There is more to a successful business meeting than simply turning up on time and sitting around a table. Here, Dr Nigel Oseland, Environmental Psychologist, Workplace Unlimited looks at the simple ways businesses of all sizes can make meetings more of a success.
Be it virtual or in-person, if meetings are unproductive, do we really need them? There is a large amount of evidence and advice in management books about why we meet, which can be summarized as: to share knowledge, to make important decisions, to come up with ideas, to deal with personal matters and to socialize.
These are all crucial activities for a group of people. So, the short answer is yes, we need meetings, we just need to get better at them. We need to prepare for them more thoughtfully. There are five deceptively simple steps to take when setting up a meeting which will lead to a much better outcome:
1. Share Information in Advance
Always share an agenda. When Sharp asked people for the reasons for bad meetings, a third said it was because no information was shared beforehand. How do people know if they should be in the meeting if they don’t know what it’s about? Without an agenda people can find themselves in a meeting for an hour thinking ‘why am I here, I don’t need to be here.’ That’s when they disengage.
2. Limit the Invitations
Many meetings become unproductive because there are too many people invited, or the right people aren’t invited. This becomes even more problematic when it’s a virtual meeting and it’s harder to follow who has joined and who is speaking. Limit the attendees to those who are essential to move a project forward.
Sometimes people are invited to meetings out of courtesy, not necessity. If you are tempted to invite someone purely because of their seniority, instead ask if they would prefer to see the minutes afterwards to review. Then it’s up to them. Some people feel they can’t decline a meeting invitation, even when they suspect the meeting will be a waste of their time. Be a responsible meeting attendee as well as a responsible organizer. If you’re not sure you need to be there, ask for the agenda.
3. Avoid Back-to-Back Meetings
Consider whether you need to start on the hour, and if people will have used the room before you. In organizations that have back-to-back meetings in the same room, the first ten minutes of each meeting will always be wasted because they are spent in a changeover. Avoid this by starting at 15 minutes past the hour.
Often, if you are using Audio Visual or IT equipment, there can be a delay in set up. If you know that you might have delays with IT, make the first 10 minutes of the meeting networking time for the participants while you get organized.
4. Go Shorter
There is a lot of research – for example from Tony Schwartz and the Energy Project – that we can only maintain peak performance for 90 minutes. In Sharp’s survey, most people said they couldn’t concentrate for more than 45 minutes. If you need to have a longer meeting organize a variety of activities and meeting leaders and build in breaks for people to digest what has been said. No-one wants to be in one of those two-hour meetings whereby the end of it we’ve forgotten what was said at the start.
5. Collaborative meetings
As businesses begin adapting to the “New Normal”, it is now the right time to explore and invest in the technology makeover. Create the perfect meeting environment with the exciting range of collaboration display from Sharp. The above five steps are only the start of the conversation. Explore our extensive range of Sharp Collaborative Displays, and then Get In Touch to arrange a demonstration.
Remote working does wonders for productivity. It saves you the time and money you’d have spent commuting to the office and gives you extra time to spend with family or catch up on that series you’ve been binging. But while home or remote working can be a wonderful thing, here are 8 things no one tells you:
1. Self-management can be hard
Ensuring you keep on track can be difficult when it’s all down to you. What you don’t want to happen is be unproductive all morning, have your lunch, and then realize you’ve not started that report your manager wants by 2pm. When you’re working from home, time management can be challenging because you don’t have your regular routine or hours to guide you.
The same goes for your development. When you’re in the office, you can overhear useful tips or learn things on the job. You can’t do that as easily when you’re working remotely, so your development is largely in your own hands.
What can you do?
Self-discipline. First make sure your workspace is clear, after all a clear space helps with a clear mind, which leads to great work!
Get into a routine. Get yourself up at a certain time, have regular mealtimes and times for exercise too.
Prioritize work by writing a list and order them with deadlines.
Take charge of your own learning. Identify where your skills may need development and read around it, try online courses or reach out to a colleague who can walk you through it remotely via video conferencing platforms such as Teams, Skype, or Zoom.
2. Distractions and interruptions
Though there are distractions in an office environment, there can be many, many more at home. Noisy neighbours? Children? Housemates? People in and around your home can cause distractions, or worse, interrupt what you’re doing – or even walk in during those all-important video calls!
Working at 100% efficiency can be difficult at home, and there’s some unwritten rule that if you work at home, you should take more than your fair share of the chores, simply because you’re there all the time.
What can you do?
Have a designated workspace and have low-volume music on in the background. This can also help with your productivity!
Make it clear to your family (diplomatically of course) that you do still have to do work when you’re at home, so maybe they can help you out with the chores.
Co-create some family / household rules that work for everyone.
If you live alone, you can have the opposite problem to point 2, so this one comes with a warning. When you work remotely and have no distractions, you can go days without seeing other human beings. Introverts may rejoice (at the beginning), but extroverts could feel lonely right away. When you don’t speak to anyone else, you can feel isolated, alone and stuck in your own head.
What can you do?
Ensure regular contact with colleagues, friends, and family.
The beauty of our modern world is that we have the technology available to see each other face-to-face, even when we’re apart. Group video calls, video conferencing software, it no longer matters whether we’re worlds apart, two hours apart, or indeed hiding from a global pandemic.
Go for walks and runs, just being outside and seeing other smiling faces
can help. Being around nature also has a calming effect, so a walk in the woods or down a nature trail is ideal.
Make your work environment greener. Studies show that people feel less lonely when they’re surrounded by plants, jungle up!
4. Tech and network issues
The dreaded internet outage. A nightmare for any remote worker. When you work at home, being away from an office with an on-site IT department that can quickly fix any issues and minimise downtime is not only frustrating, but also bad for business. Loss of internet can lead to interruptions to shared servers or file sharing drives, disconnect you from emails, and stop your mid-project. Not good. Even worse is when it’s your laptop or computer that breaks and you can’t do anything.
