Time For A New Toaster Oven

Lately I have been on a cooking journey to try and expand my horizons in the kitchen. I have discovered some truly wonderful recipes that have turned out better than I had expected. It has been fun learning new techniques and experimenting with different types of cuisine. The one thing I really do not enjoy however is using the oven. It is big, bulky, and it is not a self cleaning model. This is why I have been looking to upgrade my countertop oven into something a little more capable of cooking rather than just reheating and toasting.

My brother just moved into a new house and he was looking to stock his own kitchen with some of the bare essentials. I offered him my current toaster oven since he does not really prepare a lot of his own meals. He accepted it. This was great for me as I just wanted a good excuse to get a new toaster oven on my own. I had be looking every so often as to what was out there, but now it was time to start my search in earnest.

I knew that I had wanted a Breville oven because they seemed to have all of the features that I needed so it was time to do some real research. I began my quest my reviewing the latest toaster oven ratings at Gouverneur Times to see if there were any better options. Turns out that Breville is still the leader when it comes to countertop convection ovens which was exactly what I had my eye on. I pulled the trigger on their top of the line model and I never looked back.

What Oven Did I Get?

While I could of saved a little my by getting the BOV800XL I really wanted an interior light. It’s a petty thing I know, but I went with the BOV845BSS to get this feature. It also came with an extra slow cook setting that I have used a couple of times. I really splurged but I have not regretted it one bit. This oven has a number of high end features that I have really enjoyed.

  • Stainless steel design makes it look ultra-modern. This appliance is the shining star of my kitchen, literally.
  • Super simple controls that required no learning curve.
  • Interior light….oh yeah.
  • Convection cooking feature that works as advertised. Everything comes out even and requires a little less time to cook.
  • Roomy interior that can handle one of my favorite cooking dishes. It also comes with baking pans that have really gotten a workout.
  • Preset functions are nice. I have had no problems leaving it up to the toaster oven using these.
  • LCD display is another nice touch that screams modern technology.
  • Relatively quiet when operating. There is a slight hum when you have the convection fan on. When it is off you can barely hear anything.

These are just a few of the areas where this oven shines. One word of caution, and this goes for most toaster ovens, is that the top of the oven gets rather hot while cooking. I knew this going in and so I also ponied up for the cutting board that Breville makes for their toaster ovens. It is meant to go on top and this way you can place items on top of it and use it as a shelf. This is a good idea if you have a small kitchen and need all of the space that you can get.

What I Have Made So Far

I have been non-stop in the kitchen since this arrived on my doorstep. This was one of the best gifts that I have given to myself and I have really gone to town with trying out all kinds of recipes.

Cooking

I have enjoyed trying out full meals with my new Breville oven. One of the first things I tried was one of the favorites that I used to make in my full sized oven and that was ribs. I baked them for just under 2 hours and then broiled them for a few minutes on each side. The meat was literally falling off the bone. They were extremely juicy and tender and I knew right there that I had made the right decision.

I have also cooked a ton of homemade pizza and I cannot get enough of it. I went a little crazy trying all of the pizza recipes that I could find. I’ve also roasted a whole chicken, yes there is room. I’ve also made a pot roast, casserole, turkey pot pie from scratch, and lots of fish. Everything comes out perfectly done. I was kind of weary on a few of my dishes, but in the end I was overjoyed with the results. I can’t stop looking for new recipes to try as I have yet to find one that did not turn out great.

Baking

I have kind of a sweet tooth as well so I put those baking pans that come with the oven to the test. Pies, cookies, and cakes and everything in between have been made so far and this oven handles it all beautifully. I usually make more than I can eat alone so I end up giving half of it to friends and family and they smile whenever they see me coming with a covered dish. They have also benefited from my new kitchen hobby and are amazed that all of this was prepared in a toaster oven.

Get One and Don’t Look Back

If you love to eat or love to cook and are on the fence about trying one of these smaller ovens, you need not worry. A modern countertop convection oven offers exceptional versatility and convenience that well let you create some extraordinary delights in the kitchen. I was worried at first because of the cost, but it has quickly made up for it with what it has delivered. They are also easy to maintain and keep clean, something that was a burden with my full sized range oven. You won’t regret getting one of these for your home.

Here is one of the recipes that I actually tried and it was a huge hit with the family. My dicing skills are not quite up to par, but everything else turned out terrific.

