The 2010 International Home and Housewares show in Chicago is the place to find the new and innovative gadgets for your kitchen.
More than 55,000 people from 100 countries came to the three-day annual show, which ends Tuesday, to scour the thousands of products from small appliances to home and garden decor.
Here are a few gadgets that could be useful in every kitchen and won't break the bank.
Zyliss Champagne Opener
Champagne has 90 pounds of pressure inside the bottle, and champagne-related eye injuries are a real problem, especially around the holidays. Watching people open bottles of champagne, you always get a sense that they are cringing or flinching in fear of the cork flying out uncontrollably.
To deal with this serious, celebration-related injury, Zyliss has created a Champagne opener. It takes seconds to hook the tip through the foil cover in the wire eye. Pivot the device back to break the wire (no need to independently cut the foil), squeeze the walnut cracker-like clamp around the cork, wiggle a few times and "Pop."
Babycakes Cupcake Maker
Price: $30, available now
This device may look like the George Foreman grill, but when you open it, eight nonstick mini cupcake wells are easily filled with batter to make an oven-free set of cupcakes. The amazing thing about the product is that it makes the cupcakes in eight minutes. How sweet.
Fusion Brands Food Pod
The silicone cooking pod is easily filled with any items you want to boil. Its handle protrudes from the pot and when your food is done, just pull out the pod: no picking up the pot of boiling water, pouring it into a colander, risking steam burns or worse. What I really like is the idea of using the same pot of boiling water to cook things with varying cook times. Imagine boiling potatoes in the water and at the last minute dunking a food pod of beans or broccoli into the pot.
Kamenstein Bottle Band
Now that we are all more conscious of the chemical nature of our cleaning agents, we sometimes like to keep certain sponges designated exclusively for some cleaners. This bottle sponge caddy uses a band to loop the bottle, place your sponge in the attached holder and the two are married for life.
Spin & Go Mop System
The mop system is a way to wet the mop without having to manually wring out the mop head. Basically, the bucket has a salad spinner built into it. You put the mop head (which rotates or spins 360 degrees) into the spinner, use the foot pump to spin out the wet water and, voila, you have a dry mop. Also,, when you put the mop down on the floor, it stands up by itself. Cool.
Exact Spice Stack
Price: $24 to $51.99, available now.
This is such a great space-saver. Spices are so hard to organize, but this rack allows you to pull out drawers that tilt down for easy viewing, so it's great for higher cabinets. Another plus, other spice systems want you to transfer your bottled spices into special containers, but this system lets you use the bottles just as they came from the store.
Price: $5 a plug
The simple plug-extender allows you to plug tow cords into a wall outlet with the cords going parallel to the wall instead of perpendicular out from the outlet. The main benefit here is that it allows you to push furniture up against the wall without bending or stressing the cords. Over time that kind of wear can create cord breakage, which can cause sparks to emit from the cords. Imagine a bed pushed up against a sparking electrical cord and you can see the fire-risk of sparks on a mattress.
Farberware Bag Funnels
Price: $3.99 for one of each size
Ever try to fill a plastic storage bag with your favorite pasta sauce by yourself? It's not easy, you definitely need a helper to hold the baggie open. Well, these plastic sheets help you quickly, cleanly and efficiently fill plastic storage bags with sauces, soups, cereal, etc. It makes kids' lunches in the morning a breeze. The kitchen helper lies flat for storage and is dishwasher safe. Available in two sizes to fit both gallon and quart storage bags.
Zojirushi Introduction Heating System Rice Cooker and Warmer
Price: $550, available now
The outrageously expensive rice cooker is the top of the line in rice technology. It uses induction heating for even cooking and the pressure adjusts for the kind of rice you want to cook. So sushi rice is cooked at sea-level pressure, brown rice and other varieties are cooked at varying pressures for optimal texture.
One added feature is the cooker's ability to chemically alter brown rice to improve its health benefits. Whether this is certifiable is unclear, but it pre-soaks the rice for 2.5 hours and then cooks it at a low temperature to release amino acids that create what's referred to as GABA brown rice. Here's the description: "This is not a new variety of brown rice, but a newly discovered way of cooking brown rice to 'activate' it and increase naturally occurring gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid in brown rice believed to have health-giving properties such as lowering blood pressure, improving kidney function and relieving stress."
Price: $249 for model number MC-UL915, available at the end of April.
Panasonic has a new bagless vacuum cleaner that has two features that I really liked. First, it uses infrared sensors to tell you if it detects dirt so you know whether to fly over an area or give it more time and attention.
It also has washable parts that would allow you to get rid of the smell that your vacuum cleaner often picks up from pet hair.