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The Perfect Holiday Meal: Join AHAM’s Twitter Chat!

Lifelong memories are built around holiday meals, both in the kitchen and at the table. It’s the time of year when friends and family prepare their special recipes of the season, which you might have been anticipating since the last holiday.

AHAM is bringing together chefs, home cooks, nutrition professionals, manufacturers and anyone else who loves holiday cooking and eating for a Twitter chat on The Perfect Holiday Meal. Join us to share your best advice on the preparation, cooking and clean-up of your holiday meal. And, get those pictures ready to share your favorite holiday memory!

Join us at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 16. Follow AHAM on Twitter at @AHAM_voice and use the hashtag #AHAMHolidays to join in. See you there!

Cook a “shell” of a breakfast with these alternatives to chicken eggs

We’re continuing our series on breakfast with another twist on the traditional (last time, it was toast) with a look at alternatives to traditional chicken eggs. All of these can be prepared in the traditional ways on your cooktop or in your oven—scrambled, fried, etc.—but you may notice a slight difference in color, texture or taste. Consider bringing duck, goose, ostrich or quail eggs to your breakfast table if you’re in the mood for sampling eggs laid by fancier fowl.

Duck: Duck eggs are larger and have a tougher shell than chicken eggs. (That means they’re harder to “quack.” Ha ha ha…) You can cook duck eggs the same ways you’d cook chicken eggs. But since you’re already straying off the beaten breakfast path, why not go a bit more exotic? If you’re into sous vide cooking, ChefSteps recommends serving their sous vide duck eggs over asparagus with olive oil, champagne vinegar, minced chives and chopped black truffle.

Goose: Goose eggs are as big as about three large chicken eggs. They’re likely to be harder to find since geese produce far fewer eggs than chickens. Try this scrambled goose egg recipe from Tastessence, which adds plum tomatoes, girolle mushrooms and chopped garlic for a fresh twist on a breakfast favorite.

Ostrich: Perhaps you’re serving breakfast to a large group of people. Or maybe you’re just really, really hungry. If either one of these is the case, an ostrich egg may be the way to go. And you’ll only need one, because one ostrich egg is equivalent to about two dozen chicken eggs. Are you recovering from a long night out? This ostrich egg omelet recipe, from the Travel Channel, is a traditional hangover cure in South Africa. Ostrich eggs can be tough to crack and you’ll probably need to use a few tools to get the job done.

Try the eggs!

Quail: It takes about five quail eggs to equal one chicken egg, but the speckled shells add a unique splash of color to your breakfast prep. Use a knife or scissors to penetrate the delicate shell. Use your oven to take your morning egg back to the nest with this recipe from JoCooks: quail eggs in hash brown nests.

Good things come in small, speckled packages.

Great eggs aren’t just for the oven and range. Take advantage of your smaller appliances, like your blender and immersion blender when you’re making scrambled eggs. And as always, take the time to follow safe cooking practices.

Have you ventured outside the shell of traditional breakfast eggs lately? What’s your favorite egg alternative?

Coffee, stand mixers, and love: Appliances are popular items on wedding registries

Autumn. It’s the season of cool breezes, falling leaves and fluttering hearts. October and September according to wedding website The Knot, are the most popular months for weddings. If you’re the one about to exchange vows, you’ll want to build a wedding registry that will make your life journey easier and more convenient. That means plenty of appliances.

Kitchen appliances are popular on wedding registries. In fact, a stand mixer routinely tops wedding registry site Zola’s list of registry gifts. Also on Zola’s list of most popular appliance registry gifts: a waffle maker (“Couples really love their waffles,” Forrest says.), hand mixer, food processor, two-speed immersion blender, a programmable slow cooker, a smart toaster oven, and multiple blender models.

Silver Spring, Md. resident Mindy Halpert will marry her fiancée, Mike Reinitz, in May. They recently moved in to a new house, so they considered what they’ll need for their home when building their registry.

