Monday, December 4, 2017

Around the Kitchen + holiday book #giveaway

⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄  Happy Holidays!   ⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄

We have a terrific holiday 
book giveaway for you! 

But first...

What kitchen utensil can’t you live without?

From Daryl:

I use lots of pots and pans, and I love my mini sauté pan, and I adore my 9x9 square pans - I use them all the time - but the one tool I couldn't live without is my food processor. I have a basic Black & Decker (not the fancy Cuisinart kind). It has been with me for a good 20 years. I love how it chops zucchini and carrots for all my hearty gluten-free breads. I've used it to mince nuts and onions for stews and soups. I use it to whirr together flour and butter mixtures for my pastries. It made a huge difference regarding the consistency in some of my cookies and such. It's noisy as all get-out, but I would be lost without it.   😭😰💔


From: Sheila: If you saw my kitchen area you'd know I have a serious addiction to kitchen gadgets, a lot of them vintage. I agree with Daryl--a food processor is essential, and I burned out the motor of my first one after twenty years and immediately replaced it. But if I were stuck on a desert island (with a food supply, of course), the most important thing I'd want is a really good knife. Too many people slog through life with dull knives that are too big or too small and simply can't be sharpened. Then they wonder why they hate cooking, because it's so hard to slice and dice all that stuff. A good knife needs to be long enough to slice meat or bread, but not so long that you can't peel and apple or a potato. It has to feel right to you, and you have to be able to sharpen it. I bought my first "real" knife in Paris during college (a carbon steel Sabatier with an eight-inch blade) and it served me well for years--with it I cooked that dorm Thanksgiving dinner I mentioned in an earlier post. (P.S. I have a lot more knives now!)


LESLIE: I'm guessing we all share a love of kitchen gadgets, along with our fondness for food, cooking, and writing cozy mysteries. Mr. Right came to our marriage with a 2-cup Cuisinart chopper; it's no substitute for the big workhorse, but it's great for making pesto, chopping walnuts for muffins, and other quick kitchen tasks. And it's become our go-to wedding gift. A former boyfriend gave me a set of Henckel knives that have served me well for decades. But I am seriously addicted to spatulas and turners. My favorite was a simple Rubbermaid with a curved edge on both sides; it split, and tossing it was painful. I haven't found an exact copy, though I do love the several silicone replacements that have made their way to our kitchen drawers! (A few favorites are pictured, and yes, I do love red!)

Erin speaks for me in this exchange from Treble at the Jam Fest, when she drops in to the music shop in search of clues:
"“’Course, a music guy can never have too many guitars,” Rocco added. “Like Adam and his skis and kayaks.”
Every obsession has its equivalent. Woe to anyone who counted my spatulas."



Well, there's nothing unique about me, obviously!  I, too, cherish my Cuisinart and, like Sheila, burned out the motor on the first one (first wedding present) and got a new one as a second wedding present!  I also cherish my Sabatier knife with its carbon steel blade like Sheila.  And, like Leslie, I have a mini Cuisinart for chopping herbs and smaller amounts of ingredients.

One truly strange thing that I suppose I could live without but which I use virtually every day is meant for scraping pastry off the counter but I don't think I've ever used it for that.  I use it to scoop up chopped onions, garlic, carrots or whatever item I've chopped to transfer them from the cutting board to the pot on the stove.  It was a first wedding present which means it's now a whopping (hang on while I do the math...) 43 years old!! 


LUCY: Count me in as a fan of the food processor too. Last year I had my blade recalled--they had discovered the possibility that shards of metal could fly off into the batter or onions or whatever. Quelle catastrophe! I knew it would be a while before I'd receive a replacement, but what to do in the meanwhile? Hand chop everything or risk a few shards? Not telling my answer...

Other than that, the utensil we use all the time is this little grater. It makes beautiful shreds of Parmesan, but also does zesting in an instant. Perfect stocking stuffer!


KRISTA: I'm so predictable. For me, it would be my handy dandy KitchenAid mixer. It's a bright red, which is fun. But the best part is the power for batters, doughs, and frostings. I use it to make mashed potatoes, too!

