Travel & Outdoor

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Cooking & Diet

Creating Espresso Drinks Like a Pro

best espresso machine

Over the past 10 years or so, ever since my boss (an Italian from Rome) introduced me to the world of non-drip coffee, I’ve really enjoyed espresso and cappuccino. When I can, I enjoy a nice Starbucks and I’ve been lucky enough to do some traveling and experience the original Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Tully’s and overseas Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero (who looks to have landed in Boston) as well as whatever local shops I can find. My favorite coffee drinks are espresso, cappuccino and something called a “Doppio con Panna” which is a double-shot of espresso with whipped cream on top (if you haven’t had this order it at Starbucks — it is so good). At home, for a while I owned a very nice looking entry-level Breville espresso maker (an earlier version of the Breville 800ESXL that never quite lived up to its promise and eventually just died. I long lusted after something like a Gaggia but I could never justify spending so much money on a machine. Eventually, I just gave up on the whole idea of coffee drinks at home. 10 years later I can say that the world of entry-level home espresso machine has changed for the good.

The biggest problems with the Breville espresso machine were it took forever to heat up, made a really soupy puck and mess out of the espresso and was really finicky with the grind and couldn’t push through a pod, never did a great job of getting a nice foam with the steamer wand and it was super noisy. The results were just so-so and I found myself not using it as much as I had wanted. There was definitely not after-the-kids-went-to-bed drinks allowed with all the noise. The De’Longhi espresso maker is just the opposite. The first time I turned it on, it heated up in about two minutes. I was expecting more like five. I didn’t have any espresso coffee around so (and I now this is absolutely sacrilege but I was desperate) I took a scoop of Folger’s “Half Caff”, tamped it and ran it. I was shocked to see a nice dark espresso with a decent crema forming in the cup. I was even more shocked with the taste. It was actually really good! It wasn’t the “right” roast or grind but it came out really nice. Yes, I know, Folger’s, really? But I didn’t want to wait to play with my new toy!

The machine comes fully assembled and almost ready to go. It’s nice and compact and doesn’t take up much counter space. The appearance is very nice even though there’s a mix of metal and metal-colored plastic. I am not sure what the “full stainless steel housing” refers to but it’s definitely plastic and metal mixed. It’s fully in-line with this price point though and it’s very nice looking overall. It comes with just about everything you need: a portafilter (the thing with the handle that holds the coffee), three filter baskets (single shot; double shot and E.S.E. Pod) and a scooper/tamper combination tool. Unfortunately, while there is a place to store the baskets in the machine there is no good place to store the scooper and the portafilter. The top flips open to reveal the water container and a place to hold the other filter baskets. The water container lifts out to make it easy to fill. There isn’t a charcoal filter like you’ll find with some coffee makers so you’ll need to use good cold pre-filtered water. There was a strong plastic “new” smell to the water container so I took it out, rinsed it with cold water and as suggested by the Getting Started guide, ran half a container of water through the espresso and steamer sides of the machine.

Getting going with the De’Longhi was really easy. Brewing is a matter of first turning the dial to “On” while it heats up. During that time, I filled the basket using the included scoop (one scoop for a double-shot) and tamped with the other side and then inserted the portafilter into the machine. Once the green light came on, I turned the dial to the right. This starts the brewing process. At first I wondered if it was working because it was so quiet but soon enough, the espresso was flowing. That was a nice surprise. By the way, you need a pretty short glass here — you won’t fit your coffee mug under it. Once I had enough espresso to my liking I then turned it back to the left through on, off and to the steamer side and made sure the top of the wand was slid down to the “cappuccino” mark. While waiting for the green light to come back on, I put some milk (you’ll have to play with the amount here) in the steel pitcher and holding it at and angle in my left hand, inserted the steamer tip just below the surface. With my right hand I turned the dial on the side of the machine down and let it start foaming. Again, even during this process the machine was relatively quiet, at least compared to what you’d hear at a coffee shop. However, don’t expect micro-foam here. This is not an $8000 machine. But, what you do end up with is very good. I let it go until the bottom of the pitcher gets too hot to hold comfortably for more than a second. You don’t want to go too long and scorch the milk. I then poured the hot water out of my mug, dropped in my espresso hot and then poured what’s left of the milk over the shot and then scooped the foam on to the top. Voila, my first De’Longhi cappuccino. Cleaning the portafilter is easy. You just knock it on the side of the trash can or compost bin. I was happy to see a pretty dry puck and not a soupy mess like the aforementioned machine. Supposedly, a dry puck is a sign of a good espresso shot. The steam wand tip can be taken off and rinsed with hot water. It’s very easy to clean. Overall, the resulting cappuccino was so much better than I expected and I was so delighted not only by the drink itself but how easy the whole experience was.

