Tag Archives: Kitchen Gadgets

The Best Reason to Be out of Plates

We’ve done a very good job of reducing our kitchen–well, the whole house–to its essentials.

It might, of course, be argued that an ice cream maker is not “essential,” but it would only be so argued by someone who didn’t taste the incredibly intense vanilla goodness that came out of that churn on Friday night.

And for the two of us, or even the occasional dinner guest, our essentials are perfectly adequate. But good heavens, a long weekend with company means the dishwashing turnaround is something ferocious. Dinnerware for 6 when you’ve got 5 adults in the house means we’re washing all the dishes a couple of times a day, and we’ve run out of kitchen towels more than a time or two.

I’m not complaining. Her parents and beloved Nana are welcome any time. We have a loud, loving houseful, and I look forward to their next visit with great eagerness. (Especially since the next visit is likely to be the one for the wedding.)

But I am considering that maybe another couple of place settings would not be an imprudent investment–maybe a set we keep in on the small-appliance shelves and bring out when we need extras. We’d put them behind the ice cream maker; even as summer winds down, I think it’s going to be in heavy rotation.

The Easiest Ice Cream I’ve Ever Made
adapted from The New York Times

2 cups half-and-half
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape the seeds from the pod with the blade of a knife. Add the vanilla to the half-and-half and cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Remove from the heat; add the sugar and salt; stir until dissolved. Strain and refrigerate until very cold (at least four hours; overnight, if you are prepared enough to have done this the day before you want to serve it).

Churn in the ice cream maker according to its directions. (Mine takes about 20 minutes.) Serve immediately as soft ice cream or freeze in an airtight container until hard.

Shelving It

The First Great Sorting happened in August, when our kitchens merged.  Some parts were easy: it was clear which mugs we wanted to keep, which cutlery to use, which plates and bowls. Our pots and pans were not too numerous; her small appliances and mine didn’t overlap much; our serving pieces complimented each other’s; nearly all of the bakeware had logical uses.  Still, we ended up with a too-well-stocked kitchen.  The cabinets under the counter were full-to-bursting, and the ones above were just as bad. Nearly every time we cooked, we found ourselves taking some items out in order to get to the needed one behind or underneath–like one of those shift-the-tile puzzles I was never good at.

And thus began the second Sorting. Anything that wasn’t in daily use came out of the cabinets and took up residence on the dining table–a strategy designed to make sure we wouldn’t dawdle over deciding what to do with them.  She proposed assembling a set of shelves in a closet under the stairs. They’d be out of the way but still accessible, and less apt to get dusty than they would if we built the shelves in the garage.

If we were going to put more things in that closet, though, we needed to organize the things that were currently in it.  All the Christmas decorations–most of them unused this year–came out for examination.  Keep it, probably keep it, definitely not keep it: these were our categories. Plenty went into the latter: even allowing for thrifty repurposing, how many partial rolls of ribbon and slightly-used bows can one house hold?  Kitchy decor items that were gifts from students I don’t even remember?  No, thank you. It was freeing to know that we were keeping things that are actually beautiful, actually useful, or happily memorable, and saying fond farewell to items that weren’t.

By early January, I am ready to think no more of holidays. I’m not really all that fond of the Nativity set I grew up with, but it is the one I grew up with! When there aren’t any parents left to visit, it might not be the worst thing to hold onto items that remind us of them. Hers is beautiful, and much smaller. Maybe we’ll alternate: her set in odd years, mine in even?  We can decide later, over a cup of cider. Both sets are securely packed–along with tree ornaments we love, handsome stuffed bears who carry good memories, and a modest assortment of gift-wrapping supplies. What we need, what we want, and what we love.

Also in that closet now reside a well organized set of kitchen implements.  Yes, for a while we will have to go downstairs to fetch the waffle iron when we want waffles.  The same when we want the food processor for making hummus, the 12-cup coffee maker for company, and the muffin tins. Maybe we’ll realize we want the box grater closer than a flight of stairs away; if so, something else will take its downstairs place. Perhaps one of my mom’s mixing bowls or a piece of Corningware she rescued from her mom’s kitchen. It’s a work in progress.

One thing that will definitely be absent from the kitchen at the Country House: the cursing that comes when I can’t reach the measuring cup!

3 slow cookers might seem excessive, but they're really useful when you don't want to heat up the whole kitchen in summertime. If, on the other hand, I haven't made ice cream in six months, it will not make the next cut.

3 slow cookers might seem excessive, but they’re really useful when you don’t want to heat up the whole kitchen in summertime.
If, on the other hand, I haven’t made ice cream in six months, it will not make the next cut.

Breakfast Bolognese

“Could I have a donut and a hard-boiled egg for breakfast?” she asked.

The CSA share included a dozen eggs every week, and with only two of us in the house, we always had eggs around; we kept a half-dozen hard boiled for easy breakfasts. But friends have taken over the CSA share, and our egg supply gradually diminished.  I picked up a dozen after rehearsal.

I knew I forgot to do something when I got home: there were no hard-boiled eggs. There was, however, just about enough time. I put four eggs in a pan of water along with her magical egg timer, and set it to boil.  The eggs were cooked, but, at her departure time, too hot to carry.  I offered a pig-in-a-blanket left over from race-morning brunch, some grapes, and the requested donut. From her reaction, that was an even better choice.

Having scooped out the eggs and timer, I had a pot of just-off-the-boil water. I was just about to pour it down the drain when I remembered the last of a container of bolognese sauce in the fridge.  I liked the idea of conserving resources by re-using the hot water. I put the pot back on the still-warm-but-turned-off stove, salted the water, and poured in some dry pasta. I lidded the  pot, grabbed my keys, and the took the commuter to meet her train. Upon returning from the station, I found a pot of perfectly al dente pasta.

A friend of ours posted to Facebook recently that her son was sulking because he couldn’t have macaroni and cheese for breakfast.  I presume the issue was that there was no macaroni and cheese in the house, rather than some sort of parental concern that it would be an inappropriate breakfast food. I resisted the temptation to heat the sauce and have penne bolognese for breakfast, but only because I would have felt the need to tease our friend about her son’s breakfast request.

Of course, maybe I just did.