Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2” Drill Driver Kit

Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2” Drill Driver Kit 

The Milwaukee M18 Drill Driver Kit Model 2603-22 is a work quality tool that has the power to drill and drive through wood, preserved wood and concrete that includes a handle and two batteries with charger.

Ease of Use/Performance: 4.5/5
Convenience/Storage 5/5
Appearance/Design 5/5
How much I enjoy 5/5

Average Rating 5/5

Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2” Drill Driver Kit

I received another tool from professional tool manufacturer Milwaukee and could not be more impressed with this quality tool that performs well. The Milwaukee company manufactures professional quality tools including their signature Sawzall reciprocating saw and has been a leader in power tools since 1924.

The Milwaukee M18 line of power tools is a lithium powered line of tools that centers on the lithium ion batteries in a few capacities but you have to match the voltage of the batteries. I am not sure if you can accidentally put the wrong voltage battery on a tool but when purchasing extra batteries you need to make sure you buy the correct 12, 18 or 28 volt battery.

The batteries come in a regular and high capacity with a new technology called RED LITHIUM that increases the current discharge for more power when you need it. One feature I like about the Milwaukee batteries is the power indicator on the battery itself to check for battery charge status without having to install the battery in the tool.

The 1/2” drill driver has all the power it needs from the high capacity Milwaukee M18 RED LITHIUM batteries with two in the kit so you have an extra battery for your tough jobs. The 2603-22 kit includes the 1/2” drill driver, two RED LITHIUM 18 volt batteries, an M12/M18 charger, a removable handle in a plastic carry case with manuals for the tool and charger.

Whats in the Box Milwaukee M18 FUEL

The 1/2” drill driver is a hefty tool weighing in at about 3.5 pounds while the tool with a RED LITHIUM XC, extra capacity, battery weighs about 5.1 pounds. This may seem a bit heavy for a hand tool but considering the use the tool will be put through like driving long screws into wood or drilling concrete heft is important for control.

The tool includes a handle that attaches on the top of the tool with a simple tightening of the round handle on the two clamps that fit into the indents by the top body screws. The side handle gives you even more control while doing hefty work like drilling into concrete or boring large holes in tough wood like treated lumber.

The company has upgraded the internal circuitry of the M18 tool to make better use of the lithium-ion technology as well as a new brushless motor that better cools and lasts longer. The brushless motor and better circuitry equate to a better motor that gives longer lasting drilling and driving due to a cooler running motor.

The contoured handle makes the drill driver comfortable for use while the chuck is easy to use and securely holds bits when tightened without a chuck key. There is also a space for a belt clip or a bit holder on each side of the drill driver but these need to be purchased separately and installed using a single screw.

Milwaukee M18 Drill Driver in Case

The drill driver is hefty but with a good feel when doing heavy duty work like drilling through 2 by 12’s to install some wiring conduits through a basement foundation. I have used the drill for several jobs like installing shelves and working in some fairground buildings with varying uses from drilling to driving into concrete and even mixing paint in five gallon buckets.

The tool has two speed settings and a rotating torque setting to deliver varying torque for depth of driving or for the necessary power due to material type while drilling. The drill and driver uses the two speeds to vary the main speed and the torque that allows the drill to slip when it reaches a specific torque that works well for driving screws to a specific depth.

The Milwaukee M18 drill driver works extremely well for concrete work and drilling into other tough materials like preserved wood even if using larger bits like 1/2 inch to create holes for rebar. I had no problems drilling into concrete through preserved wood which is pretty difficult and through regular wood for many jobs both at home and elsewhere.

The drill speed works well for jobs like mixing paint in five gallon buckets on low speed and switching to high speed to drill through lumber quickly and easily. The drill driver has no problem with performing multiple tasks in a variety of materials with the extra capacity batteries that hold a charge well and are easy to change.

Milwaukee M18 Drill Driver Settings

The battery capacity lasts very well for the tool use and having two batteries in the same kit really makes sense for convenience while on large jobs. The battery charger that comes with the Milwaukee 2603-22 kit can charge the extra capacity M18 batteries in an hour and really gives you the fast charging for large jobs.

It is no wonder that Milwaukee is a top choice of construction workers and user survey’s but individual models vary just as much as personal opinions about tools. Several of the tools in the same or prior lines of the 2603-20 drill and driver receive high praise from various reviewers and users.

The Milwaukee M18 Drill Driver kit does a fantastic job at tasks like construction and home improvement jobs and makes a welcome addition to this home owner’s tool chest. Another great feature that I only recently became aware of is a small LED light to help light your way while using the drill driver.

This is the second drill I have received that has an LED at the front and I keep thinking every time I use either drill why they never did this in the past with drills and drivers. The light really helps when using the drill or driver in tight quarters like in between floor joists where using a flashlight would require at least one of your two hands.

Milwaukee M18 Charger & Side Handle

I highly recommend the Milwaukee 1/2” drill driver and the kit that this particular model comes in really gives you the benefits of two batteries for a complete drill driver for either a handyman or on the job.

Milwaukee Website  

William Bounds Robo Steel Pepper Mill

William Bounds Robo Steel Pepper Mill

The William Bounds Robo Steel Pepper Mill may seem like an ostentatious kitchen gadget but I have come to enjoy working with it and find it handy to only use one hand to dispense my pepper while cooking.

Ease of Use/Performance: 4.5/5
Convenience/Storage 4/5
Appearance/Design 4.5/5
How much I enjoy 5/5

Total: 4.5/5

William Bounds Robo Steel Pepper Mill

I saw the Robo Steel pepper mill in a list of products and thought what the heck, why not review a battery operated pepper mill. After all I have reviewed and come to like other gadgets that seemed so out of place in my kitchen or around my home why not one more.

It seems such a small thing when you have for your entire life done something the same way but suddenly someone comes along and says here, this simple device will change the way you do things. It has happened in all sorts of ways in all sorts of industries; one comes to mind as my neighbor has his roof shingled.

The roofer for years has used both a flat bladed shovel and a pitch fork to remove those old shingles but they also had to get on hands and knees to pry out the roofing nails with a hammer. Along comes some smart guy who says why not cut notches in a short tough shovel and use that to pry up and remove both the shingles and the nails in one operation.

