Tag: cooking

A Complete Kitchen: Top 10 Tools No Cook Should Be Without

Whisk (2)

 

Fortunately for foodies and cooking enthusiasts everywhere, the recent “Paleo diet” trend only requires that participants eat like cavemen, and not prepare food like them. Because let’s face it: tools are good. Tools help humans prepare food and cook faster, making it easier to create delicious meals.

But those who don’t have a lot of money for kitchen gadgets and cookware often wonder which kitchen essentials top chefs would choose if on a limited budget. In short: What are the basic, must-have items every cook should own?

Below is a list of the top 10 tools recommended by professionals to make every kitchen complete:  

 

1. A Good Knife Set—

Invest a decent amount of money here if you’re prioritizing, because knives are the most often used kitchen tool for food prep, and those vegetables aren’t going to cut themselves.

By purchasing a high-quality set of knives, you’ll save yourself time and money, because knives that stay sharper longer work better and don’t need to be replaced as soon.

Try to buy a set that includes a knife sharpener if possible, and treat them right—no running knives through the dishwasher, unless you want them to dull, rust and fall apart.

 

2. A Solid Cutting Board—

Plastic cleans well, but most chefs prefer a big wooden cutting board that will stay in place during cutting.

If you have the counter space, a larger board will conveniently allow for prep of all the meal’s ingredients, rather than one at a time.

If you can find a non-slip pad to keep underneath your cutting board, this is a great addition that will prevent knife slippage and accidents.

 

3. A Slow Cooker or Crock Pot—

Whether you’re using it to make the meal, or simply to cook one of the components, a slow cooker can be a wonderful way to save yourself time in the kitchen.

By reducing the work to prep-only, a slow cooker essentially makes the meal for you, and the option to use low heat ensures food will be tender and delicious without being burned.

 

4. A Cool Colander—

Whatever material you prefer is fine—ceramic, plastic or metal—just be sure to get a colander with small enough holes (or mesh) so that liquids can drain while foods like angel hair pasta and diced vegetables stay in.

There are also nesting colander sets for those with minimal storage space that give different sizes from which to choose, depending on the task at hand.

 

5. A Sharp Peeler—

Cutting the skin off fruits and vegetables with a knife can not only be time-consuming and inaccurate, it can be dangerous, depending on the blade skills of the cook.

Vegetable peelers are generally affordable, so replace old, rusty, dull ones with sharp, shiny, new ones. You’ll save yourself major time preparing the next mashed potato side dish, and avoid the frustration of trying to peel thin veggie skins with knives.

 

6. Measuring Devices—

Especially if you do a lot of baking, a measuring cup set for dry goods is a necessity, as we all know that baking is the math of the cooking world. One faulty measurement and the whole recipe is ruined.

A good glass measuring cup for liquids is required in every kitchen and will be used constantly, not only for gauging amounts, but for heating up liquids in the microwave and whisking eggs.

Also be sure to have a real measuring spoon set on hand at all times, because silverware is not accurate.

 

7. Magnificent Mixing Bowls—

At least two bowls are needed for a properly stocked kitchen, with one medium and one large mixing bowl generally recommended.

You’ll find yourself pulling these out often, so if you have the room, consider getting a nesting set of them for mixing bowls in every size.

 

8. A Wonderful Whisk—

While many believe that liquids can be mixed with forks and spoons, real pros know that a whisk is the right tool for the job and can’t be replicated with mere silverware.

Whisks properly fluff food by blending in air, and can mix substances that don’t generally blend well, such as oil and vinegar, making a huge difference in texture and flavor.

 

9. Cast Iron Skillets—

Do you want to be taken seriously as a culinary competitor? Show them you mean business by going old school with cast iron skillets and pans.

Chefs love cast iron cookware because foods cook more evenly in them, and cast iron lasts forever.

Health advocates appreciate that they aren’t coated with chemicals that can come off in foods. (Ceramic non-stick pans are another great no-chemical option, however, if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into cast iron.)

 

10. Rubber Spatulas—

An assortment of these in different sizes is a handy thing to have, as they work for anything you’re cooking and don’t stick to food or surfaces.

Whether you’re making eggs, a stir-fry, keeping a pan of gravy from burning, or mixing food in a bowl, these incredibly versatile tools will become your go-to grab items for all stirring needs.

