6 cheap kitchen tools that will save your holiday cooking

My kitchen was the first room I really invested in as an adult: I bought a KitchenAid stand mixer, a dutch oven, a high-end chef’s knife and nice plates and wine glasses. But aside from the chef’s knife, a few smaller purchases have become more vital to my daily cooking and food prep routines than any of the luxury items. For just a few bucks, in some cases, these tools can change the experience of cooking, and make the elaborate prep involved in the holidays much more manageable.

Here are six tools that can seriously elevate the quality and aesthetic of the food coming out of your kitchen.

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The single best investment in my kitchen over the past four years has been a mandoline. Essentially, it’s an adjustable slicer for fruits and veggies, and it makes preparing salads a breeze. All the intricate slicing you normally have to do for good salads is so much easier with a mandoline, and prepping veggies for pickling is just as easy. Not only does this make everything you slice look uniform and beautiful, it also gives you fantastic opportunities to punch up textures in your typical dishes.

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If you cook steak with any regularity, you probably already have a cast-iron skillet. But those skillets are just as helpful for making all kinds of meat, from chicken to octopus. One of my favorite recipes I’ve been honing over the years is an octopus-lime bagna cauda — and well-seared baby octopus is one of the most important components. When it’s too cold, or I’m too lazy, to use the grill, my cast-iron skillet is perfect for searing those tiny tentacles.

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A good chef knife isn’t cheap, but it’s an investment that’ll last you years. The problem is, many of us settle for mediocre knives because our old ones get dull and we don’t want to shell out for a $150 knife every couple of years. The tool that helps you keep your knife performing as well as possible is a sharpener. You can pick up a sharpener that works well for as little as $6 on Amazon.

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One of the biggest roadblocks to preparing complex dishes is the prep. If you have to mince, dice or roughly chop a half dozen ingredients, having a spacious cutting board makes a world of difference. Yes, you can pick up small, plastic cutting boards for crazy cheap on clearance at T.J. Maxx, but it’s a better investment to just spring the $20 for a board that’s at least in the range of 18 by 14 inches. You’ll immediately be grateful when you can keep three separate piles of herbs on it, plus chop carrots without the slices rolling onto the floor.

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If you really want to get into baking high-quality breads or desserts, a kitchen scale is a must-buy. You can get one for a little over 10 bucks on Amazon, and it will make your recipes so

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Kitchen confidence! How these pre-teens are cooking up delights

Saachi Pasari found her life’s purpose at a friend’s birthday celebration six years ago. The 12-year-old has vivid memories of the baking competition held at the party. “The kids were split into teams, and asked to prepare a dish.” The team with the most delicious treat took home a prize. Pasari doesn’t recall winning, but the cupcakes she made convinced her of one thing. At age six, Pasari wanted to be a baker. The kitchen soon became what the doll house was to little girls. When she wasn’t doing homework or attending ballet class, the Class VI student of Hill Spring International School, would be whisking away brownie and cookie dough. The pandemic made everything more real.

When the lockdown was announced, Pasari found herself with too much time, and too little to do. Fortunately, the school announced a hobby project early on in March. Each child was given a mentor to guide them. Sensing her passion for baking, Pasari’s mentor and teacher, Kanjal Ahuja, suggested that she start a baking page on Instagram, where she could share pictures of her kitchen experiments. Bake My Day (@bake_my_day_by_saachi), soon evolved into a home delivery service, with a delectable menu comprising macarons and a variety of brownies, cakes and tarts. Every new dessert she prepares, now gets added to Pasari’s growing menu, which she enriches by researching food sites and attending online workshops. “I try multiple versions of a dish and come up with my own recipe for it,” she says. Her vegan macarons are a hot-sell (box of six for R550). “I make the macarons either using aquafaba [made of chickpeas] or potato protein. Aquafaba is a replacement for eggs, but doesn’t work well in humid conditions, because it catches moisture easily. So, when it’s humid, and I get an order, I use potato protein with home-made almond powder, and caster and icing sugar,” she says. Her fillings vary from caramel, strawberry, Nutella sea salt, tiramisu to cookie and cream. Since she gets an order almost every day, she spends close to three hours in the kitchen, post school hours. “After baking, I go and chill on the terrace for a while,” she says. That’s when she winds down.

