Cool products for your kitchen and garden

I’m not much of a gardener. In fact, I’m not that good with plants, especially those that need attention—or water. But I do have an herb garden. And as my sister says, most herbs are pretty hardy, and actually thrive on neglect, which I’m very good at.

herb garden_oregano_august 2014

My herb garden is doing very well this year. The oregano is taking over, smothering the new lavender plants, and the parsley, and the scented geranium. Not a very good neighbor. I have several kinds of oregano—ruffled leaf oregano, Mexican oregano and just regular old basic oregano. I’ve got two kinds of rosemary, four kinds of basil, winter savory that has gone wild and pineapple sage that is just too sure of itself. I think it’s competing with the oregano. I don’t have the heart to tell it that I can only use so much pineapple sage in cooking.

If you have a herb garden, and are facing the bounty of this summer, you know what I’m thinking. What do I do with all this?

One solution is to chop up the herbs in the food processor, add some olive oil and freeze them into ice cubes. I did this last year with pesto and it works beautifully. Each cube is approximately 1 tablespoon. A few cubes defrosted, add some Parmesan cheese and pasta water, and we’ve got an easy dinner for two. Pop them in a freezer bag and you’re good to go. Just remember to label the bag. All green cubes tend to look alike.

In the past, I’ve just used a spare ice cube tray, but something much better came my way this summer. Architec Housewares reached out to me and asked me to review their new line of products called the Homegrown Gourmet Collection.

Now, I’m not the type of blogger that does product pieces (especially when the product is given to me), but I have been a big fan of Architec’s products for sometime. I think they make the best cutting board on the market. ORIGINAL_GRIPPER_CUTTING_BOARD_ArchitecIt’s called The Gripper, and in addition to providing a durable polypropylene cutting surface (which doesn’t dull knives), it has over 300 soft, gripping, feet thermally bonded to the cutting board. This means that when you put it on the counter, it stays on the counter. No shifting or sliding, which is unnerving when you’re chopping quickly. I have one in every size they make, from 11×14, 8×11 to the 5×7 “bar board.” They go right in the dishwasher and they come in really cool colors too.

The Florida-based, family- and women-owned company, has been making some very innovative and useful kitchen tools like the Gripper board since 2000 when it was founded by Kathy Sellers. Now she and her daughter, Jenna, run the company. They have expanded their product offerings to include the EcoSmart line, which uses recycled plastic, paper and other earth-friendly materials to make cutting boards, serving bowls and utensils, and this summer they launched the Homegrown Gourmet Collection, which focuses on products for people who grow and store their own homegrown produce.

cube tray_green_ArchitecBack to herbs and ice cubes. This is the product that caught my eye: an ice cube tray made of silicone, sitting in a poly frame and lid. The silicone makes it easy to pop the cubes out, and doesn’t absorb the flavors. The “case” has a lid that prevents freezer taste from creeping into the food. It’s rigid so it sits easily in the freezer too. 

oregano_basil_ice cubes_ArchitecI gave it a test with my abundance of oregano and basil, and made cubes to store in the freezer. The tray released the herb cubes easily and came out great from the dishwasher.

But you can use it for other types of cubes too. My contact at Architec said they use it to freeze almond and coconut milk for their iced coffee. It’s also a natural for fun bar recipes; think freezing juices and fruits.

The Homegrown collection is full of unique, functional products that I haven’t seen elsewhere, like a box for storing your harvested seeds, Harvest Drying & Infusing Station (comes with four 32 oz infusion jars and twine) and a Harvest Grow Bag for growing greens and herbs on a patio or deck (they’ve got ones for root vegetables, tomatoes and general growing too).

As part of this product launch, Architec has initiated Project Restore for a Wholesome Future. The goal is to “reserve a portion of proceeds to donate products to local fire houses, schools and community organizations who can work together to grow nutritious gardens to support neighborhood families.” [To learn more about the project, click here.]   

As for me, I’ve started a wish list of cool Architec products I didn’t realize existed until I started doing research on this article, like the reusable Stretch Hot Cooking Bands, made from 100% medical grade silicone to use instead of butcher twine or toothpicks, on the grill, in the oven and even in a deep fryer.  Or the HoldBowl™ which has a stretchy handle designed to hold the bowl in three different ways for best comfort and dexterity.

I could go on, but I do need to get other things done today. Take a look at Architec’s website or Amazon to peruse their products and start your own wish list.

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