Next would be my Thermapen. I went through cooking thermometer after cooking thermometer. Seriously, some of them died after one use! I was wasting $20 to $30 a pop on them, and they never lived longer than a few months. The Thermapen isn't cheap at $99 (look for it on sale), but I use it constantly and it's still alive after five or six years. Plus, it has made a huge difference in the meat I cook. I can be spot on now. No more guessing whether it's cooked to the right temperature. I always use it for steaks. It's dead on. It's useful for candies and frostings, too. Love that thing!

And lastly, I use a cookie spatula a lot. It's softer than other spatulas, almost flexible. The end is super thin to get under delicate items without tearing them. Don't try it on a heavy casserole or you'll end up with a mess, but I love it for delicate eggs (no breaking soft yolks) and cookies.


LINDA: I love, love, love my hand blender...sometimes called a stick blender, a wand blender or an immersion blender depending on who you're talking to. Whatever, it's my trusty kitchen aid for so many things. I love smoothies, especially for breakfast on the mornings when I'm going to a fitness
class. I just toss the fruit and almond milk into a container, and the blender does all the work. It's also great for my Christmas morning specialty, Norwegian pancakes, which may not be an accurate name but it's stuck after all these years. They're very crepe-like and the blender handles that with panache. I also like that it's red. Krista, I agree, splashes of color are so much fun in the kitchen.

CLEO: Given what we write, Marc and I are often asked what kind of coffee maker we use. Today we can tell you because it's also the gadget we couldn't live without (so to speak)!

We have three coffee makers in our kitchen. The first is our stovetop (Moka Express) espresso maker. The other two are drip coffee makers, which we chose for two reasons. Both are good value for money. And both have a cone-shaped filter (a better choice, for many reasons, than a flat-bottom filter). The larger of our two drip coffee makers is a Cuisinart with a fun retro design. The smaller is the budget-friendly Black & Decker Brew 'n Go, which brews just two cups directly into a thermal mug. We constantly use both of them, and they've held up well to our heavy use. We're not pod users because we're always sampling different beans and blends and prefer to grind the coffee fresh, right before brewing, which truly does give you the best-tasting cuppa Joe!
Cleo's Coffee-Marinated Steak 
For the recipe, click here.
So there you have it, our favorite gadgets, along with a recipe that makes great use of their byproduct: Coffee-Marinated Steak. May you...

Drink and eat with joy!

~ Cleo



For this December "Around the Kitchen" fun we're giving away to one winner an MLK TOTE BAG plus a BOOK FROM EACH OF US.

Jingle, jingle, JOY! 

Leave a comment about what you're stuffing your stockings with this year, 
and remember to leave your email so we can contact you if you win.


  1. I really enjoyed reading about everyone's favorite gadgets! I could not function in the kitchen without my stirring spoons. A wooden spoon is a must for stovetop cooking, and I have a nylon spoon with a flat edge that is great for stirring roasted vegetables, but my very favorite spoon is called a "melamine oval blending spoon with hole". I use it to stir wet and dry baking ingredients, both separately and then when blending them together (it is an essential tool for my annual fruitcake baking). It is also ideal for stirring pasta while boiling and then when combining the pasta with a sauce. As the name implies, this spoon is meant for blending and it does the job perfectly! Stirring spoons would make great stocking stuffers.

    Also, like Linda, I am a fan of the immersion blender. This appliance is a game changer when it comes to making soups. Did anyone ever actually enjoy pureeing hot soup in batches in a blender before this gadget came on the market? I know I started making soup a lot more often after I got my immersion blender. It would fit nicely into a stocking and would be a great gift for any cook who does not yet own one.

    1. Cee, I'm not sure how people made all sorts of things without our newfangled gadgets! LOL I love that spoon with the hole idea. Must find. ~ Daryl

    2. Cee, we love our immersion blender, too -- we call it the whizzy-uppy thing! And yes to spoons as stocking stuffers -- great idea!

  2. I am also a gadget junkie, have cupboards full. But the thing I use the most is my 10 quart crockpot. It big enough for a huge roast or lots of chili or just about anything. It hardly ever makes it back to the shelf in the garage with the other 6 smaller crockpots. It is in use at least twice a week.

