Friday, November 21, 2014

A Christmas wish list, 10 Eessentials

Frequently I am asked what my kids want for Christmas or a birthday. What do they need, desire or require, and as they get older, that is getting harder and harder to reply too. But it also got me thinking, because in turn, I am asked what I want. At this point in my life, people cannot afford what I really want, or there is no price tag on my desires. Pay off my debt, yep that is a big one. Organize my mind, yep that is at the top of the list too, but unfortunately neither are looking to be acquired anytime soon.

In light of this, perhaps just a simple list of random kitchen items that I find essential for any kitchen would help, and maybe for that special someone in your life, they might be a hit with. I realize that some people gasp at the thought of being given something for the kitchen as a gift. For me the practical farmer side comes out, useful-useful-useful. I feel guilty receiving anything that is pure enjoyment, damn those working women in my life... Oh I get it, jewelry is beautiful, but I don't wear a lot of it. Clothes are awesome, but I am an ever changing body type. I love being in the kitchen, I love playing around with things in there, and since a complete kitchen remodel is a LONG way off, I'll just have to get by with the kitchen toys instead. Here are some suggestions for those other kitchen people out there, some I already have, and some are great ideas for me too!!! ;-)

Basically, the top 10 items I think everyone should have! They are not in any particular order.

Number 10

A Dutch oven
     - Every house needs one of these. In fact I have this exact one that was given to my by my Mother-in-law. It replaced one that I was sharing back an forth with my Mother. At first I thought, oh man I don't really need another one. But boy was I wrong, this 6qt D.O. was larger than the other one, and I use it ALL the time, and in fact sometimes I use both of them. During the cold weather it gets used multiple times a week for soup or stew. It conducts heat evenly, and can easily be stuck in the oven if needed.  If you are adventurous in artisan bread making, it is a common method to bake a loaf in a D.O. to create a round and crunchy loaf. But in all seriousness, this is a workhorse and something every cook needs in their collection.

Number 9

A good Chefs Knife
    - I have a nice chefs knife, I don't have a Wusthof chef's knife, but I do have other knives made by them. There are a lot of good knives out there, I just chose to put Wusthof here because it is a classic and old brand known for good quality and not absolutely crazy prices. I use my C.K. daily. If you have a better quality knife, the handle is weighted better and you shouldn't have to push as hard when you are using it, the weight will help the knife rock. When I went from a cheap C.K. to one with a weighted handle it was a drastic change, but since then I can't use my old knife that is still sitting there, I feel like I am going to cut myself because it is so flimsy. I frequently stick mine in the dishwasher, which I know is a HUGE nono, but it survives, and I dry it immediately when it is done.

Number 8

A knife Sharpener
   - About once a year I get my husband to sharpen my knives with his wet stone, and ultimately I get the best edge then. However, you are most likely to cut yourself on a dull knife, so I keep my knives sharp in-between his sharpening with this easy sharpener. I had a honing rod years ago, but after reading an equipment review from America's Test Kitchen on simple but effective sharpeners I got one. It is quick, and puts a nice edge on my knives when I need it.

Number 7

5qt KitchenAid Stand Mixer
       - I received my mixer 12 years ago when I had my first child. My Mother said she always wished she was given a gift after she had me, because growing and birthing a baby is hard work. She has had her mixer since long before I existed, I believe hers is close to 40 years old. Yes they are an investment, but they are one that you will have for the rest of your life, so in reality they are worth it. I have a variety of attachments for mine that I have slowly acquired, and I love the versatility they provide. My only suggestion is to take your color choice seriously. There are more than 30 colors to choose from, and because you are going to have this for the rest of your life, do you really want to look at a lime green mixer forever? I have a black one, simple and it is never going to be a sore thumb on my countertop.

Number 6

A simple Hand Blender
   - When making soup, this tool is indispensable, in my kitchen, it gets pulled out as often as my dutch oven, sometimes even more. It is handy to mix salad dressings, sauces and other things too. I am on my 3rd, I burn out the motor because I use it so often. My only requirement with one of these is that the bottom half must be detachable from the motor, otherwise cleaning is a nightmare. Mine is dishwasher safe, so the bottom half just gets stuck in the top portion of the dishwater.

