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SMORGASBORD: Champions 2.0 . . . Chill out . . . Pick this pepper . . . 'Heart of Italy'

Champions 2.0 Don't call this a replacement for original Wheaties, it just wouldn't cut it, but it is a pretty charming sister cereal. Developed with input from a doctor and big-time athletes such as Peyton Manning and Albert Pujols, it aims to k...

Wheaties Fuel
Wheaties Fuel cereal aims to keep performance and health in mind. (McClatchy Tribune)

Champions 2.0

Don't call this a replacement for original Wheaties, it just wouldn't cut it, but it is a pretty charming sister cereal. Developed with input from a doctor and big-time athletes such as Peyton Manning and Albert Pujols, it aims to keep performance and health in mind, but this time with a variety of flakes, puffs and a sweet honey-cinnamon flavor. It's available nationwide for about $5.

Chill out

One of the best purchases for your kitchen is a refrigerator thermometer. (Prices range from $7 to $23.) It's a good check on those temperatures that are so crucial for proper food storage. And though the dial on the inside of the fridge may say one thing, you still need to double-check its accuracy.

The best temperature for foods is a range between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer temperature should register 0 degrees.

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Appliances account for about 20 percent of a typical household's energy use. And the refrigerator is the biggest energy glutton in most household kitchens.

A few steps can reduce your refrigerator energy use, including:

-- Don't stand in front of the fridge with the door open, trying to make a decision.

-- Keep it nicely stocked -- but not overstocked -- for best energy efficiency.

Pick this pepper

Alessi's Piccantino pepper cruncher combines transparent silicone red rubber and polished steel for this cute and kitschy, but useful, gizmo that helps you grind, spread and store dried red chilies without having to handle them. It's available for $26 at unicahome.com.

'Heart of Italy'

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, who has taken fans along on culinary trips to Italy via books and TV shows, this time tours 12 of the country's 20 regions in "Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes" (Knopf, $35).

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The more familiar regions to travelers and lovers of Italian cooking are skipped in favor of the less traveled. Bastianich peeks inside alpine inns and homes, sampling rustic canederli (dumplings made from stale bread) of Trentino-Alto Adige. She tags along to the fields of Abruzzo to watch women pick crocus buds while still unopened to better preserve the aroma of the precious saffron threads within.

Bastianich has become a beloved and celebrated doyenne of Italian cooking for good reason. Her continued curiosity and drive to discover the cuisine informs this book and the zeal rubs off delightfully on readers. You're sure to savor her words just as much as the sweet and sour cipolline (little onions).

Alessi's Piccantino
Alessi's Piccantino peppercruncher is cute, kitschy and useful. (McClatchy Tribune)

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