What can you do?
Have a backup plan. A second device like a tablet or laptop could be extremely handy in desperate times.
If your life depends on it and you need the internet immediately, hotspot from your phone. Life saved.
Working remotely can also lead to miscommunication. Interactions are much more straight forward when you can see the person, you can read their body language, and decisions can be made on the fly. Emails and messaging platforms can cause people to misunderstand instructions, or even misinterpret a ‘tone’ in a communication. Unable to overhear conversations about projects in the office, remote workers can also find themselves kept out the loop, which can massively affect morale.
What can you do?
Communicate (virtually) face-to-face and avoid email where you can.
Record your meetings so that everyone has something to refer to later.
Keep your communications clear and concise, try to avoid the waffle.
6. Bad health habits
The fridge is right there, the cupboard is fully stocked, when you’re at home it’s much easier to slip into bad eating habits. Conversely, without developing a routine you can forget meals (never!), forget to exercise and not go outside for that all-important vitamin D.
What can you do?
Get into a routine. Have a regular time for exercise, maybe before work to start your day with a rush of feel-good hormones!
Practice healthy eating habits. Instead of reaching for chocolate or crisps (though this is perfectly fine in moderation!) grab some fruit.
Have regular breaks, clear your head, go for a walk.
7. It can be hard to switch off When you’re in the office, it’s easy to differentiate between home and work. Work ends (for most) when you leave the office and you can focus on your personal life, whether that be family and friends or health and wellbeing. Remote workers can struggle with the ‘always at work’ feeling, as they’re forever in their place of work, and the home-work balance can start to blend as the lines blur.
What can you do?
Make sure you have a designated place to work, whether it’s a room or a quiet corner or space you can leave behind when you’ve done your allotted hours.
Be conscious of giving yourself time off – have regular breaks. A routine would help.
8. Impact on company culture
Lastly, working remotely can have a real negative impact on company culture, but only if you let it! You don’t get to experience the micro interactions with colleagues that build friendships and lay the foundations for an immersive company culture.
What can you do?
Use video communication tools! Keep the culture alive.
Hold online competitions and quizzes, engage with your colleagues.
Internal communications can help, having a virtual presence can make you feel part of the wider organization.
By Daniel Troise, Marketing Intern, HA Marketing, SEMCA
Technology has become an integral feature in our household and is something we truly cannot imagine our lives without! According to Rakuten’s 2019 survey, about 27% of Canadians have at least one smart device in their household (with another 38% of them say they plan to purchase smart appliances within the next year) showing that the majority of consumers find these modern assistants helpful when going about their daily tasks and activities. One room in your home that might be lacking upgraded appliances (which also happens to be our most-used space) is the kitchen. We’re here to break down the benefits are of having IoT appliances in your kitchen.
We love being busy in the kitchen whipping up new Pinterest-worthy recipes, but after a long day at work, the last thing we want to do is spend an hour cooking dinner. That’s where smart kitchen appliances come to the rescue. Here at Sharp, we’ve launched a variety of appliances that allow you to cook hands-free (yup, you read that right)!
It’s a fact that smart appliances will save you time – something we’re all needing more of! Juggling work calls, kids’ virtual school sessions, and keeping up with friends can leave us wishing we just had a few more hours in a day to get everything accomplished. An appliance that can help with that is our SuperSteam+ Build-in Wall Oven! It is like having a sous chef by your side with 5 high-performance cooking modes as well as a dedicated mobile app that can enable smart features. The app also includes access to thousands of recipes, so you don’t have to spend time thinking about how to answer the dreaded question of, “What’s for dinner?”
Perfectly Cooked Food Every Time
The final benefit (and perhaps the most important) when cooking with a smart appliance, is perfectly cooked food every time. Say goodbye to overcooked proteins or burned vegetables and hello to devices that work with you to put a 5-star meal on the table. One of our favorite products in our smart kitchen lineup is our Easy Wave Open Built-In Microwave Drawer! This appliance features Wi-Fi connectivity for seamless integration in your smart home. The Sharp Kitchen app features cooking instructions as well as “Microwave Smart Cook” to guide you through the cook and defrost menu items, so your food comes out delicious every time.
Have we convinced you to upgrade that old oven or microwave sitting in your kitchen yet? If so, we would love to hear from you on how these appliances are making your lives simple and better every day!
**NOTE: The Sharp 30″ Drop-In Radiant Cooktop (SDH3042DB) or the 24″ Drop-In Radiant Cooktop (SCR2442FB) are not sold in Canada, however these recipes will work on any stovetop.
Last year at this time, I was on a plane coming back from Montreal, logging into my email to see if the travel company to see if they got the last payment for my 2-week excursion through China. Flash forward 12 months later (you can see where this is going), I am laying in my bed under a blanket going through virtual tours of the Great Wall of China online. The bottom line is this; we have seen many changes over the past year, and those who love to travel have had to put their plans on hold while the world heals. While I can’t be eating a pasta dish in Italy or zip-lining through Costa Rica, there is no reason that we can’t tap into our cultural side through fine cuisine by one of the best chefs I know (yes, that is you!)
One of my resolutions for the new year is to try new foods and get a bit more innovative in the kitchen. Looking through Pinterest boards and reading numerous food blogs, I have found a new uplifting trend of transforming basic Ramen into a culturally appetizing meal. While I viewed Ramen as a quick and simple meal in the past to avoid a lot of meal prep and time, it makes sense to take a guilty pleasure of mine to the next level.
Throughout this Ramen recipe roundup, I plan to showcase some of my most favored recipes containing Ramen derived from countries around the world. From stops in Europe, Asia, and Africa, we will travel to these exotic and breathtaking destinations through these amazing cuisines and creations.
