No, I am not about to review The Sound of Music. But neither am I cooking tonight. Staci and I have a few things to do tonight so we’re eating out. But I thought I would share with you some of my favorite kitchen toys. I love to buy new kitchen gadgets! But lately it seems that I don’t want for much anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. I would love a marble mortar and pestle and new zester and a full set of magnificent knives. And I’m sure I could come up with a few other things if pressed but, for the most part, I have a pretty functional kitchen which makes me happy!
So here are some of my favorite toys and links in case you find something you can’t live without:
Strainers – now strainers might not seem that exciting but these bad boys have come to the rescue more times than I can count. And the more I expand my cooking, the more I need them. Straining soup broths, making butter, fruit purees with seeded fruits, etc. The little guy? I finally found a way to squeeze lemon juice into food without having to go back and fish out seeds. That was a little trick I’m sure most normal people have always known but once I figured that out, it was a life changer! Okay, a kitchen changer but a pretty big one. I use lemon a lot and couldn’t figure out how to do it well. Now I can! The black one is awesome because it can hang on the lip of a pan or bowl. I love them and use them all the time. As a matter of fact, I have some salted yogurt straining in a cheesecloth-lined strainer in the fridge as we speak. Making some lanbeh (a middle eastern cheese spread) to put on pan toasted rustic bread tomorrow covered with roasted heirloom tomatoes to go with the cheese souffle for dinner. I clearly have high hopes. I suggest you not hold your breath.
Silicone pan holders – my burn saviors!! I love them so much and they were so cheap that I bought two. In all fairness, I have managed to burn myself on the stovetop now that I’ve been saved from the oven. I think it’s just my thing. Unfortunately. But these are so great. They stay on the pan handle and tolerate temps up to 500 degrees so when I bring a pan from oven to stovetop, I no longer have to remember it’s a 400 degree handle as I grab it to move it out of my way a whole 10 seconds after it’s out of the oven. Who can remember anything that long?!
Potato ricer – If you have never used one of these, you have no idea what you’re missing! Have you ever had issues with your potatoes turning into something like first grade paste? Well I recently learned that if you over-whip potatoes (I used to use a MIXER!), they release too much starch and then you’re left with wall spackle! One of the ways you can prevent that and be left with super fluffy, soft and deeply earthy tasting mashed potatoes is with a ricer. Plus, it is so fun to use! The little kid in me loves making little potato worms with the ricer. They have interchangeable blades depending on how fine you want to rice the potatoes but I always use the largest blade and the potatoes are delicious. The only drawback of a potato ricer is that you can’t do skin on mashed potatoes which I love. But the skins won’t go through the ricer. I learned this the hard way. Like everything else I learn. But seriously, one of my favorite kitchen gadgets….get yourself one! I haven’t tried it yet but I’m sure you can rice cauliflower or any other soft veggie.
Olive oil bottle – I bought this bottle of olive oil years ago at TJMaxx I think. Not positive. But it has the pour stopper on it and it’s the perfect size for handling in the kitchen. I refill it over and over. Nothing fancy, just perfect size and functionality and something I use almost daily. Great for pouring or drizzling and we do olive oil in everything! Sometimes it’s the little things.
Mandolin – I have mentioned my love for my mandolin before. I have also mentioned cutting myself on said mandolin before. Honestly, I have no business owning one of these with my kitchen-accident-prone-self. I’m usually either burning or bleeding. But this makes quick work of slicing just about anything. You can julienne for fries too. I use it several times a week because of our love of fennel and celery salad. I also used it this week to pickle onions for the BACON AND EGG SANDWICH (oh, here’s the pic I took before my laptop went kaput!)
I have the OXO brand and it has several interchangeable blades and a knob with several thickness settings. There is a guard that I recommend using to keep your fingers safe. I use it for everything except celery. Which is how I cut myself.
Stuff – Here we have a few smaller things I can’t live without.1) My silicone tongs – I love these! They are super sturdy. I can flip a whole pot roast when searing with these. If you do a lot of stovetop searing, these are the best! And they won’t scratch your pans like traditional metal tongs will. 2) My very first Henckle knife! Staci’s mom gave this to me for my birthday. I love the size, it’s perfect for just about everything and sharp as the dickens! I cut myself with it twice in a row just looking at it after she gave it to me. True story. Great knife! 3) Plastic scraper. I bought this 20 years ago at a pampered chef party. I can’t tell you how often I use this stupid little piece of plastic. I can scrape gunk off my pans without scratching them and scrape flour of the island. Even Staci uses this one and she’s rarely in the kitchen. Very versatile. You can get yours here. 4) Smooth edge can opener. I don’t even remember where I got this. I do remember it took forever for me to figure out just how to situate it but once I did, it was love! It doesn’t just remove the center metal of the lid, it removes the lip too and what it doesn’t remove, it smooths. No more jagged can edges. Finally, something I CAN’T cut myself on!
Kitchen aid mixer (standing mixer) – To illustrate how old standing mixers have been around, I thought I would skip the picture of my own personal mixer. Instead, I have inserted a literal illustration of the standing mixture. From Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That’s how far back these suckers go. I waited many years for mine. Three guesses who got it for me. I’ve always been so uncoordinated in the kitchen (and elsewhere), so trying to add melted butter while beating egg yolks in the hopes of crafting the perfect hollandaise was a near-impossible task for me. Before my mixer. Now I’m hands free so I can perfect whipped cream, hollandaise, stiff egg whites, bread dough, pasta dough, just about everything! If you can afford one, it’s definitely worth the investment! And just as an aside, I bought the Julia Child cookbook before the movie. But after the book. The cookbook is not on this list but probably should be. Even if you are not a fan of French food or cooking, there are so much practical how-tos and techinques, it’s a great purchase!
Chicken pot – This kitchen pot was a gift from my parents several years ago. Not only is it adorable, it’s a clay pot. Cooking with clay pots yields exceptionally moist food. Think Chicken Tikki Masala. I’ve done lemon chicken thighs and rice too and they’re fantastic! In the mood for a little something different? Invest in a clay pot. But my guess is yours won’t be nearly as cute as mine!
Cheese grater – Some cheeses, like Parmesan wedges, can be difficult to grate. I don’t have a lot of “elbow grease” (I’m working on it, PiYo is kicking my butt!) so this little hand crank cheese grater comes in hand-y. Simply put a wedge of cheese in the grater, close the door and crank the handle. Tufts of finely grated cheese come pouring forth from the side. It’s best for drier cheeses. Moist cheeses tend to gum up the works.
So there they are, in no particular order. If you have any questions about what to get, how the equipment functions or what to use it for, just leave them in the comments and I’ll answer the best I can. Have fun purchasing!
Check in tomorrow to see if my first souffle holds up!
Happy reading, joyful cooking and, as always, spread the love!