22 July 2016
Makes soybeans soft enough
Do pressure cookers scare you? I know they scare a lot of people, and that keeps them from even considering using one. But pressure cookers have evolved and the best ones work well with pretty much no danger. (I’m assuming a certain level of intelligence here, like don’t run it out of water or fail to turn it down from high when it comes up to pressure.)
Believe me, I know what pressure cookers used to be like. I lived at The Farm in TN throughout the 70s with our “yay soybeans” ethos and our relentless vegan diet. I saw a Presto pressure cooker blow its safety valve more than once, throwing a geyser of water and beans onto the ceiling. And I wouldn’t buy an old one from a Goodwill. But today’s stainless steel pressure cookers with their superior steam-handling technology such as Rapida’s Splendid Pressure Cooker line are nothing like the old days.
Get one of these cookers and a fabulous bean dinner of your choice means soaking overnight and then a mere 18 minutes in the pressure cooker, yielding beans soft enough to easily mash on the roof of your mouth.
And if you really want to get your protein by eating soybeans it’s the only way to go. I don’t care how many hours you boil soybeans – do it overnight if you want – you won’t get them soft enough. And then there’s kale. I love that this hardy green that I once saw withstand a -20f freeze, is now the darling of everyone. It should be because it is so great. With a Rapida pressure cooker you can cook that kale under pressure in 3 minutes flat instead of, what, 20 minutes in a regular boil?
So lower carbon footprint, softer beans, the best greens in minutes, and little risk. If you want to eat less animal and more vegetable and prefer to cook your own food – get a pressure cooker. There’s nothing like it.07/22/16
21 July 2016
Grease is a superior lubricant for many applications. It remains in the place where it is needed, unlike oil, which can run away from its intended placement. Grease also tends to last longer and requires fewer applications, especially when exposed to the elements. However, grease is messy. Traditionally it comes in tubs and tubes and must be applied using your hands or specialty grease guns. I have avoided using it the past because of the mess involved.
A few years ago I found lithium grease in a spray can. It has all of the benefits of grease and none of the mess. I use it on everything from bicycle chains to door hinges. You can use the regular spray tip for wide coverage or attach the straw for precision application.07/21/16
20 July 2016
Low spout prevents floating fat from pouring
I love to cook. A few years ago we bought this fat separator. This Catamount brand fat separator has a strainer that fits on top to keep those burned bits and pieces out of the mix. As the drippings cool the fat moves to the top and the flavor containing part stays at the bottom. The spout will pour out the separated juices and leave the grease and oils in the heatproof glass. I also use it to measure hot liquids.07/20/16
19 July 2016
Clear plastic padlock allows you to see moving parts
I have be trying to pick locks since I was a child. I have many lock picks I have bought or made myself over the years, but never saw what I was doing until I was given a clear plastic padlock a few months ago. Now I can plainly see the pins, driver pins, sheer line and springs etc. (By the way hairpins and paper clips will open padlocks.) This lock comes with a pair of keys to open the lock, so you could actually use it as a padlock. But if you do, beware of everyone wanting to pick it open!07/19/16
18 July 2016
Welcome to a new newsletter from the editors of Cool Tools.
Even though our definition of “tool” is quite broad, there are still many things we love to recommend to friends that are in no way tools, or not important enough to review formally. Such as recommendations of places to go, things to listen to, stuff to consume, and tricks and tips. When Mark joined me in editing this site he felt the same way. We wanted to broaden our recommendations without diluting the quality and density of Cool Tools. Our solution is to return to our newsletter roots. Cool Tools began as a email newsletter I sent to my close friends. In it, I recommended tools that were handy, cheap or the best. My friends asked if I could send it to their friends, and the list grew. At some point in 2003, I cross-posted the tool reviews onto a blog (a novel thing at the time), and this site was born.