Battery Compartment

That guy is probably sitting in a comfy lawn chair in Florida drinking mojitos and laughing at the fate a simple idea gave him. The same comes to my mind when I think of things like the battery operated hand soap dispenser, which is still running strong, or the battery operated pepper mill.

Think of a common cooking experience, standing over the stove adding those final ingredients to a recipe and stirring the contents of a pot or pan to get things mixed in. You reach over after setting down your spoon or spatula and grab the salt and pepper one at a time to add that final bit of spice.

But you have to put down that spoon or spatula when adding fresh ground pepper, the only real way to use pepper,  because that pepper mill requires two hands. Salt is a mere flip of the wrist away but pepper mills have to be operated by turning the one part to enable the grinding mechanism to grind down the pepper corns inside.

The Robo Steel Pepper Mill removes that step of requiring two hands for adding spices as well as giving you the light to see what you’re doing regardless of hood lights and kitchen lighting. Out on the grill, at the campfire or wherever your cooking the Robo Steel Pepper Mill has both the single hand operation to grind pepper directly into your cooking container as well as a light to show you how much your adding.

using the robo steel

Simply tilt the ceramic grinder toward your cooking pot or dish and the Robo Steel will deliver the pepper or even coarse salt right to your recipe. The tilt mechanism does not work unless the grinder end is pointed below horizontal so there is no mess and your spice goes where you want it to.

The Robo Steel Pepper Mill has a two part ceramic grinding stone that grinds the pepper without wear and tear on the grind mechanism and is fully adjustable. Simply turning the front knob where the pepper comes out adjusts the grind from course to fine for easy adjustments.

The light is a single LED bulb under the grind area to help light your way to adding the correct amount of spice to your recipe. This is yet another thing I thought, too geeky for my taste, but I truly have come to enjoy being able to see a bit better when adding the pepper.

The light does not have enough brilliance to brighten the whole of a 12 inch sauté pan or comparable pot but it does give you enough light to see the pepper as it hits the recipe. The light is helpful especially if you’re away from light in the evening like outdoor grilling or fire side cooking so the Robo Steel Pepper Mill is handy away from home.

testing the pepper mill

The Robo Steel Pepper Mill has a body made from brushed stainless steel and clear plastic with the black plastic pieces around the grinding mechanism. The clear part of the pepper mill allows you to see how much pepper is in the pepper mill while the stainless steel body makes an attractive and sturdy device.

The batteries are in the bottom of the pepper mill under a screw on lid and are common AAA sized for easy replacement but battery life is hard to gauge due to the short uses. I have been using the Robo Steel a lot and have gone through the first set of alkaline batteries but the set of rechargeable batteries I replaced them with are still going strong.

The battery life will depend on use so I am not worried about that but the price may be a consideration for some at $60 for the William Bounds product. That is a lot to pay for the convenience of a tilt operated pepper mill but the convenience is a great feature when cooking.

ceramic grinder & adjustment

When cooking things like soups and stews, steaks or chops it is so nice to simply grab the mill and tilt to add pepper just like I have always done for salt when cooking. I have come to love this handy kitchen gadget and can highly recommend the Williams Bound Robo Steel Pepper Mill even though the cost may have you wincing a bit, think birthday or Christmas present.

Robo Steel @ William Bounds Website

Popsicle Maker Zoku Quick

Popsicle Maker Zoku Single Quick Pop Maker & Quick Pops Recipe Book

The Zoku Quick Pop Maker is a frozen treat maker that uses a pre frozen base unit to quickly make popsicles and the Quick Pops Recipe Book has all the help and recipes for those great tasting treats right at your fingertips.

Ease of Use/Performance: 2.5/5
Convenience/Storage 2/5
Appearance/Design 4/5
How much I enjoy 2.5/5

Total: 2.5/5

Zoku Quick Pop Maker

The Zoku Single Quick Pop Maker is a simple frozen popsicle or frozen treat maker that uses a frozen base with a single popsicle well to make your treat. The Zoku Pop Maker needs to be frozen to work but it takes about ten minutes to create your very own frozen treat on a plastic stick.

The Zoku Pop Maker comes in a single, double and three pop maker base with accessories like a storage case and chocolate dipping station also available. The Quick Pops Recipe Book is the other item I received and really makes the use of the Quick Pop Maker a treat in itself as it gives a lot of recipes and ideas.

The Single Quick Pop Maker costs about $25, the double maker costs about $37 and the three pop maker costs about $50 while the recipe book costs about $17. They can be found at the Zoku website as well as Amazon and other websites and at Macy’s for a brick and mortar store.

Zoku Pop Maker Whats in the Box

The Quick Pop Makes comes with a base unit, pop sticks, drip shields, and a Super Tool that is used to remove the popsicle form the base after it is frozen. The Quick Pop Maker is simply frozen for a day or so in order to start using it and can make a few quick pops depending on their ingredients.

The Quick Pop Maker can make 2 or 3 Quick Pops that are mostly water based flavored popsicles but for milk or yogurt based you may only get 1 or 2. The ingredients are the key factor for how fast the popsicles freeze and how many you can make before having to refreeze the base unit.

I would have to say that if you’re going to get a Quick Pop Maker buy the recipe book as well to save yourself the trial and error hassles that a prepared book of recipes can help you with. The Zoku Quick Pop Maker is a simple base unit filled with a freezable liquid that is the heart of the pop maker and with its popsicle shaped well you can quickly make treats.

Seeing how the Zoku Works

After creating the recipe for your popsicle you simple pour the ingredients in the well and place the stick in till it freezes then pull out the treat. You remove the pop by using the screw on Super Tool that is simply a pry tool that uses a threaded rod and the threads inside the popsickle sticks handles as a pry tool.

Each stick has a threaded nut that is inside the handle but is only about a quarter inch long while the tool also has a threaded rod with a quarter inch of threads. This means when the tool is threaded onto a handle there is a point where the handle is loose once both threads are past each other.

When the Super Tool is screwed onto the popsicle handle while a frozen treat has been made the treat will start to pull out because of the threads. Once the treat has pulled out some you will have to pull the treat out fully using simple hand pressure.

Orange and Vanilla Popsicle

This works well as long as the treat is fully frozen but several times I had difficulty removing the treat or only got parts of the popsicle out of the maker. I think this was mainly due to the ingredients used and the amounts of sugar and other things that did not allow some recipes to freeze as quickly as others or as completely.

