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Posts tagged ‘Fun in the kitchen’

A Dozen Great Kitchen Tools!

Here are my favorite dozen kitchen gadgets with their approximate prices… It’s a great shopping list for gifts for your favorite cooks or for yourself. In parentheses, I have noted where I got mine, but search Amazon, check out your local cooking stores and you should be able to find everything at a good price. These make great gifts for yourself or other cooks! Have fun!

Pastry Scraper


1. A pastry scraper can be used for more than just cleaning the bench (counter). It’s also great for picking up vegetables from the cutting board and transferring them into a pot or bowl. Price: $10.00 (Williams Sonoma)




2. A mandolin is essential for a really professional presentation. You can use the type pictured or visit a Japanese grocery store to find a small, plastic, dishwasher safe one. Both are efficient, easy to carry around and to use. Use it for making very thin slices and perfect matchsticks for salads and other dishes. Price: Pictured: $90 at restaurant supply stores, Japanese: $23.00 (One World Market in Novi)

Julienne Tool

Julienne Tool

3. A julienne tool quickly cuts a vegetable or fruit into perfect small strips. It’s great when you want to cut just a few or want to carry it somewhere else because it’s as small as a potato peeler and easy to clean. It’s also safer than a mandolin. I use both for different occasions. Price: $10.00 (Williams Sonoma)


Flat Whisk

Flat Whisk

4. A flat whisk has a flat, circular head that allows you to whisk in a frying or other low sided pan. This is absolutely great for making gravies and sauces in a frying pan because it won’t splash.  Remember that whisking means a back and forth motion, whereas stirring is moving your tool around in a circle. Price: $14.00 (Check out Amazon or take a trip to Germany! J )


Heat Resistant Spatula

Heat Resistant Spatula

5. A heat resistant spatula by Rubbermaid can be used in hot pans for sautéing and stirring. It’s wonderful to use because you can also scrape down the sides of the pan. BUT NOTE: All heat proof spatulas have red handles but not all spatulas with red handles are heat proof due to the kitchen color explosion! To find real heat proof spatulas and other fabulous chef’s tools, visit Price: $16 – $20. (JB Prince)

Meat Thermometer

Meat Thermometer

6. A remote meat thermometer allows you to keep an eye on the temperature of the meat in your oven while doing something else – even in another room or directly outside in the garden! Simply sync up the remote piece with its base and hook it on your belt. Price: $50. (Williams Sonoma)


Collapsible Strainer

Collapsible Strainer

7. A collapsible strainer is the latest, greatest tool. Why didn’t I think of this? Made of a combination of stainless steel and rubber, it collapses after use to save space in a cupboard or drawer or hang on the wall. They even come in cool colors. I chose red! Price: $12 – $30. (Williams Sonoma)


Immersion Blender

Immersion Blender

8. An immersion blender is an indispensable tool for people who like to make soups and purées. You don’t have to transfer hot liquid into a blender or kitchen processor. Instead, you can put the rod of the immersion blender right in the cooking pan to blend. Don’t skimp on this one though. Get one that is sturdy or it won’t last long. Price: $100. (Lowe’s Hardware Store)

Omelet Pan

Omelet Pan

9. Non-stick omelet pans. I always keep four around! They are great for omelets and individual portions of chicken, fish, meat and other things so you can keep an eye on each one. NOTE: Throw away scratched non-stick pans because the coating will flake and that is clearly not good for you. That’s why the heat proof spatulas are so great! Price: $15. (Gordon Foods)


Steamer Basket

Steamer Basket


10. A steamer basket turns any sauce pan with a lid into a steamer! Price: $10. (Amazon)





Ring Molds



11. Stainless steel ring molds in different sizes to build beautiful stacked salads and vegetables. Price: $8. (J.B. Prince)



Food Scale

Food Scale


12. . Food Scale. The key here is to make sure that it’s easy to change from metric to American measurements. A food scale is essential in measuring exact ingredients! Price: $25 – $50.    (Williams Sonoma)


Build a castle in your kitchen!

Here’s an idea for another fun filled afternoon in the kitchen with your kids.
Even little kids can join in to create an edible castle!

full cake

First, bake your castle cake!

First, bake your castle cake!

