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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Darth Vader Pancakes

As soon as I saw that Williams-Sonoma was selling Star Wars pancake molds, I ran over to the store and picked them up. They worked surprisingly well. Thanks to their nonstick finish, it was actually pretty easy to get the molds off and flip the pancakes, revealing Yoda, Darth Vader, and a Stormtrooper ready to be covered in syrup. My only advice: Make a fairly thin batter so it's easier to pour in.

Star Wars Pancake Molds, $19.95

Cooking, Shown

Why not waste some time at work with this lovely list of the top 100 cooking shows of all time, complete with video clips of almost every show. List compiler Vincent seems to have excellent and wide-ranging taste, roaming through such all-time favorites cooks as the Two Fat Ladies, Alton, Rick Stein, the Frugal Gourmet, even Clara of Great Depression Cooking. He does seem to have an excessive fondness for Emeril, but he also uncovers interesting shows you've probably never heard of, such as Cooking Without Looking, a cooking show for the blind, and the British show Local Food Hero.

Your Rice Cooker Is a Multitasker

Most people use their rice cookers to cook rice, and perhaps other grains, but rice cookers are handy for many other kinds of cooking too, from stewing to steaming.

Several hounds love using the porridge setting on their rice cookers for steel-cut oats. Others use their cookers to steam vegetables and make stews and chili. chowser uses hers to prepare potatoes for mashing. "It holds them at a perfect temperature without overcooking so all you have to do is mash when ready," she says.

Hounds highly recommend The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook: 250 No-Fail Recipes for Pilafs, Risottos, Polenta, Chilis, Soups, Porridges, Puddings and More, from Start to Finish in Your Rice Cooker. "The nonrecipe beginning is definitely worth taking the time to read," says PattiCakes, "even though it's pretty long. Then armed with all of that info, you have the confidence to try anything!" The cookbook has plenty of information on steaming vegetables and dumplings and cooking a variety of grains.

ipsedixit recommends this PDF recipe booklet from Panasonic, which covers everything from braised pork shoulder to bouillabaisse.

Discuss: Other possible uses for rice cooker?

Patience Pays Off in Better Food

It is often said that many stews and other long-cooked dishes are better the day after they are made. This allows the convenience of cooking them ahead of time, which is especially useful if you're entertaining. Querencia takes this a step further by freezing such dishes. "You will enjoy the convenience of having the stuff ready when you want it because you can cook not only for tomorrow but for next month," she says. Her one caveat is that the texture of potatoes suffers when frozen, so avoid freezing dishes that include potatoes.

goodhealthgourmet maintains that dishes such as hummus and bean dips and blended soups, anything puréed that has multiple components and complex seasoning, improve with 12 to 24 hours of rest in the refrigerator. She explains, "Letting it sit for a while allows for a more harmonious flavor—you get a more subtle layering of the overall flavor of the recipe as opposed to tasting numerous separate ingredients that just happen to be in the same dish." Refrigerated dips should come to room temperature before serving.

Discuss: resting

What Is Miner’s Lettuce?

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It's a favorite among foragers. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Grow Your Own Beer Garden

Those who like to grow their own cocktails and brew their own beer can now add another link to their DIY chain with the Grow Your Own Beer Garden kit. The kit comes with a plastic "sprouting and growing dome," dirt, and seed packets for hops, wheat, and barley. Plant the seeds, tend your garden, pick, and brew. Oh, and then drink.

Grow Your Own Beer Garden
, $25

The Top Grocery-Store Etiquette Gaffes

The Top Grocery-Store Etiquette Gaffes

Bad things happen with low blood sugar. READ MORE

Salami, On and Off the Antipasti Plate

Salami is best known as part of a selection of antipasti or a sandwich ingredient, but there are creative ways to use it in a variety of dishes, as well.

Cherylptw slices salami super-thin and lays it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then bakes it at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes, until it crisps. Blot with paper towels and allow to cool, then eat as a snack or use as the base for antipasti salads (Cheryl likes chopped roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil).

When fresh favas are in season, JoanN makes a favorite antipasto salad of raw favas, salami, mint, and Manchego cheese.

More ideas: Add salami to scrambled eggs or frittatas; try CHOW's Omelet with Ricotta and Salami; add to bread dough; add to minestrone or a fresh tomato sauce for pasta.

Discuss: How to eat salami

How to Fake Sous Vide Sausage

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Sounds fancy. Isn't. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

How to Crisp Up a Sausage

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Use a chef's favorite technique to get the perfect snap. ... WATCH THE VIDEO