Thoughts & Tips

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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