If you're into grazing--the trend of eating six or more small meals a day--consider these two kitchen helpers from Oster.
The first one, Hot 'N Toasty Sandwich Grill, can be a creative and fun appliance for all ages. When I first saw the grill at a product demonstration about two years ago, I immediately purchased one because it stirred my imagination into thinking what the whole family, particularly our teen-agers, could do with it. The working mechanism is simple: Two slices of sandwich bread or pastry dough, buttered on the outside, are filled with any sweet or savory filling, then sealed and toasted to a golden-brown finish. The non-stick cooking plates inside the grill are molded with triangle-shaped pockets so that when pressed, each sandwich is crimped into two diagonal halves. The sandwiches can also be turned into large hors d'oeuvres by giving them a quarter turn half way through the cooking period. This will crimp the sandwich into four small triangles.
Old Idea, New and Improved
The idea of a sandwich grill isn't new, of course. Like the electric waffle iron upon which it is based, the sandwich grill or toaster has been around for many years. Modern technology is evident in Oster's sandwich griddle, which is thermostatically controlled for even heating. Briefly preheated, the unit has a signal light that gives a cue for grilling.
The Hot 'N Toasty isn't limited to sandwiches. In no time at all it makes sweet and savory pastry snacks, and besides bread slices, pie dough, filo dough, crescent roll dough and flour tortillas may be used. Think pot pies, baklavas , quesadillas , tacos, empanadas . . . the choices for fillings are endless, resulting in interesting old or new varieties.
Almost foolproof is the easy dessert turnover . . . probably what convinces most people in a demonstration. Canned cherry, apple or any fruit pie filling, mincemeat, jams or other sweets are used to fill the buttered-bread slices. What's amazing is that when using bread, it bakes into a crust that, when dusted with powdered sugar, makes it like eating pastry.
Even Scrambled Eggs and Omelets
Fun comes from developing new ideas from whatever filling you have on hand, including leftover meats, salads or vegetables. The sandwich grill's versatility also extends to producing scrambled eggs, corn bread muffins and omelets.
Part of the attraction in Oster's sandwich grill is that the unit can be stored compactly on a counter or on a cabinet shelf, either standing or sitting. Almond colored with brown trim on the exterior, the case looks like a small briefcase or purse with a handle. Another design feature is wrap-around cord storage, a convenience that consumers like in many new appliances today. The interior griddle is lined with heavy-duty non-stick, non-stain coating for easy cleanup.
Waffles at Any Time
Many types of foods, not just typical snack foods, can be grazing food. Waffles are one. Depending on what toppings they're served with, these lightly crisp, golden delights can be served any time of the day. Waffle irons date to the 14th Century, but not until after World War I did the first electric waffle iron appear. Numerous designs and patterns in the exterior or interior have developed, but the basic principle remains the same.
A twin copy of the sandwich grill or vice versa, Oster's second kitchen helper is a waffle maker, in two styles: the Belgian Waffle Maker and the Gold 'N Crispy Waffle Maker. The Belgian Waffle Maker makes 3/4-inch-thick waffles that have fewer but deeper indentations to hold even more toppings than regular waffles. The Gold 'N Crispy Waffle Maker makes regular, toaster-size waffles that cook in 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.
If you have an old waffle maker that is a problem because it sticks and is hard to clean, you'll like the non-stick, non-stain grids in Oster's products, which eliminate the need to use butter or oil each time they are used.
Occasional Seasoning With Oil
However, with recipes that tend to stick (those that don't have oil or are heavy on sugar), the manufacturer recommends seasoning with oil (or spraying with non-stick oil spray) when using one of the units the first time and after occasional cleaning with hot soapy water. Don't be alarmed if the first waffles seem too light and moist, as consequent baking will produce better results. Like the sandwich grill, another good feature found in the waffle maker is that the outer casing is made of non-metal material that reduces heat buildup and provides ease in handling.
Aside from reading and following instructions in Oster's appliance manual, it's a good idea to use their recipes for the waffles. We found that the results were far better in texture and crispness than when other cookbook recipes were used. Oster's home economist Elizabeth Kathan explains that increased sugar and butter levels and heavier whipping of egg whites can promote unevenness in browning, as well as prevent crisping.
For extra crisp waffles, she also emphasizes placing the waffles on a rack right after cooking to remove moisture or prevent steam buildup. Another tip is to bake them longer or allow them to sit in the opened unit a few extra seconds after baking. Kathan's favorite waffle treat is made of chocolate chip waffles filled with a scoop of ice cream and topped with chocolate syrup.
Currently available in almond color, the Oster products will be available in white in the Designer Line toward the end of the year.
The Hot 'N Toasty Sandwich Grill has a suggested retail price of $36 and the waffle makers are $43. All Oster products are available at Gemco stores, Hinshaw's and Broadway department stores, or call Oster: (213) 923-2433.