10+1 Essential Kitchen Gadgets to Get You Started With Baking

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If you are building your first kitchen or have decided to get more serious about your baking (Farewell, pre-made cookie doughs and muffin mixes!), thumbs up and welcome to the community! I made you a shopping list of the things you should own to make the most of your baking, all based on experience.

I am a self-taught baker and a sucker for all things kitchen. Sometimes I honestly feel I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an Ikea, let alone online shopping (can anyone relate?), but at least some good comes of my culinary hoarding problem – I can tell you what get’s used a lot and what stays idle collecting dust.

It’s funny because I’m actually a very conscious shopper but somehow could not yet master up that kind of moderation over kitchen-related purchases. Working on it though!

For a more minimalistic approach on your kitchen collection (or anything else, really), the first step is to get rid of the things that have accumulated in your space over time. I’m after the latest kitchen cull, where I was brutally honest with myself about the gear I really use, and the stuff that’s just taking up precious cupboard space.

I found a local charity that accepts kitchen goods as well, and donated my barely ever used items. If you are a bit of a kitchen hoarder like me, I strongly encourage you to take the time and clean out your cabinets. It’s liberating!

That said, the things you will actually make good use of are the following (you’ll find them at various price points so you can make it work whatever the budget):

#1 Baking spatula. You’d want to find the best combination of size, flexibility and strength: small enough to fit in jars, flexible enough to scrape the sides of bowls and strong enough to press down doughs. Also, look for a slightly angled tip and ’heatproof’ written on the label. (GIR Ultimate High Heat Silicone Spatula)

GIR Silicone Spatula

# 2 Balloon whisk for breaking up liquids, dispersing solids, and incorporating air. Get a medium and a small one with a comfortable, grippy handle and flexible wires. Choose the one with the more loops. Non-stick, no-scrape silicone coating on the wires is a plus. (OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk)

OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk

#3 Bench scraper. This rectangular piece of metal with a grip is used for cutting, scraping, lifting and folding pastry, bread and other doughs. The blade needs to be stiff enough for cutting, with a sharper blade rather than a dull one. Look for a model with a ruler on the edge for easy measurements. (Ateco Stainless Steel Bench Scraper)

ateco stainless steel bench scraper

#4 Measuring tools. More precisely, a sturdy Pyrex jug for liquid measures, and a set of measuring cups and spoons for dry goods. Stainless steel over plastic. (Pyrex Measuring Jug and Hudson Essentials Stainless Steel Measuring Cups Set)

pyrex measuring jug

hudson measuring cup set

#5 Mixing bowls. You’ll need a bigger and a smaller one, preferably microwave and dishwasher-safe. Opt for a design featuring a spout and a handle for easy, spill-free pouring. (Ikea VISPAD)

ikea mixing bowl set

#6 Pastry blender. This gadget is created to work solid fats quickly into flour without melting, but is equally good at mashing anything. Ok it’s not a necessity, but you still would be glad to have it around, trust me. Look for a solid stainless steel construction and sturdy handle. (Cake Boss Stainless Steel Pastry Blender)

Cake Boss Pastry Blender

#7 Pastry brush. To brush eggwash onto pastry or oil a baking tin. Pastry brush bristles come in plastic, silicone or natural fibres. Silicone brush strands are less likely to fall out or splinter, plus they wash easily. However, liquid tends to drip off silicone rather than grip. Natural brushes give a more even coat, but the bristles tend to flake. Whichever material you choose, go for a brush that’s flexible, soft-haired, wide and flat. (Matfer Pastry Brush)

matfer patry brush

#8 Scale. If you’re still wondering why you need one: for more accurate measures and more consistent results. You’d be surprised how wildly inaccurate volumetric measurements can be! A small, reliable digital scale that can do conversions is a must-have kitchen tool and could be the difference between a perfect or a collapsed cake. (AWS Digital Scale)

AWS digital kitchen scale

#9 Sieves. Bowl-shaped metal sieves are among a kitchen’s most versatile tools. The metal mesh has to be able to handle some pressure without pulling loose from its frame. They come with medium (used for sifting, draining and straining), fine (for separating particles and refining textures), and superfine mesh for dusting. (Premium Fine Mesh Strainers)

premium fine mesh strainers

#10 Thermometer. In recipes calling for specific internal cooking temperatures, a thermometer can make all the difference between a perfectly done dish and one that’s under or overcooked. An instant-read digital thermometer is generally more accurate, consistent and convenient to use than an analog. (Habor Instant-Read Digital Thermometer)

Habor Instant-Read Food Thermometer

+1 Stand mixer. If you can only afford one splurge, a stand mixer should be it. Totally pays off! I don’t happen to own the you-know-which-one generic trademark, but I’m perfectly happy with my more affordable piece as well. These workhorses are more efficient at evenly combining ingredients than a human could ever be, and help cut down on prep times tremendously. (KitchenAid Classic Plus Series)

KitchenAid Classic Plus white

So that’s my list. Curious to see how yours look like!