Juicing Your Way To Better Health On A Budget

Nothing is quite as refreshing and as healthy as a glass of freshly squeezed juice. On a hot day if you reach for a carton of juice from the fridge then you know what we are talking about. However to take your nutrition to the next level then you are going to have to use your own juicer rather than relying on store bought products. While there is nothing wrong with these products you can find in your local market, they have their limitations, both in variety and in nutrients.

The most popular brands of juice will be of your garden variety fruits and vegetables. Oranges, grapes, cranberries are some of the most common kinds of juices sold. Some of the more nutritious types of green juices are harder to find and they will cost you quite a bit more. The reason for this is that they are difficult to preserve and must be consumed right away. There will be a higher price to pay for these types of drinks and they are not going to make a lot of economical sense to consume every day.

I Thought Juicing Was Expensive

This is one of the main drawbacks of owning your own juice extractor. The higher quality machines are typically going to be a sizable investment up front. Then you have the cost of buying fresh produce to make your drinks. While this is true, there are ways to minimize the cost while increasing your vitamin intake.

If you think about how much fresh foods are in a recommended daily allowance you might think it impossible to eat all of that each and every day. Modern juicers let you get all of the goodness of fruits and veggies down to just one or two glasses of juice. This is going to save you a huge amount of time, and how valuable is your time? For a lot of folks this convenience is worth it to improve their diets.

Finding A Good Juicer

If you have looked at recent juicer reviews you will see that most of the highly rated ones will cost between $150 and $300. That is a lot of money to shell out for something that you are not sure you will stick with. If you look a little harder you should have no trouble finding a budget juicer for a little bit less than that. We recommend that you don’t stray below the $100 mark as the cheaper juicers will not leave you satisfied. You want something that works well, is easy to use, and is a machine that you will want to use every day. Cheap extractors can be poorly constructed, wobble on your counter, give you low juice yield and quality.

The two models we recommend for those looking to save a little up front are the Breville BJE200XL (get the review here) and the Cuisinart CJE-1000. These are both centrifugal juicers that will cost you right around $100. They are extremely simple to use, will give you decent yield, and are relatively easy to clean. For those just starting out these are both good choices.

Your Ingredients

Now that you have a juicer it is time to use it. The best thing that you can do to save money in this area is to buy in bulk. Avoid prepackaged items and purchase by the pound. Farmer’s markets are great for this and you can try and haggle on the price as well. A bunch of carrots with the stems on them is going to be a little bit less than a package of baby carrots. Once you have some experience you will get the hang of how much to buy without throwing out what you can’t use later on.

One of the by-products of juicing is that you are left with a bunch of dry pulp. Don’t throw this out. This is a good source of dietary fiber that you can use later on such as cake toppings or in soups. This will allow you to use everything and have very little go to waste.

Worth The Effort

You only get one body and treating it the best you can now will pay off for you in the future. The vitamins and nutrients that are in fruits and vegetables are going to be vital to maintaining your health over the long run. Yes, juicing is going to be more effort, and cost more money then eating a salad or two every day, but it not all of us enjoy grazing each and every day. Using a juicer will provide variety, give you something refreshing, and save you a tremendous amount of time. There are numerous benefits that make it worth it and being on a budget should not stop you. Here is to your health.

Check out the video below for a couple of more decent budget juicer ideas that will help you change your diet and improve your heath. Save a little and gain a lot.

Understanding Depression In Older Family Members

Elderly depression occurs in an estimated 6 million Americans over the age of 65 and unfortunately many go untreated with only about 10% receiving treatment for their depression symptoms. Older patients who suffer from depression tend to face a number of challenges that may prevent them from getting the proper help. Whether it is having their symptoms of depression mistaken and confused with physical ailments, their own efforts to hide their feelings due to shame, or the general attitude by some that depression is a just natural byproduct of being old, elderly patients often do not get the care they deserve to treat their mental illness. It is important to recognize the symptoms elderly patients often show, the risk factors for older people to become clinically depressed and the treatment options available to effectively combat depression in the elderly.

Elderly Depression Symptoms

Symptoms of depression in elderly patients tend to present themselves in a different fashion. Older patients are more inclined to try and hide their feelings (sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, guilt etc.) out of a feeling of shame. The elderly instead usually complain of the physical symptoms that are associated with depression. This makes it more difficult to diagnose an elderly patient for depression because often they may be suffering from some other form of physical ailment or sickness. It would be quite easy for a caregiver to confuse the symptoms of depression for side effects of a physical condition. Even if there isn’t a physical condition present, some might view an increase in physical complaints as a by-product of getting old.

