Black and Decker Toaster Oven

I worked part-time in the Sears Electrical Department in my college years. We sold tons of earlier iterations of those popular kitchen appliances, 90% of them in the Christmas season on Saturday Specials. I developed a distaste for the whole category, and, in over 40 more years, never had one in the house or apartment.

A couple of weeks ago our 8 year old $100-plus Cuisinart four-slice toaster crapped out. What was particularly irritating was the way it died. Toasting regular bread, I pushed the plunger down and the whole mechanism just collapsed, as if made of tin foil. The outer shell had been made of plastic, and that had developed heat cracks over the years too. Repair it? I just threw it in the trash.

Now, I do a lot of microwaving, which is fast and energy efficient, but it doesn’t brown food dishes such as packaged casseroles. It makes no sense to fire up the oven for a single serving. So I began researching toaster ovens on the web!

As we’d expect, one can spend hundreds on these things, but I can’t. I loath digital displays and touch pads on home appliances anyway. They are harder to see and set than old-fashioned knobs, and all I want to to is cook the food, not program it. I have the same issue with digital camera menus, noting that one manufacturer, Fuji, even makes a full digital with retro manual controls imitating the film SLR’s of yore.

So I found Black and Decker made a toaster oven for only $39.99, and decided to buy it. I bought it at Ace Hardware, just down the street. How good could it be at that price?

Black and Decker Countertop Oven, Model TRO480BS, $39.99

The B&D model toasts, broils and bakes. It has mechanical knobs for all the settings and adjustments, two adjustable rack levels, a bake pan and a crumb tray, and a bell timer. At about 16″W x 9″H x 10″ deep, it requires little counter space. It will hold a 1 quart Corning Ware casserole dish with cover, about 7 inches square. It has a sturdy, solid feel in use, and is of all-metal construction except for the generous glass window door.

So far, I’ve used it for sliced french bread, bagels and a frozen turkey casserole tray. The toast and bagels come out perfectly in about 4 minutes, and you don’t have to worry about thick bagels as you do with toaster slots. In my opinion, my slices come out more evenly and consistently toasted than with the old Cuisinart.

For the frozen casserole, I precooked it with the microwave to save time over cooking instructions in an oven. I finished it off in the Black and Decker, giving a perfect browned crunchy top.

I really like being able to see the meal’s progress in the oven. In a toaster, the first sign is the smell or the smoke. But with the B&D I’m learning I can trust settings I’ve already used before.

You wouldn’t try to cook the Christmas bird in this device, or rotisserie a chicken. For one or two people, this does much more than a toaster, and it does it better. FIVE STARS in my book. šŸ™‚ šŸ™‚ šŸ™‚ šŸ™‚ šŸ™‚

View giving idea of size. The included baking pan is shown in front.


LINK to Black and Decker page for this item

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Improving Toaster Waffles

I’ve been buying toaster waffles for years. They’re quick and convenient. But by the time we butter and pour syrup on them, they aren’t very hot, and they don’t have a lot of flavor beyond the syrup.

I’d never make waffles from scratch just for myself, even if I did have a waffle iron. So try this:

Toast your frozen waffles on a hot griddle or large frying pan. No need to defrost. Use plenty of butter, re-buttering when you flip them over. A minute or so on each side is plenty. They brown nicely and quickly. As they’re now already buttered, just serve with syrup as you fancy. Enjoy. You’ll notice a tremendous improvement!

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Ants, 2010

Your advance scouts come by the ones and twos out of the bathroom sink, and find nothing. A cup of hot water sends you sluicing back down past your Supreme Commander. Without waiting for reports of the latest military disaster, he sends more.

I have watched these fruitless efforts patiently. Since there is nothing worth taking in an apartment bathroom, all along I have assumed the main expeditionary force is just awaiting further orders.

