The Essentials – Pots And Pans Every Kitchen Should Have

The other day a friend of mine asked me my thoughts on what are the essential pots and pans every kitchen should have. I thought this was an interesting questions because with so many different sizes and styles, knowing which are the essentials can be difficult to figure out. Some things I think every cook needs to factor in before purchasing any cookware are; cookware material, maintenance, storage space and what if needed can work double duty in the kitchen.
Cookware material and maintenance are the big ones for me. There are certain materials that I do not want to work with like aluminum, because it is a reactive metal which means I need to avoid cooking high acid foods like tomato sauces. As for maintenance, I do not want to spend a lot of time caring for my cookware which, is different than abusing your cookware. Copper for example, is something that needs a bit of maintenance. Copper is an awesome heat conductor which is important and I enjoy cooking with my copper pot but, it is also a reactive metal that can colour food if not taken care of.  For this reason, I only have a couple of copper pots that I keep on hand when I am cooking.
Here is a snapshot of the essential pots and pans that you will find in my kitchen, It isn’t everything I have but these are my go to pots and pans that I couldn’t live without.

My Essentials

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The following is a list of different pots and pans that you may want to consider when looking at essentials for your kitchen. it isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will get you started. These are the pots and pans that you’ll probably find that you use the most.

  1. Large Saute Pan: Has straight sides and a large surface area. I recommend having one that is at least 12-inches in diameter and 2 inches deep, which is ideal for sautéing, braising, frying, and making quick sauces.
  2. Sauce Pan: A saucepan is something that you will want to own if possible, in a couple of different sizes. I have 2 sizes,  a 2 quart and 4 quart. They are great to use for anything that needs gentle even heat like warming milk. They are also great for cooking vegetables, soups, rices, and pastas.
  3. Non Stick Skillet: A skillet is essentially a frying pan. Non stick is great to have on hand for food that you know there is a high probability of sticking, like omelets or frittatas. The thing to keep in mind with non stick is that they have a short life span and it is important not to use any metal utensils. For this reason, you may want to also have a metal skillet. I have both non stick and metal skillets in my kitchen.
  4. Cast Iron Skillet: Very sturdy and durable. I have had mine for almost 20 years and I use it all the time. I would also recommend a 10 – 12-inch size. Cast iron skillet retains its heat for a very long time. These skillets need to be seasoned before using for the first time.
  5. Enamel Dutch Oven: I love dutch ovens. They are coated cast iron pots that can go directly from the stove top to the oven. They are great for cooking hearty dishes like stews, soups and chili. If you are tight on storage space or budget, this pot can work double duty so you don’t have to by a stock pot.
  6. Roasting Pan: They are great because they come with a rack that allows the bird to sit above the drippings and get nice and crispy. You could get away with using a cast iron skillet if you can’t afford one but the challenge is keep the bird off the bottom and the size of the bird will matter.
  7. Baking sheet: Baking sheets are a must have for being able to bake cookies and dough but they also come in handy for roasting veggies in the oven. I have 2 sets of baking sheets, one for strictly baking purposes and a set for roasting. Using baking sheets to roast things like vegetables can beat up your pans quickly so it is helpful if possible to have a set for roasting and a set for baking, if your budget can afford it. I prefer aluminum or metal baking sheets vs non stick because the life span of non stick is a lot less.

Nice To Have

  1. Stock Pot: Most of what a stock pot does a dutch oven can do. However, if you want to make a larger quantity of something like chili or stock, then a stock pot can be a great essential in any kitchen.
  2. Casserole Dish: Functional for both baking and cooking. Casserole dish is great because it can go from the oven to the table and look good. It can also due double duty and be used to bake cakes and squares. I would recommend a 9×13 as the size tends to work for most cooking and baking needs.

