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Stuff in my Kitchen

I read an article about cooking gadgets that are nothing but clutter and grist for the buyer's remorse mill (and gift recipient's guilt mill, I'm guessing). I have two kitchens' worth of stuff and I cook a lot, so this was of great interest to me.

When we moved to Ohio, we brought nothing but clothes with us. The apartment was furnished, including kitchen stuff. Then when I found a house, the kitchen was quite bare (The former owners left us a paper towel holder that matched the cabinets and a kitchen witch. I suspect I could get along without them, but why risk it?) I bought a coffee maker while Brian was traveling and he noticed it the minute he returned. "I see you bought a coffee maker." "Yes. It's red." "That's fine, but I'd prefer that you not fill the house with gadgets."

Who calls a coffee maker a gadget?! I continued on my merry, gadget-collecting way and that kitchen is now bursting with gadgetry. I returned to Maryland my kitchen had some new things in it and was missing some old ones, including the coffee maker. I haven't replaced it. Turns out you can make coffee one cup at a time by first pouring hot water over a spoonful of ground coffee, then straining it into a cup. It gets tedious if you want to make more than one cup at a time, but I rarely do. This is not to say I would be delighted to return to Ohio and find my coffee maker missing.

I've read it in at least a hundred different places: good knives are more important than anything else in your kitchen. Oh well. Whenever I look at the prices of good knives I turn back to my drawerful of crappy but cheap knives and resign myself to a lifetime of bludgeoning onions and tomatoes. Maybe if I had bought them twenty years ago I would have seen a decent return on the investment; at this point I don't think I have enough chopping time left.

Here are the gadgets I've used the most. If your favorite is missing from the list, let me know!

Slow Cooker - I have a huge one for making bbq for a crowd, also a 6-quart one for making dinner while I'm gone all day. I love them both, although the big one only gets used a couple of times a year.

Food Processor - I only used the whirly chopping blade. I don't even know where the grating disks are. What I have, though, I use a lot.

Steamer - This is a plug-in thing that lets me steam vegetables (One might steam something else. I never have.) when all my stovetop burners are in use.

Electric Kettle - It boils water quickly. I use this a lot. The one in Ohio is better because the kettle can be removed from the corded base for pouring. The one in Maryland has a cord from kettle to the outlet so it's on a bit of a leash.

Pressure Cooker - If you forget to use the Slow Cooker early in the day, you'll be happy to have this. Very nice for cooking stews and soups. Other things, too, but the ability to turn a couple of frozen chicken thighs and whatever was lurking in the fridge's crisper drawer into a decent meal in a mostly unsupervised hour is what makes this a superhero gadget. Also, it works even when the electricity is out.

Rice Cooker - This is another gadget that leaves a burner free for other things. I have a tiny one in Ohio that is too tiny (but it's red) and a gigantic one in Maryland that is too gigantic. I guess 5-6 cups would be ideal, although I'll continue to use what I have until they go belly-up.

Immersion Blender - I love this thing! I blend everything with it.

Ice Cream Maker - I only have one in Ohio and it's a terrible idea to have one at all because it just makes ice cream even more delicious than store ice cream. I have the kind with a motor that turns a canister in a big blue bucket you fill with ice and salt. The fact that it's a messy noisy ordeal is a nice regulator.

Hand Mixer - Do you know what the secret of hand-held mixer success is? I will tell you. Put a folded damp dishtowel under your bowl to keep it from skittering around. I learned this from the internet, pre-WWW.

Presto Microwave Popcorn Popper - I don't have this in Maryland, so I make popcorn in a pot with oil. It's just about as fast, really, but the Ohio popper is super-easy and uses no oil at all. It does use a special cardboard disk that fits into the bottom and needs to be replaced every so often (I use one until the burnt brown parts start flaking, maybe every two dozen uses).

