Essential Kitchen Tools for Healthy and Practical Cooking

For those who love cooking, the kitchen can become clogged by utensils and tools that we once had a crush on and thought they’d change our lives, but that in reality we barely ever use…

Nevertheless, there are those very essential tools that we couldn’t do without and that have become our critical companions as we cook delicious and healthy dishes for our beloved ones.

There might be different reasons why you get attached to a certain cooking tool: an electric hand mixer for chocolate mousse, a baking sheet for oatmeal and coconut cookies, an electric bread maker for fresh homemade bread, a special pan for crepes etc.

In my case, my criteria of choice for the selection I’ll present you today, is for daily cooking with healthy, organic and fresh ingredients that nourishes my body and calms my mind. And a second very important aspect of my choice, is that it will help me save time and avoid struggle in the cooking process.

Even though I’ll be listing them in a numbered sequencing, they are all equally important and essential in my kitchen. For your convenience and for all items described below, you may click on the pictures to find them available for sale online.

1. Electric Food Steamer

Black & Decker Food Steamer - HS900

Black & Decker Food Steamer – HS900

I’ve had mine for 7 years, and it’s exactly the model shown below which Black & Decker has upgraded since to a newer model, but I truly love my old one! So the beauty of this tool is that you can use it not only for steaming veggies, but you can also cook rice and quinoa with it! It comes with a convenient rice bowl that allows to obtain the perfect fluffy rice or quinoa.

Quick quinoa cooking instructions:

1 cup of rinsed quinoa

1 teaspoon of olive oil

1 cup of water (filtered water is best to avoid funny tap water taste, and unnecessary chemicals)

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour the quinoa in the rica bowl; add the olive oil and stir to coat, then add salt and pepper; add water. Set timer on 25 minutes. And let it cook to perfection with no other intervention!

Other Use: asparagus, kale, potatoes, sweet corn – basically all kind of veggies you’d like to steam – but also great for fish, seafood and chicken steaming for the non-vegetarian.

2. Pressure Cooker

Pressure Cooker by T-fal Express

Ingrid Hoffman Simply Delicioso by T-fal Express

I bought mine yeaaaaaaaars ago in a local store, and is an “unknown brand” that was very cheap (about $30). It’s a 4-quart capacity, which is perfect for 1 to 4 people depending on what you cook. It’s the perfect tool to make soups in no time. Once the cooker starts whistling as the steam comes out, you can set your timer on 20 minutes for most soups, including chicken and/or lentil soup (I’ll post soon my dahl recipe (lentil soup). But it is especially great for cooking whole grains and beans (see my Hard Berries and Bean Salad recipe) that traditionally cooked require a long time to be ready. You can reduce the cooking time by more than half in most cases. Click here for instructions and timing on how to cook beans and grains in a pressure cooker.

You can get any brand of pressure cooker – including that of which I just shared the Cooking Times – but the featured one here is probably my next pressure cooker (already on my Amazon wish list).

3. Dutch Oven

Cast Iron Enameled Dutch Oven

Cast Iron Enameled Dutch Oven

Mine was a gift made by a very dear friend on my birthday about 6 years ago. It is an authentic Le Creuset enameled cast iron 5-1/2 quart, in a beautiful cobalt color. Le Creuset is very pricey though, so a cheaper brand such as Lodge (featured here)  will do the work probably just as well (I looove my Le Creuset though, maybe my French origins and the memory it brings me of my great grandmother who had several in her kitchen…).

Cooking in a cast iron dutch oven gives a special flavor to stews, and is ideal for cooking long hours on the stove, adding ingredients along the way based on the cooking time required for each. For example, if using delicate fresh herbs such as basil or cilantro, add those preferably about 5 minutes before the end of cooking time called for the recipe. If added at the beginning with other ingredients, they’ll lose their flavor and won’t barely be noticeable taste-wise in the final dish.

