5 kitchen gadgets: retrospective after 3 years

Kitchen gadgets are quite important to us, and reviews are often posted after only a few weeks/months of use, so we thought it would be interesting to share a longer-term perspective.

The 5 electric appliances we’ve had more than 3 years are:

  • Unold 48816 ice cream maker (10 years)
  • Toyomi WK1516 electric kettle (6 years)
  • Komo Fidibus grain mill (6 years)
  • Bosch MUM 5 kitchen machine (4 years)
  • Bianco di Puro Volto high-speed blender (3.5 years)

We’ll share a few thoughts on each, how often we’ve used them, and how they’re holding up.

Unold 48816 ice cream maker

Wow, this one made it to the 10 year mark. Especially in the humid Singapore climate, we were running this one twice a week. Probably 300+ uses – that’s pretty good value for a 180 EUR appliance, and a few percent of what 200 liters of ice cream cost. The motor recently conked out after some grinding noises – probably the plastic gears. Fortunately, replacements can still be had.

Toyomi WK1516 electric kettle

It’s astonishingly hard to find electric kettles that don’t have any plastic in contact with the hot water. This one doesn’t, and has served us well – about 3000 uses. The handle came off after about 5 years, so we got another.

Komo Fidibus grain mill

Commercially available flour does have some issues. We first used this mill for wheat (all kinds of baking), then buckwheat and rice, now mostly oats and flaxseeds (for breakfast porridge). Although stone mills generally do not handle oilseeds well, frozen flaxseeds seem to be fine at least for coarse shredding, which improves their bioavailability. It’s fun to see grains go in and coarse/fine flour come out, and the freshness does make a difference. Still, 300 EUR for about 300 uses is less value than the other gadgets. There is also concern about the rubbery mountings between the motor and the nice wood housing – one of them ripped off, so it’s risky to open and adjust the coarseness now. In retrospect, probably better to go with an attachment for a kitchen machine.

Bosch MUM 5 kitchen machine

This one held up well despite four years of heavy duty: perhaps as many as 800 uses (oats + dough + chocolate + grated veggies each week). Excellent value for a 200 EUR appliance, and still going strong. In retrospect, with this kind of usage it may have been better to go with the slightly more powerful model with a glass blender jar.

Bianco di Puro Volto high-speed blender

At 550 EUR, this one is the priciest, and also our favorite. We’re actually using it 2-3 times per day, probably 3000+ total. Amortization was initially a concern but it held up fine so far; if it breaks down, we’d replace it immediately and wait impatiently for its arrival. The 1400 watt motor is enough for all but large amounts of very viscous nut butter or hummus.

Closing thoughts

These gadgets really help us on a (near-)daily basis, and we’re grateful that they have lasted this long. Full disclosure: we have no interest in the manufacturing or sale of these appliances, but hope sharing our experience with them is useful.

Book Cover Design: 6 Lessons Learned

We’d like to share some tips on book cover design. Obviously ours wasn’t designed by a software engineer ūüėČ 99designs.com made it possible – they run ‘contests’ in which artists propose designs, receive feedback and the winner gets a bounty. We’re very happy with the result and want to share some lessons learned. What went well?

  1. 99designs estimated 30 designers would join a contest for¬†299 CHF. We decided against an additional blog listing (probably crowded) and instead messaged several veteran designers who had food-related book covers in their portfolio. It also seemed fair to¬†‘guarantee’ the contest and ensure¬†a participating designer receives the prize.¬†As a result, 33 designers joined in.
  2. We knew that writing good feedback would take lots of¬†time. Painfully aware that many designers would only gain experience from the contest, we made a strong effort to provide feedback on every single design (over 230). That ended up taking 3+ hours a day before and after work. We also decided against a¬†blind contest, so everyone could see each others’ designs. Some designs were ‘similar’, but enough variety remained.
  3. The secret to good software, prose and design seems to be iterative refinement. In the initial contest phase, some designers made 7 versions and achieved very strong results. The winning design evolved through 35 rounds of feedback.

There are a few things we’d do differently:

  1. Our food photos were mediocre and scarce. Good cookbooks are very visual and sub-par images really dampen a cover’s appeal. Initially we only provided a few pictures before realizing that more is better. Resorting to stock photos seemed dishonest, so we cooked up more desserts and took new photos.
  2. A more detailed brief could have accelerated the process. We didn’t want to impose too many requirements, but sharing our backstory and goals helped. We ended up with about 2 pages of background info. It was particularly important to suggest exact phrasing for some of the cover text/callouts because some designers weren’t native speakers.
  3. We forgot to mention that e-books only need a front cover, whereas printed books also need a back and spine. A few designs used the extra space and needed to be changed. On the plus side, we did ask for a specific pixel size (the book size at 300 dpi), which avoided resizing/rescaling.

Overall, this was a positive and enjoyable creative experience!

Nourishing Dessert Delights

Another busy day and “Nature’s Bounty: A Treasury of Nourishing Dessert Delights” is ready! We’ll share more about the making-of in the coming days while it’s still fresh in mind.

Why another cookbook? This one brings something new to the table:

  • 21 favorite recipes (chosen from > 150), rather than 5 good ones and 95 fillers.
  • Tasty treats made from real fruits, nuts and vegetables, not junk (sugar/artificial sweeteners, milk/cream, alcohol, vegetable oil, additives, gluten/flour).
  • Backed by solid research (about as much as a PhD thesis) instead of fads and opinions.

You’ll find carefully tweaked recipes, precise measurements and useful tips and tricks on food science, nutrition and health. Interested in boosting well-being and getting a head start on tasty desserts?

The EPUB3 e-book version is already available at Smashwords (an online bookstore) and Google Play Books. Soon we’ll also be able to deliver to Apple iBooks, Kobo and others.

Do you have any questions, comments or concerns? We’d love to hear from you: jjcookbooks@gmail.com.

An introduction

Hello! We’re putting the finishing touches on a dessert cookbook. As with many projects, the first 90% went smoothly – choosing recipes from the archive, writing descriptions, taking pictures. It’s the second 90% that are¬†hardest ūüėČ Today we requested an ISBN number, replaced some food pictures (some early photos were ‘less appealing’) and started this blog to share stories from behind the scenes.

It’s been a 16 month journey before/after work and during weekends; the good news is that much of the infrastructure is reusable. As a software guy, I like automation and shudder to hear of independent authors manually rearranging¬†references, fixing formatting, or revising¬†some oft-repeated text. Fortunately, we’ve got a nifty new solution, more on that later. Hopefully it will help with the next project –¬†Jaya’s favorite mains dishes ūüėÄ

We do love to cook, or rather: eat well, and one leads to the other. It’s a pleasure to record¬†and share our favorite dishes, each refined over about 10 iterations. We hope to spread the joy and delight of good food ūüôā