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An assorted collection of "life hacks", mostly related to food and health. Consider these to be my public collection of shortcuts, recipes, notes to self.

Needless to mention, but I will anyway: this page contains no recommendations or advice for anyone. Use the information here and any tools mentioned at your own risk.

[2017]

Potatoes in the oven. Take a 2-3 lb bag of potatoes (can be new unpeeled, or sweet potatoes; make sure to wash well!), keep the skin on (as long as it is edible), cut them in chunks (or halves/quarters if they are smaller), apply high-heat oil (such as sunflower) liberally, then salt. Arrange in a signle layer, preferrably skin down. Bake at 350F in a pan or on a flat sheet. A ceramic pan tends to work best.


The quest for healthy, simple, home-cooked tapioca pearls (boba): I wanted to make healthier (less sugar, no colorings) pearl drinks at home but instead took a detour into Tapioca Pudding Land. Take 1/3 cup tapioca pearls (small cook better and faster), add 3 cups of milk, cook in Zojirushi rice cooker on "porridge" setting. Stir at 30 min. Once program runs to completion, add in 1/8 cup sugar and perhaps 1 tsp vanilla extract. Hazelnut extract is also good, add if you like. Let the cooker stay on "keep warm" for another hour to let the pudding get denser.

Bob's Red Mill Small Pearl Tapioca


Tortillas anyone can make. Tastier than store-bought! Follow the instructions on the Masa package. All you need is the masa, a pinch of salt, and hot water. If making the tortillas in a flat pan, brush sunflower oil on the tortilla (both sides) before putting in the pan for ease of handling.

Victoria 8-inch Tortilla Press
Bob's Red Mill Corn Flour (Masa Harina)


The fine product design details matter a lot when it comes to blenders. Here is the one we consider top in terms of practicality of use as well as blending results. Its cups are dishwasher-safe and it is quite powerful. For a nutritious smoothie: a banana, a cup of kale or spinach, a teaspoon of honey, add almond milk to reach 500 or 750ml.

Nutri Ninja Auto-IQ Compact Blender


Zojirushi appears to be great at making not only rice cookers, but bread machines too! Here is our favorite (compact) along with the one we would try now if we needed one.

Zojirushi 2 Lb Bread Maker
Zojirushi Compact Bread Maker

[2016]

At-home step master machines can be noisy and flimsy. I went through a couple of $50 models until I decided I spend enough time on the machine that it is worth upgrading. Great with some rubber resistance bands or weights to keep hands busy while stepping:

Xiser Stair Master


Zojirushi is the gold standard in rice cookers. Even within the brand there are differences: I try to stay away from compact models that do not have a water-tight top lid---they tend to spill water whenever I open the cavity. This one has a separate insulated plate on top which retains condensed water from steam and makes clean-up much easier. Empirically, rice cookers work better at sea level than up in the mountains where boiling temperatures are lower.

Zojirushi Rice Cooker

A rice cooker can also make delicious rice pudding. (Refrigerate in small containers to have one per day for a whole week.) This uses minimum bulk (cheap!) ingredients, controlled amounts of sugar (if any; healthier!), and a device that is nominally "single purpose". As a starting point use 3/8 cup rice with 2 cups milk. Run at the porridge setting and stir at 30 min or so. Once the cooker goes into keep warm mode, add perhaps 1/8 cup sugar and some vanilla extract, and stir. Run it in keep warm mode for another hour so the rice absorbs all the liquid. Then pour into containers and refigerate. Note that high altitude impacts results. While the cooker does a fine job controlling temperature, low pressure reduces liquids' boiling point and that may cause the milk to boil even at the porridge setting.



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