Cooking Your Way to Health – 5 Must Have Kitchen Gadgets

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It’s time for some tough love.  Almost daily I hear someone saying “I don’t have time to cook”, and frankly, I don’t buy it.  We all have our priorities and cooking, just like anything else, is or isn’t.  Hear me clearly: you have to cook meals from scratch, in your own kitchen, a majority of the time, in order to truly eat well.  In case you didn’t understand, what I am saying is you have to cook.

Cooking can fit into busy lives.  I know it can be done regardless of how busy we are as long as you create a plan, organize, and build a kitchen that will work for you.  I don’t except excuses because I watched as my parents, who both worked outside the home, plus took care of a small farm, plus raised three girls, cooked nearly every meal from scratch.  I know it can be done because even while I was in college taking a full load of classes each semester, and working two jobs, cooked nearly all of my meals from scratch.  I know cooking can be worked into our schedules because for thousands of years, people had no other choice.   No excuses. Got it?

Cooking is quickly becoming a lost art. The good news about cooking is that it is an art and not a science. Learning to play around with food and ingredients will give you the confidence you need in the kitchen.  Teaching our children about high quality foods and how to cook will set up the next generation with skills that promote a long and healthy life.  Make it a family activity and have fun in the kitchen.

Cooking doesn’t have to be time consuming.
A secret of high end chefs is using locally grown, seasonal produce.  High quality, seasonal foods simply taste better and therefore, require less preparation or additional ingredients.   Ripe, seasonal produce simply tastes better than out of season produce, grown in another country, picked weeks in advance, and shipped in a storage vehicle for thousands of miles.  When food tastes like it’s supposed to, simple cooking is best.

Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. In addition to a “planning – shopping system” it is crucial to have an organized kitchen that promotes cooking.  With all of the gadgets out there, one might get the impression that you have to stock your home with expensive, bulky contraptions in order to prepare the simplest meals.  Not so.  I believe there are very few gadgets that we actually need, and this is my list of 5 must have gadgets for an effective and organized kitchen.

1.  Food Processor

I love my basic food processor.  It chops, purees, slices and dices.   I use it almost daily and it saves me countless hours not to mention money too.  How does a food processor save me money?  Because I make it work for me.  Who doesn’t like the ease of buying pre shredded packaged cheese?  I do, but at double the cost, is it worth it?  Of course not, especially if you have a food processor.  I use shredded cheese mostly for homemade pizza—a staple for my little monkeys….er, I mean kids.  I can buy a block of low moisture mozzarella and send it through the shredder option of the food processor in no time.   I also use the slicer when buying artisan meats like aged (no nitrite/nitrate added) salami.  High quality, pre-sliced salami costs triple the amount of intact salami.  Put the whole salami through the slicer part of the food processor and viola!   Too much to clean up?  No way, place it in the top shelf of the dishwasher and call it a day.

2.  5-6 Quart Crock Pot

When I say “crock pot” many people turn their nose.  The crock pot conjures up memories of mushy meat and cans of condensed cream soup. Not anymore, Janet Finlayson has written many wonderful cookbooks using healthy, fresh ingredients in crock-pot cooking.   Crock-pots are a great tool for people with busy schedules, or who work long hours.   There are crock pots out there that have a timer and will automatically switch over to the “keep warm” mode after the cooking is done.  Soups, stews, roasts, and specialty meals can be thrown together before hand and cook to perfection while you are going about your busy day.

3.  Basic Blender

A basic blender is a must have, for sure.  A good blender can produce a smoothie better than the local chain, or make a homemade mayo in a matter of seconds.    A blender is versatile and inexpensive and a quality one will hold up for years.    While an immersion blender is definitely more convenient for pureeing soups and sauces right in the pot, a traditional blender can certainly be used if you are trying to minimize the gadgets.

4.  Salad Spinner

I’m a recent convert to the salad spinner and now I say it’s a must have. Not only do salad spinners “spin-out” any moisture from your produce, they double as a fantastic place to store your salad mix in the refrigerator (prolonging the lifespan of the produce).  When you have a salad spinner, there is no more need for buying a prepackaged salad mix at triple the cost.   Instead, simply buy produce (some of my current seasonal favorites are: butter leaf, arugula, carrots, radishes, turnips, green onions, and asparagus), chop, rinse, and spin the remaining water out and then store right in the container.  The gap between the basket, which holds the produce, and the outer container, allows any remaining moisture to settle away from the salad.  This will allow your salad mix to stay crisp for 7-9 days.   Having a pre-made salad on hand at all times promotes healthy eating habits by becoming a “go-to” meal.

5.  Flour Mill

Grains, grains, grains. They are the “staff of life.”  I could write volumes on grains, but for this purpose I will keep it to a paragraph.  Whole grains intact with the bran and the germ, are full of vitamins and minerals, including Thiamin, B6, Niacin, Chromium, Magnesium, Zinc, Fiber and Essential Fatty Acids (oils).    The germ contains essential oils and the bulk of the nutrients found in grains.  When whole grains are commercially milled into flour, one of two scenarios usually occurs.  Either the whole grain is milled into flour which allows the oils to be exposed to air, water and/or heat which then oxidizes, goes rancid, and forms free radicals.  OR the germ, the part of the grain that contains the oil, is removed prior to being milled in order to prolong shelf life.  Sadly, the latter is often true for flours that claim to be “whole grain.”   If you truly want the benefits of a whole grains milled into flour for making wholesome breads, muffins, or pancakes, milling yourself is essential.   Storing freshly milled flours in the freezer or refrigerator and consuming them quickly will ensure freshness.

Note: refined white flour has both the bran and the germ removed and therefore will not go rancid.  Nor does refined white flour contain any of the vital nutrients that make grains an important part of the daily diet.

Contributor Info:

Amanda is a regular guest speaker at local businesses, schools, churches, and women’s groups.  She can often be found in the halls of the California State Capitol advocating for nutrition and food. Amanda has been featured in both local and national media as an expert in the field of food and nutrition. Eat Your Roots is also dedicated to working with individuals, couples, and families to improve overall wellbeing by teaching clients to understand real food and Traditional Nutrition.

Amanda is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP http://www.nanp.org), and Chairs their Legislative Affairs Committee. Visit www.eatyourroots.org and  www.mydailydiner.com.

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One Comment for “Cooking Your Way to Health – 5 Must Have Kitchen Gadgets”

  • chambleechickNo Gravatar

    Agreed!! I’ve bought the above products at Cooks Warehouse. If you’re in the Atlanta area stop by any of their 3 locations or check them out at http://www.cookswarehouse.com.

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