off if you leave it on accidentally.
  • easier to clean, because you aren’t cleaning up spills that have burned on the stovetop.
    Photo credit: Ramblewoodgreen.com

    Photo Credit: Rowl.org

    Photo credit: ThisOldHouse.com

The one negative is that induction cookware must be made of a magnetic-based material, such as cast iron or magnetic stainless steel. Fully clad cookware brands, such as All-Clad Stainless, Le Creuset Stainless Steel and Mauviel M'cooks stainless work on induction cooktops because they're magnetic. Cast Iron cookware also works on induction, like Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron.

Convection Cooking:
A convection oven circulates hot air with a fan. Unlike conventional radiant ovens, convection ovens have a fan that continuously circulates air through the oven cavity. When hot air is blowing onto food, as opposed to merely surrounding it, the food tends to cook more quickly. A convection oven deals with problems of hot spots or uneven cooking, because the circulating air keeps the temperature more steady.  You can therefore reduce the heat by about 25 degrees on most of your treasured recipes.  It does take a 240 volt outlet, so an electrician would need to deal with that portion of the change. They are known to be less effective with baked goods, as they tend to dry the food because of the air movement around the food being prepared.  Most convection ovens allow you to turn the fan on or off, however making it a good choice for your home.

Photo credit: Shopperschoice.com
Photo credit: Finecooking.com
Cookies on the left are unevenly baked
in a conventional oven.

Photo credit: Thermador.com

Steam Cooking:
Although steam cooking is a growing trend in today’s market, the science of steam cooking has been around for centuries.  The first recorded use of steam cooking was in Ancient China where cooks would place reed baskets over water-filled hot woks. 
Photo credit: gettyimages.com
The French invented pressure cookers in the 1950s which became a convenient way to prepare meat and vegetables.
In recent years restaurants use steam cooking to prepare food quickly and keep it warm until serving time. Several residential appliance brands produce steam ovens so you can have access to this technology in your home.
When the oven is turned on, the heat turns water into steam. Many steam ovens have a removable reservoir that needs to be refilled when you use the oven, and changed from time to time. Some high-end models are connected to a water line. The oven has a valve to release pressure of the steam similarly to a pressure cooker or a tea kettle. It uses natural convection adding flavor with heat, liquid, or air, without having to resort to butter or oil.
Steam cooking is the healthiest form of cooking, retaining more nutrients than other forms of cooking so that your produce tastes better and is healthier.
You can cook, bake, roast, grill, steam, defrost, and warm leftovers making these ovens some of the most versatile appliances in the industry.  

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Photo credit: sesshudesign.com

Photo credit: Time2Design.biz
Manufacturers claim that you could theoretically cook fish on one rack and muffins on another rack and your muffins will not taste like fish!
Steaming works well for delicate foods, and many people also use steam to cook vegetables, fish, meats, and add moisture back into leftovers, something that a convection oven or microwave won’t do. Steam ovens are the easier appliances to clean because food splatters and spills will never cook onto the oven surface. After you are finished cooking you should just wipe down the inside of the oven. Any spills should come off really easily.  On the negative side, there are installation requirements for steam ovens, steam oven tend to have smaller cavities, and they don’t brown foods as well as other means of cooking, which can make some food less appetizing in appearance.
Photo credit: Dineanddish.net
In conclusion:

Combination ovens are currently on the market that will allow you to combine  steam, use induction and microwave foods simultaneously.  Coming up in the near future: cooktops undefined by element rings! 
What are your questions or comments on cooktops and ovens?  If you want or need help selecting, designing or remodeling your kitchen, please contact me at https://TransformationsforInteriors.com and we'll set up an initial consultation....and please follow this blog for the latest home improvements!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cool Considerations for Refrigeration

Are you thinking about buying a new refrigerator, or just want to keep the food that you refrigerate at it’s optimal best for as long as possible?  Read on… this blog’s for you!  Refrigeration isn’t as simple as it once was.  Refrigerators today come essentially in 2 depths: “standard” which is 31-35” deep, and “counter depth” of 25” without the door(s.)  Some are free standing, and the more expensive ones are built-in, which gives a higher-end, integrated look.  There are also under-counter refrigerators and refrigerator drawers to consider.  Their prices range from several hundred to over $6,000- you’d better be well informed when you go into a dealer to decide upon the model you want.