Cookware Material

There are different types of cookware materials to choose from. It is important to think about what will suit your needs and budget before purchasing. I am of the mindset that you get what you pay for and it is important to do your homework. I would rather have fewer good quality essentials and add on over time vs having more essentials and having to replace them because of a short lifespan. Below is some information on the different materials that hopefully you will find helpful.

  • Stainless Steel: Non reactive, durable  but can be expensive.
  • Copper: Awesome heat conductor, expensive need to take special care, reactive and can colour food.
  • Aluminum: Heats up quickly, reactive metal so avoid cooking acidic foods like pasta sauce.
  • Non Stick: Shorter life span vs stainless steel, coating will wear over time , avoid using metal utensils.
  • Cast Iron: Retains its heat for a very long time. Need to be seasoned before using for the first time, special care so they do not rust.

I hope the above helps you find the essentials you need for your kitchen – enjoy!

 

Easter Egg Decorating

I love decorating for the holidays, any holiday actually. I have bins full of decorations that Paul pulls out for me whenever there is a holiday approaching. Decorating for the holidays also means craft time and if I am lucky, craft time with Em. I love searching on Pinterest and thinking about new crafts for us to make every holiday.  It’s a great way to encourage creativity, building memories and traditions that will last and be passed down from generation to generation. One tradition for Easter that Em and I like to do is decorating Easter eggs. We have done them several different ways over the years from using shaving cream, food colouring, Kool-Aid, watercolour, wax  and dyes to create beautiful colours and patterns. This year we decided to use purple cabbage and gold paint to create a robins egg blue colour with gold flex. The one thing I will say about using natural dyes like purple cabbage is I find that they take a lot longer to do then the ready to use dyes you get at the store. The pictures below are mostly of me doing each of the steps – Em lost interest when she realized that it was going to take more than 10 minutes for this craft but that’s ok because it is also a great craft to do on your own.

The Easter Eggs

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I love the way these look, so pretty and so creative. A couple of things that we did different is that I we used hallow eggs bought from the dollar store and I didn’t leave the eggs in the dye for as long as you would want, to achieve the different shades of blue. Plus, traditional robins eggs are usually speckled where ours have more of a splattered artistic look to them.

 

Here is what you will need:

  • 12 eggs (hard boiled, hollow or artificial
  • 1 purple cabbage roughly chopped
  • Gold acrylic paint
  • Paint brush  with stiffer bristles hairs
  • 6 cups of water
  • 5 tbs of white vinegar
  • A large Pot

 

Here is how to make the Easter Eggs:

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  • Roughly chop the cabbage ( I only used half of the cabbage)
  • Add the cabbage and water to the pot and bring to a boil.
  • Once the cabbage and water is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes and then let cool.

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  • Once the cabbage is cooled, removed the cabbage from the pot.
  • Add 5 tbs of white vinegar and stir.

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  • Add the eggs to the water and cover with the dye. If you are using artificial or hollow eggs be sure to stir them gentle and frequently because they will not sink to the bottom like hard boiled eggs will.
  • Keep eggs in dye for a minimum of 1 hour up to overnight. The longer you leave the eggs in the dye the darker they will become.

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  • Remove the eggs and place on a paper towel until dried. I like to used an empty egg carton to stand the eggs to dry.

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  • Once the eggs are dry, tip the end of the paint brush in the gold paint and flick the bristles to create the desired pattern on your eggs.
  • Let eggs dry on a paper towel.

I hope this craft inspires you to be creative in your home – enjoy!

 

 

 

Staying Afloat: DIY Wooden Buoys

DIY projects can really show how creative we all are. They also can say a lot about people by the type of project and colours that we choose to how patient or inpatient we are by the steadiness of our hand or the rush of a brush stroke. As I stare out my front window at the thaw of the winter almost behind us, I begin to think of the crafts and projects that I want to do for the summer ahead. I usually start by thinking about what craft projects I completed last year, is there anything on my list that I didn’t complete or that I loved so much I would want to do again this year. One project that comes to mind that I thought was worth sharing, is the wooden buoys that I made last year out of leftover 4×4 fence post. Last year we had had to replace a section of fence and Paul had some leftover fence posts. Once Sunday morning I was surfing Pinterest and came across wooden buoys and thought to myself, I can do this and it will look so good by the pool.

