the tools that make you happy (a confession and a giveaway)

 

There are less than two weeks to Thanksgiving here in the US. Again, LESS THAN TWO WEEKS TO THANKSGIVING!

Right around this time every year, I develop what I can only describe as an infatuation with the Crate and Barrel Catalog. They keep arriving, there in my mail pile, snuggled in with all the other paper of my adulthood. In other seasons, I flip through–once, tops, and then it goes into the recycling. All those outdoor furniture sets or Spring brunch layouts leave my heart slow, steady, and uninspired. But then the holiday starts creeping in, and before I know it, I’m saving that “holiday gift book” for a quiet moment as if it were some forbidden and wonderful indulgence. And when Joey throws it in the recycling, I’m pulling it back out again, claiming that “I wasn’t done with that!” (He continues to say that I still surprise him after 10 years of marriage, and I’m guessing these crushes on the Crate and Barrel catalog are and example of this phenomenon.)

I know that the traditional thing to to do with a Crate and Barrel catalog is to shop from it, but I don’t usually get to that. Take their latest installment. It starts out with a peek  into some sort of American aristocracy, with a wise, academic grandfather and young University-of-Chicago-attending grandson sipping scotch. I roll my eyes! But I’m hooked anyway, and before I know it, I’m thinking it’s definitely time to buy my first decanter. And then I’ve moved on, and there are hip, young, beautiful people all making Thanksgiving together. The light in the room, the light! I swear the pages smell like bacon fried brussels sprouts handpicked from some community garden plot in Brooklyn. I want in! And we haven’t even gotten to the mother and daughter and their cookie-making afternoon, the snowflake cookie pan, the matching mixing bowls and oven mitts (striped red, of course) the red kitchen aid mixer that pulls it all together. (Wait, I have that exact same mixer! If only had the matching dishtowels…) There is sugar everywhere but on their clothes, and in the midst of the rolling and cutting there are interjections of hot chocolate in matching snowman mugs, and this time, the pages seems to smell like cinnamon. Then we’re right there on the holidays themselves, and a trio of women are frying latkes in All-Clad pans while the kids spin wooden dreidels. There are frothy home-brewed lattes on Christmas morning, a guitar perched and ready for the cute uncle to play “Norwegian Wood,” a bedside carafe with matching glass beside every cozy bed in the house. There is a very happy and gigantic family celebrating the holiday together with what looks to be an extravaganza of wine and delicious snacks on wooden cheese boards and small children actively making memories of grandma’s lasagna and one more trip to the snowy train station to pick up another beautiful cousin. This is a world when there are doormats that only appear in these few weeks. They are tasteful, perhaps woven from sisal with the image of a bright, red cardinal pecking at the snow, just to get you in the mood as you kick the snow off your boots. This is a world where Yankee Candles actually smell good, like real pine or eggnog or pumpkin pie.

I’m a sucker for a good stylist. This is just about the moment when I find myself saying to Joey, “Let’s fill vases with winter berry and pine this year. And hot chocolate! I don’t think we’ve been drinking enough hot chocolate!” He laughs, and nods his head, and he knows that it will be a low budget/messy/Dr. Suess tree kind of holiday, not at all like the sleek pages of the catalog, and he knows I’ll love it all the same. Love with a capital L. Because it’s ours, and even our pulled together rag tag holiday season is perfumed with sugar and pie crust and yes, hot chocolate. (Served, of course, in chipped mugs that we use all year round.) But what I love, what I lust for in those pages is the creation of a space, the polishing of surfaces, the pulling out of the good dishes, the rooms filled with happy guests, the thought-out tables and kitchen counters, and the kitchens that seem to live for the making of special meals and big trays of sweets for boxes to be given away. How I love that! But although I might be less styled, less glossy, and less in possession of a decanter that the models in the catalog, I think that the ready, loveable, and holiday-primed kitchen is, in fact, within my reach. At least my version of it. And although in my world, Yankee Candles don’t smell good at all, I can have REAL pine and eggnog and pumpkin pie.

After all the wildness of the last few weeks, I think it’s a perfect moment for the second installment in the “how to give your kitchen a makeover for 15 bucks or less” series: TOOLS. (I know it took me a while to get here, but I’ve been wanting to get this whole Crate and Barrel thing off my chest.) In this week after the stress of the storm (either experiencing it or watching it) and the wildness of the election (whether you’re elated or not about the results- I’m guessing you’re exhausted either way and might have had too much to drink the other night), it’s just the right time to inhabit the kitchen, to enjoy the simple fact of having a roof over your head, and to shift a few things around to make it feel new and ready for the weeks ahead. Clear out the shelves, rearrange, and put your favorite bowls where you can reach them. And if you have a few bucks to spare, give them to the Red Cross. But if you have a few more, I want to talk about the small and wonderful tools that make such a difference in my kitchen–the tools that I must admit I’ll bring with me if I’m staying at your house and I know that you don’t have them. (But then you can expect at least one of these for your birthday.)