I also tried the De’Longhi with some Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso Pods to very good result. These are great if you don’t want to deal with the grinding, tamping and all that. They still need to be tamped but all the grind is self-contained in a little paper envelope you can easily throw out when done. I think they can even be composted. At a quarter or so a piece, a cup is still so much less than what you’d pay at a shop. They do make it too easy though to have 4-5 cappuccinos a day so be careful. I might need to order some decaf pods.

Obviously, I am very delighted with this machine. After my first entry-level machine experience, I wasn’t expecting much at all. At the price point, the ease-of-use and the results far exceed my expectation. The machine heats up quickly, is quiet during brewing and makes very good espresso and cappuccino drinks. It has the power to push through pods. It also looks nice on our counter. I’ve already been talking this one up to friends. I am really looking forward to making my own doppio con panna, pumpkin eggnog lattes (when the season rolls around and Hood puts out their Pumpkin Spice Eggnog) and especially a nice after-dinner decaf espresso.

Read the full review here.

Cooking & Diet

The Kitchen Knife

kitchen knives
The kitchen knife, a versatile tool in the hands of a skilled chef is used for a range of activities from slicing to dicing to mincing and deboning. If you are looking to buy one, here are some kitchen knife reviews of the best available in the market.

The Korin Gyutou ($100) ranks among the best. A high carbon steel, Japanese style chef’s knife, it will go through the hardest frozen steak like it was a slab of warm butter. This is one knife which will make you love your time in kitchen. The only drawback is that it needs a lot of care. The Korin needs to be wiped with an oil rag (provided) after washing with soap and water. I found that it tends to discolor and corrode particularly when used with acidic foods, if not cared for.

At 6 ounces the Richmond Addict 2 ($170) is one of the lightest yet surprisingly the biggest of the lot. The blade is sharp and thin and withstands wear well. Though it works very well in cutting relatively softer foods, it is not suited for cutting through harder stuff like chicken bones. The Richmond suited my large hands well and the large blade ensured that I don’t mash my fingers on the cutting board.

The Henckels Professional S ($150) is a solid steel German knife with a heft. It felt well balanced and not very tiring on my hands despite its weight. The three rivet imitation wood handle with the conventional looking blade gives it a classic look.

The Misono UX10 Santoku ($160) is made of the finest Swedish steel and due to its asymmetric beveling gives it a razor sharp edge. I found this to be a great multi- purpose knife being light enough for easy manouvering at the same time having enough weight for light bone work. It needs sharpening once in a while but it lasted me nearly a year before it had to be sharpened again.

Cooking & Diet

My Best Stainless Steel Cookware

The first time I used the Cuisinart’s Multiclad Pro Stainless, I cooked beef. The end result was extremely tender and tasty. This stainless steel cookware is definitely better than All-Clad. It has a tri-clad construction all around the bottom and the sides, similar to All-Clad. I had previously been using non-stick cookware but using Cuisinart’s Multiclad Pro Stainless made all of the difference. I would recommend this cookware for your preparing your meats so as to ensure a tender finish. The price is also considerably fair, considering the efficiency of use and how it will change your kitchen experience.
stainless steel cookware set
No kitchen is complete without a Mainstays Stainless Steel 8-Quart Steamer Set. The stainless steel cookware serves many purposes. You could steam vegetables and at the same time cook pasta. The steel is very thick and does not rust because it is made of durable steel. The set is quite inexpensive and serves a lot of purposes in the kitchen. If you want to minimize the amount of work you have to do in the kitchen, I suggest that you do yourself a favor and get this product.

You should also consider getting the Mainstays Jumbo Roaster with Rack, Stainless Steel 18”. The roasting pan set one of the best stainless steel cookware you will have in your house. It will help you to make food to feed large crowds easily. It bakes, as well as roasts. Get ready to feed your large family with ease. The cookware even doubles your oven space and has an easy lift-out rack. You can use it to cook and also to serve. You will find that roasting turkey will become much easier and more fun with this equipment. The cost of the pan is pocket-friendly so you won’t have to splurge to get this gem into your kitchen.

