We all know that cooking your food at home is so much healthier than ordering take-out. But sometimes it seems easier on us that we can just swing through the drive thru in less time than it takes us to shop for food, get everything out, prepare the food, cook the food, serve the food, and then clean up everything afterwards! But it doesn't have to be this way.
I have found that the times I am wishing for take-out is when it is 5:00pm and I have no plan for dinner and everything seems to take a million times longer than it really does. Some of the things that I have found that have really helped me combat the "what's for dinner" question is 1. having a plan, 2. doing some meal prep ahead of time, and 3. having several tools in my kitchen that help me get dinner on the table in less time. Having good knives, enough mixing bowls, and proper storage containers has been a total game changer in me actually wanting to spend time in my kitchen. My time is valuable and having things in my kitchen to make my job of homemaker easier is so worth it. I am less irritated and overwhelmed because I like the things that I'm using in my kitchen, and everything is in good working order so I can actually enjoy cooking meals for my family.
The kitchen can be an overwhelming place for those of us who are new(er) at cooking. You may be trying to get a well stocked kitchen but have no idea which tools and gadgets you need! Do you really need a ton of small kitchen appliances or can a select few suffice? I've rounded up 9 of my favorite and essential kitchen gadgets and tools that I believe are essential in any kitchen. Each item has been specifically chosen because of it's usefulness and because I personally use and love each of these things in my own kitchen. Each and every tool has made cooking much easier, healthier, and as a result, much more enjoyable.
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1. Good Knives are a must in any kitchen! I cannot tell you the times that I've tried to cut something in a friends kitchen and I either cannot find a decent knife or it is completely dull making it useless for slicing. Y'all, good, quality knives make such a difference when cooking! And they don't have to cost a small fortune. I've used this particular set for the past several years and they've held up very well. I love having all the different knives easily assessable in the knife block. It make finding the different knives easy and no more sliced finger from digging around the drawer. Also, I really love that this set has kitchen shears with it. I have used and used those things countless times and they are still going strong! One thing to note about good knives is to never, ever put them into the dishwasher or sink! They will dull, slice your finger, and/or rust. I hand wash all my knives, it doesn't take but just a quick minuet to do and keeps the quality of the knife intact. I also sharpen them from time to time to keep then sharp so they will easily cut food. Do yourself a favor and get some good knives for your kitchen!
2. I've loved having this rice cooker in my kitchen. This one has a delay timer, and these days I'm all about delay timers. You can get it ready in the morning and go about your day and it's ready when you are! Too easy. This model will is also an all-in-one, which means that you can cook rice in the bottom and cook chicken and/or veggies in the top steamer basket. AT THE SAME TIME! Now that is what I call efficient! The rice cooker will also cook quinoa in about 20 minuets. For rice or quinoa, you just add the grain and water, than push start. How easy is that?! So if you are running late, you can put your dinner in the rice cooker, press start and in about 20-25 minuets, you are ready to eat. With this gadget in your kitchen, there are no excuses for not eating healthy.
3. A pretty apron always motivates me to cook and I'm such a messy cook that wearing one is a must! But I don't wear my aprons when I only cook, no! I wear mine if I'm cleaning the house or washing dishes in addition to cooking. I find that my clothes stay nice and clean with it on than forgetting to wear one. I recommend having 2-3 aprons so that if one is dirty, you have a back-up or if you have a friend over to cook, there is one for everybody to use. I made this apron that was so easy to sew! It's held up very well and I may just have to sew another one sometime soon. That or buy this pretty one or this one. Life is much too short for ugly aprons. If you don't have one or don't like yours, make or buy yourself the gift of a pretty apron.
4. I love having glass pyrex containers to store food. I'm ok using plastic BPA free containers, but glass is my favorite to have. Nothing is so annoying to have a tupperware cabinet full of bottoms and tops that do not match up or being unable to find the top to the container that you want to use. I have a several different sized pryex containers and believe me when I say they are extremely durable! Some I've had for years and years and they like like new. Glass storage containers also hold up better in the dishwasher and there is no concern about chemicals leaching out into the food it is storing. But regardless of glass or plastic, you will need a variety of sizes depending on what you are prepping. You also want to make sure you have enough storage containers. One way you know you need more is if you are always running out and have to continually use plastic bags all the time. Here is my tips when it comes to choosing which storage containers to buy. I prefer having rectangular containers since circular containers tend to waste extra space. Rectangles also fit better in the fridge vs. circular and when you have a lot to store in the fridge, you need as much space as you can possibly get! (Thanksgiving anyone?)