The dough scraper. Also known by countless other names. For bread, pizza, and most anything with dough, this is essential. Also, pasta for the messy egg moment. But where it shines? It will scrape any dough or residue of any other project off the counter. Also, it’s stellar for transferring chopped onions from the cutting board to the pan.

The wide-mouth canning funnel. It’s called a canning funnel because it’s great for canning. But if you store ANYTHING in a jar, this is the way to get it in there. Just having this funnel in my hand makes me want to organize the pantry, and to pour any grain/flour/any edible that will fit into a jar into a jar so I can admire it.

This cheap mandoline. Okay, I’ll admit it’s a bit dangerous, and it only comes with one setting: see-through thin. But it is so much better than any mandoline I’ve ever used, and I find myself pulling it out all the time and slicing things thin just for the fun of it. I owe this discovery to my friend India, who keeps a kitchen that often teaches me new tricks.

And then of course, there is the queen of all pleasing and useful tools, the wooden spoon. This moment in your grateful quiet kitchen is just right to oil up your spoons and to make the wood shine. One of my favorites right now was sent to me by my friend, Emily. Her stepfather made it based on the requests of her sister, Anna, who thought the shape and size, as well as the gentle feel of the maple, would be especially useful, and she was right. It’s called the Anna spoon.

Because it’s never to early to start the holiday giving, I asked Emily if she might have another Anna spoon to send to one of you. It turns out that Ray, Emily’s stepfather, makes all sorts of beautiful spoons, and he’s put aside one of these lovelies for you.

So today, will you tell me the tool you love? Or the little ways you get your kitchen ready for the holidays?  Or tell me about your own secret moments with the Crate and Barrel catalog. Really, I’d just love to hear how you are. I’ll choose a winner at random on Monday night, and the lucky one will get their very own Anna spoon. And on on top of it all, a new wooden spoon always brings good luck, so you’ll get that, too.

Before we get to it, I have just a few announcements. I know, I know, you only have a few minutes to read, and here I’ve gone on and on about Scotch decanters! But give me just another minute, and then we can talk tools in the comments.

1. Speaking of lucky, The Homemade Pantry has been nominated for Best Cookbook of the year on Goodreads! The group of nominees over there is so wonderful- several of my favorite books of the year are there. If you’re a Goodreads member and haven’t voted, hop on over there and choose your favorite. (Voting is awesome, after all, and you’re so good at it!)

2. I think I’ve mentioned that this fabulous book club has been cooking through The Homemade Pantry since September? As part of that project, Chris of The From Scratch Club came over a few weeks back and we talked about food and love and books while turning 20 pounds of peaches into peach butter. It’s all packed into the latest episode of their podcast. ALSO, I’ll be in Troy, NY with Chris and The From Scratch Club gang on December 8, first signing books at the Troy Farmers’ Market, then teaching a class on getting started with your own homemade pantry. Registration info is here.

Happy weekend! Sending love out to you all.


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123 Responses to the tools that make you happy (a confession and a giveaway)

  1. Laura says:

    My favorite tool is the mandolin. Now, there was one Thanksgiving a couple years ago when my husband had almost cut his finger off on it the week before while we were making vegetable soup. Then the night before Thanksgiving, I cut myself while cleaning it. And then after my father-in-law took it away from us saying that we’d kill ourselves, HE cut himself on it. That said, although dangerous, it’s a great tool! :)

  2. Jennifer in BC says:

    I’ve never had the nerve to use a mandolin… it scares the heck out of me to be honest! My favourite tool that makes me feel good just to look at it is my wooden spoon. I have several but the one that I love the absolute bestest is an old one that I found at a thrift store made of hardwood with a 14 inch handle. I feel as though I’m one of many women who have held it and made magic things with it. I know my kids are not the first to lick icing from its bowl. It’s ironic because the wooden spoon was my mother’s “weapon of choice” to scare my sister and I if we got out of line. She never ever used it… in fact, she told me later that she never had any INTENTION of using it, but it certainly got us to eat our vegetables!

    Anyway, my wooden spoon mixes cookie dough, porridge, juice. It knocks things from the top shelf when my arms are just not long enough to reach and it sits proudly amongst the other “less perfect” wooden spoons waiting for it’s next chance to make magic!

  3. Laura M. says:

    You’ve inspired me. It’s time for another kitchen revamp!
    We have a microkitchen in the city with only two drawers, so hanging is the name of the game. I have had a cutlery organizer from Ikea forever. I am alergic to sorting silverware so the fact that I can grab the silverware from the dishwasher and plunk it all in a bucket is lovely. Link for this below.

    I also love my pastry cutter, knife magnet, old school 3tier fruit hanging baskets and dish drying mats.

    Ikea cutlery cup: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50221481/
    Pastry cutter/blender: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/stainless-steel-pastry-blender/
    Dish drying mat (I use it without a rack): http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=16675261

  4. Savannagal says:

    My favorite tool is a very sharp knife. There’s nothing worse than trying to cut something with a dull knife. A sharp knife makes everything easier in the kitchen. Even if I’m just mixing cookie dough, knowing that I have sharp knives makes me happy.