When scouts stopped appearing in the bathroom sink, they started appearing instead on my nice clean kitchen counter. Would you have me believe you cannot field an attack on two fronts at once? There is nothing for ants there either. A kitchen sponge and detergent easily wipes the battlefield clean.

But an attack on the food supply is a threat that cannot be tolerated; I set out just one of my stockpile of Grant’s Ant Stakes.

I see a few sickly survivors staggering about aimlessly. Where is the main invading force?

When Sultan Suleiman The Great finally conquered a vastly outnumbered garrison in a magnificently fortified but lightly defended castle, it is said that Suleiman boasted to the vanquished survivors that he sacrified over 100,000 of his 250,000 soldiers to take this prize, and would have been happy to sacrifice 100,000 more.

I believe this was the great 1521 Siege of Belgrade. Some reports state that the fortress was initially defended by a garrison of 700. There is only one of me. Kindly send me more ants.

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“Resealable Bag Inside”

"Resealbale Bag Inside"

Since I grew up in the ’50’s, we as a nation have progressed from cardboard boxes and wax paper to hi-tech plastics and ziplock bags. All of us except the food packaging industry, that is.

Now, I love raisins. Yep, I have always loved raisins since I was a kid. And I usually buy Sun-Maid, because that’s what my mom bought, 60 years ago. I’m a transplant from New England, new to California in 1950, but I’m a loyal transplant.

Needless to say, when I saw that Sun-Maid now packages our excellent California Raisins in a new, improved Resealable Bag”, I had to put a box in the old shopping cart.

And, when I opened the box for my after-dinner raisin snacks, here is what I found:

Here you go, "resealable"

Here you go, "resealable"

In other words, in case anyone else is as dense as I was, what you get to make your space-age bag “resealable” is the piece of yellow tape with the instructions:

  1. To open: pull apart bag at top
  2. To close: fold bag in toward tab and reseal

In case it looks to you like I just cut off the bag top with a pair of scissors, that’s exactly what I did. The new bags are NOT wax paper, they are a super-tough non-tearable plastic; in fact, they are the same plastic used to protect your Krispy Crackers, but without protecting them from crumbling into cracker meal. This kind of plastic is fabricated to protect the contents from the purchaser.

Not even Charles Atlas nor Mr. T could pull the walls of the raisin bag apart by hand. The heat-sealed crimp closure is designed to withstand nuclear attack. If an endorphine rush gave you the super-strength to open one of these bags, you’d be cleaning an explosion of sun-dried Natural California Raisins out from under the couch, washer and dryer for the next several months and beyond.

While I’m no longer exactly in the prime of my strength, I shudder to think what an 85-year-old granny would do. Actually, I know exactly what she’d do: she’d go straight for the scissors.

By now you are probably wondering why they would make these things this way. And of course you knew I was going to tell you why they do. That’s so the marketing and packaging jerks who sit at the long, polished zebra-wood conference table can boast: “THEIR product is just dumped into conventional packaging and loses its freshness. OUR product is resealable.”

Resealable, my ass. I am still waiting for the yellow plastic tape to fall off.

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Eye Surgery

The bestĀ fringe benefitĀ of rest, recuperation and all thoseĀ Ā “doctor’s orders”Ā sorts of things is that we can embrace them as an opportunity to really relax and just take care of ourselves. I had eye surgery a week and a half ago. Everything’s going fine. I’m getting used to this rest period quite easily, maybe even enjoying it too much!

B;acl eye a couple of days after surgery. The nurses joked I must have had a fight with the doctor.
“Black eye” a couple of days after surgery. The nurses joked I must have had a fight with the doctor.

I certainly took that attitude. I’m “grounded” for 8 weeks – no air flights – and tethered toĀ a strict regimen of eye drops and ointments while my eye heals.

There are 3 different kinds of eye drops, up to 8 times a day at first, and I made a spreadsheet checklist with checkboxes to help track all the dosages. The doctor also said “no smoking”, so I have put my pipes aside for the duration at least.

