Sunday, March 4, 2012

Little Mama's Kitchen Must Haves

I have been thinking about this post for a while now.  What are the items that I find essential to my kitchen?  Which items do I build my kitchen and recipes around?  Where could a novice, home cook start? 
I do not consider myself to be a master, home cook; more of an intermediate level.  I love to cook, I have studied some of the sciences behind cooking, learned some techniques and practiced them ... a lot.

You really don't need a lot of tools and gadgets to be a great cook.  There are a lot of things that you can fill your kitchen with for convenience and ease, but they are not essential to great food.  These are the tools that I feel are the most utilized and important in my kitchen:
  • Good, Sharp Knife - Splurge a little here and you will be very glad that you did!  I know, I know ... I felt like a crazy person when I first considered spending $20 + dollars on one knife!  Oh My Goodness!  It made such a huge impact!!  My favorite is my awesome Santoku knife (Asian-style, multipurpose knife).  I love, love, love it!!  I can not imagine cooking with out it!  Now, it is entirely possible to spend over $100 on one knife, I would not recommend that for a home cook.  Mine was around $20 to $25 and works wonderfully!
This is my knife ... LOVE!
  • Plastic cutting boards - I would recommend having a separate one for produce, poultry, meat, cooked foods and fish.  Wood and glass ones can look very fancy, but glass dulls your knives and wood are difficult to completely sanitize after use.  Plastic cutting boards can be placed in the dishwasher and sanitized easily with out dulling your awesome knife.  I like to idea of having separate ones for various items; it helps ensure that you avoid cross-contamination.  I love ones like this (an inexpensive option) or this (a little fancier).  
  • A good quality, non-stick pan - You really just need one, really good pan.  I have this 10" saute pan from Pampered Chef that I earned as a hostess reward for just $35.  My loving husband washed it in the dishwasher a few times and now it's not so great anymore.  It's still o.k., but it will never be restored to it's former glory.  For Christmas I got a Paula Dean cookware set.  The one I got had a few more accessories than the one I linked to, but the cookware pieces are the same.  It's been a pretty good set for me, with proper care.  I hand wash it and when I stack them in my cabinet, I place a square of that rubber, shelf-liner stuff between each pan.
Those are the basics that I feel like I could not cook with out.  Some of my other favorite kitchen tools are:  a large stock pot, silicone tipped tongs, silicone whisk, bread knife, potato masher, apple wedger and pastry blender.  Those items are also frequently utilized in my kitchen!

By this I mean aside from the obvious oven, range, refrigerator and microwave.  I am talking about small appliances.  I do not have a lot of them, but the few I do have get a lot of use! 
  • A food processor or blender - I know that they don't do the exact same thing, but the only use mine get are for puree and making smoothies.  I have a plain old blender and a little miniature food processor.  When it comes to chopping, dicing, mincing and slicing ... I'm a do it by hand kind of gal ... remember my awesome knife?!
  • A mixer - I would recommend a good, sturdy stand mixer with a base that rotates the bowl, but a hand mixer is fine too.  I rarely use my hand mixer and usually the only time I use my stand mixer is when I make frosting.  Yes, I make my own, homemade frosting ... free of all the gross stuff that's in store bought.  All of my other mixing I do by hand with a whisk.  Yes, I do the whole 400 strokes thing ... it is just easier for me than getting out a mixer, setting it up and then cleaning up.  One bowl, one whisk ... done.  You should still have an electric mixer because most of you probably do not like the idea of mixing cake batter by hand for 400 strokes.  If I had the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer that I want ... I would find reasons to use it!  Love!
  • A crock-pot - I use my crock-pot almost weekly!  I love it!  I have 3 different sizes, because I'm a lovely combination of OCD and crazy.  You can cook endless meals in crock-pot and there are 3 ways to screw up the recipes: forget ingredients, set on wrong temperature and cook for wrong length of time.  If you can read a recipe, these are easily avoidable.  You can look like a rock star cook with crock-pot recipes!  I roast a whole chicken in my crock-pot a few times a month and it is always amazing!  Everyone that has eaten it has LOVED it!
Other small appliances that I own that deserve honorable mention for their convenience:  electric griddle (great for streamlining pancake making), waffle iron (we love waffles but I would love to have one that is easier to clean) and a toaster oven (great for reheating pizza or for making small lunch portions of things that I would normally bake in the oven).  Oh, and did I mention a coffee pot?  I think I would die with out a coffee pot!  LOL

So, that makes six kitchen must haves ... that's all!  The other items are nice to have, but you can still make great food without them.  Now, I'm thinking I should list my grocery list constants.  Food items that I always keep on hand.  That will be a different post on a different day.

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