“Whiskers on kittens” are cute and all, but take me to a kitchen store, and its worse than a kid in a candy shop! That’s where all “My Favorite Things” are! I have bought all sorts of things for my kitchen; some have been disappointing, such as the egg rings, which don’t work very well, and picnic baskets, which no one really ever uses! (I don’t have too many over-the-top kitchen gadgets, but Chad found a $3000 set of knives that I would be OK with!)
When it comes to my favorite things in the kitchen, the usefulness is what really matters, and I have several things I couldn’t live without…at least not without becoming a much crankier cook!
- Aluminum Pans: These are a sleeper hit! They are less than $2 a piece (even less at a dollar-store.) They work great for transporting things to potlucks, tailgates, etc., but I use them for home cooking as well. Here’s why: They are easy to clean–much easier than glass pans, and since I roast a LOT of vegetables, it saves me a lot of scrubbing time. Lest you think I’m wasteful, I am able to use one pan for several washes, and keep my other pans clean, for prettier things like desserts.
- Reusable Food Containers: Since I make a lunch for Chad almost everyday, they are the “dishes” we use most often. I use them for leftovers, but also to store all my prepped veggies so the healthy stuff is easy to grab. Also, the tiny ones work great for salad dressing and hummus.
- Cutting Boards: I have many of these, enough to even have a favorite kind! While the wooden ones just “feel” better while you are cutting, cleaning them can be difficult, and they cannot go into the dishwasher. My favorite are the thin, flexible plastic ones; they are dishwasher-safe, and bending the edges can help you transfer all your chopped items into wherever you want them to go. Also, many types come in multiple packs and are color coded in some way, so you can keep a separate board for chicken fish, beef, etc. (A wonderful feature for those who take pride in their food safety!)
- Measuring Cups: This is one of my best dietitian tips. Use these instead of serving spoons and ladles to keep your portions in check. Since they can get dirty pretty quickly when you are using them regularly, check the dollar and discount stores to keep several sets on hand. I look for cups without the spoons as part of the set, since I don’t need those as much, as I am not much of a baker and generally estimate my spice amounts. These also come in handy when I am making a large amount of something–chili, soup, red beans and rice–and portioning them out…usually into the aforementioned food containers! Also, use your measuring cups to check the serving sizes of your ladles and large spoons and scoops, and then write the amount on the handle. [Using these to serve foods have helped many people lose weight, since you can’t hide from knowing how much you are serving yourself]
- Silicone-handled Spatula: We have several of these, and LOVE them! They tolerate high heat well and are easy to clean. Some of our older plastic cooking utensils have tell-tale melted areas, so these are ideal.
- Colander/Strainer: You might be surprised when you shop for these; they range hugely in size (from a few bucks to over $50,) material, price, quality and even bells and whistles, like being collapsible or having extendable arms that allow it to hang on the edge of the sink! I use these for many things; its pretty self-explanatory HOW they are used, but my most common targets are:
- Washing fruits and vegetables.
- Washing greens for salad. I try to do this a bit in advance of the meal so the green can drip-dry; I do have a salad spinner which works great, but I often make a large salad and need a bigger bowl.
- Rinsing off frozen vegetables to use immediately (Such as corn, peas, and edamame for salad and other dishes.)
- Canned beans, in order to remove some of the salt that canned foods are packaged in.
- Chip Clips: I use so many that I collect as many as I can. While my favorite type are the long, thin ones that latch, in a pinch, an office supply binder clip works!
- Food Scale: This last item is more of a gadget, and a bit more expensive than the others (except for some of the fancy colanders,) but it worth it! I have had mine for almost 10 years, and its a no-frills version, but effective for my needs. Since I mentioned I don’t bake, I don’t use it to weigh out ingredients, though that is the recommended way to go. For me, its another way to work on portion control. For things like cheese and deli meat, this works great. Also, for some crunchy snacks like chips and trail mix that have bulky or add shapes, weighing the portion is more reliable than a measuring cup or counting out chips.
I feel that if you have these essentials, your kitchen, and portion size, is set up for success. The great thing about these is that, other than the scale, it doesn’t matter if you have duplicates! These items pay for themselves quickly, are generally inexpensive, and some can be great stocking stuffers! So go ahead and get a few of these for the food snob/foodie/cook/connoisseur on your holiday gift list!