  5. Jennifer says:

    In my humble opinion the two best kitchen tools are my large Wustoff chef’s knife that I’ve had over 27 years (and haven’t sharpened nearly often enough) and my bamboo spoons. I use them every single day of my life. I know have 10 different knives and half a dozen bamboo spoons but you can’t beat them!

  6. Kara says:

    I would have to say that my go to tool is my vegie peeler, that do use for its intended purpose most of the time-but also for slices of cheese, slicing radishes and other small vegies. I also could not cook without my wooden spoons that I have had for over 10 years. However, there is always room for an addition :)

    On a separate note, I purchased The Homemade Pantry and also heard you on the From Scratch Club podcast. My family thanks you to the ends of the earth for your book! You are such an inspiration. Good Blessings to you and your family.

  7. Jessica says:

    My favorite kitchen tool would definitely have to be my cast iron skillet. I got it from my Grandma and I feel her presence guiding me every time I use it. Those are the meals that always turn out the best.

  8. Jillian22 says:

    My favorite tool is my beautiful red Dutch oven that is one of the only things in my kitchen- besides that red mixer- that DOES look like it came out of a Crate & Barrel catalog! (P.S. How do I get a Crate & Barrel catalog?) My Dutch oven is my best friend and partner in crime. Big pot of stock? Dutch oven. Batch of baked beans? Dutch oven. Fry some onions? Dutch oven. OK, maybe I use it TOO much (if that’s even possible), but the main reason I love it is because there is always, ALWAYS, something amazing coming out of that Dutch oven. (Plus, it is one of my only devices that can be used on the stovetop or in the oven equally and it’s super heavy, which makes me feel powerful when I lug it from stove to counter.) :)

    • alana says:

      I totally agree, and no, I don’t think you can use it too much! I just bought a huge 9-quart Le Crueset (to celebrate book #2) and I use it constantly. I thought it would be too huge for daily use, but it’s so incredibly useful.

  9. maria says:

    This time of year the tool I appreciate most is my 4″ sieve. I use it mostly for straining tea and broths, which means I use it at least a few times a week, some times a few times a day.

  10. Ann says:

    I totally feel the same way about the Crate and Barrel catalog. And I have to go every year to get my new snowman mug (this year it’s actually a gingerbread man mug).

    I would have to say that the most useful gadget in my kitchen is the scale. It was a dollar store purchase, but man is it handy. It gets used for all sorts of kitchen projects and it can take all sorts of abuse.

  11. Charity says:

    My favorite tools to use in my kitchen has got to be my Dexter knife set, a set of bamboo utensils that my sister got me one year for Christmas, and a wire whisk that has seen me through good times and bad in the kitchen. You won’t see me without one of either of those in my hands.

  12. Jennifer says:

    My most used and loved tool is my kiwi green Dutch oven; it sits on my stove and not a day goes by that I don’t make something in it. I guess the runner up would be my junky garlic press that I have had for almost 20 years; I always look at Williams-Sonoma or Crate and Barrel (!) catalogs for a new one, but then spend money on something else since it is still doing a good job!

    And you can never have too many wooden spoons!

  13. sarah says:

    My favorite kitchen tool is my big old cast iron skillet – it was a gift from our CSA farmer, and had been her grandmother’s. Every time I use it (daily!) I think of all the meals that have nourished families from this pan.

    I love that wooden spoon, I’d love to win it! :)

  14. Hallie says:

    My grandfather used to make all kinds of wonderful kitchen contraptions (he was an inventor and physicist). I kidnapped the spurtle (a kind of flat, wooden spatula) he made from my parents’ house and use it everyday in my kitchen. He also made my mum a bread hook to knead with, which was literally the hook off a meat grinder that fitted onto a bowl – sinister, yet effective! But my absolute favourite is the pie server: wooden handle, bendy metal slice shaped implement that slides smoothly each piece and lifts it out cleanly. Makes me want to bake!

    • alana says:

      I love my handmade wooden tools, too. I have a spatula that a good friend’s ex-husband made me years ago when they first got together. It’s made of beautiful dark wood, and it has a little salt/ tasting spoon at the end of the handle. The marriage didn’t survive (it’s ok- both are happy and good friends now!) but that spatula will last forever.

  15. Nicki says:

    My favorite tool is actually two – my wooden cutting board and my bread knife. My husband bought them for me on our first anniversary, when I was first learning how to make bread. He even had the knife engraved!

  16. Katherine says:

    Two tools to share – a low-tech and a high-tech.

    Low tech: Little dishes, like the often blue-and-white ones you see in Asian groceries are indispensable in my kitchen. I have a whole stack of assorted shapes and find them so useful for holding minced garlic, herbs, or spices while they wait for their turn in the pan, or as a resting spot for a tea bag that has a second cup of steep left.

    High tech: I adore my immersion blender, especially at this time of year–hot soup season. When October rolls around, I crave butternut soup or a roasted tomato made with the last of the season’s fruit, and the immersion blender makes the whole process quicker and less messy. No more dripping hot liquid between pot and blender. No more using multiple bowls as I work through several batches of pureeing. More time to savor!

