My Favorite Kitchen Things 2017
Kitchen | Kitchen Tools | Favorite Things
Have you turned your kitchen into your medicine cabinet, health clinic, and recovery center? Is the family table now Yum Central? Does your home smell like vinegar, bay leaves, and gluten free bread?
Two years ago when I started this blog just before IFBC 2015 in Seattle, WA, I had an idea: if you depend on eating nutritious, allergen-free and low-processed, no-processed foods, you want to turn your kitchen into a magical place where you become Food Scientist, Head Chef Extraordinaire, Master Baker, and Food Artist. To do that, you need kitchen basics, for sure, and I’ve written a couple of posts to get you started in building that kitchen arsenal, even if you only need to feed an army of one: YOU.
This year’s “Five Kitchen Must-haves” post is taking a different direction, one of imagination, technological advance, and the future of food and cooking. While I’ll always include at least one item that is simple, clever, and relatively inexpensive, and I’m adding on with something to capture the imagination of cooking, even if you cook from the world’s tiniest kitchen and an even smaller budget. I’m giving you a taste of the future, and the future is simmering with emulsions, sauces, and frou frou presentations meant to dazzle and delight.
Why should everyone else have all the fun? I’m also renaming the post to align with this new direction: My Five Kitchen Favorite Things. And it’s all about my journey of making food fun again. Don’t worry. I’ll keep you grounded with good, everyday stuff too!
Read more for My Five Kitchen Favorite Things
I love me some kale, and I could easily eat this healthy green vegetable every day. What I do not love is the stalk; it’s a little harsh on my digestive system. A quick way to strip the leaves off the stalk and reserve the stalk for making a vegetable broth in your Instant Pot (combined with other veggie leftovers, of course!) is to use this clever kitchen tool, the Chef’n Loose Leaf Kale and Herb Stripper.
Simply place the vegetable or herb in the appropriate sized hole and pull it through. Voila! Here’s a silly video using the vegetable and herb stripper.
Get Prep’d Lunch Box with Modular Storage $65
Back in 2015, I saw the Get Prep’d lunch box as a Kickstarter with modular storage and thought it might make an excellent way for people who batch cook their food to create healthy meals they can take with them to work.
These boxes are beautifully designed with bamboo on the outside, a magnetic snap to close, and well-designed modular bento boxes for all your food options that are absolutely leak proof. I was so impressed, I bought ten of them with the intension of including them in my Beta Launch program, “The 30 Day ‘Stay the Course’ Intensive” (starts Jan 2 – 31, 2018).
What I also like is that the boxes are easy to clean, do not stain easily like Tupperware plastic, and come with full-sized utensils and a pair of chopsticks in a matching holder. You can also purchase a sleeve for the box in a variety of colors.
Oprah Winfrey just named this lunchbox among Oprah’s Favorite Things of 2017. I know a good thing when I see one! And through Nov. 28, you can get 20% off by including the code “BF20” in the checkout process. Or, you get yours free from me if you sign up to be one of the first seven people to join my Beta Launch. Go to Facebook’s “My Allergy Advocate” page for more details, or PM me.
In all honesty, I enjoy the process of rolling sushi using my hands or with a bamboo rolling mat to squeeze the sushi into a tube. The process is satisfyingly tactile, achingly physical (which I enjoy), and in many ways, set up as a social transaction between the person making the sushi and the person eating the sushi. Having food made in front of you is akin to going into the bank to deposit money versus using an ATM. There is a transaction, a relationship, a conversation, and a conclusion.
However, not everyone feels confident making sushi. Not everyone was raised eating it from a young age. I encounter people who feel it’s almost a disgrace to make your sushi at home, as if by doing so I’ve engaged in some kind of cultural misappropriation. I’ll remind my readers that my parents grew up under the occupation of Taiwan, my father and grandmother were near fluent in Japanese, and we consider ourselves tri-cultural. Almost everyone in my immediate family is trilingual. I’m not hurting anyone’s sense of cultural respect for sushi making.
Back to my point, this little sushi roller pretty much takes all the precision of rolling sushi out of the equation by simplifying the entire process into a template, and it’s easier to use than some of the previous models. On the one hand, it feels like it takes out some of the artistry of making sushi. But on the other hand, you get a perfect sushi roll every time.
Tip: use a sharp serrated knife to cut the sushi roll into traditional-sized pieces.
Cusinart Elemental 8 Food Processor $99.95
I’ve spent most of my adult cooking life without a food processor. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a belief that decent cook really only needs a good knife, pots and pans, long chopsticks, a rolling pin, and few stirring utensils to produce the majority of foods eaten on a daily basis.
