Cheapest soda hack

My beverage of choice is sparkling water. To eliminate single-use bottles in our household, we have a Sodastream machine to make our own fizzy water. But Sodastream has stopped making the large 32 oz CO2 canister and has upped the refill price on the smaller ones, making it expensive. The solution is a hack: We now refill our own large 24 ounce canister for $5 at a sporting goods store using a paintball canister. (The squeamish can use a SodaMod food-grade canister.) All you need is a $19 brass adapter (mine is Protek) to fit the canister into the proprietary threads a Sodastream needs. — KK

KitchenClaudia Dawson
More eyeballing measurement tips

Recomendo reader Wendy shared a follow-up tip to last week’s Recomendo, she says “Another tip I read once about eyeballing measurements is to take pinches of salt and place them in your other hand till you think you have a teaspoon, then measure it against a real teaspoon. Do the pinches over and over till you get a consistent amount per teaspoon. I figured mine out so that I get ¼ teaspoon per pinch. Super handy for salting stuff, but also works with herbs. But in the case of herbs, remember how much a teaspoon looked like in your palm.” — CD

KitchenClaudia Dawson
Visual guide to portion sizes

All the time spent in the kitchen with my mother or grandmother I never once saw them measuring anything, and maybe it’s a Hispanic culture thing, but I learned even less about appropriate food portions. So now I’m working on getting better at eyeballing portion sizes so that I don’t over serve myself. This chart helps. — CD

KitchenClaudia Dawson
A better multicooker than the Instant Pot

The Instant Pot multicooker has become an internet sensation, with recipe books and YouTube videos devoted to it. I also was a fan of my Instant Pot until it died last month and I switched to a Zavor Lux 6-Quart Multicooker ($160). It’s superior to the Instant Pot on at least three counts. First, the top lid doesn’t get so hot that it will burn you if you touch it. Second, it heats much faster, which makes a huge time difference when pressure cooking a meal. Third, the silicone gasket on the lid is braced so it doesn’t sag like it does on the Instant Pot, which is a common issue and prevents the Instant Pot from achieving a high enough pressure. The Zavor costs a bit more than the Instant Pot, but it’s worth it. – MF

KitchenClaudia Dawson
Seed starting kit

This set of three plastic trays comes with 30 soil pods for foolproof germinating of vegetable seeds. I used it to start bean, basil, tomato, and catnip plants in my kitchen windowsill. Transplanting is easy — just place the pod with the sprout into your garden soil or planting container. — MF

KitchenClaudia Dawson
Fantastic frother

Lately, I’ve been drinking a lot of cold matcha lattes, and I’m using a terrific milk frother to make them: the Nespresso Aeroccino ($71). I pour in about 4 ounces of cold unsweetened almond milk and add a teaspoon of matcha powder, then press the button for 2 seconds (a quick press will automatically heat the milk, which my wife does for cappuccinos). In about 20 seconds, I have a delicious frothy latte. The frother is nearly silent and very easy to clean, because the stirrer is magnetic and pops right off the stem. — MF

KitchenClaudia Dawson
Faster way to make yogurt

If you don’t boil milk before using it to make yogurt, it will end up runny. But it takes time to boil the milk, then let it cool down before adding the starter. I recently learned that when using ultrapasteurized (or ultra high temperature) milk instead of pasteurized milk, you don’t need to boil the milk first. I’ve been using my Instant Pot lately to make yogurt. I just pour in a half-gallon of ultrapasteurized milk, stir in a tablespoon of yogurt, secure the lid, and press the “yogurt” button. Eight hours later, it’s ready! — MF

KitchenClaudia Dawson
Soft butter anytime

Hands-down my favorite purchase this year was this $19 butter crock. It feels like a luxury to always have soft butter available. It works better in cooler climates. I keep mine on the kitchen island away from the stove area and add an ice cube to the water every few days. — CD

KitchenClaudia Dawson
Favorite Bay Area grocery delivery service

There are plenty of grocery delivery services to choose from, but if you live in the Bay Area, I recommend Good Eggs. I’m never disappointed with the fruits and vegetables like I have been with Whole Foods in the past, or when ordering from Instacart. But mostly, I love discovering new local offerings, like delicious handmade pasta from Oakland or beautiful dried kitchen bouquets from Sonoma. Good Eggs deliveries always feels like a gift to myself. New customers can get $25 off their first order with promo code WELCOME25. — CD

KitchenClaudia Dawson
Juicy chicken recipe

This simple French Chicken in a Pot recipe made the juiciest, most flavorful chicken I’ve ever cooked. It took me less than 2 hours to prep and make. I also had most of the ingredients on hand so all I had to buy was the chicken and some of the veggies which totaled around $10. As someone in the comments said, “It’s idiot-proof.” — CD

KitchenClaudia Dawson