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Indispensable Kitchen Gadgets

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joanne3482, I love my toaster oven, couldn't live without it. 

 

 

Yay!! possibilities, you friggin' rule!! The popper works well and without shooting hot ,unpopped corn kernels all over the kitchen (or burning the joint down). It took me this long to post because after Lucky B posted, I thought I'd actually made a mistake, because the one that shoots kernels all over my kitchen? A presto popper with Orville Redenbocker on the side of it. So I was just going to thank my lucky stars that it was only twenty bucks and give up at that juncture.

So the unopened new presto popper sat in my hall for a while and then I figured, "Oh well, what the hell, maybe my Orville presto popper was just evil and that's why it was shooting high-velocity, hot kernels around the place."

It turns they are slightly different designs. I must have a slightly different one than Lucky B has. I actually took side by side pictures if anyone gives a hoot, but the Presto one is bigger, has a wider mouth and deeper shoot (there aren't too many ways to describe that that don't sound a wee bit pervy, sorry) .

Anyway, I have achieved air popper corn and I didn't have to bother the fire department :-) Thank you!

 

stillshimpy, I'm glad to hear the popcorn popper worked out. I can see how the old one you have has a different design that might cause the popcorn to fly everywhere. Mine is basically the same one you and possibilites have. It's just that Presto markets two of the colors under the Orville Redenbacher name and two of them under the PopLite brand. 

 

I'm also pleased to report that after going on and on about it, I did another search and finally found a used but in great shape replacement for my beloved mouli grater.

 

That's good, possibilities!

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Nthing the praise for Kitchen Aid mixers; I am lucky enough to have full access to my mother's and dread trying to bake without one (or scraping up the cash for one!) when I move out of the house someday. That thing withstands the ultimate test, in that I use it to make marshmallows a couple times a year. Gelatin and boiling sugar, whipped on High for a full fifteen minutes, and it doesn't even blink.

 

It's not something I have much call to use, but one of my favorite kitchen gadgets is a plain old pastry cutter. There's really no substitute for it when you're making pie crust or shortbread, and it's just satisfying to really dig in with one and feel it get progressively easier as the fat breaks up into the flour. It requires a lot of muscle punching downward, though, so as a short person I've found that I have to stand on a footstool while using it or my shoulder will ache for hours.

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It's not something I have much call to use, but one of my favorite kitchen gadgets is a plain old pastry cutter. There's really no substitute for it when you're making pie crust or shortbread, and it's just satisfying to really dig in with one and feel it get progressively easier as the fat breaks up into the flour. It requires a lot of muscle punching downward, though, so as a short person I've found that I have to stand on a footstool while using it or my shoulder will ache for hours.

 

As a tall person, I've never had problems and don't even need any muscle, so I think it's just a matter of being able to push down from above. Glad you found the solution for yourself, because pastry cutters can be fun to use.

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Also a big fan of the Kitchen Aid mixer.  It's a massive workhorse, and the meat grinder attachment, which we didn't think we would use, is fantastic for homemade kielbasa at Easter.   (The deal at time of purchase was that we got to pick one of the attachment packages - pasta maker, sausage maker/meat grinder, some other options -- for free.)

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On the other hand, I also have the big Kitchen Aid food processor with like 15 different blade height and type of cut options; and while it does a great job when I use it, it's a pain to clean up.  Sometimes I feel like I should have pursued an engineering degree when I'm assembling it for use, too.  

 

I, second, third or whatever the immersion blender.  Simple, effective, and sometimes fun.  

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May I just rant that I'm sick of seeing all the cooking shows in which everything is put into mason jars?  There are soooooo many other containers out there but now that mason jars are all the rage I can no longer find the lids sold separately.  If you use them for canning, their intended purpose, you may reuse the jars and the bands but you must use fresh lids every time.  If you just want your paper clips to look cute, use a friggin' jelly jar.

 

And yeah, I know I can order them online but I resent not being able to pick them up at my local store.

 

Okay, I feel better now.  Carry on.

 

Edited to add that I have two Tupperware egg separators that I love because in the privacy of my own kitchen I don't need to refine my shell-to-shell method of dividing yolk from white.

Edited by Qoass
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JTMacc99 reminded me in "What's for Dinner", but I love rice cookers. Ok, I am biased because I am East Asian, but I don't even like eating rice every day (a couple times a week). It's just so convenient because when the rice is cooking, I can make the protein and the veg. You can make congee, add protein to the rice, steam fish on it if you have a steamer attachment, etc. One day when I am much better off, I want to buy a fancy zojirushi rice cooker which has a timer and does all sorts of rice.

