My Top 10 Kitchen Essentials

Recently, a friend of mine asked me for some kitchen advice. What is good for an every day, Average Joe kind of person to have if they're trying to cook more healthy food? Continue on for a look into some of my pantry staples and favorite kitchen equipment!


FRENCH PRESS

Ok, I know what you're thinking, coffee addict much?! The fact that this is my first recommendation probably reveals my addiction just a little bit. But there are other things I love to use this little guy for. I use the Chambord model by Bodum, in both the 1-cup and 8-cup depending on if it's just for me or for other people too.


It occurred to me a few months ago that you can use it for more than just coffee. Pretty much anything I'd like to steep, I put in there. My new favorite is to make golden milk with it (recipe on it's way). When I'm not using the french press for coffee or golden milk, I use it to steep things like tea leaves or freshly grated ginger with lemon.



BLENDER (I live for smoothies)

If you're trying to eat more plants, I feel like a blender is a must, at least for those that don't really eat many salads like me (guilty).


Sometimes it's easy for me to miss out on my daily greens, so I love to make smoothies packed with them. Plus, blending your greens helps you consume more than you would if you were eating them in a salad. You can stuff a few handfuls of spinach in your smoothie and drink it easily as opposed to trying to chomp away at it. Don't get me wrong, salads are great if you like to eat them, but having a blender and making smoothies is a good way to pack the nutrients in.


Also it's fun to make some yummy peanut butter protein shakes after workouts and things like that (recipe to come). I also make my almond milk with a blender (recipe to come.. as well!) Right now I'm using more of a "bullet" type blender but a Vitamix is on my list for when this one burns out!


Anyway people, get a blender and it will change your life.



WOK PAN

I make almost everything in this damn pan. I'm not even kidding. Who said woks were just for stir-frys? Not me.


I pretty much make anything that requires some depth in a pan. Like, when I make pasta and sauce. I use the wok to sauté my onions, garlic, and veggies, then I add the tomato and make the sauce. When my pasta is done cooking in a separate pot, I add it right into the wok and toss it around in the sauce.


I make loaded tofu scrambles in it that would normally overflow in any kind of shallow pan. I also make one-pot Thai noodles in it, this way I can cook the veggies and noodles in it together to save doing any more dishes. One of my favorite uses is for making CURRY! You can make soupy, delicious curry in it. I find when I make curry in a normal pot, the veggies I'm cooking stick to the bottom of it or don't cook through well enough for some reason. But not with a wok..


I don't know, maybe I just need better pots. But try the wok!



GARLIC PRESS

Now this invention is just a gem. Not because I don't want any garlic stench on my fingers (I love garlic too much to mind that), but for another magical reason. Using a garlic press squeezes the garlic in a way that releases the juices more than if you were mincing it up by hand. And it's an easy way to get it into small bits so it cooks down justly amazingly.


Call it psychological, but I honestly taste a substantial difference between both methods of garlic mincing. Plus, it's faster, easy to clean, and all that good stuff that we love while cooking.



JARS (re-use yours!)

I pretty much always save empty jars. Jars from sauces, olives, sauerkraut, you name it. I love using them for many reasons. 1) You don't have to buy extra reusable containers, which are usually plastic and not the healthiest to preserve food in 2) I find that jars seal very well, which preserves the food longer and keeps it fresher 3) You save on cash 4) It's better for the environment! Plus it looks cool to have all different kinds of jars I think.


Depending on the size, I use them to store different things. Usually, I keep small jars for spices and bigger ones for rice and other grains. You can even make fun little labels to make them that much cooler.



GROUND FLAXSEED

I try to always have ground flax in a jar in my kitchen at all times. Why? Because adding a little bit into your diet is the easiest way to get your much-needed Omega-3's and other good stuff into your diet.


According to nutritionfacts.org, flaxseeds have been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure significantly. It is also known as one of the richest sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids and have around one hundred times more cancer-fighting lignans than other foods. They have demonstrated to help fight breast and prostate cancers, control cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels, as well as reduce inflammation and successfully treat constipation.


