June 4, 2016

Four Kitchen Tool Must-Haves, Plus One I Just Really Like


For all practical purposes, I live in the kitchen.

I do make frequent visits to the computer desk just around the corner, but my kitchen is home base.

Because I spend so much time there, I covet kitchen tools the way some women prize fine jewelry. I drool over displays in the kitchen supply store. I'm not into perfume, but I am slightly obsessed with good vanilla extract.

Years ago, Hallmark ran a commercial that showed a husband coming home from work on Valentine's Day, gift in tow. A table for two was set by the fire, and a card with his name on it was learning against a wine glass. After his wife called from the other room that she'd be out in a minute, he opened the card--which read, "Love me sweet, love me tender, give me roses, not a blender." Cut to close-up of the obviously blender-shaped package under his arm. Then, "Honey? I'll be right back."

The thing is that when I saw that commercial, I thought, "Love me sweet, love me tender, I don't want roses, give me the blender." In fact, I need a new blender right this very minute. I hope I don't have to wait until Valentine's Day to get one. 

In the meantime, I've been thinking about my other favorite kitchen tools, thanks to a prompt from my friend Lisa the Syncopated Mama and her 5 After 5 party that's all about favorite kitchen gadgets this week. While I certainly could figure out how to live without these five kitchen mainstays, I'd really rather not have to.



1. Kitchen scale. The kind that sits on my kitchen counter and weighs things like dark chocolate. As opposed to the kind that sits on my bathroom floor and weighs things like me. My kitchen scale is a digital model with a flat weighing platform, and I use it almost every day. I weigh the aforementioned dark chocolate and flour for pizza dough and and cream cheese and pretty much any other ingredient I can portion out by weight. Baking, which I far prefer over cooking, is a pretty exact science, and half an ounce of flour more or less can make a big difference in the finished product. No matter how precisely you "dip-and-sweep" or spoon flour "lightly" into a measuring cup, no two cups measured in either of these ways will ever be exactly the same. Whereas an ounce is an ounce, period. I know this makes me sound like the world's biggest baking snob, but really, it's just laziness. Weighing is easier and gets me to lickable beaters sooner. Which, frankly, is why I bake in the first place.
2. Offset spatula. Unlike, say, a knife, where the handle and the blade are all on the same "plane," the handle of an offset spatula is (appropriately enough) set off from the blade. This means your hand stays out of the way when you're icing a cake, for instance. But I also use my offset spatula to pry muffins out of baking tins and to smooth out cake batter in pans and...wow, I do spend a lot of time baking around here, don't I? Oh well; I don't hear anyone in this house complaining. Mostly, they're just asking if we have any cookies.

3. Parchment paper. My favorite use for this heat-tolerant, wondrously nonstick baking paper is actually homemade pizza. I heat my pizza stone in the oven to a scorching 500 degrees while I build our pizzas on the nice, not-500-degrees kitchen counter on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. When the stone is hot, I slide the whole assembly, parchment and all, off the baking sheet and onto the smoking stone, and five minutes later, everyone in my family is getting along. And don't even talk to me about baking cookies (Classic Chocolate Chip or otherwise) without parchment paper. 

4. Eight-cup glass batter bowl. Things I use this for: oh, EVERYTHING. A few examples:
This workhorse goes in the microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator, and freezer. It has a snap-on lid. It doesn't absorb food stains or odors. It has a handle for easy lifting. You can see what's going on when you're using it in the microwave. No, I am not a paid spokesperson for the Batter Bowl Association of America. But if there was such a group, and if they offered to pay me to be their spokesperson, I'd do it.



5. Kitchen blow torch. So, yes, this item is hardly essential to anyone's existence. But it's the toy of my culinary world. I suppose professional chefs use "real" blow torches, which they can, if necessary, also use to solder some crucial piece of cookware. But my little kitchen version--the Easy Bake Oven of blow torches--works just fine for my use: caramelizing meringue without having to put whatever is wearing that meringue in the oven. I make, for example, a three-layer lemon meringue cake with marshmallow meringue frosting. I am not hefting that beauty under the broiler to brown the meringue, honey. Nope: I fire up the blow torch and have at it. This tool is also great to use on baked Alaska ice cream pie: fill an Oreo crust with ice cream, top it with meringue, and blow torch it. No worries you'll melt the ice cream, plus using this tool is just the most fun you can have in the kitchen, hands-down.