Travel & Outdoor

Camping Trip with Beloved Family

Falls best travel experiences; Nov'12; Hike,Trees;, CA site 158 Big Basin, CA


You hope to have a wonderful time with your beloved family. You are probably gearing up for a camping trip with your esteemed family, and you are thinking of getting a shelter, which would provide a home for you. Best family tent came into being with this purpose in mind. Therefore, these are some of the best cheap family tents reviews available for you.

Gelert Horizon Supreme 6

This award-winning family tent is not only light, but provides plenty of space and headroom. Flexible bedroom and door combinations give you a chance to create the layout and design that best suit you. The tent also has some modifications that

provide you with an extra shield from the rain.

Coleman Instant Tourer

If you wish to have an all out fun and enjoy the best of your camping trip without the effort of having to erect a tent, then this is likely the best fit for you. The tent takes a matter minutes to erect and saves you from having to squander your precious

time. The cutting edge technology employed in coming up with this four-man tent means that you would get all the protection there is against the unwanted creepy crawlers, and other unforeseen elements.

Olpro Martley

This resilient family tent stands apart from the typical sea of blue and green on the camping site. Therefore, it comes in handy during the summer weekends when the weather is a little bit warmer. The fabric that lines the outer surface of this tent

makes it the best tent than many others out there. The fibreglass poles make it easier to erect and hence saves you much time to have fun.

Mothercare UV Sun Tent

This automatic pop-up family tent is wonderful when it comes to keeping the wind and sun off your face in either the garden or the beach. The sand pockets enable this tent to attain stability, whereas the windows that lie at the back ensures that there

is ventilation within the tent. There is a handy storage bag, as well as four pegs that help in securing the tent.

If you wish to plan for a family holiday or a big festival under your canvas, you may want to choose from a list of these family

tents. The comfort and protection that you would get would make your holiday worth remembering.

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Sports & Fitness

Effective Way To Maintain Cardio Health

Elliptical training presents an effective way to reduce weight and help in maintaining cardiovascular health at your home. The products integrate flexibility of upper and lower body muscles and channelize them to one smooth motion. Consistent use of the products will help you increase your cardiovascular capacities and thus will help you in maintaining a good overall health. Here are a few home elliptical reviews of the best models of the product.
Capable of supporting up to 275 pounds, this medium duty low priced machine is one of the most effective models of Elliptical machines. With hardly any maintenance cost, this model uses 10 levels of magnetic brakes. Besides these, the frictionless quiet operation of the machine lends an added advantage to the model. The flywheels and rubberized footpads make your workout experience cosier.

This is one of the cheapest but effective models of Sole’s Elliptical products. Ideal for home gym, this heavy duty model can support a user weight up to 350 lbs. The model uses 16 levels of Eddy Current Brakes for providing resistance. The ECB, which is the best form of technology for providing resistance, helps it to operate quietly with very little maintenance cost. The 25 pound flywheel adds smoothness to your strides. The built in cooling fan and speakers for music players make your workout more enjoyable.

EX 69-02:
This medium duty, medium priced model is capable of supporting a maximum weight of 300 pounds. The model uses 20 levels of magnetic brakes for resistance. 14.3 pounds flywheels and rubberized footpads make your workout smoother. The built in fan and mp3 players make your workout more rejuvenating. To remove stress on hips and lower back, ZERO gap pedal placements are used. The heart rate monitoring data is displayed on a built in LCD screen.

Horizon EX 59-02 and EX 69-02 may be best suitable for you, if you are looking for the top elliptical machines. However, if you prefer spending up to $2000, then the Sole E-35 is the best option for you. The weight of the user should also be taken into account while choosing the model of machinery. In case the user weight exceeds 350 pounds, then the user may prefer to choose Sole E-95, which supports up to 400 pounds.

The Elliptical models imitate the motion of your feet and coordinates that motion with your heels. This makes the models more comfortable for the joints and the knees. These are low impact exercise machines that simulates cycling, walking, etc. The users pay in accordance with their need and budget. Costlier machines have better quality gadgets and they support heavier weight.