Sunday , 26 March 2023
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Cooking with surprising products

Two icy, messy winter storms are cooping people up. I feel like staying inside and binge watching Mad Men. It reminds me a bit of Covid days- a lot of pacing indoors and avoidance of the out-of-doors.

  Once in a while I get to “test” products. Sometimes these items turn out to be better than expected. Three of them lived up to and perhaps even went beyond expectations and they helped pass the uncertain days of Covid.

 I have no trouble giving them a thumbs up. I tested an Apple Watch, a Kensington StudioDock and an OOni Pizza oven, all turned out to be useful and fun.

  The Apple Watch I tested was a Series 5. The current model is Series 8 starting at $529.

  When I am in a particularly inspired mode, the Apple Watch is great for motivating a fitness routine.

  Even if you aren’t taking classes in person somewhere or enrolled in the Apple Fitness world, the watch is a good companion to track activity. I can keep track of how many stairs I climb, how many steps I take, my heart rate, how much I stand, and if I am slacking off on all types of movement. During days of devotion I cycle indoors using routines from Apple Fitness or just freeform it with some good music. I go through periods where I am faithful to a routine and then completely

Changing the face on the Apple Watch is a handy way to avoid exercise KATHY RENWALD PHOTO

ignore exercise and conveniently leave the watch in a drawer.

  Beyond fitness I use the watch as a timer for cooking. This can be indispensable. Say you have a soufflé in the oven and are using a kitchen based timer. There’s a knock on the door and you bumble outside only to get involved in a conversation about when to prune a hydrangea. Bang the soufflé falls because you missed the timer. With the Apple Watch chiming at your side no more oven accidents! 

I also use the watch if I need directions when I am walking. It’s a relief just to have the watch quietly delivering directions, instead of having your face glued to a phone.

 And say your phone is in your bag, you can use the watch to answer a call, though you feel like an idiot when you do.

  And when you feel like avoiding exercise, you can waste a lot of time by changing the watch face to feature your cat instead of a close relative.

  The Apple Watch will also detect if you fall and ask if you want to send an SOS. So far I have not used that feature.

  I was recently told there is a world wide shortage of Rolex watches. I’ll stick to the Apple Watch with my cat Mulch on the face reminding me to chill out.

Kensington StudioDock

  Out of the blue I was asked if I wanted to test the Kensington StudioDock(starting at $355). This became a fixture in my kitchen, a product I never knew, but quickly learned I needed.

The Kensington StudioDock turns the kitchen counter into a creative hub

  What the dock does in display an iPad at a good height for reading or writing. The dock display works in landscape or portrait mode, and has the ability to tilt up and down. 

  With the dock plugged in to power it also rapid charges the iPad. Just as important is the base of the dock where there is a pad to charge an iPhone and AirPods. An optional attachment will charge the Apple Watch.

  Though I have a bedroom converted to an office, I work more often in the kitchen. The Kensington Studio Dock is a charging source for the Apple ecosystem. Instead of plugging devices in all over the house, they are neatly nestled on the kitchen counter. So my day might begin at the iPad as I dash off my complaint and kudos emails. 

  Then I move on to cooking-a major pastime. With the iPad mounted magnetically and vertically on the dock, the device is out of the way of flour, sugar salt, spilt coffee or bread dough. It becomes my master control.

  The Kensington StudioDock is very sturdy, I did damage my original tester by yanking too hard on the edges to move it-that was my fault. Otherwise it has been one of the most used and great performing support items I have tested. There are also expansion ports and an SD card reader built in. 

  It does not work with all iPad models, so check the Kensignton website for full information.

Ooni Pizza Oven

  So the latest test product I got was an Ooni pizza oven. It’s portable. Put it on a table outside and prepare to be a popular neighbour when the pizzas emerge from the oven. 

  The model was the Ooni Koda 16 (about $830). The gas powered unit heats to 950°F and can bake up to a 16” inch pizza in 60 seconds. 

The Ooni Pizza Oven at work on a cold winter night

  The oven comes with a useful set of recipes which I tried and they are excellent. I made the dough according to their instructions, as well as a simple tomato sauce. The trick is to make pizza with not too many ingredients. Simple is better.

  The Ooni YouTube channel also has short and well thought out videos for the technique for making dough and for getting the pizza in and out of the oven on the big pizza paddles.

  The thin crust pizzas really do cook in one minute and have a lovely thin and toasty crust. The oven can also be used for baking bread.

  Once your done cooking and the oven is cooled, the pizza stone can be taken out of the oven, the legs folded up and it can be stowed easily. It is a product that does exactly what was intended.

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