Thursday, January 12, 2012

ten things: in the kitchen

I have a lot of "Stuff". I also have a lot more Stuff I want to aquire. Obviously, I have only a finite amount of space for said Stuff, and I hate having stuff that I don't love, use or care about taking up space in our home. Bunny and I have been slowly purging some things lately: there was a big pile of my clothes (clothes I can't remember the last time I wore) that were recently donated to goodwill. Bunny is down in the storage room now clearing out old toys/tools of his that no longer work/he no longer uses. There's garbage coming from there, and he's going to try and sell some of the Stuff as well.

Part of purging, in my mind, though, is figuring out what you have that you love, and what you have that you don't use at all. (Like that section in our cupboard dedicated to drinking stuff ... we barely drink. Why do we give an entire shelf to this crap!) This helps me identify where I want to expand (more cookie scoops) and what is just garbage.

In that line, we're going to start exploring TEN THINGS from various parts of my house, used for various purposes that I love.

Today's topic: TEN THINGS that are UNEXPECTEDLY USEFUL and that I LOVE in our kitchen.
The rules: their use must surprise me. This means that I can't add the KitchenAid or the oven - I knew that they would be useful. It does mean that if I really want I can include the espresso maker, as it's surprised me with just how useful it's been.
These need to be items I actually use, not just want to use. Aaaaand we're off!

  1. Mise-en-place bowls. Ok, so these are not actually mise-en-place bowls, but that's how I use them. Bunny has an additional set of bowls, outside of our everyday bowls, that never get used for eating. But what they are wonderful for is preparing my ingredients and setting them out for my cooking. Nothing makes me happier than these bowls when I'm setting out to make a recipe.
  2. Cast iron Dutch Oven. This should be a duh, right? Except it's not. It's a fairly recent purchase and I love it. It's replaced my saucepans as my most-used kitchen pan. It's ridiculously versatile: I can make risotto, braise beef, cook up a big, beautiful soup or pile of grains, I can bake up a beautiful casserole in it if I so desire.
  3. Cast iron fry pan. That's got to be cheating, right? Except I never owned one until I moved in with Bunny, because I never though I'd need it.
  4. The cookie scoop. This one's silly. Because my cookie scoop is crap and I have to fix it pretty much every other time I use it, so you'd think I wouldn't love it like crazy. But I do. Oh how I love it. Having the scoop is a bigger deal in cookie making to me than having the mixer is: scooping cookies has always always been the hardest part. I love having perfectly portioned scoops of dough that all cook into beautiful cookies. I love it. It makes me want to have a cupcake sized scoop and a mini scoop. I love this baby.
  5. Specialty bakeware. I don't love one use things in the kitchen as a general rule. But some items are important. My flan dish? Means I can make pies from scratch, and that's important to me. Loaf pans? BANANA BREAD. Spring form pan? OMG cheesecake. My bread machine and pasta maker? Slightly superfluous now that I have the KitchenAid - but fresh baked bread? Heaven. These things make me happy and allow me to feel like I have freedom to do what I want in my kitchen.
  6. Microplane zester/grater. Yes, I have a box grater than can do all the things the microplane does and more. But its, well, boxy and unweildlly. Ideally we will aquire another microplane with a larger grate and get rid of the box grater. The microplane is great: I can zest a lemon, grate parmesan or spices (if I happen to have cinnamon or nutmeg whole). I can use it to catch the seeds when I squeeze said lemon. I love this tool.
  7. Meat thermometer. Growing up, I never used one. But this, this is the key to perfectly prepared roasts. It makes my life easy.
  8. The magic bullet. We don't use this often, but it's so useful. I can whip up a bit of cream. I can grind coffee or spices if need be. Blend up some soup, if we're just using a small amount.
  9. Old applesauce jars. Huh? Old applesauce jars? Listen, sweetheart, I'm cheap. But I also like pretty glass jars holding my grains and legumes. I love my barley and lentils in old Motts jars. I have some green split peas that I intend on moving into the next one. They could even work for different rices. They're pretty. I can use a magic marker to write cooking directions on them so I don't need the bag. After the roach infestation in the old building, it's also really nice to know that some things are completely safe. Beyond all that? When my grains are all neatly displayed I feel like I'm more likely to use them. They spark my imagination, and I remember that I've kept them -around for a reason. Plus, they are kind of pretty.
  10. The vaccum sealer. Again, this isn't used often, but it's always used to great effect. It means we can buy our meat in bulk at Costco, and make it last. We spend about 60-100 on meat there every couple of months, chop it up into smaller portions, vaccum seal it, label it and freeze it. This means that I have perfect portions of beef, pork and chicken all awaiting me in the freezer whenever they are desired. We save money by buying in bulk, and I feel better about the fact that these trips only happen every few months.

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