  17. Monica says:

    My favorite kitchen tool is my immersion blender. It makes pureeing vegies for soup soooo easy.

  18. Wendy says:

    Here is the link for my favorite kitchen tool: http://www.shakerworkshops.com/catalog/view/woodenware/Moon-&-Stars-Spatula/12D34
    It’s a beautiful wooden spatula and it’s what I grab regardless of whether I’m working with a dutch oven or a skillet. It’s what I wash over and over, so I can use it for every pot/skillet on the stove. It’s the perfect shape and size for pretty much everything I cook. I love it so much that I bought it for all three of my sisters and my Mom. I don’t know if they love it as much as I do, but I feel better knowing they have it.

  19. Jennifer Bender says:

    I love both the Pottery Barn and William Sonoma catalogs. I dream of rustic wooden tables laden with homecooked food surrounded by the people I love. Candles burn in family heirloom candle sticks and the meals last long into the night as conversation lingers. I don’t have the house or the money for the lifestyle they show but a girl can dream…..

    • alana says:

      And the dreams are almost as nice, right? And I think that sometimes they really do overlap… but maybe it’s a smaller, rickety, Ikea table, and tea light holders. But the conversation into the night? I’m so glad that part is free and available in any kind of house!

  20. Sharon says:

    I laughed when I started reading about your fondness for the Crate and Barrel holiday catalog because I feel the same way. The day it came in the mail this year I tucked it away near my favorite chair so it wouldn’t drift out with the junk mail and waited for the next evening to savor it with a cup of tea, feeling the same as you did as I wished I had a library in my home where someone could drink scotch out of the perfect glass, have a chic Thanksgiving (in my average decor home with enough small children around for the holiday to make waste of any well planned sophistication, although not that I would mind, they make any holiday better) and all the shiny new never been used equipment for Christmas cooking to dream on and be pleased with what I have (the same mixer too!). I have a sister who feels the same and we always share our favorites. One year when she received an ill fated “pink slip” from her employer at the beginning of December I sent her a set of reindeer glasses pictured in the catalog she liked to help her spirits.
    If you ask me, my favorite kitchen item around the holidays is a set of 9 (used to be 12) really cheap Christmas plates I purchased the first year I was married when we barely had a dime. I bring them out and use them for everyday meals all through December and I always smile how they have always brought me cheer. No matter how cheap or how chipped they have become they hold some special memories. Thanks for your post. It really did make me laugh.

    • alana says:

      Oh, thank you for piping in! Makes me feel far less silly. (or at least like I have company, which is just as good!) I find it so funny that those who have commented on this post to say they feel the same way about Crate and Barrel catalog- we all have the same mixer. Perhaps we should all invest in some matching dishtowels and then the perfect scene will be ours!

  21. Hannah M. says:

    I just moved into my first (college student) apartment this past year, and I’ve been slowly stocking my kitchen with pots and pans and other tools. Some of the first things I got were my cast-iron skillet and 6-inch chef’s knife, and I’m not sure how I ever lived without them before now.

    Also, I had a recent fit of kitchen organizing, and I crocheted a little openwork woolen hammock to hang under the cabinets over the counter, for holding fruit-I love seeing the neat little row of pears hanging out in midair :)

    • alana says:

      It sounds like you’re off to a great start, Hannah. I think in my first year of college, I was still working with a Teflon pan and a dull knife. You’ve figured out the essentials quickly- I’m guessing you came from a good kitchen?

  22. yukendra says:

    My private little moments are with the Trader Joe’s catalog! Witty writing, great products, and meal suggestions make for fine, fine reading… in between cookbooks :) !

  23. patrice says:

    My favorite kitchen tool is our canning tongs. We don’t ever have enough room in our kitchen for these sorts of one-purpose-only tools, and at first I thought we could just use regular tongs for canning. But it was too scary and splashy of hot water! Those canning tongs make me feel so secure in my canning self.

  24. ShannStodd says:

    My favorite tool is my Norpro Large Scoop Colander. I like to make big batches of broth and using this to scoop out the bones and vegis is so much easier than trying to pick up the stock pot and pour the stock through a mesh colander into a big bowl or another pot.

  25. Erica says:

    My favorite kitchen tool has got to my pedestal cutting board! The board was handmade by a gifted woodworker on Etsy from sustainably harvested hardwood. When I first received the board, I was so scared to use it, to put that first “scar” in the beautiful wood. I sat it on my counter, looked at it for probably a week or more as I brought out my old scarred plastic cutting board before I worked up the nerve to finally use it. Now, I use it constantly to cut my produce and slice my cheese. From time to time, I rub a little olive oil on the board to restore the shine. Though the board now shows signs of use, I have to say I love it even more now that I have made it my own.

  26. Elizabeth says:

    My favourite tools are my marble pastry board and marble rolling pin that my dad bought for me when I was about 14. He had an ulterior motive as he liked my baking but obviously it stuck, because many years later I am still baking a lot, still using them both. I happened to marry someone who loves pie, now is this a coincidence?

