Tiffany Pesonen's Blog
If you walk down the kitchen aisle of any department store you'll see dozens of kitchen tools--some you've maybe never even heard of. As long as people keep buying gimmicky kitchen tools and utensils, companies will keep making them. The temptation might be there, when walking through Target, to buy that chicken-shaped egg yolk separator, but do you really need it? In this article, we'll cover the essential list of kitchen utensils. Once your drawer has these items, you won't need anything else. You'll free up space in your kitchen and avoid money-wasting gimmicks that often don't even work, allowing you to buy better versions of the tools that really count. Note: We won't be talking about the basic silverware and dishes (forks, spoons, plates, cups, etc.) since we can assume you already have those.
- The chef's knife. A chef's knife is arguably the most important item in any kitchen. A good chef's knife is made from steel, has balanced weight, and is comfortable to hold. Be sure to keep it sharp and there's nothing you can't cut with it.
- Two spatulas. One metal for flipping items on your baking sheets and meat on the grill, one plastic for your frying pans. Thin, heat-resistant, and durable are what you're looking for here.
- Three spoons. One wooden (for stirring), one plastic with holes and one plastic without holes.
- A strainer. You don't need four sizes of strainer; one big one will do. Be sure to pick one with handles, sturdy handles, for draining big pots of pasta.
- Shears. Whether it's for de-stringing a Thanksgiving turkey or opening up a bag of frozen peas, they'll save you a headache trying to use a knife.
- Serrated bread knife. Unless you like to ruin a fresh loaf of bread by crushing it while cutting it, you'll need a serrated edge.
- Measuring cups and spoons. Clean your measuring spoons by hand so they don't get tossed around in your dishwasher and melted.
- Can opener. Skip the huge electric can openers and buy a good handheld one that will last years.
- Cutting board. A quality large wooden cutting board will make your life a lot easier, and it won't dull your blades.
- Peeler. Y-shaped peelers are much easier to use than their knife-shaped counterparts.
- Mixing bowl. You could benefit from multiple mixing bowls if you do a lot of baking, but oftentimes you only need one large bowl for most recipes and can use your smaller soup bowls for other ingredients.
Avoiding the gimmicksIt seems like every day there's a new infomercial for a lemon juice squeezer or a banana slicer. You'll notice that they tend to follow certain trends and offer the same promises. Here are the ones to avoid:
- Fruit and vegetable slicers. If you have a knife, there's no need for tools that claim to slice certain types of vegetables better than others.
- Single-use tools. Shears designed just for cutting and serving pizza? Yes, they exist. Avoid items that will just take up space in your cabinets and opt for those that serve multiple purposes.
- Things you've never heard of. If it's an object that you've never seen or heard of before, odds are you don't need it in your kitchen cabinets. The most time-tested tools are all it takes to make great meals in your kitchen.
Many people have chosen to live a meat-free or dairy-free lifestyle. Whether it's for health reasons, environmental concerns, or ethical beliefs there are now more vegans and vegetarians than ever before. If you're not familiar with the details of the diet, cooking for vegetarian and vegan guests can be difficult or even embarrassing. But with an open mind and a bit of research you can pull off a delicious meal that won't leave anyone out.
Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian... what does it all mean?There are countless different names for the various types of restricted diets. However. there are a handful of common diets that everyone should familiarize themselves with. They are:
- Vegetarian. Vegetarians abstain from meat (including air, land, and sea-food) but may consume other animal products like dairy and eggs. In some cultures, "vegetarian" means eating no animal products at all.
- Vegan. A vegan diet contains virtually no animal products. No meat, cheese, milk, eggs, or anything made with traces of those items. Some vegans even consider things like honey an animal product and abstain from eating it.
- Pescetarian. People who call themselves pescetarian often abstain from meats like chicken, pork, and beef, but will eat meat from fish and other forms of seafood (shrimp, crabmeat, etc.)
- Ovo- and lacto-vegetarian. Some vegetarians abstain from food that contains either dairy or egg according to their own preferences. Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy, and lacto-vegetarians consume dairy but not eggs.
Planning for dinnerAll of those diets are a lot to keep track of, we know. But the best way to plan dinner for a guest with a restricted diet is to simply just ask what works for them. You will most likely find that your guest appreciates that you ask in advance. It shows that you want to provide them with a happy meal and have concern for their dietary requirements. Once you know what animal products your guest will or will not eat, it's time to start thinking of dinner ideas. If you want to play it on the safe side, you can ask your guest what they like to eat. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try making meat-free versions of some of your favorite recipes. Whatever you choose, it's important to remember to read the labels of your ingredients. You might be surprised to find that many food items contain animal product like beef stock or fish oils, or eggs. Most Caesar dressing, for example, contains anchovies, though you would never guess it from the taste.
Dinner ideasIf you're stuck on choosing what to cook, try some of these meal ideas that tend to be easy to make without animal products.
- Tacos or burritos. It's easy to make many Mexican-inspired dishes meat-free by using ingredients like rice, beans, salsa, and grilled vegetables. If you can't stand the thought of a meat or dairy-free meal for yourself then you can have a make-your-own taco dinner so you and your guest can both eat happily.
- Pasta and sauce. Most styles of spaghetti are vegan. To make the meal a bit more substantial add eggplant or grilled tofu to the mix.
- Dessert. To impress your guest prepare a vegan dessert for after dinner. Several brands make vegan ice cream (including the revered Ben & Jerry's). And if you're extra ambitious try a vegan cupcake recipe out as well. You might like it more than traditional cupcakes!