The first time I was introduced to ramen noodles was my freshman year of college when I had $4 to my name, and they were one of the most affordable things on the shelves. While that chapter has ended in my life, they continue to be a guilty pleasure of mine and something I enjoy whipping up in the kitchen when my stomach begins to growl. Between the amazing taste and the simplicity behind the preparation, I am looking forward to sharing with you some interesting takes on ramen to take it up a notch.
To start our journey worldwide, I want to share this amazing recipe from “Self-Proclaimed Foodie” calling for Asian Ramen Noodles. I decided to start with more of a traditional (but tasty) option to ease into this roundup.
So, what do you say, want to create a flavorful dish in under 20 minutes? Rummage through your kitchen cabinets and head on over to the grocery store to find the obvious ramen noodles (8 oz.), toasted sesame oil (2 teaspoons), minced garlic (2 cloves), grated ginger (1 teaspoon), soy sauce (3 tablespoons). You will also want to have a tablespoon of each of the following: fish sauce, sesame seeds, brown sugar, and a ½ teaspoon of chili paste.
I know all those ingredients sound tasty, and in a span of 10 minutes, you are going to go from a countertop spread out to a delicious meal on the table. Don’t believe me? Set the timer and go!
Grab a pot from your kitchen and boil the Ramen noodles in water. If you follow the packaging directions (without the seasoning), it should take approximately 4 minutes. Once it is good to go, drain it and set it aside.
Take the sesame oil and heat it using a saucepan or a small skillet (either one will work). Over medium heat will be ideal.
Next, you are going to want to cook the ginger and garlic. This will take about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Head over to the counter and gather the soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame seeds, brown sugar, and chili paste. Take the pan off from the heat and whisk it together.
Finally, take the drained noodles and mix them with the newfound (and yummy) sauce. If you feel a little gourmet, feel free to garnish the topping with green onion and additional sesame seeds.
While I know we have already traveled to Eastern Asia through this ramen recipe roundup, I decided that it may be the best thing to take a layover in Korea before heading to other international hotspots. Personally, I have always had a strong interest in South Korean culture, and included in their culture is the food. When I was 5 years old, two of my best friends were twins born in South Korea, and throughout our friendships, I was slowly introduced to the Korean way of life.
Given this background and as a tribute to my friends, I have decided that it would be perfect to showcase the Spicy Korean Beach Ramen Noodles recipe from “Crème de la Crumb.” After you are done putting this masterpiece together, you will probably wonder why it isn’t photographed and on a major food television network. This under 30-minute recipe from start to finish has already been proven to be a tasty option for many, with people quoting it as an “easy and flavorful dish recipe” and “I went back for seconds.” If that isn’t enough for you to already be non your way to the kitchen, someone even rated it “20 stars”.
You know the drill, put on a mask and head on over to the grocery market or place your order on your phone and pick up a flank steak (1 lb.), gochujang (4 tablespoons), and two tablespoons of the following: thinly sliced green onions, oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar. Also, make sure you add ground ginger (1 teaspoon), sesame oil (1 tablespoon), beef ramen with seasoning (2 packages), a ½ thinly sliced white onion, and a ½ of sliced mushrooms to your cart. Lastly, make sure you have 4 tablespoons of each, minced garlic, and sugar.
Grab a small bowl and gather the gochujang, green onions, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and sugar to whisk it together.
Go in your drawer and grab a large Ziploc bag, pouring half of the whisked mixture into it, adding the in the steak. Seal it and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Cover up the remaining sauce and place it in the refrigerator. Keep it nearby as we will use it soon.
Next, take the oil and drizzle it onto a large pan over medium heat. Take the steak and the Ziploc bag out of the fridge and use tongs to place the steak (keep everything else in the bag) in the pan. Cook it on each side for approximately 5-8 minutes until it looks brown on the outside.
Once the steak is good to go, place it on a large cutting board. Now, remember that bag I said to keep nearby. Place the remaining marinade and the onions, mushrooms, ramen noodles, and ramen seasoning into the pan with water until it simmers. Allow it to cook for about 5-7 minutes.
Head on back to the steak and slice it thinly across the grain. Take the steak strip and place it in the remaining sauce you placed in the fridge, stirring everything together. Cook it until the steak is hot throughout the garnish for a few minutes. Serve it (add green onions for extra taste) and enjoy!
It was set up perfectly, a family vacation to Italy set for the summer. Between my parent’s milestone wedding anniversary and birthdays within a short amount of time, we decided that it was finally time to do something we have always talked about. That was a family vacation to Italy. Between my parent and all my grandparents being born in the US, my great grandparents immigrated to this country from Italy; therefore, my roots have been a bit distant. While I was all set and began planning for one of the best trips ever, you know what happened (yes, a global pandemic), and the trip was put on hiatus.
While I may not be jetting off for a fun-filled week at the Amalfi Coast, I figured I would do the next best thing and visit the boot-shaped country through this recipe roundup. If you have followed my work and recipe highlights on Simply Better Living, you probably find no surprise that I included an Italian-style dish within it. Dubbed as a “classic chicken ramen bowl with an Italian twist,” it is surely a win in the kitchen. Join me in the journey on how to make
Between the broth and the topping, we will need quite a few items, so let’s jump into it. To start with the broth, we will want to make sure we grab a shopping cart and put in extra virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons), a ½ cup of the following: diced celery, diced carrots, diced onions, and then salt (2 teaspoons). You are also going to want to add fresh ground pepper (1 teaspoon), red pepper flakes (1 tablespoon), chopped garlic in water (1 tablespoon), 2 anchovy fillets, 4 thyme sprigs, 2 basil springs, chicken stock (64 oz.), and a pound of noodles.
