I’ve never had a steady relationship with cooking. In my twenties, I had about three recipes I could make: lemon rosemary chicken, spaghetti, and tacos. In my thirties, I got more adventurous until I got a job where I wasn’t home at dinner time, and my husband and I began cooking for ourselves.
But when I decided to work on my health while also saving money last year, I finally got into better cooking habits. Yes, in my 40s, I finally got cooking together. Feel free to judge; obviously, I’m a bit slow on the uptake.
Since then, I have finally begun to understand things like meal planning (oh, you mean you PLAN your meals, then determine what ingredients you need, then buy them, and then cook the meals? GOT IT). I’m a smart person, so I can’t really explain why I didn’t get that — particularly after YEARS of dieting and planning my own meals meticulously. It is far more challenging to meal plan for a family, but I’m finally good at it (my husband doesn’t like to cook, alas, but fortunately he’s good at laundry).
I also invested in a crock pot (yes, again, for the first time in my 40s — I KNOW), and I love that thing beyond all reason. My husband is thrilled because I’ve mastered his beloved Carolina pulled pork (you know, the vinegar-based one), and I’m happy because I can make big batches of stuff and then freeze it and reheat it later.
But you do need tools to be successful at cooking, and I’ve got far too few basics. I’ve got some broken down measuring spoons (and I can never find that darn half teaspoon one), one decent measuring cup and a handful of plastic ones that are so warped by the dishwasher that I can’t even begin to tell if they measure accurately or not, and not enough spoons and spatulas.
So I began a quest to find new gadgets for my kitchen, and I’ve found some great ones. Check them out! You’ll crave them too, I’m sure of it.
“Wine Bottle” Stackable Cooking Tools
This is ingenious. My kitchen is on the small side and the places I have for storage of these items — Flower Vase/Funnel, Lemon Squeezer, Spice Grater, Egg Masher, Cheese Grater, Can Opener, Egg Separator , and Measuring Cup — are already quite full. I love the idea of having them all together and stacked like this in a cupboard — particularly a cupboard away from the grasping hands of my 7-year-old. I’m pretty sure my 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon is under her bed somewhere. ($39.99 at Amazon)
Flexible Silicone Measuring Cups
I really love using silicon cooking tools; my silicone muffin pan and spatulas have made cooking infinitely easier for me. That’s why I can’t wait to get my hands on these pinchable and stackable silicone measuring cups — not just because they can take both hot and cold liquids (and can withstand the dishwasher), but because the unique pinchable feature makes them much easier for little hands to accurately pour them. Since my daughter loves to help me in the kitchen, she will love these. Plus, I utterly LOVE the four-cup measuring option. ($36.90 at Amazon)
I have a plenty of colanders. But I hate using them for the small amounts of pasta my daughter requests for dinner quite often, because washing them is a pain by hand and they take up a ton of space in the dishwasher. That’s why I love the idea of this colander spoon — it allows me to scoop out and drain things I’m cooking without dirtying a second item while it also doubles as a spoon. Great idea. ($9 at Amazon)
iPad Kitchen Stand
I’m still new enough to many of the recipes I use that I need to refer to them while I cook. I love pulling up recipes on my iPad mini and using it to guide me, but I don’t have a safe place to set it while I do so — much less something to touch the screen with while my hands are dirty. I’m already half in love with most Belkin products, so it’s not a huge surprise that I want this awesome iPad stand and stylus. It is perfect. ($21.2o at Amazon)
FrozenPeas Round Ice Cube Maker
Okay, this isn’t actually a cooking too, but I adore this soft silicone ice cube maker that makes perfect round ice cubes. I know that the round ice cube craze is primarily directed toward those that consume alcoholic beverages (I do not, being sober), but I love my ice cold water — particularly while working on a hot stove — and these gorgeous cubes really cool down a glass. Plus I can refill the glass several times before it melts away. Pretty awesome. ($15 from the UK)
Cloud Watering Tool
This spring, I’m planning to add a simple herb garden to my kitchen window (it’s been far too cold here for plants to survive in a windowsill this winter), and this adorable little cloud screw top that attaches to any bottle of water caught my eye. It’s just really adorable and will make it easier to water the herbs without overdoing it. ($12.90 at Amazon)
Sowden Softbrew Coffee Pot
I’m not a coffee drinker (well, very rarely), but my husband is. Our old school coffee pot broke a while ago, and while we have one of those single cup brewers it takes up a ton of space in the kitchen and is expensive (and we got a Tassimo instead of a Keurig so we can never find coffee for the damn thing) — not to mention wasteful. So this Softbrew coffee pot — which uses some sort of magical filter that allows you to use both fine and coarse ground coffee — is perfect for us. Just add the coffee, pour in boiling water (much like a french press, minus the pressing), and you’ve got coffee. And I’ll let you in on a secret — even though the company sells a separate tea pot, this little guy works just fine with loose tea as well. ($44.95 for the two-cup pot at Amazon, but an 8-cup pot is available for $59.95)