Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursdays are for Goofing Off & My “Go To” Kitchen Tools

Much to my surprise the scale was not my friend Thursday morning. Hello, what was that device thinking going up? I decided today was going to be a little more healthy to hopefully nudge the scale back down.

Dan’s breakfast this morning was a big bowl of oatmeal with mixed frozen berries, cinnamon, ginger, freshly ground flaxseed, a pinch of stevia and chopped walnuts.

After exercising I started my morning with a navel orange cut into 1/8ths and walnuts.

A little while later I got another snack this time it was a banana, prunes and Brazil nuts for the selenium. Speaking of selenium did you happen to catch Dr. Oz on Thursday? When selenium came up he mentioned that he tries to eat Brazil nuts every day. Of course I had to text my husband and tell him that he is married to a genius, LOL.

For lunch I made myself a quick one bowl meal of: artichokes quarters, red kidney beans that I cooked a day before, thinly sliced cucumber, salsa, and walnut parmesan.

Later I had a quick salad of: baby spinach, strawberries, balsamic vinegar and walnuts. This is one of my favorite combinations. I love strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Freshly ground black pepper is also a great addition to that flavor combination.

Dinner was a big bowl of soup. I made a fast pot of soup using: diced tomato, okara (leftover from making soymilk), cooked red kidney beans, onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, cocoa, chili powder, hot crushed peppers, and frozen mixed vegetables. If it needs to be thickened use a little masa harina and water to make a slurry and stir that in and simmer. I served this with a little bit of brown rice on top and that was dinner.

Kitchen Gadgets:

A while back I got a request to detail the kitchen tools that I think are required to make the type of food that I prepare. This is not as easy a question as you would think so I hesitated to answer it without careful thought. I now think that I have a list of the most used items in my kitchen which I would have a difficult time cooking without.

The kitchen items I consider must haves include:

Vitamix or other high speed blender is a huge asset in the kitchen. I use mine daily to make smoothies, salad dressing, pureed soup, and frozen fruit soft serve to mention a few items. I can safely safe I use this appliance more than my stove.

• A few good knives are absolutely required. I use my Santuko knife daily to prep vegetables. You should also have a good paring knife and a chef knife. I also use a serrated knife for cutting tomatoes and grapes.

Sharpening steel to keep your knives sharp will help you from cutting yourself. There is nothing more dangerous than a dull knife. When knives are dull you tend to use more force and that frequently leads to cutting yourself.

Mandoline(s) are critical in my kitchen and I have three of them and use them all. Two of mine are small hand held mandolines with fixed blades, one is for straight thin slices and the other only makes julienne cuts. I use both of them when I am making salads. My larger variable width and cut mandoline gets less use but since it has a spiral cutting attachment it does get a lot of use in the summer when zucchini is in season and I am making zucchini spaghetti weekly.

Non-toxic pots and pans are another must have. I use a large enameled cast iron dutch oven to make soups and stews and a small enameled cast iron pan to cook whole grains. I also use a short sided round enameled cast iron pan to make risotto. I avoid non-stick pans due to the toxins they release. All my pots and pans are enameled cast iron, uncoated cast iron or copper covered stainless steel.

Slow cooker and/or a pressure cooker are fantastic for low involvement cooking. I have both of these but tend to use one of the other. They are both good for things like cooking dried beans and making seitan. Since they each require little time in terms of prep work I think it comes down to whether you are a planner or not. At the moment I prefer the pressure cooker but I also like the slow cooker.

Salad spinners are critical to have to make salad taste better. Since even triple washed greens are contaminated you need to clean your greens. Having a salad spinner will get your greens dry so that any dressing you choose to use will stick to the greens.

Mesh Strainers are important for rinsing grains and beans, straining okara and washing vegetables.

Kitchen timers are something I use every day. I have one timer that it dedicated to timing my steeping tea. There are other timers that I use for cooking grains, and using my pressure cooker. In the past I used the timer on my stove but when you aren’t close to the kitchen that timer isn’t as useful. ;-)

Microplane or similar fine graters are fantastic for finally zesting citrus, garlic or fresh ginger. I have many different versions of those depending on what texture I desire. The larger graters are good for grating carrot and cucumber.

