Now that the holidays are over and we have all been snowed in enough to last us a lifetime, maybe its time to change it up a bit and the kitchen is a great place to start. Here are a few of my favorite things:
Yes it's as good as you've heard! I use it for all kinds of things because I don't own a food processor. With it I make nut milks: almond (the favorite in my house), cashew, and cashew cream, nut butters (almond, peanut, cashew), banana ice cream, veggie burger mix, and smoothies, of course. I used it to make egg- and dairy-free pumpkin pie filling over the holidays. It also grinds wheat for flour, or almonds to make almond flour. Clean up is really easy too (big plus). My kitchen does not have a lot of counter space, but I leave this out because I use it so often.
2. Immersion blender/mini prep
This is one of those items that now that I have it, I will always have one! This one is all about the accessories that attach to the handle. I use the blender attachment to purée soups and mash cauliflower for mock mashed potatoes, the whisk attachment to whip cream, and the mini processor to chop or mince veggies like garlic and onions (which I cook with in almost every savory dish I make). The attachments include a mini prep food processor, whisk, the immersion blender, and even an attachment to make crushed ice or to chop bigger veggies like a bigger food processor (never used that yet). Easy clean up. It also takes up a very small spot on the counter: I keep the mini prep processor with the handle attached on the counter and the blender and whisk attachment in a cabinet below.
3. Slow cooker/steamer/rice cooker
Yes it really is all three! I use it to cook beans from scratch after soaking them overnight (there is a button for "low" slow cooking) from which I then make chili, hummus, soup, veggie burgers, roast veggies and potatoes. Or to make perfectly steamed rice every time. This one has a button for white rice (I use for jasmine rice) or brown rice (which I use most often for all whole grain rice: brown, black, multi, or quinoa and any other whole grains). For quicker cooking lentils or split peas, there is a button for "high" slow cooking.
Then for the last 5-10 minutes I can steam potatoes or other veggies in the steam basket that gets placed above the cooking beans or whatever else is in there. The best thing about this is that it really is a "set it and forget it" item: I don't have to worry about watching it or having anything burn or scorch the pan. I can choose how long the cooking time is, and when it’s done, it keeps warm for a long time if needed. Oh and cleanup is really easy. The inside pot itself is of a non-stick material (not Teflon) which cleans easily with a warm soft soapy towel and water. This is a plug-in appliance that I keep in the food pantry and use mostly on the weekends. My husband is very weary of keeping something like this plugged in and on all day unsupervised, so I don’t leave it on all day while I’m at work, only while I’m home, hence, the weekend use…!
4. Automatic bread maker
I know these were really popular about 10-15 years ago and I think that's when I got mine. I rarely used it until recently when I wanted to be able to make and eat bread with 5 ingredients or less. And with no salt. So I brought it up from the basement, and it works like a charm! I think if I were to buy any new kitchen item it would be a bread maker. This one is the second one I've ever owned, and the technology has improved since the first ones. Even the shape of the loaf is better than the first ones (remember those cylindrical shapes anyone?). Anyway, this one makes a great whole wheat bread and it couldn't be easier. I am not one for kneading dough and waiting for it to rise. Again, I just want to set it and forget it, and this let’s me do just that. There are buttons for options like white or wheat, light or dark crust, small or large loaf. Recipes need to be specific for bread machine bread, and the order in which the ingredients are put in the bread pan need to be followed exactly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but once that is done, it is a no- brainer. If you want, there are bread mixes available to buy specifically to be used in bread machines. And according to the machine, it can also make yogurt, jam and quick breads, but I have never used it for those. Again, the inside bread pan is non-stick and cleans easily with a soft warm soapy towel and water. This is also a plug-in appliance that I keep in the pantry.
5. Pancake griddle/indoor grill
So this is not a small electrical appliance, but rather one that fits right onto the stove. My stove happens to have a long griddle burner in the middle of the stove's 4 burners, but when I lived in an apartment, I used this same griddle on my stove and simply placed it over two burners. So this is one of those tried and true kitchen items that I just love. It's heavy and mostly non-stick without being Teflon. One side is flat for pancakes and French toast (I used to also use it for eggs and bacon), and the other side has grooves for grilling (burgers, fish, veggies). I like it also because it's larger than most pans so you can cook more at once (thus decreasing the actual time spent cooking). I'm all about cooking fast and easy and this definitely fits the bill! It too cleans up easily with soft warm soapy towel and water. This is a slim pan that fits easily in the bottom drawer of my stove (the “warming drawer”, needless to say, I use it for storage only).
So those our my top 5 favorite things for my kitchen. They make my life easier by making my cooking more enjoyable and more creative! Happy shopping!