Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cooking Tools That Make My Life Easier

I'm a whole foods kind of gal, and I make a lot of my own meals and snacks from scratch every weekend in preparation for the upcoming week. This weekend I was on a roll and made more than usual, because I was excited to make a few new recipes. I learned to make yogurt with my new yogurt maker, made some yummy almond power bars, and my favorite of all time - cheesy kale chips which are vegan - and I might add - addictive!

It's great to have these time-saving tools to help me out so I have time to spare to enjoy the rest of my weekend.  Once I'm done making my delicious and nutritious meals, you'll find me at the beach or hiking in the Santa Monica mountains. Last week, I went to Malibu beach with my sister and two nieces. We ran in the water, enjoyed some sun for probably the last time this season, and then walked across the street for some fresh seafood. Eighty degrees in November! How I love southern California! We are so spoiled.

Cuisinart Food Processor/Blender
I use my handy dandy food processor to make almond flour, cashew cream, cake and cookie batter, .... this gadget does it all. It will chop, knead, slice, grate and blend.

The blender attachment - I use this almost every morning to make my protein shakes. Add a little milk (or alternative milk), protein powder, and get creative with nut butters, cocoa powder, fruit, flax seeds etc. and you have one nutritious meal.

I've had my processor/blender for more than 12 years and it's still going strong. This 600-watt motor can handle almost anything. If you cook several times a week or more, this will be one of the best investments you can make.

Mini Cuisinart Food Processor
The food processor family would not be complete without the baby version. How I love this little guy.  Its great for small jobs like chopping herbs, onions or garlic, making mayonnaise, aioli and dressings, pesto, and best of all it doesn't take up much kitchen space.

If you want to julienne carrots and zuchinni, make waffle fries, slice onions and tomatoes, shred cabbage for sauerkraut or beets for kvass, and do it all in a jiffy, you need one of these.  Easy to arrange and clean after use, your family and guests will love your meals and lovely presentations made possible with this gadget. Tara at Feels Like Home has a post about all the things you can make with a mandoline.  Check it out here.

Yogurt Maker
I love making my own yogurt!  I don't like most store-bought yogurts - too much sugar and additives.  In less than 15 minutes of prep, you can put your milk and cultures into these perfect serving-size jars and let it go to work in an afternoon or overnight depending on how tart you like your yogurt.  You can use regular milk, coconut milk, etc. If you have kids, they may enjoy helping you make this.  Best of all when its done, you get to add whatever you want to the yogurt.. berries, banana, apples and cinnamon, use it to make dressings, tzatziki, sauces etc.  So good and good for you!

This yogurt maker is affordable and includes easy to follow instructions.

You'll need to buy yogurt cultures.  I buy all of my cultures from Cultures for Health, and many other people in the whole health food community like them, too.  Their website has a variety of different yogurt cultures to choose from, as well as cultures for kefir, bread making, you name it they have it.

Click her to Make Yogurt at Home

Waring Pro Juicer
This is a mid-grade juicer, but it works perfect for me.  I use my juicer every couple of weeks to make green juice.  My favorite right now is:  kale or spinach, celery, carrots, green apple, ginger and lemon.  It's a good detox drink for a weekend breakfast especially when I've overdone myself eating too much junk during the week.  Hey, it happens sometimes, and my liver and kidneys need some help.

If you don't mind spending a bit more, the one below extracts the pulp for you and is easier to clean, and gets great reviews, too.

Tip:  Instead of throwing away the veggie pulp which still contains nutrients and fiber, check out Erin's blog Plan to Eat which gives some great ways to use the pulp.  Zuchinni and Carrot bread, even sneaking veggie into your kid's mac n cheese. Brilliant.

Crock Pot
Love love love my crock pot.  Who doesn't love coming home to the delicious smell of dinner waiting for you?  I use my crock pot to make traditional chicken and bone broths quite often.  Yesterday I made some Galbi, an Asian marinated short rib (beef or pork).  We plan to eat these tonight with some brown rice and kimchee.  They smell so good I can't wait!

The Crock-Pot below has several settings, and a setting to keep your food warm when it's ready and you're not.  It also has a portable crock with a securable lid to take your food to a family gathering at a park picnicor a holiday pot luck.

Emulsion Blender
I guess I could use my Cuisinart blender to puree soups, but then I'd have to pour the hot soup in and out of the pot, which can be cumbersome and dangerous. I'm asking for an accident. Instead, I use this easy to use and clean tool when I want to make sauces and pureed soups.  This week I will be making a butternut squash sage soup with some of the chicken broth I made in my crock pot, and will also use some cashew cream that I made in my food processor. The Emulsion blender blends in a matter of minutes, incorporating all of the ingredients together.

Over 1,300 reviewers average this Cuisinart emulsion blender four and a half stars.  One reviewer calls it the Audi V8 of the blender world.

I picked a zester up at Cost Plus World Market for about $9.  I love this thing!  Much better than a cheese grater, it creates a finer zest which means more flavor added to your soups and sauces.  Use it to grate citrus zest, hard cheeses and ginger.  I use a lot of ginger in Asian dishes, and get a lot more flavor using a zester.

I believe this is the same one I have.  More than 77 reviewers gave it five stars on

These tools can help you create meals in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.  Even if you enjoy cooking, I can bet you have other activities you want to get to, like spending time with your family at the beach!  No beach?  So sorry, you should really move to Southern California.  Wait! I take that back - we have enough traffic as it is.