Coffee grinder or spice grinder dedicated to grinding spices and flaxseeds. I have two of these one for spices and one for flaxseeds but you can use one if you have limited space. I buy my flaxseeds whole and grind those minutes before using them. In the past I have purchased the seeds pre-ground in sealed bags and stored the open bags in the freezer. However intuitively I think that purchasing the seeds whole and grinding them myself just before use results in more nutritious food.

Silicone baking sheet liners are great if you do a lot of no oil added baking. I love my silpat pan liners. Another thing that is wonderful about them is that they are reusable. Alternately you can buy parchment paper or easy release aluminum foil both which are also silicone coated. I prefer silpat since you can use it for years and years. I don’t know if silpat deteriorate but I have had mine for over 5 years and they look exactly the same.

Then there is the list of items that are nice to have but you don’t actually need. This list is much longer and includes things I would only buy if you really love to cook and have a lot of countertop or storage space.

The nice to have items include:

Powerful food processor makes life much easier. I have a Cuisinart 14 cup machine which I use to make nut cheese, reduced fat peanut butter, homemade nut butter, mixing bean burgers, walnut parmesan, etc. I use my food processor instead of my Vitamix when I don’t want the mixture to be completely smooth. It is also easier to get the food out of the food processor than it is the Vitamix which is why I make my nut butters in the processor.

Spiral slicers are great to have if you are trying to reduce your intake of pasta. Being part Italian I love pasta but I also recognize that it is a refined food and therefore it is best to keep our consumption to a dull roar. Spiralized zucchini is one of my favorite foods. I don’t eat it much in the winter since the zucchini isn’t local and doesn’t really taste as good but in the summer I adore making raw pasta with it.

Masticating juicer is very useful in the summer. This is something else that I used every day when there was lots of fresh local produce. If you are trying to increase your intake of raw vegetables a juicer is very useful. If you buy a masticating juicer versus a centrifugal juicer you can also make your own wheat grass juice.

Rice cooker is something that I can take or leave but it can be handy. In the past I used it all the time and now it has moved to my pantry. I think if I were out of the house more often I would use it to more to start grains cooking while I was out. However at the moment I only have so much counter space and this lost out.

Dehydrators are useful but again not required. I used mine quite often when it was summer time and I was preserving produce for the winter. Now it seems to be used very rarely. I have come to the conclusion that my body doesn’t crave cold food in the cold weather. Please don’t misunderstand; I still eat salad and raw veggies every day. However when it is cold I eat more cooked food. The dehydrator will get used again once fresh local produce is plentiful.

Halogen/Infrared/Convection oven is the newest gadget in my kitchen and I love it right now. This little device bakes food so quickly and I love that aspect. It is also fantastic that it doesn’t release and VOC’s into the air while it bakes like my gas stove does. Anything that helps improve (or doesn't make it worse) our indoor winter air quality is fabulous in my book. I will be writing about indoor air quality very soon.

This list is not exhaustive it is what came to mind over the 24 hours I have been writing this post. I hope it gives you some idea of the items I use in my kitchen. If you want to know which brand or model I have of any of the items above let me know and I will put a link into the post.

Happy thoughts:

For those of you that haven’t been reading long I wanted to remind you why I include the happy thoughts sections of the blog. In general it seems to be human nature to look at what went wrong and not what went right. Like everyone else I have things that happen every day which I could complain about. However focusing on the negative in life is not productive. Additionally focusing on the negative is harmful to your mental well-being. Instead I like to think of what went right or what I am thankful for and include that to remind myself and you that we all have things to be thankful for. Here are my happy thoughts now:

• I had a good workout at home on Thursday and finished it up with a long session of stretching and then spent a little time in the afternoon meditating. Seriously I had the best physical day and felt energized all day long.

• It was a good day in terms of productivity. I was able to get a lot accomplished at home and you know how much I love crossing things off my to-do list. It is amazing how much more I accomplish when I limit my on-line time. ;-)

• I managed to eat dinner early Thursday evening which meant I got to bed early and therefore made it to the gym on Friday. *happy dance* It felt so good to be back at the gym. I think I get energy from being around others that are also exercising. I also love getting my cardio out of the way by 7am. What a great way to start the day!