Number 5

A Slow Cooker with a Locking Lid
    - This is something I don't have. I have a crock pot that I have had for years, but it doesn't have a locking lid. But it is slowly failing me, it cooks too hot, and the outside will burn you if you touch it, but its biggest failure, no locking lid. If you have ever tried to take a dish to a potluck in a crockpot without a locking lid, you know the issues it brings. Also, in my opinion a slow cooker must be 6qts or larger, most recipes you find for a slow cooker are geared towards a larger pot, putting them in a 4qt pot only causes a mess and a headache. In addition, having a removable bowl from the heating element itself is another must have, cleaning a slow cooker that doesn't detach from itself is nothing but a pain in the ass.

Number 4

A 2# Bread Maker
   - Another item that I would like! I have a 1.5# bread maker, it was my Grandmothers, but she never used it. I have used it to death, the lid broke off years ago and I put a can of beans on top of it now in case the dough decides to take a trip north. Besides the fact that mine is pretty beat up, I do love it. For our large family, a larger loaf of bread would be beneficial though. Frequently I will start this around lunch time when I know we will be having soup for dinner, that way a hot fresh loaf is ready when I put the soup on the table. I think everyone who enjoys a steaming bowl of soup or stew in the cold months needs an accompanying bread maker, because soup is just better with bread. Besides, if it is a chilly day that warrants a bowl of soup, who wants to go out to the store just to get a loaf of bread!

Number 3

A Pizza Stone
   - I truly believe that most people are afraid of these, and that they really do not understand the multiple uses that they have. Yes, in our house typically I make our pizza at home, the dough is easy and it is always a fun meal for the kids to help with. However, I understand that some people do not believe me when I tell them how simple it is and they prefer to buy pizza. Fine, be that way. But a stone isn't just for making fresh pizza at home, use it to cook your frozen pizza for a nice crispy crust, use it to reheat cold pizza to avoid the soggy or inedible tough crust. How about putting it under a pie or quiche while baking so you are certain the bottom crust is baked and not doughy? Or baking free formed bread, or cookies or.....Well you get the idea, there are so many uses for a pizza stone, labeling it a "pizza stone" is so constricting. For the record I have had both a round and rectangular stone. I prefer the rectangular because of surface area, so if we are doing mini personal pizza's I can fit more on at a time.

Number 2

A Rice Cooker
   - I realize that this particular model is a 3 in one cooker...Because that is what I'd like :-) but I have had a basic rice cooker for the last 10 years, and it has been a wonderful addition to my kitchen. It is so worn out thought that I am ready for an upgrade. We consume a ton of brown rice, it is healthy, my kids love it and I love the convenience of adding rice, water and not having to pay attention to if it boils, turning down... It makes rice perfect every time. We do not use meat for taco night anymore, rather I make a big pot of brown rice and add the taco meat seasoning to the rice instead. This particular model is also an electric pressure cooker, which I am keen to try. I love using beans as our main protein for a meal, but remembering to put them into soak the night before is a challenge. It is listed as a slow cooker as well, but I haven't read the reviews on that particular setting.

Number 1

A Rada Serverspoon
   - This is my absolute favorite kitchen item. It is a spatula, a spoon, a serving utensil, a whisk, a scraper...I love it. It is my go to every time I reach for an item from my utensil crock when I am working on the stove, and it is also what I reach for when I need to scrape a pot or pan in the sink. Use it one direction and you have a great scraper, the other is safe for you non stick lovers. I acquired mine from my Grant Aunts kitchen clean out, and she acquired hers from a church fundraiser. Rada Cutlery is used for fundraisers and personal sales alike. I have a few of their pairing knives as well, and I have always been pleased with them. Now I have 2 of these serverspoons after locating them on Amazon, and if one of them happened to disappear one day, I wouldn't hesitate to replace it immediately.

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