5. Bread Maker - Why should you buy a bread maker? Well, if you love homemade bread and you want a small appliance that is low maintenance and will save you time, than you need to invest in a bread maker. I have this bread maker and really like it. When I was doing some research on which bread maker to buy, I kept coming back to this one because of all the difference things that set it a part from the others. The loaf pan is on the bigger side. This bread machine also has a delay timer on it - hooray!, so you can set the bread cycle to start at a later time. But this bread maker doesn't make only bread of the whole wheat variety. Not at all! That is just one of the many functions that this bread maker has. It can make jam, artisan breads, cinnamon rolls, sweet breads, gluten free breads, pizza dough, fruit & nut breads, and more. That's a whole lot of breads! Here is my top tip for getting the perfect loaf of bread - put the ingredients in the pan and set it on the dough cycle. Once done, I take the dough, shape it for the bread pans, let it rise, then bake it in the oven. I find that the top doesn't get too brown and crusty this way. If you want to do the entire bread cycle, than this machine is really good.
6. These are my favorite mixing bowls. I've got one in the big and small size and I'm always reaching for them when I cook. I have a few sets of mixing bowl sets and it really does help when I'm cooking several things at once. Why is it important to have the correct size mixing bowl? Because it makes life so much easier! You could possibly get away with only having one large bowl, but you would be continually washing it all the time and it would be much too big for beating eggs. If you only had a medium sized mixing bowl than it would be much too small for mixing up a cake batter. So, you really do need different sized mixing bowls depending on the quantity of food you are cooking. Back to why these bowls are my favorites. They are the best mixing bowls because of the easy pour spout so there is no dripping and greater accuracy in the batter landing exactly where you want it too. They have a rubber like bottom that is awesome for making sure the bowl does not tip over! These bowls are also heavy duty and with good care, will last you a long time to come.
7. A Good Crockpot is a must in any kitchen! This one is very basic with only low-high-warm settings. Here is how a slow cooker works; You put the food in the crockpot in the morning, turn it on and that is it. It cooks the food for you slowly so that all the flavors are infused together, the meat is always perfectly tender, and you can make literally anything in it. I typically use mine on a weekly basis for cooking meats, soups, beans, baked potatoes, and everything in between. I've even made yogurt in mine! Because a crockpot is low maintenance, you can set it and forget it. It is perfect for a busy family, singles, young, and old since they can have a healthy meal cooking with just a few minuets of preparation.
8. Wooden Cutting Boards - I have several cutting boards of varying sizes. I like the wooden ones, but plastic works just as well. I like to have several cutting boards of varying sizes to choose from depending on what food I am cutting and how much I am needing to chop. For small jobs like 1 cucumber or an apple, I will typically use my small cutting boards. For large jobs when I'm preparing several veggies all at once I will use my biggest cutting boards. It is also important to note that you should have a plastic cutting board designated for only cutting meat to reduce your risk of cross contamination.
9. I love my KitchenAid Mixer! I use it several times a week, everything from making cookies, to mixing up muffins, to shredding chicken (yes, chicken!), and mashing potatoes. I love how I can whip up cookie dough or brownies in just minuets when I put everything into the stand mixer. When I make icing, the Kitchen Aid mixer whips it perfectly. Because it can be used for everything, the KitchenAid mixer is truly is a workhorse in my kitchen and when used correctly, the KitchenAid will last for years and years. That is why I think that every cook should have one in their kitchen.
So there are my 9 essentials to have in the kitchen that make preparing food so much easier and faster. I think that we are so blessed to have these gadgets and tools that save us so much time preparing food. Just think if we had to do everything by hand like in the pioneer days! I'm thankful that I live in 2016 where I can put dinner in the crockpot and it to be hands-off on a crazy day! If you are wanting some meal planning ideas or a information on how to do a meal prep be sure to check out my posts here. Those two things combined with the 9 kitchen tools I've listed have been essential in helping me stay organized in the kitchen.
What are your must-have kitchen tools? Have you ever shredded chicken in your KitchenAid mixer or put quinoa in a rice cooker? What are some things that help you stay organized in the kitchen and get your meals on the table each day?
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