Ten For Tuesday: Kitchen Can’t-Live-Withouts

Yes that’s right, last week I posted about common grammar errors and this week I am making up my own nouns (or is there really such a thing as a Can’t-Live-Without?)

I have been putting together these recipe books as a Christmas present for my niece Angela.  She was the only grandchild in my family for 12 years, and basically the center of the universe.  She’s an only child, and all through her childhood she was completely doted on by her aunts, uncles and grandmother,  yet somehow she grew up to be as beautiful and genuine on the inside as she is a vision of loveliness outside (except for those high school/college years….you were kind of a punk then, Bubs!)

My niece with her dad, my brother John.  They will kill me for posting this photo, but aren’t they cute?

Angela is almost 25 and is a total home-body – she loves to nest and cook.  When I started compiling my recipes months ago for her, I realized I had a lot of kitchen items she may not have yet so I started jotting down things she had to have in her kitchen.  The list has grown and grown, and it’s really quite funny to think of what I thought I needed when I first got married when I was Angela’s age, versus what I actually use on a daily basis. 

PS – I could think of 30 items I use constantly, but let’s get started with 10 for this Tuesday!

PPS – Much like how I like to pontificate about home design & decorating but am not an interior decorator, I’m also not a professional chef.  I just like to play these things on my blog.
I’m just a girl who likes to cook for my family and to entertain. 
{These opinions are entirely my own, based on my experiences in the kitchen, and I am not being paid by any company mentioned……although if someone would like to give me a boatload of cash, who am I to say no?? :)}

My Ten Kitchen Can’t-Live-Withouts:

1.  A stainless steel mixing bowl.

I bought a medium sized bowl at the W-S outlet years ago; I’m not sure if they sell them individually anymore. 
I don’t think I would ever need all the various sizes.  One is good, especially if you have #6 below.

I’ve had ceramic, plastic and glass, but if you purchase one SS mixing bowl you’ll never need to replace it; it can be sterilized; it won’t crack or chip and you won’t find out in 10 years that the material it’s made out gives off particles that are cancer-causing (things that have happened with other products I’ve owned!)

2.  Gallon-sized storage bags.

My #1 necessary item for marinating meats (check out this yummy steak tip recipe while you’re thinking about meat); I also use them for storing baked goods like my mom’s Irish bread, and if I haven’t put anything yucky in there, I rinse them and reuse.

3.  Airtight containers for dry goods.

Get thee to the nearest Target and purchase some airtight containers for your flour, sugar and whatnot.  Did you know that some dry goods that sit in your pantry can attract bugs?  Yes, it’s true, and the airtight seal preserves freshness as well as your peace of mind.  Read this article at TipNut on how to keep pests out of your pantry.  (Now I have the heeby-jeebies!)

4.  Pampered Chef chopper.

Why do I love this?  Because my children are pesky little buggers who will spend half of our dinnertime picking unidentified vegetables out of dishes and making me crazy, so I like to chop said veggies as finely as possible.

I love this little tool to chop onions, garlic en masse, carrots, etc. when I don’t want to drag out my Cuisinart.  I’ve tried other brands but they don’t last as long as the Pampered Chef version.  While I won’t tell you that this investment lasts forever, I have had my current model for 5 or 6 years and it’s still going strong with constant use.  Bonus – the kids love to use it and when they help in the kitchen, they are more likely to eat what’s on their plate.

5.  Stainless steel pots and pans.

When we first got married we got all nonstick pans.  They’re awesome when they are brand new, but eventually the finish gets scratched and when that finish starts to come off, watch out.  You don’t want that stuff in your food, and in your body.  There is a lot of controversy right now about whether the nonstick finish gives off toxins, but to date scientists believe non-stick cookware is safe as long as it is not overheated.  To read more about the safety of non-stick pans check out this Good Housekeeping article.  I’d rather not take the chance, plus I really enjoy cooking with SS pans.

Over the years I have been slowly changing out all our pots and pans to good quality stainless steel by keeping an eye out at Marshalls & TJ Maxx for professional grade heavy duty brands and purchasing them individually.   All-Clad is one of my faves and is highly rated.  I’m talking professional grade, because if you’re to make a purchase, you might as well get something that is going to last through the years.  I would rather have one good saute pan than an entire box of inexpensive pots and pans that won’t last.  The All-Clad products can go into the oven also.  An added bonus to stainless steel:  after soaking, you can scrub your pan with a nylon scrub pad and that sucker will look brand new.

6.  Kitchenaid Mixer.

This beast used to live inside a cabinet, but I pull it out so often I just had to suck it up and leave it on the counter.  At least it’s shiny-ness distracts the eye from the bologna countertops, right?
{I have the Kitchenaid Artisan Stand Mixer in Metallic Chrome, which is currently on sale at Williams-Sonoma for $228}.   

I know, this is a big-ticket item that is really a luxury.  But if you love to bake and don’t have one, please, please, please save up your pennies and watch out for a sale somewhere, because I can’t believe how long I lived without mine.  How on earth did I survive? My mother has been making her afore-mentioned Irish bread by hand – no measuring cups, no mixer, for years, so yes it’s possible to live without it, but it’ll make your baking so much easier and enjoyable!  Trust me on this.  I’m on a mission to convert my mom to the mixer.

7.  Coffee grinder.

For the coffee enthusiasts:  grind your own beans daily.  It makes such a difference in your cup of joe.

8.  Standing cheese grater.

I’ve had about 10 different versions of graters over the years, when all I ever needed was this lovely lass.  Again, the stainless steel – it lasts forever (if it has minimal plastic on it), and holy moly – the difference in freshly grated cheese vs. the packaged stuff (which I still buy, but there’s no comparison!!)  My sister-and-brother-in-law freshly shred cheese and keep in the fridge for use over the week.  They’re wicked smahht.

9.  Cuisinart food processor.

Another big-ticket item that is essential for chopping veggies for soup, potato gratin or carrots for your famous carrot cake…oh the list of uses goes on and on.  When the motor of mine died last year, I lamented to my girlfriend B how I’d love another but it just wasn’t in the budget.  Because she is so wonderful, she looked online for me and found one used, in perfect, barely-used condition, being sold for $30!!  Thank you B for saving the day!  (If you buy used appliances through Craigslist, a yard sale or a want-ad, be sure to run it first to make sure the motor is fine.)

10.  Stainless steel measuring cups and spoons.

I know – what is with me and the stainless steel?  Okay lets look at my inexpensive plastic measuring cups.  Do you see any markings identifying their measurements?  No?  Me neither.  They washed off after many trips to the dishwasher.  And baking is a science, people – you can’t mix up 1/3 and 1/4 cups, for the love of your baked goods!!  This holds true for measuring spoons to – spend a little more money, get yourself one stainless steel set and you’ll have them for life.  For life, peeps.  That’s serious commitment right there.

What items are your Kitchen Can’t-Live-Withouts?