My kitchen is pretty small, which forces me to be a minimalist when it comes to kitchen stuff.
Fortunately for me, the size of your kitchen has nothing to do with the quality of food you can make in it! (That's not my kitchen, by the way. But it's quite cute.)
In this post I will share 5 kitchen items that are definitely worthy of my (limited) kitchen space. I use these items all the time. They make life much easier when it comes to healthy meal preparation.
1. A Ginormous Stock Pot
I know I preach this all the time, but batch-cooking saves you SO much time. If you're going to go through the trouble of cooking, why not make several meals out of it?!
Soups in particular freeze really well. This is a meatless "chili" I made. (Some would say that meat is a requirement in chili. Otherwise it's apparently "bean soup." I disagree. If I'm putting an entire jar of chili powder in it, I'm calling it chili. :)
In this batch I included onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, kale, bell peppers, green chilis, jalepeno, black beans, dark red kidney beans, and lots of chili powder.
2. A Ginormous Saute Pan
When you cook with vegetables, you need plenty of room for these bulky super-foods. I like this 5-quart saute pan because it holds a lot of veggies and is lined with non-stick ceramic.
In this stir fry, I sauteed an entire head of cabbage, a head of broccoli, a large container of fresh mushrooms, and half a bag of shredded carrots. Served on brown rice, this meal not only made a filling dinner, but also several lunches to enjoy throughout the week. (I like to add a teaspoon of red chili paste to my plate for added heat!)
3. A Vegetable Chopper
My mom loves the Vidalia Chop Wizard. She uses it all the time. She bought me one a few years ago. It's quite handy and definitely cuts down on chopping time.
What I love about it is that my kids can use it! I think it's important to get kids involved in the kitchen. If your kids help prepare the food, they're more likely to eat it. Cooking is a great opportunity to spend quality time with your kids and teach them about good nutrition early on.
The problem is, a lot of the healthy stuff involves cutting. Call me paranoid, but years of seeing hand lacerations in the ER has me reluctant to give my kids a knife. (They use a carrot/potato peeler, but that's about it.) But with this chopper, I can let my kids do the chopping!
For parents of young children, a vegetable chopper offers:
- Style points for delegating your cooking tasks :)
- Occupying the kids in a productive way (for a little while, anyway)
- Peace of mind that dinner will not be ruined by a trip to the ER!
This was a large batch of potato and white bean soup flavored with fresh rosemary.
4. A Rice Cooker
Of course, you don't need a rice cooker to make rice. For a long time I didn't have one. But I didn't love the consistency of the rice I cooked on the stove. I had a hard time figuring out the right water ratio, and it often turned out mushy.
With a rice cooker, it's easier, and I get better results.
I found this rice cooker at Costco. I think it was around $40. It has different settings for brown rice, white rice, and quinoa. For brown rice, it uses "a low-heat soak cycle that precedes the cooking cycle to produce better brown rice results" (according to the instruction manual).
Not sure about all that... All I know is that the rice tastes better, and it's much easier than cooking it on the stove. I simply add the amount of rice I want to cook (rinsing it first), add water to the appropriate fill line, and press the "brown rice" button. When it's done cooking, it switches to a "keep warm" mode until you're ready to eat it.
This was a quick lunch made from some leftover rice, drained/rinsed black beans from a can, frozen corn cooked in the microwave, fresh salsa from the produce section of the grocery store, and some fresh cilantro on top.
5. A High-Quality Blender
So far the items I've mentioned are relatively inexpensive ($20 - $50). This one is not. This one definitely falls into the "investment" category.
For years I used a Ninja blender (basic model). For fruit smoothies it worked just fine.
I heard a lot of hype about Vitamix and Blendtec blenders, but the price was enough to make me say, "no thanks."
As I started to include more vegetables in my smoothies, and as I started to make cream sauces from nuts, I realized that my Ninja just couldn't deliver the smoothness I was looking for.
So this year I broke down and bought a refurbished Vitamix (which was still $299 - yikes!).
I have to say, I love it.
In my opinion, a high-quality blender is worth it if (and only if):
- You use a blender a lot (which I do)
- You are making things that you want to be exceptionally creamy and smooth.
I use mine in place of a juicer. It pulverizes fruits and vegetables into a smooth liquid. (My Ninja made more of an applesauce consistency.) Unlike juicing, with blending you don't discard the health-promoting fiber.
I don't typically follow a recipe. I just grab whatever fresh and frozen produce I have on hand, throw it in the blender, add some water and ice (if needed), and blend. For this one I used frozen spinach, parsley, cucumber, a golden delicious apple, and a little fresh pineapple.
So there you have it. 5 super-useful kitchen items for healthy food preparation.
What are some of your favorite kitchen tools? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or on Facebook!