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Post 10/13 – My Must Haves in the Kitchen

I am taking a little break from writing recipes and doing something different.  I’ve been compiling a list of some of my favorite things in the kitchen.  I imagine this list will grow and evolve over time.  I would love to hear some of your must haves, it you want to share.  Missing from my list is a knife.  Most cooks would list this as a must have, I use them often, but I don’t have one I like enough to include on the list.  Kinda sad.  Must remedy this one day. 

In no particular order, here are a few (actually 25!) of my favorite things in the kitchen:

1.  KitchenAid hand blender – one of my favorite kitchen tools!  They are so handy.  Gotta be careful though, if you start too fast, you can sling food all over the kitchen.  Also, a helpful tip…it does not work for mashed potatoes.  Unless of course, you’re looking for a new glue or cement substitute!  It does however, make a great sweet potato purée.

2.  Penzeys spices – My sister Anne got me hooked on Penzeys (http://www.penzeys.com/) years ago. The company used to be mainly mail order (unless you lived Wisconsin), but now there are shops all over the country. Even in Birmingham, AL!  Yahoo!  Some of my favorites:  Aleppo Pepper, Black and Red Spice, the Double Strength Vanilla, Buttermilk Ranch, Shallot Salt, and too many more to name.  They have gift boxes that make wonderful gifts for weddings, housewarmings, etc.

3.  White vinegar – It is a useful cooking ingredient and it is great for cleaning.  We buy it in bulk in a 5-liter jug.

4.  Cast iron skillet – My mom’s cast iron skillet is a cherished family treasure.  I use it just for cornbread.  I have more cast iron cookware that I use for other things, but this one is special.

5.  Company – I love company when I cook, especially when it is Matt.  We have a great time cooking together.  We are sometimes joined by our adorable side-kick Will.  He’s our almost 15-year old rescue Sheltie.  My Dad would be rolling in his grave if he knew we let a dog in the kitchen (a huge no-no when I was a kid).  Will sleeps in the corner on his little rug; he’s a pack animal, and he loves being with us.  Here’s a blurry photo of him actually sitting on his rug.  He hardly ever sits like a normal dog! While I was taking the photo, he started to lie down, thus the bluriness.  I’m just glad we have a photo of him sitting.  It makes me smile.

6.  Salt – Yes, I know too much salt is bad for you.  But I can’t help it; I like salt in moderation.  We have several different types of salt:  Kosher (my stand-by), Maltese sea salt (I saw them collecting it when I was there), Celtic grey salt, Hawaiian red salt, Maldon sea salt flakes, Alder smoked salt (perfect for finishing a simple grilled fish), and Murray River pink salt.

7.  Apple cider vinegar – Great for so many things, especially salad dressings and Katie-Ade (a “gross” drink that I make when I’m fighting a cold: garlic, ginger, honey, cayenne, and apple cider vinegar).

8.  The Baker’s Catalogue – King Arthur Flour in Vermont has a great catalog and website (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/landing.jsp?go=Home).  They have excellent recipes, kitchen tools, and ingredients.

9.  Crock pot – Such a convenient, almost magical invention…you can put in steel-cut oats and a few other ingredients (a future post), cover it, turn it on low, and you have a delicious breakfast when you wake up the next morning.  Or in the morning, you can fill it with beans, water, seasoning, and veggies and have a hearty veggie dinner when you come home from work.  Probably shouldn’t admit this, but we have three crock pots (small, medium, and large)!  We combined two households when we got married and then inherited another when my Mom died. 

10.  Sieves – We have a small one, big one, and a conical one with a stand. 

11.  Pyrex measuring cups – We have a set of three (1 cup, 2 cup, and 4 cup).  You can use them for so many things.  I love the large one for making microwave iced tea.

12.  Wire whisks – We have a tiny one, medium one, and a long-handled one.  Hmmm, I’m sensing a pattern here.  Ah, gotta love merging kitchens, hand-me-downs, and wedding gifts!

13.  KitchenAid stand mixer – I’ve had it since 1990 and it still works the same!  For our wedding, two years ago, we got a pasta attachment for it, we love it! 

14.  Coffee grinder – We have one for coffee and one for spices!  Perfect for making your own curry seasoning blend or spice rub.

15.  Wooden rice paddle – Bought it from our friends’ yard sale.  Didn’t know what it was at first, I just thought it was a short, squatty wooden spoon.  Had no idea how handy it was.  Not just useful for rice, I use it for lots of things.

16.  Kitchen shears – We got a nice pair of kitchen shears as a gift, thanks to my MIL!  What a difference sharp blades make!  Now, our old shears are relegated to opening packages and snipping herbs.