Post-Post: This post brought to you by my curiosity as to whether it would be difficult to type whilst walking at my—oh yes—walking desk. Conclusion: it is not terribly different from the seated type of typing.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 9th, 2014 07:13 pm (UTC)
Kitchen witch?
I would live to see a picture of your kitchen witch if you still have it. I love those things! Melissa
Feb. 9th, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Kitchen witch?
You are in luck. I asked Brian to take a daily picture now that he has a fancy camera phone. That way I can see what he's up to ... and last week I noticed the witch was in his photo. Here you go!
Feb. 10th, 2014 05:30 am (UTC)
Re: Kitchen witch?
Is that something other than a novelty decoration? (The witch, I mean, not Brian...)
Feb. 10th, 2014 01:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Kitchen witch?
As far as I know, it's a novelty decoration.
Feb. 9th, 2014 09:21 pm (UTC)
Funny, I just went to Macy's today to register for my wedding. I don't like to shop so it was rather stressful. I am now changing everything online. A helpful list!

I want to see a picture of the walking desk! Wish I could register for one of those.
Feb. 10th, 2014 01:24 am (UTC)
Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! I got the desk because I spent an entire semester parked on my butt reading and I'm looking at at least three more of the same if I don't do something about it. Here's a picture:
Feb. 9th, 2014 10:52 pm (UTC)
Alton's pie crust
I've always wanted to use a food processor to make Alton Brown's pie crust, but I haven't gotten around to it. I don't have a Cuisinart, but my parents do. I visit them often, so I have no excuse. While I'm not a huge fan of pies, I do love apple turnovers, empanadas, calzones, etc.

Feb. 10th, 2014 01:27 am (UTC)
Re: Alton's pie crust
I am sorry to say that I have never made a pie crust, but I will remedy that soon using Alton's directions. I do make pizza dough in the food processor and it works really well. Last semester Friday night was pizza night, so I got pretty good at it.
Feb. 10th, 2014 01:56 am (UTC)
Ooh, that's good to know. I use Cuisinart for chopping my massive amounts of food when i'm doing massive chopping. I need to do cranberries this week. I need to bring it out for pies and pizzas. I have a mini one for little things. i could probably give it up for the chopping blade on my immersion blender.

Love my immersion blender. And in addition to my hand mixer, I can no longer live without Butterstick, the Anti-Puff Planetary Action Mixer (kitchenaid, lift-bowl 5qt version, for those who don't know). When I go to boat shows and do the "if money were no object" thing, my litmus test on whether a yacht will work for me is whether there is a place for a mixer.</p>

I tend to think of gadgets as the non-electrical type. I do have a crappy coffee pot but it only comes out for company, since we drink tea at home. I'm thrilled about our electric kettle but i miss my whistling one. In fact, we bought it when the whistle broke!

I've considered a rice cooker, but decided i don't have any place to put it and i don't want perfect rice to be so easier to make, because i will stop eating things like veggie and meat and start living on beans, frozen spinach and rice. Better than fast food, but really, more diversity would be better.

Feb. 10th, 2014 05:52 am (UTC)
My life would be empty without my Kitchen Aide. 5 quart. Extra bowl essential Also very important, the ice cream making bowl. OMG the best thing a Kitchen Aide owner can buy is the ice cream making bowl. (BTW, I make a perfectly fine pie crust using an old recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and the Kitchen Aide. I have a food processor, but I don't need to haul that out to make pie crust. Take that, Alton.)

Second most important thing: the toaster oven. It doesn't toast for toffee--I had hoped it would render the toaster redundant, but from what I've read, no toaster oven makes decent toast. But what this thing does do is cook up two chicken breasts or two fish filets or toast a cup of nuts in no time without wasting a whole lot of time and energy warming up a full-size oven, which would be using an elephant gun. So getting the toaster oven did not mean I could get rid of the toaster, but it's still essential in a kitchen where a lot of meals for two people get cooked. (I learned this while living with a temporary kitchen set up in the basement while the main kitchen was being remodeled. After the remodel was complete, I had enough counter space for a toaster oven, and had to have one.)