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There are soooooo many other containers out there but now that mason jars are all the rage I can no longer find the lids sold separately. If you use them for canning, their intended purpose, you may reuse the jars and the bands but you must use fresh lids every time.

Qoass, I have no idea where you are, of course, but you might want to try a farm supply store, if you have one in your city/area. Ours has the best selection of canning goods year-round.

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My Genius Nicer Dicer. It has large, medium, and small blades and makes it super easy to chop vegetables into uniform little cubes. Mr. Shrdlu doesn’t like chunks of onion, so if I use the small dicing blade the onions kind of disappear into whatever I’m making and he doesn’t even know they’re in there.  I even have a teeny tiny version of the Nicer Dicer for garlic cloves.

Also: Reynolds Non-Stick Foil. I hoard this stuff because I am afraid they’ll discontinue it. Everything you cook on it just slides right off. Fantastic for cookies, making oven roasted chicken (the skin stays attached to the chicken, not the pan), biscuits, lining brownie pans, etc.

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I'm partial to parchment paper for cookies, cakes, brownies but otherwise am a big fan of the Reynolds non-stick foil - the stuff works as advertised.  

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I want a Kitchenaid mixer very, very badly. I bake a lot and I have quite significant hand disabilities that make holding a hand mixer for 15 minutes while whipping buttercream a real PITA.

 

 

I didn't get a Kitchenaid yet but my mum found my nan's Kenwood stand mixer when they were cleaning out my grandparent's recently. I am excited. Nan brought it secondhand and it is 40 years old but still I am a happy little baker.

Edited by JacquelineLHope
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I lurve my Aero-press coffee maker. Doesn't make a real espresso but the best Americano I've had at home. Plus you get to tinker with grinds and amount of coffee used to refine it to just your right balance.

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For everyone discussing the hot air popcorn poppers and hot kernels shooting out - if you tip the popper back (with chute slightly elevated) it prevents the unpopped from flying out.  I saw this idea somewhere and it works for me.  Fewer duds (still get some but they land in the bowl) and no molten hot projectiles flying around my kitchen :-)

Edited by bkathi
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I don't know if it's the *best,* but I have a semi-dinosaur Crock-Pot-TM - not programmable, only settings are low, high and warm -- that just seems to keep plugging along. Haven't had it forever, but I think at least 15 years.

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I had a Cuisinart slow cooker that was gigantic and was programmable, but it was almost too large for my purposes.  It was also really heavy and difficult to wash the ceramic insert.  When I finally chipped the darned thing after ten years or so, I bought this one from Hamilton Beach and am perfectly happy with it, including the fact that it's about five pounds lighter altogether (which considering it's stored in a lower cabinet makes a big difference.   I'd recommend that one over the Cuisinart I had.  The Cuisinart was probably somewhere around a hundred dollars when I bought it and the HB one was all of forty or so.  

 

I'm not doing anything particularly challenging with mine.  I cook a lot of things like vegetarian chili, or beans, vegetable stews.  So legumes, chickpeas, etc.  It does a great job and is a heck of a lot easier to scrub out than the vast one I used to have.  

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For crock pots there are some good functions out there too. I like one that has the ability to lock the top. Helps in transport. A retractable cord is also nice.

I'd just think about what you use it for. If you take it nowhere, those things don't matter a bit. I've eaten wonderful things out of likely hundreds. It all tastes good and is hot. Find one which pleases you and works with your budget. Screw reviews.

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A couple of years ago I got a 3-in-1 crockpot from Hamilton Beach.  It has 3 different sized bowls that fit in it - 2, 4 & 6 qt bowls.  I like the different size bowls a lot and Mom was quite taken with it so I got her one too.  No fancy timer functions, but it meets my needs.

 

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DeLurker, that 3-in-1 is really neat - the different sizes would be excellent for me, as there's only two of us.   Sometimes we do a big pork butt or ropa vieja so we need the big cooker, but other times a smaller one would do just fine.   Hmmmmm.

Edited by harrie
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It only has one purpose, but my easy egg cooker is probably one of my favorite items in the kitchen.  It hard boils or soft boils eggs perfect every single time.