This is a miracle seed, plain and simple. Flax can be added into your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or even be used as the perfect egg replacer for baking.

Side note: flaxseeds must be ground up in order for your body to properly digest them and reap their benefits!


Also, I like to keep flax in the fridge to preserve freshness.



AVO-DAMN-CADOS

Yes, people! I always try to keep at least a few avocados on hand. Before, I used to never keep avocados in the kitchen for some reason. But whenever I needed them I would run out to the store but would almost always only find hard ones that weren't ripe yet. This was so frustrating when the dish I was making for dinner required them and I couldn't use them yet!

So, I decided I need to just grab a bag of them and keep them in the kitchen. I preferably try to find a bag of them that has a mix of some almost ripe ones and completely un-ripe ones, because I absolutely hate when they all ripen at the same time and I end up not being able to use them up before they go bad.


Avocados are God's gift to the earth and are the best things ever, pretty much. When I have a couple of them lying around I also just tend to use them more which is great because they are loaded with nutrients like vitamin K and folate, as well as heart-healthy mono-saturated fats. They literally make your skin and hair glow!


You can pretty much add them to anything from toast, to burritos, to smoothies. So grab yourself a bag and eat them up!


Side note: if you want your avos to ripen faster, place in a brown paper bag with a banana or two!



NANERS

Same principle as the creamy green gems mentioned above. I always have a bunch of bananas on hand to take as a to-go snack or use for smoothies. They are packed with good ol' potassium as we all know, but also with tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin - one of the brain's neurotransmitters that makes you happy. So don't be shy with this crescent-shaped sunshine fruit!


Whether they be for eating as a snack or for smoothies, I ALWAYS let them ripen until they get tons of black dots on them. If you eat bananas before this stage, when they are unripe, their starches haven't broken down yet. So, they will be very binding for your digestive system and can actually make you constipated. When you eat them when they get their lovely dots, then your body breaks them down very well and actually can help you poo! Plus, they are much more sweeter and delicious at this stage which is the best part.


I leave some naners around for snacking but the majority of them will go to my smoothies. So I let them ripen, cut them up, and freeze them. Frozen bananas are magical and work so much better in smoothies compared to when they're not frozen. When you blend frozen bananas they make the smoothie so much creamier, like ice cream. I'm telling you.. try it if you haven't already!


Side note: if you want your bananas to ripen faster, put them in a brown paper bag or next to some citrus fruit.



NUTRITIONAL YEAST (nooch)

Well, here it is as expected I'm sure. A vegan's best friend.


This stuff is just too good. Whether you're making a plant-based cheese or popcorn, a few sprinkles of this fairy dust takes the flavor profile up to the next level.


Besides its cheesy/creamy/nutty/naturally salty taste, it is chock full of vitamins and minerals. If you're not familiar with it, you're probably thinking "What the hell is it?" With that name and odd color, I don't blame you. "Nutritional yeast" is a bit of a turn-off.


Well, it is actually inactive yeast loaded with vitamins B3, B6, B9, and B12, as well as protein, potassium, zinc, selenium, fiber, and the list goes on. It's also low in saturated fat and sodium which makes it pretty darn guilt free to indulge yourself in. Like many Forkprint recommendations, this sh** is so good.. and good for you! Win-win.



CASHEWS

These little babies are a must to have on hand. Depending on where you're living, they can be a little pricey, but check out some of your local stores that might sell them in bulk and you'll save a lot of cash!


I pretty much always have these around mainly because they're a great addition in making vegan "milk" products like cheese due to their creamy, fatty consistency. Just blend with a boiled potato and carrot, salt, pep, some nooch, and you have yourself a creamy cheese sauce. You can add a little tapioca and/or arrowroot flour to that if you want a cheese for pizza that melts and stretches. You can even blend some cashews with water to make a creamer for sauces, like a penne alla vodka or carbonara sauce. All I can say is, stay tuned for some recipes using cashews, friends!


They are a great source of minerals like copper, manganese, and magnesium (all good for your heart, brain, muscles, and nerves), so it makes eating them that much more rewarding. Bon appetit!

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