“When we were moving, we said we could buy that now, or we can wait for the registry,” Halpert said. “I’m thinking long-term, high-quality.” She likes to cook, and the couple plans on regularly hosting large family gatherings. Appliances on her registry include an electric knife, a multi-cooker, a coffee grinder and high-end coffee maker, a hand mixer, a handheld vacuum and a steamer mop. The couple also registered for two food processors: a 14-cup and a 3.5 cup, so they’re ready to prepare meals for both small and large groups. She registered at multiple retailers – some online and some brick and mortar– keeping in mind the shopping preferences of her guests.

So what appliances should you include on your registry? Like so many choices, it depends on your lifestyle.

“Think about what you want before you go to the store and are armed with a scanner,” says Betty Gold, Good Housekeeping’s senior editor and product analyst, kitchen and food. “Have a discussion with your partner about what you actually need, want and will use for the rest of your lives. A lot of people go hog wild. They see something like an oyster shucker and register just because it’s there.”

Hannah Brown, wedding registry coordinator for Macy’s, encourages couples to focus on their realistic lifestyle when registering for gifts. “There are the couples who host and entertain, and then there are other couples who like stay at home and cook together for themselves,” she says. “This will point the couple in the right direction to look for trendy barware versus quality pots and pans. Many times couples have the appliance they want in mind, but aren’t sure of the brand or model to select. We advise couples to consider the brands they are already familiar with and the lifestyle that they hold. The most popular appliances for couples, Brown says, are single-serve coffee makers, stand mixers, toasters and toaster ovens, blenders and food processors, and immersion blenders.

Here are some other items to consider for the registry:

  • Multi-cooker: “If you make hearty cuts of meat or make chili often, we tell people to get them,” Gold says.
  • Sous vide immersion cooker: This is more appropriate for experienced cooks. “People using them are serious cooks or are into cooking,” Gold says. “Sometimes people are weekend cooks. They’re the sous vide cooks who want to cook a special meal once a week.”
  • Coffee maker: Again, know what you like and how much space is available. A pod coffee maker might work better for people who are short on time. Also keep aesthetics in mind when selecting or giving a coffee maker. “They’re going to sit out all the time. If you’re giving someone a coffee maker as a gift, it’s going to have permanent real estate on the countertop. Espresso machines are a great gift. They’re a little higher-end, but you can make your coffee in less than a minute.
  • Stand mixer: “We recommend that anybody who bakes get a stand mixer,” Gold says. “If you don’t bake a lot, don’t register for it.”
  • Countertop oven: “You can do anything in the oven, except you can do it on your countertop,” Gold says.

Are you tying the knot soon? What are you putting on your registry? Let us know in the comments.

Toast isn’t just toast: Creative takes on a breakfast standby

It’s time to get serious…about breakfast. Whether you enjoy a leisurely breakfast or take it on the run, the odds are pretty good that your appliances are involved. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a deep dive into the role your appliances play in the most important meal of the day.

Let’s start with toast, that reliable, comforting breakfast mainstay. You pop it into the toaster, choose your level of color (which says a lot about you as a person), add a pat of butter or other spread and enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with traditional, but if you’re looking for more adventurous ways to enjoy your toast, we’ve collected some recipes that will add some spice (in some cases, literally) to your morning slice.

Healthy peanut butter banana toast with chia seeds: Healthy Glow recommends using sprouted whole grain or gluten-free bread for this recipe, which also incorporates cinnamon. Like many specialty toast recipes, this could be a side or its own meal.

Avocado pesto toast: Avocado toast is a popular item these days. This recipe, from Cookie + Kate, combines pumpkin seeds, avocado, garlic and lemon juice, with the suggested options of eggs and cherry tomatoes.

Fig, ricotta & truffle honey bruschetta: Even humble toast can be exotic. Use sourdough bread for this recipe from heneedsfood. You’ll also need ricotta, rosewater, fresh and dried figs, pistachios, almonds, truffle honey and micro watercress. You might have a smaller window to make this recipe—fresh figs are in season for a short time in early summer, then in late summer through fall.

Healthy cinnamon toast: The mention of cinnamon toast has our mouths watering. Genius Kitchen offers this recipe, which brings together banana, flax seeds, brown sugar and cinnamon to top wheat toast. You can put it all together in minutes. They recommend serving it with a glass of rice or soy milk and a fruit bowl.