Saachi Pasari, 12, started her page, Bake My Day, on Instagram during the lockdown, and has been taking orders for macarons, brownies and tarts. All the proceeds from the sale go to charity
Saachi Pasari, 12, started her page, Bake My Day, on Instagram during the lockdown, and has been taking orders for macarons, brownies and tarts. All the proceeds from the sale go to charity

Where Pasari wishes to join Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, 10-year-old Sai Harish Thakkar of Swami Vivekanand International School in Kandivli dreams of being a YouTube cooking star. “Did you subscribe [to my page] and press the bell icon?” she asks this writer, before the interview. Thakkar is enquiring about her recently launched YouTube page, Cook With Sai. Her mother Trupti says she would crawl into the kitchen when little and learn the names of vegetables and fruits. When Thakkar had grown tall enough to see the kitchen counter, she started making tea and coffee.

In the lockdown, she

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Mason jar shortage is because of more pandemic cooking and canning

The increase in the number of people cooking and trying recipes during the pandemic has led to a surge in canning — because experienced canners are doing it more and novices want to give it a try.



a close up of food on a counter: Jars used for canning foods are in short supply this year.


© Shutterstock
Jars used for canning foods are in short supply this year.

And that surge has led to a shortage in Mason jars and lids.

“There’s so many more people canning this year than have ever canned. We have seen a big upswing in new people trying to can,” said Nellie Oehler, the coordinator for Oregon’s statewide food preservation hotline, who added she’s been answering lots of calls from around the nation about the lack of supply.

Marie Bregg, the owner of Mason Jar Merchant, a canning jar supplier, said she started seeing a huge increase in demand in the middle of August.

“Our sales basically went up 600% that week and haven’t dropped since,” she said.

Most of the demand is for the two-part lids necessary for canning, because they are single-use, whereas the glass jars can be used over and over. The lids have a disc that sits on the mouth of the jar with a ring that screws on around it, but after one use, the seal around the disc breaks down and can’t safely be used again.

The reasons behind the shortage

Bregg and Oehler said they attribute the demand to the amount of extra time people had at home since the pandemic started. And people who haven’t canned very much, or at all, are getting in on the trend.

“I call it ‘Sourdough 2.0’ — it was the next craze of what people are doing in the kitchen because they have extra time,” Bregg said. Back in the spring, baking sourdough bread was all the rage as everyone exercised new cooking skills — and for a long while, it caused a shortage of yeast.

During lockdown, people also planted bigger gardens than they normally would have and then had to figure out how to preserve what they grew.

The boom in gardening “meant that people for the first time are going to have either their first-time crops or bigger crops than they’ve had before. They’re going to have to do something with it,” said Joel MacCharles, who writes about canning and co-founded the website Well Preserved.

What this has meant for suppliers

Those are the same reasons given by Newell Brands, which manufactures the leading brands of canning jars like Ball and Kerr.

“Consumers staying home over the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in shifts in demand for food storage containers like Ball canning jars and lids,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“As more consumers prepare their meals at home, Ball brand canning products and the entire canning industry have experienced an unprecedented demand. The demand has resulted in supply constraints, extended lead times and recently limited product availability at stores and online.”

Newell said it’s working “rapidly” to

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Ina Garten gives a tour of her kitchen, shares design tips for optimal cooking

It’s the perfect time of year to cozy up with some comfort food, and Ina Garten has some tips to make your fall and winter cooking as easy as possible.

The Barefoot Contessa, as she’s known in her popular Food Network show, stopped by TODAY’s fourth hour on Tuesday to show co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager around her East Hampton kitchen and offer some design advice.

“When I’m designing a kitchen … I think of setting the stove, the sink and refrigerator in a triangle so you can move around really well,” she explained, adding that in her own kitchen, these three appliances are “really close together, but they also have a lot of workspace in between.”

“I always like the sink to have a really nice view,” Garten, 72, continued. Her kitchen sink points to her beloved garden where she grows fresh produce and hosts outdoor dinner parties.

The “Modern Comfort Food” author also showed how she leaves her everyday items out on the counter but arranged “in a neat way.”

“I’ve got all the utensils … I have silver spoons for tasting and stirring, and whatever ingredients can just sit out, and knives,” she said.

But her design genius doesn’t stop there: The former White House budget analyst also provided some know-how on putting together a stunning cheese board — with the ingredients she had on hand.

Ina Garten’s Cheddar and Chutney Grilled Cheese by Ina Garten

“You can go into your pantry and see what you have,” Garten said. “I always like something right in the middle as a block, and then I put things around, colorful things like apricots. I’ve got two different cheeses, one creamy, one blue.”

“I think very often people put apricots everywhere and then they put figs everywhere, but you want to do blocks of color and then it’ll look really gorgeous,” she added.

Even with all her expertise, the self-taught chef still orders takeout from time to time, she revealed to Hoda and Jenna.

“At some point I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. “I thought, ‘I can’t cook breakfast, lunch and dinner and still get my work done.’ So I said … we have to do takeout, and it just changed my life.”

