I’ve run into useful gadgets for the kitchen over time. I figure I’ll toss out about five of these items at a time into a post when I’m feeling like it, in no particular order (perhaps alphabetical, maybe or not), and in no particular level of usefulness. Write… and Go.
- Measuring spoons, narrow for narrow containers.
Ever run into the situation where you are getting a spice, but the jar is not wide enough to insert the measuring spoon? Of course, you fluff it out into the waiting spoon, perhaps over the sink or perhaps over the target pot…. Suddenly, it’s all over the place, and too much is in that pot, or you’ve wasted a good bunch of it down the drain. Enter narrow measuring spoons! Purchased from Amazon.
- B: extra. This one is for giggles: measuring spoons so you know just how much a Smidgen, a Pinch, or a Dash is. Not that anyone has put these measurements in an official chart of weights and balances, mind you… but you can always pull these out in case anyone asks. I believe I found these on Block Island (Rhode Island) a few years ago while on vacation. Some people buy coffee mugs for souvenirs, but…
- Wine glass markers.
I started to go to gatherings where everyone was confusing their wine glass. Yes, the Magic Marker on the paper or plastic cup works fine, but if one is drinking wine in the non-plastic crowd, here’s something for the next level of sophistication. Just hook the things – they all differ from each other — around the stem of your wine or champagne glass. You can find all styles, and quantities, and prices, on Amazon. You don’t have to worry you’ve shared your drink with BackWash Barry any more. Um, hopefully! Of course, if you never drink beverages from stemmed glassware, this is not useful for you. Both sets purchased from Amazon.
- Weigh pans/balances.
The electronic balance I bought to weigh my own body in the bathroom kept changing what it recorded for me, on a near-daily basis. I mean, by 5 or more pounds either direction. So, I moved back to the mechanical weigh balance, and when I bought some kitchen balances, I bought mechanical balances there as well. YES, if you are working in a biological research lab as I used to do, the electronic ones are the way to go – but those you pay a hefty price for, for the precision and accuracy. In the kitchen? Feh. Give me the mechanical spring loaded balances for home use, ANY day! I have two, One goes to 18 ounces/500 grams. The other goes to 7 pounds – and while precision is not exact, at least things aren’t wildly fluctuating day to day, and they are fine for cooking purposes. And… no batteries required! I picked both I have up from Bed, Bath & Beyond.
My goal is to convince myself to go the more practical European route and measure ingredients by weight rather than volume – a hard habit to break the American recipe style, though.
- Lemon/Lime/Citrus Juicer.
I have my mother’s glass juicer, and it is good for juicing about any citrus fruit you have in mind, although it will be more efficient on certain sizes over others… but you can still juice grapefruit using it. The downside is, you have to pick out seeds… yeah, First World Problems that never entered my mother’s mind (nor mine for many years after taking possession of this item).
So, I picked up a cheap plastic citrus juicer that would let the juices flow into whatever bowl (yes you will need one for this!) is below it, and keep the seeds from falling in. Not good for anything large like a grapefruit, but useful up to orange size.
Watching an America’s Test Kitchen episode on YouTube one day, I discovered this next citrus juicer. I ordered. Again, you have to be over another container or bowl, but it’s pretty efficient in squeezing out Every Last Bit O Juice from a lemon or a lime. None of that pesky seed worry, either. It won’t handle orange-sized citrus, but there’s a model that will… but it didn’t get stellar reviews on Amazon, and I don’t really need oranges juiced enough that I would forego Mom’s old glass juicer.
Oh, PS – Mom made us homemade squeezed orange juice when we were kids using that glass gadget. This despite the fact she LOATHED orange juice: when SHE was a kid my grandmother would add cod liver oil to orange juice every day and make her drink it. The end result was that my mother couldn’t even stand the scent of oranges to her dying day — the fact that she made us kids home-made orange juice despite her loathing speaks to her desire to have us be eating/drinking healthy foods. (No, she never did give us cod liver oil in any shape or form.)
Sources: Glass juicer: from Mom, and probably a near-antique. Second: I seriously don’t recall the source, but it predated online shopping for me. Third: Amazon.
- Mortar and Pestle.
Yes, you can plug in a min-grinder and grind spices, but sometimes if there is just a little you need… go ahead and use a mortar and pestle, as most grinders require a larger quantity to work efficiently. Try to find one made from an inert substance… I have one made from wood, but that’s just for pretty since it is nicely carved on the outside. There would be no way to remove the scents and tastes of anything savory ground by hand in that! Soapstone is often used, but there are other ceramic and stone materials that your mortar and pestle can be made from, and still be able to be cleaned out efficiently after use. Make sure it is deep enough to use… shallow ones will tend to have whatever you are trying to grind pop out and make more of a nuisance than they are worth.
I really like my malachite-green one — I don’t think it is REALLY malachite, but it is stoneware, and it may well be soapstone. I got it ages ago, so I don’t really know. (PS, I also have a dedicated “coffee” grinder that I can plug in, but I only use this for savory spices and never coffee — it is nice to have a mortar and pestle back up, too.) But at the least — have one or the other.
Source for the manual grinding mortar & pestle: I don’t recall.
More gadgets in a month or three…
Meanwhile, this post has joined the Homestead Blog Hop, where it should have a good time. The wine charms aren’t essential, but the other items in this post I find useful on a day to day basis!