Simple spinach toast with poached egg: If you like greens in the morning, this recipe by From the Grapevine  might be for you. Add spinach, butter, a poached egg, salt, pepper and butter to your choice of toast.

How you like your toast reveals key aspects of your personality. You can find out the secrets with The Toast Test: A One-question Personality Quiz. Take it now. Trust us, you’ll be finished before your toast. This study says the best toast is cooked for exactly 216 seconds, but we’re convinced it’s a matter of personal preference. The research could not possibly be as rigorous as the data we’re collecting through The Toast Test.

How do you like your toast? White or wheat? Butter or jam? Let’s get this discussion going!

Need Halloween costume inspiration? Look to your appliances.

Are you searching for that Halloween costume that will have everybody talking, win a prize in the office costume contest, or just have everyone fawning over your ingenuity? You have come to the right place. We’ve gathered some of the best appliance-themed Halloween costumes from the Web to get your creative juices flowing. So grab your art supplies and get to work! (If you’ve recently purchased an appliance, a large box could come in handy.)

Many special costume possibilities open up when you have a little one on the way. This take on the “bun in the oven” from Coolest Homemade Costumes adds a chef to get the family involved.

Halloween is a great time to air your dirty laundry as a washer, dryer or the dirty laundry. This one, also from Coolest Homemade Costumes, is perfect if you have a trio of friends looking for a concept costume.

If your tastes lean more toward the macabre, you might want to try this “head in a freezer” costume.

There are those who dress up as their appliances, and those who dress up their appliances. The folks at Crafster made this toad costume out of wool to get their robotic vacuum into the Halloween spirit.

October can be chilly, or it can be…toasty. Make your toaster costume authentic (and reveal your personality) by setting the toaster to your preferred level.

What will you be dressing as this year?

Space Heater Round-Up: AHAM’s Expert Advice, All in One Place

Winter is coming, and it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to fend off those seasonal chills. To help you prepare, here’s the best of our expert advice on portable electric heaters.

These key questions will help you choose the portable heater that works best for you:

  • Will you be using the heater for temporary personal heat or to keep a room steadily warm?
  • Do you need instant heat, or can the heat be generated gradually?
  • What’s your noise tolerance?

Learn about the types of heaters available –

  • Panel heaters can be wall-mounted or freestanding, and may include fans.
  • Radiant heaters generate warmth by heating oil within the unit, though the oil doesn’t need to be refilled.
  • Fan heaters distribute heat from an element using a fan.
  • Ceramic heaters use a ceramic heating element and may also use a fan to spread heat.
  • Infrared heaters generate heat from a surface within the heater. The heat is emitted in the form of infrared energy.

What features do you need? Today you can easily find heaters with the following:

  • A thermostat to keep the heat at a steady temperature. Some models offer a digital setting.
  • Oscillation to distribute heat
  • Adjustable fan speeds

And finally, no matter what type of heater you end up with, AHAM recommends these safety tips:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels before using your portable electric heater.
  • DO NOT leave operating heater unattended and always unplug heater when not in use.
  • DO NOT use your heater with a power strip or extension cord. Overheating of a power strip or extension cord could result in a fire.
  • String out cords on top of area rugs or carpeting. Placing anything, including furniture, on top of the cord may damage it.
  • Keep combustible materials, such as furniture, pillows, bedding, papers, clothes and curtains at least three feet from the front of the heater and away from the sides and rear. DO NOT block heater’s air intake or exhaust source.

Looking for further reading? We have more info on heaters here and here. You can learn more about heater safety – and order free safety brochures! – here.

Best of AHAM Allergy Advice

Whatever is causing your fall allergies, AHAM has some advice to ease your suffering. Appliances can help remove some of the allergens from your home and reduce your symptoms. We’ve gathered our top allergy prevention advice to help you through the seasonal allergy storm:

Looking for fall allergy relief? Your humidifier or dehumidifier could help!

Learn how these appliances can help you fight allergies.

Physicians share their allergy prevention advice

Two experts share their advice on allergy relief.

Room air cleaners: Your ally against allergens

Air cleaners can help to remove allergy-causing pollutants from your home.