The next thing on my list is almost embarrassing. Yes, it's an "as seen on TV product," the Vidalia Chop Wizard! Don't laugh; this thing is the bomb. It will NOT chop half an onion in one go, as pictured in all the promotional material--you do have to feed it a slice of onion at a time. But with one satisfying SLAM! that slice of onion (or tomato, or cucumber or green pepper or what-have-you) will be converted into a nice little pile of cubes suitable for salads, soups, pot-pie filling, you name it. I love this thing. It comes with a little device that eases the job of cleaning it too.

And a hot shot . In a kitchen where single cups of tea are often made, it's wasteful of time and energy use the electric stove top to do the job with a teapot.

Question: I have a crock-pot, and have longed to use it for more than just bringing food I've already prepared to parties in a manner where they can be kept warm. I'd love to set it up in the morning, and come home to find dinner waiting. But I am away from the house a good 10 hours on work days, and have not been able to find any recipes that go that long! Any suggestions?

Edited at 2014-02-10 05:53 am (UTC)
Feb. 10th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
What you need is a timer for your crockpot. Mine's not grounded, but this is essentially what I have:

Get up, toss your food into the crockpot/take the crock with the prepared food out of the fridge and stick it in the pot, turn the crockpot on to low, plug it into the timer, set the inside dial to real time and add a green tab for when you want it to turn on, red for if you want it to end before you actually get home. I would suspect that on all but the hot days, you can delay the start time by at least an hour or more after you leave.

I also use it during the holidays so that my tree is lit when I walk in from work, and it shuts itself off about the time I go to bed. I use the second set of red/green tabs to have it pop on just before my alarm in the morning, and off again just after I leave in the morning. The light switch for the living room is on the far side of the room, and on these dark mornings, I have really been missing the light of the tree for navigation to the front door!

I also use it when I'm on vacation, to make sure there's a light that consistently goes on/off at living times, in a room visible from the street.

Extremely useful little thing. I have 2 and no recollection of how I acquired either, since I don't recall buying them. But they'll be at any hardware store.
Feb. 10th, 2014 02:11 pm (UTC)
I never thought of that, great idea! I use a timer for my seed-starting lights. I got it at Home Depot.
Feb. 11th, 2014 04:15 am (UTC)
[Bad username: chicken hat] suggested that, and I fretted over leaving the food at room temperature for a couple of hours before the timer went off. But your idea of keeping the whole mess in the fridge the night before in the crock seems like a good compromise to me... the crock itself would be good and cold, helping stave off things going bad, but gradually warming to room temperature as start time approaches. I'll have to give that some thought.
Feb. 10th, 2014 02:08 pm (UTC)
The crock pot is very forgiving if you go an hour or two or three over the suggested time. Beef, pork, and bone-in chicken recipes all do well for me. The tricks I've learned: brown meats first if you want them browned, use less water/liquid than you think you'd need, and add seasonings near the end (they seem to cook away otherwise). The Fix It And Forget It series of cookbooks is good for ideas, but it's very easy to adapt most stew or casserole recipes for slow cooking. Also, I am terrible about eating during the day. I forget to do it. So when I get home I am really truly very hungry. Maybe that's why everything I make for dinner tastes so fantastic. I'm not recommending this technique, just offering a possible explanation.

I never use the high setting, either. Everything I make in the crock pot is on low all day.
Feb. 11th, 2014 04:17 am (UTC)
I've heard that before & been skeptical. But I'm willing to take your word for it more readily than I am that of some random bint on the inter webs. Maybe I'll give it a go, combined with lj user = "third base">'s timer idea.
Feb. 10th, 2014 03:52 pm (UTC)
I have a Vidalia Chop Wizard, as well! It does make very pretty mirepoix. The larger blade makes potato cubes for potatoes O'Brien.
Feb. 11th, 2014 04:19 am (UTC)
This post and its comments has been one of the best things I've read on LJ in a while.
Feb. 15th, 2014 11:32 am (UTC)
It's an annoyingly single use item if you have a small kitchen, but I like my potato ricer. That and the small pressure cooker mean that I can very easily make mashed potatoes from actual potatoes instead of a mix.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )