Saturday, July 21, 2007

I Should Have My Own Infomercial!

I am glad everyone enjoyed the last post so much. I have been sort of working on an idea for a follow up post as it seemed to be something everyone could relate to. There's a lot going on around here though, we had VBS this week (which I thought would be a vacation for me- turns out, those two older children help out with the baby a lot more than I realize in spite of all their whining and nagging, and I had my work cut out for me just keeping Elspeth occupied a lot of the day so I didn't sew the days away as planned! this is okay as I now know what to expect of my two mornings a week next fall that August is supposed to go to school) and Amabel's birthday and an evening activity every single night (and counting). So I haven't done much in the way of formulating ideas or even taken down the party decorations either (still carrying that bag!). But I saw something on the Today show the other day while Elspeth was nursing. I looked up the article and have the link for you here. It was a segment with Mark Bittman on how to stock your kitchen for under $300. And he means pots pans and everything! I made a similar list for someone who was getting married recently, just for fun, of the ten essential things I use in my kitchen every day (and gave her a couple as a gift). This was excluding pots and pans and basic utensils like a wooden spoon, rolling pin, whisk, or nonstick spatula. I mean how could I narrow all of that down? I can't imagine the money that has been spent on my kitchen after all the wedding gifts and birthday and Christmas gifts over the years. I just love to cook. But so does Mark Bittman. So read his list and here's mine. He wins, but mine is more fun (even if it is more expensive!). Oh, and he also has a list of ten things you don't need, one of which is my number one!

1) KitchenAid stand mixer. One (positive) review called mine the "mixer for kitchen freaks." I am not sure they make the model I have anymore which is a six quart "Epicurean." But you can still get a six quart mixer. They are pricey, though mine was a gift, but I have seen excellent offers on Food Network at Christmas time where you get an attachment of your choice (sausage thingy, icecream maker, juicer) for free as well as Kitchenaid utensils and a cookbook (can't remember which cookbook, but it was swanky looking) when you order! And if you don't need the one "for freaks," you can get a much more reasonably priced 4.5 quart one. They all come with a dough hook, great for making bread or Annie's pizza dough, a flat beater, and a wire whip. I just can't even tell you how often I use this. I am guessing most of you have one so you already know.

2) Williams Sonoma silicone spatula. I know, if I've said it one, I've said it a hundred times. I love this thing! I use this at least daily, but often wash it and reuse it again and again during the same kitchen adventure :) Does it have to be from Williams Sonoma, I wouldn't know. Just kidding, but really, I don't know, I haven't ever used anything else. My guess is that one from anywhere else works fine.

3) A Microplane grater. My brother-in-law is a chef and does not have one of these. Does that tell you that it is not necessary in life? No, it tells you what he is getting from me for his birthday. It is the gratest (ha ha! get it? grate instead of great? I told y'all about my sense of humor last post!) thing for citrus zest, for Parmesan, for chocolate (why you would want it that fine, I don't know, but you might) etc. It was actually first developed for woodworking. I know nothing about woodworking so I will leave it at that. Anyway, I love my Microplane grater, and I would marry it, but I didn't find it until after I was already married, so that answers that question for all of the things on the list really. (Are George and I the only ones that still keep the corny elementary jokes alive or did y'all all get that right away?) P.S. I do not like the photography on the Microplane website. Boo Microplane! Your products deserve way better than that!

4) OXO Tongs. Isn't OXO the best? Where can't you find OXO tools? They're everywhere! And so reasonably priced! These tongs were rated the best by America's Test Kitchen (aka the Cook's Illustrated people). When I saw their segment on tongs, I wondered how on earth I had gotten on without them for so long. I had tongs, but they were almost completely useless. No, they were completely useless. But I use these OXO ones all the time. If you don't use tongs regularly, ask yourself, "is it me, am I just not a tongy sort of person, or is it the tongs, maybe they are as crappy as Abby's old ones?" For nine dollars you can answer that question. Sorry, if it's the first thing though, the not a tongy person, because then you just wasted nine dollars. Bummer, man. Oh, if you are a nonstick pots person, they have nylon covered tongs too.

