"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing..." -Helen Keller
 
We've all got our tools. Men have power tools. They have saws. They have hammers. Screwdrivers. And they're so cool. I try to drive a thumbtack into the wall with my little fingers, then I feel a presence behind me. I look up and a knight in shining armor with a shimmering smile clears his throat. "Eh-hmm. You need a hand with that?" Then he steps in with a  big old hammer, taps the tack in with just three easy taps. "Anything else I can do for you?" Yes, men and their tools are impressive, and I'm not about to be one of those women insulted by a knight in shining armor stepping in to save the day.

No, I'm not sitting with my panties in a bundle over a man flaunting the fact that he knows the way around a toolbox. Instead, I head for the kitchen, my own personal tool shed. You see, I have plenty of tools myself. And in the kitchen, these tools can greatly shape my cooking experience. Most of the time, it's not a "make it or break it" issue, nothing extravagant or incredibly unique; they're just that some tools are fun to have and use. Here's my "top 10" list in no particular order.
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The dumpling ladle. So, in the land of rice and dumplings, people have these ladles to lift the dumplings out of the boiling soup pot. I bought one mostly because it looked cool and partially to be prepared for the occasional dumpling shindig! I've found it to be SO WONDERFUL though as a mini-strainer for pasta, potatoes, veggies, etc. I hate hate hate regular strainers because they seem so near-impossible to clean, especially in our sink that's barely 6 inches deep. This little guy is fast, easy, and will definitely be making the trek back to America with me someday.

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Crock pot. Need I say more? These things are amazing! Chili, fruit butter, stew, fondue, meatballs... Are there any limits to what this thing can cook?!?!

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The Pampered Chef adjustable measuring cup. I don't really care about name brands, but Pampered Chef really did it right and saved me room in my suitcase coming over by making an entire wet and dry measuring cup set in one easy cup. This little guy is a gem, especially for things like peanut butter and honey, which can be measured and easily pushed out into a the batter. If you don't have one of these, I'd highly recommend one... it's one of my best friends in the kitchen and was really cheap too... (I don't remember exactly how much it was, but I wouldn't have bought it if it was more than a few dollars!)

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A mini-muffin tin. I'd always enjoyed those little mini-muffins at Sunday socials and women's retreats. What I didn't know, however, is just how much fun it would be to make the bite-size wonders in my very own kitchen!

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The metal scraper. Our friend Mark bought this for us as part of the bread-making-themed gift he gave us for our wedding. It's useful for scraping the counter during & after the bread-making process. The edge is also great for cutting the kneaded dough into pieces. I use this all the time for dividing dough and counter-cleaning!

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My apple corer/ slicer. Austin bought this for me when we saw it in another town after first moving here. At the time, the weather was so hot that I didn't have an appetite for anything except apples. I'd slice up several a day and this little tool has continued to be put to good use. And really, anything Austin buys for me is especially treasured.

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Blender. For Christmas this year, we used the money from Grandma Mary and Grandpa Joseph to buy a blender/ food processor, and it has possibly been the most used Christmas gift. This thing is amazing! Though it is not as tightly sealed as an American blender tends to be, it doesn't matter much to us. After a year and a half of no blender & no canned veggies, and thus a year and a half of hand slicing veggies into individual pieces for every recipe, I might as well call this thing The Miracle Maker. Cooking is so much faster, and we also enjoy healthy 100% fruit and veggie smoothies several times a week. Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!

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The lemon juicer. I received a fabulous lemon juicer from family for the holiday, but I guess I was a little too hard on it and it snapped. Fortunately, sometime before asking American family to send one over and effectively breaking my new gift, the local supermarket started carrying such juicers, so I grabbed one and love it... So so so much better than squeezing lemons one by one. I love the way the juice falls down into the pouring cup as I juice the lemon. Very convenient.

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We picked up this little grating gadget, made of possibly the cheapest plastic I've ever beheld, in the market one day, where it was being sold for the equivalent of about $1.50. It has multiple attachments and can make so many different shapes of food, including waffle-shaped things. We've used it for waffle-shaped carrots, radishes, and potatoes.

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And of course, what would a kitchen be without one's most important tool-- a taste tester? Austin has really well-developed taste buds (from extensive practice, undoubtedly), and is much better than I am at tasting something and having a good guess of what it might need.

 



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