Last night I had supper atop a glade in the middle of the Missouri Ozarks. The October evening was unseasonably warm, the sun hanging low above the surrounding oaks and cedars, the dog splashing in the creek at the bottom of the hollow. (That’d be the ‘holler’ if I lived in Mizz-ur-ra, not Mizz-ur-ee.)
Over a small Indian fire, we cooked buffalo steaks, toasted whole-grain rolls, and roasted apples, all speared onto V-necked dogwood shoots and balanced over the embers by a heat-reflecting stone. Twas some feast.
Twas some feast, yes, but one of considerable incongruity too, given that the buffalo and the rolls came from Whole Foods – but then were cooked entirely without benefit of modern convenience save a sharp knife and stick matches.
It just goes to show, technology isn’t a necessity, it’s a convenience – which isn’t to say that we all don’t rely on these conveniences, that they don’t make our lives easier, even better.
Here are ten conveniences that make my life in the kitchen better, easier, kitchen technology that makes me happy to live in the modern world – so long as every once in awhile, “supper is served” in the woods.
Slow Cooker – I recently invested in a programmable slow cooker with 'high' and 'low' and 'keep warm' features – for the first time, I understand why home cooks love their slow cookers. Watch for slow-cooker adaptations of many Kitchen Parade recipes in the next year.
Kitchen Scale – Time and again, I pull out my kitchen scale to measure ingredients, especially for ones such as cheese and nuts and vegetables that measured by either weight and volume. The kitchen scale helps me use ‘just enough’ – not too much, not too little.
Nutrition Analysis Software – Software helps answer ‘what if’ questions related to ingredients and portion size. ‘What if’ I used 1 tablespoon olive oil versus the 4 tablespoons specified? What if this apple pie were cut into 10 slim slices versus 8 generous pieces? For my Windows laptop, I relied on AccuChef. Now that I use a Mac, I use Mac Gourmet and its nutrition analysis plug-in.
FoodSaver – Since paying close attention to cooking on a budget, I’ve started buying meat once a month, then stocking the freezer. The first month, I used the butcher’s packaging, what a mistake. Now I repack the meat into meal-sized portions and also, say, separately package the backs and wings of chickens for making chicken stock, and later then, freeze already-cooked meat for another meal. The FoodSaver vacuum seals the air out of the packaging, so the meat doesn’t get freezer burned and doesn’t leak into the fridge while defrosting. Many thanks to Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen for encouraging this purchase!
Immersion Blender – I do love my Cuisinart food processor but it’s the immersion blender I turn to more often, both the blender itself and the mini food processor attachment. They’re small, handy and easily fit into the dishwasher.
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Electric tea kettle – Do we really need an appliance that boils water? Well, yes, at least I do. Faster than the stove or the microwave, an electric tea kettle heats the water for a fast soup or fast plate of pasta. My small electric kettle from Presto boils water to the perfect temperature for tea, too!
Ice Cream Maker – This molasses ice cream reminded me how fun it is to create unusual ice cream flavors, with cream and eggs and sugar, no stabilizers, no chemicals. An ice cream maker makes it oh-so-convenient.
Food Blog Search – If you love the creativity and common sense recipes of food bloggers, be sure to bookmark the food blog search engine designed by food bloggers Elise, Kalyn and me that includes (so far!) 2600 top food blogs from across the world.
Delicious – Once you find an enticing recipe on Food Blog Search, save it for later using Delicious. Tag the recipes with your own terms, whatever will make it easy to find them later. I use terms like ‘zucchini’, ‘brown rice’, even qualities like ‘easy’ and cooking occasions like my ‘book club’. It's also easy to share your collection with friends and family, just send them the link to your very own page on Delicious. For A Veggie Venture, I use Delicious to collect delicious-looking vegetable recipes from other food blogs, called VegetableSpotting.
Printer – Okay so perhaps I’m a kitchen luddite because I don’t carry my laptop into the kitchen to cook from. Me, I want to print the recipe so I can make notes about my own ideas and adaptations, so a printer is essential.
And you? So. That’s my Top Ten list of favorite kitchen tools. What wouldn’t be on your list? What IS on your own list? Drop a quick e-mail, leave a comment. I’d love to know!
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences.
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