Travel Troubleshooter: AAA, Priceline and a $72 up-charge on my Hertz rental car

Dear Travel Troubleshooter: I rented a car through AAA this summer and received a contract for $386. When I picked up the car at the Hertz rental counter in Bend, Oregon, I was charged $458 — $72 more than my contract. After the trip, I contacted AAA, and it put me in touch with Priceline about the rental.

Priceline told me to send in the contract and rental receipt, and it would have Hertz honor the contract price. When I asked Hertz why the amount was different, a representative said my contract did not contain a summary of charges listing the weekly rate, fees and taxes. Without the weekly rate on the contract, Hertz didn’t know how to charge my contract amount.

I first contacted AAA for the details, and the company found it unusual that my contract did not have these details. Was it Priceline’s fault that the details were not included? I was in touch with Priceline a few times, and was told that it would contact Hertz. However, I never heard from Hertz. Can you help me get my $72 back?

— Nancy Caruso, Lynnfield, Massachusetts

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Answer: AAA should have quoted you a rate that included all taxes and fees. If this was an error, then your travel agent should have assumed the responsibility for its error and covered the difference. Instead, AAA punted to Priceline, which punted to Hertz — and no one took responsibility for the incorrect price quote.

In a case like this, it really helps to have a strong paper trail, including the initial price quote and the correspondence between you, your agent, Priceline and the car rental company. And fortunately, you did.

The correspondence you had suggested that everyone was …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


I tried the famed Instant Pot all-in-one cooker — here’s what happened

I recently introduced an Instant Pot, the famed all-in-one cooker, to my kitchen. Heard of it? In the ever-pervasive genre of electric pressure cookers, it became a household name during the 2017 holiday shopping season, when it topped Amazon’s list of best-selling kitchen appliances. Instant Pot also boasts a Facebook community of 1.2 million members. It’s stainless steel and comes in several models and sizes, including the one I have — the 3-quart Pot Duo Mini, ideal for couples or small families — and starts at around $75.

So, what took me so long? I was reluctant to buy yet another kitchen appliance with grandiose claims. But this is the Canadian company’s third edition of its programmable multi-cooker — pressure cooker, yogurt maker, slow cooker, rice maker, saute pan and warming pot all in one — since it first debuted the Instant Pot in 2010. So I pushed aside childhood memories of pulverized pressure-cooked vegetables, armed myself with a few new cookbooks written for multi-cookers and took the plunge.

And you know what? I’m still figuring it out. Some weeknights, when my goal is to get something flavorful and nutritious on the table using the high-pressure function, I love my Instant Pot so much I could snuggle it. Unplugged, of course. With the steam valve sealed.

I’ve made sensational restaurant-worthy grains, including a quick and creamy mushroom risotto from Wicked Noodle blogger Kristy Bernardo’s new cookbook, “Weeknight Cooking with your Instant Pot” (Page Street, $20). Quick is right. Cook time under pressure was only six minutes, and when you add the times it takes for the mushrooms’ liquid to release and evaporate (7 minutes), saute the onions and garlic (5 minutes) and toast the rice (3 minutes), it still seems far easier than standing above a steaming pot of Arborio …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


Instant Pot recipe: Sticky Tamarind Baby Back Ribs

Serves 4


4 to 5 pounds baby back ribs

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

¼ cup tamarind paste or concentrate

¼ cup fresh orange juice (from ½ orange)

¼ cup honey, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons soy sauce

¼ teaspoon grated lime zest

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 star anise pod

2 tablespoons neutral oil such as safflower or canola

4 small shallots, diced (about 1/3 cup)

1½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced


Cut the ribs into chunks of 2 or 3 ribs, depending on their size. Place them in a large bowl and toss with salt.
In a small bowl, combine the tamarind paste, orange juice, honey, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, and star anise. Set aside.
Using the saute function on your Instant Pot, heat the oil. Stir in the shallots and cook until they start to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, another minute; then stir in the tamarind mixture. Bring to a simmer. Scrape the sauce into the large bowl of ribs. Toss gently to combine.
Arrange the ribs, standing upright along the outer edge of the pressure cooker, making a ring with the meat side of the ribs facing out. Continue with the remaining ribs, arranging them in concentric circles. Pour any remaining sauce over the ribs and add ¾ cup water. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 6 to 8 hours.
Heat the broiler. Transfer the ribs, meat-side down, to a rimmed baking sheet. Turn the cooker to the saute function and cook to reduce the sauce until thick, about 15 minutes; spoon the fat off the top when finished. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning, adding more honey, if necessary. Brush the ribs with the sauce. Broil the ribs until …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


Melissa Clark’s Instant Pot recipe for Fresh Coconut Yogurt

Makes 3 ½ cups

Note: Fresh young coconuts — not to be confused with mature coconuts with brown husks — are available at Whole Foods and Asian markets.


2 13.5-ounce cans full-fat organic coconut milk (not the refrigerated nondairy beverage)

2 tablespoons store-bought nondairy yogurt

Meat from 1 young coconut (optional)


In the pressure cooker, stir together the coconut milk and store-bought yogurt. Cover it and turn on the yogurt function, set for 24 hours with the steam vent open.
After 24 hours, stir it gently. At this point, you can transfer the yogurt to a sealed container and refrigerate it; the yogurt will be thin and will thicken up as it chills. However, if you want an even thicker yogurt, transfer half the yogurt to a blender and process it with the coconut meat; then stir in the remaining yogurt and transfer the yogurt to a sealed container. Either way, the yogurt will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

— Melissa Clark, “Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker + Instant Pot” (Clarkson Potter, $22)

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Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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