The set of four silicone measuring cups from Casabella runs $19.99, but since each one works in two directions, a set of four is like eight measuring cups for $2.50 each.

 

 

Mmmmm. Last week’s Feast Portland was a fabulous festival of food, inspiring many of us home cooks to head back into the kitchen. (Truth be told, we’re also anticipating returning to the kitchen as a retreat from what will certainly be rain falling soon). However, once we’re in the kitchen, a question arises: how can we spiff it up? Short of a kitchen remodel, there are ways to make life a la cuisine a little more pleasant and productive: simple, low-tech kitchen gadgets.

My vote goes to these items: the simple pastry scraper and Casabella’s brightly colored silicone measuring cups and muffin cups. They won’t break the bank, but they may change your cooking life. (That’s probably a slight exaggeration, but for under between $5 and $20, what do you expect?) 

A stainless steel pastry scraper is also handy as a chopped vegetable scooper; one swipe and you'll feel like a pro at the cutting board. It's like mother's little helper, but without any side effects.

The so-called pastry scraper is my favorite. It’s actually more of a do-anything-and-everything low-tech, high-performance tool. Pastry chefs use them to cleanly separate big bunches of dough, but somehow a simple swipe with it makes me feel like a kitchen pro. Just a flat rectangle of metal (or plastic), the pastry scraper is like a blunt, broad knife blade that can slice and scrape and scoop better than anything else.

Use it to swiftly get chopped veggies from cutting board to pan or pot without dropping a single chunk. Or to cut brownies or pizza. Or to scrape up a gunky counter. They run about $5 to $10 at local stores (Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table and Kitchen Kaboodle have good ones; you'll find them for a bit less at discount stores like Marshall's). 

Sometimes, it's the little things in life – and in the kitchen – that make the difference.