I am not, by most measures, an early adopter. Of anything. But when I do adopt something, I tend to develop the “how did I ever live without this” mentality. Examples from years past include my hot water bottle and my GPS. (I know how I lived without Julie, my GPS, but it involved a lot of swearing, crying, and paper cuts from looking at maps while pulled over to the side of the road while swearing and crying.)
Recent examples include Crisco baking sticks, powdered buttermilk, and the Wegmans app for my Touch.
Crisco baking sticks are, obviously, a genius idea. I realize that these are basically death sticks, and that these sorts of hydrogenated oil products will eventually kill me. But this is where the genius lies, to me – in packing Crisco like butter/margarine/cream cheese, with a solid wrapper and measuring marks on the side, I can get better and more reliable measurements. Rather than having to buy a huge tub of Crisco, get my hands and multiple measuring cups gummed up scooping out Crisco, and then get a spoon dirty trying to get the goop out of the measuring cup, I just slice off the appropriate amount. I’m not left with tubs with reserves of shortening wasted in the creases, a la peanut butter. I don’t use Crisco often, and the sticks seem easier to store than the tubs. But Crisco does feature in two of my favorite recipes for two of my favorite baked goods – Skillet Cornbread and Snickerdoodles – so I like to have some on hand for my baking sprees. If you use Crisco, I recommend.
Powdered buttermilk. Yes, I realize that vinegar + milk = buttermilk; don’t comment. But while I almost always have those two on hand, that’s because I use them for things, like drinking and cleaning. Not in that order. Powdered buttermilk helps my baking sprees in that I rarely have buttermilk hanging around; it tends to spoil between my infrequent uses. It keeps in the fridge, so you don’t save fridge space like you do with powdered milk, but a little bit goes a long way. Just dissolve a few tablespoons of powder in water and voila! I’ve found this especially helpful in those all-to-frequent instances where I haven’t read a recipe through and don’t realize I need buttermilk until I’m midway through baking. For most people, the vinegar-in-milk situation will suffice, but I prefer buttermilk powder to stretch my milk out between shopping trips.
Finally, the Wegmans app. I have been enthusing about this to basically everybody I know (sorry, people!) Wegmans has been in my peripheral vision for a long time, but I never shopped there until their recent store opening in Lanham, MD. Their hot bar is surprisingly tasty for a grocery shopping date, not to mention the Coke Freestyle Machines. They have a good selection of fresh produce, mostly decent generics (from my experience, go for cereal and soup, avoid sodas and peanut butter), and with a club card I find reliably low prices on baking staples, especially butter. What’s really sold me, though, is their online list service and app. Since moving to Baltimore, have wasted a lot of time and energy wandering confusedly around grocery stores, looking for dried blueberries or whatever. The app lets me make a list online, access it through my iPod touch, and tells me how much it will cost and what aisle it’s in. I have been going to Wegmans once a month to stock up on pantry items as well as the occasional seafood deal or fancy cheese. If there’s a Wegmans near you, get a club card, download the free app, and knock yourself out!