Saturday, April 21, 2007

What's Your Favorite Kitchen Gadget?

Pastry ScraperThanks for everyone's kind words yesterday. With nice people like you around, I feel better already. I'm sure my tardiness will improve, I've already been feeling better with spring in the air and grass showing in my front yard (it's brown, but it's there nonetheless!)

***

The kitchen is my territory. Sure, I allow the family to eat there but it's my space and I'm Queen of the Cuisinart. For as much time as I spend there I want to have the proper tools to do my job and though technically one doesn't need more than an open fire and some hot dog sticks having super-cool gadgets makes the difference between merely feeding the crew and creating culinary art.

My kitchen is in the middle of a remodel, nothing but a big hole in the floor, a void in the house and in my life. Consequently I'm thinking about kitchens constantly: what colors I'm going to use, how cool the new cabinets will be, which handle pulls to install--and I'm reflecting on how over the years I've had many kitchen tools that have made me very happy. Here are a few:

A pastry scraper--Scrapes up messy counters, cuts, chops, dices, and divides dough like a dream. It's not just helpful and fun to use (I feel very professional with it in my hand) but you just don't realize how incomplete your life is until you get one. So get one!

A rice cooker--Cooks rice perfectly, keeps it warm and makes me happy in the process. Who says artificial intelligence isn't for real because my rice cooker knows what kind of grain I'm cooking--white or brown--and cooks it perfectly every time. My cooker is a small Zijorushi model that I received as a wedding present nearly 15 years ago and it's still going strong.

Anchor Cake StandA cake stand and cake dome--Nothing sets a dessert apart like putting it on a fancy stand, it's the perfect touch for any treat. If something is under glass it's automatically more desirable than if you had easy access to it: I call it the Phenomenon of The Forbidden. I have a plain ol' Walmart $11 Anchor Glass model that can be inverted to make a punch bowl. Not that I have a need for a punch bowl, but just knowing that I could have a punch bowl should I desire one makes me happy and I love it twice as much because of its duality.
Corner Bakery Bread Machine
A bread machine
--I'd never made a loaf of bread until I got one of these babies and I don't know how mankind progressed beyond the Dark Ages without them.

If you don't have one here's the deal: you put all the ingredients for any kind of bread dough into the bucket, close the lid, set the timer if you wish, push start and come back a few hours later to the smell of fresh-baked bread.

I think the appeal of this appliance is all about the bread: the smell of it baking is magical and it feels so wholesome and comforting. Seeing a beautifully browned loaf on the counter makes me feel so domestic and creative--who says man doesn't live by bread alone? I sure could. Pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, cranberry bread--with a bread machine it's too easy not to make these homemade delicacies.

I use my machine several times a week and have had to replace the buckets on both the first and second models I owned before I eventually wore each out and bought my current model, the Corner Bakery. Of all the models this current one has been the best: the baking times aren't as long as others, it has versatile settings and a bucket deep enough to keep the ingredients from slopping out and burning onto the bottom of the unit.

Do you have a gadget that you could never part with? Where did you get it? Do you avoid the kitchen or is your expertise limited to toast, microwaveable popcorn and cold cereal? (the holy snack trinity around here) Give me an idea of what's in your kitchen as I daydream about my new one about to be installed . . .

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37 comments:

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Oh, I love my cake stand, its just like your picture. It was a wedding present and I adore it.

My fav utensil is just a plain old vegetable peeler. They're so handy. Plus, a good reliable kitchen knife. Worth their weight in gold

Kim from Hiraeth said...

Do you have a gadget that you could never part with?

My Bunn Coffeemaker. (I've worn out three in almost thirty years of marriage.)

Where did you get it? Wherever Bunn Coffeemakers are sold. We got the last one at Sears.

Do you avoid the kitchen or is your expertise limited to toast, microwaveable popcorn and cold cereal? (the holy snack trinity around here)

Oh, no. I am a 'real' cook. A cook's cook. I prepare three meals a day. My husband is very happy.

Give me an idea of what's in your kitchen as I daydream about my new one about to be installed . . .

Actually, you've got me dreaming of a new kitchen. We live in an 85 year old bungalow and the kitchen really needs to be remodeled. So I'll share a dream of mine with you. A professional six unit gas stovetop with French burners.

Right now my new favorite gadget is my Calphalon Grill Pan.

Another is my micro-plane graters.

Author Mom with Dogs said...

Eventually, the kitchen renovation will be a thing of the past, and you'll be wondering how you ever lived without your fabulous new kitchen.

Speaking of which, having remodeled a year ago, I'd have to say my favorite tool IS my new kitchen! :)

Babystepper said...