One of my favorite recipes cooked with a dutch oven, is a vegetarian version of the French stew – called Daube in French –  made with carrots, seitan (the traditional  recipe is made with beef), onion, garlic, red wine, and a variety of mediterranean herbs. But that’s also my favorite tool to make Spanish garbanzo or white bean soup with smoked paprika, inspired by my neighbor’s cooking in Spain.

4. Hard Anodized Pans and Pots

Hard Anodized Non Stick Skillet

Hard Anodized Non Stick Skillet

Since I found out that the Teflon material used in the non-stick pans could be toxic and was linked to health issues, I replaced all my non-stick by hard anodized ones. They are easy to use, to clean, to maintain, and no worries with the scratches, they are safe for my cooking and my body! I discover this technology and bought my first hard anodized skillet at World Market several years ago, but now you can find them everywhere in most popular brands.

No need to have a fancy and expensive 20-utensil set, I can cook almost everything and anything for up to 6 guests, with one small skillet (8 inch), one medium skillet (10-12 inch) and a deep skillet with glass lid (featured here).

Use: From eggs, to fish, to stir-fry, to homemade pasta sauce, to crepes and pancakes… you can use them to cook anything with little or no oil necessary.

5. Ginger Grater

Ginger root and grater by Yana

The perfect Japanese grater for ginger: Kyocera Ceramic Grater

I’ve had several graters through the years, more or less convenient, but I was finally gifted the best one ever this year by one of my yoga students (thank you Ron so much!). This is a tool I use from early in the morning – when making my fresh homemade chai tea, to any time in the day, up to late at night (when I crave a hot ginger tea before going to sleep!).

It is the perfect one because: it’s big enough to grate lots of ginger, it has a silicone ring under that prevents it from moving and slide while grating, and its sharp surface grates greatly even the most fibrous ginger. Ginger is one of my favorite spices, and I use it a lot in my cooking, not only because of the amazing flavor it brings to any dish (cooked or raw), but also for its healing properties.

Hot Ginger and Honey Drink

1 cup of hot water

1 teaspoon of grated ginger

1/8 apple cider vinegar (optional)

Honey to taste…. Delicious when you’re cold, sick or when your stomach is upset!

6. Suribachi 

Weird name that you might have never heard, but it’s simply a Japanese spice mortar. Traditionally used in Japan to grind sesame seeds to prepare their seasoning called Gomashio (ground toasted sesame seeds and salt), I personally use it to manually grind the spices I add to my dishes: cumin, fenugreek, cardamom, coriander, mustard etc.

Winter Ayurvedic Spice Blend

A Japanese mortar, the suribachi

A Japanese mortar, the suribachi

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 hulled cardamom seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)

1/4 salt

In a stainless dry pan, lightly roast the cumin, the coriander and the fennel on the stove, on medium heat. Make sure not to burn it! Using the suribachi, grind the roasted spices along with the hulled cardamom. Mix in the remaining ingredients. You may keep the prepared blend for a couple of months in an airtight container.

7. Electric Kettle

Aroma Electric Kettle

My passion for tea comes from childhood: at my family’s home, there was always a teapot on the table, from early in the morning till tea time in the late afternoon. I still drink lots of tea, and other hot drinks, along the day. The convenience of getting hot water fast and easy without the mess of having to use a pot on the stove, is a great asset in my kitchen. Even though I mostly use my kettle to prepare my hot drinks, it’s also very useful when I need to quickly add hot water to a stew or a soup that needs extra liquid to finish cooking; to prepare quick oatmeal (no need to have a microwave), or to prepare a bowl of hot water and essential oils for an inhalation when my sinuses bother me (or someone else in the house).

I’ve had my current Aroma kettle for so many years, that I can’t recall when I bought it! It’s still in perfect, shiny condition and works wonderfully heating water within minutes.  There are fancy and expensive electric kettle on the market, taking advantage of the popularity of tea as a powerful antioxidant. But this one for just $30 does the job just as well as most!

Now… I’m ready for some tea!

I hope this selection will help you make some choices to set up your kitchen, and inspire you for some healthy home cooking in a simple, fast and efficient way:)

Bon appétit!