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August 1998 Issue
by Ronda L. Halpin
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Kitchen Helpers

Everyone has at least one in their kitchens. They're those little items (some don't even have names) that make your life easier. While they're not really kitchen necessities, they do help a lot. And, after all, if you can improve your cooking experiences, why not?

Have you ever had a hard time opening a jar of tomato sauce or jam? What's your solution? For some, it's finding the nearest muscle man and thrusting the offending jar into his hands. But, what if you could keep your solution in that tiny drawer next to the frig? You know, the one holding rubber bands and packets of kool-aid. A piece of highly-textured plastic can work wonders on the hard-to-open jar. These simple gadgets range from 4-inch circles with local ads on them (most of these are free) to 5-inch square meshes (you can buy a pack of 4 for less than $1). Fold it up, put it in your drawer, and next time a jar decides to stick, you can open it!

Cooking spray has found its way into most kitchens. But have you ever used it to keep your spaghetti from boiling over? Spray a little over your pot of boiling noodles to decrease the surface tension (that means fewer bubbles and no mess). If you have non-stick pans or heavy cast iron ones, spray a light mist over them and wipe gently with a paper towel. The oil keeps them from rusting and helps prevent scratching while storing.

If you are a coffee lover AND a seasoned cook, you probably already know how useful a coffee grinder can be. Some people invest in two and use one for grinding and blending your own spices and the other for making that perfect cup of joe. I, however, have one. After grinding spices in it, I add 1/4 cup of rice and blend thoroughly. The rice cleanses the grinder and makes a nice thickening agent in a pinch.

An item I would be lost without is my trusty blender. I've made everything from sorbet to soups to sauces with it. If you like canning vegetables, use your blender to puree tomatoes and can your own homemade tomato juice -- move over V8!!!

Do you have a kitchen helper that isn't mentioned here? Share it with our other readers by filling out the "Feedback" form at the bottom of this page.

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