I'm a terrible cook, but a complete sucker for gadgets. (For instance, I'll probably have to go and buy a pastry scraper, and I'd already been thinking about a rice cooker too.) We recently bought a spaetzle maker. I even bought it from *gasp* Williams-Sonoma. I usually buy everything from amazon.com or Wal-Mart. We just love spaetzle, but discovered it was way, way to difficult to make with a colander. I like my bread machine too, but am not happy with it's consistency. Of course, it's cheap Wal-Mart. How does yours do on the consistency?
We're also remodeling our kitchen, but It's still tiny-tiny, so I've got to try to control myself in the gadgets department.

Sorry for the nov-ment.

Viscountess said...

This will sound tongue in cheek, but I don't mean it that way. My favorite kitchen appliance is my husband. He can cook anything, and cook it well. I have only every been to one "fancy" restaurant that I didn't come away from saying "But babe, you could have cooked that better, less expensively, and I could have eaten it in my pajamas." The only restaurant that wowed me: Emeril's.

My second favorite appliance: my dishwasher, because he can cook, but he can't clean.

Jane said...

I have and enjoy all of the gadgets you mention, except that I don't use my bread machine all that much - probably because it's one of the ancient, R2D2 shaped ones (although it works just fine!).

I'd say that the pinnacle of my gadgetry is my Kitchenaid mixer. I got it as a wedding present and I would never be without one again.

My favorite small gadget right now is the lemon squeezer I bought from the Pampered Chef last year. It's opened up a whole new world of lemon pies and lime bars.

Heather said...

We built our house about 7 years ago (WOW has it been that long?). We got traditional Kraft Maid cabinets, I have tons of counter space and a big, open room.
I like to have good, sturdy appliances in my kitchen because I use the things in it everyday. I cook a large variety of items and I love to bake. My DH and one of my sons love to eat (the 4 year-old, not so much), so it works out well for everyone.
I just got a new Kitchen Aide mixer and I'm dying to whip up all kinds of things with it! I can't wait till I make my first batch of frosting with it.
I like a lot of pampered chef items, too. I got a bamboo carving board last year from them. It has a flat side with a place for the juices to collect and the other side has a well in the wenter for carving chickens and turkeys.
I love my rotisserie and use it weekly and I use my grill year round.

crissybug said...

That pastry scraper looks so cool! I am going to have to get myself one of those!

My favorite utensil would be a crockpot! They are fabulous!

chelle said...

I (heart) my rice cooker! And I am so crushing on a bread maker ... Maybe for Mother's Day :D

Islandsparrow said...

I need to get a cake-stand - you're right - it sets off a dessert perfectly!

I love my little cookie scoop from magic pantry - just like an ice-cream scoop but made to scoop cookies dough. I use it all the time.

Ni Yachen said...

Rice Cooker! When I was in Taiwan, we cooked everything in them. You would mix up a cake in the morning and put it in. Then come home for dinner (or lunch) and eat warm, moist cake. Or do the same thing with steamed fish. You never burn things with rice cookers.

Second would be the humble tea kettle. Is there anything better than a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate?

tracy m said...

I'm totally with you on the bench scraper and the cake dome- mine live on my counter and make me happy just looking at them.

I think my Kitchen Aid mixer might be as dear to me as your bread machine is to you. I use it daily (when not in the middle of a move!) and sorely miss it right now. That, and my wheat grinder. I love making fresh flour, and can't beleive I lived so long without the taste and texture and smell of stone ground whole wheat. mmmmmmm....

Oh, and I recently discovered the Mr Clean Magic Eraser. Not sure that's a kitchen gadget, but OH MY HEAVENS does it ever clean. EVERYTHING! Truly magic.

my4kids said...

A rice cooker I really need. We had one when I was a teenager and now I can't get it right without one! Kelly can make rice though so whenever we are having it he gets to help with dinner.

I have some kitchen gadgets but I am a baker who does it all the old fashion way. When I wasn't working I used to bake bread from scratch, kneeding it myself and all. There was something special to me about it. I may get a bread cooker someday but I enjoyed doing by hand. Hopefully when we move and I am home again I will get back into my baking. I do love Pampered Chef though and find a lot of their items to be necessities in the kitchen. Though I don't know that I have a favorite item.

I'd love to have my kitchen designed by me. Then I could make sure I had all the counter space I wanted and put things like the sink and oven where it should be in my mind. I always complain about the kitchen because things just aren't in the right place, in my opinion anyway.

love.boxes said...

I make great desserts, but I am a terrible cook with only about 5 recipes and I don't like cooking mostly because I'm a creative person who for some reason is not creative at all in the kitchen. I'm a bit afraid of making dinner because my new recipes seldom work out. This is one reason I love the blogs, there are quite a few cooks out there who can be counted on for a simple recipe that is tried and true with simple ingred.

