Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday's with Nichole: Favorite Gadgets (Week 2)

Happy Saturday! If you missed last weeks first post of Saturday's with Nichole, catch up on it HERE! Or, if you just want to know what this is all about without spending so much time to click on that little link there...

So what is Saturday's with Nichole? Each Saturday there will be a post with something I think could be helpful to you. It can be anything from a tip or trick I've learned, a product review, suggestions on how to use leftovers or anything in between. Sound good?

This Saturday I want to talk to you about gadgets. When I first started cooking I immediately wanted every kitchen gadget imaginable. Why? Because then I'd never be able to look at a recipe and think Oh, I can't make that because I don't have a rotating-stainless-steel-double-sized-doohickey. Then, I caught an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown explained his distaste for unitasking gadgets. Why? Well, because they take up space since you're not always going to need a rotating-stainless-steel-double-sized-doohickey. You know, since they don't even exist...

Even though I accepted that every kitchen gadget in the world was not what I needed, I still had a very hard time when we went to register for the wedding. But this set of measuring cups has 1/8, 2/3 and 1 3/4 cups. Everyone needs that! Or But its a super huge stock pot AND a steamer IN ONE! Yeah, Tom had fun shopping with me that day. And I'll admit, I can still get caught up in the kitchen aisle of just about any store looking at all of the nifty things I could purchase.

But the point of this post is to share my favorite gadgets with you, so lets get started on that.

Measuring Cups and Spoons. While I appreciate my pretty stainless steel fancy measuring cups and spoons, the ones I gravitate to the most are these.

This was by far the best $10 I ever spent on kitchen items. It's the set of measuring cups I mentioned above. They start at 1/8 cup and go up to 2 cups. The measuring spoons start at a smidgen (1/32nd of a tsp.) and go up to 2 tablespoons. I use this cup and spoon set every time I need to measure something.

Mixing Bowls. I use these bowls for just about everything. Muffins that don't need to be mixed in the stand mixer? These bowls. Separating out dry ingredients from wet ingredients on any baking recipe? Check. Salads for dinner? Check. Stir fry dish that needs noodles tossed into sauce? Check.
The four different sizes are perfect for whatever you need and the small lip on them really helps from sending your dry ingredients flying all over the kitchen when you get a little whisk-happy. My only advice to you is not to pay full price for these. Macy's almost always has them on sale for half off or close to it!

Colored Coded Cutting Boards. One thing that completely grosses me out is the idea of cross contamination in the kitchen. I plan my meals to where all of my veggies are chopped up with my favorite knife and set aside before I'll even touch raw meat.

These boards are great for making sure you'll never have raw chicken touch your veggies. I also like to use the veggie one for when I need to chop chocolate for a baking recipe. For some reason I think its easier to cut when not on a wooden board.

Microplane Grater. While I have a really nifty large box grater that even has a cup with measurements on the side, I like using my microplane grater the best. Have I ever mentioned that being left-handed prevents some challenges in the kitchen? Well, it does and one of the things I've found is its easier for me to use a microplane grater than a larger one. 
I use this for to zest fruits and on hard cheeses that I need really fine like Parmesan.

Silpat. This is by far the best invention ever for the kitchen. No more wasting foil covered in non-stick cooking spray. No more added calories from greasing your baking sheet. No more scrubbing over the sink forever to get that burnt cookie/vegetable/hunkofcheese off your baking sheets. 
The make baking an absolute breeze. I need to buy more of them because I don't see the point in ever using foil or parchment paper again. 

Reusable Muffin/Cupcake Liners. At first this was just a novelty item to me. Then I realized just how much money I was spending in those paper liners and how annoyed I'd get when the paper would buckle funny and the cupcake or muffin would turn out with a funny dent in it. 
While this will provide no relief if you're also addicted to pretty designs on paper liners, they're great for those muffins or cupcakes you don't need to show off to anyone. And the best part: if you barely spray them with some non-stick spray, washing them is incredibly easy.

Collapsible Strainer. When you're low on cabinet space the last thing you feel like adding to it is a big ol'honkin metal strainer. Sure, they're larger and nice for huge vats of pasta, but for everyday uses, a smaller collapsible one is perfect. 
They no longer sell my exact one, but mine is most similar to the green one in the picture above in size and because it has a handle. We have a double sink in the kitchen and its the perfect size to sit suspended all on its own with the handle and lip. I love it!

Strainer/Sieves. I have two different sizes of these and I wish I had more. I use these much more than I expected to. 
The larger one I have is great for straining vegetables from chicken stock or skin from larger fruits like apples (for applesauce) and the smaller one is great for juicing fruits with seeds. I use it for lemon juice all of the time! 

Salad Spinner. Last summer when I grew my own lettuce I realized I desperately needed a salad spinner but all of the ones I found in stores were close to $30. Thirty dollars for a bowl inside a bowl that spins? Really? Then I was wandering around Ikea one day and this baby popped out at me. 
For the incredible price of $2.99. She immediately came home with me and we've been best friends ever since. I don't just use this for salads or lettuce. Have you heard about the trick where if you spray your fruit with vinegar it will stop it from growing mold? Yeah, I fill up the bottom bowl with 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water, add my fruit and spin. After a few rinses and spins, my fruit is good to go!

And now, just so you don't think that I already have absolutely every gadget that I need, I'd like to share with you my future purchases. 

Beater Blade. My life will not be complete until I own this beauty. While I love baking, I absolutely hate stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl. 
Brita Water Filter. Dude, bottled water is expensive. Not to mentioned wasteful and bad for the environment. Previously, I wasn't overly concerned because I'd use a water bottle a few times before throwing it away. 
But then, we got a kitten who requires bottled water. We're spending way too much money on bottled water. So I'm waiting until we move and then purchasing and installing this bad boy. I'm excited!

Gnocchi Board. Look, I realize this counts as one of those dreaded unitaskers, but its $5 and I just can't make little rolls in my gnocchi with a fork without smushing them. 
Besides, I'm sure I can figure out some other use for it like...smacking Tom? Look, I don't know, I just want the damn thing, okay?

To redeem myself after telling you I plan to purchase the dreaded unitasker, here are some unitaskers that I just find absolutely hilarious and pointless. 

Garbage Bowl. Yes, I get it, the world loves Rachael Ray but seriously, we need a separate bowl to put items in that we're just going to throw away? Isn't that the purpose of, oh I don't know, a trash can?

Asparagus Peeler. Uh, what? Sure, asparagus looks all pretty when its peeled into carrot-like ribbons, but is a separate peeler really necessary for this? I think not. A regular vegetable peeler will work just fine. 

Carrot Curler. Speaking of carrots...do you really need to curl them for a garnish? And also, isn't this exactly what happens when you have a large enough carrot and a vegetable peeler? Or do i just purchase special curling carrots that do this all on their own?

No offense to Bed, Bath and Beyond for carrying these items. I'm quite sure a ton of other stores do as well. It was just easier for me to take the links from there site since I was already there after the gnocchi board. 

Have a great Saturday,


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