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I was just going to post about a similar item that I like, this Anchor Hocking 5-Ounce Measuring Glass. Super cheap on Amazon (free shipping as an add-on item), but my mother also found it at Walmart, (for $1.50, I think). It's a quick and easy way to measure teaspoons and tablespoons of liquids. As far as the reviews complaining about red lines rubbing off, I wash it out by hand and have no problems with it.

 

I ordered something from Amazon recently, so I added on two of those (one for me, and one for my mom).  I haven't experimented yet to see if it seems to provide a more accurate measurement of liquids than do measuring spoons, but it's definitely more convenient when one needs multiple teaspoons or tablespoons of something.  So, thanks for the recommendation.  (And my mom has a dishwasher while I don't, so we'll see if either one of us wind up having the lines rub off.)

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I need to know what is the best brand of slow cooker. The ceramic part broke in half.

I got a new Crock-Pot brand slow cooker a couple of years ago that I've only used a few times. The first time I used it I put pulled pork in it, set it to low, then went to work. When I came home, the pork was incinerated into a black football at the bottom of the crock. Now I only use it when I will be home to supervise, and not for anything that needs to be actually slow-cooked. I had to go back to my old Proctor Silex for that. Upon reading Amazon reviews, it seems to be something that others are complaining about as well. Why would you want a slow cooker that you have to supervise??

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Slow cooker: after being annoyed for years by my old one which restricted me to either low for 4-6 hours or high for 8-10 hours unless I was home to adjust it manually, I finally cracked and threw it out and replaced it with a new one I already owned. Yep. Catholic guilt was making me keep using an old crock pot I hated because there was technically nothing wrong with it except the way it was designed in my opinion.

The one I switched to is a Hamilton Beach that was gifted to me and I love it. Not only can you program any temperature for any number of hours, but it lets you lock the cover down and the accompanying serving spoon also locks onto the cover for super simple transport. It is a tiny bit heavy but not too bad. So there Catholic guilt... I threw out something perfectly serviceable because I already owned something that was superior!

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Looking for recommendations on a mixer - hand held or stand.  Don't need a space hog, the fancier attachments (pasta thingy, meat grinder, etc...) but decent dough hooks (and functionality) would be nice but not necessary.  Not sure how realistic that is in this price range.

 

Have rather infrequent need of one, but there are times my immersion blender with the whisk attachment or hand mixing does not cut it.  Looking for a decent quality machine and willing to spend for something coming in midrange (which appears to be $60 - 125?) for a good quality item.

 

My most hoped for mixer will make better than average mashed potatoes.  The only mixer I ever owned was a hand me down 60s model that did only did the basics, but the motor was more powerful than my first car and it did the BEST potatoes ever.

 

If anyone has some suggestions of brands / models to consider (or to avoid), I would love the feedback.  Thanks

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Hey there, okay in your price range there's actually a fairly decent stand-mixer from Sunbeam.  They've got several but the best reviewed is the Sunbeam Hand &Stand.   
 

The Sunbeam Mixmaster was the first stand mixer I ever owned and I still have the darned thing :)   I replaced it with a Cuisinart years ago, but that Mixmaster is good enough that I just couldn't bear to part with it entirely and it does have dough hooks.  

 

I've also got a Cuisinart handmixer and it's fine.  Nothing to rave about, gets the job done.  Yes, I have three mixers (and an immersion blender).  I actually do cook and bake a lot though.  

Edited by stillshimpy

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My mixer is an ancient Sunbeam (it dates back at least to the '70s), and it does everything I need it to do (and has a very powerful motor).

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I have a Sunbeam hand mixer from the 70s and that thing is going strong (it's been handed down from my grandmother to my mom to me). I've also got an immersion blender and a KitchenAid stand mixer, but those were gifts (although I do love them, they were both too expensive for me to buy myself).

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Still have my mom's Sunbeam stand mixer from the ... 60's?  It still works fine, although I don't use it much since my husband bought the Kitchen-Aid.  I also used mom's Sunbeam hand mixers until a few years ago with the second one finally blew out the motor.  I do like the Kitchen-Aid hand mixer I got to replace it.

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I have a KitchenAid stand mixer - which I love - but I found that I use the KitchenAid hand mixer more regularly.  (So I second ebk57.)   I used the hand mixer every week for about ten years to make horse cookies, which had a heavy, stiff dough, and the mixer is still kicking.  (The horse cookies killed two Cuisinart hand mixers in less than two years.)  It has seven speeds but no dough hooks but this nine-speed one has all the attachments.  To be honest, if I'm at a tag sale I hope against hope to find one of the dinosaur hand mixers, because they're like tanks; but until that happens, my KitchenAid is doing the job. 

