I don’t know how I became such a maximalist when it comes to, well, everything. But for the purpose of this story, let’s just say I love kitchen stuff. My mother is old school. She had the same slow cooker for 30 years (no exaggeration), until I bought her a new one, her Hamilton Beach food processor is a 70’s relic, and she still had those wimpy, metal-handled vegetable peelers until a couple of years ago when I upgraded her to an OXO. With the exception of a couple of exotic tools (a long, curved metal utensil designed to hollow out zucchini for stuffing and a mezzaluna to make a deep green Egyptian soup called molokhia), all she really needs to cook is a knife and a pot. I admire that, because, as many, many hours logged watching the food network have shown me, that is what characterizes a true cook. They don’t need a bunch of fancy stuff to make magic in the kitchen. But, since I am a rookie, and since I love to shop for kitchen gear, my collection of essentials has grown over the years. Here, a few of the things I can’t live without:
Note: You will notice that I do not have a coffee maker on this list. That is because I don’t drink coffee. I drink tea. We do have a coffee maker, and it was a gift from my dad. I don’t know the brand, and I don’t know how to work it. We only use it when company comes over. : ) I also have other small assorted appliances, including a citrus juicer, a Salton scale, a little Princess baker that makes miniature Princess-themed baked goods, a plug in griddle, a plug-in grill from Hamilton Beach, a panini maker, a Magic Bullet, and an ice cream maker. Wow! I am just realizing how much stuff I actually have!
Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer: I love being able to walk away from it and do something else while it does all the heavy mixing. I’ve had it for almost ten years and it shows no signs of age. So well made.
Food Processor: I use this to make purees to blend into foods, to chop veggies, etc. Right now I am in between machines. Our restaurant stole my Cuisinart, and I am trying to decide if a Magimix is worth the investment for a non-chef like me, or whether another Cuisinart would do the trick.
Blender: Right now I have a Waring or an Oster or something, but I only use it occasionally to make smoothies, puree soups, etc.
Juicer: Mine is a budget-priced Waring I got for Christmas so I could try out the whole juicing thing. I’m trying to decide whether to replace the Blender and Juicer with a Vitamix.
Mini Food Processor: I got a tiny one from the grocery store, at my mother-in-law’s recommendation, primarily to chop onions, and I love it. I literally can’t cut onions without bursting into tears, so this is a real lifesaver. Also useful for chopping herbs and making small quantities of sauces (with parsley, garlic, etc.) or vinaigrettes.
Toaster Oven: Everytime I am tempted by one of the beautifully designed toasters out there, I end up deciding that I can’t part with my toaster oven. It’s a Cuisinart, and it’s so convenient for so many uses. It works to heat up day-old pizza and flatbread, warm tortillas, toast English muffins, pita bread, and even nuts, make mini pizzas, and as a mini-oven or a second oven.
Crock Pot: Over the last couple of years, I’ve acquired two smaller crockpots – the small sized one that I use for making oatmeal, and a medium round one for smaller dishes and for that amazing Hot Fudge Spoon Cake from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. I also have a regular, large sized one, of course. I love my Crock Pots!
Apple Corer/Slicer: Mine is from OXO, and I use it daily. Works great on pears, too.
OXO Vegetable Peeler: So quick and easy to use, and has a comfortable handle.
High Quality knives: I have tons of knives, because we started with a complete Henckels set and then acquired some Cutco pieces when a friend’s daughter was selling them. I keep mine over the stove on a magnetic knife board that I bought from a chef’s catalog. Do not get the ones from Bed Bath & Beyond. The magnet is not nearly as strong!
Kitchen Scissors/Shears: I use scissors for so many things: snipping and chopping herbs, cutting meat… Anytime I can use scissors and not a knife, I do.
Microplane Graters: I have these in both sizes. I use the larger one primarily for grating cheese, and lately, for grating ginger. The smaller one is excellent for zesting citrus.
Tons of those big, black, nylon utensils for using with nonstick pans, and some wooden spoons as well
Silicone spatulas for mixing and for scraping bowls
A cherry pitter
Cutco Pizza Cutter: Works great for slicing lots of things, including sandwiches, waffles, pancakes…
Cutco Frosting Spatula: The wide metal surface makes it supereasy to make frosting look nice, even for a kitchen klutz like me!
Strainers and Colanders: I have a standard big metal one, a medium sized metal mesh one, a small bright red one for berries and grapes, and a very small mesh one. I use them all.
Silicone basting brushes: I have a couple of these. I know they don’t hold as much liquid as the conventional brushes, but I find that they clean so much better
Cutting boards in wood and plastic: I have these in various sizes for various uses. I use a big plastic white one the most.
Yellow Citrus Squeezer: I love how easy this is to use. They are finally available here, but in Mediterranean coutnries these have been using these forever.
Measuring spoons and cups: I have an odd assortment of these, from glass cups to the black nylon ones, and both plastic and stainless measuring spoons. I prefer the measuring spoons that are not attached – that way they don’t all get dirty when you use one.
Cookie spoon with silicone “bowl”: I found this clear acrylic spoon with a silicone bowl that is perfect for dispensing cookie dough onto a sheet. Just press down on the silicone part and it pops right out.
Stainless steel pinch bowls: I use these all the time, when I need to premeasure small quantities of spices or other ingredients for recipes