Just to follow up on a few things I've mentioned previously:
The rice steamer works beautifully, and we use it at least 3 times a week, usually more. It's taken up permanent residence on the counter next to the microwave, and as I hoped, it generates very little heat. Most of the time it gets used to make rice for supper, but I've found it works very well for making my brown rice and beans and for steaming vegetables and hot dogs. This has definitely been a good buy, as long as it holds up. The one difficulty we've found is doing both at the same time. The water tends to foam up through the openings of the steaming pan. This probably isn't an issue when cooking rice, but it's very obvious when I steamed hot dogs with the brown rice and black beans because the hot dogs ended up with darker spots from the cooking water. If you've never used black beans, trust me, they turn the cooking water dark and anything they come in contact with. So, at least when I'm using the black beans in my lunch, we won't be steaming anything at the same time.
I mentioned fried pasta last night, and tested it this morning. I cooked whole wheat macaroni until it was a bit less than done, then drained it and dried it on a paper towel over newspaper. I then fried it in a bit of oil until it was just crisp, then drained it on the same paper towel. I used about a cup of dry pasta, and about 2 tablespoons of oil, total, but at least half of the oil was left behind or drained away and made enough for two people, so I'd say frying added about 50 calories per person. It's good with salt and pepper, but makes a good main dish with low-fat mozarella melted over it. It's a bit of work to make from start, but it would be a great quick way to use up leftover pasta. Or make a double batch of whatever pasta you're making and save the extra half to fry the next day.
The French press coffee maker we bought in September 2008 had a part give out this week. We could probably have patched it to be useable, but it would have required me to be more patient and alert than I am at 6AM, and while we could get a replacement part, it was simpler and faster to spend the $20 on a new one. We'll keep the old one for camping, making looseleaf teas, and for spare parts since the new one is virtually identical. We got about 32 months of use from that coffee maker, which is longer than the last two drip makers lasted combined, and we haven't had to buy coffee filters, so I think it's been a good buy.