Friday, December 18, 2015

One-use gadgets, or Do you have egg cups?

HALLIE EPHRON: 'Tis the season for giving gifts, and normally I eschew one-use items. Like hot dog grills (who makes that many hot dogs?) Or onion choppers (ever heard of a knife?)

But there are some gadgets I love, even thought they do just one thing.

Egg cup. (For softboiled eggs.) I like the ones with a small top side and a big bottom - you keep egg #2 warming below while you behead and nibble away at egg #1. They're so 50s.

Cherry pitter. Because life's too short and there's nothing better than a pie from fresh cherries. And they're a pain in the patoot to pit. And it's tiny.

Milkshake machine. Because no other gadget makes one the right texture. Never mind that I haven't made a milkshake in years, there are grandbabies to think of who should not be allowed to grow up without knowing what a really good chocolate malted tastes like

What's your favorite one-use gadget?
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hallie, I have egg cups, too! But I have used them for other things, like holding toothpicks at a party, or olive pits, or used tea bags.

But favorite one-use gadget? My rice--maker. That's cheating a little because you can make porridge in it, but I've never done it. I was convinced you only needed a saucepan to make rice until friends talked me into one of these. I made room for it, and now I don't know how I lived without it. I use it at least once a week.

Next fave? The Cuisinart ice cream maker! And that really is a one use gadget.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Corkscrew. I mean--right? TV Remote.
And the dumb Lazy Susan that holds the coffee pods. I railed against it, and used all kinds of tother containers, but turns out the thing that's made for them works best. I just try to hide it.

And we have a plastic thing that looks like a lime that's used to store a partly peeled lime. It is genius.

HALLIE: You peel limes? Never mind... Just realizing I own a lemon zester.

RHYS BOWEN: Trust Hank to come up with the really useful ones.... Corkscrew! We also have a good device for sucking the air out of wine bottles.

John loves his vacuum sealer. But he is also gadget crazy and sausage stuffing machines, hamburger presses etc lie in the graveyard of never used devices.

I'd nominate my lemon squeezer. Put the lemon in, bring the handles together and squeeze. As one who has 4 lemon trees we use it often.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: We live in NYC -- do you think I have room for egg cups? No way! Crockpot and toaster, that's about it... We do have a Harry Potter-inspired wand TV remote, though!

HALLIE: I want one!

LUCY BURDETTE: Santa is bringing an ice cream maker to our house next week. I sure hope it gets more than one use! Meanwhile I thought you would enjoy this YouTube video from Alton Brown about gadgets. My laugh for the month!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Susan, I would love a Harry Potter style TV remote, especially if I could say something like, "Rectio apparato!" and it would appear from whatever nook or cranny it had disappeared into.

Hmmm. Other single use gadgets? Well, I went on a tear and got rid of a bunch, only to be frustrated when Ross decided to make an apple pie from our superabundance of apples this year and asked, "Where's the corer-slicer?" Yes, we had one of those devices that looks like a wagon wheel with handles on each side that cores the apple and divvies it into slices with one blow. I had to admit it was in a Goodwill store somewhere. I bet stuff like that never happens to the "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" lady.

Oh, I have a weird single use gadget I use regularly: a candle snuffer. I suppose I could smother flames with an inverted spoon, but there's something deeply satisfying bout using the snuffer.
Maybe because I write crime fiction?

HALLIE: I have a wagon-wheel apple slicer. And a candle snuffer. An egg slicer. A melon baller. A pizza pie slicer. And some gadgets that I don't even know what they do but I like the way they look.

And on the subject of TV remotes -- IF ONLY IT ONLY TOOK ONE to turn the darned set on and off. Ours needs three.

So what are your favorite one use items and which are not worth the space they take up?


  1. I don't have egg cups, but I do have an apple slicer, a candle snuffer, a corkscrew, and a milkshake maker which, as Hallie says, the grandbabies adore.
    Because we have grandbabies, we also have a chocolate milk maker gadget. It's one of the best things, just because the children love it so much.

  2. My tv remote--Hallie, it really does it all, as well as operates the built-in DVD player! No extra remotes, no extra pieces of equipment.

  3. One remote?! What a luxury.

    And Joan, if you're still there, tell me more about a chocolate milk maker gadget.

    The one my kids love: Sodastream bubbly water maker. And they live in a NYC apartment with very little cabinet space.

  4. I have an orange juicer I use once a year, when someone sends us a box of juice oranges. I know, I could make marmalade instead.

    And a lemon zester I use all the time, to make Greek lemon basil chicken.