So, these are my kitchen must-haves. Or at least my kitchen really-really-want-to-haves. What's on your list? Also, what kind of blender should I buy my husband buy for me? Please do tell, and be sure to put up your post or share your own list at Lisa's party. Because if you do and I discover some essential kitchen tool I didn't know was essential, maybe I'll be forced to take a trip to the kitchen supply store...

This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.

40 comments:

  1. I've found a fellow batter bowl fanatic!! I don't have the one you pictured, so I've added it to my kitchen shopping list. This post makes me want to be your next door neighbor, just so I could slip over a few times a week to sample your baking. :)

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    1. Aw, Tracey, what a sweet thing to say! I'd love to be YOUR neighbor...we could bond over batter bowls and our lives as moms of teen daughters! Thank you so much for your lovely words--you are a blessing to me. P.S. Let me know if you get that bowl! ;)

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  2. I, like you, feel like I live in the kitchen. And I use my batter bowl almost daily. I also love to bake more than cook. Something about throwing all those ingredients together in a bowl, then in the oven, and have them come out a fantastic delicious creation just amazes me. I couldn't live without my measuring cups (I have two complete sets because I use them so often), my tomato knife (a slice of heaven for cutting tomatoes or kiwi or anything), my stoneware, and my kitchen shears (use them for EVERYthing). Thanks for the fun article. Love, A Fellow Kitchen Dweller ;)

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    1. Julie! Yay! More things we have in common! I SO share your passionate affection for multiple sets of measuring cups and kitchen shears. I'm sure I'd love stoneware if I had it. But, I NEED a tomato knife. Must get one before Michigan tomatoes come in this summer. Thinking of you now as I leave this computer and return to home base. xoxo

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  3. More brilliance from you, my friend! And, as usual, I had to respond (out loud) to nearly everything I read here. G just gave up trying to follow my outbursts, wrapped a towel around his head, and promptly took a nap! Even though I also like cooking, I think if I could only do one, I would bake, as well. And YES on how you need to be precise with it - baking is definitely a science! I love how similar so many items on our lists are. I don't have a batter bowl, but I DO have a set of Pyrex measuring "pitchers" that I use in the same way. No lid, though, so I just continue to use up the GIANT 2,000-foot-long plastic wrap that G brought along with him when he moved in, all those years ago...

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    1. Please, do say "hi" to your G for me. And at least I'll know where to go if there's ever a worldwide plastic wrap shortage! ;) You are fabulous, my dear, and I'm so glad I found you and your 5 After 5 parties so I could get some inspiration for my favorite blogging thing: lists! Those Pyrex measuring "pitchers" sound indispensable, by the way. Hope you got a nap yourself today. xoxo

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  4. I love it! Before I read this I thought I was a baking snob, but I have neither a gram scale or a blowtorch. You are the real deal, friend and one day I would love to sample your products :)

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    1. Let's be snobs together. We can meet halfway and share the products of our kitchens. And the fact is that I bake because I do not craft. No one here seems to be complaining. Thanks so much for stopping by...YOU are the real deal!

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  5. Thanks for sharing this useful post. I have all of them except the kitchen blow torch...

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    1. What fun to meet a kindred spirit! And maybe the blow torch can be a "treat" sometime? It is a lot of fun...I'm always trying to figure out what I can caramelize next! ;) Thanks so much for taking time to stop by today!

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  6. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. Kitchen tool expert

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    1. My pleasure...thank you for taking time to stop by my little list! I feel pretty strongly about this subject myself. ;) Some people are into politics...I'm into kitchen gadgets!

