It's my experience that no matter how big I make my space, I'll fill it up. In this case, I'm talking about the kitchen. "What in the world am I going to put in all these cabinets?" has very quickly become "Keith, I don't know where to put this. We need a bigger kitchen." I think I may need therapy.
Not everyone enjoys spending all of their time in the kitchen -- not even me! As I worked to complete my cookbook, however, I ended up cooking 12 hours a day for 4 days straight. I'm REALLY tired. During this time, however, I discovered even more kitchen tools that I find invaluable for a convenient, svelte lifestyle and I wanted to share them with you.
Every night, I serve dinner with The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad and a steamed vegetable of some sort. Sure, I have recipes and variations to keep my side dishes interesting, but one thing is constant -- the vegetable steamer. These come in many varieties from fancy to simple, but my go-to is the inexpensive, collapsible steamer (the one on the right). It fits in almost any pot and can accommodate A LOT of veggies. Just put an inch or so of water in the bottom of the pan, place this on top (it has little legs that allow it to stand up off the bottom) and add the veggies. Put the lid on the pan and steam away. Crisp tender or cooked to death, veggies have never been so easy! Here in the Low Country, I'm hard-pressed to find vegetables on a menu that don't have some sort of pork product added to them to give them "flavor." Trust me, though, that isn't necessary. A light misting of olive oil, some garlic, a squirt of lemon -- fantastic and light!
I rely on my food thermometer so often that I bought an oven with a built in food probe. I know I'll get a lot of arguments about poking holes in my food ("It lets out all the juice!"), but I've found that none of that goodness escapes if you put the thermometer in raw or browned meat and leave it alone for the duration of the cooking process (including resting time). For this reason, I do not recommend the "fork" varieties that come with some grilling kits. These three, though, are great. On the right is the remote, talking variety -- perfect for my techie husband! But I'm just as happy with the $5 one on the left. Now don't tell him I said that or he'll question why I "needed" to have the fancy oven with the probe! That's the one in front. Anyway, a chicken breast cooked to 165 degrees (USDA's minimum safe cooking temp for poultry) is REALLY juicy. My father-in-law will still miss the dark meat, but you won't!
To say I love my Roomba is an understatement. This thing has saved my sanity more often than I can count. Hardwood floors that show everything plus a messy cook could equal nervous breakdown. Am I embarrassed because I rely on a robotic vacuum cleaner? Nope. It cleans up crumbs the minute they fall and keeps my kitchen floor manageable (looking good and not at all crunchy!). Before Roomba came into my life, I kept a Dustbuster in the pantry. This works just fine in a pinch, too! A quick run-around after cooking and you're good to go.
OK, maybe this is a bit of a stretch as a "kitchen gadget." However, if you want your kids to help cook, eat their dinner and learn some healthy habits, dress them up! We had the pleasure of hosting Courtney's 10th birthday party (a sleep-over!) this past weekend, and she whipped out the hat and showed her friends how to make pizza sauce right from my cookbook proof. They even ate the whole wheat crust without one complaint. Success!
The Svelte Gourmet Cookbook:
A Month of Main Courses
Perhaps my favorite kitchen gadget of all! An entire month of healthy, tasty main courses. The book will officially launch in early January, but a limited first run will be available December 21. Pre-order now at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html!
Stay tuned for more of my favorite gadgets in some upcoming posts. Trust me, I'm only getting started. If you have any you'd like to share, feel free to comment -- even though my cabinets are about to explode, I'm always looking for handy new toys! Happy cooking!