  5. FChurch, you've gotta let me know which remote that is. We've got four - TV, DVD, cable, and Roku. What a pain.

    I've gotten rid of most of my single-use items over the years. I think I still have a Belgian waffle maker around here somewhere. I think. I was at a Tupperware party for a friend and won an egg separator. Doesn't work. The hole isn't big enough to let the whites drain out. Back to my tried and true method - transferring the yolk back and forth from one half shell to the other while capturing the whites in a bowl.

  6. Garlic press! I also use the cherry pitter for pitting olives.

  7. Most lamented lost one-use item: My ancient waffle maker that weighed about 30 pounds and made the most crispy delicious waffles and did not stick. It started sparking a fizzing after 35 years of use so I bought a new Cuisinart that basically just makes a mess.

    Gram, I always wondered if you could use it for pitting olives. Because the really yummy olives (those bright green ones, don't know what they're called) never come pitted.

  8. Egg separating--one of my skills. No gadgets required.

    Once I bought a thing that made hard boiled eggs without shells. WHich seemed so cool until I got it--and it was SO difficult and so silly and I gave it to our next door neighbor's kids. I mean--the eggs HAVE shells, no matter what you do, right, so when you take them off is no big deal. Yeah, I know sometimes they rip the h-b eggs, but it was all too complicated.

    SPeaking of the next-doors--the mom used a melon baller to scoop out the quartered apple. Very clever!

  9. Oh, I'd love a universal remote! We have a lemon zester and an old-fashioned juicer, too.... I love the juicer for making cocktails!

  10. I love my garlic press! It's one of the best gadgets ever invented!

    Oh, and last year I won a gift basket full of kitchen supplies. One of them is a smoothie blender. It's too small to use in place of a regular blender, and I still can't find a place to store it, so it sits out on top of a small table in the kitchen. I confess I haven't used it yet. In the past when I've wanted a smoothie I've used the plain old regular blender.

  11. While the story is too long to tell here, I love that we have a device that will crack the tip of an egg off so that you can then use the shell as a "dish." We have used it to serve delicate creme desserts.

    The only problem is that this device (a solid piece of stainless steel with a bell type end) cost over $60 at a high-end kitchen store. Of course, at the time we *needed* it, so we paid.

    I have suggested that we rent it out in order to recoup some of that money. Anyone need an egg cup maker for the weekend?

  12. The best single use gadget I own is vibrator. 'Nuff said?

  13. We have four remotes, also. And "someone" screwed them up and made it necessary to use two of them just to turn the TV on and off, and I can't figure out how he did it so I could make it go back to needing only one.

    My very favorite one-purpose kitchen gadget has to be the silicone egg cups for making poached eggs. For the life of me I can't get the hang of poaching eggs in swirling water, yada, yada, but these little guys, which don't take up much space, do it brilliantly. And without the mess of strings of egg white, too.

    Roberta, you'll love the ice cream maker. The only problem is finding a place in the freezer to get the tub chilled for 24 hours before you make it. But I've tried four different kinds and they all make great ice cream and the like. Someone gave us an old electric crank-type for a wedding gift, 34 years ago. I still have it, but it makes such a mess, with the crushed ice, and the rock salt, that it is gathering dust in the basement, ever since I discovered the Cuisinart type. So much easier, and not messy at all.

  14. Kristopher, turning eggshells into little dishes, now that's a need I never knew I had. I do have shells for making Coquilles St. Jacques which is SO delicious but which I've made maybe 6 times in my life.

    Ann, your comment brought to mind another one use item: electric tooth brush.

  15. Last year I got rid of my blender. It leaked and even when you filled it just halfway it exploded when you turned it on. Between a food processor and an immersion blender I had 95% of my blending needs covered.

  16. Mary, sorry--the remote is just the one that came with the tv--but it works for the cable, Roku, everything. Guess I just lucked out, because when confronted with multiple remotes, I grab a book instead!

  17. The most useless one John has ever bought... The microwave bacon bowl maker! You drape bacon slices over a mold put in microwave and voila, you have a bowl made of bacon. What a waste of time.

  18. I love the idea of a bacon bowl. Filled with scrambled eggs? Tomatoes shredded lettuce and mayo and croutons for a BLT bowl? Or it could be a tasty hat... a sort of beauty treatment and head covering combined?

  19. I have a small plastic pizza-cutting wheel, a promo item that I picked up at a convention. Love it dearly! Also a two-part plastic lemon reamer (the detachable bottom part catches the juice).

