simply the best: my 10 fave kitchen products
If you've been following my blog, you will know by now that I LOVE TO COOK. I love everything about it - experimenting with recipes & food, getting creative, escaping into this solo abyss in my kitchen, and more importantly, its social and food really is the glue that brings us all together at the dinner table. It's one of the fondest memories I have as a kid - watching my mother cook everything from scratch (and I mean everything) and then always eating dinner as a family at the end of the day. My parents made it a priority no matter how busy we were.
I've clocked a lot of hours in the kitchen, which means I've come to rely on some pretty useful products and gadgets to get the job done. Come to think of it, I've likely clocked more hours than I'd like to count in the few short months since moving up north. Thanks to my mother who is the Queen of all Kitchen Gadgets (seriously people, if there is a gadget out there that gets things done quicker, more easier and is the 'next best thing' according to the Food Network, my mother has it). My father cringes at the very thought of one more item in the kitchen because her cupboards are bursting at the seams! Gourmet Warehouse is her BFF.
I'm always asked what I use in the kitchen. Questions like 'what did you use to get the parmesan cheese so fluffy on my pasta?'. And then there's the time when I pull out an odd gadget from my drawer to miraculously solve even the biggest dilemma in the kitchen as my friends watch with amazement and curiosity wondering what the hell that was, but hey it worked! (insert the inner workings & influence of my mother here....she was likely the person who bought me this piece of equipment in the first place).
Ok, lets cut to the chase, here they are (in no particular order of favourites, but I had to narrow this list down to just 10!):
1. Staub Dutch Cast Iron Cookware
Sweet heavenly Jesus (sorry if I just offended you) but ever since my parents bought me my first Staub cast iron dutch oven cocotte I not only loved how it looked in my kitchen but the functionality of it was seriously MULTI-PURPOSE. I am a huge fan of braising, slow cooking, stewing, you name it. This product is the bomb, so naturally I wanted the larger size so I can cook even more. I have two round cocottes in cherry red (although I am currently CRUSHING on the new white colour pictured above) in both the 4QT and 5.5QT size. If you like to make big pots of chili, soup or slow cook the most tender of meats, this is a great piece to have which will last you for decades if you take care of it. It says dishwasher safe, but I'm too paranoid that I'll ruin it, so I only hand wash.
2. Lemon & Lime Press
If anyone who has tried to squeeze a lime with their bare hands and said it was easy, I'd like to add my rebuttal please. I find limes really hard to squeeze because its a fruit that doesn't have a high juice content compared to its sister, the lemon. So I depend on my trusty lemon and lime press to do the job. I cook recipes with a lot of citrus and zest, between my fave grilled cilantro lime chicken recipe and copious amounts of homemade salad dressing, I'm always stocking up on the bags of lemons and limes at Costco and squeezing the heck out of them. At least more than when Nathan gets all up in my biz-nass while cooking and desperately needs a squeeze. From me.
You can buy these presses anywhere (from gourmet kitchen stores to the SuperStore and Home Sense) but I bought mine at Gourmet Warehouse and I use the one pictured above. You really only need one and I would recommend the lemon size as a lime will easily fit in it. Unless you squeeze a lot of oranges or grapefruits, you'll need a bigger one.
3. Microplane Elite Paddle Grater
I love pasta. I love cheese. And I ONLY love fresh, grated parmesan cheese on my pasta. And by freshly grated, I mean I buy the brick of grana padano, parmigiano-reggiano or Piave cheese and grate it myself (sorry for those of you who buy the pre-grated junk from the grocery store and think you're all that, but NOTHING compares to freshly grated at home). There I said it.
Side Note: Those of you who buy the Kraft manufactured crap in the green container (the one on the shelf and not even refrigerated might I add), then walk away. You're dead to me.
I first saw this product being used when my mother and I attended a cooking class at Willams-Sonoma and the chef whipped this grater out. I was IN AWE of how easy it was to grate and how it left you with the fluffiest cloud of freshly grated parmesan cheese I'd ever seen. Plus, its a comfortable product to use because the size of the grip is big enough and you don't have to put a lot of pressure on the cheese to get a substantial amount of grated product. Plus, its dishwasher safe.
4. Cuisinart Slow Cooker
For the times I really want to be lazy in the kitchen but still wow my hubby or dinner guests with a great meal, I use my trusty slow cooker. Something tells me I will use this even more once we have kids, but for now, its the go-to piece that allows me to be completely hands off if I just don't have the time to prep and cook a full meal. Depending on how often you use it and how much food you cook at a time, get the appropriate size based on that. I currently have the Cuisinart 3.5QT Programmable Slow Cooker which is the perfect size for us. If you're a family of 4, then you'll need something bigger like a 5 or 6QT. But this piece of equipment is where I experiment the most, especially with items like slow cooked pulled pork or shredded Mexican chicken tacos. I've made a few things in this slow cooker that have turned out horribly, but again, experimentation is how you learn with a slow cooker (note to self, cooking pasta in a slow cooker is not my fave. Noodles get way to mushy).
5. GEFU Spiirelli 2.0
When I first started the Whole30, I had to get really creative with my food the food I ate. I had a couple of friends who had these vegetable spiralizers and they lived by them, so I naturally was intrigued. I missed eating pasta on this cleanse and I thought I would try zucchini pasta instead. I was hooked! This little piece of equipment is amazing, it shreds carrots, zucchinis and cucumbers into julienne spirals. I went through more zucchini on this cleanse than I think I've eaten in my entire life. I would just spiral it over my SCANPAN and lightly saute them in a bit of olive oil and then toss them in some tomato sauce or pest. This small piece of heavenly equipment is well worth the small investment (plus it will take up very little real estate in your drawer).