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  7. Wow--you are a true baker. I don't own any of these! The best thing I use in the kitchen is my griddle. I make so many fried eggs and grilled cheeses and grilled PB and Js on it. There's nothing else I love more--other than my square brownie pan. Lol! ;-)

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    1. Oh, a griddle! Yes! I have one, too, and you're right: all that lovely nonstick real estate for mass cooking? Brilliant. Between that and the all-important brownie pan, I'd say your kitchen is well-equipped, Christine! :)

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  8. Ooh, I LOVE that 8 cup glass batter bowl! How do I not have one already? And I'm totally with you--a blender would be an awesome, romantic gift for me! ;-) I love my "egg boinger" (that's what I've called it since I was a small child). It's a coiled, spring-like egg beating device and nothing in the world works better or more quickly to beat an egg perfectly, plus it's fun to use.

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    1. Nikki, I feel as though I have just met a new kindred spirit in you. Yes, that batter bowl will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. When my previous one cracked to smithereens inexplicably one day, I practically ran out of the house to buy another one--paralyzed as I was in the kitchen without it. And could "egg boinger" BE a better term? For one thing, there is the onomatopoeia factor. For another, it sounds both fun and functional. I MUST get one. Thanks so much for stopping by...I'm off to find your blog right now! :)

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  9. I love parchment paper and use it all the time. Sooo easy to clean up then. Whoo I don't think I could use the blow torch as I am way too clumsy.

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    1. Hello, Carol...it's lovely to meet a fellow parchment paper devotee! My mom is always downplaying its usefulness, but I can hardly function in the kitchen without it. I stash it at my mom's house and at a family lake cottage and anywhere else I am likely to cook where the owner of the kitchen is not, er, "similarly devoted." ;) As for the blow torch, I TOTALLY know what you mean. The first few times I used it, I took it and the dessert being torched outside and wore industrial safety goggles! But it is actually very gentle and has tons of safety features and is easy to use and a lot of fun. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  10. I own and love the first three, and I'm pretty sure I NEED the batter bowl! What fun! One of my totally-not-a-need-but-I-love-it items is my apple peeler. I use it for all sorts of cooking projects: pies, apple sauce, muffins, etc.

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    1. Yes, Meg, based on your obvious kitchen-tool affection, I would agree: you need that bowl. ;) And I'm pretty sure I need that apple peeler! Is the kind that takes off the peel in one big corkscrew? I think I'm going to have to get one before this fall's apple crop comes in. Thanks for the great idea...and for stopping by!

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  11. I love your personal info line. This is what I do instead of clean the house. At least I am not alone! ;) I have an offset spatula that I recently bought and an eight cup mixing bowl that I have baked a barbie birthday cake in. I use it all the time. I don't think I could do without either of these. Well, okay, I could but really! Thanks for sharing with us every week at #SittingAmongFriends

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    1. Aw, thanks, Jamie. No, you are definitely not alone. I'm right here, not cleaning my house. Because it's so much more fun to reply to kind blog comments like yours! ;) As for the spatula and mixing bowl, I completely agree with you: I know I could continue in existence without either or both of these, but it would be a lesser existence, frankly. Heehee...thank you for much for hosting #SittingAmongFriends!

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  12. I'm also a huge fan of the batter bowl! I love cooking and baking (I won Outstanding of the Day for my bread at the state level. Yes, it was *cough* 25 years ago, but I'm hanging on to that trophy!), BUT I a very minimalist on kitchen tools. I have a small kitchen and don't like to keep items on hand that I don't use regularly.

    All that said, I need to get a fancy spatula because I'm terrible at icing cakes! Maybe I could be better with the right tools...

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    1. WOW, Jamie! Can I get your autograph? Yes, you ROCK that trophy, girl. What an honor and accomplishment...and I sure wish I had a piece of that award-winning bread right now! As for the spatula, I myself am horrible at icing cakes...I pride myself on the taste, not the appearance. But an offset (or icing) spatula does make it SO much easier. They're quite small and inexpensive, too, so I think you should at least ask for one as a stocking stuffer for Christmas...it might change your cake-frosting life! ;) Thanks as always for your sweet support, my friend.

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  13. Parchment paper - a must have in my kitchen too! I use it on everything. Thanks for sharing your favorites at Party at My Place today. Love seeing your beautiful face here. Think summer for next week!

