TIME Food & Drink

5 Hot Dog Gadgets for Your Summer Picnic

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Try a ham dogger

In this week’s episode of Mad Genius Tips, F&W Test Kitchen wizard Justin Chapple demos an easy, DIY way to make spiral hot dogs. If this knowledge has you wondering about other ways to customize and accessorize your hot dog, you might be intrigued to learn of these five oddball tools.

1. The FrankFormer
This device turns an ordinary sausage into what the maker describes as a “happy hot dog man.” Find wardrobe inspiration here.

2. The Ham Dogger
Burger or dog? You don’t have to choose—this tool makes hot dog-shaped patties of ground meat.

3. Rome Drink Holder with Hot Dog Fork Support
This camper’s helper will hold your hot dog over an open flame and cradle your beverage within easy reach.

4. The Corn Dog Maker
Skip the trip to 7-Eleven. This appliance allows you to bake healthier, mess-free corn dogs in the comfort of your own home. Bonus: It makes other nutritionally horrifying carnival foods like Snickers on a stick.

5. Novelty Gun Condiment Dispenser
This gadget dispenses both ketchup and mustard from a double-barreled toy gun. You might be tempted to buy two for your next cookout, but keep in mind that it’s all fun and games until someone gets a crazy bill from the dry cleaner.

This article originally appeared on Food & Wine.

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TIME Food & Drink

Cheez-Its Are Now ‘Extra Toasty’ to Make Your Dreams Come True

Cheez-It crackers.
Matthew Mead—AP Cheez-It crackers.

Cheez-It Extra Toasty is set to ship nationally on May 18

Any diehard Cheez-It fan knows the pleasure of digging into the box and pulling out an elusive burnt little square. Far from a bad thing, those brown edges signal to your taste buds that you’re about to reach cheese cracker nirvana. Many have undoubtedly dreamed of a day when Cheez-It would release a box of only the burnt crackers.

Well, now those dreams are answered. Earlier this week on Vine, the brand teased a “top secret” new project called Cheez-It Extra Toasty. A Kellogg representative confirmed to us that, yes, this product is exactly what you think it is: a box of nothing but wonderfully overcooked Cheez-Its.

“Fun fact,” said Dick Podiak, senior director of Cheez-It marketing, “For almost 10 years the most requested flavor from people who call in to our customer hotline has been ‘extra toasty.’ We know that people literally dig through the box to get to the extra toasty ones. So, we added it to our Cheez-It family.” So there you have it. Remember this moment the next time you feel your voice is going unheard.

So how does Cheez-It do it? Is every batch of crackers going to be sorted to find only the coveted burnt ones, like picking the finest grapes from a vine? Not exactly. “Basically, the crackers are cooked just a little bit longer than our regular Cheez-It crackers,” Podiak said. That means they have had this technology all along and have heretofore deprived us. But better late than never.

Cheez-It Extra Toasty is set to ship nationally on May 18. Will those burnt snacks still taste as good when they’re no longer a rare anomaly? We’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully we haven’t flown too close to the sun on this one—though flying too close to the sun would make our wings deliciously extra toasty!

This article originally appeared on FWx.

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TIME Food & Drink

The Simple Way to Grow Avocados at Home


This is a long-term project that actually grows an avocado tree

We are pretty open about the fact that we are on the avocado bandwagon. They’re delicious, versatile and healthy. If we could grow them at home, we absolutely would, but growing avocados is actually incredibly challenging. Even the slightest bit of over- or under-watering can result in dry, damaged or moldy pits and seeds that never germinate. No germinating means no avocados, and that means no guacamole.

But a simple new product claims it will solve those problems and make our avocado dreams a reality. The AvoSeedo is a small, plastic dish that holds the avocado pit and floats on water. Its bottom is open, submerging the pit in an appropriate level of water. Even as the water level drops, the AvoSeedo falls with it, ensuring that the seed constantly receives the right amount of water. So instead of tossing that pit you pulled from your avocado, you can put it to good use.


The AvoSeedo has already run an astonishingly successful Kickstarter, raising almost $25,000 in just a few days—probably because the phrase “avocados on demand” is one of the most powerful in the English language. Keep in mind: If you use the AvoSeedo, you are actually growing an avocado tree, so this is a long-term project. But that’s why it’s important to get started early.

You can pre-purchase the AvoSeedo for about $9 on the company’s Kickstarter page. Chips and salsa sold separately.

This article originally appeared on FWx.

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TIME Food & Drink

7 Ways to Use Avocado That Go Beyond Guacamole

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It's time to get out of the guacamole rut

In the throes of lust for avocados, we have seriously considered sourcing an avocado tree for the living room (that plan was nixed because apparently “we need a couch”). Despite the many diverse uses for the luscious fruit—from adding it to smoothies to rubbing overripe mash allover your body—it’s still easy to fall into an albeit delicious guacamole rut. As good as guac can be, here are more recipes for making using of your green gold.