    1. Lunchlady, wow, you must have a lot of hungry stomachs to fill! And some good recipes. ~ Daryl

  3. not all of us have stockings because not all of us celebrate Christmas or any other holiday that commemorates stockings. So I can easily say not stuffing stockings. annefitza at yahoo dot com

  4. Another fun post! I'm stuffing stockings this year with everyone's favorite store gift card. Might seem impersonal, but I assure you it's not.

    1. Liz, I like gift cards because they can be just the right fit. In the past, I've often picked out the wrong thing, or wrong size, or wrong book. ~ Daryl

  5. In Mike's stocking he gets an Amazon gift card and a free trip to the dentist..In Brad's he gets carrots, potato chips and new shoes for his big feet. Kathy gets two new tops, a pair of jeans and Chocolates.

    1. Sue, how do you fit shoes in a stocking? I'm just trying to imagine. :) Love it. ~ Daryl

    2. For humans I fix tins of homemade candies and cakes. For our three dogs abd cat I fill their stockings
      with their favorite treats and a new toy. It is all fun because I do not like to wrap presents (I use gift bags when needed).
      browninggloria(at) hotmail(dot) com

  6. My e-mail is.
    Sue williams

  7. Books and games are stuffing my stockings. Donamae Kutska

  8. I stuffed my hubs's stocking with band aids that have Shakespearean insults on them. Best bandages ever! My address is booknerdcat @

  9. My daughter will have a manicure kit, some small nail polishes, small journal, a pen, a Brach's milk chocolate wedge ball, oranges and other small candy. Our cats will have stuffed stockings: catnip mice, crinkle balls, toys on sticks, cans of food and bags of treats. Thank you for this amazing contest. Happy Holidays!

  10. The stockings are stuffed with a few personalized items, but all of them include some fancy chocolates and funny toothbrushes. Ours is a dentally aware Santa.
    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

  11. Our stockings will be stuffed with things we haven't bought yet. We always try to buy a few stocking suffers for fun.

  12. with our kids being old enough to not get christmas stockings; we substitute gift cards. I splurged on myself this year with a new air fryer to play around and for healthy eating.

  13. Hershey bars and cash.

  14. We have stockings at work that the boss made for each of our personalities, mine being crazy cat lady! I will stuff them with notepads, lip balm, candy, and wax melts!

  15. Since we’ve been doing endless home repairs I don’t think the stockings will make it out of the box this year. I’m afraid they’ve been up only for show the past few years.

  16. We give practical and unique items. For winter, lip balm, knit hats, and gloves, and treats. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  17. Loved the discussion as it made me think of all the kitchen gadgets I love, my thin flexible spatula, my ninja chopper, and my microwave steamer. That's probably my top three. Stocking for my grown daughter will have makeup brushes, and husband's I have a cute Michigan shaped wood composed of 3 color natural wood key chain he should appreciate as a carpenter and a family tradition of oranges!

  18. Cute items such as teas, tea spoon rest and biscuits which are lemon flavored. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  19. Linda, we LOVE our immersion blender -- we call it the whizzy-uppy thing!

    And Lucy, a visiting friend helping me with dinner despaired of my box grater, and bought me a micro-plane that looks a lot like your little grater at the local kitchen shop. Love it! It's perfect for zesting, too!

  20. I can’t do without my Keurig! I am filling my daughter’s stocking with Bath & Bodyworks stuff...candles, soaps, etc. for her house. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity. Kuzlin(at)aol(dot)com

  21. I'm stuffing my stockings with Amazon Gift Cards, soft socks, and homemade fudge and cookies this year. Thank you for the chance to win this awesome giveaway!

  22. I'm stuffing the stockings with various gift cards. They're a nice surprise and everyone seems to enjoy them. Thanks for the chance to win!

  23. I can’t live without my wooden spoon my mama used and have to me when I got my own place.

    This year the hubby and I are stuffing our stockings with new kitchen gadgets such as measuring spoons and new knives. Plus a few or ten new books!

    1. Angela, so wonderful that you have your mother's wooden spoon! I've got one my grandmother brought my mother when she came out to visit, by train, after I was born!