My Favorite Kitchen Toys, Part 2

It has been so long since I last posted. I’m at my family’s home in Massachusetts prepping for my wedding (under 2 weeks away, yikes!) and time is just flying. I’ve been so busy it’s been hard to keep up, but I decided I needed to take a break, relax and write a little. So it’s time for the second installment of my favorite kitchen toys

Today it’s two totally different gadgets. One is big, messy and only for special occasions and the other is small, simple and used often in my house. It’s the deep fryer and the spiralizer!

Let’s start small with the spiralizer. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about healthy pasta alternatives and also posted a recipe, both featuring zucchini noodles. That’s definitely what I use this tool for the most. I also love it for making fresh slaw, cutting veggies uniformly for salads and stir frys, and for potatoes… I’ll get back to the potatoes.

The spiralizer I have is plastic and retails for about $25. It’s kind of a pain in the butt to clean because it has to be done by hand, but it does come with three blade options, and so far, it’s done its job well.

Someday I’d like to invest in the Kitchenaid attachment for my mixer, but that retails for around $100. The advantage would be it having more blade options, it would take up less cabinet space and it’s metal, so dishwasher safe. Not to hate on the one I bought. It’s still fun to use and I pull it out about once a week for one thing or another.

Next is the deep fryer. I got this for Christmas a few years ago, and have to say, it’s a lot of fun. We pull this out only a few times a year, because it can be kind of a mess and a hassle to clean up. Mine retails for around $60, which isn’t too bad considering this is not an every day tool.

Usually this gadget comes out because I love to make fried chicken. You can always pan fry on the stove top, but with a fryer like this you can actually cook a whole chicken (broken down) at one time. Here’s some legs and wings from last time:

Oil tempature is a key factor and it’s a lot easier to monitor on a digital fryer than using a thermometer in a pan. Remember to always use canola, vegetable or peanut oil because of the high smoking point. Don’t waste your olive oil on this.

Speaking of oil, you can always reuse. It takes a lot to fill up the fryer, so you don’t want to just dump it right away. My fryer has an airtight cover, so sometimes I just leave it for a few days and have some more fun with it. It’s important to strain in after each use though, you don’t want food particles left behind to burn. You can also store used, strained oil in the fridge to use later.

After fried chicken night, I plan for a couple more ways to use my fryer over the next week or so. Usually I go for snacks or sides, because unfortunately eating fried chicken three times a week isn’t the best meal plan. Since it has a generous basket, I love making things like onion rings or fries that would be harder to do in a pan. Which leads me to my last couple deep frying experiments…

I’m sitting around one day and I have oil, and I have potatoes, and then I see my spiralizer. The wheels start turning. Normally for fries, I just hand cut them into large wedges. But I decided to try making curly fries. It didn’t exactly work.

I used the thick spiral, the green one in the middle, but they still came out very thin a delicate. But I soaked them (always soak cut potatoes in water for at least 30 minutes before frying), let them dry thoroughly, and fried them anyway. I tossed them in some Cajun seasoning right after they came out and what I got was really more of a topping than a side dish. They were these crispy little potato straws what would be amazing on a burger, a piece of chicken or even on a salad for some crunch. Not what I intended, but definitely something to keep in mind for a dish down the road.

So then I tried putting another potato through the spiralizer, this time using the orange piece, the straight blade. I got this long, wide, thin ribbon and I realized this would be great as a potato chip.

I ripped it into (for lack of a better measurement) chip sized pieces. Soaked, dried, fried. Then I drizzled them with some truffle oil, garlic and Parmesan. WOW. Here’s a shot of the finished chips and the potato strings.

Not a bad little afternoon snack, huh? I love playing around in the kitchen and ending up with something delicious. I just wish my deep fryer was ready to go all the time. I do plan on trying the chip recipe baked in the oven to see how it goes for a more weeknight friendly side. I’ll let you know how that goes when I get back to California and my toys.

I’ll try to get back to a weekly schedule of blog posts again. I knew getting ready for a wedding was going to be a busy time, but I really underestimated the amount of downtime I would get. Between planning and catching up with old friends (and hitting up my favorite restaurants from my old stomping grounds), it’s a miracle I got this done!

Do any of you use these tools? What can you not live without in the kitchen? I’d love to hear. Until next time, happy cooking!

My Favorite Kitchen Toys, Part 1

I’m going to start off with my most prized kitchen possession, my Kitchenaid mixer. Every homecook and baker I talk to has this or wants this. My family gave me one for Christmas this year and I honestly don’t think a gift has been more exciting since my mom got me a Furby and a Tamagotchi in the late nineties. There’s something magical about them.

Just like my approach to cars, color is most important. I went with aqua sky (yes that’s the real color name). I wanted something that was classic, but not the obvious red, white or black. I try and hide most of my toys away when I am not using them, but my mixer is always displayed where everyone can see it. It’s the kitchen equivalent to an Andy Warhol screen print. Bold, modern but classicly designed and a piece of pop culture.

Beyond the beauty, it’s changed my baking life. I’ve made bread, bagels, pizza dough, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, all these things that were so scary to me, all from scratch. I need to start investing in some fun attachments. Or if anyone from Kitchenaid happens to see this, send some my way, I’d love to review them! (Wink wink)

They can be pricey, but they are worth every penny. I have the 5 quart artisan mixer and it generally retails for around $279. The accessories aren’t cheap either, hence me not having any yet. There’s meat grinders, an ice cream maker, a spiralizer and more. I have my eye on one of the pasta attachments. I would love to make all my own pasta from scratch some day.

My mixer is my current favorite, but a close second is the first big kitchen toy I ever got: my slow cooker. I got my first one five or six years ago, but now I have two. Such a lifesaver at thanksgiving to have mashed potatoes in one and mulled cider in the other. I actually might do a whole post in the future on slow cooker cocktails, they are so great for parties, particularly at the holidays.

When I was living in Massachusetts, it was my tradition every year on the first really chilly weekend of the fall to get my slow cooker out and make chicken cacciatore. From that day until spring I would use it pretty much bi-weekly. I would love getting snowed in during the winter so I could watch movies and use my slow cooker.

A few recipes I’ve shared so far on my blog have utilized it. I make pulled buffalo chicken for a number of different dishes often and my very first post, coconut curry chicken, is also done in the slow cooker. I love making big batches of pasta sauce that I can jar, soups and stews, mashed potatoes, chili, you can do so much. Of course the red meat eaters out there use it for pot roasts and beef stews. Honestly the possibilities are endless.

I moved to California last Septemeber and have had to adjust to autumn and winter tempatures being in the 70s. Not complaining, but it was weird to not see leaves changing and walking past houses with Christmas lights when I was wearing shorts. But I still got my slow cooker out and made my chicken cacciatore to force the feeling of the seasons into my home.

I like to slow cook on lazy weekends, but it can also be a real time saver for a busy family. Throw everything in, set it on low and forget about for a few hours. The only hard part is resisting the urge to open the lid to smell and taste along the way. There’s also one for every budget. They can range from $20 to hundreds of dollars. I think I remember my first one being around $100, for a large 6.5 quart Cuisinart, which has held up beautifully over a number of years and a lot use. I lucked out and inherited my second, smaller cooker for free from my sister when she was cleaning out her kitchen. Score!

Of course fancy gadgets aren’t going to make you a good cook, it’s about what you do with them. But it certainly helps out the execution of meals when you have quality equipment. It’s fun too. I get so pumped whenever I get a new kitchen toy to play with. Unfortunately (but fortunately for my wallet) I only have so much space left in my kitchen, but look out for a couple more posts featuring my other cooking essentials in the future!

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