5)More from OXO, the OXO swivel peeler. Really? Yes, it is practically my best friend. Practically, but I guess I have some friends I wouldn't trade for my peeler. Growing up in Macon, Georgia (where I lived until halfway through the eighth grade but don't often mention), my best friend's mom would often employ us in the kitchen to peel potatoes, carrots, apples, whatever. She was a garage sale addict, which would be a hilarious post alone and I am now convinced I must write that post, so we always had six or eight peelers (or anything for that matter) to choose from, but they were all formerly owned and only cost that previous owner 89cents at the grocery store in the first place. The point is, all of my former experience with peeling was with horrid excuses for peelers and I thought it was the worst task in the kitchen. I therefore bought only peeled baby carrots and tiny red potatoes whose skins are so fine you don't have to peel them until I met my OXO peeler. But now you can bring on the eggplant, of course I don't mind trimming the peel off that cucumber for you, and yes, we can have mashed potatoes made with Russet potatoes! I got a peeler for free with a cooking magazine subscription one time that looks like an OXO one but is not. You can totally have it. Because yes, it does have to be an OXO. But for $6.50, I think you're going to be okay on this one.

6) Cuisinart food processor. He says to get a cheap one so try that if you like. I had a blender mixer combo one time and it was the worst piece of machinery ever invented. My Cuisinart saved me from it. I always say that George has a knack for knowing what I need before I know it. He is more thoughtful about efficiency and usefulness than I am. So much like the kitchen tongs, I didn't know how much I needed a working food processor until I got one. My sister and her husband have birthdays right around Christmas so I bundled my budgets for both of their birthdays and Christmas this year and got them one as well. They are looking into marrying it together. I think I probably under-utilize mine when I hear of all the things they do with theirs (take it to the movies, buy it nice shoes, just kidding!). Anyway, for grating and chopping and finely finely chopping, for making pestos and pie crusts or whatever, this is a happy thing to have.

7) A good chef's knife. Confession: I am slightly afraid of knives and my husband is even more afraid of me with a knife and the possibility for loss of fingers, so I have a 7 inch chef's knife instead of an 8 inch! I read that this is often actually recommended for women, so there you go. Mine is Wusthof and is another thing Georgie knew I needed. Maybe it was all the complaining I did about my old knives? Added to this, though not something you would use as often is a good sharpener. George found both of mine at Crate and Barrel a few years ago. Another thing he found there this past Christmas was a great pot rack. Only you know if you need it. If you live in my apartment complex, you do. I list it here as it came from the same place and because it was yet another time George beat me to knowing what I needed before I did. That George! Put him on the list!

8) Boos cutting board. Look at this guy's website! Why do I now feel like building a house out of butcher's blocks? Anyway, what I have came from the Viking Store. I am starting to feel bad about how much George spends on birthday and Christmas! Well, he knows what I like. And what I like is presents. I am only half kidding there. But if you know people who like presents or if you are one, you also know that it doesn't have to be expensive to be special. Unfortunately, I tend to have expensive tastes. But put it into perspective. Expensive chocolates, while expensive for chocolate, are still very reasonable compared to expensive cutting boards. So there you go.

9) Cutco spatula spreader knife. I was nearly bamboozled into selling Cutco knives one time. I was home for something a few weeks before summer vacation and decided I should look for a summer job. My sister and I found an ad that looked promising, but the interviews were scheduled to begin that evening. I rushed and pulled myself together, put on my mom's suit, and went downtown. I looked really spiffy! I got the job. But one wonders about a job that is not really explained very well during the interview. Of course they wanted me, but what was I interviewing for? It was all so unclear. After I said I was still interested (basically in what was only described to me as "an exciting opportunity with potential to make a generous salary"), I got the pitch. I felt like I had been duped. I had been duped. I was so eager to sell myself and get the job, that I hadn't considered if I really wanted the job. Well, who can blame me? I was nineteen. I needed a job. And I was mostly confused by their vagueness. In the end, no, I was absolutely not going to hit up everyone I knew to buy knives from me. No, that would come two years later in the form of RUF support letters! (Not the knives part, just the hitting up everyone I know- oh, and I don't feel this way when I receive support letters, just when I send them!) All that to say, I was not a big fan of Cutco. I was never going to buy their knives. And I haven't. But my sister sent me this as it was unidentifiable to her and her chef husband has way too many knives. It arrived with the Miracle Blade and several other various pieces of cutlery. And it is a truly wonderful thing. It spreads anything better. Peanut butter? Yep. Icing? Yep. Pimento cheese? Yep. Mayonnaise? Yep. I said anything. It slices cakes and quick breads perfectly and is wide enough to use to serve the slice afterwards. It is so fabulous that I sort of wish I had another one. Why is this necessary? It's not. But I do so love my knife.