While older patients may experience any of the usual signs of depression, some of the more common symptoms seen in older patients include:

  • Increased number of physical complaints of aches and pains
  • Overly demanding or irritated
  • Insomnia or sleeping very little
  • Loss of memory
  • Inability to think clearly or inability to concentrate
  • Weight loss
  • Sometimes in a confused state

As you can see, some of these symptoms may be simple to overlook as being something other than depression in an older person. Mistaken symptoms are a main reason why the elderly often do not receive treatment for their depression.

Elderly Depression Risk Factors

While there is no single definitive cause for depression there are certain risk factors that may contribute to a person developing the illness. From genetics and biological reasons to life and environmental events, those who may be susceptible to depression should be extra vigilant. Some of the risk factors for elderly individuals may include:

  • Being a female
  • Being alone (widowed, divorced or single)
  • Little to no family or friend support system
  • Stressful life events such as deaths in the family, being forced to move after a long time in one place or economic hardships for example.

Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men in general. Some think that hormonal changes in older women make them more susceptible to developing depression. Losing a long time spouse or even a child is a significant risk factor as well. Having less involvement of family and friends to act as a support system is also a factor. As people get older they more likely they are to feel more alone especially if death of close loved ones is involved. This has a major impact on someone’s vulnerability to suffer from depression.

There are also some physical conditions that elder patients may suffer from that can be potential risk factors for an onset of depression. Diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, bypass surgery, stroke, macular degeneration and heart attack are a few of the conditions that may lead to depression. Conditions that limit mobility such as a broken hip or hip replacement in addition to anything that produces severe and chronic pain are risk factors as well.

  • Additional risk factors for older patients may include:
  • A family history of depression
  • A personal history of depression (have had bouts of clinical depression earlier in life)
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • A fear of dying or death
  • Taking medications where depression may be a side effect
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Other illnesses or disorders

Elderly Depression Treatments

Before being diagnosed with depression, an elderly patient should first have a complete medical history and physical examination done to rule out the possibility of a medical condition as the cause of their depressive state. After a proper diagnosis, a treatment plan can begin. Along with anti-depressants the patient may receive psychotherapy treatment as well as ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) or any combination of the three.

Depression Medications

Most of the popular depression medications tend to be equally effective in treating depression in older patients. Some of these may include Zoloft, Paxil, Wellbutrin and Prozac. Anti-depressants tend to take longer to work however in older patients. Since the older population is more prone to be on some other type of medications it is important for the treating physician to be made aware of all drugs currently being prescribed to the patient for any other health conditions to prevent any dangerous drug interactions and potential side effects. It is important to take depression medications as prescribed and forgetful patients may need some or be extra prudent to stay on schedule for the medications to be effective.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can provide important support in conjunction with a drug treatment plan, but it can also have tremendous value for patients who do not wish to take medication or cannot take anti-depressants due to side effects or harmful drug interactions with their other medications. For those without any sort of family support system, or those that live alone, just having someone to talk to can have substantial health benefits while at the same type working through their troubles.

ECT

Electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatment) can also be beneficial for certain older patients where traditional depression medications or other treatments either don’t work or cannot be administered due to drug interactions or other health concerns.

Elderly depression can be effectively treated with an estimated 80% success rate using any combination of the above options. Older patients tend to take a little longer to see their symptoms decrease than those of a younger age and similarly the amount of time recommended for treatment is longer.

An elderly patient suffering their very first depressive episode should expect to continue receiving treatment for 6 months to a year after their symptoms have subsided. For those who have had two or three depressive episodes in their life it is recommended to continue treatment for up to two years. And for elderly patients who have multiple (more than three) major depressive episodes, treatment after getting better may be a life long recommendation.Relieving depression is the first part, staying depression free is just as important and is why maintenance is encouraged.

Depression in the elderly population is considered a national health problem by the National Institute of Mental health and some of the statistics are sobering. With only an estimated 10% of older individuals who suffer from depression getting treatment it is important that proper awareness take hold. Suicide is always a risk for anyone suffering from major depression. White males ages 80 to 84 have twice as high of a suicide rate than the general population. It may be hard to diagnose for a number of reasons, but elderly depression can be effectively treated if everyone knows what to look out for.