Love,

Fruzsi

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Some Thoughts on Turning 30

cake with succulents

You’re still a rock star – I whisper to myself as I take my multivitamin and go to bed at 9 pm.

Story of my life 🙂

I’m staring down my 31st birthday tomorrow and so I figured one year in is the perfect time to reflect on the things I’ve learnt and the changes I’ve experienced along the turn of a decade. First of all, life certainly did not end this time last year!

I simply think of my 30s as the next chapter in my life and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me and my loved ones. Your 20s are usually spent figuring out what you want from life and indeed, nowadays I’m feeling more secure and comfortable in my own skin than before.

Adult life is full of things we are never taught how to do and I’m still very far from having it all figured out, but as you get older and learn who you are, it starts to get more straightforward. With an evolving perspective on life, there’s no denying after turning 30 things do begin to change a bit.

This is how it is for me, not necessarily in order of importance:

  1. The oldies station is now playing the hits of my childhood. I still need time to process that…
  2. Staying in over going out. Sitting on my couch with a glass of wine sounds way more appealing than a loud club with unflattering strobe lights. When I’m asked if I want to go out these days, I assume that means an outdoor adventure, binge drinking and falling asleep with my makeup on not included in the schedule.
  3. Start drinking like a grown-up. Alcohol is an acquired taste and the goal is to develop an appreciation for your beverages. Also, time to invest in proper glassware. For more on the subject read this, it’s hilarious.
  4. Heels hurt your feet. I’ve finally come to terms with not being able to navigate 6” heels graciously and so ditched all my cab-to-curbs. The few pairs of nice (and lower) leather pumps I kept are now called sitting shoes. Not here for blisters and bunions any more.
  5. Too old for ill-fitting underwear. Got rid of every odd piece I’d been holding onto: the too tight, too big, too low, too high, the itchy and the one that’s cheap but sexy but more cheap than sexy. Wearing pretty and comfortable underwear boosts your confidence, even when only you and your husband (and wandering eyes in the gym locker) know what your undergarments look like.
  6. Buying things that last. Quality duvets, bed and bath linens because I now appreciate it, and because manky, threadbare sheets and mildewy towels just no longer cut it. When it comes to clothing, spending on investment pieces and having a well-rounded wardrobe are the goals.
  7. Follow washing instructions when you’ve bought said pieces with your hard-earned cash. Well, mostly. I still don’t see why anyone would hand-wash the average cotton-blend tee, but apart from that, through trial and error I’ve established clothing care labels are not put on just to make you claw yourself.
  8. Sunscreen is your friend. Don’t even deny you too preferred to be orange like Paris back in the day! I only buy moisturizer with SPF now, said farewell to self tanners a long time ago and keep visits to the tanning salon to a minimum.
  9. Discovering that first white hair. This actually resulted in less of an emotional breakdown than expected. NBD, I’ve been coloring my hair anyway. At least that’s what I think now, we’ll see what happens when there are a bunch of them.
  10. Accepting the skin you’re in. By now I’m pretty sure being 5’4” won’t change. Less comparing yourself to others, learning to work with what you have and figuring out the style that works for you seems to be the key here.
  11. Respect and embrace your body, be kind to your soul. In the end, your health is the most precious thing you’ll ever own. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, take care of your mental well-being and live a balanced life. All this will make point 11. less of a struggle.
  12. Time-management skills are a must. There will probably never be a time ever again in your life when you aren’t juggling multiple personal and professional priorities. But also, repeat after me: you can’t do everything. I’ll finish up with the laundry tomorrow, and that’s fine.
  13. Planning for your financial future. Start saving and tackle budgeting. Setting up a savings account for paying off our mortgage, contributing to a retirement account and a health insurance policy are things I think my 50-year-old self will thank me for.

Can you relate to any of this?

Love,

Fruzsi

Photo featured in title image by Emily Wren

10 Absolute Steals from Aliexpress

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right away: I’m no fan of copyright infringement to say the least, and I am well aware of the bad rap Alibaba Group is getting. Asia’s biggest Internet company has, on multiple occasions, been labeled a haven for knockoffs and put on the blacklist for fakes, surely not entirely without grounds.

