I am not a fan of unnecessary gadgets and appliances, but if you invest in kitchen products for yourself or a friend I think they should be frequently used quality wares that will last you a really, really long time. Even if quality is a little more expensive, it is less wasteful (of your money and of our natural resources) to own products that do not need to be thrown away and replaced every couple of years. We received most of our versions of these items as gifts or found them on ebay, but here they are listed by increasing retail cost and linked to Amazon or another distributor. Your kitchen dwelling friends may also enjoy a few handwritten recipes as an accompanying gift to any of these.
Oxo Silicone Sink Strainer
Ours was: from Amazon.com
Why I like it...
- As with most apartment dwellers, we handwash all of our dishes and have no garbage disposal. I don't know what is the great difference between the mouth watering food on the table that you can't wait to get your hands on and the little bits of the same food that you don't want to touch your hand, but even as a biologist, emptying the sink strainer was not on my favorite activities list. This strainer is silicone and allows you to push the food into the garbage can from the bottom, which usually flicks out most pieces without scraping.
- The holes on the strainer are large and plentiful enough to let water through even if there is a lot of debri, but small enough to catch a water soaked grain of rice. (We aren't fill-the-sink-with-water type dish washers here, we just use a sudsy rag and then rinse.)
- Lastly, the bowl of the strainer is deep, this combined with the plentiful holes greatly reduces the collected food from splashing back out of the strainer once it has rested there.
Chef'n Switchit All-Purpose Silicone Spatula
Ours was: a gift (from a kitchen store sale)
Why I like it...
- Since most of the other cooking utensils in our kitchen are wood or bamboo, our Chef'n switchit (an earlier and slightly differently shaped model) is in constant use as our only spatula. Since it is made of food grade silicon it is heat safe up to 650 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it useful for frying eggs, stirring fudge, and just about anything else you do in an average kitchen. I have had mine for 6 years and it looks the same other than some turmeric stains.
- The switchit is available in seven colors, and has a hardened steel core, which gives it a nice weight.
- Since the entire spatula is coated in silicon it is very easy to clean. In contrast to many other spatulas, you don't have to worry about scorching a wooden handle, melting a plastic one, or being burned by a metal one.
Large Stone Mortar and Pestle
Ours was: a gift, and we have also purchased many to give as gifts. We have frequently seen them for the best price ($9.99-$12.99) at Marshalls, T.J.Maxx and Ross.
Why I like it...
- Being able to crush your own spices and herbs makes you feel powerful.
- Stone is easy to clean (unlike wood), you don't need to worry about cracking it while you pound (unlike some sad personal experience with a porcelain m and p), and the natural weight of the pestle does some of the work for you (unlike both wood and porcelain).
- I use my mortar and pestle daily, and you may have noticed it make some appearances here on the blog crushing fresh ginger, cloves, and fennel seeds. A selection of whole spices would make a good accompanying gift (the aforementioned or cumin, coriander, black pepper, cardamom or anise).
Zevro Spice Mill
Ours was: a wedding gift (from Zevro website)
Why I like it...
- I enjoy having fresh ground pepper available right at the table, and salt over which you have excellent quality control. If I were a food snob I might say fresh ground sea salt is invaluable, but I can't say that I notice a large flavor difference from crystals. While I was growing up my parents had salt and pepper mills, but since then this was the first stylish version I had encountered. They come in five colors and are very simple and space efficient.
- Despite having a plastic exterior, the grinding mechanism is ceramic, which should allow it to last a very long time. The adjustment knob also allows exact specification of how much you want your pepper or salt ground, from powdery to very coarse.
Rösle Garlic Press Ours Was: Nathanael's first Christmas gift to me (he found it on ebay) Why I like it...
Garlic presses should not be something you have to wrangle to the ground in order to get your garlic squished. This garlic press can crush garlic (or peppers or sliced ginger) as though there is nothing there at all.
- The grate does not come out, but swings open, making it easy to clean without losing any pieces.
- The entire press is stainless steel, which not only prevents most appearance of wear, but also removes the smell of garlic from your hands automatically.
Helpful Free Bits
Library card Alright, this one is not linked to Amazon, but this free item is essential for the creative cook, because you just can't buy all of the cookbooks containing fun recipes. You would either run out of money or space.
Measuring Cup is a free database that is like itunes for recipes. This is where I store all of the recipes I collect from library books, friends, and relatives. There are even features which allow you to email all of your typed recipes to other Measuring Cup users, or to print out nicely organized recipes. Measuring Cup only works for Mac OS, but if you are interested and have a PC you may want to explore the many other free options out there such as Living Cookbook, Cook'n Recipe Organizer, Big Oven or Recipe Center (none of which I have tried, but I have been thinking about it). Why would this free software be a gift? Because even though downloading software is easy, typing or finding recipes online is sometimes time consuming. So, with a little time and no money, you could give a friend a customized cookbook of your favorite recipes, or recipes from their favorite ethnic cuisine. ...And just so you know my favorites are Indian, Thai and Mexican.
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