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I got that 5-piece magnetic set of Progressive measuring spoons discussed upthread for my birthday, and can't wait to use them.  It's really a clever design.  I like that each is two spoons in one, with a round bowl on one end and an oval one on the other, and that the bottom of each is flat, so you can set the spoon on the counter without it tipping over.  And I love the magnetic idea, so that the stack of them won't topple over if you jostle them in the drawer.   

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Not a kitchen gadget, but a food storage one for school lunches - Sistema Klip It, 

 

I've always made my kids lunch for school, so that is a lot of lunches.  I always used reusable containers because the thought of all those bags going into the garbage bugged me.  A few years ago I saw one by Sistema that had two sections in one container but the divider went all the way to the top so things did not spill over into the other side which made my daughter a happy camper.  Then I found a few bigger containers and I almost uses these exclusively for packing lunches since getting them.

 

They are definitely worth checking out.

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I just looked up the company's website, and I like those divided containers.  I don't use plastic food storage containers anymore, but glass probably isn't a good idea for a kid taking lunch to school and these are BPA free, so I can see where they'd be a good option for kids' lunches.

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Years ago we got a plastic tortilla warmer free with some purchases in the local grocery store and for several years said tortilla warmer sat in a cabinet.  I eventually decided to use it as a sink-side compost bin to put in all the fruit and veggie leavings.  Since it has a top, the odors are well contained and it is just the right size to gather most of 1 days compostable.

 

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What a coincidence -- I also use a tortilla warmer to hold my veggie scraps and such until I'm ready to take them out to the compost bin.  Mine is ceramic, and fits right in with the accent colors of my kitchen, so it's nice to have out on the counter.  But it just sat there, empty, as a purely decorative piece for years until I had my "a ha!" moment. 

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This is not a mix or boxed item, but a tip I learned from a cooking class I attended. The tortilla warmers made me think of it. To warm corn tortillas, put them directly over a gas flame on medium for a few seconds on each side. OMG yum. And they stay soft for quite some time, no need to wrap in damp paper towels like I've heard in the past. I swear this one tip made the whole cost of the class worth it I use it so often.

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JTMacc99 reminded me in "What's for Dinner", but I love rice cookers. Ok, I am biased because I am East Asian, but I don't even like eating rice every day (a couple times a week). It's just so convenient because when the rice is cooking, I can make the protein and the veg. You can make congee, add protein to the rice, steam fish on it if you have a steamer attachment, etc. One day when I am much better off, I want to buy a fancy zojirushi rice cooker which has a timer and does all sorts of rice.

Rice cookers are great! I don't make ride much anymore (quinoa, bulgur, feel, etc... have pretty much replaced rice) but like you said, they're really handy. Still need to figure out how to make other grains in the machine though. I also love my chopper/food processor and slow cooker (stews, slow cooked apples (a favourite at Thanksgiving 2014) and hot cereal).

 

ETA: I should also add that I love my Breville Smart Oven!  There are only two of us, so this is perfect for weeknight dinners.  I don't use our regular oven unless I'm cooking for company. :)

Edited by PRgal
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Here's a really dumb question for you bakers.

 

I have a metal cake tester that I like but so many recipes specify using a wooden toothpick or skewer to test for doneness.

 

Would the metal one give a different result than the wooden?  I'm thinking more crumbs would cling to the toothpick.

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Would the metal one give a different result than the wooden?  I'm thinking more crumbs would cling to the toothpick.

 

I don't think they would give too much of a different result. You are just checking for doneness so crumbs don't really stick to the toothpick (or chopstick). I do find that chocolate or melted chocolate in bakes do stick (they get gooey), but that doesn't mean the bake isn't done.

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ETA: I should also add that I love my Breville Smart Oven!  There are only two of us, so this is perfect for weeknight dinners.  I don't use our regular oven unless I'm cooking for company. :)

I have one of these and I love that thing! I haven't used my regular oven in the 3 months since I've had it.

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I used to have a "mouli grater" which was a hand-cranked tool with different grating wheels that would either slice or shred in various sizes. I loved that thing and used it constantly until it disappeared during one of my many moves from one apartment to another. I have no idea where it went and have not been able to find one like it anywhere. Other rotary graters are too small, or... I dunno.... just not as good. Because of the design, my mouli used very little force to turn, could grate large volumes (potatoes, carrots, apples, cheese, whatever) and was easy to clean. I first discovered it through a college roommate. When that household split up, I bought my own. And when mine disappeared 25 years later, alas! Nothing like it anywhere. I even tried eBay, hoping for a used one.