Despite their damaged credibility in the U.S. though, I’m determined to demonstrate to you how AliExpress can still be your go-to for scoring pretty cool (and not fraudulent) stuff by showing you some of my favorite purchases on the global retail marketplace.

To call the following items affordable would be an understatement, dirt cheap explains the case better. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder, how on earth is it possible to maintain such offers? And it’s not just the prices either!

It’s true I could get some of these items locally from brick-and-mortar shops, but why would I really, when I can order from the convenience of my home to be delivered – with free shipping! – right to my doorsteps.

You might argue the importance of keeping local enterprises in business and I wholeheartedly agree, especially when it comes to the food economy (see my thoughts on honey). These products however are not made here. Stores are just re-selling them, probably sourced from the very same place anyway.

I don’t mind the waiting either, because what I buy from the site is never needed acutely. It arrives when it arrives, usually within 2-3 weeks (20-60 days being the official estimated shipping time).

But what about buyer protection? In hundreds (oh my!) of transactions, the few problems I had so far were all satisfyingly resolved. With full refunds if you don’t receive your order, and partial or full money-back guarantee if your item is not as described, you are covered.

Still not convinced? Check out these products and remember, you’re just a few clicks away from such bargains. Thank me later 🙂

10 Absolute Steals from AliExpress:

Chalkboard stickers. Reusable and removable in different shapes, 8 pcs from $0.37.

chalkboard stickers

Paper cupcake liners. Many shapes, sizes and patterns, 20-50-100 pcs starting from $0.63/lot.

paper muffin liner

Paper straws. For all your soirées from $0.86/25 pcs, in many colors and patterns.

 

paper straws

Glass vials with cork. I’m thinking favors! Different shapes and sizes available, per piece or per lot.
glass vials with cork

Baker’s twine. 4-8-12 ply, over 40 colors available (even metallics!) by yard or spool.

baker's twine

Kraft paper tags. Many shapes and sizes starting at $0.16, from 10 up to 1000 pcs.

kraft paper tag labels

Silicone moulds. Unbelievable selection for ice cubes, chocolate, fondant or even candles.

silicone heart mould

Tea bags. Empty, with a string seal. Get 100 pcs for as low as $1.12

tea bags

Satin ribbons. With different widths, a variety of length and all colors of the rainbow.

satin ribbon

Cookie cutters. The cutest, funniest and weirdest you’ll ever find, starting from $0.46

jigsaw cookie cutterLove,

Fruzsi

All images via AliExpress

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and/or used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

Guilty of Having an IKEA Catalogue Kitchen

We may as well call the 10-year period spanning the mid-20s and mid-30s the “IKEA decade.”

So apparently there is an IKEA era in your life, and Earnest took the time and effort to analyze tens of thousands U.S. user responses to describe it. Although the data was used to illustrate trends in the overseas market, I believe the results could very well apply to Europe too.

When R29 picked up the subject in this article asking friends and coworkers how they felt about the IKEA Breakup Age (it was found 34 is the magic number when you outgrow the Swedish brand), I felt an urge to declare where I stand on the matter.

Not yet past the breakup age at 30, never going to not shop there sums up my feelings best. I won’t argue some of their paperboard pieces are a little flimsy and will probably not survive 5+ movings, but it’s not what they’re meant for anyway.

Being a diehard IKEA devotee, I am ready to defend the furniture giant because when you have to set up an empty space from scratch, there’s simply no place better. And if you can invest in nicer furniture past your dorm years, they have more grown-up stuff too.

It’s not just the furniture, too – I’m especially loving their kitchen line. Yes, this means you and I probably own the same HEDERLIG wine glasses, but hell, it will at least be easy to replace the next time my dishwasher decides to break another one.

IKEA has the best offer when it comes to inexpensive basics and is a top source for quality kitchenware. I’ve decided to make a list of my favorite kitchen pieces, goods that have stood the test of time and really worth their price.