17.  Latex-free gloves – Kind of dorky but I find them useful.  Especially with all my allergies (including latex).  They are especially helpful when working with hot peppers.

18.  Kitchen scale – Great for portion control and useful when converting European recipes into American recipes. 

19.  Olive oil – There has been talk recently in the media about olive oil fraud.  Scary what manufacturers can pass off as olive oil.  Please be aware of what you’re buying.  We use the “fancy” organic stuff only for finishing a dish.  The best olive oil I’ve had was grown and produced by our friends Claudio and Grazia in Levanto, Italy.  We had it for breakfast it was so good!  For every day, we use the Extra Virgin Olive oil in the large 3-liter can from Earth Fare, Whole Foods, or Costco.

20.  White cotton dish towels – Did I mention I’m a messy cook?!?  Just today, I ended up with melted chocolate on my elbow and on helper dog’s snoot (yes, I wiped it off with a dish towel before he ate any, thank goodness).

21.  Candy Thermometer – Sometimes you just need one…the “drop a blob” in cold water method I used as a kid is fine for some things, but other recipes need more precision.

22.  Metric Wonder Cup – Awesome for measuring liquids in almost any unit you can think of.  It has teaspoons, tablespoons, ounces, milliliters, and cups!  I remember Alton Brown recommending it years ago.  Glad I bought one, it’s very handy!

23.  Dutch oven – Crock pots are nice, but sometimes you need something else.  Something that can go from stove to oven.  So, we have a heavy, red, 6-quart Mario Batali Dutch Oven and we use it often.  I love it except when I’m rehabbing broken hands (Did I mention I’m clumsy?  Yep, I’ve done this a few too many times!).  Then I can’t lift it and Matt helps me.

24.  Cuisinart food processor – I used to function fine in the kitchen without a food processor.  I relied on my handy-dandy mortar and pestle (wish I still had one), but the electric food processor sure makes easy work of some tasks.

25.  Citrus reamer – If you want to get lots of juice from a lemon, lime, or other citrus fruit, a hand-held reamer works great.  Mine is wooden.  Love it, especially when making lemon curd and limoncello (more future posts!).


  1. Cyndia
    January 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Great list, Katie! I learn something every time! I bought what I now know is a rice paddle at an estate sale recently. I don’t know if I’ll keep it for that or use it for a certain little guy when he’s naughty. ;-).
    Probably my favorite things are my santoku knives. I cannot believe I cooked for years without having even one good knife. Now that I have them, I take them whenever I know I’ll be cooking. I don’t think it is necessary to spend big $$ on a good knife; mine all came from TJMaxx for under $20 each and have stood the test of time. The ones I use most are the 6″ & 10″ Santoku knives, 6″ & 10″ chef knives, my serrated bread knife, and a sturdy handled paring knife. Steven keeps them all sharpened. A dull knife is a dangerous thing. Next would be a good cutting board, and my OXO potato peeler. I make roasted squash cubes and that peeler goes right thru that hard outer flesh. I love my KitchenAid mixer(s)! The original is from the 40s & still works great. The only reason I bought a newer one is for the larger bowl size. The older one makes much smaller quantities; kinda like the dinner plate sizes back then compared to now.
    Steven’s favorite tools (he’s learning to cook!!! Hooray!!) are a) the knives, b) a stainless scraper/cutter, & c) the self-defrosting ice cream scoop that came from the soda fountain at his dad’s drugstore.

  2. Cyndia
    January 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Oh! I left out my iron skillets. I have several, too, but two are special. One is a round flat griddle that I use for pancakes. The other is my grandmother’s chicken fryer. I even used it on the grill last spring when we lost power for five days.

  3. January 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Nice additions, thanks!!

    I had cutting board on my list, but my Magic Cup bumped it! We bought two from local wood workers, I think it is Turkey Creek. They usually show at the Downtown Arts Strolls in the summer.

    Forgot about my OXO peeler! They are great. And speaking of roasted squash, that is tomorrow’s post!

    I forgot Steven’s Dad had a soda fountain at his drugstore. He is fortunate to have the ice cream scoop from his dad’s shop! Sharpener of knives, fixer of electrical cords, etc…Steven is sooooo handy! Love having y’all as neighbors!

    • Cyndia
      January 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Ditto! If you open your windows when you’re cooking next, those lovely aromas can drift my way! :-)

    • Cyndia
      January 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Oh, thanks for reminding me of the cutting boards sold locally! Lesley wants one in the shape of Alabama.

  4. January 16, 2012 at 9:53 am


  5. January 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Great list! Thanks for sharing! Some of your favorites are mine as well.

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