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Kitchen Gadgets

One of the wonders of modern life is all the amazing gadgets that people are inventing. Though not life-saving, they can sometimes be life-altering.

My favorites often are solutions to annoying little problems that happen all the time, but aren’t important enough for you to give much thought to. Then one day you’re wandering through a kitchen store or Target, and there it is: the answer to that nagging little problem. It’s like having an itch that you hadn’t really paid any attention to then getting a good back scratch.

My mom recently gave me such a gadget that she came across: you know how when you shake up your salad dressing it gets in the top, so that if you remove the top fast enough so that the dressing is still mixed, the top drips dressing? Thoroughly annoying. The old-fashioned solution to this is emulsifiers in commercial dressings, but we’re a balsamic vinaigrette kinda family. The gadget my mom got me (she being who she is, when she sees such a thing, she buys two so that she can delight someone else with her find) is a salad dressing bottle that has a mixer blade attached to the top. There’s a handle on the top that you turn, and the mixer blade whirs around, and your dressing is mixed without getting all over the top. Another annoying itch scratched!

A similar gadget that I got that has impressed a few canned-orange-juice drinking families is a pitcher that has a plunger attached to the top. You put the frozen juice in, then the water, put on the top, then ram the plunger up and down till it demolishes the frozen juice. Very satisfying.

We have bought all manner of garlic-chopping gizmos over the years. I have ended up largely doing it by hand anyway, but some of them are nifty when you have a lot of garlic to chop. One of them is like a little hand-operated food processor. You put the garlic in the bottom compartment, and as you operate a hand, a curved blade presses down, chops, then turns a few degrees. Eventually it’s all chopped small and evenly.

My mom and I placed a joint order one time for something I considered thoroughly frivolous but now I really like: a cookie dough dipper. It’s like an ice cream scoop with a little blade that sweeps across and pushes the dough out of the cup. When you’re making dozens of cookies for a kid’s school it’s a fabulous innovation. And when my daughter was small, she just loved to use it to make cookies. Yes, it did slow us down to about one cookie scooped and placed per minute, but she was calm, happy, and absorbed. I would pay a lot more for a gizmo that could do that for a highly active toddler!

My husband’s cousin’s wife is like my mom; she loves to share kitchen innovations that she’s found. She recently sent me a contraption that, had it not been in a box marked with its use, I would have pondered in confusion. It’s like a countertop paper towel stand, except it has a bunch of wooden dowels sticking up from it. I imagine that in years hence, someone will write into the future antique collecting sage with the question: I have this weird contraption that was my grandmother’s. What IS it?

You can stop holding your breath now: It’s a stand for drying plastic vegetable bags. Unnecessary, but it turns out to be really useful. No more bags balanced on top of the dishes on the drying rack.

I have a weakness for cool graters. Oxo makes the coolest, not very durable designs. The one I really like is jointed like a hinge at the top. The design is inherently weak, and the plastic they use is junky, but I keep replacing the thing because I love the ergonomics of it.

Something that has been saving my sanity, and my yogurt, these days is a thermometer I found at Target. It has a metal probe and a long coated cord. Its best feature is the incredibly loud beeper that goes off when the medium it’s immersed in reaches the temperature you set. It’s a common occurrence that I am called back to the kitchen by that beeping when I have forgotten my yogurt and it gets too warm. Just as my bread machine has freed me from the label Killer of Yeast that I used to wear with shame, my thermometer is saving me from the ire of Acidophilus nationwide. They are now left to reproduce in a paradise of milk at their most comfortable temperature, never exceeding 112 degrees Fahrenheit.

The gadget was cheap; the peace of mind is priceless.

Posted in Parenting.

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