Sunday, 24 June 2012

These Are A Few of My Favourite Things....

C'mon--sing it!

Alright, I'll stop that now.

Seriously, though, since throwing off the mantle of grains, sugar and processed foods, I've had to learn a few new tricks of food prep and cooking, which has required that I buy a few new kitchen tools, and some very old kitchen tools have fallen back into my favour. 

Sure, I could just eat whole grilled veggies and slabs of meat on this primal diet, but I like wondrous variety.  In fact, I could eat a different recipe every single day of my life.  Being not much of a cook in my previous life, we often did eat a different thing every night--the kids were raised to eat constant new things.  I like food, all food, and I like to experiment with it.  So this new diet has been a fun challenge.  Now I've had to raise the bar and even make my own sauces, we all have, and it's requiring some interesting new things...  

There is no need for a whole bunch of expensive new gadgets. Paleo doesn't need to be crazy expensive. Use what you have. My favourite things may not be your favourite things, either. I certainly have not dropped big bucks on anything here. I replaced my food processor when my original one broke. I asked for the Dutch Oven as a Christmas gift. I found the Magic Bullet and mandoline on sale. These items are not new from the box--they are loved, food-splattered, scratched and scuffed from living with me.  I'm pretty rough on my kitchen stuff. 

On my "wish list" still?  A food dehydrator and an ice cream maker.  Neither one is necessary on a daily basis, and neither one is cheap, so they wait...

So here's a few of my current favourite things...

1.  Food Processor.  Had a cheap and ancient one, broke it, replaced it with another cheap one, and it works like a charm.  I use it for everything from mixing my baking ingredients to pureeing nuts and dates to shredding cauliflower and cabbage.  There's rarely a day when I don't get it dirty.  It's ugly, but its the family workhorse.
Ugliest processor ever.

2.  Magic Bullet.  Its the mini-me blender.  The fastest way to beat eggs when making Big-Ass Pancakes, or any pancakes, waffles, my non-dairy creamer, smoothies.  The girls make themselves smoothies constantly.  The Bullet is rarely clean in our house.  Good thing it come with 3 containers.

3.  Mandoline Slicer.  Ok, so far, we really, really only use it for making zucchini noodles, but we do tend to do that about once  a week.  It has a million uses--I just haven't used it for them yet.  My food processor has a slicing attachment that's way safer than the mandoline.  We have yet to use the mandoline and not somehow cut ourselves on it.  That thing is stupid-sharp.  I won't let the girls touch it.  I've cut myself washing it.  I've cut myself putting it away.  But I still love you, mandoline, you make the noodles so perfect...

The devil is in the blade

4.  Coffee grinder.  I have 2 grinders right now; one for coffee, and an older one for those little things like grinding chia seeds and flax.  Nothing is better for making quick flax meal.  It grinds finer than the magic bullet or the food processor.  It'll also grind spices.  Sure, I own a mortar and pestle, who doesn't?  But the coffee grinder is fast--and you just wipe it out and move on. 

Hmmm, looks like I last made flax with it.
5.  Crockpot.  Not everything is about gadgets, geez!  I've always loved my crockpot, and I use it even more now with the paleosphere so full of crockpot recipes.  This is almost as primal as you can get, unless you want to go out into your backyard and dig a hole and super-heat some rocks in a giant bonfire to throw in the pit with your meat and bury it for the day.  I find the crockpot leaves a lot less dirt on my food.  I like food prep that doesn't require a shovel.  You will not see a shovel on my favourite things list.  All cheap meat cuts taste better when cooked long and slow.  I got my crockpot when I got married the first time around so it's nearly 20 years old now (God, that makes me sound REALLY old--shut up!) and it's still awesome.  It only has 2 settings and I know its always 5-6 hours on high, or 10-12 hours on low.  Once, I think the lid went through the dishwasher because now half of it has turned cloudy and is harder to see through, so I don't think it was dishwasher safe, but it still works awesome.  I haven't been as impressed with new crockpots I've seen.

Funny thing--growing up, my mom would prep meat and throw it in the cold oven and set the oven timer to come on hours later with no fear of food poisoning or the house burning down, but she never trusted a crockpot.  Weird, I know.  I am neurotic about food safety, but I leave my crockpot on for days while making bone broths.

6.  Dutch Oven.  What is a Dutch Oven, you ask?  It's just a really sturdy pot that can go from stovetop to oven.  I'm not rich enough for any Le Creuset pots.  Mine came from Canadian Tire, I think, but its enamel-coated cast iron and its beautiful.  The thing weighs a tonne. Mostly, I use it on the stovetop for making all stews, home made yogurt, and for boiling/blanching my "pasta" and anything that is too big for a frypan.  The cast iron is ridiculously thick, which means it heats slowly, but very evenly. 

7.  Cast iron Frypan.  It is just the BEST for searing meat and frying bacon.  I LOVE my iron frypan.  The only problem is that it's not very big.  I can barely lift the one I have, and I need a much bigger one.  I have a glass cooktop, too, so it is enamel-coated on the back--no scratching the cooktop.  Its only going to take one bad day and I will drop something on the cooktop, I know.  Last time, it was a marble rolling-pin.  Dropped it twice.  The first time cracked the cooktop but didn't fully break it, two minutes later, I dropped it again.  Silly me.  Turned out it costs the same amount to replace a cooktop as it does to buy a new stove.  So don't drop anything heavy on your cooktop.

8.  Spice Rack.  Really.  I have so many spices that I don't have a spice rack.  I have spice drawers.  I go through spices at a ridiculous rate.  Thank you Bulk Barn!  I can't imagine paying full price for new spice containers every time I run out of something.  I use so much spice that I've slowly replaced those little spice bottles with small jam-size mason jars.  Its an ongoing project, I have hundreds of spices.
Love the chaos...

9.  Wire "Cooling Rack".  This was designed for cooling baked things.  But I use it exclusively for cooking carrot fries, squash fries and sweet potato fries.  No turning required.  Set the oven at 400 for about 40 minutes and forget about them.  having them raised up off the cookie sheet means no scorching them anymore when the oven element comes on.  Smartest cheap idea ever.  Sure, you could broil meat on this rack, too, but I haven't done that.  That's my fry-maker.

10.  Laptop.  Really.  It is my cookbook.  It is my lifeblood.  I search recipes, send them to my "recipes only" email and use it to cook from.  It is ALWAYS sitting on my kitchen counter as I cook.  Usually from several open "tabs" at once.  I wish that ALL of my paleo cookbooks were on my computer.  I could go totally paperless.  Especially if the new Microsoft Notebook is as good as they say it is--that thing has a magnetic keyboard you can remove and a kickstand.  Awesome.  One day...

Other odds and ends?  I save old glass food jars and containers.  For home made sauces.  Its the Brit in me--I use a lot of sauces.  And I love that my yogurt and nut-butter jars are already labelled appropriately.  Remember the 3 R's?  Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

And  that's it.  These are my basic items.  I'm sure a chef would list a whole different set of items.  But I'm no chef, I just like a lot of food variety  and this is all I really need.  I could get by on less, I guess, but I also hate to spend hours prepping and cooking.  So there you go!

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