 

I loved that old nut chopper with the glass jar and the wooden disk in the bottom. I prefer it to any of the modern methods.

 

Anyone have a favorite pressure cooker?

 

I think it's funny that the same popper is marketed under different names and prices which vary only by color otherwise.

 

ETA: They still make mouli graters, but the new ones are smaller, and have a different design. My old one had feet, and you could crank it using only one hand, and it held more food in it at once. It also came apart, for easier cleaning, and you could change the wheels for different types of processing.

possibilities, I have a Fagor, which is the only pressure cooker I have every had, and it works fine for me. I got it from Amazon several years ago and it came with a 6 or 7 quart pot and a smaller, teflon pot. I like it a lot.

 

I'm kind of a gadget geek. I want everything I see or read about. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer (bowl lift) for making my yeast doughs and cookie doughs. We have a lemon tree that provides us with tons of lemons a couple of times a year, so I bought the KA juice attachment for about $20. It absolutely works great. It takes me longer to wash the lemons than it does to juice the whole lot of them. I just put a wire strainer over a large (8 cup) measuring cup and let 'er rip. I freeze the juice in ice cube trays, bag them, and I have lemon juice whenever I want it. I also freeze the cut lemons after juicing and I use them for zest.

 

I have a bunch of measuring spoons that I keep in A & W root beer mugs on my counter, but I want the Progressive set, too.

 

I'm so glad I found this forum. I'm enjoying reading about all your favorites. Oh, yeah. And now I want a Mouli.

Edited by Notmuchofacook
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I usually have a pair of the dishwashing gloves around (because clearly my calendar is a half century old) plus a box of cheap latex gloves that I use when handling something greasy or harsh cleaning products (the gloves are fairly cheap at most drug stores).  I'd rather just save my hands the wear and tear and toss the latex gloves.

 

I found that wearing either is a great help when opening up a stuck jar or a milk lid (the brand milk I use has some seriously tough lids to open - I normally have to ask my college son to do it for me).  Some of my bottles have very narrow lids and my jar opener doesn't get enough to grip.

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I usually have a pair of the dishwashing gloves around (because clearly my calendar is a half century old) plus a box of cheap latex gloves that I use when handling something greasy or harsh cleaning products (the gloves are fairly cheap at most drug stores).  I'd rather just save my hands the wear and tear and toss the latex gloves.

I discovered the joy of cheap disposable gloves quite recently. I volunteer at my local food pantry, and of course we follow food sanitation laws. That means we wear gloves any time we're repackaging bulk food into smaller containers, and it's fabulous. I wear them now whenever I'm doing anything particularly sticky, or when I'm messing with paint or wax (I play at making candles and soap).

Also, I could write a sonnet to Ziploc bags, for many of the same reasons!

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When I was a kid, we had Kraft Olive & Pimento Cheese spread around once in awhile - I remember loving the stuff but it is one of those things you grow out of.  It came in these glass jars that were perfect for juice so we always had several around the house.

 

My brothers and I all have a couple of these glasses in our kitchen, despite not particularly caring for the product anymore.   There perfect when you need a quick drink or I use them to mix up small amounts of stuff in (like thickener for a gravy or sauce components).

 

 

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Ha! I totally did but didn't pack them for the last move. Only 1 of my brothers still has some of the cartoon jelly jars. The others are "too mature" (which means their wives won't let them). The 1 with the cartoon glasses also adopted my Marvin the Martian doormat during that same move.

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I received a small Cuisinart ice cream maker for my birthday this weekend.  (It is interesting how as I get older, more and more of the things I get are technically my gifts, but they just end up being things my kids like.)

 

First attempt was a chocolate pretzel frozen yogurt, a recipe that came with the machine.  We (mostly the 8 year old) didn't have the patience to wait for the full 24 hours needed to freeze the bowl, so as expected it came out very loose.  Having said that, it was also very tasty.  I think we're going to like playing with this thing. 

 

I'm looking forward to getting the hang of it, and then really having some fun inventing flavors.  The same little person who was too impatient is also 1) a big ice cream fan, and 2) extremely creative and loves making crafts and homemade everything.

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