I cook a lot, and it’s much easier to do that when I have the right equipment. I’m not talking about blenders and food processors, I’m talking about the little things that make a difference. I love wandering through kitchen stores like Sur La Table and HomeGoods looking at all the fun little tools. However, I hesitate to buy new kitchen gadgets for a few reasons. First, I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily every time I see something that might be useful in the kitchen. Second, there’s only so much room in my kitchen drawers and I don’t want to clutter them. And third, I don’t want to be attached to so much stuff. I try to live simply, and the more stuff I accumulate, the less at peace I am.
So I choose my kitchen gadgets carefully. I spent the last two years with a set of thin, plastic KitchenAid nesting mixing bowls that weren’t great, but they were good enough. The three bowls were all damaged in some way. The large bowl had a big crack in the top so I could only fill it up part way. The medium bowl had a very thin bottom because I poured hot ghee in it once. Eventually it got a hole in the bottom. The little bowl had melted a bit in the spout, so I couldn’t use it to pour. I use my mixing bowls nearly every day, so this situation grew more and more annoying.
My husband got me new mixing bowls and a few other new gadgets that I love for Christmas. He knows it’s hard for me to spend money on things that aren’t absolutely necessary, so I really appreciate it when he comes through at holiday time. Here are my five favorite new kitchen tools:
OXO Mixing Bowls are so much better than the ones I suffered through these past few years. They’re stainless steel on the inside with a plastic exterior for insulation. The have a rubber bottom so they don’t slide on the counter. And they can go in the dishwasher, which makes a big difference when I just can’t bring myself to hand-wash one more dish.
The Lilypad Lid: Last summer, I saw this silicone Lilypad Lid at a great kitchen store in Burlington, Vermont called Homeport. It looked handy for keeping things covered, but I wasn’t sure it was worth the price. I also didn’t know how often I would actually use it, so I didn’t buy it. When I returned home, I kept thinking about it. Every time I pulled out the plastic wrap to cover a bowl of pancake batter, I wished I had that lilypad. Whenever I put foil over a casserole dish for baking, I wished I had that lilypad. So when we returned to Vermont for Thanksgiving, I made it a point to go to Homeport and buy one. And lucky me, it was 20 percent off for black Friday! I use it all the time. They have a variety of sizes too, so if you’re a coffee drinker who can’t keep your coffee warm, take a look at the mini one. These are dishwasher safe too.
Pyrex Bake and Store Containers: We’ve been wanting to move away from plastic storage containers, so I was happy to see this set of Pyrex baking and storing containers on sale recently. Dishwasher safe and made of thick, sturdy glass, you can bake with them or just use them for food storage. I love how adaptable they are, and it’s nice to be less dependent on plastic containers for food storage.
Microplane: I never like the little chunks of garlic that end up in my food after I dice a clove for a recipe. When I went to a cooking class at Helen’s Kitchen last fall, I saw how well a microplane can turn a clove of garlic into mush. This is perfect because it gets the garlic flavor into the recipe without yielding chunks of garlic. Also, the microplane zests lemons and limes more finely than the lemon zester I used to use, so it’s being put to good use in recipes like lemon ricotta pancakes and aloha muffins.
Microfiber Dish Drying Mat: This is such a small thing, but I can’t tell you how much I love having it. Our dish rack always seems to be full and overflowing. It’s frustrating when I have a sink full of dishes to wash and I don’t want to empty the dish rack before doing round two of dishes. In those cases, I pull out my dish mat from under the sink and put it next to the dish rack. I can load a bunch more clean dishes on the mat, and then put everything away at the same time later on. It folds up compactly and fits easily under the sink.
Do you use any of these tools? What kitchen gadgets make your life easier? I’d love to hear your suggestions.