    And grapefruit spoons with serrated points! Need all of these things.

    Also a plastic thing that looks like a big hairpin an opens jars!

  20. Hallie, the chocolate milk maker is kind of like a battery-powered mini-blender. Pour in the milk, add the chocolate, put on the lid. Then you press the button and the little stirrer in the bottom of the container spins around, making a cyclone in the milk as it mixes it up.
    The older grandchildren do their own; someone does the pouring in part for the little ones, who then get to push the button and watch the milk-magic happen.
    Best gadget ever because it never fails to delight the Little Ones.

  21. Why couldn't you drape bacon over any old bowl to make one of those?

    A tasty hat. My mind is boggling here, Hallie.

  22. Ditto Julia on the LOL, Ann!

    I can't even watch TV or movies if he isn't in the house with the four remotes. Nuff said. Luckily I don't usually want/need to, and he never travels without me...

    Mickey Mouse waffle maker: one at a time, delights the youth, always good and crisp. Garlic press. Pizza slicer. Cookie cutters. Also have the lime squeezer and lime/lemon keep, exactly like Hank's. Not for peeled but for halves or quarters. The crow cookie jar. And like Rhys, the pump that takes air out of wine bottles.

    And, yes, the "husband" - otherwise known as the disk of corrugated rubber that opens jars!

  23. We have an ancient waffle maker, at least 55 years old, and it also makes the very best waffles. When the cord started fraying, Steve took it apart and replaced the cord, and it's good as new.

    Unlike most of his DIY projects he didn't even have any parts left over from this job, either.

  24. Like Deb, I love my rice cooker. Other than it, I am philosophically opposed to single-use electrical appliances. But I have most of the previously mentioned single-use gadgets in my kitchen drawer. The one I love that no one has mentioned is the orange peeler! It changes an orange from a NSFW treat to one I can eat at my desk without smelling like orange for the rest of the day.

  25. You can make LOTS of things with a waffle maker -- hash browns, toasted cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, brownies.... but my single-use fav is my egg poacher to use in the microwave. Without it, I'd have to heat water on the stove, then dump the eggs loose into the water, yuk! That's something I'd never get around to doing...

  26. That's a lot of votes for egg poachers... I've never gotten the knack of doing it in water. You boil the water, break the egg into it, and it's supposed to stay together in a tidy egg-shaped ball? In my boiling water it disintegrates. Guessing it would work better with really fresh eggs.

    And bagelnosher I could have made all those things in my old waffle maker because the plates flipped from waffley to smooth... but the new ones the plates don't even come out. which makes the damned thing hard to clean in addition to not making good waffles. Another feature. I am officially disappointed with Cuisinart.

  27. Karen, your husband sounds like champ. The beauty of old electric gadget is they CAN be fixed. The minute you put in electronics, it breaks and there's no hope.

  28. About poaching in water -- my dad was a master at it. Perfect every time - He'd put a few drops of vinegar in the boiling water -- some voodoo there, or maybe even actual science but it helps the egg stay together. Or so he insisted. But even at that, you're faced with the watery egg to put on your toast. (And yes, I've seen Julia The Great put the freshly-poached egg on a piece of paper towel to dry it off, but that's a stretch -- 100% guarantee I'd puncture it somewhere along the way.

    And I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker - bright red! -- I'd sell cheap. Neither my fridge-freezer nor the chest-freezer would get the bowl cold enough to work. That thing was literally a one-time use purchase....

  29. Hellloooo, Reds! Long time. :-) Happy holiday season to you.

    I'm a big fan of my rice cooker and corkscrew. What else comes to mind? Garlic press!

    I also love love love my submersion blender for soups -- does that count as a one-use tool? Probably not ...

    Speaking of bacon, does anyone else bake their bacon in the oven? So easy and comes out so perfect!

    Cracked up at saucy Ann in Rochester's comment. But, just to continue the sauciness, some such tools are actually back massagers so could be considered two-use tools. :-)

  30. bagelnosher, I tried the poach-eggs-in-the-microwave gadget. Twice, I think. Rubber eggs. Threw it out. Doesn't anyone else have an old-fashioned egg poaching pan? The kind with the four little cups that fit over the simmering water? Perfect poached eggs, every time, although I do pretty well with the Julia Child method, too.

    Lisa, I cook bacon in the oven!!! I learned that trick from my daughter and absolutely love it. Line a cookie sheet with foil and put a couple of racks on top of the foil. Lay the bacon across the racks and cook until crispy. No mess, no splatter, and the best part is that you can leave the pan to cool, then just fold up the foil and throw it away. No trying to figure out how to deal with hot bacon grease.

