Why do I have excess? Because people give me things, I like to try out new products, and I'm still learning. Sometimes I think something is going to make a difference but it just ends up wasting space. Or my tastes change.
As I was going through my kitchen, I was shocked at how some of the smallest things have revolutionized my kitchen. Small changes in our tools have changed the way we eat....for the better.
The number one thing that has rocketed my cooking to a higher level is the Pressure Cooker XL.
Now, if you've ever channel surfed then you have probably seen this puppy on an infomercial. That's where I first saw it too. And I was glued to the screen. They made all kinds of great stuff...in minutes. So I asked for it for my birthday. And I have used it at least once a week ever since. I use it EVERY single week.
I use it to make bone broths (much faster than using the crockpot.) I use it to make stews, roasts, ribs, soups, and casseroles. I used to own the type of pressure cooker you use on the stove, but it started to malfunction. The stove top pressure cookers can explode. This electric type does not. And it's so easy to use. It's really a push the button, walk away, and come back to a great meal kind of thing.
I love it because I can put all sorts of random ingredients inside and come up with a great stew. Stews and soups allow me to sneak vegetables into my family with far fewer complaints. I can buy up all the tough clearance meats at the grocery store and freeze them until I need them because I can put the toughest meat in this cooker and have it come out tender. I can even use frozen ingredients and still have a fully cooked meal done in under 2 hours. 50 minutes to stew, about 10 to get up to pressure and another 10 to bring the pressure back down.
This is the best thing in my kitchen. The second best thing is this garlic press.
Cooking with garlic not only improves the flavor of your food, but it also increases the health factor! Hello, sulfur! But chopping it is time consuming, difficult, and smelly. I would smell like garlic for days afterward. I even bought a stainless steel soap bar to remove the smell. Extra stuff!
Plus, when I left any pieces too big my family would complain. Mincing with the press is super easy, leaves no bits, and doesn't get my hands stinky. The press is made of stainless steel and is pretty heavy duty. I've used mine for over 2 years and there's no sign of breaking down. I use it multiple times per week.
Ever since my Father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I got serious about getting rid of toxic products. I stopped using deodorant, washing my hair, and threw out all of our teflon pans. I got rid of our plastic water bottles, plastic utensils, plastic everything!
I now use only stainless steel pans, stainless steel water bottles, and stainless steel measuring utensils, and glass food containers. There was a learning curve to cooking with stainless pans, but it was so worth it!
Not only are we not bringing toxins into our food, but I now have matching sets! As ridiculous as it may seam, having a matching set of measuring spoons or cups really makes it nicer to cook. I love my stainless steel measuring cups and glass pyrex bowls!
Upgrading doesn't have to be expensive either. We all have too much stuff these days and when someone asks "what do you want for Christmas?" you can ask for some of these things. They are all in good gift price ranges and can will really make a difference in how you cook.
One of my favorite things in my kitchen is my set of ramekins. I have a small set of 4 white ramekins and 2 larger ones. The small set is perfect for baking little desserts and is the right serving size for ice cream or other treats. I like to use them for snacks. They are just the perfect size! Of course, I dream of creme brule when I see them, but I haven't made it yet!
The larger ones are my berry bowls. There is just something so beautiful about bright red strawberries, dark blueberries, or even freshly picked peas when they are put in a bowl like this. It makes them seem special. Like treats. I love these bowls tremendously and wish I had a few more! I found them at a garage sale for 50c and if I ever find them again, I'll be sure to snatch them up!
Of course, my kitchen wouldn't be complete without canning jars. You can find them at thrift stores and garage sales for pennies. They are so versatile and since they are made of glass, you can really get them clean - no worries about what used to be in them. It's okay to buy used.
Since I am all about reusing and not creating waste, I buy all of my grains in bulk and store them in big glass jars. I use these to store whole oats, rice, flour, and beans.
I use smaller ones to store wild rice, specialty flours and grains, steel cut oats, dried fruits, and other things I use often but in smaller quantities.
It makes it so much easier to see when I am running low, keeps the pantry organized, and reduces packaging.
I also use my glass canning jars to store dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and dehydrated mushrooms. If you have never dehydrated mushrooms, then you are missing out!! They take the level of any savory dish up 4 notches. I often add them to the pressure cooker or I grind them up use as a meat seasoning. It adds so much amazing flavor. And mushrooms are very affordable!
The jar lids I use are made by a random guy who sells them on amazon. He must have the patent but hasn't figured out how to make them get popular. I am hear to tell you they are awesome!
They fit on the top of any standard canning jar (you can even buy them in wide mouth) and they allow you to vacuum seal anything in your jar using just a hand pump. No electricity. No fancy gadgets. Just your standard canning jars. They are a prepper's dream. You can save food indefinitely with a vacuum - in jars you already own/use - and without electricity! The best!!!
Also high on my list are these silicone ice cube trays. They each hold 1/2 cup of liquid. I use them to freeze all my bone broths. I also use them to freeze herbs in oil, soups, baby food, and smoothies. I guess they could also be used for ice. But seriously, they are amazing.
A high quality blender is also a must. I happen to have a Vitamix and it has been a great tool. I use it to make soups, smoothies, grind flour, make almond butter, and so much more. It's really powerful and that makes using it much more enjoyable!
The last two things on my list are somewhat personal but have really made my kitchen experience better. The first is a salt/pepper grinder that I use for chia/flax. I grind chia seeds on the one side, flax on the other. It works perfectly for this. I use chia and flax in my yogurt, in my oatmeal, in my smoothies.
Basically, like anyone else would use cinnamon/sugar. If you buy pre-ground flax or chia it will get old and rancid really quickly. I eat them because they have plant based omega-3 fatty acids and enzymes. I don't want them to be rotten. But I also don't want to get a big grinder out or use my blender every time I need a few teaspoons. So I keep the grinder out like someone would keep out the salt shaker. And seeing it reminds me to use it, and I use it often. It's a pretty slick hack.
The last item has made my life a million times better. It seems really stupid, but since I am short, I can not reach my tallest cabinets or the top of my pantry without a chair. I despise moving a chair around the kitchen. This little stool is strong enough to hold anyone in our family and it folds flat (out of the way!) and is easy to carry around.
I keep it in the pantry, but pull it out when needed. I even take it into the laundry room when I need something from the top shelf. It's so much easier than jumping up on the counters or carrying chairs everywhere!
So there you have it - a few small things that have made a huge difference in my life. Easy things. Small changes. But big rewards.
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