Since taking over the cooking duties, the number of kitchen toys I’ve accumulated has quite surpassed the number of toys I have in other areas of the house. (If you catch my drift.) Some of these toys were bought at tag sales. I shudder to think of the actual retail price of things, although I’m getting better at setting aside issues of price and just buying what I need. For me “retail therapy” consists of me not thinking I’m worth the money and my therapist telling me otherwise.
But I digress.
My Top Ten Kitchen Toys
Number 10 – My Mandolin
This toy I bought retail, but I suppose you have to because the blades can dull pretty quickly. If I saw one at a tag sale I’d assume it was no longer a slicer. It’s a great way to make a low-calorie spaghetti substitute with zucchini. Cut it long ways using the small julienne blade and you’ve got yourself something tasty. You can also cut long thin slices using only the straight blade, these make great lasagna noodles, as we found out on Zucchini Night and when Arcane Malevolence first came to dinner. And the Seascape Fondue from Bento Schmento Night was made possible by my trusty mandolin.
Number 9 – My Food Processor
I have never met a blender that I liked. In fact, I bought a blender when I bought my mandolin and it was a piece of garbage that never ever worked. Meaning it never blended a thing. Maybe the stuff down around its blade was blended, but the rest of the blender contents remained unblended. Thus, it was an unblender and I gave it away. So when my husband came home with a 10 year old never been used food processor from the fine people over at Braun I’ll admit, I was skeptical. But this baby has the ability to blend and shred and puree and grate. I love it. Whether it was cheese for Pizza Night or cucumber melon soup for Mint Night, my food processor has always come through.
Number 8 – My Ice Cream Maker
I’ll admit it, I had a ton of ice cream trauma this summer. I’d forget to freeze the canister or I did freeze the canister and it still wasn’t working. As it turned out my freezer was dying so now I’m free to once again dabble in the art that is ice cream making. My ice cream garden has given way to many interesting flavors, including tomato basil and sage ice cream. I look forward to more experimental flavors. Peter Pepper ice cream, anyone?
Number 7 – Novelty Baking Pans
Bunnies, dinosaurs – I wish I had unlimited cabinet space. While these pans are made for children I think it’s a great way to add a layer of fun to your dinner parties! I’ve made cornbread no less than a dozen times in these individually portioned fun shapes. Bunny shaped ice cubes for Fruit Night, individual dinosaur meatloaves for Prehistoric Night (sorry, no link, it was before I hit the web). The Headbanging Hostess doesn’t shy away from an opportunity for some childlike fun – neither should you.
Number 6 – My Kitchen-Aid Professional Mixer
Good old, hand held mixer. Much less expensive than the stand up. Sure it might not do as many tricks, but it mixes just fine and I’ve gotten a ton of use out of it. And it’s red. I like that. I’m interested to see how long it lasts. I bought it last year to replace what had been my PARENTS hand-mixer, it was easily over 40 years old. Good old school American craftsmanship.
Number 5 – My George Foreman Grill
Who doesn’t have one of these? It’s the only way I cook chicken breasts. I’ve used it to grill wraps, skirt steak, zucchini, celery – you can even make cookies on it! Clean up is easy. It doesn’t take up a lot of space. This is a great piece of equipment.
Number 4 - My Salad Spinner
I just bought a new one because I discovered mold in the lid of my old one. Ick, I know. Hopefully it was a faulty design and it won’t happen with the new one. It’s mostly clear, so I’ll be able to see what’s going on in there. ANYWAY. Salad spinners make salad making doable. You have to wash the lettuce, but if you put the dressing on wet lettuce it won’t stick. So it has to be dried. And, while putting the lettuce on a towel in front of a fan or the A/C works, it’s much easier to whirl the water off in what will become your salad bowl (after you dry it out so the dressing doesn’t get diluted.) Water and salad don’t mix.
Number 3 – My Rubber Spatula
Pretty low-tech, I know, but incredibly useful. Mine is a ridiculous shade of lime green but I manage to use it multiple times a day. I’d like to have one in every size, so I could scrape out every bit of a cans content. It’s also heat resistant so it’ll go from can to pan without a problem.
Number 2 – My Crockpot
Quite frankly I’m surprised this isn’t number one, but that’s a ridiculous thing to say because I can’t possibly be surprised, I’m the one writing this. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you could cook a shoe in a crockpot and it would taste good. Chili, salsa, goulash, ropa vieja, skirt steak – I get a ton of mileage out of the crockpot. And it’s so easy! That’s the crazy part. Throw it in, turn it on and go. Eight hours later you’ll have an incredible meal. And it doubles as a warmer, serving dish and hot apple cider provider.
And my NUMBER ONE KITCHEN TOY…
My Excalibur Food Dehydrator
This was the number one tag sale buy of all time. Forty bucks for a dehydrator with temperature control, nine trays and tray liners that make fruit leather! OMG FRUIT LEATHER! I have made beef jerky a number of times, and let me tell you, there is no comparing homemade jerky with that commercial processed crap. It’s incredibly tasty warm. I’ve also dehydrated herbs. It’s doubled as a lettuce dryer when I was briefly without a salad spinner. I used it as a warmer for my Thanksgiving Feast and I use it to proof my homemade bread. So I get a lot of use out of that one machine - so random yet so useful.
If you have a small kitchen like me you need to be picky about what toys you give space to. Try to avoid single purpose items that you may not use that often and opt for multi-purpose kitchen electrics that will earn their space and prove their value time and time again.