Below, 10 long-lasting, well-wearing, budget-friendly buys from the Swedish superstore:

ikea frying pan and tongsThe OUMBÄRLIG frying pan is a nice, heavy piece with a clad bottom for optimal heat distribution, non-stick coating and oven-safe handle: a multi-tasking must have! Use the IKEA 365+ HJÄLTE tongs for a firm grip and to avoid scratching your pots and pans.

ikea dinnerware and plate holder

I love the simple, classic design of my ARV dinnerware set, also available as open-stock pieces (phew!). I store all my plates in adjustable VARIERA holders for both convenience and safety.

ikea mug and tea infuser

Who doesn’t have a (or several) DINERA mug? I adore the muted colors they are available in and they have the most ergonomic handle of all mugs, period. For my morning tea, the IDEALISK tea infuser comes in handy, plus, when making soups I put whole spices in it for easy disposal when the cooking is finished.

ikea cast iron dish and kitchen towel

Heavy-duty cast iron cookware can get really pricey, but this enameled SENIOR casserole dish won’t set you back too bad. With a 25-year warranty and easy maintenance, it’s my secret weapon when baking bread. TEKLA dish towels are a steal of a deal and a must in every household.

ikea cake stand and paper napkin

My festive ARV BRÖLLOP cake stand has seen sooo many pastries! The lid is a huge advantage (I’m living with cats 🙂 ). Also, IKEA seems to have the best paper napkin designs every season. These flowery ones are part of the INBJUDANDE series.

What would be on your own list of IKEA kitchen favorites?

Love,

Fruzsi

All images © IKEA

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

10 Things I Always Keep In My Freezer

watercolor snowflake

Personally, I think freezers were sent from the heavens. Since I’ve learnt the 101 of freezing, the amount of food going to waste in my kitchen dropped dramatically.

Because if there is one thing I really, really hate, it’s food going in the bin. Happens sometimes inevitably of course, but every time it’s causing me actual pain to throw food away.

I was shocked to learn that about one-third of all food produced worldwide gets wasted. This figure is just plain outrageous. Fortunately, even the smallest adjustments go a long way: planning ahead, portion control and making friends with my freezer ticked the frugal box for me.

Trust your freezer to take care of batch-cooked dishes, leftovers, bulk-buys and near their use-by date foods. Check out the list of products below I like to have in my freezer at all times!

I buy most of the following items in bigger quantities when they are available at reduced prices, others are seasonal. But all are good to have in there au cas où for when I suddenly have a brain wave to make something but have no intention leaving the house for groceries.

  1. Lemon. Cut to wedges, lined on a tray, than put away in a freezer bag to save precious space after frozen solid. Besides being a lot easier to squeeze after they thawed, these beauties double as ice-cubes if popped into your glass straight from the freezer. G&T, anyone?
  2. Puff pastry. So versatile, yet probably the most finicky and labor-intensive things you could make in your kitchen. Even Gordon says in his Ultimate Cookery Course that you should cheat and shop for it, and who are we to disagree with the master chef, right?
  3. Tortelloni. Again, I’m not sure the effort going into it is worth the trouble. I am a huge fan of everything homemade, but let’s be realistic: I have less time to sleep on an average day than these require to make. Let me just whip up a quick sauce in the 10 min. they cook, and poof! dinner is ready.
  4. Flat leaf parsley. Fresh from my parents’ garden. We finely chop when in season and put away in small food containers to have at the ready for a good sprinkle over many dishes like pasta, risotto, stews, soups, sauces or garnishes.
  5. Bacon. Is it just me, or is bacon a little overpriced for what it is (not being the most valuable part of the animal)? Well whatever, I’d even give up sweets altogether before I lose my bacon, so I buy more when it’s cheaper and pop it in the freezer.
  6. Hot dog sausages. I like my wurst to contain some actual meat (Isn’t that supposed to be the norm? Just asking…). Lucky for me, my favorite brand is not selling as quick as others due to the higher price tag, so the surplus often gets sold on clearance prices. Pigs in a blanket coming your way straight from the freezer on game night.
  7. Cheese. Harder cheese types freeze beautifully, remember this if you’ve bought more than you needed. Cut to cubes or slices, it will be a life-saver when friends drop by for wine o’clock and you want to prep a nice charcuterie plate.
  8. Bread. Want the convenience of fresh bread without it going stale or growing mold? Freeze, either whole or sliced, and you’ll never run out again. It is nice to have on hand at a moments notice.
  9. Butter. You know, for those „low blood sugar emergencies” on a Sunday afternoon while catching up with your favorite series, and you need to put together some muffins or brownies or chocolate chip cookies real quick.
  10. Lasagna. A freezer-friendly meal for those times the dishwasher, washing machine and the vacuum are on at the same time, and the Husband asks what we’re having for lunch. Assemble in a disposable foil pan for more convenience.

What do you have in your freezer besides the average ice-cream and ground beef?

Love,

Fruzsi

Title image: watercolor snowflake illustration by Rebekah Nichols.