    • alana says:

      Yes, Elizabeth! I’ve been working on a marble board for the first time in the last year or so, and it’s been huge! I think any pie lover needs a bit of marble in the kitchen.

  27. Sarah says:

    My favorite tool is in fact my wooden spoon (well, spoons, I have 2). I have had these spoons since I first lived on my own which is oooh about 30 years ago. They are old and worn and beautiful. I know I could replace them without spending much, but somehow I can’t bring myself to. Still, THAT wooden spoon is beautiful. He would be right at home next to my two!

  28. Leanne says:

    I love my great grandmother’s potato masher. This year I will be brining a turkey for the first time. I need luck!

  29. Chrissie McKinnon says:

    I love my knife, esp how heavy it is

  30. Jackie says:

    Oh no! I didn’t even know I needed to oil my wooden spoons! I told my husband to find me some beeswax and mineral oil PRONTO!
    I have moments with Athleta magazine (because I want to wear wool stockings, tall leather boots and fashionable skirts while snowboarding) and King Arthur Flour catalogs (because I will make all my neighbors and new friends amazing Christmas cookies this year). My favorite kitchen tool is probably my little metal spatula (cookies, pancakes, anything in the cast iron skillet) or my mini-chopper which makes quick work of pureeing baby food and chopping breadcrumbs! Thanks for giving me a good excuse to sit and start a whimsical discussion with my family today!

    • alana says:

      Jackie, I went years without oiling my spoons, and the first time I did it, it was so great. It just makes them glow (and last longer!) And I get you on the Athleta catalog. I’m so un-sporty, but somehow I look at the catalog and I yearn to surf. Powerful, that one!

  31. Korena says:

    My favorite kitchen tool is my cast iron frying pan, which I could quite easily cook with every single day. I also have several wooden spoons carved by my dad that always make me happy to use. And I love the feelings you described getting from the Crate and Barrel catalogue – I get the same feelings flipping through (alright, savouring) the Canadian Living special edition holiday magazines (holiday cookies do it for me especially!).

  32. Beth Revels says:

    Oh my there are so many things to say. Kitchen tools are a passion of mine. I love rustic, handmade, functional, beauitiful tools. Some of my favorites include a double bladed mezzaluna my grandfather gave me. My molcajete which was a gift from husband. So many other things that just make me happy. I’m really excited because I just received a handmade maple French rolling pin. I can’t wait to make for thanksgiving.

    I get ready for the holidays by getting fresh flour from a local mill. This bag of flour will last from pie making time in November through shortbread and pound cake time in December. This is what we give to family and friends as gifts.

    I love this time of year. And while I don’t get crate and barrel catalogs there are many things I have lustful eyes for this time of year.

    Happy holidays!

  33. Ro says:

    My favorite kitchen tool is my big, sturdy cutting board from J.K. Adams. It’s definitely built to last. I also was recently given a (very old) crystal decanter, decidedly less useful, but very decadent indeed!

  34. Maryann says:

    My favorite tool is my very sharp knife. I’ve had it to years and I sharpen it regularly.

  35. Lindsey says:

    My immersion blender beats everything else in my kitchen. We eat a lot of soup and it is perfect for blending the soup a little so that it gets thick and seems creamy but it is still healthy.

  36. Linden says:

    My dutch oven, and it is orange. Or maybe my Kitchen Aide mixer, which is red…Both, I guess.

  37. Ted S. says:

    A sharp knife. I am humiliated to admit this, but I have been using the same set of As Seen on TV Ginzu knives for a decade and they still work beautifully.

    • alana says:

      Ha! I was just talking to someone who was expressing something similar over her “As seen on tv” tupperware set- she loves it! I say, whatever works, and wherever you find your treasures is great!

  38. Kristin says:

    Love our wide mouth funnel – it comes out most mornings when we’re trying to get hot soup & leftovers into food thermos for our kids lunches. Brilliant tool! Also love my stand mixer for pizza dough!

  39. April says:

    My favorite tool is my set of Salad Tongs made by my grandfather. He even taught me to make them and he taught me to garden and grow the veggies to fill my salad bowl. Now that he’s gone, I love them even more.

  40. Emily says:

    last year I copied Nigella Lawson and wound twinkle lights all over my kitchen. I can’t wait to do that again this year – it’s just so festive.

  41. Kim says:

    So, many favorites! Especially at this time of year, I appreciate my Pelouze scale, both for it’s accurate functionality (weighing nuts, chocolate – all kinds of yumminess!) and also for the reminder, each time I use it, of my dear friend, Nancy, who gave it to me back when we were both baking professionally. Each time I use it, I am reminded of our two-decades-long friendship – many laughs, some tears, and middle-of-the-night calls when we were both pulling pre-Thanksgiving all-nighters at our respective bakeries.