However, since I am not a great cook, I open a lot of cans. I bought a Kitchen Aid can opener at Target on sale. It's bright Lime Green and works beautifully. It stores in the drawer and I love it. I also really like wooden spoons and that funny plastic thing that takes the skins off of garlic really quick. :)

Janet a.k.a. "Wonder Mom" said...

My husband is my favorite kitchen gadget...He's the one who cooks...

Jen said...

Oh, my kitchen toys, how I love them.
Kitchen-Aid mixer. We've had it for nearly 11 years now, recently brought back from the dead by a wonderful repair man.
Pampered Chef rice cooker. In the microwave. Even does the fancy rice mixes.
My microwave steamer. I have no idea what it is, it came with the microwave.
My microwave (sensing a theme here?). My favorite setting (after "popcorn") is "fresh vegetables." Put veggies in the aforementioned steamer, push the button, and voila! perfectly steamed broccoli every time.
My crockpot. Must have a removable crock, preferably dishwasher-safe.
Panini maker. My husband got one for Christmas. We use it almost every day. Sandwiches, fish, even pound cake. It's wonderful.
Good stuff.

Marie N. said...

For garlic lovers...
I never realized how much great garlic flavor I get using so little fresh garlic until I got my garlic press. Now it is an essential for me, and I'm not mincing garlic with a knife any more.

Chris said...

I love my scraper too.

And to beat a dead horse... My Kitchen Aid Mixer. I love that monster.

What else? Garlic peeler, garlic press, lemon reemer, and half-decent knives. Can't do a thing without a good knife.

Ally Bean said...

Practical answer: the mini Cuisinart food processor. It does everything the large one does with much less fuss.

Fun answer: the curvy hand held slicer from Pampered Chef that allows me to make groovy cucumber slices or carrot slices or potato slices. It's makes veggies cute.

Mercy's Maid said...

I don't cook a lot, but my favorite gadget is my cookie dough scooper. I know that's not the technical term, but it's like a very small version of an ice cream scoop and it's great for scooping out uniform pieces of dough for cookies and biscuits. Plus you never have to touch the dough, so it doesn't stick to your fingers and get all messy.

Kailani said...

As much as I hate to admit it, the mircowave is my best friend.

Kailani
An Island Life

JAM said...

When Lovely Wife and I got married, my parents gave us a bunch of Rada stainless steel knives. Also a nice sharpener. I'm never more than a couple of passes through the sharpener with one of those knives away from being able to easily cut ANYTHING.

I'm a guy, so, the stainless steel knives are shiny, and I like shiny. Plus, hey, sharp knives! What's not to love.

Measuring cups. Though, the one I'm looking for at any given time is always dirty or cannot be found. My theory is that the likelihood of finding the right measuring cup is inversely proportional to the importance of accurate measurement in today's recipe.

But razor sharp knives are the best.

mcewen said...

My breadmaker 'died' and I'm debating about a replacement [space.]
Otherwise, my favourite has to be the coffee maker, partly because it makes perfect coffee [European style, thick, black and crunchy] but also because it was last year's Valentine's gift [and it still works!]
Cheers

Christie said...

you're so right about the cake stand, there are cupcakes i baked friday in it right now. yum! (there were 12 in there and now there are 3). anyway, i so love my kitchen aid mixer, a little pricey but worth the money to me. and i lovvvve love love crockpot. i've found millions of uses for it from chicken noodle soup to a spanish chicken i invented to pot roast. it's amazing. i have the tools and the good pots and everything, now I only wish we could remodel our kitchen!

Loralee Choate said...

I think I have two favorties that are related: My microplane. I freaking love this thing: PERFECT for zesting fruit and for fine-grating cheese and fresh nutmeg, cinnamon or chocolate.

I also love my commercial sized kitchen aid mixer. I don't know how I lived without it.

Erica said...

Well, since we moved to France, my favorite kitchen gadgets are a set of Williams-Sonoma magnets that have conversions for everything from grams to ounces and cups to ml. That and my electronic scale are getting a workout.

But, oh, how I miss my Kitchenaid Mixer. Now that I have time to actually use it, it's in storage in California!

The Late Bloomer said...

My loves are simple things, and right now I feel like I could use quite a lot in my very basic kitchen. I only started cooking "for real" less than 2 year ago -- I still don't know how I got by before then, but for some reason the desire to cook just never hit me until I turned 30. Now I actually enjoy it, and I'm really pleased when a recipe turns out well.

