Recently I got rid of my toaster oven in favor of a small toaster. I have been working on a lot of recipe development, food styling, and photography, so counter space is at a minimum while productivity is at a maximum.
I found that I was not using the toaster oven all that much anymore and it was hard to keep it clean. Now I have a small toaster that is very accurate for toast and veggie burger buns. It's super easy to clean and it takes up little room on the counter... plus it can be easily stored away.
Another new addition was a smaller rice cooker. When it comes to making rice, I have run the gamut of pressure cooker to instant pot to big rice cooker and now I have happily settled down with a small rice cooker. It has so many advantages!
First of all, it is much more than a rice cooker. It can cook oatmeal, quinoa, lentils, and just about anything you put in it as long as you get the ratio of water to grains correct. Second, it cooks everything unattended without boiling over or burning and as long as you measured the water correctly, the items comes out perfect. We have been eating quinoa, white rice, brown rice, many colors of lentils, wild rice, and quinoa... just to name a few. Third, since my new rice cooker is small and has a nonstick pot it is very fast and easy to use. And finally, it takes up very little space and I am using it so much that I am keeping it on the counter.
A temperature probe is very handy to have in order to cook leaner proteins perfectly. There is nothing worse than overcooked fish or chicken. By using this temperature probe, you can be alerted to when your item is cooked perfectly to 145F for meat and fish and 165F for poultry. (To view all cooking times, visit the USDA website).
Another item that adds a lot of pizzazz to your cooking is a cast iron skillet. I have made a lot of one-pan meals using my skillet. A recent invention was fish, peach halves, asparagus, and corn on the cob. They all went into the same skillet together. First I seared them on the stovetop to get a nice color on everything, then I put the whole skillet in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. (My skillet teamed up with the temperature probe to ensure that the fish was cooked perfectly). The fish was a little frozen when I started, which helped it to have beautiful marks without falling apart.
Do you want better serving bowls along with some neat tools? Visit your local antique store! They have an amazing array of beautiful dishes, serving bowls, and old utensils, that make for great fun with all kinds of photography projects! All of these little bowls below came from an antique store for $1.
Finally, when it comes to great kitchen gadgets, I really love this vertical blender. It is much better than a blender or food processor, because don’t have to dump multiple batches of hot liquids into a blender with a huge mess and risk of a burn. Instead I can use this vertical blender to blend a whole pot of cream of broccoli soup or to make a strawberry sauce right in the pot. And there is no huge glass blender or dirty base to clean. This one is great -- it cleans and stores so well.
By Judy Doherty, BS, PC II
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.