When the conversation turned to hosting socially distanced dinner parties, Garten said she sometimes will serve pizza outside. “It’s just great, and you see your friends and you have a good time and … it’s so satisfying. I still want to hug them, though.”

Asked by a viewer who her dream dinner party guests would be, she extended an invitation to Hoda and Jenna, which they happily accepted, her husband, Jeffrey, and Taylor Swift, “if she would come for dinner,” Garten quipped.

She previously told TODAY Food that she always listens to music when she cooks. Her go-to artist? “I’m gonna surprise you, Taylor Swift, cranked up on the tunes,” she said.

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Six by Nico: Bombay Kitchen to showcase Indian-style cooking

Six by Nico’s latest menu will showcase India’s diverse regions in ‘The Bombay Kitchen’.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 3:13 pm

Mumbai in India is known for its incredible diversity found in its culture and geography.

Inspired by the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, Chef Nico Simeone and his team have created a menu packed with an amalgamation of Indian food styles – recreating local dishes and reinterpreting age-old Indian traditions, to create an experience that toasts the old times and celebrates the new at restaurants this Autumn.

The new six course Bombay Kitchen tasting menu includes, Aloo Sabzi, described as a chickpea and paneer dahl, a spiced lamb dish of Salli Boti, Corn Bhutta which features pressed chicken thigh, Roasted Cod and a flavoursome Makhani.

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In India, sweets form a major part of celebrations and guests at the restaurants will end their Bombay Kitchen food experience with a Mango Lassi – Yoghurt Creme, Alphonso Mango, Toasted Fennel, Cumin seed Tuile.

Chef Nico Simeone said: “India is famous for its diverse cuisine. There is an amalgamation of food styles, some are authentic, some are inspired and some are discovered accidentally. Our Bombay Kitchen menu blends the diverse cooking styles of modern India while revamping classic dishes in a whimsical array of textures and flavours”.

Diners can book a table now for ‘Bombay Kitchen’. Open from midday, Monday through to Sunday, each six-course menu will be available from noon.

The menu will be priced from £29 per person with the option to enjoy an expertly selected wine pairing for an additional £26 at each restaurant.

‘Bombay Kitchen’ will run from Monday October 19 to Sunday November 29.

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Cooking homemade dishes from the heart

FRAZIER PARK, Calif. — Tucked away in the mountains of Frazier Park sits The Red Dot Vegetarian Kitchen, and their philosophy consists of cooking homemade meals from the heart. Their cooking inspiration is a mixture of comfort American food with an Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern influence.

“It was all started at the basis of just serving with love, to feed. We’re here to feed. So, to be able to grow and do that as we have has been an enormous blessing for us,” said Daniel Schwartz, manager of the The Red Dot Vegetarian Kitchen.

Some of their most popular dishes are tofu curry, pad Thai, pakora and a falafel pita sandwich. They also bake their own breads like sourdough and wood fire nan.

“We do everything fresh from scratch. The menu has evolved over the years as we’ve evolved,” said Schwartz.

The Red Dot Kitchen also sells a variety of their homemade items like their sweet tomato chutney and Indian savory pancake mix.

And no customer leaves without a Thai style banana, which they say is like their fortune cookie. A unique signature to say thank you and give to those who have come through their doors. Daily they also hold an offering for the community free of charge from 5:30 p.m. to close.

“We wanted to do something that was just our way of saying thanks to the community for giving us the opportunity to be here,” said Harmanpreet Singh, executive chef of The Red Dot Vegetarian Kitchen.

The kitchen serves a traditional kitchari, which is a mixture of lintels and grains.

“That’s what food should be. It’s an offering, it’s a blessing and something that everyone should share,” said Singh.

Their kitchen is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, from 6a.m. to 9p.m. daily for takeout, curbside and patio dining. To see their menu head to their website here.

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How Quarantine Cooking Made Me Chill in the Kitchen

Isn’t this how your family eats homemade spaghetti?
Photo: Archive Photos/Getty Images

In the olden days (February), I was a very frequent grocery shopper. I made big trips. I made small trips. I made late-night trips and early morning trips. Often, I made emergency trips while cooking dinner. I needed another onion. I needed urgent oregano. My boyfriend would urge me to just deal with the ingredients we already had, but I could not hear him because I was already on my way out the door.

No, I did not want to substitute kale for collard greens. I mean, sure, of course, if you are willing to accept the threat of mediocrity, you can swap one hearty green for another, but then you’d have to live with the knowledge that your dinner maybe could have been slightly better.

