Fall is in the air and California has finally gotten the memo to slow down and let the leaves litter the parks and sidewalks while foodie types like myself start sharing pics of pumpkin-flavored everything on social media.
With the cool weather starting to set in, there’s nothing like firing up your stove or oven and turning your house into a comforting, heavenly home. To get you started, here are some great labor-saving kitchen items that will get you into the cooking mood
1. Cuisinart Smart Stick
The Cuisinart Smart Stick is the answer for those of who are put off by huge food processors that take up precious real estate on the counter or in the cupboard. It’s also great for those of us who have a tendency to lose the bits and bobs that go with such monstrous kitchen appliances. Small and compact, the Cuisinart Smart Stick does what a basic food processor does, albeit in smaller batches, making it the perfect mini multi-tasker for those of us who live in tiny abodes.
The detachable stick motor has two speeds and connects to an immersion blender, a whisk attachment, and a food chopper so making soups is a cinch and meringues happen in minutes. But it is the chopper that is the real star – from hummus to pie crust to chopped nuts, this will be an instant go-to labor saver.
Pros: The mini chopper is perfect for apartment living – it’s small and compact but its 200 watt motor has enough power to blend liquids or chop in no time.
Cons: If you’re looking for something that can chop, puree or slice things up in big batches, or something with a feeder hole to stream in liquids, consider getting its cousin the Cuisinart Classic 7-Cup Food Processor
2. Demarle Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat
If there was ever a product in my mind that deserved the Simple Genius Award it would be the silpat. In its simplest use it replaces parchment paper or greasing your baking tray to ensure your cookies don’t stick. But it does more than that – use it as a nonstick surface for making pie crusts, bread dough or as a resting surface for sticky sugar work like like caramel and toffee.
Made of woven glass fibers that have been impregnated with silicone, this little baking mat can withstand temperatures of up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit. Washable and re-useable, it’s perfect for sweet and savory applications, and it sure beats buying parchment paper every few weeks!
Pros: It’s a durable money saver that’s easy to clean and store – just roll it up and wrap a rubber band around it to save space.
Cons: Discoloration occurs after a while. Do not fear though – it does not affect the taste of your food.
3. Escali Primo Digital Multifunctional Scale
To many cooking it is all about instinct and feel; a pinch of this, a dash of that and a few other things thrown into the mix. This is why many chefs hate making dessert – it’s a whole other animal; and while scooping and leveling ingredients may suffice, exact measurements can be what makes the difference between a deliciously dense brownie and a dry and crumbly one.
The Escali Primo digital scale has been with me for years. Requiring only 2 AA batteries, it measures in ounces and pounds but can be switched over to grams and kilos with the touch of a button. Another helpful feature is its ‘zero’ function, that allows you to cancel out the last thing you weighed and add more ingredients, making it a great time saver. Oh yes, this is also great for portion control, if you’re anything like me and never hit the gym.
Pros: It has a lifetime warranty and comes in twelve different colors to match your decor.
Cons: This is a small scale, so don’t expect to be able to weigh the meat that you got from the butcher to make sure you didn’t get duped.
4. Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven
The saying ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ does not apply to cast iron cookware. Cast iron is so durable that George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington specified in her will that her ‘cast iron kitchen furniture’ be left to her grandson and granddaughter, and I foresee me passing my skillets and Dutch ovens to my daughters. It fills me with so much joy to think of all the meals that have been and will be cooked in these heavy little vessels.
And what’s better than cast iron cookware? Le Creuset cast iron cookware, specifically their French oven. Hand crafted in its foundry in France, this Dutch (OK, French oven) oven is the cream of the crop, made with a 12 step process in which 15 different sets of hands are involved in production. The double coat of enamel on the inside means that you don’t ever have to season it like regular cast iron, and the extra large looped handles makes it easier to grasp, even with oven mitts on. With the same thickness all around it traps and circulates heat evenly, keeping your soups and stews warm for hours after its cooked and it’s perfect for making no knead bread. The bright cheerful colors are a good selling point too.
If the Le Creuset French Oven is a little out of your price range, an affordable option is the Lodge 6 Quart Dutch Oven, Although it is not as light as the Le Creuset and can’t withstand temperatures as high, it’s a worthy runner-up nonetheless.
Pros: The bright colors and enamel coating on the inside will ensure that you will never need to season this pretty little pot.
Cons: Cast iron holds heat exceptionally well, so it is not ideal for cooking something where you need to lower temperature fast, like caramelizing onions or sauteing garlic
What’s your favorite kitchen item? Sound off in the comments!