6. SCANPAN Denmark
Want to know my pet peeve? Teflon frying pans that say they don't stick...and they do. The true test is frying an egg to see if it really sticks. I've spent a lot of money on these pans only to find out that my egg totally sticks to it. Then SCANPAN entered my life. My mother actually introduced me to this product (surprise, surprise) and I've never looked back. Much like the Staub cast iron collection, I am on a mission to build my SCANPAN collection (insert wedding registry idea here). I purchased the large professional 32cm fry pan and the grill pan and I use them for everything.
BONUS: Not only is the product great, but SCANPAN believes in the sustainability without compromise when it comes to all their products. They utilize 100% recycled aluminum, recirculating it and melting it down. They also apply their own environmental friendly non-stick coating combined with their patented titanium technology, providing a surface completely free of chemicals harmful to public health & the environment. Oh and its a Danish product. And I've never met a great Dane I didn't like, so even better.
In a nutshell, SCANPAN makes wicked products. Its a bit pricier but this is something that will last you forever as long as you take care of it properly (note: hand wash only). Plus there's a lot of science-y s**t that backs up their product and how its made.
7. The Salt Dispensary Artisanal Gourmet Black Truffle Salt
Hummina hummina hummina.
Let me just say this once: black truffle salt is all you will ever need in this world to make a delicious dish. It's safe to say I ALMOST use this on everything I cook and when I stumbled upon this product at Make It! The Handmade Revolution back in October 2015, I quickly bought a few containers. Ok, maybe I bought 5.
I've always been a fan of truffle salt but The Salt Dispensary's artisanal gourmet black truffle salt was by far one of the best and freshest I have tried. I use this stuff all the time, particularly in the morning on my eggs. You heard me, on my eggs. I have this habit of making a deliciously, healthy breakfast bowl to get my mornings off on the right foot. Fresh arugula, diced avocado, olive oil and balsamic vinegar topped with two poached eggs, finished off with cracked pepper aaaaaaaannnnd black truffle salt. Trust me on this one. You will love this salt if you're a fan of truffles!
8. Vancouver Olive Oil Company // Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar
I've mentioned this once and I'll mention it again, there is nothing quite like the delicious, buttery, creamy, rich, peppery texture of PURE olive oil. If you're using just the store bought EVOO you're missing out (and you're likely not actually using pure olive oil - watch this and you will see why).
I had the fortunate experience to learn all about how pure olive oil and balsamic vinegar are sourced & made by none other than Micheleanne Buckley, the founder of Vancouver Olive Oil Company. We were shooting a food video for work focused on - you guessed it - olive oil. I had no CLUE what was involved in producing the right olive oil, storing it, watching for harvest dates and what to look for when buying olive oil etc.
Let alone not knowing anything about the huge problem with fraudulent olive oil in this country (yes, the mafia is involved). Ever since this experience, I make it a habit NOT to purchase olive oil and balsamic vinegars from regular grocery stores and only from specialty stores.
Theeeeeeennnnn I moved to Grande Prairie and I was panicking how I would even get my mitts on this stuff. I couldn't ship it, I felt like I would have to stock up on product when I went back home to Vancouver, but then my hubby mentioned a small shop downtown that I may like. I nearly lost my mind when he took me to Heart of the Peace Gourmet Foods, a local olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop. Just a mere 10 minutes from our home. My prayers had been answered.
9. Global Knives
Have you ever used a great serrated knife to cut through a baguette? You know the one, where you can make one clean cut through a baguette and completely detach it from the loaf? It's the greatest feeling in the world because it's like cutting through butter!
I used to be one of those people who didn't think I needed to spend a small fortune on a good serrated knife. I figured any knife would do the job. Well I was wrong and until the Global serrated knife came into my life, I now understand the NEED for such a gem of a blade. I didn't know this sort of knife existed and to boot, they have a great, sexy design.
Global Knives is a Japanese brand (leave it to the Japanese to design such a beautiful, handcrafted knife) that started out in the mid 1980's and was the first brand to design a sleek, stainless steel (hygienic) professional knife. I LOVE this brand and I love the design, because like most people, you keep them out on your counter on display in a butcher block, so you might as well have good looking ones.
10. Bodum Chambord Copper French Press
Ahhh, French pressed coffee is the best! We normally save this treat for the weekends when Nate and I have a bit more time in the mornings and when Nate isn't rushing off to work. I have to thank my friend Joanne (Jojo!) for awakening my senses to French pressed coffee. She is the connoisseur of all coffee lovers and has about 4-5 different coffee presses (overkill but I am quite envious) and now I have a whole new appreciation for this type of coffee.
So in the name of all things branded, I had to go out and buy the Bodum Chambord Copper French Press of course. My mother was sweet enough to gift us a coffee grinder for Christmas last year, and we were set. There are no words to describe the flavour of a French pressed coffee and I know those of you who are even bigger coffee snobs may disagree with me otherwise, but baby steps. I don't drink my coffee black and I'm not a coffee LOVER, but it makes my day to start it out with a great cup of one.
There's a certain way to make a great cup of coffee and the French press just does it: a delicious, creamy, frothy texture that you get if you make it right. I will forever love this piece of kitchen equipment, so it was well worth the $60 investment. If you like coffee that is.