Happy New Year! Did you have a good holiday season? I did! I spent lots of time with my nephews, nieces and other family that came in from out of town. I did a fair amount of relaxing, and of course, plenty of good eating! Since I had a baby on November 22nd, I gave myself through the holiday season as a post-partum grace period, with the intention of cleaning my diet back up afterward, because we all know it’s pretty hard to tighten up your diet around Christmas time.
I’m not really a big fan of diets though, as you may know. I just don’t like the idea of restriction. I much prefer abundance! Personally, as soon as I tell myself that I “can’t” have this or that food item, I instantly crave it. It’s a nasty mind game that I just don’t want to play. However, I did give myself considerable leeway during my pregnancy, eating things that aren’t part of my normal diet. You know- a dinner roll here, a chocolate shake there. For me, that’s just part of pregnancy and I am A-OKAY with the occasional indulgence. It’s all about balance right? But truthfully, those items just don’t make me feel well. They make me feel sluggish and just not my spunky self. So now I’m ready to get back to feeling like myself and having energy (if that’s possible while getting up every two hours during the night to nurse a newborn).
Cleaning up my diet means spending a bit more time planning and preparing healthful snacks and meals for my family and myself. Yes, it certainly does require a bit more time in the kitchen when you prepare everything from scratch as opposed to relying on processed, pre-packaged food-like items. However, it doesn’t have to consume all of your time. If it did, NOBODY would do it. And, it’s TOTALLY worth the extra time to feel good about the food that I’m nourishing myself and my family with. Of course, I’m only human and life gets in the way sometimes, so there is nothing about my diet that’s perfect….
My biggest goal for my family (where diet is concerned) is to stay as far away from the processed stuff as possible! In fact, that’s my number one diet tip. I get messages all the time from people asking me what diet they should follow for optimum health. Well, I can’t recommend one specific diet, because we’re all unique! Each of our bodies function a bit differently. What makes me feel good may not be the best for you! However, if I have only one tip that is universal for everyone for getting healthier and maintaining it, it is to stay away from processed food-like products as much as possible. Be a student in the kitchen. LEARN how to prepare your own food and figure out what your family likes and what works for you. I promise, you will feel exponentially better both physically and mentally. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve prepared a healthful meal for your family, and to be able to sit down together at the table and enjoy that meal together.
So what I have for you today is a list of some ten items that I use very frequently in the kitchen. These items are things that help me to prepare fresh, delicious, healthful food for myself and my family, and maintain a safe, working kitchen. Here are my top ten kitchen items!
I have a tiny kitchen! It’s functional, but tiny. So minimizing extraneous dishes is a must. Mason jars are a major space saver because you can use them to store just about anything! You name it- I put it in a mason jar. I use them for drinking, for make-ahead salads, shaking up and storing salad dressings, fermenting veggies like my homemade kraut, storing homemade Greek Yogurt, taking smoothies on-the-go with me, storing nuts, seeds, my homemade trail mix, and so much more! I think you get the point, right? Mason jars are multi-purpose! Get you some in all different sizes. I like these for everyday use. And so that you can keep everything straight and not have to wonder how long that dressing has been in your fridge, you can use these great dissolvable labels!
Any not just any blender…a good blender. A good, sturdy blender will serve multiple purposes in your kitchen. Sure, I have a food processor. I have a hand mixer and a stand mixer. I even have an immersion blender. All of these are great kitchen items and I use them from time to time. But most often, if I need something pulverized, I throw it in my Vitamix. I know that a Vitamix is an investment (trust me, I know), but it’s a quality piece of kitchen equipment that you can use to make my everyday green smoothie, breads, salad dressings, soups, pestos, sauces- you name it! To top it off, this machine will last a lifetime- literally! I know people that have had their Vitamix for 30+ years and it is still kickin! This is the model that I have. Of course I completely understand if you’re not ready to make that kind of investment just yet. I also used to have a Ninja and it worked quite well, however it is something you will have to replace after a couple of years. With the amount of miles I put on mine, it lasted me a year before it died. But it will accomplish the same tasks with almost the same efficiency (almost).
8) Bamboo Steamer
When you have a bamboo steamer in your kitchen, you always have options for a quick, simple and super clean side dish. You can throw just about any vegetable into your steamer while your protein of choice cooks, and by the time the protein is ready, you’ll have perfectly steamed veggies. This is the bamboo steamer I use. You can get creative with it too. Throw a slice of lemon, a couple of cloves of garlic, or maybe some ginger into the water whilst your veggies steam to impart some subtle flavor and voila! You have a really great veggie dish with minimal effort. One of my favorite veggie recipes to make in my bamboo steamer is my Ginger Parsley Snap Peas!
7) Essential Oils
Essential Oils? Really? In my kitchen? Yup. You got it. I did say Top Ten Kitchen Necessities that help me maintain a safe and healthy kitchen right? Right. That means you wont find toxic cleaning products in my kitchen. Therefore, quality essential oils are a staple! When I was pregnant for my little girl, I became keenly aware of the hundreds of toxic chemicals I had in my home. One day I had a terrible reaction (vomiting, headache, dizziness) to some commercial cleaning products, and since then I’ve been on the war path to rid my home of the toxic junk! For one thing, I don’t want to have to worry about one of my little ones opening up a cabinet and drinking poison. For another, I don’t want the chemicals in the air that my family and I breathe. I don’t want them on my skin. I don’t want them on my food, the dishes that we eat off of, or the pots and pans that I cook said food on/in. I.Just.Don’t.Want.Chemicals. So after some research, I discovered I could clean my entire house with just a few basic household ingredients, and some great essential oils. To see the kind of essential oils that I use and recommend, click HERE. It’s really quite simple. For anything needing abrasive cleaning (sinks, tubs, etc.), I make a paste of baking soda and water, then add some thieves to it! I also make my own DIY Dusting Spray and my own Multi-Surface Cleaner! I promise, it’s so much easier than you think!
