6 Reasons why a Rice Cooker is Indispensable to your Kitchen?

Rice cookers, sometimes referred to as suihanki or denshijaa were first born out of Japan’s post-war revival. Earlier, people used to cook rice on Kamado, large stoves made to go along with giant pots. Working with these stoves was somewhat tricky, controlling temperature and with that cooking delicious rice was difficult.

Japan’s post-war period left companies scrambling for new materials. Due to lack of money, they accepted rice as the payment. All the war factories were closed down and Japan was left with plenty of electricity but few days to use it.These two main factors would lead to a rice cooking revolution.

This was a quick and short history of the rice cooker, let bygones be bygones. Things that are important to consider are the features of rice cookers. So, here are some important features you need to look before buying one.

Rice cooker features

1. Size: Rice cookers are available in different shapes and sizes. Buy the model that best fits your lifestyle. If you only want to cook for yourself, the small one is better and there is no need for a family-sized rice cooker. But if you have a big family or want to host a party, go for the big one.

2. Choosing the best pot: Not only shape and size but cooking pots also vary. Some of them come with chemically treated, non-stick surfaces for better cleaning. Aluminium is by far the best option. But if you don’t want to have such surfaces, or you really care about your good health, go with a more natural option like steel or clay.

3. Programming and settings: There are many best rice cookers that possess more features than others. Even if any rice cooker is strictly made for cooking rice often features rice cooking settings. Want to make brown rice? Hit “Brown” In a mood of having some Kayu rice porridge? Hit the special button. For better convenience, a clock and a timer are also added to the settings. In fact, some models even feature digital screens for detailed options and settings.

Rice cooker 1

4. Timer: Having a timer in the rice cooker is a must-have feature. You can easily set it before you go to the bed and have fresh rice in the morning.

5. Multipurpose versatility: Now you cannot make any excuse that you have a shortage of time to cook them. Rice cookers have taken the cooking convenience to a next level. You can easily steam veggies, broccoli and can even barbecue some meat and enjoy healthy, home cooked a fresh meal in minutes.

If you wish to cook more than rice, you can go with a standard “rice only” model, but its cooking settings can overcook the food. No worries, nowadays rice cookers are available with multipurpose needs. These extra settings involve cooking soups, stews and even steaming vegetables and meats with a click of a button.

6. Charm Points: No doubt while selecting a product you need to see the shape, size, technological advancements and features but CHARM is another important feature you cannot miss. You can find plenty of options in the market, examine all the options and make a choice.

Burger King Breakfast Revisited

For those of you who haven’t seen the strange pied-piper-style ads, Burger King has a revitalized breakfast menu. In the fall, I had the chance to preview the new breakfast at a PR event in New York.  It was one of the few times I’ve reviewed fast food under the nose of the executive chef and the chief marketing officer of a company.  They had hired a trained wait staff, and I’m certain that the cooks in the back were on their best behavior.  Though the waiters brought out regular, old BK food, it felt too controlled.  I wanted to see what these things would be like in the field, so I set out to try it again.

Burger King Breakfast

At the PR event, my favorite new item was the Mini Blueberry Biscuit.  In my last review, I raved about them: fluffy, light, hot, and packed with blueberry.  In the store, though, they disappointed me, arriving much sweeter and harder than I remembered.  There was even some kind of sugary, brown substance that had oozed out of the blueberry.  I found the Blueberry flavor I remembered, but not the fluffy buttermilk taste.

On the first pass, I didn’t like the Burger King Breakfast Ciabatta either: uninteresting aioli, so-so ham, bad tomatoes.  In the store, I liked it more.  The peppery aioli, ham, and egg were all better than I remembered.  I found the ham at the PR event slimy and green, but the ham in-store was edible and not too salty.  The egg cake was fresh, and the cheese was well melted.  Thought the tomato was still gross and the bun still too chewy, it appeared they had worked out a few kinks.

The biggest surprise came from the Pancakes.  At the PR event, I found them chewy and overly sweet, saying, “you have to put effort into cutting them.”  In the store, I had a completely different experience.  They smelled amazing, filling my nose with buttermilk; They tasted even better: light and fluffy like a pancake should be.  I almost felt like I was back at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Cape May, NJ.  Though the syrup was good, I felt like these pancakes deserved real Vermont maple.  They’re much better than the McDisks you get at the Golden Arches.  They are still fairly sweet, and you can almost eat them without syrup, but these were 500% better than what I had at the PR event.  Did I mention they were fluffy?