When you’re ready to expand your repertoire and also rely heavily on batch cooking, a food processor is a time saver. You can prepare vegetables, make salads, shred potatoes, grind meat, or churn heavy cream (not me, I’m dairy free!). The number of foods you can prepare quickly is endless.
Cuisinart is a trusted brand and the value is good for what you get. This model comes with two blades that can be flipped to get different shred options.
Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System $499 ($398 specials available now)
Disclaimer: I did not pay full price for this product. IFBC 2017 attendees received pricing and a discount code.
When I saw the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System being demonstrated at the Sacramento IFBC 2017, I fell in love. How can you not fall for simplicity, technology, and almond brittle?
You might have looked at the price on this induction cooking system and wondered what I might be thinking. I am aware that this price point is above what MAA readers here are interested in paying. It also would not qualify for a must-have (and thus, I changed the title of these annual posts going forward to My Favorite Kitchen Things), as those who are ill and in recovery won’t have the energy to use it for the bells and whistles in cooking that it offers.
Please don’t take offense. I see you. I will never forget the moment when food became medicine and fuel. I didn’t care about what food looked like as long as I could keep it down, get energy, and stop being sick and tired. This cooking system may not be matched to where you are at in your journey to recovery and health. But it may match those who are ready to move onwards towards fanciful home cooking and entertaining. It’s where we want to be.
Part of food blogging requires taking some risks to call out trends. I could be wrong, but I really believe that the future of home cooking in general is moving in the direction of more convenience, smarter technology, and IoT (Internet of Things). The more connected things are, the more control we can have over them, and the more we can use greater resources to inform what we do.
The Hestan Cue is best targeted to the home chef who is ready to take it up a notch with fancy preparation and presentation of food. This person never went to culinary school, and cooking classes that teach the skills that this system offers are geared primarily to people who can eat anything and everything, not people like myself.
If I were to take the same amount of money I paid for this cooking system and pour it into an induction cook top ($150), an induction pan ($70), and cooking classes of specific dishes, I would come away without having learned how to cook fancy food that I can actually eat and nourish myself on. I could cook for someone else using a surgical mask, nitrile gloves, and wearing long sleeves! At this point, I can’t even touch wheat without getting a contact dermatitis.
For people with food allergies, intolerances, autoimmune disease, and chronic illnesses, maintaining control over our food, medications, environment, and choices are key elements of staying healthy. The more control you can maintain, the better the outcomes can be.
Certainly, if I can control my food, I am healthier. And when I have tasty food that is appetizing, beautiful, and well-prepared, I can also break the barriers around food that create so much social isolation for people like me.
The key to the Hestan Cue cooking system is control. The system is connected to an app that controls heat (it will increase or decrease heat for you), tells you when food is ready to be stirred, flipped, or is done, and takes the guesswork out of the actual physical part of cooking that professional chefs learn. Some of us never got that education. Hestan Cue serves it up, via Bluetooth and your smart device.
The future of the Hestan Cue system is going to hinge on how quickly they can develop the app. Right now, the recipes, videos, and how-to’s are somewhat limited. Once they have a library that approaches what you can find in an online food recipe index like Allrecipes.com, you’ll have a powerhouse of cooking know-how built into the system.
This cook system will be used in a couple of locations: for demonstrations during my presentations, in travel (it’s moderately portable), and in our residences. And I love the idea that if I need to cook at one of my family’s homes, they don’t have to clean everything up for me. I can just bring my cooktop with me.
Currently, my Hestan Cue is waiting for me to do a more complete review. Due to the timing of its arrival and my downtime off a medical procedure, you’ll have to wait for a complete review in a separate blog post. For now, check out the video on how it works.
Bonus: looking for a mid-priced item for the home chef? Sky Mat Comfort Anti-fatigue Mat for Kitchen or Office. $39.97
Right after I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I was exhausted from malnutrition due to poor absorption of food. Standing in the kitchen cooking my own food was tough enough, but I also lost most of the fat on the bottom of my feet, and I also had joint inflammation and swelling from the effects of gluten.
An anti-fatigue mat helped me to be able to stand on my feet long enough to cook for myself and to experience less pain in my feet and ankles. While I could have dedicated a pair of comfortable sneakers for indoor use, it would have also raised me up a bit higher than the counter height I wanted for preparing meats and vegetables.
It’s the little details that make the difference: beveled edges so you don’t accidentally trip on the edges; non-slip surface on top and appropriate grip on the bottom; long-lasting, durable material. While there are many anti-fatigue mats, this one has eco-friendly features, durability, colors, and is value priced.
Have a suggestion for next year’s favorite kitchen things list? Put a comment below.
And let’s keep making food fun again!