Once upon a time I dreamed of the days when I would stock my very own kitchen with gadgets and appliances. Forget the clothing department, I wanted to wander the displays of lime-green blenders and cherry-red spatulas.
After years of fantasizing, I was a happy camper when I finally made my wedding registry. Thankfully, by the time I created my wishlist I had also developed strong views on simplicity and practicality. Eric and I looked for items that would serve multiple functions in the kitchen, had positive consumer reviews, and would be in frequent use.
Here are some of the top kitchen items that have become favorites in the past year, all of which we use multiple times a week.
1. Crock pot
2. Rice Cooker
This isn’t an appliance that I dreamed about, but I had no idea that we’d use it so much. We make rice several times a week for favorites such as curries, fried rice, or beans, and our rice cooker makes it incredibly simple. It’s easy to clean, doesn’t make a mess, and frees up our only saucepan for other meal elements. We love our rice cooker!
3. Hand Blender
Apparently no one thought the electric beater we had on our registry was a suitable gift. I don’t either anymore, now that I have my Waring Pro immersion hand blender from my brother. I use it to blend soups right in the pot, whip cream, beat mashed potatoes, mix ingredients for frosting, and puree chickpeas for hummus. It does everything an electric beater does and more.
We usually use this in conjunction with the rice cooker, which is pretty often. It’s perfect for creamy chicken curry and stirfries.
The best low-tech kitchen item. Mine is from Ecuador. (Is that right, Mom?) The coating on my non-stick hard anodized Calphalon soup pot would be in tatters right now without it. It’s also the utensil of choice for stirring yogurt and sourdough, as it doesn’t react with the food like a metal spoon would.
6. Garlic Press
This is pretty much a one-purpose item, but it gets too much use to ignore. We love garlic, and most dishes we use it in call for fresh-pressed. Our Pampered Chef press doesn’t require us to pre-peel the cloves, and has an attachment that makes it a cinch to clean. Oh, it’s also perfect for pressing fresh ginger.
I’m eternally grateful to my brother-in-law (the one who cooks) for telling me that I didn’t need that expensive knife block. Nope, three quality knives can accomplish most tasks. We’re happy with a Santoku knife, a small utility knife, and a serrated bread knife. We have a small knife sharpener purchased at Meijer to keep them happy.
Saves time and sanity. This handy little tool comes with Pampered Chef stoneware pieces, or can be purchased separately. We don’t have a dishwasher, so we use this ALL the time to scrape food off of dishes and pans before soaping them up. Also good for scraping labels off of jars that we want to reuse, and for getting dried food off the counter and stove tops.
9. Glass Jars
Ideal for storing homemade salad dressing, lemon curd, and chicken stock. The only way to store my sourdough and yogurt starters. Good pantry storage for dried beans. Essential for making refrigerator dill pickles. And “free” if you eat a lot of salsa.
10. Pastry Mat
Yeast breads are my recreational therapy, and I make enough sourdough bread, pie crusts, cinnamon rolls, and biscuits to give this mat an insane amount of use. My silicone Pampered Chef mat is ample enough to be the only work surface I need to roll out dough–so no more floury counter tops to clean up. I use string or a nylon knife to cut dough on the mat. If you’re setting up a wedding registry, I recommend skipping the rolling pin in favor of a pastry mat–you can use a wine bottle in place of a pin, but there just aren’t any suitable stand-ins for The Mat. (Go here for my review of the pastry mat.)
This item is an essential in my kitchen, and is the ultimate multi-tasker. It can cook, wash dishes–even set the table!–all with minimal programming. Some husbands, like mine, even invent recipes on their own and surprise you with amazing meals. It doesn’t come with any instructions, so you kind of have to figure out how to use it as you go along, but it has a life-time guarantee. My husband makes my life so much easier, and I would definitely recommend getting one if you don’t have it already. (: