$20 and Under

Kitchens of Convenience

Little gadgets can make a difference in your quality of life in the kitchen.

By Kristin Belz September 24, 2012 Published in the September 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

Casabella measuring cups giz2oi
The set of four silicone measuring cups from Casabella runs $19.99, but since each one works in two directions, a set of four is like eight measuring cups for $2.50 each.

Mmmmm. Last week’s Feast Portland was a fabulous festival of food, inspiring many of us home cooks to head back into the kitchen. (Truth be told, we’re also anticipating returning to the kitchen as a retreat from what will certainly be rain falling soon). However, once we’re in the kitchen, a question arises: how can we spiff it up? Short of a kitchen remodel, there are ways to make life a la cuisine a little more pleasant and productive: simple, low-tech kitchen gadgets.

My vote goes to these items: the simple pastry scraper and Casabella’s brightly colored silicone measuring cups and muffin cups. They won’t break the bank, but they may change your cooking life. (That’s probably a slight exaggeration, but for under between $5 and $20, what do you expect?) 

A stainless steel pastry scraper is also handy as a chopped vegetable scooper; one swipe and you'll feel like a pro at the cutting board. It's like mother's little helper, but without any side effects.

The so-called pastry scraper is my favorite. It’s actually more of a do-anything-and-everything low-tech, high-performance tool. Pastry chefs use them to cleanly separate big bunches of dough, but somehow a simple swipe with it makes me feel like a kitchen pro. Just a flat rectangle of metal (or plastic), the pastry scraper is like a blunt, broad knife blade that can slice and scrape and scoop better than anything else.

Use it to swiftly get chopped veggies from cutting board to pan or pot without dropping a single chunk. Or to cut brownies or pizza. Or to scrape up a gunky counter. They run about $5 to $10 at local stores (Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table and Kitchen Kaboodle have good ones; you'll find them for a bit less at discount stores like Marshall's). 

Sometimes, it's the little things in life – and in the kitchen – that make the difference.

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