  42. amy says:

    For 10 years our Kitchenaide mixer sat under the sink of the various houses we lived in. Finally in a fit of.frustration I got.it out to make room for all my canning materials. Well then it sat reproachfully on the counter until one day I decided to try using it. I then began gathering recipes that required mixing simply because it felt like I really create something when I used my mixer. One day, after listening to me complain for the umpteenth time that it wasn’t large enough to do all my dough my husband replaced my mixer with a commercial one he found on Craigslist. I miss my old mixer but nothing beats my new one for sheer power!

    • alana says:

      Isn’t it amazing how appliances get used when you actually put them on the counter? And yes- my mixer is small too- and it’s starting to complain from all the kneading of bread dough. I’ve started keeping my eye out for a professional mixer- but I’d be sad to let go of my old red beauty!

  43. Nuala says:

    I finally bought a set of measuring spoons (for tbsp, tsp, etc) last year – and I love them! Especially useful for measuring spices – I thought they were an indulgence – shouldn’t a normal teaspoon from the cupboard be ok? But I love them now, so much easier and if I need a 1/4 tsp of cayenne, I can measure it! By the way Alana, I’ve been reading your blog for 6 months or so now and really enjoy seeing what you’re making, and what’s happening where you are. All the best for your cookbook award!

  44. Stephanie says:

    My crockpot is my favorite kitchen tool- I make stock, soup, yogurt, fruit butter, and lots of other things with it. I love that I can dump everything in it and walk away knowing that in a few hours we will have something yummy.

  45. Terry says:

    My favorite tool is a potato masher that my mother-in-law, Jean, gave me at my wedding shower in 1980. It’s old, slightly rusted at the point where the handle meets the masher, and it has a peeling orange and avocado seventies designed sticker that I’ve taped back on over the years. The masher was most likely purchased in a Market Basket in Billerica for no more than $1.99. Born in 1915, My mother-in-law taught me to cook like a New Englander. She was 65 and I was just 19, and she showed me how to make the best, most unbelievably creamy potatoes, the perfect gravy with onions, real honest-to-goodness cranberry sauce, and how to make a juicy, perfect roast. Many years have passed, and my mother-in-law has been gone for a long time, and I miss her so. But I hope to pass on that potato masher to my new daughter-in-law, Maggie, who is learning to cook and who will make memories for my own grandchildren.

  46. Kat says:

    Hands down, my pastry cutter. Sucker gets a workout all winter long – and I’ve had it for so long that the tines are slightly bent and a little squiggly. Baking always soothes my soul no matter what the troubles – all I have to do is pick up that cutter and I know everything’s going to be ok.

  47. Maura says:

    My favorite tools have to be my Wusthof chef’s knife, my dutch oven, and my stacked cooling rack. I’ve had the chef’s knife for twenty years and it’s the knife that I always turn to. My dutch oven is big and red and oh so useful so for so many recipes. And now that I have the stacked cooling rack, I can bake to my heart’s content and not take up every available space on the counter as my cookies cool. I’m not the most organized person in the kitchen, so this item is particularly handy.

  48. jen c says:

    immersion blender – yes! cast iron skillet – also my grandmother’s, don’t use it often enough. good, weighty wire whisk – love it. good knives – essential! lately, my favorite tools have been my pyrex storage dishes. they are helping me get away from using plastic to store leftovers, and they are so pretty stacked up in the fridge with tasty things inside to eat.

  49. wes says:

    It seems that I have a thing for spatulas, between the metal turning type and the silicon stirring type, oh, and let’s not forget the offset spreading type, I have 12? and I just found the newest addition that dethroned the old favorite silicon stirrer at Sprouts. The shape of the handle fits nicely to my hand and the blade scrapes the side of the bowl nicely, plus the handle is sturdy enough to mix a yeast bread dough. And I recently found an old metal spatula at a yard sale that it seems I really like. I love the kitchen tool catalogs.

  50. Erin says:

    my favorite part of getting ready for the holidays doesn’t happen in my kitchen, but in my basement pantry. i love looking through all the things we’ve put up over the year and picking out the best ones to give away to all the loved ones on our list.

  51. Cynthia Holt says:

    I love my old wooden spoon. I don’t know where I even got it. I only know that I have had it for a very very long time. I use it for everything.
    I just got one of those Polish dough whisks and that it pretty awesome as well.

  52. Megan says:

    My favourite tools for the holiday season are my orange enamel vintage Le Creuset oval roasters. My father used them to make nachynka (a baked cornmeal dish, also known as “heart attack in a pan”) for Christmas dinner, a tradition that I took over after he passed away. I love these roasters because I used them and abused them for years, and they kept forgiving me for not knowing their worth. Now I know how to treat them with respect.

  53. Mali says:

    It would have to be my bread knife. My mum gave it to me when I moved into my first apartment over 30 years ago. Her mum had given it to her when my parents emigrated from the UK nearly 60 years ago. I think of family every time I slice bread.

  54. Dian says:

    Hi! It’s my first time to your blog and it’s quite a pleasant surprize! (I linked in from http://www.smallmeasure.com.) I’ve come across your cookbook and now am more curious than ever. My favorite tool is my Kitchen Aid mixer, which is actually an appliance but boy do I love it! I poo-poo’d my partner when she bought it but fell in love after my first cake recipe. After that, you can’t beat a really good vegetable peeler!

