Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kitchen Essentials I Couldn't Live Without!

I never have the time effort to make super cool cooking videos for y'all. I wish I was all crafty and into making movies, but I'm just not =/ There are, however, a few tools I would love to share with you. Not literally, I won't be giving away my favorite kitchen items, but pictures I can share. I won't get into basics; a good food processor, colander, knives, spoons, measuring cups, cutting boards, cooking sheet, pots, pans, etc. are all things of common knowledge. Unless you step foot into a restaurant or chef's kitchen, most likely we all have the same basic tools. In addition to those basic tools I've found a few that add a bit of flair to my kitchen, and some basic tools that simply put: make life easier.

To start out I'll show you some items that add flair to my kitchen. These are items my hubs will never understand the point of, if it were up to him everything would be navy blue & khaki. Shoot me, I need color in my life . . . and lots of it!

Not the most functional measuring cups because the top of the cup actually goes over the marker. I don't even care, these make me smile every time I look at them. Little hand painted fish, what's not to love?! They're not only great for measuring but also for displaying foods in, dipping bowls, or even using as a pinch bowl:

See how much happier these homemade chips look when displayed in a happy fish bowl? Next up is my sky blue ceramic egg crate. J. rolls his eyes probably every other time he sees this, but I adore it! Right now I have it sitting in the fridge full of hard boiled and fresh eggs. The eggs are beautifully displayed, and to tell the difference all you need is a sharpie to mark the fresh eggs with an "f." Easy peasy ^_^

Getting into my kitchen "basics" you get another peek at a flair item I love. A spoon rest isn't a necessity, I usually cook with wooden spoons which can be rested on the top of a pot pushed to the side. They won't burn or melt into the food, but when I saw this paisley spoon rest from Anthropologie I just had to have it.

Do you see it peeking out in the upper left hand corner? Love. Love. Love. Now onto basics. Everyone needs good pots and pans, but I must say I love a good nonstick pan. I have a ceramic cook top which means cast iron and enamel pans are off limits =*( Sniff sniff. A good alternative is a nice nonstick pan with a metal base. The ones above are used weekly, if not daily. A good grill pan is a great way to cook chicken, fish, beef, pork, or anything you want a nice grill mark on to finish off the look of a meal. A grill pan is also a great way to cook up meats like a hamburger patty. The shape of the pan allows for fat to drip out and away from the burger so you end up with a much leaner final product. 

Another great kitchen tool I absolutely can't live without and didn't even know I needed until recently is a magnetic knife rack.

Sorry about the flash! It's impossible to take a picture of the knives without flash because the quality is terrible, add flash and you have the same effect you'd get snapping a picture of a mirror. Oh well. This rack was truly made just for my kitchen needs. I use the above knives constantly. Constantly. Washing knives is probably the #2 thing I do in my kitchen, besides aerobic exercise; and by aerobic exercise I mean line dancing, and by line dancing I obviously mean cooking. Some days I feel all I do is wash knives, it's a hard life indeed. This rack is fabulous. It completely eliminates the possibility of reaching into my knife drawer and slicing off a fingernail, or finger!! It displays my knives, I love my knives quite a bit, and when I'm cooking I rarely need to move a step in either direction. I simply reach over, grab whatever knife I may need whether it's a chefs knife, santoku knife, or pairing knife and continue on cooking. Seriously, life saver people. 

Since we're talking about knives, here is another tool I simply could not do without.

That my friends is our knife sharpener. I'm not sure if you're aware, but knives need to be sharpened daily. Seriously. Actually more frequently than that if you cook a lot, you should be sharpening them before and after every use. This is a craptacular Ikea one we bought years ago, but it still gets the job done. See my wish list at the end of the post for more on this.

Pictured above is a microplane grater/zester. This little baby cost around $10-12 on Amazon.com and is freakin awesome! I can zest and entire lemon in 0.02 seconds (maybe not quite that fast) and it grates the heck out of garlic and fresh spices. Go and buy one right now, no excuses.

Silicone basting brushes are a Godsend. If you're using bristled brushes then seriously throw them right into the trash and buy some of these babies. They never get dirty, smelly, sticky, or stained. I have three in red, white, and blue. Terribly patriotic but fabulous nonetheless.

Food scrapes are another kitchen must have. Sure, you can use your hands to scrape your onion or garlic up and take more than one trip in the attempt to get it all in the darn pan. Or, you can simply use a food scrape. I've seen these all over the place anywhere from $5-15. I am no sucker, and I refuse to pay more than $1-2 for something like this. When I bought my blender we got about 4 or 5 of those large flexible cutting boards. I cut one up into 4 equal parts and now I have multiple food scrapes, these work like a charm and save me the hassle of having to dirty my hands (and kitchen floor). If you're using the knife to scrape up the food, make sure you only ONLY use the dull side. Using the blade to scrape up food with quickly dull your knife.

