It plays out the same way every year. You eat a ton of turkey towards the end of November, and then get back to work, only to find piles of stuff to do before the holidays. The next thing you know it's December 20th and you still haven't gotten gifts for all your loved ones!
Well, if one of those loved ones happens to love cooking, here are a few ideas to save your hide. These are some of my absolute favorite kitchen gadgets to fit within any holiday budget.
Magnetic Measuring Spoons
The problem with measuring spoons is that if you leave them on the ring, you end up needing to wash all the spoons even if you only use one. If you separate them, it's only a matter of time before your utensil drawer starts swallowing your spoons.
This brilliant set of measuring spoons solves the problem by magnetizing the handles, allowing them to stick together in a stack, while easily coming apart when you need to use one. But that's not all. They're double sided, so you won't need to wash the spoons to measure both dry ingredients and liquids, and one side is tapered to make it easy to squeeze into a spice jar. Lastly, each spoon is clearly labeled so you'll never accidentally add a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon.
The Good: Never lose a measuring spoon again.
The Bad: I honestly can't think of a single thing wrong with these.
The Price: $10.54.
Perfect For: Anyone who cooks and doesn't already have a set of these.
OXO Egg Beater
Leave it to OXO to completely reinvent a useless gadget and make it incredibly useful. Growing up we had an old school egg beater, that jammed constantly, took forever to beat anything, and was impossible to clean. It didn't take me long to figure out that using a whisk was just plain better.
OXO's remake of the classic kitchen gadget updates it with gearing that makes turning the handle smooth and effortless while making the beaters spin incredibly fast. It will whip cream or egg whites in under a minute, and the best part is that the blades come off to make it super easy to clean. It's not going to replace the dough hook on your KitchenAid, but for quick mixing and whipping it's unbeatable.
The Good: Easy to use, easy to clean, compact alternative to a mixer for light duty mixing and whipping.
The Bad: Won't mix doughs.
The Price: $19.99.
Perfect For: Someone who doesn't have a mixer.
GIR or Get It Right, is a new company that just launched this spatula as its first product through a Kickstarter campaign. Given that I travel with a set of spatulas (along with some knives), I was intrigued when I heard they'd designed "the perfect spatula". With a sleek one-piece silicone design that's easy to clean and fits nicely in your hand, this spatula mostly lives up to its maker's claims. It's heat resistant up to 464 degrees F, so it's great for sautéing, and the different contours on each side make it fit right up against the bottom and sides of most pots and pans. It's also compact, which makes it easy to store, and fits nicely into jars to easily remove the last bits of peanut butter left behind by more crude utensils.
The Good: One utensil for all your hot and cool stirring needs. Couldn't be simpler to clean. Easy on your hands and your eyes.
The Bad:The blade is on the firm side, which is great for stirring, but leaves a little behind when used for scraping.
The Price: $22.50.
Perfect For: Small apartment dwellers with limited space, someone who's just moving out on their own, a color coordination freak.
Ninja Master Prep
Last year I moved out of my long-time New York apartment rather abruptly, which meant leaving all my beloved kitchen gadgets behind. For nearly a year I drifted from place to place, making it impossible to move my stuff and impractical to buy anything new. But since recipe development is my work, I absolutely needed a skeleton kitchen that I could work in. The Ninja was one of the few gadgets that wouldn't fit in my knife roll that I bought. It's a cheaply constructed made-for-TV type appliance, and yet it's an indispensable multi-purpose tool in my kitchen. Steve Jobs had one, and the idiot that robbed his house earlier this year had the sense to take it as part of his haul. Part blender, part food processor, it functions better than either one. It's secret is in a double blade system and a high speed top mounted motor. For under $45 it will puree solids better than a Cuisinart, and make smoother smoothies than most consumer grade blenders. Best of all, because the motor mounts on top, the bottom is almost completely flat (aside from a little nub in the center). This makes it really easy to scrape out every last bit of food and clean it.
The Good: Works better and is easier to clean than a Cuisinart for a quarter of the price.
The Bad: Cheap construction that won't last forever, but for under $45, who cares?
The Price: $43.99.
Perfect For: Because it serves double duty as a food processor and blender, it's good for people living in a small space. That said, I'd rather have this over Cuisinart any day.
Cooking rice perfectly on the stove is tough. Too much heat and your rice will burn, too little and it will be crunchy in the center. Other factors like the size of the pot and even the age of the rice you use will also effect cooking times and temperatures. Thankfully today's modern rice cookers have sensors and micro controllers that adjust the temperature and cooking time for you automatically. The pressure cooker models are great for those of you that like brown rice, but don't want to wait all day for your rice to soak and cook. Along with the Ninja, it's one of the few electric appliances in my kitchen that I absolutely could not live without.
The Good: Makes perfect rice every time.
The Bad: It takes up some counter space, but if you're making rice on a regular basis, it should be worth it.
The Price: $107.22-$699.99.
Perfect For:Someone who eats rice regularly.