Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer
Never ask yourself again, “Is it done yet?” An instant read thermometer is so useful in the kitchen, not just in making sure things are cooked enough, but making sure things aren’t cooked TOO much. I find that most people cook things longer than they need to out of fear of food-borne illnesses, but then they end up overcooking, removing all good flavor and texture from the food. No more with this little gadget! Yes, it’s expensive (like many of the things on this list), but totally worth it.
Cuisinart Elite Collection Food Processor
We never thought we’d use a food processor, but we were wrong, we use it all the time! It’s great for shredding vegetables for salads, pancakes, and quick breads, slicing vegetables for lasagna, and shredding cheese (we save money by buying a big block). We even make pie crusts in ours. This particular model has an extra large capacity and the center spindle-thingy is taller than most models so that it can accommodate much more liquid (if you make a lot of pureed soups, this is really important). It’s also fairly easy to clean, and personally I’d rather spend a little time cleaning the food processor than shredding a mountain of zucchini with a box grater.
Lodge 12″ Cast Iron Skillet with Lid
We use our cast iron skillets (we have both a 12″ and an 8″, we’d like to get a 10″ as well) all the time. We saute in it, pan fry in it, and bake in it. In fact, the other night I made green chile hominy casserole with chorizo, for both sauteing the onions and peppers, but also to bake the entire casserole in! They also make fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches!
KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender
This blender is awesome, it has an extra large carafe and a powerful motor. It blasts through ice cubes for smoothies and margaritas and whips cottage cheese to fabulous smoothness for dips and spreads. Want a low-fat, high protein veggie dip or salad dressing? Blend a container of low-fat cottage cheese (or fat free if you prefer) in the blender along with one package of dry ranch dressing mix (or your choice of dried herbs and flavorings) and a little bit of milk for a thick dip or a lot for a creamy salad dressing.
OXO Good Grips Cookie Scoops
Besides creating cookies, muffins, or cupcakes that are the same size, these cookie scoops speed the whole process of baking along quite considerably. The medium size is probably the best all purpose scoop, but the mini size will be useful at Christmastime when I make date snowball cookies (and that recipe makes almost 100 cookies!). They’re a bit of a pain to clean, but totally worth the effort.
Calphalon Classic Bakeware 12-Cup Nonstick Muffin Pan
I recently received these muffin pans as a gift and they work wonderfully. No need for any paper liners here! Just give the cups a good spray with baking spray (I like the kind that has flour in it) and the muffins will slip out like a dream. In fact, all of the Calphalon Classic Bakeware line is fabulous.
KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer
Like the food processor, the stand mixer was a kitchen gadget we thought we could do without, but once we bought one we were using it left and right! Dave bakes bread once a week, and while for many recipes he hand kneads the dough, the mixer does a good job when he doesn’t. I use it for most recipes I bake, finding the large stand mixer does a better job than are hand mixer and it’s not that much more effort to clean-up afterwards. Ours is a lovely shade of green.
Easy Read Mini Measuring Cup
This little measuring cup from Pampered Chef is darn handy for making cocktails. It’s very useful for measuring 1/4, 1/2 or 1 oz which is an essential part of bartending. The larger liquid measuring cups by OXO are great as well as you can read them looking down on them, rather than just from the side.
Enameled Heavy Cast Aluminum Lemon Squeezer
Another tool that’s handy for making cocktails. In the past, we’ve just used a wooden reamer, but this aluminum model makes juicing larger quantities of citrus much easier. You also don’t have to worry about seeds as much as most lemon seeds do not fit through the holes. And despite there being different versions of this model for limes, skip it, the lemon squeezer works perfectly for both lemons, limes, and small oranges.
Breville Ikon Cordless Electric Kettle
We just got this beauty for Christmas and we use it all of the time. In general, Dave and I have 2 mugs of tea a day each in addition to the water that I need for my oatmeal every morning. This kettle is super fast and attractive. It’s also handy for boiling water for dissolving bouillon, making gelatin, etc. Not a must have, but definitely a favorite.