  55. Kathryn says:

    My tongs and a hard little plastic scraper thingee…the tongs are just so useful for flipping hot things, and they do double duty when they help me retrieve things just out of reach. The little plastic scraper is so good for cleaning gunk out of pans and dishes-I seem to create a lot of gunk!

    • alana says:

      I’ve got that little plastic thingee too- I buy them in multiples from the hardware store. I also create a lot of gunk, and I use those scrapers constantly!

  56. Hannah says:

    A sharp knife, my biggest cast iron skillet, and I’m in business! :) . For the holidays, my mom’s old rolling pin and the warm nutmeggy smell of her favorite cookie dough make it feel like home … Love reading the responses! We all have our needs :)

  57. Theresa Murphy says:

    I have a very, very large, ceramic mixing bowl that I use for everything. And not just mixing! It is the perfect size for serving pounds and pounds of mashed potatoes for our large family gatherings, holds a couple bags worth of chips for parties, multiple batches of popcorn for movie nights at home. It is the perfect bowl for raising pizza and bread dough and for housing lots and lots of apples for grab and go snack.

  58. Darla says:

    My favorite tools are my good knives. They make a world of difference in chopping things up and once you have a bit of practice and are aware of the ease at which you can slice your finger, you are much more careful and skillful!

  59. Annette says:

    The very first thing I do to get my kitchen ready for the holidays is to plug in my glass Christmas nightlight. I bought it as a splurge maybe 10 years ago…it is a stained glass house, 3-sided, with a little wreath hanging on the door. I keep it lit 24/7 through the holidays (and until I reluctantly pack it away again…..along about the end of February :) …….). It is such a sweet spot for me!

  60. Kelly says:

    I do that with the Williams Sonoma catalog. I even go so far as to cut out my favorite foods, decorations and utensils with the intention of putting them into a cooking journal. It’s a huge heap of cut-outs stuffed into the journal, but you get the idea. I always drool over the the fancy knives and most recently, the cute little bottles of appropriately labelled Halloween candy… just gorgeous!

  61. Heather Fuller says:

    Thank you for the confession – I went through the Crate and Barrel catalog just this weekend with my head in the same clouds. Luckily, my sister and I went for a walk afterward and as I was telling her how I wish we were not so rag tag and messy about the holidays we recounted all of our favorite Thanksgiving dinners and there were SO MANY. I too LOVE my holidays with my family but a girl can dream!

    You have hit a few of my favorite tools in your list (canning funnel, wooden spoons, mandolin and dough scraper are always at the ready – they all live in the same drawer in the island – except the spoons which are in a jar on the stove).

    I want to expand upon your list for people who are interested in expanding their kitchen; looking around my kitchen I noticed that I NEVER put my dutch oven or cast iron frying pan away. I use them all of the time so it would be a waste of energy and limited storage space to store them anywhere but on the back burner. My dutch oven is a hand me down from a friend who got married and upgraded to a “better” set of pans. I have no idea who made it and though I long for a beautiful Staub or Le Creuset to pop on my table I know that the one I have is perfect.

  62. Wendy says:

    My favorite kitchen tool is my honey dipper. I love the way it drizzles honey so haphazrdly into my tea and on my toast. And maybe I love it more because I drove and drove and drove until I found the only store that carried one in my little city.

    And congrats Alana on the nomination! I remember when I first took Homemade Pantry home. I curled up onto the couch and marked off eveything that I would try in it. Our fav is the whole wheat sandwich bread. We make it at least twice a month :) Can’t wait for the second one !

  63. Lisa Moran says:

    Firstly, congrats on the nomination! Love your book!
    I must confess, for years I “cooked” for my family—meaning I defrosted, opened cans, or bought junk food. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I did it for every meal! I have recently fallen in love with cooking from scratch and with whole foods/produce, thanks in part to Food Network and books like yours, Heidi’s, and Sara’s. I spend the day at work thinking of what I will fix for dinner! I have made many batches of granola and car snacks, cakes with pastry flour and spelt, homemade sauces, the list goes on. So as I was reading this blog entry, I couldn’t help but realize that at this point EVERY tool in my kitchen is my favorite. Each tool comes alive with it’s own special purpose with each meal or treat I make. My pantry is stocked with things I never thought I would use and my shelves and drawers are full of new and exciting things, even the old tools have a new purpose. For my new tools, I have a KitchenAid mixer (silver and oh so beautiful!), a set of Wustof knives ( who knew using a knife could be so much fun), a large cutting board my wonderful husband gave me last summer just because he loves me, and a white KitchenAid food processor that has more attachments than I can use in a month! Name a favorite? Well, it would have to be the one I’m using at that particular moment for that meal.
    I have never seen the C&B catalog, my weakness is Amazon. I fill my cart with goodies then spend the day removing and sometimes re-adding the same things, only to not order anything at all by the end of the day!