This is already sounding yummy, and I haven’t even gotten to the toppings yet. For this, you are going to need 4 large eggs, a shredded rotisserie chicken blanches broccolini (1 lb.), thinly sliced radishes (1/2 lb.), and diced white and green onions.
Grab a large saucepan and heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Then cook the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper until they are soft. This should take approximately 8 minutes. Once ready, add the red pepper flakes, anchovies, thyme, and basil and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
Make sure to reduce the heat and add in the chicken stock, simmering it for approximately 20 minutes. After that, make sure to remove the basil and thyme before you add in the noodles.
Next, grab an additional large pot and boil up some water (add some salt to make it boil a bit faster). Once boiling, add in the eggs and cook them for about 5 minutes. Additionally, while the eggs cook, grabs a large bowl and fills it with cold water; once the 5 minutes is up, place the eggs in the bowl carefully and give it about 2 minutes to cool down. Peel the eggs and halve them the long way.
Finally, place the noodles and broth into bowls, topping each of them with chicken, broccolini, radishes, green onions, and egg halves.
For many years, one of my dream vacation destinations has been to spend some time and travel throughout the entire continent of Africa. Between swimming with Great White Sharks in Cape Town, feeding giraffes at dinner in Kenya, the countless safaris, and everything in between. While all these are amazing landscapes, I believe that our next destination will be Nigeria’s green jungles. While we can’t hop on a truck and view these beautiful gifts from Mother Nature, we can imagine ourselves there through the amazing cuisine (while getting to cure our spice tooth).
One of my new year’s resolutions is to venture around the globe (virtually, of course) and research and taste some amazing recipes and dishes from continents around the world. So, when I thought of an around the world concept for this recipe roundup, I ran with it and was able to find this taste worthy Nigerian Beef and Ramen Noodle Pepper Soup from “Foods From Africa.” This flavorful and low-calorie creation is perfect for any occasion. Hey, the occasion could be right now, right?
Head on over to your local market and get some ingredients for the bone broth and pepper soup. For the broth, make sure to pick up grass-fed beef bones (2 kg.), 2 tablespoons of each alligator pepper, Jamaican nutmeg, and African negro pepper. 3 carrots, 2 onions, and garlic clove (yum!).
For the pepper soup, ensure that you have a bone broth (1.5 liters), grass-fed beef fillet (400 g.), Thai basil (50 g.), and ramen noodles (240 g.). Also, be sure to pick up another onion, garlic clove, a beef stock cube, and de-seeded scotch bonnet pepper. Are you ready?
First, take out a Dutch oven and place the beef bones within it, covering it with cold water. Set it on high heat for approximately 20 minutes allowing for the bone to simmer. Once ready, remove the heat and drain the liquid.
Next, you are going to preheat your oven to 350°C, placing all the bones you have blanched on a baking sheet, and roast them until they are brown. This should take about 40-50 minutes.
Take the bones and place them into the Dutch Oven, adding about 4 liters of water and all of the spices, including alligator pepper, negro pepper, and Jamaican nutmeg. Set it to bring a low boil and take away any scum that may rise to the top. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for approximately 6-12 hours, ensuring enough water to keep the bones covered. Trust me; it will be worth the wait.
Approximately 3 hours towards the simmering end, add in the onions, garlic, and carrots, letting it simmer for 3-4 hours.
Finally, you are going to discard the bones and strain them through a sieve. Let it cool, then take out a mason jar or a large secure bowl, placing it in the freezer. The coolest part? If you plan on using it beyond a week later, you can place it in s secure freezer bag and use it up to 6 months later if unopened!
First, you can prepare your fillet of beef to cook by rubbing a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil over the meat. For a little kick, add some salt and black pepper (I know I would, but it is totally up to you).
When ready, transfer the beef into the pan and let it fry for approximately 5 minutes, constantly turning the meat. This will make sure each side is properly browned (and each bite is tasty). Once the 5 minutes is up, please remove it from the cooktop and cover it, setting it aside.
Next, you will want to preheat your oven to about 375 degrees and add the chopped onions and garlic into a skillet for about 2-3 minutes. To help make the pan a bit less sticky, throw in a tiny bit of bone broth and place everything from the skillet to the Dutch oven.
Add in the bone broth, stock cube, scotch bonnet pepper, and salt, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer cover for 15 – 20 minutes. After that, place the browned fillet in the oven, allowing it to roast for approximately 10 minutes.
While everything is getting all roasted and tasty, now would be a great time to prepare the Ramen noodles. Utilize the package instructions and follow them accordingly, not overcooking them (slightly al-dente is key). Remove the beef from the oven and slice into about half-inch-thick slices. It should be rare (and delicious).
Finally, take the beef slices, chopped basil, and ramen noodles and place them in the Dutch oven. Let it simmer for about 3-5 minutes and enjoy!
We have one last travel voucher left in our pack and one place for a stamp left on our passport. Can you guess where we will visit next? I’ll give you a hint; it has beautiful hills and sands, as well as a rich culture. We are going to the Middle East! While I have never been personally, I have heard nothing but great things about the beautiful and innovative villages and cities through close friends of mine. Therefore, it will be the perfect place to end our trip. The next dish and the final dish we will introduce contain Tahini, a Middle Eastern condiment.
This tasteful Tahini Miso Ramen with Crispy Tofu from “Soom Foods.” I usually try to include a vegan option to cater to all my readers, and this one is interchangeable. If you take out the egg ingredient, BAM, you have a vegan dish! And speaking of ingredients, let’s grab a few.
For the crispy tofu, we are going to want to pick up a block of extra firm tofu (14 oz.), a tablespoon of each, including olive oil, soy sauce, and cornstarch, salt (1/4 tsp), and pepper (1/4 pepper). For the yummy mushrooms, we will want to grab some additional olive oil (2 tsp), a package of cremini mushrooms, and salt and pepper.
