Friday, March 11, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things

I enjoy a good list. And I was inspired by Mel’s posting on favorite resources to come up with my own favorite resources. Kitchen tools, that is.

In my life of cooking, I have “made do” more often than I’ve had the best tools and ingredients on hand when making something. And I will brag that it has made me a better person. I’m flexible, adaptable; I don’t panic when I find out when I find out I’m missing a vital part. No baking powder? No problem! A pinch of cream of tartar and baking soda. No rolling pin? Hey, as long as you have a whiskey bottle you’ve got it covered. The oven doesn’t work and you have 4 pies to bake? Fire up the barbeque for some serious indirect cooking!

KitchenAid Stand Mixer
The household I grew up in relied on a handheld portable mixer. We used it for everything. We whipped divinity and 7 minute frosting. We made cakes and beat up frosting (which was difficult. You had to do it quick because the hot air vented straight down into the buttery frosting, which was stiff and hard-going). It was the standard tool for whipping up the foam on our mixture of carpet cleaner.

One day, it died.

It just so happened that I needed to supply a Cake-Walk cake for our elementary school’s Halloween Carnival. My mom wasn’t home, so my grandma was helping me. The recipe called for beaten egg whites. We didn’t have a whisk. (Remember, we used the mixer for EVERYTHING) I have an image etched in my brain of my grandma working a fork over a platter full of egg whites, whipping and beating them into something lighter than the clear viscous pile she started out with.

A dozen years ago I bought my first KitchenAid stand mixer. It is so effortless. I can make pie dough, batter, grind meat, juice pomegranate seeds, shred cheese and cabbage, knead yeast dough and whip eggs like those bad boys have never been whipped before. One trait I especially am fond of is that I can walk away from it. With a portable, once you turn it on, you’re committed for the duration. If you’re going to have a stand mixer, get this one!

Garlic Press
Garlic is probably the favorite seasoning in my house. If I want the family to swoon with delight when they walk in the house and say, “What’s for dinner? It smells good!” , I just have to toss a pinch of garlic powder in the air. Yes, garlic powder. So easy. So cheap. But… Just not the best choice for garlic. I used to use the minced garlic in the jars, but I drifted back into using the powder. Once in a while I would get ambitious and buy a head of garlic. All those little papery garlic skins! Sticking to your fingers which are covered with fragrant, sticky garlic juice! Chop, chop, chop! Mince, mince, mince! Scrape them up from the cutting board and then scrape them off the knife into the pan!

Then I got wise and bought a NICE garlic press. It is heavy and has a little tool for pushing the bits that are left out of the holes so they don’t dry there. You don’t even have to cut the skins off; you just push the lever and the garlic squirts out.

And for everyone’s comfort, the rule in our house is, if one eats garlic, we all eat garlic!

Lemon Reamer
I love to use fresh lemon in my dishes. I usually have a choice. Either pull out a cuppie of previously juiced and frozen fresh lemon juice ( if I have any), drag out the juicer (like I’m going to do that for ½ of a lemon!) or slice wedges and squeeze the juice out. Yikes! Juice all over your fingers, juice still in the wedge so you end up mashing the thing messily.

I saw a reamer used in a kitchen show once. (You may have seen this many times, but since I don’t get TV reception or cable or dish etc, I hadn’t) It was not only efficient and easy, but also cute. I’ve used it twice now and it was love at first use. I’m much more likely to keep whole lemons on hand now!

Instant Read Meat Thermometer
I would never be without one of these! How can you gamble and guess about whether poultry or pork is done, when the consequences of underdone meat is food poisoning? And how can you gamble and guess whether your beef roast is rare enough when beef is so expensive and is ruined if it is well-done?

I do enjoy my leave-in thermometers to give me a heads up when big roasts are about done. But the instant-read can confirm the doneness in different places, especially in a fowl, and they are useful for burgers, and meat pieces.

Rubber Scraper
Scrape, scrape, scrape! Can you hear the sound of a spoon raking along the sides of a mixing bowl, trying to get out the last of the cake batter? It is impossible! And that goes for any mixture that is on the stiff or thick side. I still remember getting my first rubber scraper when I was a teen. What it could do for folding, stirring and scraping was nothing short of miraculous. I didn’t anticipate the complaints though. Now there was no batter for my batter-eating family to lick up! Heh heh, (evil grin) I didn’t like batter myself and now I could force my preferences on them.


  1. Carolyn, I've been talking myself into buying a Kitchenaid mixer for at least the last 25 years. Whenever I finally make the investment, I'm sure it will totally be worth it because those babies just WORK. After all, you never see Kitchenaid mixers in yard sales or thrift stores. Or if a Kitchenaid ever does end up in a yard sale or thrift store, it's probably because its former owner died before it did - and it will be bought again in the blink of an eye.

  2. My first one was the classic one. I used it for about 5 years and then gave it to my daughter. I knew she wanted one but would never spring for one. This was my chance to upgrade a bit in power. You won't find a Kitchenaid owner going back to anything else, I would bet. See my post on juicing pomegranates with mine.