Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Favorite Things: Kitchen Edition

Sara at Wife-Mommy-Woman is hosting this week's Round Up on FS kitchens.  A great topic!

So here is a (less-than-erudite) 100th post (woohoo!) on this important topic.

Before coming to post, I bought a lot of kitchen stuff.  A LOT.  Really, I'd been buying kitchen stuff for years and promptly putting it in storage, so I had no idea of what I really had.  That didn't stop me from buying more.  I think cooking is so much more fun when you have really good cookware/bakeware/gadgets with which to do it.  So I set about fully customizing my kitchen to my very own specifications.  I was so, so, so excited.

Then I got to post and met my kitchen.  While the layout is okay, with relatively ample counter space, that's where the positive attributes end.  First of all, it's ugly.  1970s-era peachy-beige and avocado tiling with flower accents.  Brown tile floors.  Horrific wood-laminate cupboards.  Then, the features are problematic.  Electric stove (I hate cooking on anything but gas) and an oven whose door falls apart/off with alarming regularity.  One of the stove burners fell off its moorings the other day.  A dishwasher that may predate civilization.  It certainly predates silverware, as there is no silverware holder in it.  The washer and dryer are underneath kitchen counters, which would be fine if it didn't mean there was little to no storage space.  About half of my pots and pans and all of my food is relegated to the counters because there are only a couple drawers and a couple of cupboards in the entire kitchen.  Most of my kitchen gadgets are also relegated to the counters for the same reason.  I have never seen a kitchen with less storage space.  There are, in fact, precisely six cabinets and six drawers in the entire kitchen.  All of them poorly designed so that you lose a lot of the potential space because of the way the appliances are wedged in.  My sink has one basin.  There is only one overhead cabinet, which means there's all that wasted space in the rest of the kitchen.  Which is why all of my nonperishables live on the counter.  At least I don't forget what I have on hand...

So, instead of whining more about my ridiculously awful kitchen (have I mentioned that housing is a top priority for me in second-tour bidding?), I am going to outline a few of my favorite kitchen tools that I could not live without.

Now, I fully admit that I am a brand snob.  Especially when it comes to my kitchen.  However, I will shop around endlessly and wait years for the right sale.  I refuse to pay more money than I think I have to.  (I stalked my set of KitchenAid cookware for 5 years until it finally fell enough in price for me to justify it.)  If you are in the DC area, I think the Williams Sonoma and Le Creuset outlets in Leesburg are two of the happiest places in the world.  They are awesome for stocking up on high-quality kitchenware at fair (sometimes even low) prices.  I never fail to find awesome deals and surprises there.

-First, high quality cookware.  I really like my assorted Calphalon pots and pans and my KitchenAid hard-anodized nonstick set.  Cooking in them is always easy and even. 

-My favorite all-around pot:  My Le Creuset Round French Oven.  I firmly believe no household should be without one of these versatile enameled cast-iron pieces.  Mine is a 5.5 quart, which is perfect for most things.  I'll continue to build my collection as space and finances allow.

-My Calphalon steamer/sauce pot is pretty awesome too.  I love steamers big enough to accommodate artichokes.

-Microplane cheese graters.  I have a box grater, a rotary grater, and several hand-held models.  They are all awesome. 

-Sharp, high quality knives:  I love my Zwilling J.A. Henckels set for most things but have several Kuhn Rikon paring and utility knives on hand as well.  My Kuhn Rikon auto deluxe safety lid lifter can opener is pretty nifty too.

-Onion chopper.  This has made my life so much easier.  Just cut the onion into large chunks, put it on the chopping platform, and push down on the lid.  Voila.  This has changed my life.  And made my hands smell like onions on a much less frequent basis.  Double win!  (Mine is made by Progressive.)

-Mushroom slice and catch.  Similarly, this is awesome for slicing mushrooms quickly and easily.  Made by Vacu Vin.  And since mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, I use this several times a week.

