The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
chocolate banana bread + cutting board, recipe here
I'm not much of a mall shopper. I am not much of a shopper at all, actually. But in early December, I enjoy going once to the mall just to see what’s out there and to buy any gift(s) I can’t find locally or online. For instance, I wanted to buy Archer a nice coat and I found an amazing one at Nordstrom that wasn’t too expensive. (When did their prices get more reasonable? I guess I should get out more often!) On that same trip, I stopped into Williams-Sonoma—a foodie’s candy store. I drooled over their dishes and tablecloths, tools and gadgets. But in the end, I left the store realizing, in my spirit of simplifying, that a good cook doesn’t really need too much stuff. And although the new Zoku Quick Pop Maker looks like LOADS of fun, it probably would end up in the garage after using it a few times. That’s where my fondue maker, electric skillet, deep fat fryer, yogurt maker, bread maker, popcorn popper, and ice cream maker ended up years ago, all gadgets I bought thinking I HAD to have them. This got me thinking about what tools I have that I can’t live without, the tools that I use daily or at least weekly.
So… here is my list of 17 cooking “must-haves” that WON’T EVER end up in the garage:
1. Cuisinart Food processor:
Larry bought me my first Cuisinart as a present on our first Christmas. We had no money but he splurged on me and I was THRILLED beyond belief. I used it so much I actually wore the thing out. A couple of years ago I bought another one. I still use it all the time, although I no longer use it to puree my soups. Now I use an…
2. Immersion Blender:
About ten years ago, my niece, Yvette, told me that I MUST get an immersion blender. It took me several years before I finally got one and now I can’t imagine living without it since I cook so many soups. Mine was made by Cuisinart and it works great. Immersion blenders vary in price and can be just as costly as a food processor, but mine cost around $30.
3. KitchenAid Mixmaster
For years I balked at spending the money for a KitchenAid Mixmaster . I was given a Sunbeam mixer for a wedding present and used that until it died. After that, I tried to make due with a handheld mixer, but a hand mixer doesn’t work well for stiff batter such as cookie dough and so I finally broke down and bought what I had always secretly wanted…a KitchenAid. If you don’t have one, put it on your wish list. It’s quick, thorough, heavy duty and you don’t have to turn the bowl while you mix which means you can be doing other things while it is working away. They last forever and are worth the price. Their one flaw is their weight, but I keep mine on the counter so I don’t have to lift it.
4. Microplane Graters:
There are no other graters that match the sharpness and ease of these. They come in many sizes and shapes. I love the zester/grater and use it for grating Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and for zesting lemons. I also have a larger grater for soft cheeses.
5. A fine mesh strainer such as this one:
I use mine almost every day to wash beans and grains and strain vegetables or soups.
I used to buy just any old cookie sheets until my friend, Mary, gave me one of her restaurant quality sheets used in her catering business. What a difference! They cook evenly and most importantly don’t warp with the heat like many inferior brands. There are many companies that make these including Bakers and Chefs, Chicago Metallic, and Eagleware.
I like the large ones better than the small ones as you can cool an entire batch of cookies on one. They’re also great for cooling large slabs of gingerbread for a gingerbread house. I like having two of them since the first batch of cookies isn’t usually completely cool by the time the second batch comes out of the oven.
8. A set of sharp, good quality knives:
But you don’t need 10. Every kitchen needs a chopping knife, a paring knife, a slicing/carving knife, and a serrated knife. Any more than that isn’t necessary. Probably the best knives made right now are the Japanese Shun knives, which I don’t have, but they are probably worth the investment if you cook a lot. I have an eclectic variety of knives that I have accumulated over the years, but my favorite knife that I own is a J.A. Henckel.
I LOVE these and use them all the time, even for cutting pizza. You can take them apart to clean which is a must when you are cutting food with them.
10. A Dutch oven:
I have said before that I love my Le Creuset, but any heavy bottomed stainless steel or cast iron pot would be fine, too. Don’t get aluminum as the aluminum reacts with acidic food and leaches into your food. Unlike iron, aluminum isn’t good for you.
11. Stainless steel pots:
(including one large soup pot and two smaller ones.)
Refrain from buying “non stick” pans as they have a plastic coating that eventually will end up in your food. When seasoned properly, cast iron will not stick. Neither will stainless steel if they are heated to temperature with butter or oil before adding food.
13. Good quality cutting board:
There is a lot of controversy regarding which type of cutting board is best, but I really like bamboo. Bamboo is harder than wood so it lasts longer and is more eco-friendly than wood or plastic. Make sure you don’t get a cheap one as it will splinter.
14. Kitchen scale:
I buy a lot of food in bulk so my kitchen scale is a necessary tool for measuring the correct weight of any food needed for a recipe. I have an Eatsmart precision digital scale.
15. Assorted pans for baking and roasting:
I have one LARGE roasting pan and several ceramic and aluminum pans as well as two pie dishes, cupcake pans and bread pans. (NO PYREX). What you need in this department depends on if and how much you bake.
And...the two specialty gadgets I have that will never end up in the garage:
16. Electric citrus juicer:
A 10 pound bag of oranges costs $5 at our local farmer’s market, so fresh orange juice is common around these parts. I also make a lot of recipes with lemon juice (especially my hummus) and using a manual squeezer hurts my wrists. I have a cheap one…the Black and Decker Citrus Mate (about $16) and I use it so much that it lives permanently on the counter.
17. Flip Waffle maker:
My mother gave me the Waring Pro waffle maker for Christmas years ago and we love it. It makes the most perfect waffles every time because you flip it over half-way through. And it’s fast so you minimize the waiting time.
What are your favorite kitchen must-haves? What have you bought that you thought you HAD to have but after several uses it ended up in the garage? Any kitchen tools on your holiday wish-list?