A Lazy Susan might seem really cheesy or remind you of your grandma serving lemonade on her back porch, but honestly this thing has saved me loads of time on multiple occasions. I have a crap ton of spices. What is displayed in this picture is only maybe half of the spices and extracts I have. These are all my super basic spices, oils, and the spoons and spatulas I use regularly. I don't have enough room in my pantry and drawers to fit everything neatly in a way I can grab whatever I may need. I used to stand in front of the cupboards cursing up a storm looking for basil. Basil!! Now I just reach over, give her a spin, and there it is! Plus, I think this one was only $16 on Amazon and it's huge!

Another item I love, and this was a recent purchase, is my giant stainless steel bowl. It's a mixing bowl, salad bowl, fruit & veggie bowl, a serving bowl, and the list goes on and on. I particularly love it because it's lightweight! My glass bowl is a royal pain to hold with one hand when I'm trying to scrape batter using a spatula in the other hand. I've actually dropped the glass bowl (without breaking it) onto the counter before because it gets heavy after a while. This bowl is big, beautiful, and lightweight.

Ramekins!! I lived without these for years and never understood the purpose, unless I wanted to bake a souffle or lava cake. They are good for SO much more than making cakes. I've used them for frittatas, an easy way to measure out pudding or other dessert so you don't overeat, great for pinch bowls, measuring bowls, and they're beautiful to display. The list is seriously endless with these things. I bought them at a discount cooking supply store and I love the classic white ceramic finish. I definitely want more little containers this size, they're great.

Moving onto appliances. There are really only two items I use in addition to my oven, cook top, microwave, and toaster oven. The Vitamix and my crock pot. Two amazing appliances that make cooking an absolute breeze.

Isn't she glorious?! This baby was the best 'outrageous' purchase I've made. Yes, they're expensive. Yes, it might seem crazy to have the same blender they use at Jamba Juice. If you have one (or a Blendtec) then you know where I'm coming from. I can use it to make sauces, soups, chop fruits and veggies, blend smoothies,  make margaritas or other alcoholic beverages, make cake batter, and pretty much everything else a food processor, juicer, and blender would do for you. 

It's amazing. I usually use my knives if I need to do a quick and simple chop, but when I need to chop an entire onion (or more) then I use the Vitamix. It saves me tears and time. Truly money well spent, even if they are outrageously priced.

I'd like to think of this as The Mother of All Crock Pots! It might not be expensive, but it rocks. Timer settings that include an automatic 'warm' function once the time is up, multiple temperature settings including not only low, medium, and high; it also gives you the opportunity to set a cooking temperature in degrees of Fahrenheit. One of the coolest features is definitely the probe. If you're cooking a large roast or any other meat you can click the probe setting, and then insert the large thermometer into a designated hole and check the internal temperature of your meats (gosh, this so does not sound like food talk). This is a great way to prevent over cooking ^_^ Another feature I like is the "stay or go" aspect of this cooker. The lids is locked into place SUPER well. It's actually a little challenging to unhook the locks without making a ton of noise. The handles and base stay relatively cool so you can cook up whatever you need in this baby and then take it on the road with you. It's also ginormous, I could cook a pot luck size meal in here without breaking a sweat ;-)

YUM! Some crab corn chowder I made a few weeks ago, getting ready to bubble away.

I'll be honest, I'm beyond blessed to have a husband who caters to my ridiculous kitchen needs wants. It's always something new, first the food processor, then the dehydrator, then the Vitamix, then a mandolin and now? Well now it's much simpler (and cheaper) things:
Ceramic 4" knife

Springform Cheesecake Pan

Rachael Ray super awesome 1 quart Sauce Pan (my small pan is ruined) sad face

A knife sharpener that's supposed to be "the best"

Ceramic Sharpening Rod (helps keep the edge on your knives)
Salad Prep Set (this is great to cutting herbs as well, prevents bruising)

As you can see, I still want a lot more crap. I'm adding these items to my birthday and Christmas/Anniversary wish list. I'm sure we can make it happen, hello Amazon.com and Cookware.com! =D I'm actually going to Target with a friend later, I'll definitely have to troll the aisles of the cooking and bake ware sections mwahahahaha. Hope you're all having a great week, thanks for reading this post and humoring me! ^_^


Lisa - respect the shoes said...

Your kitchen puts mine to shame! Oh, I need your gadgets.

And I have the Vita Mixer too! Isn't it over-powered awesomeness?! I use it to make smoothies and the BF thinks it is the best milkshake maker ever. ;o)

Hannah said...

I know I couldn't live without my Vitamix- It's definitely at the top of my "kitchen essentials" list!

You sure have a well stocked kitchen, lots of great equipment choices!

Healthy and Homemade said...

The Vitamix is seriously awesome! My hubby was so bummed about 6 mos after we bought ours because I had stopped making smoothies, so I basically wasn't using it. Then one day a light bulb over my head lit up and I stopped using my crappy food processor and stuck to my Vitamix. I especially love it when you need a fine dice for onions! ^_^

Still haven't tried using it as a bread maker, but I'm not really a baker so I'm not sure I ever will =P