Tips for Managing your Child’s Allergies

AHAM’s tips for helping your little ones breathe easier.

Worrying about Fall Allergies?

We spoke with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on the biggest fall allergy triggers and how your appliances can help you fight back.

 

Robotic Evolution: New features enhance autonomous floor care

Are you looking to outsource some of your floor care duties to a robot? You aren’t alone. These autonomous appliances are rolling into the floor care plan of more and more homes. Sales of robotic vacuums are expected to go from $1.49 billion in 2016 to more than $2.4 billion by the end of 2021.

If you are looking to turn a robotic vacuum loose in your home, you’ll have many choices, and manufacturers are constantly adding new features to their models. Some of the features aim to help the robot find its way around your home. Others improve interactivity, safety or your ability to control the robot. All of the features, however, work together toward the goal of more thorough cleaning.

Features will vary depending on the price and manufacturer. Here’s a sampling of some of the newer tools being incorporated into robotic vacuums:

Advanced navigation: Many of today’s models have the ability to map a home and remember how to get around objects and stay out of tough spots. You can also program the robots to vacuum specific areas of the home. If you happen to get in the way, some models can tell you are human and will ask you—politely, no doubt—to move out of the way so they can continue to work.

Mopping ability: Robots are evolving into floor care multitaskers. In addition to vacuuming, some models now have the ability to mop, both wet and dry.

Voice control: They’ll never say ‘no.’ Robotic vacuums can now respond to voice commands, either directly or through an outside system like Amazon Alexa.

Remote operation: Start, stop or control your robotic vacuum with your mobile device.

Cameras: Cameras have been incorporated into some models to help the robot map the room and allow you to get a robot’s eye view of cleaning and keep an eye on your house while you’re away. Some allow you to take photos and/or videos.

Fall prevention: Even with all of the new features and technological advances, robotic vacuums still have not gained the ability to climb stairs. Many models, however, now utilize sensors to prevent themselves from taking a tumble down the stairs or off a higher level.

Robotic vacuums have earned their place as a floor-care fixture, and the innovations will continue. What other appliance do you think could benefit from robotic features? (Are refrigerators next?)

Vacuum features, settings and technique: Expert advice

Vacuums are one of your go-to appliances as you strive to keep your home clear of dirt, dust, pet hair and allergens. There’s a good chance vacuuming is part of your daily or weekly routine. A 2013 global survey by AHAM member Electrolux found that 33% of respondents vacuumed 2-5 times per week, 13% vacuumed daily and 3% more than once a day.

How you vacuum, not just how much you vacuum, is an important factor as you strive to conquer household dust. The various settings and features incorporated into many vacuum models, combined with the proper technique, will help you maximize your vacuum’s ability to keep your home free from dust and dirt.

Features

The features vacuums offer vary, but adjustable height, “full-bag” sensors and variable motor speed are common. All of them affect your vacuum’s performance.

Adjustable height: Many models allow you to adjust the height of the vacuum as you clean different surfaces. But vacuum owners often don’t realize that a lower height setting doesn’t necessarily mean a deeper clean. “If it’s too low, it won’t clean properly,” says vacuum guru Tom Gasko, curator of the Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, Missouri. So how do you know which height is right? “Recline the handle and start the vacuum in its highest position,” Gasko says. “Turn it one notch down until you hear the change in sound—it will become a deeper, throatier sound.” That sound means the brush is sweeping correctly. The team at BISSELL, an AHAM member, recommends a higher setting for thicker, plush carpets, and a lower height for low-pile carpet or bare floor.

Speed settings: Another common assumption is that high speed equals better cleaning. The appropriate speed depends on the surface you’re vacuuming. “If you’re cleaning an area rug, the high speed tends to bunch it under a nozzle,” Gasko says. “The lower speeds work better. Let’s say you have a woolen area rug. Don’t use high speed. You’ll drag the carpet and it will destroy the nap of the rug. Your draperies don’t need near the suction of the shag rug. On your sofa, it can tear the fabric.”