All of the oils you need to clean your home without chemicals come in the great kit pictured above. This is the Premium Starter Kit from Young Living, and it is one of the BEST investments I have made for the health of my family and I. Learn more about that HERE.
If you would like to learn more about how to use essential oils, you can join my private Essential Oils Facebook Group HERE.
When I got married, my grandmother blessed me with this beautiful red dutch oven. Since I got it, it has been my go-to cooking vessel for one-pot meals. I cook everything in there- roasts, soups, stews, casseroles- there are tons of options! And a good quality dutch oven will last you a lifetime. Some of my favorite dishes to make in my dutch oven are my classic pot roast and a super yummy chili! This is the dutch oven that I have. This one is quite an investment, so if you’re not ready for that, try this one.
5) Glass Storage Dishes
When the toxic cleaning products went away, I had to kick the plastic to the curb too. Plastic contains things like phthalates (which are linked to cancer) and endocrine disrupting BPA into our food. Even the ones that say “BPA free” on them, are likely replaced with BPS, which has the same ill effects on the body. For more info on that, check out this post from Nadia at Body Unburdened: Why BPA Free is a Load of B(P)S. Something that I do in order to ensure that I always have nutritious food on hand and ready for quick consumption is make plenty of extras! I always have leftovers to send with my hubby for lunch, or feed my toddler for lunch the next day, and we need to have plenty of glass storage containers on hand to keep the leftovers as fresh as possible. Another great tip for quick cooking is to prep some of your sturdy veggies ahead of time. So when you come home from the grocery store, dice some onions, peel and chop some carrots, dice some celery and store them in these glass containers. The veggies will stay crisp and fresh until you’re ready to use in a dish or just pull out for snacking. This is a great set and comes with a variety of sizes to suit your needs.
A good set of knives is vitally important to a functioning kitchen. They don’t have to be expensive, but they do need to be of good quality, or else you’ll end up replacing them every six months…that’s no good. I like a good stainless steel set, and I think it’s really important to get a set with a sharpener, and learn how to use the sharpener! A dull knife if a major safety hazard! I also like to make sure I get a set that comes in a block so that I don’t have random knives just free floating around in my kitchen drawers for my little one to find. You also don’t have to get a set with ten different types of knifes, however it is important to get a set that comes with a chef’s knife, a pairing knife, and a serrated knife. This is the set that I have. I love it and it has lasted me for years!
3) Slow cooker
In my opinion, there are never enough slow cooker recipes! A slow cooker is any busy person’s (and who isn’t busy?) best friend! Heck, a slow cooker is even a non-busy person’s best friend. It’s a set it and forget it deal and who doesn’t love that? There’s something magical about throwing some raw ingredients into a pot, and coming home to a flavorful and fully cooked meal eight hours later. I love it, and I use my slow-cooker as often as possible. I’m a huge fan of the VitaClay Multi-cooker. This thing is a slow cooker and rice cooker all in one. When you have a great slow-cooker, you can make all kinds of different recipes. I make a great Chicken Marinara with Basil Zucchini Noodles, Korean Style Beef Short Ribs, Coconut Turmeric Chicken, and many other awesome recipes in my slow cooker, and I’m I’m always coming up with new ideas. The possibilities are endless with a machine like this!
Cookie sheet, baking sheet, sheet tray, jelly roll pan- there are a few different names. I don’t know what you call it, but I call it a NECESSITY. I know it seems basic, and it is, but it’s also another one of those items that are multi-use in my kitchen. I kind of stink at baking, so I don’t actually make cookies on mine too often. What I use it most often for is roasting! Whenever I’m at a loss for inspiration as to what to make for dinner or I’m just in a hurry and I don’t have a lot of time to fuss, I whip out my trusty baking sheet. I cut up some veggies (root veggies work best) and maybe some chicken into chunks that are all the same size. I throw on a couple of tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil, season liberally with sea salt and pepper, mix it evenly to coat, and toss the whole shebang into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or so (go fold a load of laundry or something in this time), stirring once halfway through. BOOM! Instant dinner. I didn’t have to baby sit it (except for once to stir) because it was in the oven and not on my stove top. I didn’t have to worry about my three-year-old reaching up onto the stove and burning herself either. It’s an entire meal on ONE sheet tray. Very little mess = very little clean up. If you need a starch or something feel free to cook up some basmati rice or something, but this works well for us. And as a bonus, you can blend up those left over veggies into a lovely soup, like my Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup. YUM! But make sure you get the stainless steel variety of pan. Most of the ones you find in the stores are aluminum, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of cooking my food on aluminum so that it can leach into my food. No thanks. I use this kind!
1) Cast Iron Skillet
And finally, another one-pot wonder and an absolute kitchen MUST is a cast iron skillet. Are you seeing a theme here? Almost everything I have listed serves multiple purposes in my tiny little kitchen. This way I have lots of options at any given time- just the way I like it! One of my favorite things about a cast iron skillet is that you can cook just about anything in it- eggs, veggies, meat, pancakes, breads- really anything. Another wonderful thing about a cast iron skillet is that it goes from stove top to oven safely so it cuts down on the amount of pots and pans I use. One of my favorite things to make in my cast iron skillet is a frittata, which is basically a glorified crustless quiche. It’s quick, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and you can add just about any veggie or fresh herb to it and it will be delicious! Here’s a recipe for one of my family’s favorites: BLT Breakfast Bake.
Obviously, there are many more items that I use in my kitchen everyday. But the ones I’ve just listed for you are my Top Ten Kitchen Necessities that I just can’t do without!
What are your top kitchen necessities?
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