A few times I pulled only part of a popsicle out and had to wash out or scrape out the rest using a wooden chop stick but this did not happen all the time. On several recipes I had no problems pulling the popsicle out easily but sometimes I only got the popsicle out part way and had to pull it out which usually broke the treat.

I did get several pops to work and come out of the pop maker easily and as they should but as often as good ones came out I also had ones come apart or not come out. A few times I could not pull the stick out and was afraid of breaking the plastic stick because I was pulling so hard on the stick.

I really am torn between recommending this as a fun kids kitchen gadget and just leaving well enough alone but it also has its problems. After reading several Amazon customers complaints I do feel this is not exactly a very good product and can only recommend it somewhat.

Malted Milk Pops

The Zoku Pop Maker does work some of the time and with some recipes better than others if you do follow the recipe book and get the right amounts of ingredients. This is not one of those devices where you will get good results all the time but with some experimenting you can get results that are good enough.

The Zoku Quick Pop Maker does work if you do get the ingredients right and wait long enough for the pop to freeze but the ingredients seem to be the key. I think if you get the right amount of sugar the pop will freeze properly but with other ingredients like yogurt or milk based pops this may not work well.

Several of the yogurt and odd popsicles I tried like cheesecake did not work well and I had pieces that stuck in the pop maker so I had to either wash them out or pry them out with a chop stick. I used a chop sick because I felt it would not scratch the nonstick coating of the pop maker but it would be strong enough to get the pieces out.

The Zoku Quick Pops Recipe Book is a great recipe book for these frozen treats but needs to be followed exactly so that the treats freeze as they should. I think this is the main reason the pops that I had difficulty with was entirely due to the recipe not allowing the pop to freeze fast enough to make the treat easy to pull out.

The recipe book does have a lot of tips and hints to help not only making basic popsicles but for making layered and different type of popsicles like adding fruit and other ingredients. The recipe book can be used as a standalone recipe collection for frozen treats which is probably what I am going to be using it for.

I currently have an orange and cream recipe we have been digging through that was frozen ion a Tupperware container and we dish it up like any sherbet. I also just put in a container of strawberry and cream treats that will be ready for us to enjoy tomorrow but until then we do have some of the orangescicle sherbet to enjoy.

I am not sure I could recommend the Zoku Quick Pop Maker as other than a fun way to make a few popsicles from time to time but the recipe book also available from Zoku sure is worth the recipes.

Zoku Website

Kuhn Rikon Spill Stopper

Kuhn Rikon KocheBlume Spill Stopper

The Kuhn Rikon KochBlume Spill Stopper prevents spills and messes on your cooktop from pots boiling over as well as covering your pot, pan or plate as a regular splatter guard.

Ease of Use/Performance: 4/5
Convenience/Storage 4/5
Appearance/Design 4/5
How much I enjoy 4/5

Total: 4/5

Kuhn Rikon KochBlume Spill Stopper

The KochBlume Spill Stopper uses a unique design made from silicone for a heat proof lid and splatter guard as well as a way to prevent your recipe from boiling over. The Silicon Spill Stopper comes in two sizes for 6 to 8 inch pans or 8 to 10 inch pans with prices at $25 and $30 with various colors to choose from.

I received a larger 11.5 inch diameter Spill Stopper that fits larger pots and pans such as my two aluminum pots I use often for boiling. The Spill Stopper has two loops for using as handles and to hang the Spill Stopper on a wall or pot hook if you want to for storage.

Spill Stopper Upside Down

The Spill Stopper has a conical shape which makes the center of the Spill Stopper much like a bowl so when it is placed on a pot or pan it can drip back into the cookware. If you turn the Spill Stopper over it makes a dome shape but the vent petals will hang downward so if you push the inside of the Spill Stopper it will pop inside out.

If you have the petals on top and the top pushed upward as a dome you can use the Spill Stopper as a lid or splatter guard on a pot or on a plate in the microwave. If you push the Spill Stopper inward to create a bowl, its natural shape, the KochBlume can be used as a splatter guard and a boil over preventer.

The Spill Stopper has a central vent with six sections shaped much like a flower with six petals that allows steam and liquid to boil through. The vents have another piece of silicone over them that are much thinner but slightly larger so you have a vent with a valve using the thinner silicone petals.

boiling noodles

The design is ingenious and a great way to ensure any liquid that boils over does not spill anywhere but goes back into the pot. The silicone petals are soft and very flexible so when a liquid boils over it goes up into the bowl shaped area and stays near the center to drip back into the pot.

This works great for starch and milk type liquids like boiling potatoes, noodles and soups so if the ingredients do boil over it won’t go all over the burners or cooktop. For other types of cooking like chili, stews and spaghetti you can use the Spill Stopper as a lid to prevent splatter prevention.

The Spill Stopper can also be used to stop splatter when cooking foods like hamburgers or sausage so that your cooktop and counters do not get grease or other food on them. I have been using the Spill Stopper for many meals over the past few months and have really liked the easy way it works without having any kind of handle in the way like many of the lids and splatter guards do.

spill stopper as a lid

The Kuhn Rikon KochBlume Spill Stopper is made of silicone so it will not stain or melt but it does get hot so you have to make sure to use a glove when removing it from a cooking pot. The silicone does cool off quickly and you can place it right on a countertop without worrying it will burn or scorch the counter.

You can also use it in the microwave as a splatter guard for both cooking and heating food like when simply reheating leftovers. The dome shape when popped inside out makes a great plate guard so you can put a plate of food in the microwave so the microwaves inside does not get splatters.

The Spill Stopper is dishwasher safe and easy to clean as the thinner petal shapes part comes off which is held in place on the larger lid with a silicone tab. The tab is part of the center of the petal design that is made from silicone that fits into a square hole on the rest of the Spill Stopper.

spill stopper as a splatter guard

The thinner petal part comes off but stays put when in use so you can easily wash the parts in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher. The Kuhn Rikon KochBlume, KochBlume means cook flower, Spill Stopper costs $25 to $30 and is an easy to use splatter guard and over boiling preventer that fits a variety of pot and pan sizes.

