Welcome to my Blog about Food and Well-being!

I am often asked to share my knowledge of food and recipes. After changing my diet four years ago from a typical "Western" diet to a mostly whole-foods and plant-based diet, I have seen incredible changes in my health and well-being. I have spent countless hours researching and love helping those who are ready to feel better. The underlying theme? YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. Read on to find out more.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Best Kitchen Gadgets to Make Your Life Easier and Get You Cookin'!

People often ask me what they need in their kitchens to either inspire them to cook more often (because we know ain't no cookin' like home cookin'!) or to help them speed up the process. Here are my best suggestions and items I use regularly:

  • Vitamix Blender - there is no substitute. There's a reason why they call them "SMOOTHIES" - they're supposed to be SMOOTH. No other blender on the planet can get your smoothie as perfectly smooth as Vitamix. It's worth the $ and Mother's Day is coming up, so....Vitamix does SO much more than smoothies and there are cookbooks that come with it to get you started. You can make soup in the Vitamix! It even heats it up! Sauces, dressings, marinades, dips, sorbet, snow cones, puddings...and the best smoothies EVER. 
  • Hand-held citrus juicer. I use this daily. I got mine at the local grocery store. I add lemon and lime to lots of things, but always to my morning smoothie and water. Citrus brightens up anything, has added vitamin C and is a miracle worker if you get kidney stones. If you eat lots of kale, spinach, strawberries and other produce high in  oxalates, lemon juice counters the calcium buildup to prevent stones from forming.
  • Zester (or Microplane). This is great to add lots of flavor from the rind of citrus. Add lemon/lime/orange zest to sauces, marinades and dressings for extra citrus flavor. The zester can also be used to fine-grate garlic, ginger and Parmesan cheese. Just watch your knuckles!
  • Large, wide wooden bowl. If you eat salads, this type of bowl is perfect for tossing without losing the contents. I like using tongs to toss. It makes salad prep so much easier.
  • Salad Spinner. I know this is so 80s, but salad spinners are a must. No one wants soggy salad. They're cheap and pull all of the water out of greens, herbs, etc.
  • Silpat silicone mats. These are the rubbery-feeling mats made of silicone that are used to line baking sheets to prevent sticking. I use these daily instead of foil-lining sheets (aluminum is no bueno). Nothing will stick to it, not even shredded cheese, melted sugar or any baked goods. 
  • Wooden spoons. Wood resists bacteria, are inexpensive, can withstand high heat and clean easily. Just don't put them in your dishwasher or let them soak for long.
  • Cast iron skillet. Nothing browns food better than cast iron. If you want a perfect crust on your brussel sprouts, salmon, chicken, pork chops, corn bread or fish, use cast iron. It heats evenly and stays hot for a really long time, so food stays warm (that's why restaurants often serve cornbread and fajitas in cast iron skillets). If you're low in iron, use cast iron skillets, particularly when cooking high acid foods like tomato-based foods, as it will pull iron into your food. Don't use soap when cleaning and lightly oil after it's cleaned and cooled to keep it "seasoned" so it stays non-stick.
  • Enameled cast iron. I'm talking about Le Creuset-like pots and skillets. Like their non-enameled counterparts, they heat evenly and stay warm forever but are naturally non-stick, are perfect for slow cooking (they really aren't meant for high heat like regular cast iron) and look pretty from oven/stove to table. I use these mostly when making soups, chili, stews and beans.
  • Zoco Popsicle maker. My kids love popsicles and this little gadget makes it super simple to make our own, which means way less sugar, no preservatives or artificial food colors/ingredients, and a heck of a lot cheaper than store bought. Buy the cookbook with it and you'll be making the best popsicles you've ever had. It only takes 5 minutes to freeze! My kids love making the coffee, coconut, and s'more recipes!
  • Knife sharpener. Every good cook MUST have sharp knives. Dull knives tear or smoosh the flesh of produce, cause accidents and make prep work take lots longer. I love the kind that you hold with one hand and swipe the knife through a slit with the other. I sharpen my knives weekly and they glide through everything like butter.
  • Fine-mesh sieve. If you eat various grains, some are so tiny they can slip right through a regular sieve. These sieves are usually cone-shaped and can be used for rinsing but also for filtering/straining, like when making almond milk.
So there you have my top gadgets I use the most in my kitchen. There are so many more out there and going down the kitchen aisle of a store can be overwhelming. These are great items to have readily accessible. What are some of YOUR favorite kitchen gadgets? Share my replying to the blog!

Keep cookin'! Spring is such a great time to get started eating healthier and the best way to eat healthier is to cook at home. Remember to get your kids and spouse involved! When they help, they are more apt to eat it!