Don’t worry, we need one more round of groceries, and then we are off to whip it up in the kitchen. For the ramen, make sure to grab ramen noodle (2 packages), olive oil (2 tsp), toasted sesame oil (2 tsp), minced cloves garlic (2), a tablespoon of both freshly grated ginger and white miso paste, vegetable broth (5 cups), and some salt (1/2 tsp). Also, find room in the cart for Tahini (1/4 cup), toasted sesame oil (1 tsp), soy sauce (2 tbsp), rice wine vinegar (2 tsp), soft boiled eggs (2), thinly sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and sesame seeds.
Now that you have rummaged through all your cabinets, let’s get started!
First, we are going to start by making the crispy tofu by preheating the oven at 425 degrees F. Press the block of extra firm tofu using a dish towel to remove the water, and cut it into 1/2”-3/4” cubes placing them on a baking sheet tossed with tofu, olive oil, and soy sauce until coated. Add in cornstarch, salt, and pepper and toss that in as well until the whole thing is covered and coated. Bake it for approximately 30-35 minutes, tossing it while cooking (only once) until it is crispy and brown.
Heat a non-stick skillet and place it over medium heat for the mushrooms. Once it is hot, add cremini mushrooms and sauté it for about 8-10 minutes. Make sure that you stir it occasionally until the edges are golden brown. If you want to add a bit of taste, season it with salt and pepper.
Next, take a soup pot and place it on your Drop-In Radiant Cooktop over medium-high heat, adding some olive and sesame oil. Once it begins to heat up, add in garlic and ginger, sautéing it until fragrant (for approximately 30 minutes)—Cook for an additional 1 minute adding in white miso paste, and stir it constantly.
Add and combine in vegetable broth, tahini, salt. Then raise the heat to a high, and once brought to a boil, utilize the package instructions to add in the ramen noodles. Once cooked, add in and stir the sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Feel free to add salt for an extra kick (totally up to you).
Finally, place the ramen into bowls, top it off with the crispy tofu, sautéed mushrooms, 2 soft boiled eggs, thinly sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
By Gina Greco, Senior Brand Marketing Specialist, SEMCA
Wondering what kitchen appliances are trending this year? If you are obsessed with home appliances and adding new gadgets into your kitchen as I am, you have come to the right place. For one, Superheated Steam Ovens are definitely trending with baking enthusiasts looking for restaurant and bakery-quality performance.
A favorite method of cooking overseas, steam ovens in the US, had largely been the domain of restaurant kitchens in the form of free-standing combi-ovens as tall as your refrigerator and costing tens of thousands of dollars. Superheated steam ovens are remarkable; there are no two ways about it.
You may not realize it at first, but it is very rare to find a whole new cooking method in an appliance; trust me, I’ve tried. More commonly, I find reboots: countertop grills, versatile pressure cookers, multi-function blenders. Painting a new, blue non-stick surface or adding a rotisserie bar to a countertop toaster oven is not revolutionary.
People seem to be looking for small conveniences, little luxuries, and dependability in their kitchens. For countertop appliances, sometimes all you need to grab your attention in a countertop appliance is thoughtful lighting. Many of us would turn away from that cute gold-plated toaster oven at the store if it didn’t have bright LED lighting inside when you open the door.
Especially in this new work from home age, many of us are also looking for peace-and-quiet in new places and ways. With the pandemic affecting the area I live in so heavily, air purification became a big concern. I purchased several air purifiers to circulate the air throughout my home. It was important for me to find Air Purifiers covering the square footage of my kitchen and living room and featured Library Quiet operation.
Touch-Controls are trending in modern kitchens, too. Knobs, switches, and buttons are fading in exchange for sleek, responsive, and easier to clean options. I am currently obsessing over microwave drawer oven because they feature hidden panels with responsive, touch-glass controls that simply wipe clean. Plus, it adds a premium look and feel to my kitchen design and takes my microwave oven off the counter and into the island.
Going one step further, the latest Sharp Microwave Drawer Oven trend is “Easy Wave Oven.” So, you don’t even need to touch the oven to open the drawer! Simply wave up-and-down near the motion sensor, and Microwave Drawer Oven will glide open, is that cool or what? The oven stays closed when you walk by, too, so you won’t have to worry about children and pets accidentally opening it.
Appliances with New Technologies
Many readers have expressed that they are cautious about IoT in the kitchen. Trust me; I understand your concerns. My family and I were cautious, too, at first. The idea of my Microwave Oven turning on from one or two simple voice commands was too much for me to process. That was until I realized how much more convenient my day-to-day became in the kitchen. That is why the Wi-Fi’s smart features enabled the Microwave Drawer Oven, which uses the Sharp Kitchen App, focusing on convenience. This appliance uses IoT technology and a mobile app to easily make features of the appliance accessible, even the less popular features. It is amazing how many people are not aware that there is a “power” button on their microwave oven. Others may not have ever tried “auto-cook” or “sensor defrost.” Tasks that may seem challenging to perform from the control panel are simple and easy to do using the app.
Appliance Aesthetic Trends
While vibrant color and retro-design appliances find their way into design magazines and showroom floors, both retro and color are commitments, most people aren’t willing to make. What are you going to do when that limited-run “minty-aqua” countertop microwave with TV knobs your purchased 10 years ago breaks?
Stainless Steel is king. That isn’t changing any time soon. Although color has had great success in countertop appliances, it is very restrictive in large kitchen appliances. Grey had a moment. It may not have been exciting, but your entire look wouldn’t fall apart because your upgrade and replacement paths could be either stainless steel or black stainless. The same would probably be true with the new, white appliances with stainless steel handles and trims… you could still retreat to stainless steel’s safety.