    Kristopher, I had one of those gadgets! We called it the Egg Topper and used it to take the tops of breakfast soft-boiled eggs. Bought in England for a pittance, but it eventually broke and I've never seen another one. Where did you get yours?

    Ann, dear, you made me snort my tea.

    And Hallie, LOVE the Alton Brown video. Still giggling.

  31. Exactly, Debs! I love that method, especially using the foil. I don't use a rack--just lay the bacon on the foil. Your method probably results in crispier bacon than my way. So depending on how you prefer your bacon ...

  32. Pace Ann, I don't believe there's a more wonderful one-use tool than the ice-cream scoop.

  33. Bacon in the oven! Life changing, thank you! Xxx

  34. Anybody have a pineapple peeler/corer? It really works if you buy fresh pineapples much. You slice off the top then screw this plastic thing in. Pretend you're drilling for oil. Anyway when you get to the bottom of the pineapple you lift up the "drill" and the spiral sliced fruit comes up, leaving the shell. The core is inside the "drill" and you just unwrap the pineapple. Really slick.

  35. The pineapple gadget sounds fun! almost magical . . . and yes, I'd like a HP remote, with "Accio remote capability.
    I have owned and given away hand-cranked ice cream maker (takes more strength than I've ever had), Mickey Mouse waffle iron (when my niece was little and liked it), Pampered Chef ice shaver (because that niece's children liked it). I own and would give away an immersion blender (just can't get the hand of it). I use my toaster oven almost daily, reheats meals better than the microwave and makes good toast, too, though not quite as well as the old one I bought at an estate sale.

  36. LOVE my immersion blender, Storytellermary... I gave away my blender when I got it. And my husband was furious when I replaced our dead toaster oven with a toaster. Now we're waiting for it to die so we can replace it with a toaster oven.

  37. I finally threw the unused lemon zester out. The next day discovered a lemon tree in the back yard.

    I dismantled one of my father's odd-looking trellises then found the instructions for his much-coveted tomato espalier fence.

    I still have the cheese board with knife depression, and the knife that came with it, that Steve and I received as a wedding gift how many years ago??? Ohgeargod I was in my first year of college… he is using it now. Ah. Uh huh. He says it isn’t a cheese board. It’s a breadboard. And that’s why I wasn’t supposed to sharpen the knife! I still don’t listen to him. Nor does he, me. But here we are still together, and the real cheese slicer died during our first year of marriage.

  38. Reine, that is a novel in 50 words...
    Come to think of it I still have quite a few wedding presents from '69. Not the fondue pot. Or chafing dish. Or plate warmer. Or electric orange juicer. Or chip-and-dip bowl.

  39. Oh, Julia, your candle snuffer has conjured up memories of my grandmother's snuffer. A scissors shaped device, made like a bird's beak that was a box...the scissors part opened the box and then squeezed it shut to snuff the flame. A wordy and not very accurate description for what I can see so clearly in my memory's eye. Thank you

  40. Hallie, some gadgets are very funny, although no one thought my mother and I were funny the day we laughed at an electric orange juicer demo--in Filene's? She had the manual kind in her diner in Marblehead. People loved to see their orange juice being squeezed and would sit at the counter for a good view! She'd place half an orange on the... spot where it went... don't know what it's called. Then she'd grab the lever and pull it down. The juice would go straight into the glass. So simple and easy! Customers loved it! The electric ones looked unstable and hard to clean in comparison. We shouldn't have laughed, though. Huh?

  41. Very late coming in tonight. Very busy day and night. So glad I did visit the Reds tonight because now I know all sorts of gadgets I need. Milk shake maker (Hallie), chocolate milk maker (Joan), Mickey Mouse waffle maker (Edith), lemon squeezer (Rhys), Harry Potter inspired wand remote (Susan), and garlic press (several votes). Ann, I claim the Fifth.

    My father poached an egg in water in an iron skillet every morning for his breakfast, and he was a master at it. It's interesting because my mother cooked lots and everything else, but the poached egg was his domain, and he didn't really like anyone else in the kitchen when he was cooking it.

    Debs, I had a rice cooker, but I couldn't get the hang of it.

  42. I'm late to the party (alas) but i have a sweet little nut cracker. Also have the garlic press, the wine stopper that removes air (but I forgot how to make it work), an egg coddler, egg cups, and a lettuce dryer (the spinning kind).