• Friday we went to the lab to have blood drawn before our next appointment with the internist. I am a tough stick because my veins roll which means I always dread getting my blood drawn. The young lady that stuck me this morning got my vein on the first shot. Wow! Seriously that never happens and I was very pleased. Little things like this make me very happy. ;-)

• Friday I had time to stop and check on my folks today and to a little light cleaning at their place. I am always thankful that I have time to give them a hand since they are in their 80’s.

• Next month our friend Phil will be in town from Missouri and we will be getting together for dinner. Since I haven’t seen Phil since September I am really looking forward to this. I always enjoying spending time with Phil.

• I also had time to make another pot of tomato sauce on Friday. I will be making my favorite pizza veggies tonight. This is something I have made since I was high school and I still love it. I will tell you about in my next post.

Signing out:

It is time for me to log out and spend the evening with my sweetie. I love the weekend and am looking forward to extra time with Dan. I hope you have a wonderful weekend I know I will. Talk to you again tomorrow.


  1. I recently just read something about another great source of selenium, but I can't remember what it was! I need something that helps memory instead!
    I enjoy seeing other people's list of essential kitchen tools. We have a cast iron skillet but I think I need something more non-stick for certain other foods. Enameled is a good option, thanks for mentioning that.

  2. Thanks for including that great list of kitchen items, Ali. I had a little "got it, need it, got it, got it, need it, need it" moment, LOL! And you know I always love your happy things--I already wrote one of my happy things in my journal today before I even got out of bed!


  3. Foodfeud (M),

    Bummer that you can't remember that other source of selenlium. If it comes back to you please share.

    I love my enameled cast iron. I have Le Creuset but I think they are all similar.

    enjoy your weekend,

  4. LJ,

    Glad you liked the list. I can imagine you doing the "got it, need it". LOL!

    Good for you writing down a happy thing before you even got up. I am not enough of a morning person for that. ;-)

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend,

  5. I use my strainers all the time. I love my coffee grinder too. I was really worried it was just a waste of money, but I use it so much more than I ever even thought I would. I love my food processor and silpats too!

  6. I like your list of kitchen gadgets. I have such a small kitchen I need to be choosy, but I think I need a salad spinner. Right now I use lots of clean tea towels.

    Every day you post a photo of your oranges, I think how bright and cheery it looks. Thanks for keeping up the happy thoughts, too. I am glad the blood draw went well! I get scared of those after a few bad experiences, too.

  7. We just returned home and weighed ourselves...we each gained about 3 pounds over the past 3 weeks, boo-hoo. Hopefully some of that is just water weight from eating out the past few days.

    Your comment about the Dr. Oz show reminded me of one I caught the other day about cancer, did you see it? One of his "expert" guests, a research scientist I think, said that his #1 recommendation is to eat 2 slices of edam (or similar) cheese a day. He said it has a high concentration of vitamin K2, which is linked to lower rates of lung and prostate cancer. I was disappointed that other sources of K2 weren't mentioned, nor were the dangers of eating cheese on a daily basis.

  8. Heather,

    Strainers get a workout in my kitchen too. So much so that I have 7 different ones.

    I agree completely with you on the coffee grinders. I didn't expect to use them as much as I do either. But everyday I am grinding both flaxseeds and whole spices.

    Sounds like we have many of the same favorite kitchen tools. I am always looking for new ones. ;-)


  9. Jessica,

    I agree you need a salad spinner. I found one from Bonjour that is battery powered and I like it better than the human powered ones.

    I love the way the oranges look too. They seem to almost glow don't they?

    I like to focus on the things that go well each day. Complaining never made anyone feel better, in my opinion. ;-)

    I hope you are enjoying your weekend,

  10. Laura,

    I am sorry to hear about the 3 pounds. Restaurant food is so much higher in calories than home cooked. It really isn't too surprising that you gained a couple of pounds. I am sure you will get them back off in short order.

    I did see that show and I was disappointed about the cheese comment. In general I agree with about 60% of what I see on Dr. Oz but I still watch. He seems just as brainwashed by the meat and dairy council as most Americans. *shakes head* Maybe one day more people in the mass media will "get it". At least I hope that happens.


  11. Hi Ali,
    great post!
    Go read my post,
    I left something for you!!!!

  12. I love strawberries in a salad!


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