One thing that irritates me around this time of year, are lists of gift ideas. For me, those lists have very rarely been helpful. For men, it’s always sports items, or hunting/fishing items. For foodies, some of the gadgets they want you to buy are completely ridiculous (#2 on this Mashable list made me roll my eyes harder than I have in a very long time).
While I tend to stay away from crazy gadgets (Graham will disagree with this statement, but while I have a lot of kitchen things, it’s mostly an abundance of silicone spatulas and a variety of baking pans…), there are a few gadgets that I have, and absolutely love.
A potato ricer.
Now, I know this may sound ridiculous, but hear me out. I bought this earlier in the year when I attempted to make gnocchi. But it’s useful for other things. Like making perfect, lumpless mashed potatoes. It’s great for making baby food (from what I’ve heard), but the things it’s best for? Squeezing the liquid out of frozen spinach. Before, I would make a mess, and end up with spinach EVERYWHERE. Now? I pop it in this gadget, press tightly, and all of the liquid is gone in seconds.
Since everyone vows to eat better, and lose weight after the holidays, this is a really great gadget to have. It can make noodles out of 3 huge zucchinis in less than a minute. If you’re attempting a Whole 30 (I’m starting a second one on 1/3!), this thing is a lifesaver! Zucchini noodles don’t taste exactly like the pasta you’re used to, but when they’re covered in homemade sauce with meatballs, you really won’t care. They do make a larger, more expensive version with a 4th blade, but I’m completely happy with the three blade version I own.)
A food chopper.
I do own a food processor. It’s a massive Cuisinart thing, that barely fits in my appliance cabinet. But to be honest, I only bought it because I needed to shred 7 lbs. of cheese and the thought of doing it by hand made me want to kill myself. I use this tiny little KitchenAid food chopper a lot more often (and yes, the one I own is hot pink). It’s got a 3.5 cup capacity, which is more than enough for most things. From chopping nuts, to making sauces, this little thing gets used all the time in my kitchen.
I know a cookbook isn’t a gadget. But when I started buying, and hoarding cookbooks this year, I learned one thing: there are some amazing recipes out there that you aren’t going to find on blogs, pinterest, or those annoying short videos that are now flooding my Facebook feed. This year, I added quite a few cookbooks to my collection. A lot of them were promptly donated to the used book store. Others are now cherished, well loved, and well used. My personal favorites are:
The Joy of Cooking (There are 8 or so editions of this. I bought the 1997 edition on Amazon for $4.)
The Gourmet Cookbook (out of print, so it’s a little harder to find & pricey).
The Essential New York Times Cookbook (I think this one is my favorite. After about 5 minutes of flipping through the edition I checked out from the library, I had post-its on so many pages I went to Amazon to purchase it.)
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (I found this one at a thrift shop for $4. Find of the year…)
Barefoot Contessa Foolproof (This is my other favorite. Ina never fails me. This was the first book of hers I owned, and I’ve probably made about 3/4 of the recipes in it. Everything always turns out perfect.)
A rice cooker.
Now, this is one of those things that I thought was completely ridiculous. Until the umpteenth time my brown rice was completely effed up. Seriously, why do I have so much trouble making rice??? So, I had a gift card to Bed, Bath & Beyond, and there was nothing in the store I wanted/needed, so I ended up with a rice cooker. And I love it. Not only, does it make rice, but you can cook other things in it as well. I personally love to make oatmeal in it. There are models out there that are much cheaper, but personally I would splurge and get one that has a timer. You can set the timer in the morning, and your rice is ready when you want it to be. Or, put oatmeal in it, set the time at night before bed, and you wake up to oatmeal in the morning! If you, or someone you know is interested in a rice cooker, definitely look into the Rice Cooker Cookbook as an accompaniment. I bought a used copy of the book, and it is such a great resource!