Previous posts in the 10 Favorite Things series:
For this post: Kitchen Appliances & Gadgets
1. Flexible cutting mats – I like that these come in different colors so that (if you are so inclined) you can color-code them for different things to help avoid cross-contamination. The other thing I love is the flexibility. After chopping you can fold the mat in half or roll it around itself a bit to make a cone/funnel to easily pour the chopped food into a bowl/pot/skillet.
2. Garlic Zoom – This is the Martha Stewart brand name for this particular gadget, though other brands make similar items as well. This makes quickly and easily chopping or mincing fresh garlic a snap. You just place a clove or two at a time in the top, then roll it on your countertop or table a couple times. Then open up the bottom and scoop out your chopped/minced garlic. Super fast and easy!
3. Wilton Silicone Universal Scraper – The main reason I got this is because it is one solid piece. I don’t like spatulas that have a separate handle; the handle slips out and gets food and water in it and is difficult to clean and dry thoroughly. Not to mention it is hard to use for stiffer doughs and batters. The universal scraper from Wilton eliminates those problems. There is a wide end and a narrow end so you can use it for pretty much everything, and since it is silicone you can use it for cooking as well since it holds up to the heat.
4. Keurig Brewer – I have then original “mini” model that does not have a water reservoir so you have to fill it with each cup. I’ve had it for a few years and I still love it as much as I did when I first got it. I not much of a coffee drinker but I do drink coffee on occasion. These kinds of brewing systems are so great for other things too though! They do make the little pods with a variety of drinks besides coffee (hot chocolate/cocoa, teas, and “brew over ice” drinks like lemonade etc.) but the usefulness goes beyond that. I use mine to heat up water when a recipe calls for hot water, for preparing single-serving cups of instant soup, to heat water for tea made with my usual bagged (or loose leaf) tea… make no mistake these brewers are not just for coffee addicts!
5. Oster blender (model number PCT2) – This blender may not have all the fancy extras that a lot of blenders offer these days, but that is precisely why I love it! There is just a toggle switch to power it – press it down to pulse or flip it up to blend. No “chop, puree, crush” etc buttons that, let’s be honest, most people never use anyway. It has an all metal drive as opposed to plastic parts that wear out and break faster. It’s 600 watts which means plenty powerful enough to make icy drinks perfectly smooth, and it even did a pretty good job at grinding up vanilla beans into vanilla powder. It isn’t quite as fine a powder as I would have liked but for the intended use it is sufficient. The jar is glass which I prefer for durability. Overall this blender is a total win and I expect it to last for years. I’ve even contemplated picking up a backup (I have seen it marked as a clearance item) just so that whenever it does stop working I will have another one ready to go. Yep. I love it that much.
6. Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker (model number 33357) – Anybody who knows me knows I love my slow cookers. When it comes to function, this one is old school. Meaning there is no digital display with timed controls or an automatic stirring device. It just has a knob with three heat settings: keep warm, low, and high. Honestly, I prefer it this way. It keeps things simple. My favorite thing though is that it has a pretty damask pattern. I have always loved my slow cookers, since well before they were the “in” kitchen item they have become lately. But I am glad they are so “in” right now because that means they are being made with lots of fun colors and patterns. No, pretty is not necessary for function… but it is always awesome when something you use frequently is also pretty to look at. 🙂
7. jo!e microwave bacon cooker – If y’all read my post on perfectly cooked bacon, you know how I feel about taking time to properly cook it on the stove (or a griddle). But I admit there are times I am feeling lazy about it, or when I am just cooking a couple pieces for myself rather than a whole pound (or more) for multiple people or for a recipe. In those times, I love this little microwave cooker. First off it has a pig on the lid. I find it completely amusing. But also it is simple and quick. The results are not as good as stove cooked bacon, but it does the job well enough I am happy with it.
8. Oyama rice cooker (model number CFS-F18B) – This is actually something I don’t own but it is on my wish list. So how can I call it a favorite item? J has one that I used while I was with him. And I totally loved it! Not that rice is really difficult to make via other methods – but this has the added benefit of keeping the rice warm for up to 24 hours after it has cooked. This means you can get the rice going well in advance of when you actually need it. And y’all know how I love that kind of thing! I also like that it has a steaming tray so you can use it to steam veggies while the rice cooks if you want. The bowl is stainless steel so it will last a long time and it is easy to care for.
9. Top Chef colored knife set – If you didn’t catch on with the slow cooker, I like things that are pretty and colorful. These knives are colorful. More importantly, of course, they do their job well. My favorite thing is that each comes with a matching sheath. I do not have a block set of knives, and honestly I don’t have the counter space for one either. This means my knives are stored in a drawer. The bad thing about this is that as things are moved around in the drawer, the blades hit each other as well as other items in the drawer. This leads to damage, and the blades don’t last as long. Having knives that are protected by sheaths eliminates this problem.
10. Paula Deen wooden spoons and spatulas – Really, any brand of wooden cooking utensils is great in my eyes. Cheaper ones, however, are NOT ready to use when you buy them. They need to be sanded and seasoned. I like the Paula Deen ones because they come seasoned and ready to use (after washing of course). The spatulas are my favored tool for browning ground meat – I find it is easier to break the meat up with them than with other utensils. The spoons have a bit more of a bowl to them than other wooden spoons do. I love wooden utensils because they last for many years (when properly cared for) and the best thing is you can leave them in a pot or pan of simmering sauce and when you pick it up a few minutes later, you don’t burn yourself like you would on a metal utensil. For someone as clumsy as me, this is a very good thing. You also need a wooden spoon for making homemade fudge. I don’t know the science behind it but I know for fudge (and some other candies) you have to use a wooden spoon. Ask Alton Brown on the why because I sure can’t answer that one.