Counter Depth vs. Standard Depth
Counter depth forfeits up to 6” of depth in your fridge, so that the body doesn’t stick out past your cabinets.  This really does give you are more professionally designed look, although the obvious downside is cost: there is an upcharge for their comparable models in standard depth.  
What if you want to build an island across from the fridge, and you need the clearance space in the aisle between them?  This is an easy way to get 6” of space.  Another consideration is to buy a fridge with (half width) French doors, as they’re much more shallow by comparison when open. If you have a small space, such as a narrow galley kitchen, it’s also worth your consideration.  The more valuable your property and the longer you plan to live there, the easier it is to justify spending the money on a counter depth refrigerator.  If you want to learn more about good counter depth fridges, check out http://blog.bostonappliance.net/best-counter-depth-refrigerators/

Free-Standing vs. Built-in
Free-standing refrigerators come in widths up to 36”, and two depths as previously explained. The compressor is most often housed in the bottom of the refrigerator.  These fridges are on wheels and can be easily moved around.  Life expectancy of these types of refrigerator is about 10 years.
Built-in refrigerators are counter depth- usually 24” plus doors. They come in a variety of widths from 18-48”. Most built-ins are 84” tall, because their compressors sit on top of the refrigeration unit, and must be professionally installed and affixed to the wall.  Life expectancy of these types of refrigerator is about 17 years.

Food Preservation
I don’t know about you, but after learning about all the toxic chemicals used to grow our fruits and vegetables as well as the protein we eat, I’m buying all organic.  That means I’m paying about two times the price for my food, but I figure out of all the investments I need to make in my life, my first priority should be to my body to extend its life. I really want to preserve the food that I put in my fridge as long as possible because I’m paying more for it.  Here are some facts I learned about the “innards” of a refrigerator:
Briefly, the parts of that cool your food are the compressor, condenser and evaporator.  Most higher end refrigerators offer dual condensers and evaporators. Some offer dual compressors, which is awesome for food preservation, but as far as longevity, there isn’t an advantage: more parts= more to go wrong.

Temperature management:  Consider buying a fridge that manages the temperature very frequently to maintain consistency.

Evaporator and Humidity Control.  An evaporator moistens or dries out a compartment.  Fresh foods need about 50% humidity (but see below) for maximum longevity. Frozen foods prefer 0% humidity for best results.  A single evaporator tries to hit a mid point of 30% in most refrigerators. Dual evaporators can keep food longer, because they can function for the two areas: refrigerator and freezer.  Below are some considerations for keeping your fruits and veggies at the right temperature:
In some higher-end refrigerators, you can get a cartridge that removes ethylene gas, which is produced by many fruits and vegetables and causes food to rot more rapidly.  Below are some considerations for you to utilize right now in your own refrigerator. Separate the ethylene producing produce from the ethylene sensitive.

It’s probably not worth your money to add these higher end components if you store little in your freezer, or store mostly condiments, bottles and cans in your fridge. 
Panels cover this built-in refrigerator so that it becomes invisible!
Cost vs. Longevity
A 1986-era 18 cubic foot fridge uses 1400 kWh a year, while a modern energy-efficient model uses only 350 kWh — a whopping 75% reduction. To be given an Energy Star rating, companies have had to do a lot of research over the years, which costs money.  Energy Star, a government regulated agency has consistently raised its standards for using electricity, and the result is great to save energy, but refrigerators simply don't last as long as a result.  If you want to learn more, check out https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=refrig.calculator https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=refrig.calculator

In conclusion

What are your questions or comments on refrigerators?  If you want a copy of either of the charts I made above (Effects of Humidity or Ethylene Effects) send me an email: Shelley@TransformationsforInteriors.com and I’ll send you a copy via attachment.  If you want or need help selecting, designing or remodeling your kitchen, please contact me at https://TransformationsforInteriors.com
and we'll set up an initial consultation.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Make it Easier with Universal Design!

Do you know what Universal Design is, and why it’s important to consider using in your upcoming remodel or design-build?  Universal Design is defined as the creation of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.  We’re never aware of the need for it until we’re in some way disabled (for at least a period of time.)  I can recall a few years ago when I broke my femur: suddenly the toilet was too low, the bed was too high and I needed a tub seat so I could take a shower even with help getting into or out of the tub!

The authors*, a group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, collaborated to establish the following Principles of Universal Design in 1997 to guide a wide range of design disciplines including environments, products, and communications. These seven principles may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.

We all have experienced some Universal Design in public buildings and locations, whether it’s automatic doors that open and close, accommodations for wheel chairs and walkers at sports arenas, or a moving sidewalk or escalator that accommodates all people.  But why might we consider these adaptations in our own home?  Actually, we already have some.  Here are some more ideas for your consideration.

Principle 1: Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

Grab bars in a shower can help children

Grab bars prevent slipping!

More grab bars in the shower!

