There are so many great time saver tools for the kitchen that I just had to do another article to introduce them to you.  Chopping vegetables in the kitchen takes up a lot of time when you want to prepare a meal fast. These items will make the job a lot quicker and easier.

Vegetable Chopper

If you want smaller cuts for soups, stews, and casseroles, the vegetable chopper makes quick work of it and you can make large, small, or mini veggies depending on how many times you depress the plunger. Just think how long this would take with a knife.

French Fry Cutter

I know a lot of us buy frozen French fries, but potatoes are cheaper and with the French Fry Cutter, you can have delicious fries in seconds. The suction cups on the base keep it secure on the counter and the two cutting grids let you make skinny or fat French fries.

Blossom Onion Maker

I love french fried onions and there is a kit called Blossom Onion Maker that lets you make this delicious treat in minutes.  It includes an onion slicing guide, onion core remover and complete recipe and instruction booklet on how to create this delicious treat.

Salsa Maker Mini Food Processor

If you love to make salsa, the Salsa Maker Mini Food Processor will be a terrific time saver for you. This little jewel holds 3 cups of vegetables and chops, minces, blends, whips, and mixes and is perfect for making the best salsa quickly.

Spiralizer

If one of your new year’s resolutions is to eat healthier, the spiralizer is the perfect tool to help you cut the carbs in favorite pasta dishes.  You can still use your best sauces but eliminate the carbs using vegetable spirals as the “pasta”. You can spiralize zucchini, summer squash, beets, potatoes (white and sweet), and any other vegetables that fit in the tool.

Kitchen Gadgets You Shouldn’t Be Without

There are so many awesome kitchen helper tools that I can’t talk about all of them in one article. These are not essential, but they sure do save time and energy when you have them in your kitchen. They also make great suggestions when someone asks you what you want for a birthday or special occasion.

Egg Cooker

I don’t know about you, but I never get hard boiled eggs to turn out right. This egg cooker was on my must have list for quite some time and I love it.  The Hamilton Beach egg cooker will cook seven eggs to perfection. You can even tell it to cook the eggs soft, medium or hard-boiled and the nonstick poaching tray is easy to clean.

Bacon Press

Next on the must have list is a bacon press. How many times have you seen your bacon curl up and resist cooking all over?  If you serve bacon often, this press will keep the bacon flat in the pan or oven and its metal surface washes up easily.

Electric Kettle

A minute in the microwave might get water hot enough for your tea or other hot drinks, but the secret to really great tea is to use boiling hot water and let it steep for a few minutes. With the electric tea kettle the water boils quickly and by the time the drink cools enough to drink, it is the perfect temperature.

Cup Warmer

How many times your coffee or tea gone cold before you’ve finished half of it?  That happened to me all the time and I was running to the microwave to heat it up. This doesn’t happen any more since I got a cup warmer. The coffee cup rests on a mini hot plate with temperature control and keeps the drink just the right temperature.

Watch for more awesome kitchen helpers next time and start thinking how to incorporate them into your daily routine.

Winter Herb Garden

It’s so convenient to have fresh herbs in the kitchen in winter. As you prepare food for your family, you can just go over to the window and snip some fresh basil or oregano or cilantro to bring flavor and freshness to your dishes.

Growing herbs indoors is fairly easy if you have some medium sized pots, good potting soil, drainage, and a south or east facing window. A small console table under the window will usually hold at least four, maybe six pots of herbs. Be sure to put saucers or plastic trays under them to protect your table top.

Perhaps you’d like to put glass shelves over your windows and place the pots on the shelves. Mount brackets on the window frame on each side of the window and top with a piece of ½ inch thick glass with polished edges and you’re all set.

Our hardware store should start getting in spring seeds in March, but if you have any herb seeds left over from last year, you can start your herbs right away.  To see if old seeds are still viable, dampen a large piece of paper towel. Lay out on the counter and sprinkle the seeds onto the paper towel. Fold or roll up the paper towel and put it in a sandwich bag. Place the bag on the top of your refrigerator or other warm spot for seven days. Mid-week, you can check the bags to be sure the towels haven’t dried out too much. Mist a little if needed.

At the end of seven days, open the bag and gently unfold the paper towel. You should see little sprouts growing out of most of the seeds. These sprouts can be planted directly into your prepared herb pots.

Or, if you are adventurous, you can plant seeds directly in the pot and see what comes up. Basil needs a lot of room, so plant it in a large, deep pot. Cilantro, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme are all good herbs for your indoor garden.

Winter Seed Sowing

I just returned from a Caribbean cruise, and oh what fun!  But play time is over and I’m back in the cold and snow.  Went to the post office to collect my mail and there were no less than fifteen seed catalogs waiting for me among the junk mail.  I spent a pleasant afternoon perusing the catalogs for ideas for spring planting.

Thinking about spring planting, made me remember the article I wrote several months ago about milk jug mini-greenhouses and I realized that January is the perfect time to start planting those perennials that I want to put out into the yard in June after the last frost date.

Here’s a recap of how to prepare your milk jugs and get your milk jug mini-greenhouse started now.  Take clean empty milk jugs and punch several holes in the bottom for drainage.

  1. Cut them almost in half just below the handle, leaving a section under the handle for a hinge.
  2. Add about 2-3 inches good quality potting soil in the bottom of the jug. Add some perlite if the soil drains slow.
  3. Plant your seeds on the surface and leave them regardless of what the package says.
  4. Use a permanent marker to write the name of the seed, how many sown, and the date you sowed them. It’s a good idea to put this information on the inside on a tongue depressor or plant marker, too.
  5. Close the jug’s hinged cover and secure it in place with duct or waterproof packing tape. I like to tape all the way around, but you can do 2-3 pieces also.
  6. Remove the cap and place outside in a sunny location (yes, in the snow and cold). Place close together to avoid the wind blowing them over or put in a raised bed.

Good perennials to plant in jugs are Echinacea (coneflower), Black Eyed Susan, Hardy Geranium, Milkweed, False Indigo, German Stacice, Catmint, Virginia Bluebells, Evening Primrose, Phlox, Chinese Lantern.

For pictures and more details, see my friend Kevin Lee Jacobs blog at

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2011/01/making-a-greenhouse-sowing-seeds-updated/