I highly recommend the Kuhn Rikon Spill Stopper for a handy and excellent way to keep the kitchen clean and tidy when cooking soups, stews, and other foods.

Kuhn Rikon Website

Jaws Blu-ray

Jaws Blu-ray Review

Peter Benchley’s now classic monster story Jaws Blu-ray with Steven Spielberg directing Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw through the treacherous waters of Amity Island.

Film making 5/5
Video 4.5/5
Audio 4.5/5
Bonus Features 5/5

Total 4.5/5 Stars

Jaws Blu-ray

Jaws is the classic Steven Spielberg film from 1975 that caused a craze in many ways including the summer blockbuster and films using simple effects to stir the viewer’s imagination. Due to budget constraints and a lack of special effects in the industry Spielberg was forced to use more hinting and less actual shots of the real monster shark.

Jaws Blu-ray was a classic from the start but not the kind any film maker wants to be part of until the film hits theatres, a joke floated through the cast renaming the film “Flaws”. The film had numerous problems during filming which made the scenes often just hint at the giant shark which is especially evident in the opening attack and the chase scenes.

The first girl attacked is never shown with the shark and the chase scenes were the crew of the Orca chase down the barrels that are keeping the shark from diving deep looks great. At the time the shots were done this way because they did not have a decent looking prop so the film went to editing and the final cut of the movie with these scenes used more imagination and less real monster.

Filming like this now is done more with computer based effects and less viewer imagination but the final cut makes the film a classic in cinematography which was actually a big surprise to the cast and crew. Jaws has taken the world to a new and amazing place with its summer blockbuster creation with big budget films and tons of advertising promoting them.

Jaws Blu-ray has other accolades to its style like the general filming in the big ocean miles from land where you can see a shoreline which adds to the films realism that they are at sea instead of in a big lake. Steven Spielberg certainly misjudged Mother Nature and had many problems with equipment just to get things filmed but he also learned a lot and made do with what he had and a stretched budget.

The actors all did a fantastic job and the difficulties faced in production do not show at all throughout the film but actually make it look like everybody knew what they were doing. The camaraderie shown in the one scene of the men comparing war wounds and singing just before the shark returns to fight back really is at odds with the reality of the filming.

Jaws may have been a disaster to film that really turned out to be a great movie and if you think I am kidding one fact really brings this home. The original screenplay had Richard Dreyfuss’ character dying from the shark attacking him in the shark cage.

Due to some great shots of a shark attacking the empty cage in Australia Spielberg decided to change the outcome of the character and have him survive the attack to appear minutes later. This last minute change in plot is a showcase of the entire film and how in the end everything did work out for the better.

Jaws Blu-ray looks fantastic and is easily the best film I have seen from the 1970’s that has been transferred to Blu-ray and was even under Steven Spielberg’s direction. Rarely does a crew come back to a film so many years later to work on the film in some way but Spielberg helped directly on the transfer to Blu-ray.

The film looks great and color is perfect for each scene without being overly reworked or looking out of place as has happened for older movies transferring to Blu-ray. Jaws Blu-ray has a great transfer and looks very good as well as sounding fantastic with a great 7.1 surround sound track.

Jaws Blu-ray audio from the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Track is fantastic and with the remastered track you get the full force that Spielberg wanted for his film. The score and music of the film really hits home and is fantastic with its iconic pieces that have to this day remained a part of movie culture.

Bonus features include a few new ones as well as others that have been released with previous editions of Jaws in the past including about four hours of extras. The two pieces of extras that are an hour and forty minutes and over two hours are from previous editions while one eight minute piece talks with Spielberg and others about the restoration.

The extras are worth it if you have not seen them before but if you have previous editions these would just be rehashing the past. The entire collection does give about as in-depth a look at the film as you’re ever going to get and is well worth viewing all of it.

Jaws Blu-ray is an iconic that spawned the now common practice of huge advertising campaigns and releasing a film worldwide instead of gradually. The film also spurred a type of filming that is now replicated throughout the horror genre and can easily be seen in films even as early as Alien in 1979.

Jaws Blu-ray is a great movie and well worth the purchase price and the Blu-ray edition is fantastic, a must have film if I have ever seen one.

Jaws Fan site

NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop

Nuwave Precision Induction Cooktop

The Nuwave Precision Induction Cooktop adds a new way of cooking to your repertoire including a new cooktop if you already have a stovetop as well as a more energy efficient way to cook.

Ease of Use/Performance: 21/25
Convenience/Storage 21/25
Appearance/Design 23/25
How much I enjoy 20/25

Total: 85/100

NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop

There is more than one reason to buy a new cooktop and if you already have a stove for cooking adding a new cooktop may not make sense. Having another cooktop to help cooking big meals like Thanksgiving or Christmas really can help and the new induction cooking can help save money as well.

Whether you need a cooktop because you don’t have a stovetop or just want another burner for pots or pans while cooking an induction cooktop is a great investment. An induction cooktop can save you money by using more of the electricity to cook with instead of being wasted as heat to the room.

When using a regular electric element or a gas stove to cook you can waste up 60 percent of the energy to the room as heat from the pot or pan heating up. The stovetop around the burner also heats up and even those burner grates will waste some of the money you are paying to cook by the heat that does not go to the pan.

One of my Best Dishes

An induction cooktop uses magnetism to heat the pan and only the pan, you don’t waste money heating up the stove around the pan or the grate the pan is resting on. Induction cooking is much safer as well by not having open flames or heating up parts of a stove for potential burns which makes a lot of sense when kids are around.

The Nuwave Precision Induction Cooktop comes with the cooktop itself and a manual with recipes as well as a chart for cooking times and temperatures. The cooktop does need a steel or iron pot or pan to cook with as aluminum or copper cookware does not work with induction cooktops.

If you have cast iron cookware or metal like stainless steel pots or pans you can start using the Nuwave right away with the simple controls. To cook using any of the setting you press the setting and then the start button, you can easily change the temperature by simply pressing one of the other settings or the plus and minus buttons.

Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions

The Nuwave Cooktop has six settings from low to sear but you can also set the temperature using the plus and minus buttons to increase or decrease the cooking temperature. The LED screen has a temperature reading and the cooktop has increments of five degrees from a low of 100 to a high or sear of about 430.

The various settings give you a good range while being able to use the increase and decrease adds to the cooktops versatility from low simmers to searing for great steaks and other meats. Using the cooktop takes a little getting used to for some of the techniques and induction cooking but the cooktop is easy to use once you get past the heating time.

The main difference when using the cooktop beyond the necessary metal cookware you need to be aware of is preheating the pans when cooking. Normally a pan or pot on an electric or gas stove takes some time to heat up but an induction cooktop heats much faster than other types of burners.

Simple Eggs on the Induction Cooktop

I started cooking with the Nuwave Induction Cooktop and had to alter the way I cook, I would usually heat up the pan while preparing what I am cooking. With the Nuwave Cooktop you don’t have much time before the pan or pot is ready to use and will start to overheat if you don’t have anything in there.

I made the mistake of putting a thin pot on the stovetop and turning to get water to start boiling but when I turned around after filling a pitcher the pots bottom was cherry red hot. This usually doesn’t happen with my cooking as warming up my pans on a gas stoves takes a minute or so but the induction cooktop heats up very quickly.

You just need to take this into account when preparing to cook and you should have everything ready before starting up the cooktop as there really is little warm up time. The cooktop really is nice to use as a main cooktop or just another large cooktop for more cooking like when you’re preparing a large meal or if you have company.

Adding a Large Burner for More Cooking

The induction cooktop cooks well with the metal pans like my Farberware Millennium skillet and set of cast iron pots and pans that I have had for years. The induction cooktop works very well with cast iron pots and cooks evenly with the thicker metal of the bottoms.

I have a cast iron enameled French oven from Le Creuset that also works very well on the induction cooktop especially for long cooking like stews and soups. The induction cooktop works very well for simmering and slow cooking as it does keep a constant temperature easily just like a slow cooker.

The glass top of the Nuwave Cooktop is easy to clean with a simple wet rag or cloth when you do spill on it and the sides and even buttons can be cleaned with a wet cloth. The buttons are plastic covered without any gaps so spilling anywhere on the cooktop will not result in shocks or short circuits.

I really enjoyed using the Nuwave Precision Induction cooktop and it works extremely well for an additional cooktop or as a sole cooking surface for an apartment or dorm room. During holidays or whenever you have company an additional cooktop will really help and the Nuwave Precision Induction Cooktop really works well for this.

I highly recommend the Nuwave Precision Induction Cooktop for a great additional burner or a single burner for a smaller place like an apartment.

NuWave Website

Demarle Silpain & Roul’Pat Baking Mats

Demarle Silpain & Roul’Pat Baking Mats

The Demarle Silpain makes a fantastic bread baking mat while the Roul’Pat works exceptionally well for both preparation and baking of all kinds of foods.

Ease of Use/Performance: 24/25
Convenience/Storage 23/25
Appearance/Design 23/25
How much I enjoy 25/25

Total: 95/100

Baking Mats DeMarle Silpain and Roulpat

Demarle is a French company established in 1965 developing nonstick baking products for the food industry with subsidiaries in Germany and the United States. Demarle makes silicone coated baking mats, specialty baking mats and pastry mats for nonstick baking and preparation like rolling dough.

Demarle is known worldwide as professional quality with the brand names Silpat, Silpain, Silform, Flexipan and Flexipat. Some of the baking mats are for special baking with forms and textures for specific pastries and baked goods while others are more for generic preparation and baking.

Demarle sent me two baking mats with both mats being perfect for home baking and fits the common half sheet cooking sheets people use for baking at home. The Demarle Silpain is a cooking mat specifically for baking breads while the Roul’Pat is great for rolling pie dough’s and baking.

using roulpat to roll cookie dough

The Demarle Silpain is a silicone mat that has a fiberglass weave inside but there are holes in the mat for water and air to pass through. The Demarle Roul’Pat is a solid silicone covered mat for rolling dough’s, mixing ingredients like making noodles and for baking.

The 1/2 sheet Silpain and Roul’Pat are 11 5/8 inches by 16 1/2 inches and fits a 13 by 18 inch sheet pan nicely for baking and cooking breads and other baked goods. The Silpain baking mats are great for breads and other dough based baked goods due to the holes in the mat design that allows water and air to pass through.

The Silpain mats are a fiberglass weave that has a silicone coating but with holes through the mat in the center area except for the 3/4 inch edge around the mat. This open air weave allows air to come up under the baking goods so that water will seep out of the dough and through the mat leaving a perfect crispy crust.

cresent rolls

The Silpain is a professional quality mat and is used worldwide by bakers and cooks for great tasting and quality breads and baked goods. The non-stick silicone material covering the fiberglass weave ensures food won’t stick to the mat when baking but the Silpain works best for breads and thicker dough type baked goods.

I did some testing for baked goods and a few other things and found that cookies don’t work so well on the Silpain due to the cookie being more fats and less flour. Breads use more flour than cookies so a cookie based recipe will seep more into the holes of the Silpain baking mat and stick

They do not stick much but to easily slide them off the mat takes a spatula while other breads I have baked slide off simply by moving the mat out of the oven. I did bake some French bread pizza and baked cheese into the Silpain but the cheese simply peeled off and the leftover residue washed off just as easily.

pizza on the silpain

Breads work very well for the nonstick baking mat and even if you’re not that good at making them yourself you can use store bought dough and even those refrigerator dough’s like Pillsbury for baking. I tried some store bought dough from Fetting’s, a frozen bread dough that happens to be from the same town where my wife grew up and it worked great.

The Fetting’s dough comes as four loaf sized frozen dough’s that you thaw and can bake in a pan or just plop down on the baking mat and bake as an Artisanal or old world style. Baking breads not in a loaf pan makes the shape more varied for an interesting and crustier bread that is perfect as a side for meals.

The Silpain works well for those refrigerator breads and even for pizza from these types of bread dough’s that come straight from the fridge to the oven. I tried some crescent rolls and pizza from the refrigerator dough that worked out very well and was tasty for some great baked goods.

Silicone Roulpat with Flourentine Cookies

The Roul’Pat is a great baking mat and rolling mat for preparing baked goods and other foods like noodles that is nonstick and easy to handle. The Roul’Pat as a food preparation mat needs a little care just like the Silpain with its fiberglass weave inside.

