So I am a little late with holiday recommendations, as we are nine days from Christmas and well into Hanukkah (I know this because we were invited to a Hannukah party last week and I ate my weight in latkes and dreidel game chocolates. Mmmm). But, the good thing about solid kitchen recommendations is that they are timeless. I mean, they should be. The kitchen is usually the place with the least amount of discretionary storage space, and who wants precious counter-top real estate taken up by hardly-used, single-purpose appliances that just become collectors of spaghetti sauce splatters next to the stove.
That’s all to say that these kitchen essentials are just that: essential. You can use them for many purposes and will reap their benefits over many years.
1. 12-cup Food Processor
You can do so many things with a good food processor. KitchenAid and Cuisinart know their value and they charge for it. These are expensive, but don’t settle for an off-brand, they just won’t cut it. Literally. Go KitchenAid or Cuisinart or just wait until later in life to get one of these. With this appliance, you can grate a pound of cheese in about three seconds, or slice 6 onions for French onion soup in less than 10 seconds. It really takes out some of the hassle of making meals from scratch!
Recommendation: KitchenAid 12-cup Food Processor $149.99 (<<that’s a really good price!)
You can use the food processor to make Peanut Butter or Hummus or Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce.
2. Stainless Steel Pans
Keep one nonstick pan so that you can easily make scrambled eggs or pancakes, and then give yourself over to stainlesss steel ones. They conduct heat much better than teflon ones and don’t have the harmful side effects. It’s easier to brown a piece of meat, or sear fish in stainless steel, and you can throw them in the dishwasher if you need to.
Recommendation: Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware set $392
You can use a stainless steel skillet to brown and cook your Turkey Burgers.
3. Silicon Spatulas
Use these to scrape batter out of bowls, or to stir veggies in your new stainless steel pans. They are easily hand-washable and don’t get hot like a metal spoon would if you left it sitting in a hot pan.
Recommendation: Williams-Sonoma Silicon Spatulas $7-10
Use them to get all of your Vanilla Buttercream Frosting out of the bowl.
4. Williams-Sonoma GoldTouch Pans
Gradually, I am replacing all of my baking pans with these. These pans cook evenly and don’t over-conduct heat like the dark-colored, nonstick ones do. Dark, nonstick pans also lose their non-stick coating after a while, but these GoldTouch ones do not falter. For breads, I use the GoldTouch 9×5 loaf pan and by the time the bread is cooked through, the outside of the bread that is touching the pan has not become burned or dried out like it can be in other pans. I also like the 9×9 and 9×13 pans and their square edges, they make an even bunch of brownies or cookie bars.
Recommendation: Williams-Sonoma Gold Touch Pans $27 -$49.95
Get a loaf pan and then make Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread for breakfast and Beer Cheese Bread for dinner.
5. Small Spatula
This tiny guy will get the first brownie out of the pan much easier. Just like a regular spatula, but smaller.
Recommendation: Pampered Chef Mini Serving Spatula $4.50
Get the spatula, then get these Toffee Shortbread Bars out of their pan!
6. Microplane Grater
Did you mess up the frosting on your cake? Does your chocolate mousse look plain? Do you have company over and want to make coffee that will make them think they woke up at a bed and breakfast? Finely grate something over your dish! With the microplane grater, you can cover up frosting mistakes with grated chocolate or dress up desserts with shaved hazlenut flakes or sprinkle nutmeg over a warm latte.
Recommendation: Microplane Grater/Zester $11.95
Then make this easy chocolate mousse and grate a few chocolate chips or a hazelnut over the top!
7. Coarse Salt
Coarse salt makes your meals tastier and just a few sprinkles bring out a ton of flavor, sparing you from shaking a salt canister tirelessly over your dinner. Salt also boosts baked goods too!
Recommendation: Morton Coarse Kosher Salt $3
Then sprinkle the salt on the best Chocolate Chip Cookies you’ll ever make.
8. Apple Corer
This is a small one but definitely worth it. A great stocking stuffer. The apple corer also can be used for other fruits, too, like pears. I like the corer better than the apple slicer of my childhood because the corer allows you to hold the fruit in one hand, making it easier to apply pressure with the corer (rather than having the apple sitting on the counter and having to push down with both hands), and the corer has sharp teeth with which it removes the cord, and doesn’t get dull quickly like the slicer.
Recommendation: Calphalon Apple Corer $9.95
You can use the apple corer and make a Cranberry Apple Crisp.
Here’s an easy one. Chuck your old BPA-laden plastic tupperware and start recycling! Use old jars to store sauces, leftovers, and even a stack of cookies.
Recommendation: This one is free, just wash out your old salsa and peanut butter jars.
Then, store your homemade Salted Butter Caramel in your new-to-you jar!
10. Dr. Bronner’s Soap
Now you have all of your kitchen gadgets and you’ve got to clean up. Dr. Bronner’s soap is the best and one bottle of it will make biodegradable cleaner for more than a year! In an old spray bottle filled almost full with fresh water, add 2 T. Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and shake! If you want it to be scented, you can add about 10 drops of lavender, grapefruit, or peppermint essential oil.
Recommendation: Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds $16.98 for two 32-oz. bottles