10) Are we there yet? Yes, this is the last thing on the list. It's also the least expensive, but over time may end up being the most expensive. Dontcha just love a good riddle? It's parchment paper! Yea! I always line my baking sheets with parchment. And you know I bake a lot. I really really really don't like cooking spray. It totally grosses me out and I have only ever owned one can since I have been married. I owned this can because a friend bought me a subscription to Cooking Light for a wedding gift and one of the ways they cut the fat in recipes is by using cooking spray for everything. But I just don't like it. And I won't like it. And you can't make me. But what I do love is parchment. And butter. And flour. Or olive oil. All of these things keep things from sticking while cooking. And parchment also makes things bake more evenly. For some reason we used to have those air pans at my moms house. You know, I guess when Air Jordan was so big, they had to come out with Air everything. And Reebok pumps (which George spent his entire school clothes budget on one year and when they wore out quickly, he made sandals out of them. I am so glad I did not know him then- it never would've happened with us. Yes, I am that shallow. Footwear is a big deal!). So we had air pans. And they are weird. You have to adjust the cooking time and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. No, parchment for me if you please. I have never had a Silpat though. But you can't cut a Silpat into a circle and put it in your cake pan now can you? I didn't think so. Take that, Martha Stewart!

So that's my list. It took me all day to write it and you probably just skimmed over it didn't you? Well, I won't do that to you. So tell me what your right hand man is in the kitchen? What did I forget? Or what do I not know about that I simply have to have? My next big request will be a Dutch oven I think. Can you believe I don't have one already? I hear you can find them at TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning pretty regularly. One last thing, the movie previewed on the Today show link is called No Reservations and is out next week. The original was a German film called Bella Martha, translated Mostly Martha. It was pretty good and won lots of awards. The American redo has Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, and Abigail Breslin (who is also doing an American Girl movie for the big screen soon) in it. Maybe it will be good too. You can rent the foreign version now if you can't get to the theater. One review reminds us that Eat Drink Man Woman was redone in America as Tortilla Soup. And I have to say, Tortilla Soup is better to me than the original though it could just be because the food to me is prettier and more palatable looking. Anyway, this post has taken entirely too long. But I hope you enjoyed it. Guess I better use some of those kitchen tools and get to work- it's time to make supper!


piklpaper said...

i have to say that i completely agree with your top 10! i was given a silpat for christmas and actually returned it to williams-sonoma because i just wanted to use my parchment. crazy. i ended up exchanging the silpat for a set of three melamine mixing bowls that i seriously use at least twice a day. i aquired our microplane/grater/zester in a white elephant gift swap last year - THANKS, LAURA! that thing is just amazing. thanks for sharing your must-haves! i'm making it a goal of mine to actually buy a mini spatula this year...

piklpaper said...

oh, can anyone recommend any good enameled cast iron cookware?

Fittsy said...

Pikl - Le Creuset cooks well and are really beautiful, though I'm very partial to my All Clad.

I think my only addition would be my garlic press. I use it everyday that I'm cooking something official. The microplane will work for garlic, but a press is superior.

And Mark Bittman - I'm such a fan. He's so down to earth and yet loves good food. I watch all of his videos on He currently has a list of 101 "fast" foods on the site - a great list to get you thinking of things to fix in less than 10 minutes, often using pantry staples.

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