My Favourite Kitchen Gadgets

At any given moment of the day when I’m home, there’s a pretty good chance that I am in the kitchen.  Or in the dining room which our kitchen spills into.  I pretty much live in these 2 rooms when I’m not sleeping, nursing the Bean, or at work.

There are a few things that make my life in the kitchen more efficient, more effective, and ultimately more pleasant.  Here they are in no particular order.

– my cast iron pan: I got this for xmas longer ago than I can remember, maybe 10 years ago.  I can’t really remember what I did before I had it.  It’s amazing for heat distribution, holding huge stir frys, and keeping an even low-ish heat for pancakes.  It goes from stove-top to oven which makes it perfect for omelettes and certain chicken dishes that start with browning and end with a braise.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without it.

– my salad spinner: For some odd reason I left my last salad spinner in Toronto when we moved here almost 3 years ago.  It was bulky, and I guess I wasn’t using it much at the time.  But I hated living without it!  I wanted to make salads, but my lettuce was always soggy, or I dampened all my tea towels drying each leaf by hand (my mother has been doing this all her life!  I don’t know how she doesn’t go insane.  On the other hand, maybe that explains a few things . . .).  So I began my quest for a new one.  I figured I could pick one up for maybe $15 tops, around Centretown somewhere.  I was astonished to find nothing under $25!  So I held out.  And held out.  And held out.  Until one trip to Canadian Tire with a gift card in hand, when I found lovely little salad spinners for only ten bucks!  Of course, since then I’ve seen them for as low as $8 at Hartmann’s, and I hear Ikea has them cheap too, but ten bucks still ain’t bad.  So now I have my salad spinner, and we eat salad almost every day.  I’m experimenting with beautiful things like kale, and my little girl is actually eating things that aren’t beige.  

– my slow cooker: A recent purchase, again from Canadian Tire, but I am very happy with the decision.  So far I’ve used it for spaghetti, b-b-q ribs and veggie chili, and my sister-in-law used it for pulled pork.  It really is great to throw a bunch of stuff into it, turn it on, and leave it for 6 hours without worrying about burning the house down.  I can do this either in the morning or at lunch when I come home from work, and dinner is ready when we want it.  Nice.

– my red kitchenaid mixer: Okay, this is the one bank-breaker of the list.  I got this at my wedding shower 4 years ago, but I wanted it since I was old enough to toddle around Sears lusting after kitchen gadgets.  It’s red, it’s powerful, and it makes goooood cookies.  I thought I would use it to make bread, but I find it better for cookies, quick breads, pancakes, and other batter-like things.  I don’t think I “need” this one to live, but it sure makes my kitchen sunny.  Red is Best.

– cheap-as-free baking stone: Another useful item left willy-nilly in our old apartment in Toronto, but this one was because my old one was broken.  Of course it still worked great, but I got really lazy in the last stages of packing.  This was another thing I lived without for the last almost 3 years, until I had a brilliant insight.  We’ve got all these white ceramic tiles sitting at the top of our closet (goodness knows what from because we have no such tiles installed anywhere in our apartment!), and I just thought one day, “What the heck is the difference between a white ceramic tile and a baking stone?!”  It turns out that 6 tiles fit my oven rack precisely, making a brilliant, and free, replacement baking stone.  I have the porous side up, and I never bake directly on the surface, but this one ensures my bottoms don’t burn before the tops are cooked, it gives me beautiful, magical pizza crusts, and beautifully browned loaves of bread.  If you want to try it too, email me and I can give you some tiles.  You won’t regret it!

– my hand blender: For some reason my sister-in-law didn’t want her hand blender so she gave it to me.  I now use it *all the time* for creamy blended soups.  I used to ladle everything into the blender, but now it’s a one-pot affair.  It works like magic for butternut squash soup, tomato soup, carrot-ginger soup, zucchini-cilantro soup . . . mmmmmm soup 🙂

– my “good” knife: A wedding present, this knife is featured on the opening credits of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.  Or is it Kitchen Nightmares?  I can’t remember, but it is a knife of TV fame.  I once read a kitchen tip that people should beware kitchen gadgets that simply replace a knife, for someone with good enough knife skillz will be able to match the gadget’s performance without all the extra storage and fiddly clean-up time.  I’ve minced onion in a food processor and know this to be true.  My “good” chef’s knife is my right hand in the kitchen, and though my skillz aren’t quite chef-standard (ha!) I do okay, and am still convinced that I’m better off with a good knife than a small food processor.

So there you have it: my round-up of kitchen amazingness.  What are your favourite kitchen tools?