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    1. Aw, thank you, Michelle. You are so sweet and encouraging. And now I know we share a love of parchment paper. I use it for everything, too. As for next week, I am SO excited because I already have a summer post ready to go! Can't wait! :)

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  14. Hi Elizabeth, I have all of these except the blow torch! We recently got a new Breville blender - that has a special setting for Smoothies that works beautifully! Couldn't do without my kitchen scale. Enjoyed this post! Blessings, Janet

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    1. Hello back, Janet! So lovely to "meet" you today via an affection for kitchen tools. ;) THANK YOU for that blender recommendation. As seriously as I take my kitchen implements, this blender purchase is no small matter. A special smoothie setting...be still my heart. Thank you...and blessings back to you!

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  15. You're obviously much more comfortable in the kitchen than I am. :) I love seeing your list of 5 things, some of which I didn't even know about, so I'm learning. I'm sure your cooking is such a gift to your family and friends! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Heehee, Lisa...it's really just that I LOVE to eat! And it is true that my cooking (especially my baking) makes up for a lot of deficiencies on my part where my family is concerned. They put up with a lot, frankly, because they like to eat, too. I'm not saying this is right or how life should go, only that it's the reality in our house. Thanks for stopping by...I LOVED your comparison/creativity post today!

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  16. My mom got me a Ninja blender for Christmas and it's awesome. I think she got it through BJ's or Kohls and the Professional XP (I might be making that up, but it sounds good) on sale was $120, which I think is a pretty good deal. It came with 2 different size blender container/holders and blades and a few other accessories. I'm going to have to reach out to the Batter Bowl Association of America and let them know what a wonderful job you're dong promoting their kitchen items - hahaha - I almost laughed out loud and risked a funny look by my husband when I read that!

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    1. Okay, Candace, this is officially one of the top most useful/hilarious comments I've ever gotten! I'm thinking I NEED a Ninja. I know friends who have one, and their "consumer reports" on it are similarly enthusiastic. Probably, it will change my life. And I am really, truly LOLing over your comment about the Batter Bowl Association. I DID laugh out loud and got a funny look from my tween. But that is par for the course these days, honey, so I'm used to it. ;) It was lovely to meet you today...looking forward to following you from now on!

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  17. I saw your title, I couldn't resist clicking it to read! I think I should pay attention to these tools...don't have much going....conservative cook you will say!
    Blessings to you Elisabeth
    Have an awesome weekend

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    1. Well, that's great to hear that my bumbling efforts at coming up with a title for this worked out after all! ;) I will say that I find these tools to be relatively inexpensive and remarkably useful. But I love that you call yourself a "conservative cook," Ifeoma! That's fabulous. Blessings back to you!

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  18. I'm amazed at how something as simple as parchment paper makes such a big difference. I just started using it and now I can't cook without it. Thanks for sharing on Life is Lovely this week!

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    1. Right, Brittany?! I think we should start a "parchment paper addicts" club! ;) I'm pretty lost without it now, too. I mean, of course I can survive...but I get really grumpy about it. Thanks so much for stopping by...Life is Lovely is a truly lovely link party!

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  19. Parchment paper, YES!! I use that stuff alllll the time. Thank you for sharing your fun list at #FRidayFrivolity!!

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    1. Isn't that the TRUTH, Sarah Eliza? If it's possible to be addicted to a kitchen supply, I am to this. ;) P.S. #FridayFrivolity has my undying affection...hoping to be back in the game this week!

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  20. i need that three layer lemon meyer cake as in need oxygen, coffee and 7 1/2 hours of sleep... so maybe i need the blow torch for my birthday next Thursday. Alas, I already helped out my husband and bought a necklace while in Washington (while serving the Lord, mind you...)

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    1. Well, my dear Sue, I'm sure that necklace is lovely. But a kitchen blow torch will change your culinary life. I'm looking forward to putting mine to good use on the 3 dozen lemon meringue cupcakes I'm making for my daughter's graduation party. At least said party is not actually in our house, in case I get carried away and set the place on fire. ;) Happy early birthday, my friend!(P.S. "While serving the Lord, mind you...." Snort.)

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!