  64. SusanK says:

    I use my cast iron skillet every day! It was left by a previous renter at my then boyfriend’s apartment almost 30 years ago. It had already been well loved. In my early years with this pan, I just didn’t know how to treat her right, but in time I have come to appreciate that a small amount of tlc goes a long way with cast iron.

  65. Neena says:

    My best kitchen tool is my grandmother’s rolling pin, older than me and used by countless women in my family before me. I use it for everything in the kitchen (rolling, smashing, pointing, nudging things from the top shelf into my reach, massaging my shoulders) and I love knowing that even though it’s in my possession now, it will eventually pass to the next generations.

  66. Britt says:

    I have a wooden spoon that belonged to my Norwegian grandmother. It has mixed the batter to literally thousands of cookies and cakes, especially my great grandmother’s Crispy Gingerbread Cookie recipe that my mother and I have been baking together for as long as I can remember…

  67. Luba says:

    What a sweet post, Alana! My must-have kitchen tool would have to be my wooden spoon(s) but the truth is that I treat them terribly. I never oil them, I let them languish in the sink, I have even put them in the dishwasher (is there a circle of hell for that?) I think this means that I need to get myself a really nice one (thanks for linking to those!) and love it and treasure it and be a good spoon owner from here on out!

  68. india says:

    i love adding evergreen boughs and (more) candles to my home this time of year
    it makes things seem festive and special and everything smells of pine and juniper!
    love to you, sweet alana!

  69. Marisa says:

    My favorite tool is my microplane because freshly grated nutmeg is the best smell on the planet. It brings me so many memories every time I grate it. Now my favorite everyday tool is my knife and cutting board because that is where everything starts.

  70. Jennifer says:

    I think (it is hard, after all to talk about just one!) my favorite kitchen tool is a big round wooden bread board. This thing is a workhorse. It is a cutting board, sandwich board, bread making board…the list goes on, and it is such a pleasure to walk in to the kitchen and see it sitting quietly on the counter…waiting. I had a look see at the wooden spoon website and would be so happy to be the owner of a beautiful wooden spoon like one of those. A useful work of art, I love it. Thanks.

  71. Pamela says:

    I have these stainless steel bowls that I got 20 years ago. They are not beautiful, but they are lightweight and indestructible. I find myself using them over more attractive bowls all the time.

  72. Kelley says:

    My favorite tool is the high heat spatulas. Love them!

  73. One of my favorite kitchen tools is my LC Braiser – I use it for almost everything. I think my fry pans would revolt if they could. For low tech, I’d have to go with the canning funnel – I do use it for everything I have to fill like my flour, sugar, etc. that are all in jars.

    As for the C&B catalog addiction, I have the same problem. Except, I also have the Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table that sit with the C&B catalog on my desk that I must leaf through daily figuring if my kitchen needs some new lovelies. (My wallet is revolting with the fry pans).

  74. Angie K says:

    My favorite kitchen tools are my silicone spatulas (flat, curved and skinny!), my mini prep bowls that I use for prep but also for mini servings of anything, and my silicone baking sheets which I use to bake on and to roll out dough.

  75. Barbara Garrett says:

    My most used Kitchen items actually total more than two. The first is my immersion blender(I have actually worn one completely out and am on my second one)
    The second is my cast iron cooking set. 2-12 in,2-10 in.,1 8 in.,2-6 in. skillets, 1 corn bread muffin pan (shaped like ears of corn), 1- 12 in. ruffled bottom grill skillet, 1 flat griddle and of course 2 dutch ovens. I would starve to death if some one removed these items from my kitchen….. terrifying thought! I also have one huge 16 in. institutional skillet that I reserve for camping trips only. It is too big for my stove but perfect for those campfire meals on the river.

  76. Anastasia says:

    You know how looking at the catalog makes you feel all fluttery and excited and inspired? That’s how your book makes me feel.
    :)
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

  77. Susan says:

    I know I missed the timing on this post, but I have to say that since our dishwasher broke -THAT has to be my favorite tool in the kitchen!
    Also, for me, the IKEA catalog is dangerous – I could make my house look like that…I could!…and look for how (relatively) inexpensively!
    For me, the danger of all catalogs (and ads) at this time of year is setting up of (false) expectations. I live in CO and still expect to have a white Christmas and it so rarely happens here…

  78. Lilias says:

    Hi Alana, I just got your book from my library and once I flipped through it the first time it, I immediately added it to my amazon wish list! Now, my favorite kitchen tool is a metal spatula I inherited from my grandmother after she passed away. My grandmother was an amazing cook (made everything from scratch) and this spatula reminds me of her every time I use it. It has a short handle and a long narrow blade that is quite thin and flexible, yet strong. Rarely a meal goes by when I am not reaching for this tool. I have no idea how old the spatula is and I continue to hand wash it (and remind my husband for the umpteenth time that it is never, ever to go in the dishwasher) as this was passed down to me from my Gram and that was her rule. Funny how i didn’t realize this is my favorite kitchen tool until i saw your post and took a minute to think about it. I guess it is my favorite for both practical and emotional reasons. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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