Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shades of Pink: Cooking Essentials

I get asked lots of questions by my readers to write posts that go into more specific detail about different areas of my life.  So I have decided to start a Shades of Pink series, where I will blog about a specific area of my life.  It will be something that is important to me or something that I get asked about often through reader questions.  By far what I get asked about the most is my kitchen and the kitchen tools that I feel are essential for everyone with an interest in cooking to own!  I decided to divide this into two posts - today's will be about cooking essentials and next week I will do one on my baking essentials!

1. Dutch Oven
I have a 7 1/2 Quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven (in the Palm color) and I just love love love it!  It was a very expensive piece of cookware that John and I purchased when we were first married, and I use it constantly!  It goes from the stove to the oven to the fridge and can go right back to the oven.  It can be used for everything from frying foods, to searing meats, to cooking a huge pot of chili or soup!      They come in a variety of sizes, but I recommend getting the biggest one that you have space for in your kitchen because the bigger it is the more you will be able to use it for!

2. Crock Pot
There is truly nothing better than knowing that dinner will be ready for you when you get home from a long day of work.  And even though I am a stay-at-home mom now, there is still nothing better than knowing that dinner is already figured out and cooking long before that crazy dinnertime rush!  I have a super simple crockpot and it has worked great for 5 plus years now!  Believe me, I always look at the more expensive ones and put them on my "someday list" but what I have works great!  I would recommend getting an oval shaped crockpot as opposed to round so that you can make longer cuts of meat.  I would also look for one that has a high and low setting as well as a few different time options.  This is the one that I have and use at least once a week!

3. Knife Set (a really good knife set) 
John and I used a very inexpensive set of knives for the first four years of our marriage, and then last summer we finally decided to invest in a good pair of knives...it was life-changing!  Good knives make all of the cooking prep work faster and easier!  Plus you are way less likely to hurt yourself because you do not need to use so much pressure when cutting.  We studied that sets available at Williams Sonoma and decided on this set by Wusthof.  I am so happy with our decision to buy these, especially since we use these knives every single day!

4. Cast Iron Skillet
This is something that I just got about two months ago, but I can already tell how much I am going to love it!  Cast Iron Skillets are super versatile...you can really cook just about anything in them.  Plus they go from the stove to the oven which is an important feature in any skillet that you decide to buy! Like I said when taking about the dutch oven, I would go for a bigger over a smaller because you will get more use out of it!  I have a 12 inch one which is perfect for sautéing a few veggies or preparing a whole skillet dinner!  They are also very affordable! 

5. NonStick Pan
Nonstick pans are a definite kitchen essential for cooking eggs.  I know people who use their nonstick pans for a lot of other things, but I prefer to work with my stainless steel pans for most regular cooking.  However, I would be lost without a good nonstick pan for eggs and omelets (which is something that I make at least 5 days out of the week for the girls - they just love a good spinach omelet).  If you think that a nonstick pan is something you will use often, I would invest in a good set with a few different sizes.  If, like me, you will only really use it for eggs than just get a small pan or an inexpensive set.  I have a pair of nonstick pans, one smaller and one bigger, so that I can make one portion or a meal to serve a few people.  
6. Double Burner Griddle Pan
I use this pan every single Saturday to make pancakes!  I also use it for French Toast, Quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc.  I love this pan by All Clad because it just goes on my stove over two burners and it is super easy to clean (you can honestly just wipe it clean).  Literally nothing sticks to this thing!  Sometimes a free standing electric griddle (the kind that plugs in and you use on your countertop) is more difficult to work with!  I also have the All Clad Grill pan which is the same as the griddle just with grill marks.  If you can afford both, get them!  But if you can only get one (or you only have room for one), the Griddle Pan will be more versatile!
7. Blender
Invest in a good blender that can double as a food processor because you will save counter space and money!  I asked for a blender last year for my birthday (seriously that is how you know you are getting old) and I use it several times a week!  I did a lot of research and chose a Ninja because it was so much less expensive then other fancy blenders.  Plus it came with a large blender container, two individual serve containers, and a food processor - all in one!  My kitchen is relatively big, but it's not big enough to make room for all of those separately.  I am very happy to have such versatility from one blender!

8. Good Set of Pots and Pans (or at least one good pot)
I have a great set of pots and pans that I received for my wedding shower, and I use them daily!  If you can purchase a great set, you will never regret it!  However, with that being said if I didn't have the money or the storage space for a whole set I would just buy one really large pot for cooking pasta and one smaller pot for heating sauce or an individual portion of food.  You could honestly use the Le Creuset Dutch Oven and the Cast Iron Skillet for all of your other needs!  If you do want to buy a good set of pots and pans, I recommend Stainless Steel ones that are oven safe as well as broiler safe and have glass lids that allow you to see what's cooking!  This is my exact set - I have had it for five plus years, and it is still as amazing as the day I got it!  

 Don't forget to come back next week when I share my Baking Essentials!!!

If you have any Shades of Pink that you would like me to feature, please contact me!  

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