The right tools make all the difference in the world. They save time, energy, and frustration, and make the difference between a “so-so” dish and perfection. So today we’re talking about the must-have kitchen items that every cook or baker needs to have on-hand.
Why do I believe that good tools are so critical?? For starters, the number of times I got my finger instead of the potato with my old vegetable peeler. Or just straight-up avoided grating fresh cheese because it was the WORST with a box grater. Or made rubbery grilled chicken breasts.
BUT NO MORE! Over the years I’ve found what I think are the best kitchen gadgets (and the must-haves) that are foundational to stocking any kitchen. I’m not really getting into big appliances as much, like my stand mixer or large food processor…this is mostly small, more affordable staples.
Absolute must-have kitchen tools
A meat thermometer is critical to getting your meat perfectly done without overcooking it and also without cutting into it constantly (thereby drying it out). It is my forever companion when grilling in particular, and it’s how I made the most amazing grilled chicken breasts.
I use it for bread as well, to make sure the bread is done, avoid a doughy center, and know when the bread is cool enough for slicing.
I have a deep and abiding love for great coffee. But historically I haven’t had a lot of iced coffee. One here or there, but it wasn’t a habit. Until the last six months of being at home due to coronavirus, when all the sudden I became a total master at making iced coffee at home using my Aeropress.
And I somewhat accidentally discovered my hack for the best iced coffee ever…using sweetened condensed milk. Now it’s not like I’m the first person to ever think of that (in fact, it’s a staple of Thai and Vietnamese coffee and iced tea).
But I had some sweetened condensed milk sitting in my fridge from making a delicious bourbon milk punch cocktail, and wasn’t sure what to do with it. On a whim I decided to use it instead of simple syrup, and realized that it added a lovely rich velvety quality, enough sweetness, and didn’t water down the end result like milk does.
A long, long time ago I posted about the Pioneer Woman’s cold brew iced coffee recipe, and hadn’t really tried anything else until this Aeropress style. It tasted fine enough but not amazing, and was kind of a pain to make, so I just never ended up doing it often.
Just as I was about the publish this post, I found this article on Epicurious that explains why cold brew *doesn’t* give you the best tasting iced coffee, and it finally made sense to me. It creates a more deadened, kind of stale flavor, uses way more coffee beans, and gets oxidized over time. READ THE POST
Anyone who knows me is well aware of my love of good coffee. It’s insanely well-documented (including in a detailed guide to Italy’s coffee and spending a morning exploring a Colombian coffee farm), and a great daily pleasure.
And while I love spending time in local coffee shops, I spend almost every morning sitting on my couch with my kitties…and I need that to include great coffee. So one of the tools in my arsenal is a milk frother that helps me froth milk at home and make delicious cappuccino on my own!
And the thing is, they’re super affordable and easy to use—I highly recommend getting one to up your at-home coffee game! I’ve had a few different ones over the past decade, and these are a few of my all-time favorites.
This one has been a game-changer for me. It was recommended by My Cheese when I visited her in L.A. last year, and I loved how easy it is to use! My milk steams and froths in less than 30 seconds with a great foam texture, and it’s super easy to clean (which is a major bonus).
Wrapping up our trip with a few days in the Rotorua area of the North Island!
We’d planned to head down to Hamilton for one night so we could do a dawn hot air balloon ride, but the weather didn’t cooperate so we headed straight to our rental house on Lake Tarawera, about 20 minutes from Rotorua. It was dark when we arrived, but early the next morning Sarai and I took our coffee down the hill to our little jetty and watched the sunrise.
Our deck had a great view! We were totally off the grid out there—no cell service or wifi—so we lit the fireplace, sat on the deck, drank wine and talked. It was so relaxing!
The Rotorua area is famous for being a “thermal wonderland”. One day we visited Wai-o-Tapu, probably the most well-known of the thermal areas. The gorgeous Champagne Pool, with its “artist’s palette” came to life for us, and this highlighter-yellow lake was unbelievable! But everything smelled like rotten egg, which was really gross—I haven’t been up for eating eggs since then…
We found this awesome cafe called Capers in Rotorua. They had all sorts of great stuff, so we stopped there twice for brunch. The second time I had this amazing toasted brioche with ricotta and local honey.READ THE POST
We spent the last eight days in the Nelson/Tasman region of the South Island. We’d rented a lovely little house in Richmond and based ourselves there for various food and beverage explorations, as well as attending the Feast of Tabernacles. Nelson is one of the bigger cities in the area, about 46,000 people. It’s about an area from the Abel Tasman National Park, which has gorgeous coastal tracks and kayaking and seals and beaches. It and the Marlborough region are also acclaimed for their local wines and beers, so it was the perfect place for our foursome to stay!
