When this blog first started up, I did a post all about the kitchen gadgets for the holidays. While I definitely use all of them, there are other gadgets I use nearly every day. And perhaps more important than kitchen gadgets, however, are the food items we use all the time. They’re what help you get the food the way you want it, make the food taste good, and make it nutritious.
You really don’t realize how important these items are until you’re out of them for a while and keep reaching for them, only to realize they’re not there.
Every kitchen has a different list, of course. But these are the items I use all the time, especially as I work to make food as healthy as possible (most of the time, anyway):
Avocado oil is a great neutral oil to use. It has a high smoke point, so it doesn’t break down like olive oil (which we usually use in salad dressings and to drizzle over food). It’s also a neutral oil, which means it doesn’t have a strong taste and won’t overpower the other flavors in your dish.
It’s also supposed to be a healthy fat with health benefits, none of which I’m putting up here because I haven’t done the research necessary to back up the claims.
I don’t do well with milk, and we just recently discovered that our daughter is still sensitive to milk (we were hoping she would grow out of it…). Ghee is super-clarified butter, which takes the lactose out of it. Many people who can’t tolerate butter can tolerate ghee. It also adds great taste to almost everything. I really like the taste of butter and the way it browns when you pan fry, and ghee offers the same benefits. Our favorite is from 4th & Heart for the taste and because you can get a bunch of different flavors.
It’s also supposed to offer health benefits, including benefits to pregnant and nursing women. Again, I haven’t done the research myself to feel comfortable posting it here.
While we don’t use it as much as avocado and olive oil and ghee, we do use coconut oil, especially when whatever I’m cooking will benefit from the strong taste. It does have a high smoke point as well, so if you’re cooking over high heat, I would recommend using avocado or coconut oil, because they won’t break down like olive oil.
For several reasons, we use salt sparingly in our household. We do, however, tend to use quite a few spices, dried and fresh herbs, and spice mixes. Among my favorite spices and herbs are:
- Spanish paprika
- Various Middle Eastern and Middle Eastern-inspired spices and mixes
- Various Asian-inspired spice mixes
We love going to Savory Spice Shop and exploring new spices (I’m partial to Middle Eastern and my husband loves anything barbeque or spicy), or Penzy’s when we can’t make it to Savory. It’s one of the best ways to add a ton of flavor to your food without all the salt. (Although, if I have some really good, fresh food, usually from the farmer’s market, I try not to use too much in the way of spices, just because the food usually doesn’t need it! It tastes amazing on its own.)
Granted, some of the spices we use do have salt in them, which makes it doubly important not to add salt. Spice mixes like Mulate’s Cajun Seasoning and Trader Joe’s 21 Spice Salute both have quite a bit of salt, so we don’t dump a ton on our food.
This one can be up for debate. I love Middle Eastern flavors because they’re what I grew up with. My husband? Not so much. That doesn’t stop me from using tahini in so much that I, at least, eat. I put it into simple salad dressings, by itself in salads with some salt and pepper, in marinades, in sauces, to make home-made hummus, and in dips. I know people who stir it into oatmeal, too.
You can get it at most Middle Eastern stores and at Trader Joe’s. I like tahini from Soom, which you can order from their online store and Amazon (unless you live back East and—lucky!—they sell it in select stores there, including, I think, Whole Foods). Plus, they have this amazing chocolate halva spread. For my fellow halva lovers out there, it’s like halva on a spoon!
I believe I wrote about this in my blog post about traveling with kids and anxiety, but one of the tools I use nearly every day in our kitchen is my trusty spider (that is until I left it at our Airbnb!). This is especially true since I started making food for our little one. I use it whenever I steam or boil foods, be it veggies or pasta. It makes the removal of said food so much easier than taking the entire pan out and dumping all the water into a colander. And it’s especially good when you’re trying to reserve some of that pasta water to make a kick-butt pasta sauce!
Okay, this one is expensive. It took me quite a long time to be okay spending this kind of money on a kitchen “gadget,” but I use this, no joke, nearly every day in some capacity. I use it to:
- make my green drinks in the morning
- to add collagen peptides to my coffee when I don’t add it to my green drinks
- make soups
- make baby purees
- make soup
- make blender pancakes
- make watermelon juice
Yes, you can use your every-day blenders for these types of foods, but I have yet to find a blender that works as well as my Blendtec. I haven’t tried a Vitamix, but I would actually like to try one whenever my Blendtec goes (which will probably be a long time).
My mom actually bought these GreenLife pans for me when my other non-stick pan bit the dust (as they tend to do after a few years). They are fantastically non-stick, I can brown food beautifully in them, and they are heavy-bottomed, which can be hard to find in a non-stick pan. I have them in the 7- and 10-inch sizes because that’s really all that I need.
These are as toxin-free as a non-stick pan can be, as far as my research can tell me. I don’t, however, ever use them over high heat. It’s usually not good for the coating, and, well, just in case there are any toxins in there. I use my cast iron, All-Clad, or Le Creuset for that.
Stainless Steel Bowls
I use stainless steels bowls all the time for everything. I use them for food prep, I use them for storage in- and outside of the fridge, I use them to make scrambled eggs, marinate meat, mix salads and salad dressings, I use them to hold cut-up and whole fruit, over simmering water to melt chocolate—you name it!
I love them because they are easy to clean up and don’t absorb smells and bacteria, and I must have at least six that I’ve bought and collected (and “borrowed” from my mom) over the years.
Half Sheet Pans
Half sheet pans are great when you’re not cooking a ton of food, which is more often than not, me. I cook things for just the baby, just the baby and me, or even a smaller amount of food for the three of us. I don’t end up using so much parchment paper, and it saves space in the oven for other half-sheet pans, so I can cook more.
They’re also great for freezing food in the freezer, like when I freeze summer produce for the winter before vacuum sealing it.
Just as a disclaimer, this post is not sponsored in any way. They are honestly what we use all the time in our kitchen, usually daily. They are a product of years of trial-and-error and taste-testing. If you’re interested in Savory Spice, however, you can click on any of the ads in the sidebar of this site. I wouldn’t have put them up here if I didn’t think they were fantastic—we’re like kids in a candy store there!
So, what do you use in your kitchen all the time? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear.
‘Till next time!