As I love lemons, I adore my lemon zester -- sounds crazy, but I like zesting away at the lemons and knowing that my lemon pound cake is going to be *so* lemony!

Right now I would kill for some better knives, because I only have a couple decent knives, and I still don't have a knife sharpener. I need to break down and buy one... Plus, I saw a knife set recently at Habitat and I should probably invest in that too.

A few weeks ago the top to my absolute favorite skillet slid to the floor and smashed into a million pieces, so now I'm looking to replace it. I got it at Ikea, so it should be easy enough to replace -- I just have to find the time and the opportunity to get back there (I don't drive here, so sometimes it's a task to go anywhere outside of the city). But that skillet was a lifesaver for me, for cooking rice pilaf-style and for preparing all sorts of vegetables. So I'm dying to replace it.

My most recent *crazy* purchase was made on-line just this past Friday: I broke down and bought a Staub French cocotte (Dutch oven). Up until now I had been doing roasts in a large pot, but I think this baby is going to be a keeper... I can't wait to receive it! At least I bought it on special, but I still feel guilty about the purchase.

Talk about a novel-long-entry -- sorry about that! I just really enjoy talking about this kind of thing now...

culinarymaven said...

Hiya
actually there are a couple of gadgets that I could not be without. My favorite is the garlic press - perfect minced garlic all the time with no mess. Another gadget that I use is the Mandoline that is a versatile vegetable slicer perfect for making salads. I picked these up in Brooklyn at a nice gourmet cookware shop called The Peppermill

Heffalump said...

I will add another vote for the Kitchenaid mixer. I am not a big fan of kneading bread, but I like to eat fresh baked bread and my kitchenaid mixer does most of the work for me. My french silk pie is the better than my sister's who is the dessert queen. Its all because I have a kitchenaid and she has a hand mixer. Its the one spendy appliance I would replace if anything happened to it.
I also love my blender for making smoothies and milkshakes, my rice cooker, and my krumkake griddle...and I can't forget the crock pot. I have a beautiful digital crock pot that lets you set how long to cook for and then switches to warming mode when the time is up.

Shalee said...

The coffee maker - I need this one to make it through the morning and to enjoy all the pie.

The oven/stove - makes life so much easier than cooking over the open fire... every night.

The dishwasher - enough said.

The faucet - by which I get running water. (Can you tell that I'm glad not to be a wife back in the early 1900's?)

A telephone - to call in dinner or to go out. Both work for me.

Daisy said...

I love my bread machine, but I couldn't live without my crockpot slow cooker. Or I should say -- I couldn't work full time and still cook for the family without my bread machine and my crockpot slow cooker. I'm on my second of both -- and I'm ready for a new crockpot. Mine is looking rather ratty from constant use. Aw, maybe it's just seasoned!

wayabetty said...

I can't do without my rice cooker and a sharp set of knives.

CookinsForMe said...

I have several gadgets I use regularly and love but my favorite must be my better baker bowl maker by cook's choice (cookschoice.com). I've had the 3" one for awhile and use it mainly for desserts though it's great for making enchilada bowls. But I just recently got the 5" bowl maker and used it tonight to make cornbread bowls and filled them with chili. They were great and it's such a neat and easy meal to make. It's something different and I really like that.

Diana said...

Last month I went to the grocery store and bought some grapes, watermelon, and some cantaloupe. Not even a week later I had to throw it in my trash can. I was so disgusted I felt like I had wasted my money. I was telling my sister and she told me about the Mini-Mate. It is a device that you place in your refrigerator that will keep your fruits and vegetables fresher longer. At first I was hesitate until she told me how it had saved her $20.00 already. That is when I contacted www.orderminimate.com. Since buying the product I have not thrown away anymore fruit, and I have saved money. Plus I got a great gift. My mother said she wished they would have had the mini-mate when she had kids it would have saved her money.

Diana said...

I want to let you know about a cool new product that I've discovered. It's called the Mini Mate, this product is placed in your fridge and uses activated oxygen to kill bacteria and eliminate odors, keeping food fresh longer. If you are like me I like to buy fresh veggies and fruit but hate to throw things away because organic foods don't have any chemicals or preservatives to help them stay fresh. I've found that the Mini Mate which costs right around $50 has saved me more than the cost of the product in keeping my produce fresh longer. I love saving money and knowing that the germs and bacteria that may be in my fridge are being eliminated, keeping me and my family healthier. This product is about 5 inches in size and runs on D batteries so all you have to do is put it in the back of your fridge and let it work. I ordered mine at www.orderminimate.com.

Celeste said...

A rice cooker is my favorite kitchen gadget!!

Home Products said...

there are a lot of kitchen gadgets nowadays we can use to maximize our cooking experience...