First, make your favorite cake recipe using a castle mold. This one came from Wilton. You can find it at cooking stores like Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table or on the site. It comes with a recipe that works great, but I lost it so I simply used an old Betty Crocker Devil’s Food cake recipe. You can also use your favorite boxed cake mix. I will tell you, though, that denser cakes like pound cakes or gingerbread cakes are better because they won’t sink down in the pan as they cook. Make whatever kind you like though, because that doesn’t really matter! The one in my picture sank big time. I almost threw it out half way through cooking because it looked so bad. I finished it just to see and when I flipped the pan over, it was just fine. The cracking was all on the inside. So if you use a regular mix, don’t give up! Just make the cake and flip it out onto a wooden or Styrofoam board covered with Pretty foil paper that you can get from any cake supply store. (In my area, that’s Kitchen Creations in Farmington Hills or Heineman’s at 10 and Van Dyke. If you want to keep your costs down, just use tin foil.

Next, make a drawbridge for your castle.

2-cut tortillas

Cut your drawbridge…

Tortillas are perfect for this! Using clean hands and clean kitchen scissors,simply cut around a Hershey candy bar. It’s just the right size. We made two, just to be sure we would get a good one and you can easily make two from one flour tortilla.

Add cheese and bake!

…Add cheese and bake!

Then cover the drawbridges with cheese and bake it at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. This will make them sturdy and crispy.

Now you need some frosting for “glue” to hold your decorations onto the castle, some blue frosting for “water” and some green frosting for “glue” to hold up landscaping and other things. To make the frosting, simply mix a cup or two of confectioner’s sugar with the color your want and then add very small amounts of water, whisking until it’s the consistency that you want. It should be fairly think because you don’t want it to drip.

5-make blue frosting for water

Blue frosting for water

12-make green frosting

Green frosting to “glue” the landscaping down

You also need some brown frosting to match the cake to hold the decorations on the cake. To make brown, mix one cup of confectioner’s sugar with 4 Tablespoons cocoa. Then add just a bit of water at a time until it’s a thick consistency again. Use some of the brown frosting to “glue” the castle to the board. Then it won’t slide around when you move it.

"Glue" your cake down with frosting so it won't slide around.

“Glue” your cake down with frosting so it won’t slide around.

Now you are ready to add the water to the moat around your castle. Just paint on the blue frosting!

7-add water around the castle for the moat

Then I added circles of red licorice (they come that way) for the side cranks of the drawbridge.

8-add drawbridge cranks

Adding drawbridge licorice cranks

8-add drawbridge

Adding the drawbridge…

It’s fun having other people around because everyone comes up with great ideas. Your imagination is your only guide! As Emmi puts the drawbridge in place, Birgit is already thinking about her next idea… a tortilla path that winds around the front of the castle, outside the moat… She cuts curved pieces around the tortilla and then cuts them into the shapes she needs to fit on the board.

11-cut tortilla paths_1

Cutting the path…

After the path is “glued” down with frosting, Emmi lines it with little Hershey bar rectangles to give it the look of bricks…

16-add hershey bars to path

Adding Hershey bar “bricks” to the path.

14-cut chocolate licorice sticks for fire logs

Adding logs for the “fire”

…and I (Chef Lynn) cut some chocolate Twizzler licorice sticks into little logs for a fire. We also put a stack of logs around the back of the castle for future use by its occupants.

Emmi had a lot of fun “gluing” lifesavers on the windows, lifesavers and white chocolate kisses on the turrets, adding gumdrops, broccoli and cauliflower for landscaping and yogurt covered raisins for stones…

19-landscaping of vegetables, gum drips etc


…and filling them with treasure!

15-fill the middle with the treasure

We tried to make a swan to put in the water by cutting it our of a really large marshmallow. It was no problem with all of these wonderful ingredients though. When all else fails, just eat the evidence! 🙂

17-just eat it if it doesn't turn out

I have to say that quite a few Gummi Bears got eaten in the process too 🙂 Emmi added them around the campfire and they are also guarding the front door. She also added edible glitter to the fire and the drawbridge.

18-add gummy bears

Not to mention the delicious MexAmerica tortillas… great even just plain… and you don’t even need any front teeth to enjoy them! 🙂 Thanks Emmi and Birgit for bringing your smiles and fun to the Test Kitchen! XO

Emmi-You can even eat tortillas if you don't have your front teeth!

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