Avocado Hollandaise

An avocado-ful eggs benedict is the best eggs benedict.

Avocado Tartare

Finally, a tartare preparation the vegetarians can enjoy.

King Crab and Avocado Shooters

Avocado and crab might just be the best non-alcoholic combination you can put in a shot glass

Avocado Crostini Two Ways

Avocado stars along with an anchovy, parsley pesto in an hors d’oeuvre that will be gone in seconds.

Avocado-Caviar Mousse

Mixing in caviar and goat cheese takes this from a run-of-the-mill guac and into the realm of next level dips.

Avocado Butter

If guacamole grew up it would become this smooth, refined butter.

Avocado Pissaladiére

This mixes three things we love: Avocados, Mediterranean food and pizza.

This article originally appeared on FWx.

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TIME fashion

This Belt Makes It Easy to Charge Your Phone on the Go


You will still need to plug your belt in before wearing to charge the battery

According to a survey late last year, the biggest complaint people had about their smartphones was that they just wouldn’t stay charged. And even though plenty of bars, restaurants and other places people with smartphones gather have installed charging stations, no one really wants to be that person standing in the corner waiting for a little more phone juice on a Friday night. Enter XOO: a company making belts with a built-in battery so your phone is never in danger of dying.

Like seemingly every small but incredibly useful technological innovation over the last year, the XOO belt ran a successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this winter, raising almost $78,000. They also recently partnered with British design house Casely-Hayford for a more fashionable take on their wearable charging station.

The tech in the belts isn’t drastically different from other mobile charging stations or phone cases; it just looks a lot more attractive. The designers actually stitched a battery into the leather, which charges the phone. That does mean that you’ll have to remember to plug your belt in—the battery needs to be charged in order to power your phone. But just remember to do that, and it’s smooth sailing.

According to their preliminary testing, the belts take about two and half hours to charge an iPhone 6, which is similar to the time it takes if the phone is plugged into the wall. All this is good news for anyone who has ever uttered the phrase, “My phone is about to die.”

The belts are available for preorder on the XOO site right now, with an expected ship date of July 2015.

This article originally appeared on FWx.

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TIME Food & Drink

Now You Can Bake Your Own Girl Scout Cookies

Wicked Cool Toys
Wicked Cool Toys

The Girl Scout Cookie Oven could satisfy your cravings on any day

Until now, Girl Scout cookie lovers have had to wait patiently each year for cookie season to arrive, then frantically buy up and hoard dozens of boxes of Samoas and Trefoils intended to last them until the next season. Those with less self-control might tragically eat their entire supply within a week, then spend the next several months suffering from withdrawal. But now, a new product from Wicked Cool Toys has the potential to let you enjoy your favorite Girl Scout cookies all year long.

The new Girl Scouts Cookie Oven takes a page out of the Easy Bake Oven book, allowing bakers of all ages to create their favorite cookies at home in a functional, pint-sized oven. It even comes complete with a child-friendly heating component and a special warming station for frosting, icing and decorating your cookies. You can scratch your sweet tooth with prepackaged mixes for Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Lemonades and most other fan favorites or experiment by mixing recipes.

Year-round access to Girl Scout cookies has its price, though, as refill packs of ingredients run $6.99 a pop—well over the normal cost of a box during sales season. But for the ability to eat Tagalongs on any given day in October, it’s probably worth it. The Girl Scouts Cookie Oven is scheduled to reach stores in Fall 2015.

This article originally appeared on FWx.

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TIME Food & Drink

Here’s What School Lunches Around the World Look Like

Lunchrooms have become the next front in the fight for healthier eating

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published on Food & Wine. Since its publication, sweetgreen released the following statement:

These images are not intended to be exact representations of school lunches, but instead, are meant to portray different types of foods found in cafeterias around the world. To create this series, we evaluated government standards for school lunch programs, regional cuisine and food culture, and photos that real students had taken of their meals and shared online.

In school cafeterias in Italy, children enjoy local fish on a bed of arugula, caprese salad, red grapes and fresh bread. In Korea, lunch includes fish soup, tofu, steamed rice and bell peppers. In the US, though, school cafeterias are serving up frozen chicken nuggets, processed fruit preserved in syrup and cookies. Those are some of the findings illustrated in a recent photo series compiled by sweetgreen, an East Coast salad restaurant chain.

According to the company, whose sweetgreens in School program teaches students about nutrition, fitness and sustainable eating habits, 32 million schoolchildren nationwide eat school cafeteria lunch every day and take in more than half their calories at school. That makes the differences in school lunch around the world even more noteworthy. With childhood obesity rates on the rise and recent science establishing a strong link between nutrition and cognitive function, lunchrooms have become the next front in the fight for healthier eating even as loopholes in school lunch regulations still define things like French fries and pizza as vegetables. With those loopholes in mind, here’s a look at what’s on school menus elsewhere.

