Saturday, October 6, 2012

Top 5 Tools In My Whole Foods Kitchen

Transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based diet can seem overwhelming. Not only can new foods seem foreign, but also the methods and tools used to prepare them.

Through trial and error I have been able to narrow down my favorite kitchen tools down to 5. Of course, there are always things like juicers, dehydrators, standing mixers, bread makers, etc, but I find those items to be less important.

These are "small" appliances I love.

Top 5 kitchen Tools I use. I wouldn't want to cook without them. I have listed them in their order of importance to me.

1.) A good blender. I recommend either the Vita-Mix or Blendtec blender purchased at Costco. It's cheaper, and Costco has an unbeatable return policy if anything should go wrong. The warranty is also extended. You can return the blender at any time, even if you have lost your receipt.
I personally use the Blendtec Total Blender. I don't get paid to say that. Blendtec doesn't even know about little bitty me. Both blenders do a great job. When I am at my best, healthwise, I use my blender at least 3 times a day. A green smoothie for breakfast, my kids' favorite waffles (made from nuts, seeds, oats, etc, that all require high-powered blending) and some pear syrup. For lunch I eat either a soup (base made in the blender!) or a salad with salad dressing made in the blender. Then I might make my kids some macaroni and "cheese" (cheese sauce made in blender) or a cream from Strawberries and Cream. For dinner a lot of sauces for the main entree require a blender. I have over 2,000 uses on my blender; it keeps track of the number of uses for you. At $400 (I last saw Blendtecs at Costco, including a second, larger jar, for $379.) divided by 2,000 uses, each use cost me about 2 pennies. That cost will continue to go down over the years as I continue to use it.

2.) A good, large, food processor. I have heard Cuisinart brand is the "King" of food processors. I tried the Kitchenaid brand, and was sorely disappointed. Broke the second or third day and it was a bear to clean. Right now the 11 cup food processor is on sale at Costco for $150. I own the 12 cup, but they also have a 14 cup for larger families or bulk cooking. It took me 6 months into whole foods to get myself to buy one. How I wish I had done it sooner. I chop SO. MANY. VEGETABLES! Hummus, Banana Ice Cream, Italian Pizza Cheese, Vegetable Soup, all of these recipes are easier to make with a food processor.

3.) Electric Pressure Cooker. Let me just tell you how lazy I am. I don't wash my potatoes, I certainly don't peel them, and sometimes, I don't even cut them up before cooking. This works best with red and gold potatoes because the skins are delicious. I also DO NOT like waiting 30-45 minutes up here at high altitude for my potatoes to finish cooking. This pressure cooker gets the job done in less than 15 minutes. No peeling, cutting, washing required. It also cooks my dry beans in less than an hour (as opposed to 8-10 hours in a crock pot), I use it to cook all of my soups in about 10-15 minutes, and I use it to "steam" most of my vegetables in 5-10 minutes. Including cauliflower, which normally takes over 30 minutes to cook on the stove top. I LOVE THIS TOOL! Well, I love ALL my tools, but this one holds a special place in my heart. It rewards procrastinators, like myself. Best price? $79 at Costco.

4.) A large Rice Cooker. I live at a very high altitude (over 7,200 feet) and grains are so difficult to cook correctly up here. Other chefs in my area experience the same difficulty. I love how I can cook most any grain, if at the correct setting, perfectly. It's the kind of tool that I can set, and then forget. Leave for a few hours while a grain is cooking, and it will shut itself off. I use the steam cook option to make oatmeal. I also cook millet, and rice of all kinds. The rice is never burned, always tender. Best kind and price at Costco, for $29. Yes, I LOVE Costco. And no, I do NOT get paid to say that.

5.) Nonstick Cookware, high quality. This is my exact set. I bought it on Amazon and haven't looked back. I have been cooking for over 10 years in many kitchens, with many different sets. This set has been my absolute favorite: Analon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick 11 piece set. It is metal utensil safe, and the coating inside does NOT get scratched off and end up in your food. It has been my greatest ally in eliminating oils from my cooking. They are also super-easy to clean, and rarely, if ever, burn my food. Not everyone can afford a set like this. That's okay. A good quality nonstick cookware set can be very helpful. Costco sells some pretty good options. And you can return them if you don't like them.

All of this may seem overwhelming. Each item, except for the rice cooker, is not cheap. I did not buy all of these tools at once. It actually took me over a period of two years to purchase. I bought my Blendtec blender about a year before I transitioned to plant-based eating. However, all of these tools have made my life so much easier. They make it practical for me to take on this pattern of eating as a way of life, for the rest of my life.

Feel free to send me an email, or leave a comment if you have any questions about any of these tools. I would love to hear from you.

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