Last up was the Breakfast Bowl.  During the controlled event, I decided that the eggs were the stars of the show because they tasted like real, buffet style scrambled eggs.  Again, they were delicious and almost runny.  The sausage came nice and thick, the potatoes tasted light and peppery, and I found large chunks of green pepper in the bowl, as opposed to pepper skins at the PR event.  I was impressed the first time, and more impressed the second time.

Overall, I’d say the new BK Breakfast was 100% better.  I walked away from the restaurant feeling very disappointed because my blueberry mini was bad. Later, as I looked back over my notes and comparing them with my old notes an article, I realized that I had a completely different experience in the field.  The BK breakfast is really good, despite the weird advertising campaign with the suburban pied-piper.  Kudos to BK for a brave new menu!

If you want to share your reviews fill the form here.

Regional Chain: Raising Cane’s

My obsession with regional chains began at Raising Cane’s.  On a trip to New Orleans, I saw one from the drive-thru line at the Frozen Daquiri chain.  I asked my friend what it was, to which he replied, “it’s a chicken finger joint.”

Chicken Fingers?

“Yea.  Chicken Fingers.  It’s really awesome.  You mean you’ve never been there?  We should go.”  Daquiri’s in hand, off we went in search of chicken in his grandparents’ Mercury.

Raising Cane’s

The first thing that hit me was the air conditioning.  It’s hard to live without in Louisiana.  The second thing that hit me was how new the restaurant seemed.  The decor felt modern, like a Skate Shop or Renovated loft.  It felt hip, not like a hangover from the 80′s, which is how many McDonald’s feel.  On an interior brick wall they had painted an enormous mural of their logo, Warhol-esque photographs hung on the wall, and pop music played on the speakers.  Much more compelling than any Burger King I’ve frequented.

So they nailed the concept.  How was the food?  Well, for a place that serves only chicken fingers, not bad.  Their crinkle cut fries reminded me of school lunches, but not in a bad way: crispy fry on the outside, light potato on the interior, and a proprietary dipping sauce, that most say is like ketchup, mayo, and Tony’s Creole Seasoning.  The fingers themselves were pretty good: meaty and crispy, with a good meat-to-breading ratio.  All too often, chicken fingers have too little chicken, too little fry, or too much of either.  They had the ratio down pat.

What struck me most, though, was the story of the founder, Todd Graves.  Printed on the wall inside the store was a short background on the chain.  Todd came up with the idea while at LSU.  He wrote up a business plan for a class he was taking and received a poor grade.  Undeterred, he and a friend worked jobs on oil rigs and Alaskan fishing vessels to make the money to open the first restaurant.  Today, this little Louisiana chain that could is now in over 10 states and has spread well beyond the South.

And I had never heard of it.

I knew there were other chains like it out there.  My hometown, Pittsburgh, had Primanti Brothers, a local favorite that few knew outside of Western PA.  I had only ever seen D’Angelo Sub Shops in New England.  Jeffrey Lebowski’s darling burger joint, In-and-Out, has yet to make an Eastern US debut.

Remember back to your first summer camp, or your freshman year of college, that first time away from home?  Remember meeting people from new places, and talking about what you had back home? “You put french fries on sandwiches?  That’s so weird!”  That’s what I’m trying to capture.

Stay tuned on Envie Recipes for more updates.

Regional Chain: D’angelo Subs

Long ago, I found that going to a grocery store on an empty stomach is a bad idea.  I buy too much because I’m hungry.  I used to live in Boston, and across the street from my favorite grocery store was a D’Angelo sub shop.  I got into the habit of grabbing a cheesesteak, or half of a cheesesteak, to calm my belly before purchasing groceries.

I grew fond of D’Angelo Subs.  Rarely outside of the New Jersey / Philadelphia area can one find a good cheesesteak.  Having grown up in Pennsylvania and gone to college in Jersey, cheesesteaks were close to my heart.  There were no cheesesteak shops in Boston, so D’Angelo had the market cornered.  But, their subs were delicious.

D'Angelo Subs

What’s so great about them?  For starters, they’re cooked to order on a grill, not pre-cooked and microwaved, like at Subway.  They cook the shaved steak with oil, grilled onions, and peppers, and then layer cheese onto the meat while it’s cooking.  They scrape the entire meaty, gooey pile onto a fresh-baked hoagie roll.  My cheesesteak pet peeve is when the cold cheese is placed inside the hoagie roll, and the steak is added on top.  The cheese often never melts, which ruins the experience.  D’Angelo offers gooey cheese with every sandwich.

My personal favorite is the Steak Bomb.  Genoa salami and capicola ham are added to the steak, and the toppings include peppers, onions, sauteed mushrooms, and melted provolone.  It can be very salty, so eaters beware.