 

With the basic tools above, your kitchen should be stocked up with everything you need for culinary success. You’ve got the right gear… now all you need is ingredients and inspiration. Happy cooking!

The Good, the Bad and the Healthy: 5 Ways to Cut Calories with Creative Cooking

Wok Cooking (2)

 

In order to maintain or lose weight, we can’t eat too many calories every day. Adding exercise can help us reach fitness goals faster, but if excessive amounts of fattening foods are being consumed, we will still gain unwanted pounds.

The good news is that there are many ways to cut calories and fat from our favorite dishes without losing the flavor. By making smart food choices and using cooking techniques that promote lean, healthy meals, it’s easy to create a nutritious, low-calorie menu the whole family can enjoy.

Below are 5 easy ways anyone can reduce the fat or calorie content of favorite foods without losing the taste:

 

1. Use Reduced Fat Dairy Products—

Many low-fat products replace the missing fat with sugar, which is naturally fat-free, but quickly processed into fat by the body, nullifying the point. But dairy products like light sour cream, skim milk and reduced fat cheese are usually processed without extras.

There will be a change in richness and texture, such as the difference between skim versus whole milk, but at least you’re not drinking additives. Pay special attention to what is added to coffee as well, because rich, high-calorie creamer every morning can add up.

One exception: Many yogurt makers add artificial sweeteners to reduced fat yogurt products. These unnatural chemicals aren’t good for anyone, and most nutritionists will tell you it’s better to eat the full-fat yogurt with wholesome ingredients than to swallow dyes, additives or fake sweeteners in the name of fewer calories.

 

2. Add Vegetables Whenever Possible—

In addition to being full of vitamins, vegetables are a great way to add fiber and satiety to any meal without high calories.

If you’re making an omelet, add diced vegetables like grilled onions, tomatoes or peppers. If you’re making meatloaf, load it up with mushrooms, finely diced zucchini or beans. Turn the chicken breasts and rice you were planning into a delicious, veggie-filled stir-fry.

By replacing fattening foods with filling, low-calorie vegetables whenever you can, you will automatically lessen your daily caloric intake.

 

3. Use Lean Cooking Methods—

Obviously fried foods are not on the daily menu for anyone who’s trying to maintain a healthy weight, but there are other ways to prepare food that will make it taste great while still being healthful.

By taking the skin off lean meats and marinating them before cooking to maintain tenderness, you can drastically reduce fat content. Broiling, grilling and baking meat dishes rather than cooking with oil and rich sauces can save calories as well.

Stir-frying or sautéing in a pan or wok works great if minimal oil is used, and steaming vegetables is an extremely low-calorie way to prepare vegetables. This can be done via microwave or saucepan, but a vegetable steamer is a wonderful investment for any kitchen that takes all of the work out of this cooking technique.

 

4. The Spice of Life—

Adding extra herbs, spices and flavorful vegetables used to season meals such as pepper, paprika, dill, shallots and garlic can really boost low-calorie foods, making up for the missing fat with intense flavor.

Savory seasoning can also help convince family members who are reluctant to make the switch to healthier versions of their favorites (such as exchanging ground beef for leaner ground turkey).

Cooking with basil, garlic and oregano can give a meal a delightful Italian edge. Spices like cumin, coriander and turmeric can add an exotic Middle-Eastern flair to a meal, along with beneficial antioxidants. And don’t forget that while they aren’t officially spices, vinegar and lemon juice can really brighten up a dish.

 

5. Remove the Visible Fat—

In addition to removing skin from poultry, be sure to trim the fat off the edges of every cut of meat you prepare, and drain the grease or extra oil from anything cooked in a pan before using.

Always select the leanest cuts of meat, and choose ground meats like turkey and beef with the lowest fat ratio available.

If something is grilled or broiled, yet still greasy, use paper towels to gently blot excess oil from the surface before serving. This may seem like a small thing to do, but small things add up to big calorie savings over time.

 

In addition to helping with weight maintenance, eating less fat can add up to major health benefits like reducing risk for: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Use the low-calorie cooking tips above to help your family stay healthy and happy, while still enjoying all the foods you love to eat.