Random gadgets and tips

February 27, 2012 at 7:30 am | Posted in Food, for the House | Leave a comment

Friday night we had pizza for supper, and I used my meat tenderizer to punch holes in the crust before I baked it.  This got me thinking about the little gadgets I use all the time.  Here are some of my favorites, because its always nice to find things that work well:

One of my favorite gadgets is my chop and stir tool – I use it all the time – to cook meat, as a pastry fork to make biscuits or pie crust, to chop things from canned olives to raw chicken breast, and occasionally to stir something.  When I find a great deal on ground meat I will cook up 5-10 lbs in my large stock pot (to freeze the cooked meat in meal sized portions) and this gadget does a great job breaking the meat into uniform crumbles.  I paid $10 for mine from a Pampered Chef party, but later I saw one for $3 at the kitchen outlet store.

When I was at Home Depot buying paint the lady in front of me asked for a paint can opener, and they gave it to her along with some stir sticks.  (You can buy also one for .30-$2 depending on the store.)  For years I have been using a flathead screwdriver to pry open cans of paint – this gadget makes it much easier and prevents the lid from getting mangled.  When we moved my husband brought home tons of boxes with the flaps folded down inside.  The little curved edge of the paint tool was perfect for sliding under the flap to pull it up.  Its also good for prying other lids (cat litter bucket or spackle tub anyone?) and the back is a bottle opener.

One year my husband bought me a meat tenderizer for my birthday.  The idea is to stab meat to break up the connective tissue, and also to allow a marinade to permeate a larger surface area.  I think I have used it on meat two times – I just don’t buy the type of meat that one would tenderize all that often.  I do use it all the time for baking though – its great for stabbing a bunch of holes in a pizza crust, pie dough, flatbread, or cracker dough.  Its especially perfect for homemade ritz type round crackers, the holes are neat and evenly spaced, and the plastic shield prevents the dough from getting stuck up in the tines.

When I got married someone my husband knew gave us a very nice coffee pot that came with a reusable filter inside.  I think coffee smells great, but tastes like mud, and my husband gets it for free from work so we don’t actually brew coffee at home unless we have someone over.  I was making tzatziki one afternoon, and didn’t feel like driving to the store just for cheesecloth, so I grabbed the unused coffee filter to strain the liquid out of my yogurt.  It turns out that a reusable coffee filter fits perfectly on a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup, and it strains things beautifully.  I use it all the time to strain all manner of things – I think its probably more sanitary than cheesecloth, and it is easy to sanitize by submersing the filter in boiling water.

 

I’ve known for quite a while that vinegar and baking soda are wonderful cleaners.  But until my cousin told me last week I didn’t know that vinegar can be used as a weed killer!  I had been procrastinating on getting rid of the weeds growing in the cracks in the driveway since herbicides are so expensive (and I was going to need several bottles,) so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the vinegar actually does a great job, and its quite inexpensive.  Its also supposed to be able to remove sticky label goo and loosen rusted bolts.  Heinz has a huge list of other uses for vinegar here.

Image sources: [chop and stir tool], [paint opener], [meat tenderizer], [coffee filter] and [vinegar]

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