Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gadgets & Gizmos

I'm remarkably easy to shop for come gift-giving time. My mom even commented on it with Christmas fast approaching; when in doubt, just give Chellie something for the kitchen. That's all I need to make me happy, really.

Indeed, I'm a gadget freak.

I'm very quickly running out of shelf, counter, drawer and cabinet space here, and I can't seem to stop.

I don't want to stop!

I do have some essentials, however...

Kitchenaid Stand Mixer - This is my end-all, be-all of kitchen gadgets and gizmos. I don't know how I survived without one, and I don't know that I'd be able to function if some nefarious culinary thief crept into our kitchen late at night and stole ours. Our workhorse - which I've named Julia - gets near daily use and often multiple spins in a single 24 hour period. It kneads my bread dough, it mixes my batters, it whips eggs, and damned if it doesn't sit there and make my kitchen look cooler. I don't even have a single attachment for it (yet!!) and it's my most-used appliance.

Immersion Blender - Soups, sauces, small food processing jobs; this baby gets almost as much use as the Kitchenaid. And it's multiple gadgets in one! I always forget how powerful it is. I remember when I'm not careful and I splatter soup all over the stove when I get too enthusiastic in my immersion blending.

Crockpot - Don't think of it as the thing your mother switched on in the morning so she wouldn't have to cook dinner when she got home in the evening. Think of it as a vehicle for the best meatloaf, chili, stew, pulled pork, bread pudding, beans, and hearty soup you'll ever have. I love my Crockpot and once the weather cools, as it has now, it gets a real workout.

Wooden Spoons - I love wooden spoons. I can never have enough wooden spoons in all shapes and sizes. My family once collectively gifted me with about 50 wooden spoons and it was one of the greatest gifts ever.

Silicone Spatulas - Much like wooden spoons, these things are amazingly versatile. They don't melt or warp, they're soft enough for delicate sauces but sturdy enough to scrape out that last bit of cake batter, and nothing sticks to them!

Silpats/Silicone Mats - Your baked goods will never stick again. Ever. You should already have a couple of these in your kitchen.

Pepper Mill - I called my mom a heathen last Thanksgiving while we were preparing dinner and I discovered she only had that awful, tasteless pre-ground pepper. Yuck. We had to go get one of those one use disposable pepper mills just so I could impart the peppery goodness to our Thanksgiving dinner. Seriously, who can eat that awful pre-ground stuff?? Let's just say her Christmas present last year was fairly obvious: she got a giant 2 foot tall pepper mill.

Cast Iron - Whether it's a gadget or not, a heavy, well-seasoned cast iron skillet is one of my essentials. From grilled cheese to steaks & burgers to the perfect batch of caramelized onions, you cannot go wrong with cast iron.

Your Perfect Knife - Every cook, beginner to pro, should have at least one knife that feels like an extension of their own hand. W├╝sthof 's 7" Santoku is mine, but it's different for everyone. Kevin likes his gigantic 10" Chef knife, however it's far too unwieldy for me to use safely. Visit a knife store in your area and find your perfect knife! You'll know it when you hold it.

Unglazed Quarry Tiles - Forget spending $30 on some cheap pizza stone. Forget uneven heating in your oven. Head to Home Depot and grab a box of unglazed quarry tiles for like $5, and you'll have enough to line the bottom of your oven 5 or 6 times over. They distribute heat evenly and turn out the most amazing bread and pizza. Just make sure to get unglazed so no yuckies seep into your food.

Kitchen Scale - From weighing flour to portioning things, my kitchen scale is always close at hand. Admittedly, I use the scale almost exclusively for breadmaking, but I still consider it an essential in my kitchen.

Meat Thermometer - Because it's the only way to really know that your turkey is done. Or your meatloaf. Or your chicken.

Pyrex - More for cooking than baking, I love my Pyrex. Every kitchen should have at least a starter set of Pyrex containers because they're just about as versatile as a wooden spoon.

Potato Masher - It's the only thing I use to make mash. End of story.

Mortar & Pestle - Again with the old school. What can I say? There's something viscerally satisfying about bashing the hell out of your food. Aside from that, you'll not get a better rough crack on peppercorns from anything else.

Piping Bags & Tips - Cake decorating may be my newest hobby, but a decent set of decorating tips comes in handy for so much more than pretty buttercream. Whipped shortbread cookies go from blah to better-than-store bought with a squeeze, deviled eggs never looked nicer, and cupcake frosting just got a whole lot more interesting.

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