Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

May 23, 2012

Five Great: Kitchen Gadgets Worth the Counter Space

Filed under: Five Great...,Food — Miss Plumcake @ 10:45 am

Some unforeseen technical jackanapery means this post is two days late.

In the intervening 48 hours, I made Hot Latin Boy his first ever banana pudding.

He’d never had it before and by the low moaning sounds he’s been making –similar to the sounds my shar-pei makes when I rub his ears, I call it an eargasm– I can tell the pleasures of warm, homemade vanilla pudding (do you even need to ask whether there’s bourbon in it?) are new to him.

Over on the Facebook page, I pondered which is the greater sin: using a half of a Hershey’s bar when making a single s’more (excessive and ruins the whole delicate taste and texture ratio) or those miserly folks who only use one slice of banana per Nilla wafer in their banana pudding.

One reader seemed unclear as to the usage of the phrase “banana pudding”.

It is not the same thing as banana-flavored pudding.

Banana pudding is alternating layers of Nilla wafers and sliced ripe bananas drenched in warm homemade vanilla custard and let to chill. Some people top their pudding with meringue and others with whipped cream.

Some may use homemade ladyfingers as their cookie and some use Chessmen (though usually this is seen as embarrassingly bougie and most likely to be sign of a social climbing Methodist who wants to impress the Episcopalian Daughters of the King) but if it isn’t homemade pudding –and honestly there is no reason not to make your own custard, it takes five minutes and is infinitely superior to any boxed variety– it’s not banana pudding.

I don’t even have the strength to discuss Cool Whip as a topping.

Which brings me to my next point.

I don’t want to overgeneralize or make some sort of inflammatory logically indefensible assertion here, but it must be said:

I’m pretty sure people who don’t make their own mayonnaise don’t get into heaven, at least not on their first try.

Admittedly, this might not hold up to rigorous theological testing and Duke’s enthusiasts probably go to limbo instead of straight to the bottom floor. I haven’t really worked out all the details yet. Hmm, I wonder what Mayo Limbo would be like…probably a place where you can get shrimp and grits but they’re lumpy and made by some guy from Connecticut.


Anyway, the other day Twistie was talking about kitchen gadgets she didn’t need. I also have an aebelskiver pan, although I’ve never actually had aebelskiver as I was most likely vaccinated against it as a child.

Although I’ve been felled by the siren song of a completely useless gadget once or twice (I’m looking at you, bread machine) I tend to save my serious errors in judgment for outside the kitchen.

Still, one must look on the sunny side, so here is a list of five kitchen tools that more than earn their counter space.


Cuisinart Stick Blender

This thing sees near-daily service. Yesterday I used it to make agua sandia, a refreshing watermelon drink. I just cut the top off a seedless watermelon, removed a chunk from the middle and put the stick blender right in the melon and made two liters of delicious fresh watermelon juice in approximately two minutes. Blending soups right in the pot, making pesto, whizzing up smoothies or frozen umbrella drink and of course, making homemade mayonnaise. This is one of my solid gold gadget purchases and I’d buy one again in a heartbeat.


Kitchen Kettle Multi-Cooker

Unlike Twistie, I do love my deep fryer.

I rarely eat deep fried foods, but potato chips are so much better when homemade that storebought ones –excluding the divine Grandma Utz’s– just aren’t worth the caloric investment. Still, I’m not interested in one trick ponies, so it’s nice to know the Kitchen Kettle also serves as a rice and veggie steamer, pasta cooker and slow cooker, so it earns its place on my counter. I’m pretty sure it’d be great for popcorn too, but popcorn is an abomination unto the Lord and also gets stuck in my teeth, so I guess that will remain a mystery.

Enameled Aluminum Lemon Squeezer

Another tool that gets a daily workout here at Villa Plumcake is my lemon squeezer. The lime tree in my backyard assaults me with citrus on a near daily basis and very few things in Mexico are served without a final hit of lime, but even when I lived stateside my enamel-coated metal squeezer saw a lot of action, particularly around cocktail time.

BonJour Mini Butane Torch

Okay, a mini butane torch is just fun. I used it on my banana pudding and there’s always this frisson of excitement. It’s like a handgun, but slightly less likely to ruin your meringue.

It’s also useful, especially for those of us whose favorite dessert is crème brûlée but have yet to master the art of broiling sugar in the oven.

As much as I’d like to eat crème brûlée every day, my little blowtorch sees more action browning sugar atop grapefruit halves, roasting small peppers and tomatoes, toasting small quantities of spices or easily-burned nuts (pine nuts do wonderfully in this, giving you even less of an excuse to not make your own pesto) or giving that extra punch of crispy caramelization for whatever comes out of the kitchen. Necessary? Not really, but surprisingly useful and unsurprisingly fun.

Weighmax Electronic Kitchen Scale

I think I mentioned my hesitation buying a kitchen scale before.

To me they were always related to fad diets and gave me ugly flashbacks just thinking of them, but honestly, they’re damn handy and make using European recipes which usually give dry measurements in weight, not volume, a snap. Plus, if you’re baking in less-than-ideal circumstances or can’t understand why your famous layer cake sometimes comes out like heaven and other times like hockey pucks, measure your ingredients by weight. You’ll be glad you did.


  1. I love my stick blender in a manner approaching impropriety.

    Comment by Thinposter — May 23, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  2. Miss Plumcake, do you use raw eggs for your mayonnaise or pasturized? Can you make Mayonnaise with pasturized eggs? I’d love to make my own mayonnaise but given that up to 15% of supermarket eggs can be contaminated with salmonella I’d be hesitant to take the risk of raw eggs.