My favorite cheesesteak from my youth was by Trip’s Steaks in Cape May, NJ.  Something about the melted cheese, the soft, flaky bread, and the cornmeal dusting was heaven to me.  But, D’angelos now vies for the top spot.  I’d call them my two favorite cheesesteaks, much to the chagrin of many Philadelphians.

New Englanders swear by D’Angelo and their parent company Papa Gino’s Pizza.  If you’re in Red Sox Territory sometime soon, I’d recommend trying one.

If you want to share your experience with D’Angelo, please reach us here.

Photobucket: A Hodgepodge

I’m trying to post with regularity, but I drew a blank on ideas for this week.  So, I decided to do a photo-melange of odds and ends to whet your appetites.

Here are some empanadas I had while on vacation in Argentina.  Simple and fast, they’re dough pockets with different fillings.  These had beef filling inside.

Chicken Mole I had in Santa Fe, NM, last year.  Delicious.

This picture I took on the hood of my car for the Double Down Showdown.  To sum the post up, the Double Down is awesome because it’s ridiculous.  The Doublicious is lame because it’s just a chicken sandwich.

Here are Dunkin’ Donuts’ Pancake Sausage Bites.  They were actually kinda good.  On SeriousEats.com, I called them “Morning Corndogs.”

If you stuck anywhere just contact us here.

Breville Panini Press Vs. Cuisinart Griddler: My top pick and why

Hey guys, I have recently talked a lot about stand mixers so let’s switch it up and today I am going to tell you guys about one of the most used appliances in my kitchen, the Panini Press.

There are a lot of options when you start looking to buy a Panini press for yourself which makes it confusing to decide which model is better and which brand would be more reliable.

Let me tell you that Breville and Cuisinart are the best brands for buying a Panini press and it’s not just me but my friends at homeguyd saying this too but how do you decide which one is best for you?

I have reviewed both the Breville Panini Press and the Cuisinart Griddler and here is what I found:

Clean Up

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes sometimes and burn our food by either forgetting all about it or overestimating the cooking time. Whatever the reason is, we are left with a charred mess in the end which we need to clean properly before we can use the Panini press again.

In this aspect, it is much easier to clean Cuisinart model than a Breville model because Cuisinart gives you the option of removable plates which can be then cleaned in a dishwasher while the same cannot be said for a Breville model.

Nonstick removable plates on my Cuisinart

For a Breville model, you would need to carefully wash the plates without being able to remove it and take care that other components don’t get water inside which turns into an arduous task. So, in the matters of cleaning, Cuisinart is the clear champion and will save you a lot of time.

Material used

Another important thing to consider when deciding between the two brands is that which provides you with a better construction and will last longer when used regularly.

The Breville model comes with a non-stick surface which lasts for a long time and doesn’t come off after a month or a year of usage whereas, the same cannot be said for a Cuisinart model.

A Cuisinart model will also include a non-stick surface but this is bound to come off after some time due to getting washed in the dishwasher or because you use a strong detergent to wash it. So, to protect the nonstick material I would advise you don’t dirty your Griddler too much.


Another factor to consider while making the choice between these two brands is that how versatile the two models are. As we already know, Breville comes with a non-removable plate and so we can only use that plate to perform all our cooking whereas, a Cuisinart can use several types of removable plates which allows you to perform various waffle or sandwich recipes with considerable ease. Just swap your plate with the desired configurations and you are all set to grill or press.

making waffles in my Cuisinart Panini Press

Consistent cooking

One of the most important factor when considering which model to buy is that which model provides you with a better-cooked food.

After a lot of tests and research, we found that a Breville provides you with an evenly cooked food whereas, a Cuisinart provides you with an unevenly cooked food as the top and the bottom plates provide different temperature to your food.


There is really not a better choice in between these two brands, it is all about what features are more important to you. Clearly, I am in favor of the Cuisinart as it is more versatile and saves me tons of time on cleaning but if you want consistently cooked food, then go for Breville.

If you have any doubts regarding the products, please contact us here.

Tuesday visit to Louvre


Since Martin is spending his spring break here with us, some sightseeing is in order.  We picked a good time to visit the Louvre…late morning on a Tuesday…as there were no lines at the entrance or the ticket machines.

View from inside the south wing of the Louvre... it's nice to peek outside from time to time to get your bearings while wandering through one of the world's largest art museums.
View from inside the south wing of the Louvre… it’s nice to peek outside from time to time to get your bearings while wandering through one of the world’s largest art museums.