You cannot cut either baking mat so you need to make sure you don’t use knives or other sharp utensils on either mat so you don’t cut the fiberglass inside. Being fiberglass if you cut into the mat you may contaminate your food with fiberglass fibers that are inside the mat so don’t use sharp utensils on either mat.

The Roul’Pat makes a great food preparation mat with its nonstick surface for preparing foods like pie dough and noodles as well as bread. The mat makes an easy way to clean up after working on the food but it is also helpful in mixing as you can use the mat to help.

The mat is flexible so you can lift and roll the mat to help mix the ingredients as well as to move the ingredients to the center of the mat to help keep things on the mat. I had no problem mixing noodles and pie dough on the mat and liked being able to lift the mat to keep the ingredients centered.

The mat I received does not have any marks to help make a round pie shell but it does work well for rolling out dough and making a delicious pie. I also used it for mixing homemade noodles and the mat works especially well for this as you can easily lift the mat to the sink for cleanup.

The mat is great for making noodles as cleanup is much simpler being able to take the mat to the sink but baking and cooking with the mat is great as well. You can also freeze food on the mat for future baking due to the mats temperature range of -40 degrees to 480 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can freeze dough and other ingredients on the Silpain because the silicone mat stays flexible even down to freezing temperatures. The Silpain works well for all kinds of baking and cooking like cookies were you don’t want things to stick to the cookie sheet you’re using.

The silicone mat does an excellent job with candies as well and other sticky things for both cooking and hardening candy that you can bake or drop onto the mat. The Roul’Pat makes an excellent addition to any kitchen for preparation, baking and easy cleanup for a wide variety of foods.

Both the Silpain and Roul’Pat make for a great pair of cooking and baking mats for both preparation and baking and are both about $25. I highly recommend the Silpain and Roul’Pat from Demarle for professional results in baking and cooking with easy cleanup.

Demarle Website

Bialetti Mokona Espresso Machine

The Bialetti Mokona Espresso Machine for ESE Pods and fresh Ground Espresso

Espresso Machine Bialetti Mokona

The Bialetti Mokona Espresso Machine is a great espresso machine that makes espresso using capsules or traditional ground beans and has a unique look to complement any coffee lovers kitchen.

Ease of Use/Performance: 21/25

Convenience/Storage 20/25
Appearance/Design 25/25
How much I enjoy 23/25

Total: 89/100

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The Bialetti Mokona is a great espresso machine with a unique design that sets it apart from other espresso machines but is not to be confused with a lesser quality product. The Bialetti Mokona makes great espresso, cappuccino and other espresso based drinks with either pods, Bialetti capsules or your more common ground beans.

I have reviewed several coffee and espresso makers and have always wanted to try out some of the more expensive and traditional espresso makers. A “true” espresso maker uses pressure to force hot water through the coffee beans to create a thick coffee with a good thick foam or crema.

The more inexpensive machines use just the hot water turned into steam to force water through the grind to try and recreate the shots of more authentic espresso. This method works well but does not taste as good as a more authentic shot of espresso that comes from a machine that uses a pump to force the water through the grounds.

With a more expensive machine you will have better parts using stainless steel, water temperature consistency with internal  thermometers and a good pump with 15 bars of pressure. An additional feature of good espresso machines is the steam that allows you to steam and froth your milk or just put hot water into a cup for other uses like tea.

The Bialetti Mokona has all the things you could want for a true authentic espresso machine from the 15 bars of pressure the pump puts out to the stainless steel filter holder. The filter holder and other parts that come into contact with the hot water are stainless steel for rust proof durability while other parts are plastic.

The pump creates a good force to pump the hot water through the filter and the steam wand allows you to froth milk and get that steamy froth for your espresso drinks. The frother has a stainless steel tube to the rubber and plastic tip that is submerged into your milk.

The top part of the frother is rubber that slips onto the steel tube and allows the plastic end to fit onto the rubber parts and stay on while frothing. The frother works well and creates good froth in your milk and has good stirring action in your pitcher or cup.

I had no problems making steamed milk and frothed milk for drinks and of course you can use the steam tube to deliver hot water as well. The Bialetti Mokona is probably the most controversial espresso machine I could find on the internet but only because of its looks or design.

The Bialetti Mokona looks like a Moka pot but is actually a large pump espresso maker complete with the steam wand on the side and two types of filter holders. The Bialetti Mokona comes with the Mokona espresso maker that uses two filter holders, three stainless steel filters, a removable water tank with lid and easy fill lid, tamper/scoop and instructions.

The Bialetti Mokona has a plastic removable tray with a stainless steel grill to catch drippings while using the machine for those smaller espresso cups. The collection tray with the grill can come out when you want to drip your espresso directly into a larger cup that is the more traditional coffee cup size or a cappuccino mug.

To put the Bialetti Mokona into use the first time really only takes a minute or two, put the tank on the top and fill with water or fill it before inserting on the middle steam control knob. The tank is an eight sided shape like a Moka pot top and has the center hole for the middle stem of the machine with the steam control knob on top.

The tank has a rubber valve that allows water to flow into the machine when put in place but closes for filling at your sink. You can also leave the tank on the machine and fill by taking off the full tank top or the smaller tank lid which is the quickest way to fill it if the top of the machine is readily available.

Getting the machine primed is simple by turning it on and following the instructions like most espresso machines do with turning on the pump and opening the steam valve. To make coffee or espresso you tamp your ground coffee in either the single or double dose filters, already in the holder, and put the filter holder on the machine.

Turn the machine on and allow it to warm the water and filter with the grounds in it and then run water through the filter and grounds into your cup when the little yellow light comes on. The machine works easily and you can make a great shot of espresso in under five minutes from grind and tamp to a quick wipe up of the machine when you’re done.

You can use the plain filter holder and either the single or double dose filter to make a single shot or double shot of espresso. You can also use the smaller filter holder with the dent pattern inside with those paper pods or you can use the filter holder designed especially for the plastic capsules Bialetti sells.

The cost is a major factor for the convenience of using either the Bialetti capsules or pods as they are more expensive than grinding your own coffee. I calculated the cost of the average Bialetti capsule available on the internet because there are none for sale in my local area at stores.