TIME Food & Drink

Girl Scout Cookies Taste Different Depending Where You Buy Them

Girl Scouts Sell Cookies From Street Trucks In New York City
John Moore—Getty Images Girl Scouts sell cookies on Feb. 8, 2013 in New York City.

Here’s a dirty little secret the Girl Scouts don’t want you to know: Not all Girl Scout cookies taste the same. And I’m not talking about how Samoas taste delicious, whereas Do-Si-Dos taste like someone rubbed your tongue with peanut butter sandpaper. I mean that the exact same cookie can look and taste differently in different parts of the country.

Those in the know have been aware all along that Girl Scout cookies are made by two different bakeries. The Girls Scouts of America doesn’t try to hide this fact too much: It’s listed under each individual cookie on their website. But from there, the story blurs a bit. In some places, they admit that “recipes and ingredients may differ slightly” between cookies made by the two licensed bakeries—which, for the record, are ABC Bakers (based in Richmond, Virginia) and Little Brownie Bakers (located in Louisville, Kentucky, and owned by parent company Kellogg’s). However, some cookies have different names depending on where they’re produced. For those varieties, the Girl Scouts say, regardless of the name, “it’s still the delicious cookie you’ve grown to love.”

The people over at Central Track decided to get to the bottom of all this with some extremely sugary investigative reporting, hunting down varieties of cookies from each bakery and comparing them side by side. What they found is that, for supposedly identical brands, the cookies varied rather significantly.

For example, when comparing the classic Thin Mints, Central Track discovered, “The Thin Mints from Little Brownie Bakers are less dense than Thin Mints from ABC, which have a much crunchier texture. As for taste, one bite makes it easy to see that ABC puts more mint flavoring in its Thin Mints than Little Brownie does. Also, Little Brownie’s Thin Mints are much smoother on the outside than those offered by ABC.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Samoas and Caramel deLites are supposedly identical, but Central Track found Little Brownie’s Samoas have dark chocolate stripes, whereas ABC’s Caramel deLites are adorned with milk chocolate. Samoas had more caramel as well.

It was like this for all five cookies they tested. Though close in appearance and taste, they all had distinct differences, with taste testers even having “a definite preference.”

So what are we to make of all this? It’s not to say that one bakery is good and one is bad; it’s just a reminder that the next time you’re in the market for Girl Scout cookies, you may want to check the label and shop around.

This article originally appeared on FWx.

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TIME Travel

Sleep 9,000 Feet in the Air in This Cable Car Hotel Room


The luxurious cable car room is only being offered as part of a contest

Airbnb is typically known for letting people rent out their apartments or extra rooms. But here’s an Airbnb rental that’s literally in the air. Through a special promotion, the company is offering an opportunity to stay in a converted cable car suspended 9,000 feet above ground.

Located in the Courchevel ski resort in the French Alps, this cable car has been converted into a one-bathroom, two-bedroom apartment capable of accommodating up to four people. Once on board, the high-flying luxury rental ends its journey at La Saulire, the highest point in Courchevel, elevation 9,000 feet. It sounds like it could be the most exciting—or most frightening—night of your life, depending on how comfortable you are with heights…or how windy it happens to be.

For now, the space isn’t available for rent: It’s only being offered as part of a contest on Airbnb. Anyone can enter from now until Feb. 25. The lucky winners will also be treated to other amenities, including snowmobile transportation and plenty of wine and fondue, as well as dinner.

Airbnb doesn’t specify what will happen to the space after the contest ends. If it’s anything like most Airbnb apartments, it’ll probably be off the market for a few weeks while one of the owner’s buddies crashes there.

[h/t Fast Company]


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TIME Food & Drink

Now You Can Fix Your Computer With Nutella

Based on the testing it actually does work well

Even computer whizzes who like to mess around with hardware may have missed this mind blower. It turns out that a little chocolate hazelnut spread can keep your desktop humming. The probably hungry hacker minds at CoolMaster squirted a bit of Nutella in place of thermal paste—a conductive paste that helps regulate the temperature inside a computer and keep it from overheating. It’s incredibly easy to do: Just fill a syringe with the Nutella leftover after your most recent bout of eating out of the jar, heat the filled syringe in a warm water bath and put a dab on your computer processor.

Based on the testing it actually does work well. It kept the temperature no higher than 50 degrees Celsius‑right where it was supposed to be. There might be some potential downsides to having chocolate-hazelnut goo inside your computer, but now is not a time for negative thinking. Now is a time for celebrating the versatility of Nutella. You really can use it for almost anything.

This article originally appeared on FWx.

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