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    Kitchen Must Have Tools for Santa’s Wish List: Part 1

    Although not the most romantic gifts, I’ve found over the years that putting kitchen items on my Santa list is a fantastic way to re-set my assortment of tools. Plus, truth be told, it’s money that I’ll likely spend either way so might as well help the family budget out by creating a wish list. You may want to consider a little self-care retail therapy too if some of the items below will help you out during holiday meal and party prep.

    I’m going to start off with a list of things every kitchen should have in Part 1 of this series, and Part 2 will offer up some great small items that are perfect for stocking stuffers and low $ gifts.

    Must-haves include:

    1. Great quality coffee maker. We started off December by giving ourselves an early gift that is one of the best buys I’ve made in a very long time! It’s seriously so A-MAZ-ING that I want to shout about it from my rooftop: a hot and cold brew Breville coffee maker. Now you might ask, seriously?!? What’s the big deal? Well, this little baby is so advanced that you can brew the perfect cup of either style brew for your tastes, and it doesn’t require a PhD to use. I used to be a 2–3-cup-a-day gal but then (TMI warning) was diagnosed with an ulcer and had to cut back to 1 small (sad) little cup a day because of the acid…so I was SO happy to get turned on to Cold Brew coffee—it’s so much easier on my tummy 🙂 If you haven’t had cold brew yet, try it! And now I found this glorious and pretty machine that does cold brew and delicious hot brew. It seriously kicks butt over the last pretty high end machine that we had and, although not a mega bargain, will save me lots of $$$ in the long run now that I’m not buying it out all the time!!! I’m in ♥! Side note: I know that Keurig and Nepresso are super popular but compare their flavor to this and you will be converted. It’s a world of taste difference AND you aren’t adding to the plastic in landfills or having to buy expensive pods.
    2. Cast iron braising pan or dutch oven. Advice given to me ages ago when I was a manager of Macy’s Bridal Registry is that it’s best to invest in a few great quality pots and pans than buy big sets, and to get pieces that serve many purposes plus can be both stovetop and oven-friendly. Some of the best kitchen advice I’ve ever received! Another best buy of the year for me has been a Le Crueset Braiser. It’s become a primary work horse in my kitchen. If you don’t have a cast iron Dutch Oven or braiser, I’d strongly recommend adding one. I chose this large one in lavender but most folks probably can get the smaller version. It’s proven to be incredibly multi-purpose and I love the way it browns on the stovetop as well as slow roasts in the oven. There’s a huge range in price with Cast Iron from those in the $20 range up to some in the $500+ range. Which you choose is frankly a personal budget decision. I went for more middle of the road and spent a bit more because I loved the idea of stove to table that you get with Le Crueset plus I’d frankly lusted for a piece for years.
    3. High grade 10″ non-stick pan. Our old non-stick had seen better days so I headed to the Sur La Table store in Seattle to get advice on which brand I should get. I’ve found that I churn through the lower quality brands because the coating gets chipped and ruined so easily, plus the browning capability if often less than great. They recommended the Scanpan Non-Stick Skillet with Lid and I’ve found it to be fantastic in every way: high quality so will last for ages, browns well and lightweight ?
    4. Sturdy baking sheets. When I did my big kitchen reorg a few months ago (which will be featured soon on the blog), I tossed all of my flimsy cooking sheets that had seen better days. What a difference! The perfect assortment has proven to be: 2 large sheet pans, 1 jelly roll large pan, 2 half sheet pans, pizza pans with air vents for crispier crusts, and if you bake cookies often, add 1 large air cushioned flat style cookie pan.
    5. High quality knives (just a few!). This is one thing cooks get super passionate about. A friend posted on Facebook that she was going to get a new set and WOW—it was one of the most engaged, passionate, and varied conversations I’d seen in a long time! If you’re looking to replace them, you really need to try them in person at a nicer cooking store. The most important thing is that the feel balanced and comfortable for your hand so test driving is a MUST. I’ve heard endless faves about some of the high caliber Japanese brands like Miyabi or Shun, as well as the Bob Kramer by Henckels and if they fit in your hand and budget by all means, go for it!! For my little hands (I’m only 5’1”) the best balanced brand for me is Wustof Classic. For you, it may be something totally different. Look for a full tang blade, forged steel and as I said, great feel and balance. Again, pro advice I got was that the sets can be a good value depending on the maker and line you choose yet you really only need a few knives, 1 each: good 8″ chef’s(or 6″depending on your preference), slicer, bread (or serrated if you don’t slice bread often) and paring knives. If you need to replace all your knives, do price compare sets because some (like this linked one that includes a slimline knife block  or this 2-piece one) are an overall price savings.
    6. Limited selection of kitchen electronics. Emphasis on the word limited! Depending on what, how often you cook, and for how many, consider: high grade blender, toaster (I have a Smart Breville model—it’s AWESOME!), stand or hand mixer, food processor, and a great slow cooker with timer. I’m sure there are others that you’d list as “needs” or those like Instant Pots and Air Fryers that are the rage at the moment, but before you buy or store electronic items, consider this: if you don’t keep it on the counter (or very easy to put on the counter), you won’t use it. If an item is super specialized or hard to clean, you won’t use it. So remember to read reviews carefully before investing in any of these items. It’s great to know the pro’s and con’s before spending hundreds of dollars and also to consider your lifestyle and kitchen size ahead of time.

    Less is more here folks, really!

    Now that you’ve assessed an item or two on your wish list, forward this along to your hubby and family! Check out Part 2 of the Dial In Your Kitchen Series and in the new year, watch for my article on Streamlining Your Kitchen. I’ll feature a more exhaustive list of things you need and don’t need. But in the meantime, use the above guide to help get key items in your kitchen so you can be your most productive!

    Feature photo by Angela Carlyle