The cost savings of using your own ground beans is about 50 cents per shot of espresso as the coffee beans near me at a local roaster called Dunn Brothers is $12 per pound. This means per shot you can get your own espresso drinks starting at about 20 cents while the capsules cost about 70 cents each so the cost is one factor you should consider.

The really nice thing about the Bialetti Mokona is the fact you have the two sizes of filters for your own ground beans as well as the pod filter and the capsule filter holder. This means if you want to mix and match the convenience of pods or capsules with the everyday use of your own ground beans for the cost savings you can.

Cost is one factor for most people but convenience is another, clean up for using your own ground coffee means pulling the filter holder out and cleaning out the used grounds then rinsing. Usually I scoop out the grounds with a spoon as I do not yet have a knock box and rinse out the holder and the filter after separating them and quickly wipe off the drip tray and counter.

With a capsule or pod all you have to do is knock out the capsule or pod with having to scoop or knock out and you don’t have to bother spending much time at all with rinsing. The capsules also mean no grinding or having to measure out the coffee so it takes less time as well as less of a hassle using the pods or capsules.

There have been several times when having and using pods or capsules from any one of the machines I am currently reviewing is nice as I am in a hurry out the door in the morning. Just popping a pod or capsule in the machine and allowing it to warm as I get my travel cup ready and then just brew into a measuring cup then into my thermal travel cup can be very convenient.

Cleanup with a pod or capsule is cut way down as you just quickly rinse the holder and then shut everything off and your ready to hit the road. I find that capsules and pods are handy to have around for those days when you’re going on a trip but still want a fresh brewed espresso shot in a drink like a cappuccino.

Making shots of espresso does not take that much more time than the capsules and does taste much better with a better crema foam. Comparing the crema from the capsules is just like comparing the espresso shots from a steam machine and this much better pump machine, it gets better as you get more authentic.

Using regular beans from a local roaster, Dunn Brothers, I can make a shot of espresso that easily compares favorably to the same companies espresso drinks. I can make a very good shot of espresso and with a great grinder can create a shot of espresso with good crema that tastes just as good as barista purchased drinks.

Using some skim milk, whipped cream, caramel, chocolate, cinnamon and a few other ingredients I have been experimenting and making my own drinks like cappuccinos that are delicious. Instead of paying three dollars and more for these same drinks I can make them at home whenever I want to for a satisfying and delicious espresso based beverage.

The Bialetti Mokona makes a great espresso, much better than previous espresso makers I have reviewed and makes great shots with good crema. I am very impressed with the Bialetti Mokona and despite the looks it is a great espresso maker that is easy to use.

On the internet I found plenty of people concerned and wondering about the design and not wondering about the companies previous quality merchandise and if it carries over with this model. Bialetti is a well known company that makes very good to great espresso machines and other coffee merchandise.

The Bialetti Mokona is a great espresso maker, one that is easy to use and simple to clean up after but may it not be the design for everyone. Its unusual style may make it look odd and people may not take it seriously enough but I can tell you it makes very good espresso and is well worth a try.

I have had the Bialetti Mokona for a couple of months and have not had any problems at all with the machine and all its parts, it literally has been a great machine to use and clean up after. I highly recommend the Bialetti Mokona as a great espresso machine that can be the centerpiece of a great home barista.

Espresso Machine by Bialetti

Bialetti Website

Bialetti Mokona @ Amazon

Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori

 Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori

The Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori is an excellent apple corer with a built in knife that makes quick work of apples for cooking or simple enjoyment of eating but it also works for other fruit.

Ease of Use/Performance: 23/25
Convenience/Storage 24/25
Appearance/Design 24/25
How much I enjoy 22/25

Total: 93/100

Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori

The Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori is a kitchen gadget that makes quick work of fruit like apples and pears to core and slice with the circular corer and folding knife blade. The Apple Knife Colori is a stainless steel corer with an apple shaped handle that conceals an inch and a half long straight nonstick knife blade.

The knife blade has a straight cutting edge while the back of the blade is curve which makes sense in design for slicing and cutting apples or pears. The corer works well for fruit like apples and pears but you may need to use the corer or knife to get all the core of larger fruit.

The corer is 3/4 of an inch across and can core an average sized fruit easily but you will probably have to do a little more coring when you cut the apples in half. The corer gets a good portion of the seeds and center of apples but you will have to use the corer to get what it did not clear out when the fruit was whole.

Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori

If you use a larger corer you will wind up taking more good fruit so this 3/4 inch size makes a good compromise between getting most of the center and getting too much. You can easily cut the smaller section of core out that the corer misses on the first attempt using either the corer or the knife blade.

The knife makes a great way to slice your fruit after you have taken most of the core out so you can get the rest as well as cut the fruit into bite sized pieces or for cooking. I used the Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori on a number of apples for baking a pie was easy and a handy way to prepare enough fruit for a recipe.

I used the knife on a good amount of fruit including the apples and pears my family purchased from a yearly sale a youth group conducts that we are part of. The 4-H group we belong to sells boxes of fruit and we bought a mixed box and a box of pears so we have used the Apple Knife Colori on a multitude of apples and pears.

Coring & Slicing Apples

The handle in the shape of an apple makes the corer easy to hold and handle even when it gets wet and slippery from fruit juice while coring a lot of fruit at once. The knife blade and molded slot also helps make the handle not perfectly smooth so you can hold the corer well and control it easily.

The folding blade also means safety so you don’t cut yourself from the blade being exposed while using the corer but it also makes a great way to use the knife away from the kitchen. The folding blade makes the knife a safe way to take the apple corer with you when camping, on picnics or for sack meals at work or play.

The stainless steel and plastic material means no rusting and corrosion on the corer or the handle but I am not sure what material the blade itself is made of. The knife blade has a nonstick coating over most of the blade except the edge which is razor sharp when you purchase it.

Coring Pears

You can sharpen the blade easily but a regular kitchen sharpener may not work as easily due to the larger size of the apple shaped handle. I have used a kitchen sharpening steel on the blade and it does work well but a countertop electric knife sharpener may not work because of the larger sized handle.

The Apple Knife Colori is a great apple corer and slicer with the combined knife blade in the handle of the corer so you have two tools in one. This makes an easy way to process fruit for recipes and cooking as well as a quick gadget to grab when wanting to cut just one fruit.

The Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori makes a fantastic apple corer and slicer in one tool so you don’t have to dirty two tools for a single job in the kitchen. The Apple Knife Colori is available from Amazon, Kuhn Rikon and other internet sites for about $16.

I highly recommend the Kuhn Rikon Apple Knife Colori for a fantastic kitchen gadget as an easy to use and well-designed fruit corer and knife in one.

Apple Knife Colori @ Kuhn Rikon

Apple Knife Colori @ Amazon

Razer Tiamat 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

Razer Tiamat 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

The Razer Tiamat is the first true 7.1 gaming headset for analog connection to your computer to deliver full surround sound audio from ten discrete drivers in the ear cups for a true positional advantage.

Ease of Use, Performance: 23/25
Look & Feel: 20/25
Features 24/25
How much I enjoy 24/25
Total: 91/100

Razer Tiamat 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

Razer has released the first true 7.1 surround sound headset that includes ten discrete drivers in the two ear cups for a true surround sound experience. The Razer Tiamat 7.1 is a true surround sound headset with five discrete drivers in each ear piece and connects to your computer using the five analog audio connections and a USB for power.

The Razer Tiamat comes with the headset with inline controller, mini USB adapter, extra ear piece covers, certificate of authenticity and user’s manual all in a really nice box. The Razer Tiamat 7.1 has the inline controller with a large dial for volume control and a smaller dial switch for volume control of the individual speaker channels.

The controller also has the mute button, external speaker button and 7.1 button for switching between 2.0 and 7.1 audio as well as a connection for an adapter that connects a speaker set to the controller. The addition of a connection on the controller to add external speakers means no disconnecting your analog audio connections to switch between the headset and speakers.

The headset ear pieces have a smoked but clear plastic over the drivers so you can see the five speakers inside each ear piece but you can also use the additional covers to hide them. These side covers use four magnets to attach to the sides but I find the looks just fine without the black covers.

Whats in the Box

The sides of the Razer Tiamat also have the green glowing Razer logo, it had to be somewhere, on each ear piece for good looks while most of the rest of the headset is black. The headband has some green stitching but the main band that connects the headset is made from a dark gray plastic while the controller and cable is black.

The Razer Tiamat uses one of the five analog connections for a microphone which works very well for gaming and chat communication. The Tiamat microphone is a unidirectional boom microphone that retracts into the left head piece for convenient storage when not in use.

I had no problem’s hearing myself talking over chat and Skype as well as over a game using a couple of computers for in game chat and voice as a test. The microphone gives clear voice over the computer for general voice using onboard sound but is much better when using a dedicated sound card.

Like many things with computers the addition of a dedicated sound card adds a lot of quality to your sound experience and makes the headset a better one. I had no problems other than one I will mention shortly with USB power using both onboard sound and an Auzen X-Forte sound card with the Razer Tiamat.

Cables, Controllers & Contoller

The headset has a stretch cord band that rests on top of your head as well as a larger plastic band that helps to keep the headset snug on your head. This two band system works well and helps to keep the headset comfortable while also keeping the ear pieces snug.

The ear cushions are replaceable but due to the newer release they may not be up on the site as yet, the headsets themselves are even backordered as of this writing. It seems that the Razer Tiamat is a highly wanted item and I can see why just reading other reviews but the real test is using it yourself.

The Razer Tiamat connects to your computer using the four analog connections that are your center, side, front and rear speakers with another analog connection for microphone and the USB for power. I will say this and try to emphasize this in my review that the headset quality depends mostly on this USB power connection.

I connected the headset to one motherboard surround sound and had a problem right off the bat with noise when no audio was playing and this continued to the next motherboard that I tried. I had purchased a new motherboard and after some setup during the trial period with the Razer Tiamat I swapped the motherboard out on my main work computer.

Controller

I tried the new Tiamat on this motherboard, an Asus Sabertooth 990FX, thinking it would have both a better onboard audio and better USB but I still had noticeable noise. After some checking with another computer and other things like a tablet and Google Chrome book I figured out that it was the USB powered part of the headset that was introducing the noise.

I cleared this up by connecting the USB power to an adapter instead of my computer and got rid of all noise over the headset, they work great once you get rid of the noise. I found a few other reviews that also have this same issue and corrected it simply by using an external USB power adapter and this issue is addressed on the Razer Tiamat website.

You can use the Tiamat with a stereo output from devices like an iPhone or MP3 player using the single stereo front speaker connection but you do need a USB power source. I found it easy enough to use the speakers on a Google laptop with the single stereo output and the single USB connection that the Chrome book has for the power source.

The Tiamat uses the five discrete or separate drivers in each headset so you have the surround sound with full 7.1 surround which means some great positional gaming. I had a true positional sound while gaming and had no problems telling where to point my weapons while playing games like Battlefield 3.

5 Discrete Drivers Per Ear

The Gaming was fantastic and truly 7.1 surround sound which really adds to the gaming experience, movies are also great but the Tiamat really excels at gaming. The discrete drivers give you real 7.1 surround sound but you will usually not tell the specific speakers playing at any one time during gameplay or movies.

I tried the Razer Tiamat with several games including Battlefield 3, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Crysis 2 along with movies like Transformer 3 and Black Hawk Down. All the movies and gaming I threw at the Razer Tiamat turned out really well and I thoroughly enjoyed all the experiences with the 7.1 headset.

The Razer Tiamat really works well during gaming and gives you not only a much better gaming experience but can really help in gaming for first person shooters. Playing on Battlefield 3 I could tell much better where the enemies were and could use the positional sound to help in getting more kills and even defend myself better.

Even though the Razer Tiamat does have a problem with noise from a poorly grounded USB connection it does work extremely well for a full 7.1 surround sound headset. I have used other expensive and really good headsets that also have this problem of noise form poor USB grounds and this is an easy one to fix for the Razer Tiamat by simply using an external USB power adapter.

The Razer Tiamat costs about $180 but for the full 7.1 surround sound using discrete drivers and is really worth the cost as an excellent gaming and entertainment headset. I highly recommend the Razer Tiamat for a top of the line full 7.1 surround sound headset that sounds excellent and is very comfortable for long gaming sessions.

http://www.razerzone.com/tiamat/en

Product Reviews Since 2005