Save or Splurge? 7

When do you save and when do you splurge? It’s a huge question, especially when you’re on a budget. If you’re watching every dollar, or if you’re just hoping to save a few, deciding to make a purchase can be tough. Often I ask myself, is it really worth my money?

And then there are the times I’ve been so enthralled with a new tool I’ve rashly made a purchase without really considering its practical application. There was the stainless steel garlic masher I’ve never used; the “adorable” dessert fondue tray which scorches chocolate; and the electric coffee grinder with no removable parts, that’s impossible to wash, and is now so rancidly acidic it has no hope of turning out grounds anyone would want to drink. Think you and I are alone? William Grimes documented several big name chefs who have fallen into the kitchen-tool-woes in his article “Must-Have Gadgets for the Kitchen? Think Again.

When it comes down to it, where should you save and where should you splurge? Here are two tools I use on a regular basis. One’s a save and one’s a splurge.

SAVE – Colanders
A colander’s, a colander’s, a colander. As long as it has small enough holes not to let your food slip out. Buy that baby used and save yourself dollars. Think Good Will. Salvation Army. The second hand store down the street.

SPLURGE – Thermapen
Thermapen is Cooks Illustrated’s recommended instant read thermometer. It’s pricey – $96.00 pricey. And, it’s worth every penny. Those people at Cooks Illustrated know what they’re talking about. This onetime purchase will change the way you cook. Forget standing in front of the open oven waiting for your thermometer to slowly register. In just six seconds, Thermapen accurately gives you a temperature. Stop cutting into your meat to check if it’s finished cooking. Test it with your Thermapen. Re-heating a casserole? Gone are the days of finger-in the-center checking. (You know you’ve done it.) Thermapen well tell you exactly how warm it is.

Now, put your Thermapen into action with this Crusted Tilapia. We all know, protein is almost always the most expensive part of your meal. With Thermapen, there’s no guessing. Only cooking and eating.

Pan Seared Tilapia
Serves 4

4 tilapia filets
3 TPS olive oil
Pesto (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season tilapia filets with salt to taste. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add tilapia filets and allow to brown on one side (about 3 minutes). Flip and transfer immediately to oven. Allow to cook until the center registers 145 degrees (about 5 minutes).

Remove from oven. Transfer each filet to a plate and top with pesto. Serve immediately.

1 bunch basil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup parmesan, finely grated

In a large food processor, pulse basil, pine nuts and garlic until well chopped. With food processor running, stream olive oil into mixture. Remove from food processor and stir in Parmesan. Serve on top of fish, tossed with pasta or spread on bread.
Note: If you don’t want to use your pesto immediately, omit the cheese and freeze the pesto. Consider spooning into an ice cube tray to freeze pesto in individual servings.

Recipe in print-friendly format

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About Mikaela Cowles

I’m a food-gobbling, book-reading, aspiring photog. Born and raised in Seattle, I love dancing in the rain, bouquets of fresh basil and green grass between my toes. I like how kneading butter into flour makes my fingers soft. I’m passionate about all things sweet potato. I prefer my coffee black, my scotch on the rocks and my steak bloody. I hunt, when I have time; play basketball; and hike. I’ve been known to laugh so hard I hyperventilate. And, I’m the owner of Making Language Count, a boutique freelance writing business.

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7 thoughts on “Save or Splurge?

  • Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef

    Argh.. I was going to buy a thermopen a couple of years ago and the store was out and that was the last thought. I must buy one.

    I’m really careful these days about what I buy but I recently bought a tortilla maker that’s total crap AND I had it sent all the way from the states. My tortillas all explode. 🙂

  • Hannah

    Great post, Mikaela! I need to get a Thermapen. I stand with the oven door open for much too long, and yes I’ve done my share of finger poking to test how warm something is… This looks like a terrific fish recipe, too!

  • Anne@FromMySweetHeart

    Mikaela….I love this post. I saw that segment on Cooks County about those Thermapens and it looks amazing. I recently spent 11 bucks on an ice cream cone maker that was the worst gadget that I’ve ever purchased. I’m a firm believer in ‘you get what you pay for’ when it comes to appliances etc. But on the other hand…I am a big fan of thrift store shopping and have found some amazing old cake and bread pans for a buck or two! The tilapia…with that beautiful pesto sauce looks delicious! : )

    • Mikaela L. Cowles Post author

      Don’t buy ice cream cone makers √

      Thanks so much Anne! I have gotten tons of good tips from this post about other things not to splurge on. It’s always good to get recommendations from trusted sources.