Black stainless steel has seen a steady rise in popularity for its elegant contrast, bold statement, and growing catalog. Naturally, Stainless steel never goes out of style. As your family’s needs change, your appliances will, too. Sticking with the classics means stress-free upgrades and replacements.
By Jena Branco, Marketing Coordinator, Brand & Marketing Communications, SECL
Diwali is India’s biggest, most important, and well loved holiday of the year. It is known as the Festival of Lights and symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”, which is particularly significant this year. It is generally a time for visiting friends & families, exchanging gifts, wearing new clothes, and feasting to your heart’s content. It is a five-day celebration, however on the third day (considered the main day of the Diwali festival), families will light candles and fireworks. Tomorrow, Saturday, November 14th, is the third day of Diwali, and the true celebration of sweets.
Although this year’s celebrations will be much quieter than it has been in the past, the tradition of celebrating with sweets will remain the same. It is customary to show up with a tray of mithai during Diwali, and one must accept (it’s consider rude not to) when being offered one of these delightful treats.
I’ve noticed that many of my Indian neighbours have strung ribbons of lights outside of their homes and the local Indian bakeries have set up make-shift tents outside their stores to accommodate beautifully adorned red and gold boxes containing baked goods and sweets for purchase. I tried going into the bakery earlier today to buy a couple boxes of mithai (wide variety of sweets), but unfortunately I wasn’t dressed warm enough to withstand the 25 minute line-up outside.
Since I did not have luck in bringing home a box of mithai, I wondered how easy (or difficult) it would be to make some of these Indian sweets that are synonymous with this festival of hope and prosperity. I knew a handful of Indian desserts only because I was introduced to them while dining at a nearby restaurant, but never attempted making them myself. But after watching through the tutorial (videos) from Tastemade, My Ginger Garlic Kitchen, and Banglar Rannaghor , I believe I can easily recreate them … which is sweet in my books (and glycemic index).
Wishing you a Happy Diwali. I hope this Diwali be an awesome celebration for you and your family and give you blessings of wealth and success always. Let’s celebrate the festival in the true sense by spreading joy, kindness and light to the world. Have a happy, safe, and blessed Diwali!
Jalebi is a quick and easy Indian style funnel cake recipe which is popular throughout India. This recipe can be prepared under 30 minutes, and is enjoyed by grown-ups and kids alike.
• 1 cup all purpose flour/plain flour (maida) • 3/4 cup yogurt/curd • 1 teaspoon baking powder • Water 2 tablespoons or more, if required • A pinch of orange food color (optional)
In a large bowl mix together flour (maida), and yogurt.
Start whisking in one direction. You can use a wire whisk or you can use your hands.
After 5 minutes of whisking, the mixture would start turning into a smooth and lump-free batter.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the batter if the batter seems a little thick. ( It has to be thick, but of flowing consistency)
Once the batter is smooth, add food color (if you are opting to use)
Add baking powder and mix well.
The batter is now ready.
• 2 cups sugar • 1 1/4 cups water • A slice of lemon • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder • 12-15 saffron strands
Add sugar and water to a pan.
Stir well and let it boil over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved.
Once it comes to boil, add a slice of lemon and boil for a few minutes.
Now add saffron strands and boil until you get the sticky syrup.
The syrup we need here has almost 1-string consistency. To check sugar syrup consistency, pour a drop of syrup in a plate or bowl. Allow it to cool for a few seconds. Touch the syrup with the index finger and then touch your thumb and index finger together and gently pull apart. If the syrup is sticky then your syrup is ready.
Add cardamom powder and stir well. Turn off the heat and keep aside. We need warm syrup for jalebis, so keep it on very low heat while you fry the jalebis. (You can add 1-2 tablespoons of water if it starts to thicken.)
• Oil or clarified butter (ghee)
Heat ghee or oil in a broad pan over high heat. Once hot, turn the heat to medium. You can check if the oil is hot enough by dropping a small portion of the batter if it sizzles and comes up within seconds than the oil is ready.
Now fill the squeeze bottle with the batter and pour spiral shapes or concentric circles in the hot oil.
Fry Jalebis over medium heat until they are crisp and golden from both the sides.
Once fried, drain jalebis on a cooling rack and let them cool for a couple of minutes.
Now add fried jalebis to warm sugar syrup and soak them for 1-2 minutes.
Next, remove jalebis from the syrup and place on a cooling rack or a tray lined with paper.
Garnish with chopped pistachios and serve warm with some rabri or warm milk.
1. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to sugar syrup every time you are heating it up. This way, the syrup will maintain it’s sticky uniformity and won’t get thicker. 2. Make sure the oil is hot enough before you drop the batter. To gauge the temperature for frying, simply drop a tiny piece of batter. If it sizzles and comes up without browning then the oil is perfect temperature. You can also use a wooden spoon, if you see bubbles around the wood then the oil is ready. If your test batter sinks to the bottom, then the oil is too cold, therefore your jalebi won’t be crispy, but soft and oily. If the batter turns brown and rises right away to the top, then the oil is too hot, your jalebi will brown on the outside too fast and inside uncooked. 3. Always fry jalebi on medium heat. If your jalebi has shrunk, then that means you over-fried your jalebi. If your jalebi turns flat, then it means that jalebis were fried on low heat or the batter was too thin. If your jalebi comes out thick & soft, the batter is too thick.
Boondi ladoo is a delicious and popular Indian sweet made from gram (ground chickpea) flour. These ladoos are called boondi ladoos, since the batter is poured through a ladle or sieve with perforations while frying. These give rise to round shaped droplets, called boondi (derived from the word ‘boond’ in hindi which means water droplets). This soft textured boondi ladoo is a crowd pleaser.