Not only do I get to sleep as long as I want, I have a greatly increased appetite and eat practically anything I want.Ā  I have been down this road before (with cigarettes) so have stocked up with foods and fruits Ā that are healthy to keep that appetite tamedĀ yet away from “heart attack on a bun” fast foods and pizza.

I was not sure how much I would want to read or work on the computer during the recuperation period, but daytime TV is even worse than it was years ago, if that is possible – choices seem to be a re-run of the re-runs of Ice Road Truckers, or a Bear Grylls “Man vs. Wild” re-run if you are lucky enough to catch one. I don’t think you could pay me enough to volunteer to eat spiders, drink urine and curl up for the night inside camel carcasses. I am quite happy with the kind of survival challenges one finds in the typical modernĀ living room, thank you.

On early morning PBS, you might catch more intelligence and useful information with “Curious George” than you’ll catch in all the History Channel re-runs of “Area 51” alien invasion testimonials.

So I ended up reading a lot after all. I picked up the ancient Herodotus’ Histories again, starting with the famous Battle of Marathon in which the Greeks trounced the Persians, the first time. I then got caught up in the second and more involved Battle of ThermopylaeĀ and took a huge number of notes. I hope to have an article and analysis of this famous pivotal battle posted to the Writing department, in a few days or less.

Almost time for the 2PM eyedrops. Hmm, should IĀ munch on an apple or banana? Should I nap a little? Hell, it wouldn’t kill me to turn on the TV for a little while …Ā this is the kind of R&R I could get used to.

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Ants’ Progress

This morning I checked to see how the ants were doing with my Grant’s Ant Stake. Last night’s three remained on the kitchen counter. They were not moving.

When I left for work, they still were not moving. A bad omen for the ants. A fourth, looking pretty disoriented itself, arrived on the scene and it appeared to be making preparation to haul one of the fallen comrades back to the nest.

This evening two of the three deceased ants rested where they had been; a more recent arrival in a different location (no doubt part of a salvage and rescue operation) had also expired.

When I plunked the pile of mail down on the counter, the fallen ants blew off the counter top. If you put out the stakes, the ants won’t come by any more.

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Grant’s Ant Stakes

“Sure, we have them”, said the salesman at Ace Hardware. The familiar old Grant’s Ant Stakes have always come in shiny metal with a corrugated metal stake. I remember them scattered about the yard and under the sink in the kitchen in the 1950’s. Well, now they come in gray plastic. “The cost of the metal, you know.” So I bought a pack.

Boy Mechanic also bought a surge suppressing plug strip and two new 3-way compact flourescent bulbs, so that’s $48 for a stop at the store to get ant stakes.

The apartment units here get an ant problem faithfully every year, right after the rains. Don’t look to the property management for a solution at a time like this – it’s every tenant for himself or herself. We do the Raid thing and the ant trap thing and the impeccable housekeeping trip, and eventually the rains stop and the ants go away.

This year’s infestation wasn’t bad, it was pretty mild actually, but I couldn’t stop it. You can only clean the counters so many times. So I bought the stakes.

The trouble with me is, I read directions. Now they tell you up front that Grant’s contains arsenic. “Kills the queen!”, they boast. The poison works slowly, giving the ants time to deliver the payload direct to the nest. It wouldn’t do for the morning’s raiding party to arrive at the worksite, only to find a pile of dead workers. So the nest slowly sickens.

After less than 24 hours, I’m not getting as many ants, and the ones that do report to work seem lethargic and a little disoriented. The ones that are still strong enough to go out and get food are reporting straight to my one Grant’s Ant Stake, so the nest can get its strength back and get well soon.

Like so many humans, I’d rather not know. I’d rather not get involved. What do you mean, we can’t dump our pollutants in the atmosphere? Where else are we supposed to put them?

It was so much simpler in the old days, when all we knew was that if we put out the stakes, the ants wouldn’t come by anymore.

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