    Comment by Anne — May 23, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

  3. My favorite appliance is the Soda Stream Carbonator. Best $100 I ever spent. Yes, it is a one trick pony, but the trick is vital. First, replacing my two liter per day Diet Coke habit with fizzy water absolutely improved my health (good bye chronic dehydration). Second, no lugging ridiculously heavy bottles from the grocery store when I am between pack-ponies-er, um, boyfriends to carry them for me. Third, no beverages that have been sitting around in plastic bottles for months, thus avoiding nasty chemical leaching. Fourth, a significant reduction in the amount of plastic I “consume”, and much less recycling (see above re: pack ponies). Finally, water fizzed to my exact specifications, more fizzy for plain water, less so for spritzed cocktails.

    I am aware that my tone becomes downright Messianic when I start talking about this little gem, but I can’t help it. My enthusiasm may bubble over, but my Soda Stream never does.

    Comment by lola — May 23, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

  4. @Anne: I use raw eggs although I can’t see why it wouldn’t work with pasteurized. I have the most delicate immune system in the known universe and I’ve never been sick from homemade mayonnaise, nor has anyone I know. I’d say it’s about as risky as eating eggs sunny side up.

    Comment by Miss Plumcake — May 23, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

  5. Ode on a Blender Stick
    with apologies to John Keats

    Thou multipurpose pride of cuisine-ness,
    Thou progenitor of buzz and smooth blend
    Kitchen historian, who can thus suppress
    A floury trail quicker than an elbow bend:
    What gourmet secrets wreath thy slender stem
    Of sauces, smoothies, soups, or all,
    On countertop or elements of spiral?
    What savouries are these? What soufflé fall?
    What bold endeavour? What mixture to amend?
    What tools and gadgets? None can rival.

    Comment by Desideria — May 23, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  6. This, post and comments, is why MftBG is one of my favoritest blogs on the entire Internet.

    I also love my stick blender. (/relevance)

    Comment by KESW — May 23, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  7. @Desideria: I might as well shut the comments down forever, no one will be able to top your marvelous Ode on a Blender Stick. Brava!

    Comment by Miss Plumcake — May 23, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

  8. The Nilla wafers of my distant youth were tasty cookies made with real vanilla; sadly, not so these days. But the Whole Foods house brand is, in fact, a vanilla wafer, and makes an even better banana pudding. Which is wonderful summer food!

    Comment by Lise in NJ — May 23, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  9. The one time I have had salmonella it came from either homemade mayonnaise or an Erik’s Deli Cafe tuna salad sandwich. And while I strongly suspect it was the latter, the experience was so deeply unpleasant that I can’t face the risk of repeating it, so I guess I’ll just have to take my chances with Hell.

    Comment by daisyj — May 23, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

  10. I still remember when I was at brunch with a friend’s family in San Francisco and learned of the existance of what I still call the “pastry blowtorch.”

    And yes, stick blenders are so useful.

    Comment by Ellen W. — May 23, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

  11. Darn it now I want banana pudding.

    Comment by Lisa from SoCal — May 23, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

  12. I cannot live without my cast iron pans.

    Comment by Melissa — May 23, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

  13. I became the first white member of a black employees union solely on my knowledge of when to add the vanilla wafers to the banana pudding….one of my proudest moments

    Comment by Thea — May 23, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

  14. My Dad puts coconut milk into his banana pudding. WHOLE ‘NOTHER LEVEL…

    Comment by Leah — May 23, 2012 @ 10:54 pm

  15. My favorite gadget is a hand blender, it’s easier for making quick smoothies. It’s great for banana pudding too. I love quickies ;)

    Comment by Nigel D — May 23, 2012 @ 11:03 pm

  16. @Leah – oh lord I have to try the coconut milk in nana pudding, probably this weekend.

    Favorite kitchen gadget is the citrus juicer I liberated from my mother’s kitchen. The old school kind where you cut the fruit in half, squeeze it and pour the juice out the spout on the side.

    Comment by Thea — May 23, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

  17. No stand mixer? I thought I died and gone to heaven when the Mr. moved in with his. It took my cooking to a whole new level. Granted I don’t have the granny arm of strength from mixing by hand.

    I could not live without my citrus juicer although I just noticed the enamel is starting to flake off. Good thing I have two.

    And I only remember banana pudding from my childhood daycare days. I’m not a banana in things fan but maybe i just need it done right.

    Comment by RHCD — May 24, 2012 @ 2:14 am

  18. No one where I live makes a decent banana pudding, so I will either have to learn to make it or wait and be stubborn until I find one that is made the right way. I blame Jello.

    All of these 5 gadgets are kitchen staples. And I have been happy using a small blow torch instead of the pastry blow torch because for a long time that’s all we had access to around here. As for mayo, I only like the fresh made stuff, and I use raw eggs for it always. Duck eggs too, lately. Still great.

    But I really, really want that Soda carbonator.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — May 24, 2012 @ 11:53 am

  19. @RHCD: I don’t really count a stand mixer as a gadget. To me gadgets are usually small, rarely expensive and generally have limited use. To me a stand mixer –and I love my Kitchenaid pro– is just part of a well-outfitted kitchen, like pots, pans or baking sheets.

    Comment by Miss Plumcake — May 24, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  20. Miss Plumcake, how do you use the bourbon?

    Comment by Nancy — May 24, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

  21. My sister-in-law gave me the kitchen torch based solely on the hope I would make creme brulee each time she visited.
    I also use it for indoor s’mores. Perfect for toasting marshmallows without the pesky campfire!

    Comment by miss m — May 25, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  22. Yeah now I want banana pudding made with coconut milk. :)

    Comment by Lisa from SoCal — May 25, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

  23. Can you please share your mayo recipe? I made my own for the first time a few weeks ago and I was unimpressed with the results. Far too much lemon juice and mustard, methinks.

    Comment by Miriam — June 3, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

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