The mandolin is invaluable when slicing root vegetables. There are generally additional blades for cutting julienne strips and wider strips as well. Whether putting up carrots or making scalloped potatoes, french fries or crudités; this tool reduces the toil and the time needed to cut any of these harder vegetables by any other means.
This peeler/corer/slicer is my favourite. I do own others, and they have their uses, but this is the one I use when I have a couple bushels of crisp apples in the fall. If we're canning apple slices or freezing them, we can whip through them in no time with this handy tool. It takes less than a minute to peel core and slice an apple with this tool.
When working with mealy-type apples (which will turn to mush in the above-pictured tool), I use this type of peeler:
Combined with this slicer:
This slicer is used almost daily during the school year to slice apples for the kids' lunches.
Mini Food Processor
I've used this thing so much over the past 7 or 8 years, I'm surprised it hasn't died yet. I make our chicken and egg salads. We crush our dried chili peppers in it. I chop nuts in it. I slice carrots and celery in it (it's the fastest way to do so!) I shred zucchini and other vegetables or cheese in it. You want an egg salad that's a spreadable consistency? Use the food processor. Yes, it only holds two cups, but that's enough even for my family of five. You would be surprised how much one of these mini's can do. It's easy to clean, and small enough to not be a burden in the kitchen. Love it!
Plastic Lettuce Knife
We eat a lot of salad. We take great pride in our salads. My daughter has turned salad assembly into an art form. She'll call me on it, too when I've just chopped a bunch of vegetables and thrown them in a salad bowl. "Fail on the presentation, mom."
A plastic lettuce knife won't cause your lettuce to brown and wilt like metal knives will. I know many people prefer to tear their lettuce. I'd rather cut it. I get the pieces to the size I want and I can cut many more pieces at one time than I can tear. Using a knife also reduces risk of transferring bacteria to food from your hands.
The best thing about a plastic lettuce knife is it will not cut you. Or your kindergartner. With a plastic knife like this, younger kids can get started in the kitchen a lot earlier than they would with only metal knives to use.
If your stove doesn't include a griddle, it pays to own an electric one. Pancake breakfasts, grilled cheese dinners, quesadillas, Reuben Sandwiches ... all so much easier on a large electric griddle. In my largest skillet I could cook two pancakes or two grilled cheese sandwiches or one quesadilla. With the griddle, I make the whole family's at one time. Anything that saves me time cooking for a family is worth the expense in my book!
Crock Pot / Slow Cooker
When I was a single, working mom I fell in love with my crock pot. No more fast food because we were starving on the way home from work/school and nothing in the house would be ready in a timely manner. I'd start a chicken, pork chops, roasts, soups, or chili in the morning when we left for school and work and come home to a slow-cooked, hearty, nutritious meal. It saved my sanity and my kids' health!
It is imperative that you purchase a crock pot with a removable crock. These things are impossible to clean properly without the ability to remove the crock.
What are your favourite kitchen gadgets?