The scenery in this part of the South Island was so different from where we were previously. Golden beaches, turquoise waters, green hills—it was like Hawaii up in here.
Split Apple Rock in Abel Tasman. Not an actual apple.
We hiked Pinchgut Trail in Nelson Lakes National Park, up Mt. Robert…it was crazy steep and we just about died. We rewarded our delirious, exhausted selves with a giant dinner and beer at The Vic.
We took a boat ride along the Abel Tasman coast and then had an awesome dinner of lamb and good wine at Ford’s in Nelson.
This area is particularly known for its wines, so I put on my comfy wine tasting skirt and got down to business…READ THE POST
Greetings from the future!!!
No, really, it’s tomorrow here. I’m in gorgeous, sunny New Zealand, soaking up the unbelievable scenery, talking to awesome Kiwis (the people, not the bird), and hanging out with three cool friends. We’re here for the Feast of Tabernacles, but since we were coming so far (and spending so much money!) we wanted to cram as much awesome into our trip as possible. As always when I travel, I am also super excited about trying all kinds of local food and drink!
We spent our first few days in the Mackenzie region, after flying into Christchurch and then driving a few hours down to Lake Tekapo. When we arrived at our first rental house, we were utterly charmed, and visions of coffee and wine in front of the fire danced in our heads.
We immediately set out to explore, taking in the gorgeous turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo before heading into the village in search of sustenance.
We had decent pizzas and good local beer. Great, interesting beer is one of the things New Zealand seems to offer in abundance. This is a local oyster stout, and when I asked the waiter if it had oysters in it he said no, but then the internet told me otherwise. Oops… :SREAD THE POST
It’s been a whirlwind two weeks! My parents and I spent a week and a half exploring the nooks and crannies of Croatia, Slovenia, and northern Italy. We started our trip in the unreal beauty of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. We walked through the rushing waterfalls and gorgeous teal and green waters.
For more foodie + travel adventures, try:
Well. This has been a long time coming. Somehow it’s now August, when I should have posted it back in April, but better late than never. Right??
Some of you may have noticed that I changed my blog’s subtitle—though most of you probably didn’t, because who reads blog subtitles anyway? It used to be “adventures in a tiny kitchen”, but that’s not really true any more. Because I bought a condo (that’s right, I’m a grown-up) and now have an awesome kitchen!
The kitchen is really what sold me on this place. New, stainless steel appliances, gas stove and oven, nicer cabinets (and lots of them). And most importantly, lots of counter space. I’d lamented my one square foot of counter space in my old apartment enough times that you know how much that means!READ THE POST
A week ago today, I was seeing people mention on Twitter that the Northeast was preparing for a hurricane. Having not paid much attention to the news recently, I assumed it was typical overreaction.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. It’s the first time I remember watching a natural disaster through the Twitter lens, seeing everyone’s reactions in real time. Most fascinating/horrifying for me is this one of the waters breaking into a New Jersey transit station—like the waters flooding through the rooms of the Titanic.
But I digress. It got me to thinking about the more fortunate of the hurricane victims, all the people who rode out the storms safely in their homes without any major damage, but now are kind of stranded until all the stores open up (and get more supplies in). If the Yankees were anything like Atlanta preparing for a storm, all the stores have been out of alcohol, milk, bread, water, and toilet paper for quite some time. A few years ago, the South was hit by a “Snowpocalypse”. Atlanta has like eight snow plows for the entire city, four of which are generally out of repair at any point in time. It also has insanely curvy and hilly roads. So any time there’s even the slightest hint of winter precipitation, the city just pre-emptively shuts down. Schools close before there’s even a snowflake, stores are emptied, everyone leaves work. And probably nine times out of ten, it ends up being a false alarm.READ THE POST
So, if you’ll remember, I tried out a 1-Hour French Bread recipe a couple weeks ago for my family, and it was awesome. This morning was my breakfast day at work (we take turns bringing in breakfast for our department), so I decided to make the Kale, Bacon, & Egg Breakfast Casserole and (given time restraints) the French bread and also some fresh strawberry jam. I also ended up having unannounced company last night, so I was a little distracted when I was making everything.
Funny story…I forgot that I’d halved the recipe last time I made it, because I didn’t need two loaves of bread. When I rolled the loaf out, I was thinking, “man, this is huge!” (that’s what she said…). But then it just kept expanding as it baked. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure I set a record for the world’s largest loaf of French bread.
Just meant I could feed half the office, not just my department…