While Martin’s mission on this day was mainly to see the Greek and Roman works in the museum, one would be remiss not to pop in to see “La Joconde” (The Mona Lisa).  I didn’t photograph the world’s most famous portrait to post here… we all know what she looks like.   What you see below is the mob of tourists that one always finds in front of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, which is secured behind bullet-proof glass.



In The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, a brother and sister run away from home and live secretly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hiding from the guards and gathering coins from the fountain for spending money.  Martin and I were just talking about how much we love that book when we turned a corner and found ourselves alone on a grand staircase for just an instant.  Fun to imagine having the Louvre to oneself to explore.



I Went up to 18th arrondissement



Anna and I went up to the 18th Arrondissement, the Monmartre area, this morning for a baking class offered by Cook’n With Class.  We made croissants, pain au chocolat, pain raisin, and babas au rum.  The recipes are simple so it’s the techniques that must be mastered.  This is the kind of cooking class that I still enjoy…those that teach techniques that are just about impossible to learn from a book.


 Rolling croissants is very satisfying.  Can’t wait to try it at home.


 Lovely little pastries just waiting for the oven.



These raisin buns were to die for.  Funny that I’ve seen them in bakeries over here for years and never bought one, perhaps because they look too sweet. The kicker is that these rolls are “glued” together with vanilla pastry cream and that gives them an amazingly rich flavor….definitely the surprise of the day for me.


This dough that we learned how to make today is comprised of 80 layers as you can see plainly in these fresh out of the oven pain au chocolats. The chef explained to us that the French like their pastries to be baked until quite dark.  They like the burnt caramel flavor as in Creme Caramel and Creme Brulee.  He said that baking this way signifies that this is something to be eaten right away, not saved for later and reheated.  According to him, Americans eat baked goods that are undercooked, “blond” and that uncooked gluten is hard to digest even for those who are not gluten sensitive.  In other words, no more snacking on raw cookie dough.  Don’t know if all this is fact, just passing along the advice of our french pastry chef friend.


Anna plating her babas au rhum…. just after she had doused it with a very generous glug-glug of Rum.

No foggy London Town


No foggy London Town for us last weekend… it was 60 degrees and blue skies!  Looks like London will beat Paris in the race to Spring.   It’s a quick and easy 2 1/2 hour Eurostar train ride from one capital city to the other…Gare du Nord to St. Pancras….thanks to the Channel Tunnel (otherwise known as The Chunnel).  Construction of this undersea link between England and France began in 1988 and was open for business in 1994.  I was surprised to learn that this idea had been around since 1802,  when Albert Mathieu first proposed just such a tunnel.  His vision, however, was one of horse-drawn carriages, oil lamps for illumination and an artificial island mid tunnel for the purpose of changing horses.


Here’s a little something that has surely saved my life in London countless times.  I wonder how many foreigners had unfortunate run-ins with cars and motorbikes before the city started directing us which way to look before crossing the street.


We spent most of our weekend in the Notting Hill area where #2 son lives these days.  It can be a bit crowded on Saturday due to the wonderful and popular Portobello Street Market but otherwise a fabulous neighborhood.  We especially enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the outside patio of Portobello Ristorante Pizzaria, 7 Ladbrook Road, (Thanks Janos and Sevgi!)

IMG_7158 IMG_7159

On our way to Whole Foods on High Street Kensington (their upstairs food court is a wonderful spot for lunch) we were lucky enough to arrive just in time to help celebrate this company’s return from duty in Iraq.   A bystander informed us that there is a little parade and ceremony for each troop as they make their way home.  Welcome home guys!

Here's a quick glimpse of the french countryside from the window of the Eurostar. We are looking forward to renting a car in a couple of weeks to explore la campagne.
Here’s a quick glimpse of the french countryside from the window of the Eurostar. We are looking forward to renting a car in a couple of weeks to explore la campagne.

Another rainy day in Paris

Another rainy day in Paris.  How does that Billy Joel song go?
It’s a rainy night in Paris, and I’m sitting by the Seine,
It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain,
Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine,
But in the morning there’ll be hell to pay
Somewhere along the line.
This is what Anna wanted to do after finishing her schoolwork.  I, on the other hand, just wanted to get out for some fresh air so I grabbed the raincoat and umbrella and set out to wander.  I decided to turn down every small cobble-stoned street that I could find.
Now here’s one of the magical things about Paris.  I emerged from one on these passageways to this spectacular sight.  I’ve been to Notre Dame many times, climbed the claustrophobic circular stone staircase to stand nose to nose with the gargoyles, but I still find it thrilling to round a corner and come face to face with Our Grand Lady.