It’s not that I demand perfection of my cooking. On the contrary. I burn everything, all the time. I am impatient and easily distracted. I pathologically under-salt. No matter how many YouTube videos I watch, I still dice onions incorrectly. But where I excel is extreme effort. Work is suffering; life is pain. If a task is annoying or inconvenient, I will do it. Inconvenience is my wheelhouse. Irrational tenacity is my secret weapon. I will always go to one more grocery store — and in my Brooklyn neighborhood, there are many grocery stores — because that is how I win.

I have been accused of being “very rigid,” but I would suggest that is a mischaracterization. My goal is not to follow recipes, like a sheep. My goal is to realize a vision. My vision, Marcella Hazan’s vision — it doesn’t matter. If the vision demands fresh mint, I need at least to know I tried to get it. One thing I like so much about dinner is that you can, with at least some degree of frequency, make it come out the way you want.

In many ways, I have failed to live up to my own expectations of adulthood, which is mostly to say that I do not own a tailored suit and also am not in the original broadway cast of Rent. Cooking in a small New York City kitchen, though, is exactly as I’d imagined it. I am competent. I am in total control. I am mincing garlic to the tender strains of Terry Gross.

The problem with total control, though, is that it also makes everything your fault. You can always try harder. It was annoying and exhausting, all this trying, and then, all of a sudden, the pressure to try stopped. The world collapsed. The only thing you were supposed to try to do was not leave the house.

We started shopping once a week, and ate what we had, and if that was gone, then we ate something else. Usually, it was good. Sometimes, it was not. This could use a lime, I would think, and then I would keep eating. There

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Weary of cooking? Here’s how to save money and add fun

A discount grocery store like Aldi is worth a trip if you’re cooking more than usual and money is tight.

A discount grocery store like Aldi is worth a trip if you’re cooking more than usual and money is tight.

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One good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that more people have been flexing their culinary skills. Whether you’re making an effort to minimize your footprint in grocery stores, avoiding dine-in establishments, or working from home and have some time on your hands without a commute, you may be among the masses who have taken up the fine art of cooking. Here are a few ideas to get creative in the kitchen.

Recipe exchange

This tradition has once again risen in popularity as people look for new things to make for their families. Apps like Allrecipes or Tasty are great ways to access an online network of recipes you can share, or start one of your own with friends and family through your favorite chat app.

Home-grown produce

If the idea of frequenting grocery stores right now doesn’t give you the best vibe, you’re not alone. Many farmers markets, fruit and vegetable stands and produce exchanges are still open, which can be a nice alternative in the fresh outdoor air. Stock up and look up some veggie-based meals, and you can extend your grocery run for much longer. Plus, you’ll have some healthy options for your family to enjoy.

Get choosy with grocery runs

Many kids have been home much more than usual, which means your pantry is likely running low quickly. If that sounds like your current situation, your grocery budget may start to take a serious hit.

If you aren’t already trying a budget-friendly grocery option, now’s the time to consider it. Plus, many discount grocers rotate items on their shelves weekly, so you can try new things each week. Put convenience aside for the time being if you don’t have a location nearby and make a trip. It’s worth it for the savings.

Whether you’re getting the itch to have some fun in the kitchen or are looking to mix up your weekly meal menu, give these wallet-friendly alternatives a try.

Kat’s Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, visit http://communityamerica.com.

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Suspect charged in drive-by shooting that killed man while he was cooking in his kitchen

A suspect was arrested Monday in connection with the shooting death of a Jefferson County man who was shot while he was cooking in his kitchen.



a man wearing a suit and tie: Brandon Thomas


© Carol Robinson | [email protected]/al.com/TNS
Brandon Thomas

Dalen Eliase Gaines, a 23-year-old Sipsey man, was taken into custody in Walker County. He is charged with capital murder in the Aug. 26 slaying of Brandon Thomas.

The shooting happened at 12:08 a.m. that Wednesday in the 6500 block of Snowville-Brent Road in Dora. Jefferson County sheriff’s Sgt. Joni Money said multiple shots were fired while Thomas was cooking. A vehicle then sped away from the scene.



Anthony Thomas posing for the camera: Dalen Gaines


© Carol Robinson | [email protected]/al.com/TNS
Dalen Gaines

Thomas woke up other family members in the home and told them he’d been shot. He was then taken to Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper where he was pronounced dead at 1:22 a.m.

Money said sheriff’s investigators obtained the warrant against Gaines on Sept. 4. The suspect and the victim knew each other and hung out with the same group of friends. A motive has not been disclosed.

On Monday, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office received a tip from a citizen that Gaines was at a location in west Jasper. Deputies and Jasper police took him into custody without incident.

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