As a food junkie, I have tried almost every kitchen gadget known to man. Sadly, many of the niche items sit in my closet while the most basic tools spend their time between my hand and the kitchen sink.
To avoid having you go through the same process I have, I thought I would send along my list of kitchen items that are a must have for any mom or mom-to-be.
Each item selected is based on how it answered the following questions:
- How often was it used (minimum of twice weekly to even qualify)?
- How effective was it in reducing my time in the kitchen?
- Did it help me prepare healthier foods for the family?
- Did it reduce the amount of food wasted in my kitchen?
Sure, there are a great number of other items I will tell you, “I just can’t live without,” but these are the ones that help me get out of the house in the morning and get healthier food on the table at night. If you’re about to have your first baby and there is a shower in your future, I highly recommend adding some of these items to your registry. I promise they will be worth their weight in gold.
Top 10 Kitchen Must Haves
1. Sharp Knives & Kitchen Shears
Chefs don’t leave home without them but many of us tend to overlook the true value of a quality cutting utensil. Yes, they’re pricey but one great knife can make all the difference in the world. Chopping can be accomplished in a flash, meats trimmed and fruits and veggies cut without bruising. With a good knife in hand I really don’t mind cutting veggies for the week. Make fun shapes with food and put them in the fridge for you and your kids to munch on as snacks. If you’re not a knife connoisseur, check out this great infographic, Hone Your Chops, A Chef's Guides to Knives on what knife to use and when. As far as I am concerned, great food starts with great tools. Think about buying just one instead of a set. If you’re on a budget try the Victorinox Forschner 7” Sntokun Granton Knife or if you have a bit more money to spend go with the Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife available at Amazon.
2. Storage Kit
(Includes: masking tape, sharpie, ice cube trays, plastic bags and microwave safe glass jars of all sizes)
So I may have cheated here by including a bunch of items as one, but a storage kit is by far the best investment you can make when it comes to saving time, money and sanity in the kitchen. It’s simple - if you’re cooking one evening make twice as much and freeze the other half for later. Use ice cube trays to freeze sauces and place them in labeled plastic bags. Blend and freeze the fruits that are about to go bad on your counter and save them for smoothies. Freeze sautéed veggies, cooked grains, mashed root vegetables or roasted beets. Use them to create soups, stews or side dishes in a flash. I reuse the glass jars I buy at the store but you can buy them separately or use plastic containers. No matter what, make sure your containers are clear and microwave safe. Also, be sure to label and date all items with a sharpie and a piece of masking tape. Quick. Simple. Cheap.
Truth – I have a Blendtech and I love it. Others swear by Vitamix. Everyone on the planet who owns a super blender will tell you they just can't live without it. Why? You can make a soup by throwing washed veggies into a container and pressing one bottom. Create incredible smoothies using washed veggies and fruit (no peeling necessary while increasing the fiber content by including the skin). Make homemade almond milk in two minutes. Ground your own flours and spices. Once your little one starts on solids you can make batches of your own baby food in no time flat and freeze the excess for later. If you have picky eaters, use it to hide veggies in sauces or purees. I promise, if you buy one, you will love it just as much as everyone else.
4. Microplane Zester
Some of you may be thinking…really? A zester? Do I need that? You do and here’s why: a hand held zester enables you to incorporate the most amazing flavors into any dish quickly. It’s also a great way to help reduce the amount of salt you add to food by providing just the right nuance of flavor your palate craves. It’s amazing what some fresh orange zest will do to a morning oatmeal or what a bit of fresh lemon zest or ginger will do to steamed or sautéed vegetables. Did I mention it finely shaves hard cheese into ticker-tape ribbons of goodness? Think of it as a grater but much, much better and more versatile. Buy one at Target.
5. Julienne Peeler
I found this marvelous peeler a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to put it down since. With no technique and even less time, I can julienne a carrot, a zucchini, an apple or a beet. Sure, it’s still the same fruit or veggie as before but somehow it has this new appeal. Kids will go for it too. Who doesn’t like spaghetti – except this time it’s just veggies. I have found myself adding these beautifully cut veggies/fruit to almost everything I cook. What’s not to like about a tool that helps me get more veggies on my plate? Here’s a link to a great momme meals Raw Beet & Carrot Salad we recently threw together using this marvelous tool.
6. Chalk Board & Bistro Markers
Two of my top frustrations in the kitchen are: cooking a meal and realizing I don’t have all of the ingredients and blankly staring at the fridge wondering what to make for dinner. Since my husband and I take turns in the kitchen we put a chalkboard on the fridge where we have a running grocery list as well as a plan for the week’s meals. It’s not always specific. The food list may say, “fruit, veggies, heavy cream” while the menu could read, “Monday – Salmon, Tuesday – Pasta” but it’s a huge help and time saver. When we’re getting low on an ingredient, it goes on the list. When I have a recipe idea I want to try right away, I change our schedule. About twice a week I take a picture of the list and keep it on my phone just in case I happen to be near the store. This way I can pick up what we need without overspending or having to make multiple trips. The easiest solution is using a peel and stick chalk board that you can place anywhere and remove at will. Be creative!
7. Rice Cooker
Don’t let the name fool you. A rice cooker will actually cook almost any whole grain you have in your kitchen. Think steel cut oats, farro or quinoa. You can even cook beans. If you’re not familiar with cooking grain this Grain to Water Ratios infographic is great resource to have on hand. A rice cooker can be incredibly helpful for those grains that hit or exceed a cook time of 40 minutes. Who has time for that? With a rice cooker you just set it and forget it. Make more than you need for any given meal and store the rest in the freezer using the tools in your “storage kit.” Perfect! I like Zojirushi brand.
8. Clear Counter Top Containers w/Measuring Utensils
As a foodie I love seeing food, so naturally I like having my whole grains, flours, dried fruits and spiced displayed in clear containers on the kitchen counter next to a big bowl of fruit. It’s more than just aesthetics. The benefit is that it reminds me of all the wonderful resources I have at my disposal for any meal or snack. I also keep the appropriate measuring utensils right in the container. Why? It makes it super easy to get what I want right away, prevents me from having to wash an endless number of measuring spoons and cups, and keeps food items from mixing. This can be especially important if you, your loved one or your child has a sensitive food allergy and cross contamination is an issue. Storables has a plethora of options for any kitchen style.
9. A Vegetable Brush
Whether you buy organic or not, washing your fruits and veggies is a must! A veggie brush is a great way to make the washing process a bit easier. A good but gentle rub can remove unwanted bacteria, pesticides and other residues. Removing these harmful substances also helps your fruits and veggies last longer. Win. Win. Try the Eco Clean Veggie Brush.
10. Colored Cutting Boards
On any given evening I am likely to cut a variety of foods in the kitchen. Having a few cutting boards for specific purposes helps me move quickly through prep time while limiting the transfer of bacteria between foods. I use certain color cutting boards for certain foods like green for veggies, red for meats and blue for fish. Food safety is always important but even more so when you’re pregnant, so buy a few extra cutting boards and help reduce the risk. This set of four colored cutting boards from William Sonoma is a good deal.