Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kitchen "Essentials"

Jules over at Pancakes & French Fries posted today was talking about a few baking items she always uses. I don't have any superstitions, per say, about which item I use. I do, however, have five items which are used so often in our kitchen that I have come to deem them as "essential". Would we be able to continue creating dishes without them? Yes. Would that process be considerably more difficult. Of course.

The five items we use at least once a week, if not more, are as follows:

  • the 5qt cast iron french oven 
  • the 10" cast iron skillet 
  • the 5qt stand mixer 
  • the 7-cup food processor 
  • and restaurant quality jelly roll pans 
All were gifts in some manner or we'd probably still have most of them on a "someday" list. We have very generous friends and family!

We inherited a Staub Elite Enameled Cast Iron 5qt. French Oven from a friend of a friend that was moving and left a TON of stuff in her house to be donated or otherwise homed. I was helping my friend with the house cleanup and this was among the things we accepted. We use the pot at least once a week - usually more. We love that it can go stove-to-oven. One thing to keep in mind - and consider when cooking - is that cast iron retains heat VERY WELL. So when the soup is done - especially a cream-based soup - it will continue to cook even when you remove it from the heat. We almost always have stuff stuck to the base by the time we put away leftovers. The great thing about enamel is that with a soak, it wipes clean fairly easily.

Sweetie received a Lodge 10" cast iron skillet as a Christmas gift a few years ago. It lives on the stovetop. We don't even bother putting it away because we use it every day, multiple times a day. I grew up with a small one in my parents house that also lived on the stovetop and was used mainly for cooking my mother's eggs in the morning. We use ours for everything. I've used it for pancakes, eggs, breadsticks, pizza (goes directly into the oven!), homemade tortillas, quesadillas, and cooking or searing meats.

I bought the Kitchenaid Artisan 5-qt stand mixer for Sweetie for Christmas about 4 years ago. A year later, she received a second bowl because she uses it THAT OFTEN. She loves making all sorts of breads and baked goods and that mixer makes it 300 times easier. We thought we'd use the meat grinder attachment but the motor really isn't designed for the extensive use we wanted to put it through so we ultimately put that attachment away. We haven't gotten rid of the attachment yet so it's not a definite "never going to use" item yet but we haven't used it since we received the food processor.

I received the Cuisinart Pro Classic 7-cup food processor for Christmas last year. It has a spot to live in the china cabinet but it really only gets put there about one week out of the month. We use it to puree nuts, make smoothies, whip up banana/yogurt treats to freeze for our dog, and to "grind" (finely chop) the veggies, roast & organ meats for our dog's homemade food. The only thing I don't use it for is shredding cheese. It seems more of an effort to clean the unit than to take more time and use the cowbell shredder manually.

Sweetie has accumulated five half-size sheet pans over the years and one quarter-size sheet pan. She also has racks and silicone mats for each of them.  Most of them are Vollrath 5303 from the "Wear-Ever" Collection. We have a restaurant supply store in the area that is open to retail customers. They take a beating and keep on heating! We use them heavily and after four or fives years there is still no warping and no denting. The raised edges makes them ideal for roasting vegetables and seeds, cooking bacon (on the rack), or any other messy baking items. They work just as well as a sheet for baking cookies too! We also tend to pull them out when we need a moveable working surface.

Those are the items we love in our kitchen. Please share in the comments if you have any items you love in your kitchen or home!