Now, beginning next Sunday, we’ll be recommending 6 items in an extremely short email every week. Mark, myself, and Claudia — the entire staff of Cool Tools — will suggest good stuff we have personally used, consumed, or experienced. We’ll try to keep each recommendations light and fast, to no more than a sentence or two. They won’t be definitive reviews; rather they’ll be quick recommendations. Going back again to our roots, we’ve named it Recomendo — which, believe it or not, was the name of this site before I renamed it Cool Tools.
If you want great tools, stay on (or sign onto) the Cool Tools newsletter. To get all the other kinds of things we encounter and enjoy sharing, sign up for Recomendo here. As usual, we don’t do anything with your info except send you short and sweet one-screen news once a week.
18 July 2016
Reusable portable water purifier
Ever since the 2003 Northeast/NYC blackout and 9/11 (where my office was located) I have been a preparedness freak. I have been searching for the best water purifier for my go-bag. I have tried the SteriPen, various water filters like the Lifestraw and even have a reverse osmosis system. Each of these have their advantages and disadvantages.
I have recently tried the 3-liter SolarBag and believe this to be an essential part of any go-bag. The Solarbag uses solar disinfection technique amplified by using a catalyst in the “nanotechnology mesh.” Basically, the materials (titanium dioxide) in this mesh disinfects the water and will oxidize inorganics (e.g. cyanides, hydrazines), organics (e.g. fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, organophosphates, pesticides) and some metals (e.g. iron, arsenics, selenium).
The Puralytics Process has 5 distinct processes: Photocatalytic Oxidation (an Advanced Oxidation Process); Photocatalytic Reduction; Photoadsorption; Photolysis; and UV Disinfection. It has the broadest and most extensive purification profile of any portable device (the only one to reach the highest qualifications for the EPA and WHO).
I used the Solarbag in a recent trip to Panama, and it did a good job in purifying water to a safe drinkable level. Any doubters out there can watch a YouTube video of a guy purifying his urine, which is pretty impressive.
Directions are pretty self‐explanatory. You add unclean water to your Solarbag through the included pre‐filter, and add one drop of included blue food dye. The dye is a timer and when the blue dye disappears (2‐4 hours depending on the intensity of the sun), your water is safe to drink. The Solarbag should last several hundred times or until your blue dye no longer disappears.
As far as I know this is the only product that actually does this — shows you that your water is safe to drink!
- Extremely lightweight and portable
- Uses passive (solar) purification
- Can make a large amount of potable water fairly effortlessly
- No moving parts
- Rugged design
- Complete efficiency (i.e. if you put in 1 gallon, you get out 1 gallon of potable water)
- Can be used hundreds of times (they have groups in Africa who have eclipsed the 1,000 use mark with multiple bags!)
- Many governments and organizations approve and use SolarBags
- If the water is brackish, and sunlight cannot penetrate the water, this system may not work effectively
- Will not desalinate wate.
- Requires sunlight. If trying to use at night, you are out of luck.
- On cloudy days, expect it to take twice as long.
My reverse osmosis system desalinates water, but requires a lot of manual labor pumping 40 or 50 times to get a cup of drinkable water. Mind you, my reverse osmosis system costs significantly more and also has a lot of working parts that can get clogged and requires fixing and has less than 20% efficiency.07/18/16
Corrugated surface design facilitates air circulation for evenly baked goods and quick release
No pre-drilling is necessary with these cabinet screws
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COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST
What's in My Bag? 08 July 2016
Former Cool Tools editor and photographer shares what’s in his bag
A couple of years ago, hundreds of thousands of our readers read Cool Tools using Google Reader, an RSS aggregator. But when Google pulled the plug on Reader, tens of thousands of our readers didn’t bother to resubscribe by using a different RSS reader.
Kevin and I are both RSS junkies. It’s the way we read all our blogs. And the reader we use is Feedly. It’s evolved over the years and now it is better than Google Reader ever was. The free version is excellent (I have no reason to pay $5 a month for the premium version).
I recommend reading Cool Tools via Feedly. We offer the full text of every post, not just an excerpt. Give it a try and I think you’ll understand why 61 thousand people read Cool Tools readers through Feedly.
About Cool Tools
Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.
One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.
When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.
We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.