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Here Are A Few of My Favorite Things

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Have you ever looked at a recipe and thought, “Heck no!  I am not doing that!  That takes way too much work or time?”  Yeah.  Me too.  Until I learned…. It is all about the tools!

When we moved into our first house my husband was ALWAYS going to Home Depot or Lowe’s.  It was like Toys “R” Us for grown ups.  My husband said his dad taught him that “every new project required a new tool.”  I thought “yeah right.”  But I began to notice that these tools REALLY did help improve efficiency in a project.  He was able to complete the work in half the amount of time and then he had the tool for another project.  Most importantly these tools INSPIRED him to take on new projects and they built his confidence.  I soon caught on and began to use this strategy in the kitchen.

Cooking can seem like a chore sometimes.  You come home from a busy day and the last thing you want to think about is putting dinner on the table.  My goal is to make cooking as pleasurable as possible.  If something is not fun then your likely not going to stick with it.  Having fun kitchen gadgets can make cooking easier and more enjoyable.  With the holidays quickly approaching I thought I would share “a few of my favorite things” that you may want to put on your Santa List or purchase for a friend or family member.

Drumroll please……

  1. Mandolin– I LOVE this tool.  It is perfect for slicing vegetables very thin like zucchini or carrots for soups, salads, vegetable platters, or homemade chips.  This gadget is also great for shredding cabbage or dicing potatoes for baked sweet potato fries. Make sure to use a cut resistant glove with this bad boy because you could end up in the emergency room with a missing finger. Price tag: $40-60IMG_1342-300x225
  2. Pressure Cooker- This one is a heavy weight in the kitchen once you learn how to use it. I used to be intimidated by my pressure cooker because of all the horror stories you would hear from back in the day. Now they are much safer and very versatile. Once I stepped out of my comfort zone I discovered a variety of ways to use the pressure cooker. Pressure cookers are traditionally known for their canning capabilities but they can also make delicious stews within 30 minutes that would normally take all day to simmer. They are your biggest ally if you do not want to take 2 hrs to cook beans. Cooked beans can be ready in 30-40 minutes with a pressure cooker. I also like to use this for large batches of stock because of it’s large size. Price tag: $50-10020140810-133930
  3. Sharp Knives- A must have for any functioning kitchen. Sharp knives can make your work go by much faster. Instead of making the same cut over and over again with a dull knife,you will only need to cut once.  Be careful not to cut your fingers off!  I use Cutco knives because they have a lifetime warranty and the company sharpens them for free. Price Tag: VariesIMG_1344-300x225
  4. Slow Cooker–  The slow cooker aka Crockpot can make meal prep a dream.  I love placing fresh ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and then come home in the evening to a homemade meal.  You can also prep a Crockpot meal the night before then place in the refrigerator to start in the morning.  It does not get much easier than this, but it does take planning.  I also use my slow cooker to incubate homemade yogurt or prepare bone broth.  This a great beginner’s cooking tool.  Price tag: $20-60IMG_1347-300x225
  5. Vitamix- This is the ultimate blender and the consistency is perfect every time. For years I would admire my mother in law’s and fancy it every time I went to Costco. Then one year it ended up under the Christmas tree (Yipee :) ). It has lived up to all my expectations. It blends, it dices, it mixes. I use it to make smoothies, soups, hummus, sauces, almond milk, and whatever else needs a good blending (margaritas anyone?) Price tag: $350-500
    Left: Vitamix, Right: Food processor

  6. Nut bag- A nut bag is used to strain the excess pulp when making almond or cashew milk.  Homemade nut milk tastes fresher than store-bought and does not contain any stabilizers such as carrageenan (which can aggravate IBS).  You can add cinnamon or vanilla to give it more flavor.  A nut bag makes straining SO easy instead of using a cheese cloth and it is reusable.  I have also used this when I strain homemade yogurt. This one is a great stocking stuffer.  Price Tag: $8-10IMG_0495-225x300
  7. Cast Iron skillet- This has been a recent addition to my kitchen. I have replaced my nonstick pans with cast iron skillets. I have many sizes and one of them has a permanent place on my stove-top. It distributes the heat evenly, can be used in the oven or stovetop and as an added bonus it adds a little extra iron to my food.  If you cook acidic food products in it like tomatoes even more iron gets in your food.  Price tag: $15-30IMG_1345-300x225
  8. Food processor- I thought once I got my Vitamix that my food processor would be history. Boy was I wrong. Some food items my Vitamix does not process as well such as nut butters or energy bars. The nuts are too hard on the Vitamix and the it wears out the motor.  The food processor cuts right through them and creates a nice consistency.  I have also noticed if I am making small batches of pesto the food processor works better than the Vitamix.  My food processor from Cuisinart also dices vegetables and mixes dough but I tend to use other tools for that.  Price Tag: $30-20
  9. French Press-  I had to put French Press on the list.  I use this almost everyday.  You may relate it to coffee but I use it mostly for tea.  It filters out all the tea leaves and provides a large serving since I like multiple glasses of tea :)  When I am in the coffee mood I also use it for that as well.  I recommend getting either a stainless steel or glass French Press.  The plastic ones may add unnecessary chemicals to your food and they tend to hold the coffee flavor if you alternate between coffee and tea.  Price tag: $30-50
    Do you like my self portrait? :)
    Do you like my self portrait? 🙂

  10. Chopper-  This is such a cool tool for dicing!  If you have a small amount of onions, carrots, or other veggies you need to dice then this tool is perfect.  It chops up the items fast and into small pieces.  The chopper is your friend if you have not mastered knife skills yet.  I recommend buying the higher quality chopper because you tend to get what you pay for.  My first one was a cheapie and it was not helpful at all. Mine is from Pampered Chef. Price tag: $35IMG_1357-300x300
  11. Cookbooks-  I personally feel a few good cookbooks are a MUST!  Everyone is different but I notice I am much better at meal planning for the week if I have a cookbook in front of me.  I also use the internet but I find myself distracted easily and it takes me longer to make my shopping list.  Browsing through a cookbook is more fun for me.  If I am tired of my current cookbooks I check new ones out from the library.  It works out very nicely :) Price Tag: VariesIMG_1346-300x225
  12. Garlic Peeler- I almost forgot to mention my garlic peeler.  This tool comes in handy when you need garlic in a hurry (which is almost every recipe for me!).  How does it work?   You place the garlic cloves into the rubber tube material and roll it back and forth with you hands pressing firmly down.  Then Wa-La!  Your garlic is peeled.  Without this tool it take me an extra 2-5 minutes to peel my garlic.  This is another great stocking stuffer.  Price tag: $6IMG_1358-300x300

I hope you found some of these things helpful as you head forward into the holiday season. I would love to know what your favorite kitchen items are in the comments below :)

Since I believe in having fun with what you are doing I wanted to share with you some out takes from my Sunday rainy afternoon photo shoot with my hubby.  As with life it takes many tries before getting in right ?IMG_1365-768x1024


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