While my cooking style is fairly simple, I also have a love of clever gadgets and kitchen tools. While you won’t catch me using, say, a banana slicer (does anyone seriously buy these?), there are definitely gadgets I would hate to be without.
Here, in no particular order, are my top five kitchen tools. There is a single criterion for making the list: the tool has to be something that makes me like the Bionic Woman in the kitchen. In other words, it has to help me be better, stronger, faster in the kitchen than I am without it.
Vitamix. I lusted after the Vitamix high-speed blender from the first moment I heard of it, but I decried it as too expensive/indulgent. I had a blender. Finally, after years (years!) of wanting one, I realized that when my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday, I needed to speak up, lest I be doomed to a lifetime of tube socks and Mentos.** So I spoke up, and my darling Vera came into my life.
(Yes, my blender has a name. So does our car. Any appliance whose strength can be measured in horsepower deserves a name.)
Not only is she amazing at making smoothies and ice cream, she creates the silkiest soups and sauces a cook could ever want. My PDX Parsnip Soup would not be the same without it. Vitamixes (Vitamixen? Surely there’s a plural) are also excellent for making paleo staples such as nut milk and coconut butter.
The only downside is that the Vitamix is definitely an investment. However, it’s one I am thrilled that we made. These ladies last forever: my friend K. still uses the one her dad purchased in 1976.
Spiral slicer. I try not to sound like a giddy, love-struck teen when I talk about my favorite tools, but the Spiralfix makes that a difficult rule to follow. Y’all, this thing is fun.
It makes pasta-style cuts as well as swirling ribbons. I use it to make vegetable noodles as well as for gorgeous salads that are almost too pretty to eat. In my totally scientific MomAnalysis(TM)***, 100% of eaters will say food tastes better when it is in a fun shape. Why not increase the odds that your picky little ones will actually eat six bites of a vegetable before they realize that the “pasta” is as good for them as the sauce?
[FYI: a lot of bloggers, such as the very talented Ali of Inspiralized, prefer the Paderno Slicer. However, the Spiralfix felt better/sturdier to me. Perhaps it’s because I am left-handed, but I found that I got a firmer grip with the Spiralfix. Perhaps it’s because I am a klutz, and I could easily see myself losing a digit considering how the blades are stored? The compact size of the Spirafix is critical, too. Cabinet and counter space are in short supply around here.]
Coffee grinder for spices. I have already waxed rhapsodic about having a dedicated grinder just for processing whole spices, but it bears repeating because it is so useful.
If yours is a coffee-drinking household, you might think you can use your regular coffee grinder for this purpose. Do not be fooled. To bend a Biblical turn of phrase, no grinder can serve two purposes. The coffee oils in the machine will make your spices taste off, and the spices will ruin your coffee. Grinders are inexpensive enough that you can own two.
Slow cooker. Is it possible to love an appliance so much you want to have its little stoneware babies? Because that’s how much I adore my Crock-Pot. Without these unassuming, sturdy machines — the current one is my third in twenty years — I could not have gotten through law school. Heck, I couldn’t have made it through a single one of Oregon’s sopping wet winters.
No matter how many times I do it, there is something wondrous about plopping a few ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning, and coming home to a hearty bowl of chili or a big batch of bone broth. Of course, the cooker is equally useful in the summer, when it is entirely too hot to cook but you need to prepare a roast or other large piece of meat.
Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. Last on this list, but possibly first in my heart, is my incredible stand mixer.
Again, I wanted one of these for forever. Somehow, my beloved knew (cough*spent first three years of marriage telling him about them*cough) and he surprised me on my birthday (are we sensing a theme here?).
Pre-paleo, I used the mixer to bake many a loaf of bread and the occasional birthday cake. These days, I’m more likely to use it for whipping cream or making a crustless quiche. I also love that it has a plethora of optional attachments: slicer/shredder; a food grinder; even an ice cream maker.
So there you have it: the five kitchen items I can’t live without. What are your favorite kitchen tools?