Wooden buoy

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Here is what you will need:

  • 1 4×4 post, skill saw, 120 grit sand paper, acrylic paint, paint tape, paint brushes, number stencil, drill, decorative rope

How to make the wooden buoys

  • Cut wood into blocks and make two diagonal cuts with a skill saw. Drill hole for rope with a hand drill to desired size. Sand wood until it is smooth and you feel no rough patches. I divided mine into three sections of colours using paint tape. Paint the larger sections first, you may need to apply two to three coats for a solid coverage. Once painted, carefully tape the number stencil to the wood and paint desired number sequence. Let dry before removing stencil. You may need to clean up the outer edges of the numbers when you remove the stencil if the paint seeped under the stencil. Place rope through hole and tie into a knot at the end – viola!

I hope this craft inspires you to be creative in your home – enjoy!

Saving money momma

Everyone wants to save money when they shop, I certainly do. Shopping for weekly groceries can be expensive, not only because of the cost of food today but also because I found we weren’t always eating what we bought and ended up throwing food away. The best way I have been able to ease the dent in my wallet and eat what we buy is by planning ahead. Planning ahead helped us be more conscious of what we were eating on a weekly basis, helped to make healthier food choices and helped to save money off our grocery bill each week. However, trying to create a weekly meal plan for 3 meals a day was a bit overwhelming. So I started out by focusing on planning ahead our weekly dinners only. Dinners for us, is our most expensive meal of the day. So, I creating a menu board (that is really just a chalkboard) that hangs in the kitchen and I fill in what we are having for dinner every night of the week.

By planning for what we are eating every night, I was able to look at what we had on hand and only shop for the foods we needed to make the dinners. I was also able to see how balanced the dinner menus were i.e. eating too much meat or carbs or not incorporating enough fruits and veggies. It really helped us to make healthier choices.

I also started to make as much as I could from scratch (bread, pasta noodles, crackers, etc) so we could limit the amount of processed food we were buying.  This way, when I went shopping I was able to focus on the foods that are on the outer perimeter of the supermarket first, which tend to be where the fresh produce, meats, etc., are kept vs. the inner isles where most of the processed food is.

Once I got in to a routine about planning our weekly dinners before grocery shopping, being conscious of what we have on hand and what we need to buy for breakfast and lunch also became a natural part of the process.

It still amazes me that this simple DIY craft of creating a chalkboard has helped us save money, be much more aware of what we have on hand and helped to avoid the mid-week runs for forgotten items. But, what amazes me the most has nothing to do with these things (even though that is the main reason I did it), it is that everyone gets involved. Everyone sees what is planned for the week and because of this, they started making dinner suggestions  – which is kind of cool. It eases the pressure off of me to always think of dinner ideas and it has become something we do as a family.

The menu board

 

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The menu board doesn’t have to be fancy. I have a string that hangs from the board for the chalk and eraser to hang in a maple syrup can. I also draw a smaller box in chalk off to the side of the menu to remind me of the things I need to make that week. For example in the picture above, I need to make bread for our BLTs plus dog food and cookies for our dog Clarence.

To make the menu board I used an old framed print I had hanging around the house I had bought many moons ago at Winners or HomeSense, sprayed it with chalkboard paint that we purchased from the Home Depot and voila!

However, if you don’t have an old framed print hanging around you can very easily make a menu board by taking an old frame, cut a board to fit the frame and paint the board with several layers of chalkboard paint.

Regardless of how you make your chalkboard, I recommend to respray with a fresh coat of chalkboard paint from time to time.

I hope that this craft has inspired you to be creative in your home – enjoy!