Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tour My Kitchen: Product Edition

Before I get on with the cooking I want to wrap up my kitchen tour by showing you which tools and products I can't live without. I may sell Pampered Chef but most of my "must-haves" aren't from their product line. Don't get me wrong, I think their stuff is pretty fabulous, and I have way more in my stash then just what I'm going to show you today, but if you're a newbie in the kitchen or you have a budget to adhere to or you don't have a lot of space, this is everything I think you'll need to succeed.

First, stop what you're doing RIGHT NOW and go by a $20 cast iron skillet. Get it on Amazon, get it at Target, whatever. Just get one. I easily use mine virtually every day. I have cooked meat, fish, burgers, apple pie, small batches of stew, chili, tomato gravy, EVERYTHING in this bad boy. Practically indestructible, you can cook with it on gas, on electric stove tops, in the oven, on the grill, anywhere. I'll be featuring it quite a bit and I don't think I'll ever part with it.

I generally hate non-stick coated cookware but I adore my tiny little egg pan. I think I got it for like eight bucks at Target on a whim (just like 99% of every single purchase at Target in the history of ever), and I use it every morning. It wipes clean without fuss and can go in the dishwasher no problem. I use this to make quick grilled sandwiches when I don't feel like using my grill pan.

My wok has been seriously neglected lately. My husband bought this for me (as he is usually the financer of all things kitcheny) at least seven years ago and for almost that long it was the only pan I ever used. These days its niche is exactly what it was intended to be used for: stir fries. Occasionally if I know I'm going to be flipping things around and need to add some air and special effects to my cooking techniques I'll bust it out, but I wouldn't feel right if I didn't include it in my list of best kitchen products EVAH.

Another cast iron piece, my grill pan, is probably going to get an upgrade soon to something larger, but for our little family it works quite well. I can grill four burgers or chicken breasts or fillets on it at once without steaming the food. I've used it for grilled sandwiches when I want to get a little fancy, too. It's a handy little sucker for people like us who have a fabulous grill outside that has been used like... twice.

New to my collection is the Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker. This guy is probably one of the most versatile pieces I've ever encountered. I've baked a mac and cheese with it in the oven and both a Mexican lasagna and a potato gratin IN THE MICROWAVE. Like, I looked at the recipe for the gratin a half hour before I was supposed to be serving Christmas dinner and I was instructed to bake it in the oven for something like two hours or something ridiculous like that. My brain told me "20 minutes in the microwave seems about right" and by George I was DEAD ON. And it was amazing. Apparently (I haven't tried yet) you can bake cakes and bread and make soups and stews and all this crazy stuff in this thing. Anyway it's pretty rad and you should get one.

Not to be outshone is my enamel coated cast iron dutch oven. This can do a lot of the same things the DCB can do, except you can cook with it on the stove top and put it in the dishwasher. I specifically bought this to make blooming herb bread (which I'll share with you one day) but have used it for a good portion of my one-pot soups, stews, chilis, braises, gravies, etc. I got rid of every other big pot I owned (other than the stock pot which I'll talk about in a minute) because I loved this pot so much.

I don't think anything I come up with to say would justly describe the wonder of the Crock Pot, so I won't even try. Just get one. Large or small, you can do it all. (HIRE ME FOR YOUR ADVERTISING AND MARKETING MAGIC WORD MAKING.)

As I mentioned, the only other large pot I kept when I de-stashed a few months ago was my stock pot. This is what I use for pasta and stock, pretty much exclusively. And mashed potatoes. You don't need 8,000 different sized pots and pans in your kitchen. A big one like this for the big stuff and a small one for sauces and a dutch oven to go in the oven is really all you need when it comes to big round open cookware.

Speaking of sauce pots, isn't he a cutie? Enchilada sauce, quick rouxs and single-serving pasta dishes happen in this little dude.

I have every kitchen utensil known to mankind, but these are my favorites. I'll keep this brief: get yourself a REALLY good chef's knife and some wooden spoons and forget like, literally almost everything else. Well, spatulas and scrapers and things like that, slotted spoons and whisks, you need those things a lot of the time. But excellent chef's knife. Wooden spoon. Necessary in every way.

My fun new frou-frou toy is the Pampered Chef Mix 'N Chop. I used to use my potato masher or an old beat up spatula to help me out with my ground beef and things of the like, but this weird looking thing is one of the few unnecessary evils that I kind of can't live without. Literally you just twirl it around in your pan and your ground beef is like, perfect somehow. Everything's all mixed.. and chopped.. The people that come up with the names in the Pampered Chef Toy Factory are geniuses, clearly.

Last are the three gadgets that make my entire life. My Keurig that needs replacing but it gets me through the day until it's socially acceptable to admit to drinking the wine. It really is the biggest workhorse in the house.

My KitchenAid stand mixer is probably in a close second. Except that one time the motor started smoking because I left it mixing my bread dough unattended for too long.

The third little guy there is my Pampered Chef Manual Food Processor. (I promise I actually tried to do this post with as few PC products as possible but I couldn't leave this one off the list.) The MFP holds three cups and is super quiet so it's great for quick prep when I don't want to break out my big, loud electric processor and wake everyone up with my shenanigans. I gave up on doing a nice, clean, professional diced onion years ago and now I don't even have to pretend like I know what I'm doing with this tool. I just dump everything in, pump it a few times, and boom. Done. It keeps my knives sharp by not requiring that I use them so often!

These are the tiny little things that maybe aren't so obvious to talk about but they range from necessary to practically necessary so I'll touch on them briefly:

  1. Silpat mat - This is a silicone mat that you can put in your oven and bake on instead of having to grease your pans or line them with foil or parchment.
  2. Ladle
  3. Small cutting board - this is a bar board that you'll usually see bartenders slicing up lemons and limes and things of the like, but I prefer to use it when I just need to chop AN onion or ONE piece of garlic. It saves space both on my counter and in my dishwasher.
  4. Wine opener
  5. Spoonula - great for mixing and folding
  6. Plastic tipped whisk - gentle on your mixing bowls and non-stick surfaces
  7. Large cutting boards - use wood for fruits and veggies, and plastic for raw meat and seafood.
  8. Measuring spoons
  9. Can opener
  10. Spatula
  11. Measuring cup set OR a multi-cup vessel like a Pyrex bowl
  12. Slotted spoon
  13. Microplane grater - great for garlic, ginger and zesting. There are larger grade ones you can use for cheese, potatoes, zucchini, whatever your style.

There are obviously some things missing from this list and some things that you can very well do without, but this is the core of my kitchen and I hope it helps inspire some of you to either cut back on the clutter or add to your existing collection!

Oh and I almost forgot...

Tomorrow I'll start you off with some basic recipes and samples of what's to come as I get ready to unveil my first meal plan next weekend! Cheers!

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