This TP dispenser can help to more easily stand up or sit.

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
Touch sensitive on & off faucets

Photo credit: www.Richelieu

Easy to access lower drawers & pull-outs in the kitchen.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
No curb walk-in shower
Photo credit: HomeEpiphany.com

Visuals w/several means of setting

Wheel chair accessible sink & cooktop.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
I love my "undo" command!

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
This door handle is easy to open.

This type of door knob is much harder to open!

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

In conclusion:
Principles of Universal Design address only functional design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability. Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes.
If you would like more considerations for universal design, write back with your thoughts, ideas or pictures below. You can also give me a call and we’ll discuss your project. I’d love to hear from you!  Want more ideas on ways you can make small, affordable changes for a time when you or a family member needs that extra help due to a skiing accident, a car accident, or an illness/health condition? Contact me at  Transformations for Interiors to chat about your project and how you might include more Universal Design in your home.

* Authors: Bettye Rose Connell, Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story, and Gregg Vanderheiden worked together at North Carolina State University.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mid-Century Modern Design

Do you love the look of sleek, uncluttered, and clean lines in a home? We see lots of trends toward a fresh and elemental style in design, whether it’s in its architecture, interior design, or its furnishings. Almost any contemporary trend today reflects Mid-Century Modern Style. Furniture that pre-dated the 1950s used decorative flourishes and detail, while mid-century modern designers found beauty in lines that were sleek, organized, and orderly. Smooth lines exemplified the freshness these designers wished to model in their designs. But there’s really no such thing, it appears as a one-story modern home these days.  Most architects use a small footprint and then build up to provide views of our lakes, mountains, and skylines throughout Seattle.
The Mid-Century modern movement was really an American reflection of the International and Bauhaus movements of Europe - including the works of Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe. Popularized more recently by the television hit, Mad Men, more and more home owners are being romanced by the Era of the fifties and sixties. Take a look at a picture from Don & Megan Draper’s apartment and Don's office in a New York City for inspiration! 
Photo Credit: latimesblogs.latimes.com

Photo Credit: Missatlaplaya.com

Mid-Century style brought the outdoors inside through the use of large windows, combined with open floor plans. This created a more organic and less formal approach than previously used in the U.S. Targeting the needs of the average American family, function became as important as form. “California Modern” style was a good example of homes styles that initially became popular in the 1950s and sixties, popularized by Eichler. 

Kaleidoscopic of colors and textures: Mid-Century Modern style saw a great abundance of textures and colors that were creatively mixed together for the first time, which emphasized the hope of a peaceful world of the future. 
Photo credit: digsdigs.com

Photo credit: mymodernmet.com

Photo credit: tophomedesignz.blogspot.com
Eero Saarinen Womb Chair -Knoll furniture
Prototypical examples of these mixtures are present in the most popular Mid-Century Modern furniture pieces today: the Eero Saarinen womb chair (shown above), the Eames lounge chair (shown below), Eileen Gray End Table (shown below), the George Nelson bench (below the end table), and Mies Van de Rohe Barcelona chair (shown lower yet.) 
Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman- Hermann Miller
Eileen Gray End Table- Room & Board
George Nelson Bench- Hermann Miller
Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chair- Knoll

White accents and furniture was also used to create a fresh, spotless look that united all the colors and textures. 

Unique Materials: 

There was a tremendous affection for teak wood in mid-century modern design. With the large Scandinavian sway on modernism, the wood’s warmth and strength was welcomed by a world looking to find serenity after two World Wars. Teak provided a wonderful setting to the previously mentioned use of color and texture. 
Bakelite top and teak legs
Photo credit: Etsy.com

Photo credit: Furnishmevintage.com

Photo credit: Reevesantiqueshouston.com

Plastic, Bakelite, Plexiglass and Lucite received the mass appeal of man-made materials that were not previously found in furniture. Glassware and ceramics (such as Iittala and Arabia from Finland), tableware (such as George Jensen’s designs from Denmark), and lighting (such as Poul Henningsen’s designs from Denmark) were some of the categories for the products created. 

The incredible recognition of Mid-Century Modern design in today’s interiors is suggestive of the ageless attraction of great designers like Herman Miller, Eames, and Saarinen. 

Sixty plus years later, people are paying premium prices for genuine, valuable Mid-Century Modern furniture pieces. Your designer will know just where to look to locate these or other gems for you!

In conclusion:
If you are one of those who loves this sleek, clean and uncluttered look, write back with your thoughts, ideas or pictures. You can also give me a call and we’ll discuss your project. I’d love to hear from you! https://TransformationsforInteriors.com
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