1/2 cup gram (ground chickpea) flour
¾ cup water + 2 tbsp
¼ tsp orange food color
1/8 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ghee
½ tsp rose water
2 tbsp cashews
2 tbsp pistachios
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
½ tsp lime juice
Gradually mix water to gram/chickpea flour in a bowl until smooth consistency
Add baking soda and orange food coloring
To create boondi, pour batter over a skimmer spoon with round shape openings onto hot oil. After each batch, wipe the perforated ladle with a clean piece of thin cotton kitchen towel from both sides.
Fry until golden brown and set aside. NOTE: Fry the boondis till they are cooked. Don’t make them too crispy. When the oil stops sizzling, remove the boondis. This step is also important because if boondis becomes crispy, then the ladoos won’t be soft and they won’t be able to absorb the sugar syrup.
Prepare syrup by mixing water and sugar in a pot until sugar is completely dissolved then boil for 3 minutes and squeeze lime juice
By Jena Branco, Marketing Coordinator, Brand & Marketing Communications, SECL
Today is World Kindness Day, an international holiday that was formed in 1998, to promote kindness throughout the world. Although is It generally observed annually on November 13 as part of the World Kindness Movement, it could be argued that it should be practiced on a daily basis. Many countries including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and the U.A.E. observe this day.
This day is an opportunity to reflect upon one of the most important and unifying human principles. From the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, they outlined these seven little ways that you can do today to show kindness but hopefully incorporate it in your daily life:
Send an uplifting text to a friend or relative
Let another driver merge into traffic with a wave and a smile
Inject kindness, laughter and delight into your daily routine
Go outside your comfort zone to make someone smile
Share a compliment with a co-worker or friend
Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken with in a while
Treat someone to a cup of coffee
On that last point, a friend of mine sent me this photo that made her smile and reminded her that humanity still exist, especially in these unprecedented times when people are unemployed or down on their luck. Let us show both large and small acts of kindness, let’s promote this concept and let’s bring people of every background together!
P.S. Your friendship means the world to me, and I want to thank you for your support yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Let’s catch up over coffee soon …
By Jena Branco, Marketing Coordinator, Brand & Marketing Communications, SECL
As today may be the last warm day of the fall season (high is 16°C here in Toronto, ON), it’s fitting that today is National Sundae Day.
Nothing can be more decadent than an ice cream dessert topped with your favourite fruit, nuts, syrup or sauce, and whipped cream. The combinations are endless, and you can customize it any way you like.
Why not visit your local ice cream shop or simply whip one at home today? Because anything ice cream-related is a treat and will definitely put a smile on your face on this beautiful sunny day.
The only thing normal about this past year would be the weather, and the weather calls for certain activities. If you have children, it is important that you really capture these perfect fall moments with them so you can look back and remember them even if you alter them from the traditional format. Spending time with your loved ones doing seasonal and festive activities always brings out the best in everyone and puts a smile on everyone’s face.
As usual, we love to hear and see how our favorite readers are enjoying the tips and awesome content we love to deliver. If you have any favorite fall activities at home or enjoy any of these, feel free to let us know by connecting with us on social using #SharpHome on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
The Backyard Pumpkin Patch
You guessed as I spoiled it right at the party. As I look over my backyard right now, I see a large green space that could serve as the perfect pumpkin patches that my niece and nephew will absolutely love and remember forever. You can even sell the idea of telling them you have a private pumpkin patch. Surpassingly, with little work and a straightforward process, you can create a patch in your own backyard while making family memories without leaving your home.
It’s October, meaning pumpkins are for sale everywhere and not just a typical pumpkin patch at the farm. You can find them when you are walking into the grocery store or even at a stand on the sign of the road. So next time you are out picking up your favorite groceries, pick up a few pumpkins to spread across your lawn. Just make sure you have room in your trunk to carry them all. You may want to pick up a few more pumpkins than there are people so that the pickers still feel like they have a choice. The rest you can use for decorations on your front porch or anywhere you feel fit.
The next step is to unload them and place them in the garage or a place where the kids may not see them. If you check the weather beforehand, you may be able to put them outside right away. Spread them each 6 feet apart to ensure you practice social distancing guidelines and only invite close family and friends. Between limiting the number of people and keeping it outside, you should be good to go.
Once all the pumpkins are set, call all the pumpkin pickers outside to pick their pumpkins. Some may want the big ones, while some small, so having a few extras, so there are more options is ideal.
This does not need to stop here. If you want to take this a step further, set up a table with carving materials (under adult supervision, of course) and some paint to throw on the pumpkins. This will allow the children to tap into their creative side and make the pumpkin their own.
Overall, pumpkin picking is a staple activity every season, and this year it should be no different. Trust me, after thinking of this idea, and I just knew I had to share it with you. Have fun!
Old-Costume Fashion Show
Want to know a little secret? Everyone loves a rainy day now and then. It is a day to take a break from the sun and not feel guilty about staying indoors. This past weekend, it poured all weekend, and rain has been in the forecast in New Jersey. This can sometimes create a bit of mystery about what you are going to do. I mean, you can always revert to cleaning out closets or painting a room in your house but trust me, that can’t be too fun and seems like a lot of work.
In my attic and in the back of my closet, there are bins of old Halloween costumes that I probably spent a fortune on and never worn again. From vampires to famous singers and all the cool wigs and accessories, why not take this chance to get out those old bins and place them all in the middle. Have the children design and create their own costumes, mixing and matching all the old pieces. If you want to jump into the fun, be my guest.
Not only is this an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane, but for sure guarantee laughs along the way. As a child, I remember the whole month of October just being a countdown to the final day, Halloween. While picking out your design fit, put on a Halloween movie. This just will add and make the environment much more festive.
