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Must-Have Gadget: Fish Spatula

17 May

Before you start whining about fish and how you don’t like fish and don’t eat fish and don’t want to deal with fish and your kitchen and smells and picky children…this has nothing to do with fish.

(Can you tell what kind of morning we had?)

I made cookies last night (and again this morning, thanks to my evil, evil dog figuring out after two years that she can actually reach the goodies on my countertop. Anybody want a dog who may or may not have gastro issues later? Cheap?) and realized that I’d never talked to you all about my fish spatula. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is about the best $12 you can spend in the gadget aisle at your local Target.

Fish spatulas were designed for seafood. They’re long and slim and wafer-thin, and were made that way to support flaky fillets between your pan and plate. But that same skinny, slender design makes them among the best multi-taskers in your kitchen. They slide right under all sorts of fragile things. Cookies, pancakes (oh my gosh, they revolutionize pancakes), omelets, poached eggs, tortillas…you name it. And because they’re much longer than normal spatulas, they’re super easy to handle without worrying about your sensitive fingertips, particularly when you’re working with a grill or griddle.

Most of these have metal business ends. Mine is plastic, and it works just fine. It’s a KitchenAid only because that’s what was on sale–you absolutely do not need any kind of fancy-schmancy brand. I bought it about six months ago and can’t believe I survived so long in my kitchen without one. They’re very reasonably priced on Amazon or in the gadget aisle of whatever store is near to you, and I highly recommend picking one up and putting it to use, even if fish doesn’t enter your house.

That’s my gadget o’ the day. So tell me: What’s your favorite?

A Mom Cook’s Christmas List

23 Nov

It’s that time of year when our calendars fill and the relatives invade and the fat man squeezes down the chimney to fill our stockings with all kinds of fun stuff.

Happy holidays!

There will be plenty of fun recipes to share with you over the next month, but today, I thought we’d chat about what working moms want for their kitchens. And yes, I do think kitchen things are excellent gifts–playing with food is FUN, ladies and gentlemen, and new toys make it even more so.

I’m going to start with things I have and love that might make your dinnertimes easier, and then share with you my own kitchen wish list.

So…things I use every day or nearly every day that I love:

  • I’ve told you about the pots and pans I adore. Worth the investment. Start with a large fry pan and a stock pot, and go from there.
  • A simple, basic slow cooker. I like the one with a simple dial and three settings: low, high and warm. I have a four-quart that’s fine for our family 90 percent of the time, and a seven-quart I haul out for huge batches of food.
  • A stovetop cast-iron grill/griddle. Go for a two-burner model, season it well, and never let it touch soap. We use ours all the time and I suspect you will too. Be sure you get the kind that flips over and not one that’s only a grill.
  • Good knives. Start with a santoku if you don’t have a good chef’s knife–it should feel solid and heavy in your hand, and is a fantastic multi-tasker. Once you have that, go for other knives–a bread knife, a paring knife, a tomato knife, and an all-purpose 5 inch knife, along with a set of kitchen shears. NEVER put them into the dishwasher and have them professionally sharpened once a year. You won’t believe the difference between cheap and quality knives. I promise. Mine are Wusthof Classic, and I absolutely adore them.
  • A Kitchen Aid stand mixer. There simply is no substitute. Even in a tiny kitchen. Make room. I use mine almost every day–it’s that versatile and powerful and easy. Pimping out is optional.
  • A digital thermometer/timer. Again, I use it every day. Time your cooking, get an alert when meat reaches its optimal temperature, and be sure your food is cooked to safety levels.
  • A bread machine. I don’t have a specific brand to recommend, but be sure you get one that’ll handle a 2-pound loaf and has a dough cycle. Dump in your bread ingredients and walk away. No kneading, no worrying about rise time. I put everything from pizza dough to cinnamon rolls in mine. Love, love, love.
  • A pizza stone. Trust me. Awesome.
  • A Microplane. Good for everything from zesting fruit to grating fresh Parmesan cheese and whole nutmeg. Another thing I reach for all the time.

Now, things I wish for are:

  • A Cuisinart Griddler. I have a Foreman that gets a fair amount of use, but this thing does SO much more. Droooool…
  • A Keurig. I have a really good coffee maker (it’s a Cuisinart with a thermal carafe–the thermal carafe is key, y’all) but don’t always want a full pot. Mama wants a single-cup coffee maker too.
  • A mandoline. There’s nothing like one of these when you want even, quick slices of something. Don’t ask me why I haven’t just bought one, but I haven’t. Maybe this year.
  • A Foodsaver. Might just make me help make sense of my side-by-side fridge/freezer from hell. HELL. (Might as well put one of those on my list too, eh? Bottom freezer, Santa!)