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“After-Hours Yard Sales”

It’s June 1st.  Yes, summer is coming (though you wouldn’t know it here in Ottawa) and my pregnancy now has less than 4 months left, but that’s not the exciting thing about June 1st.  June 1st may just be the very best “After-Hours Yard Sale” day of the year. 

Just what is an after-hours yard sale?  Simply grabbing discarded furniture and other items off the roadside that people have left after their move-in or move-out.  

Now, there’s a lot of junk out there that no one wants to touch.  Broken dressers, stained couches, soggy futons, etc . . .  As my sister-in-law says, “There’s poop on that.”

But I have found many, many, many awesome useful items on the side of the road, such as:

– a red Ikea chair that is more comfortable than any of our other living room furniture

– a small (also Ikea!) bedside table that matches the other one I spent $20 on just a few weeks ago

– a weird wicker letter-holder that now houses our tax information

– a small wooden drawer that looks like it belonged in an oldschool card catalogue, which now houses my little spice boxes

– a bunch of books ranging from baby name books to an atlas to some best-selling Self-Help stuff that I would never spend money on, but secretly love to read

– a wooden drying rack that I used for years, despite the fact that it was a bit falling-apart even when we got it

My sister even picked up the dresser that my daughter now uses, and an OVEN!  Yep, my sister got her oven for free!

So, if you missed the Great Glebe Garage Sale (and “After” sale–ha ha), tonight might just be your night to pick up some gems–all for the price of taking a stroll through your neighbourhood.

The cost of being disorganized

I have a big confession: I’m not a very organized person.  Actually, this one comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me.  My house is messy, and in places (beside the stove, under the couch, under our bed) actually dirty.  We have too much junk in our storage locker downstairs, and too much junk on the shelves and in the closets upstairs.  

There are many downsides to this, which I will get to in a moment, but one of the up-sides is that I feel and appreciate every little improvement I make.  Every step I take towards a cleaner, tidier, more organized house, makes me feel very good about myself and my house.

For example, I recently cleaned one shelf in our closet.  It’s the shelf with our towels on it, and if you’ve visited my house I’ve probably shown it to you.  It makes me feel good every time I look at it.  My hope is that this enjoyment will motivate me to tidy up other areas of the house.  

Because, as you can see from the title of this post, disorganization is costing me!  Here’s a list of just a few of the costs of disorganization.  It is also a good recipe for Tear-Water Tea.

Time

– I spend too much time looking for things.

– While I might save small amounts of time not cleaning places like under the couch, whenever I do get around to the job, it will take a long, long time, and possibly some specialty tools to do it properly.

– I have to spend time shopping for things that have gotten lost or broken or ruined.

Money

– Sometimes I have to buy replacements for things I’ve lost or broken.

– Late fees for library books.  More than a couple of times, I have lost a library book for several weeks, resulting in huge fines.  Once, I lost two books, seemingly forever, and ended up paying the replacement fee.  I found them later stuck with baby spit-up to the bottom of the car seat.  Yuck.

– Replacement gifts for things that have gotten ruined while waiting to be given.  This one hurts a lot.  I bought a book that I left on the table, and coffee got spilled on it.

– Late bills that I thought we paid, but actually just put on my desk beside the computer with the intention of paying them.  This costs in a few ways: late penalties, reduced credit scores, and having to pay a big honkin’ bill a couple months later instead of more manageable amounts more frequently.

– As Frugal Dad mentions, the space that is currently cluttered and filled with unused space, as well as some of that clutter, could be making us money, or at least, could be giving us enjoyment instead of stress.  The closet filled with out-grown baby toys and clothes could be housing my non-maternity clothes which would make my own closet a lot roomier and more pleasant to go into.

Peace of Mind

– It stresses me out thinking about all of the nooks & crannies & piles & boxes that will some day need to be cleaned and tidied.  My purposeful enjoyment of the spaces I HAVE cleaned is supposed to replace that stress, but I still feel it.

– I hate thinking about all the stuff we own, that’s just sitting there, filling up space.  I hate thinking about how we’re going to get rid of it all.  Re-purpose it, give it away, sell it, garbage it?  There are downsides/complications to each that are hard to face when you’re facing a mountain of stuff.

So there you have it.  A pot of Tear-Water Tea, and a bunch of reasons not to be like me!  I hope this post motivates me (and maybe you too) to get in there and clean something today, even if it’s just one shelf of a closet.  It will reduce the time-, money- and peace-of-mind-stress that is lurking in the clutter.