Once the kids have picked out and organized their costumes, send them to their rooms to change when they don’t need help getting into their new personas, clear and identify a runway to have your fashion show, and show your kids the way to come down. Once you have communicated it with them, grab a seat on the couch and make scorecards with the numbers 1-10 (or whichever interval you choose). And let the show begin!
Each child or participant will walk down and strut their custom costume in front of the judge’s panel. Once everyone is done, the ones with the highest score win. Feel free to make this go 2-3 rounds if everyone is down. Once we have declared a winner, you can reward them with candy, favorite dinners, etc. Overall, this is a fun and cheap way to have family fun indoors or on a rainy day.
DIY Pumpkin Bath Bomb
One recent trend that I have noticed to be skyrocketing are bath bombs. The concept is that it is a figure with specific colors that turns your body of water, most likely a bath, into the color that you desire, creating a specific vibe. Even though this trend is huge amongst young adults, the children will love them just as much and if not more.
If you have young ones at home, you may know that the nighttime routine can be quite difficult. Between getting everyone bathed, teeth brushed, and the pajamas on adding a bit of creativity to the process may engage them. This should overall make your evenings simpler and put a smile on their face.
So, I am sure you guessed it by now. We are going to make bath bombs! This awesome craft idea from “Fun at Home with Kids” is the perfect way to get everyone involved and have them look forward to bath time. Just make sure that you leave enough time to make them, approximately an hour and a half before bath time.
Surprisingly, you won’t need much to make these bath bombs, and you most likely have all the supplies in your home and throughout cabinets. Start searching for olive oil, citric acid powder, cinnamon, and baking soda. Additionally, you may want to look for a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter and liquid food coloring. No cookie-cutter, no worries. You can always tap into your artistic craft and use your hands to form the shapes.
Let’s go through the steps:
Grab a large bowl and pour in 1 1/2 cups of baking soda and a tablespoon of cinnamon, stirring them together.
Once stirred, we are going to add in some color. If you have liquid watercolors, add about 3/4 teaspoon, or have food coloring drops, add a few along with 3/4 teaspoon of water.
Next, add in about 6 tablespoons of citric acid powder and completely mix it. Don’t worry if it is a bit cold, that’s known to be normal.
Add in 2 teaspoons of olive oil and mix it to create a dry dough. At this point, you can act like it is cookie dough and create the bath bombs. Use the pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter or your hands to make the shape. Allow for it to dry for about an hour or more, then take it to the bath and watch the magic happen!
Nature Walks Are Key
When we all think of the Fall season, the biggest indicator is the leaves changing. Ask anyone to pull out their phone or camera. I can almost guarantee that they have pictures of orange and yellow leaves changing from green on trees, whether in a large wooded area, along the highway, or even outside their local shopping center.
This has been a stressful time over the past few months, without a doubt, with so much uncertainty and adaptation to a new normal, relaxing your mind. Do a quick online search or think back to a favorite walking trail near or around your home that will allow you to observe all the fall leaves on a beautiful day and practice social distancing. Whenever I go on a walk outdoors, especially in 2020, here are my top 5 must-haves (in addition to a mask, of course):
Comfortable footwear is a must. No matter how long you plan to be walking, make sure to wear a nice pair of sneakers so you can really maximize the most out of your trip.
A sweater or a light jacket. Be sure always to check the weather conditions and see the temperature. Keep in mind to check the temperature of where you are going; if you live along the shoreline (like me) and drive to the mountains, there could be a change in the weather.
A small umbrella, you never know what could happen. My second-grade teacher taught me many years ago, “it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Corny, but true!
This one is my favorite, but make sure to pack some extra water and some snacks from home. Be sure to check out “Simply Better Living” for awesome snack recipes and ideas for you and your family. Pack something everyone will like.
I know you are probably thinking, how am I going to fit this all? Well, you guessed it! The final must-have on your fall leave tour is a backpack for you to carry all your essentials in. This will take up fewer worries and give you less distraction to observe the beautiful landscape of nature.
You can add two more things (because you are all my favorite) are a portable charger for your phone and a camera. While your phone may have an awesome quality camera, bringing a portable charger will ensure that you can really capture every moment and save each memory forever.
Candy Scavenger Hunt
Ask any child what their favorite part of Halloween is. You will get one of two answers, candy or costumes. This is the one day of the year where dressing up and pretending to be one of your favorite characters or creatures is embraced, rewarding kids with candy. Looking back, some of my fondest memories include getting in my costumes. In fact, if you were to look at old photos, most of them are from Halloweens of past years, proving that it is memorable.
With the nature of everything going on, many have been thinking of creative and innovative ways to reinvent the typical trick or treating idea. Instead of going door to door, there is no reason why you can’t practice your own candy exchange within the walls of your own home and throughout your property.
An awesome way to make sure that the children don’t miss out on one of their best days of the year is to design a trick or treat scavenger hunt throughout the house. While searching the internet, I stumbled upon this awesome pre-arranged candy hunt from “Hey, Let’s Make Stuff By Cori George.” They offer free activities and worksheets that allow you to set it up in your own home.
Simply go online or mask up and go to the store to buy Halloween candy. Your children may even enjoy this more as you can be selective of the candy and pick out their favorites. You can also be aware of any food allergies or nutritional restrictions and ensure that all the candy will be perfect. Here are a few more tips that you may want to include:
If the weather is cooperating, feel free to hunt inside and outside, creating more of a feel. Going from one end of the house or property to the other will make the hunt longer and build their adrenaline.
Set up some other Halloween-like activities. This could include painting small pumpkins, playing Halloween bingo with candy, putting on a movie, etc. It does not take much to set up your house and convert it to Halloween headquarters.
If you want to take it a step further, set up a virtual video call with some friends and family to show off your costumes and say a Happy Halloween!