Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kitchen Essentials for the Busy Folk

The kitchen tools featured in this post are intended for young working (or studying) folk with little-to-zero culinary background or inclinations, who work at least 35 hours a week, who may or may not have kids (but most likely don't- yet), and who have small kitchens with pathetic counter space. John says that they can all work for camping as well. I took inventory of my kitchen after John and I scored big-time with our wedding registry, and identified the most useful pieces and the most absurd pieces. Most of these items can be found in all price ranges, from Ikea to Salvation Army to Williams-Sonoma, so start making a birthday wish list.

1). Dutch Oven. The ultimate in cast iron cookware. Simmer, braise, sautee, even bake in it! Goes from your stovetop to your oven to your table. I suppose it's the composition of the pot, but it cooks things in half the time, and it makes me oh so happy to see that dinner is ready surprisingly early when I make stuff in this little guy! When you're done cooking and chowing, just put the lid back on and throw it in the fridge; you don't even have to transport the leftovers. I recently posted a quick recipe for cornbread, which I usually make in my dutch oven. Seriously people, you won't need another pot in the kitchen once you have this thing. It's a little heavy to accompany you on your backpacking trips but it's worth hulling if you're car camping.

2). Food bag clips. These little guys really keep things neat and fresh. Suddenly, potato chips don't go stale after 3 days, muesli doesn't end up on the floor, and frozen vegetables aren't covered in frostbite. I recommend Ikea Bevara Food bag clips. ikea.com

3). 2 nice heavy medium and large wooden spoons. A great alternative to silicone spatulas. I like sticking to natural materials, even though silicone is thought to be more hygenic than wood because it doesn't retain moisture. Whatever, these are cooler and you'll have them for years.

4). A medium-sized wok. Stir-frys are the quintessential weeknight-at-home entree; you just throw random stuff together and cover it in your favorite Asian sauce. Stir-frys are especially fabulous when they don't end up all over your stovetop and kitchen floor. Woks are great multi-purpose stove-top cooking pieces that offer the broad high edges and all-encompassing heat to make a quick dish. Also, like the dutch oven, it's a key to making single-pot dinners that can be served up in the container in which it was cooked, thus eliminating dishes and excessive clean-up.

5). A cookbook holder. Ladies and lads, take care of your cookbooks- they are expensive, they are vital reference pieces in your library, and they make pretty coffee table books. Cooking.com offers a nice adjustable hinged holder at $23.00. Or you can go the fancy route and purchase a Williams-Sonoma glass and olive wood holder, which comes with a convenient stip of metric and English measurements. www.williams-sonoma.com. These little suckers also earn you some prep space on your countertop.

6). Tupperware: Promise me you won't be holding any tupperware parties, though. You can get tupperware anywhere. Home Depot even sells tupperware. eBay, your local neighborhood Dollar Store. . . The best part about tupperware is that you can confidently store your leftovers and scraps in the fridge or in your pantry, without having to worry about plastic films or aluminum waste. Break-proof, microwave-safe, portable.

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