 

“Empty bag” indicator: A “full bag” indicator is great for telling you when it’s time to change the bag. “If that [indicator] window is three-quarters of the way full, that bag is three-quarters of the way through. If you’re vacuuming three rooms and you have a shedding dog, you might want to change the bag.” Bissell recommends emptying bagless vacuums frequently so they don’t overfill. This leads to fewer clogs and better performance. And check your brush, too: hair on the brush roll can decrease its effectiveness and cause stress on the vacuum’s belt. Clean the brush regularly for the best performance.

Attachments: Many vacuums come with a variety of attachments. Some of the more common are crevice tools, turbo brushes, extension wands and dusting brushes. “Use crevice tools and turbo brushes to vacuum upholstery and get in between cushions on the couch,” the BISSELL team says. “Use extension wands to reach dust on ceiling fans, cobwebs in high corners, etc. Dusting brushes can be used to reach around books and items on shelves. Gentle bristles won’t scratch delicate wood surfaces.”

Technique

When you vacuum, do pull back harder than you push? Many people naturally do. They’re unknowingly leaving dirt on the floor. Why?

“Vacuums are designed to be pushed at a specific speed,” Gasko says. “They’re to be propelled forward at 12 inches per second, backwards at six inches per second. Your backward pull has to be slower than your forward push.” Brushes on vacuums rotate forward, from the back to the front. “If you pull it back at half the speed, the brush has time to groom the carpet and sweep all the dirt out of the carpet because you’re going against the direction the brush turns.”

If your vacuum includes swivel, use it to reach those tight areas and corners, BISSELL recommends.

If you’re using a stick vacuum on a bare floor, it’s also a good idea to slow down and give your vacuum enough time to remove the dirt. “People think they can get through their kitchen in less than a minute,” Gasko says. “A bare floor doesn’t mean you can push the vacuum faster.” BISSELL recommends turning off the brush roll when vacuuming hard floors so that debris don’t scatter and brushes don’t damage delicate floors.

How you push the vacuum also matters. You may be using too much arm.

“People will stand and make star-shaped patterns with their arm,” Gasko says. “You’re supposed to hold the vacuum in your hand with your arm not bent.” He recommends walking forward at about 12 inches per second and backing up at half that speed for maximum dirt removal. “Make two passes, one forward and back, at the proper speed. Using your shoulder and elbow is inefficient, and your carpet will be cleaner.” Don’t go too fast, and be methodical in your pace when cleaning high-traffic areas of the home, BISSELL recommends.

Do you use a canister vacuum? If you tend to pull on the hose to get the canister to follow you around the room, there may be a better way. Proper technique involves wrapping the hose around the small of your back and holding it in your left hand. This will allow you to move the canister without pulling on the full length of the hose, Gasko says.

Are you cleaning drapes, furniture, shelves and other higher-up areas? BISSELL suggests cleaning those first, before you vacuum the floor. That way, if dust drifts from the higher spots, you’ll only have to vacuum the floor once.

Keep laundry detergent packets out of sight and out of reach

What’s your preferred laundry detergent? Are you one of the many who choose the convenience of laundry detergent packets over the more traditional powder or liquid? If so, it’s important to store them out of the reach of children.

The danger is that children may come across the brightly colored pods or packets and mistake them for a food or toy. Detergent inside the packets is highly concentrated, and serious injury or death can result if children swallow or come into contact with the detergent inside.

The best way to prevent incidents is to store packets out of sight and out of reach. But many who use packets don’t: According to the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), which is running the Packets Up! campaign to encourage proper storage of laundry detergent packets, 43% of families with children under four report that their children can see laundry packets when laundry isn’t being done. In addition, 19% of families with children under four reported that they store liquid laundry packets on an open shelf.

Preventing accidents is a simple as keeping the laundry detergent packets out of sight and high enough so they’re out of reach of young children, ACI says. Avoid storing packets on top of the washing machine or counter, and never let children play with packets.

ACI’s research also found that 15% of the families surveyed let their children take part in putting the liquid laundry packets into the washing machine. Children should never handle or hold laundry packets. But that doesn’t mean children can’t help out with laundry. Keep their involvement to more kid-friendly chores, like sorting colors or folding and pairing clothes.

Learn more about ACI’s Packets Up! campaign, including how you can get a laundry cling to remind you to safely store detergent.