So that’s it. I’d love to hear what’s on your list this year…



Spicy Saturday

6 Sep

Saturday, DH took the kids out for the day giving me a whole non-work day to my lonesome. Woot! There was lots to do–a feature to finish writing, soccer cleats to be bought, last-minute school supplies to be found, and a birthday party gift to be purchased for a party yesterday.

Toys R Us is in a strip mall next to World Market, which rocks–World Market has some of the best kitchen toys around, for great prices. And in the photo above is my score for the day: eight super fun glass and stainless spice jars that were about $1 each. I also bought a commercial-grade, powder coated muffin tin for about $8, so it felt like Christmas. 🙂

I buy my spices at a bulk Amish market: they’re fresher and much cheaper than those in the little jars at the grocery store. But they come in big plastic containers and storage is an issue, both because they take up a lot of shelf space and because they’re just not very attractive. See?

I’ve been looking for alternate storage for awhile, but I don’t want the metal magnetic jars that are so popular right now and didn’t want to spend a fortune. These little glass jars are perfect–the lids have both shakers and spoon-holes in them, and they look super pretty in a little glass-doored cabinet in my kitchen. They’re all filled up with the loot from my last Amish market run–lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, dried oregano, ground cumin, ground cardamom, cinnamon, garlic powder, and dill weed. The leftovers went into the freezer in their plastic containers, where they’ll keep for a long time.

How do you store your spices? And what are your favorites? Leave me a comment!

Happy Saturday to me and my kitchen. It smells amazing in there!


14 Jul

Every so often, we’ll chat about the stuff in our kitchens–what we like to use for different kinds of cooking and what we might not like so much. Gadgets, pans, tools, all that kind of stuff. Hope we can exchange thoughts and ideas and learn some new things along the way!

I used to be a nonstick pan girl. Many Christmases ago, my mom gave us a set of nonstick Calphalon from Target, and it served us well for a number of years.

And then I started reading about Teflon and what happens to it when it gets hot, and the fumes that may or may not fill the house when it’s on the stove, and how studies that had nothing to do with DuPont found that it maybe might not be something you want around your family.

I am a scaredy cat when it comes to cancer. My mom had it when I was 12. My dad had it twice and it killed him on the second go-round. And this year, it took away my best friend at the ripe old age of 37. I gave up red meat because of it (more on that another day), I strongly encouraged my husband to replace our old charcoal grill with gas because of it (he did–God love him), and I am a sunscreen addict, all because of cancer. It’s a bad way to go and if I can avoid it, I will.

And so, the nonstick pots and pans were chucked. And slowly, one pan at a time, I started buying this:

That is Calphalon Commercial. It’s anodized aluminum, which I love for the way it conducts heat evenly and gets hot fast (I have one cast iron skillet and a cast iron grill pan that I also adore, but they take forever to get hot–forever doesn’t work for me when I’m rushing to get dinner on the table). And–here’s a trick for y’all–if you let it get good and hot before you add food and you give it a few extra minutes on the burner before you put anything in there, it’s almost as nonstick as the Teflon coated stuff I had before.

At the moment, I have an 8-inch omelet pan that I use for eggs and grilled cheese and infusing olive oil with garlic (YUM!!) and small cooking jobs. I have a massive 12-inch skillet that I use for browning chicken or sauteeing in dinner-size portions. There’s a saucier that’s used for anything and everything. I have a big pasta pot that I use for all sorts of boiling and soup-making and fun, and I have a big wok that’s awesome for Pad Thai and Chinese food and really big dishes. One of my favorites is the 12-inch Everyday Pan, which is usually available for a song online and is the ultimate everything pan. I also have a paella pan that doesn’t see much use, but is fantastic the once or twice a year I yank it out.

I never use nonstick spray on my pans. Over time, it leaves a sticky film that you’ll never get off. I spray them lightly with olive oil or coat the bottoms with a few teaspoons of oil before I start cooking (but after the pan gets hot). Cleanup is simple and easy, and I love that I can use metal utensils on them without worrying about scratches. And they’re ovenproof, which is another feature I don’t use much but is darn handy when I need it.

So that’s my cookware. It is expensive, but I use coupons and sales, and buy one piece a year, and it’s been worth it, both for its performance and for my peace of mind.

Do you have cookware you love? Post a comment and tell us. I can’t wait to hear what the rest of you use the most. 🙂

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