I'm not exactly a gourmet cook, but I do enjoy cooking. Unfortunately, with two small children, I don't always have as much time to cook as I'd like. But there are a number of wonderful appliances and gadgets in my kitchen that make my culinary exploits a lot more manageable. Here are a few of my favorite kitchen items.
The most obvious mom timesaver in my kitchen is my pretty red crock pot. It's big enough to make double batches that I can freeze for later, big enough to roast an entire chicken and make stock with the carcass, big enough for those soups and stews that magically come out much more voluminous than I intended. And the best part, of course, is that most recipes consist of dumping everything in around lunch time, then forgetting about it until it's time to eat supper. And did I mention that it's pretty and red, so it makes me happy every time I see it on the counter?
Useful for so much more than just coffee or tea, I use my Keurig all the time to grab a quick shot of hot water - for making the kids a cup of cocoa or a bowl of oatmeal, for mixing up a batch of instant mashed potatoes, for melting the petrified remains of a forgotten lollipop in a car seat cup holder. Or even just to fill a mug with hot water to warm my hands.
I know what you're thinking: "A pizza cutter? Seriously?!? How often do you eat pizza that it's that important to you?" Ah, but a pizza cutter works for so much more than just pizza! You can use it to cut up pancakes and waffles, you can use it to cut off sandwich crusts for picky eaters, you can use it to slice that gooey grilled cheese sandwich into "fingers" suitable for dipping into tomato soup. It's also an excellent Play-Doh toy. The uses are endless, really.
Although certainly not as varied in uses as a pizza cutter, the waffle iron has a useful function in that it makes things fancy. Do not discount the importance of making things look fancy in the eyes of a small child. Pancakes are nice, but when Mom or Dad makes waffles, the kids feel like they must be pretty special. Add some whipped cream and they're the Kings of the World. If you spend a little time on Pinterest, you can come up with a bunch of varied uses, from brownies to tater tots to cinnamon rolls, but even if you never make anything with your waffle maker except for waffles, it's still worth having.
Big Silicone Measuring Cup
I married into this baby, and now I don't know how I ever lived without it! First of all, it holds a full 4 cups, so I don't have to bother with filling my 2-cup glass measuring cup multiple times. Second, it's lightweight, so even when it's filled with 4 cups of water, it's not too heavy to lift with one hand. Third, it's flexible so you can grab it easily and squeeze the top to make whatever size pouring spout you need (ideal for making pancakes!). But as if that weren't enough, it's also deep enough to double as a mixing bowl that kids can stir in without splashing (also ideal for making pancakes), and it squeezes so little hands can hold it steady. The markings are dark and easy to read and don't come off in the dishwasher. Oh, and speaking of the dishwasher, since it's so flexible, you can wedge it into whatever space is left once you've filled the washer with all your other cooking tools. And, if your cabinets look like mine, you'll also find it handy that you can squash it into whatever space you have in the cabinet for storage.
Pie Slice Lifter
You probably don't think you need this sucker, but if you have EVER made a pie for company and been embarrassed by the disaster of serving that first slice, you need this. Tuck it in the pie plate before you put the crust down, and when you're ready to serve the pie, cut the first slice on either side of the visible edge. Then simply lift out that perfect slice - and it will be perfect! Even a slightly unset lemon meringue or pecan pie will come out neatly and cleanly. It doesn't even take up any room in your cabinets, because you can just leave it tucked inside the pie plate.
It's not glamorous, but an automatic dishwasher is an even bigger timesaver than a crock pot. My beautiful LG washer barely requires rinsing of dishes, and holds an entire day's worth of dishes and silverware (and with my kids, drink cups alone can fill the top rack in less than a day)! I even put pots and pans, sharp knives, and the occasional wine glass in my washer, and they all come out perfectly. Much like the crock pot, I dump everything in, push a button, and come back hours later to find everything finished and ready to go.
Acrylic Wine Glasses
One of these wineglasses is crystal; one is acrylic. Can you tell the difference? I doubt it. But one of them can be dropped on the pool deck without fear of shards of glass meeting up with small feet. One of them can be used without fear to let a small person join a celebration and feel like a grown up. One of them costs 6 bucks a pop at Crate and Barrel (the other is 2 for $55 at Macys). Granted, one of them results in a disappointing "clunk" rather than a satisfying "clink" when toasting, but otherwise, acrylic glasses are convenient, inexpensive, and safe. (And in case you were wondering, the acrylic glass is the one on top.)
A Really Good Sharp Knife
About ten years ago, I hosted a Pampered Chef party, and splurged on a really good kitchen knife. This particular knife is a 10-inch Santoku that I use for EVERYTHING. It has a very keen edge (and is still plenty sharp after ten years of liberal use and many trips through the dishwasher), has just enough weight to it that it's easy to use, and the handle is perfectly balanced. It also came with a heavy plastic sheath so I can safely keep it in a drawer instead of trying to find a knife block with a large enough space for the wide blade. It makes slicing veggies a pleasure instead of a chore.
So what's in YOUR kitchen that makes your culinary life easier and more fun?!??