-For that matter, I have specialized cutters/slicers/tools for most things.  Tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, melons, pineapples, strawberries.  I may use each a couple times a year, but I can't resist them. 

-Wooden spoons.  I love wooden spoons and use them almost exclusively, especially on my high-quality cookware.  I have spoons from the U.S., New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Palestine.  Some are specialized and/or pieces of art, while others are mass-produced and perfect for everyday use. 

-Mezzaluna/Ulu:  Essential gadget.  My parents have an amazing ulu knife they bought in Alaska 30+ years ago, but mine is just an off-the-shelf special until I can get to Alaska for one of my very own.

-Cheese Spreaders:  I have a number of random themed spreaders, perfect for cheese or dips or the like. 

-Pyrex.  Who could live without these amazing glass baking dishes??  I have many in assorted sizes and shapes. 

-ClickClack food storage canisters.  No explanation necessary.  They rock. 

-George Foreman Quesadilla Maker:  A much more versatile appliance than I thought at first, receiving it as a gift.  I make quesadillas, sandwiches, toast, calzones, paninis, and many other things in it.  Because here's a guilty confession:  I do not own a toaster.  Nor do I feel the need to own one.  I just don't eat bread that often in that form. 

-I like the Martha Stewart for Macy's kitchen collection because a lot of it is in a beautiful aquamarine color that appeal to me.  This is the default color for my kitchen tools.  Which, as you can imagine, looks FANTASTIC with the peachy-beige/avocado tiles...

-I could go on forever, but I will leave you with two words:  butter crock.  And two more.  Totally awesome.

And now, my wishlist:

-KitchenAid stand mixer.  I would buy one now, except for the whole lack of storage/counter space issue. 

-More Le Creuset.  I love it.  And those colors!

-I guess at some point I should buy a toaster.  It's just not a priority. 

-I spend hours looking at kitchen gadgets online and in stores.  It's my favorite shopping experience.  So I have a long list of things I will buy if/when they go on sale.

I also have very strong opinions on glassware, flatware, and dinnerware.  But that's another blog for another day.  If you're really curious, feel free to get in touch.  But I can't imagine anyone really is.  (Or at least anytime I get on my soapbox about the ideal heft and rim shape/thickness of a drinking glass or the appropriate number and size of tines on a fork, eyes tend to glaze over.)

So, these are but a few of my favorite kitchen things.  I've tried to include links where possible if anything strikes your fancy.  Let me know if you have questions!


A said...

I also have strong opinions on tableware - Crate and Barrel essentials plates and bowls. Classic white. Start with that and then your fs do daddy stuff looks great with it.

Heather B. said...

I love this post! And I plan on using some of these links! We have the same knives as you (the Zwillings)...we love them!

Donna said...

Bid on Amman - we have some nice kitchens here. But no dishwashers or garbage disposals, which is kind of traumatic for me.

I lovelovelove my KitchenAid stand mixer. I'm actually on my second one because I use it so much. To be fair, it took me an entire decade to kill the first one. They are seriously tough machines.

Heather Dray said...

I've been thinking about a mango cutter, but have never known anyone who had one, much less recommended it. I don't cook - I actually really suck at it - but I love gadgets, making smoothies, and of course...lattes! Great post and lots of good recommendations, which I'll past along to my cook, the hubby!

Sara said...

The Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up and you’re in it.

You can view it here:

Connie said...

I want to replace a lot of my older (crappier) kitchen goods, but I like to have my hands actually ON such stuff before committing, and I don't think to go shopping for it. Dilemma. Highest on my list is good cookware (calphalon!) and a new everyday dinnerware. I would also like to eventually get a kitchenaide stand mixer (with tons of accessories!)

Z. Marie said...

Don't even get me started on forks that only have three tines! Most of my family members are tired of my rants about them.

Sadie said...

Zoe - three tines does not a fork make! You have a fellow ranter about this in me :-). I also am VERY particular about the size of soup/dinner spoons. If it doesn't fit in your mouth, it should be a serving piece.