10 Things I Use Daily in the Kitchen

Here’s a list of 10 things that I use nearly every day. The astonishing thing is that most of these couldn’t be found in my kitchen prior to 2010. Now I can’t imagine cooking (and eating) without them. What a difference a year makes.

1. Real Food – Fresh, local, seasonal, organically grown fruits, vegetables and herbs from my garden and the farmers market; local pastured pork, chicken and eggs;  local grass fed beef; local, raw, pastured dairy (why raw? read “Dairy”).

2. Cast iron cookware – I just got a cast iron combo cooker for Christmas and a well-seasoned, 12-inch skillet to replace the one I cracked (yes, cracked). I’ll be ordering a grill pan, panini press and loaf pan soon. Safe and the extra iron that’s absorbed by food is a plus. We can use the extra iron in our diet.

3. Stainless steel cookware – Can’t believe there was a time I hated stainless steel – because I didn’t know how to use it. Stainless steel is easy to use, safe and easy to clean. Since I’ve learned to keep the heat down (like you would with cast iron), which is also an energy saver, I’ve never had a problem with burning, scorching or cleaning it. I love how evenly these pans cook (again just like cast iron), especially the skillets.


4. A nice set of dinnerware – Another thing I can’t believe I thought was frivolous just a year ago. I have Corelle’s square, pure white dinnerware and love how it shows off food. Plus, it’s lightweight and durable.


5. Pyrex – DOWN WITH PLASTIC! I’ve replaced almost all plastics in my kitchen with Pyrex. It’s safer, easier to clean and you can easily see what’s stored inside. I’ll be ordering a set of mixing bowls to replace some plastic ones soon.
6. Knife sharpener – The most used tool in the kitchen should be sharp at all times. This sharpener is inexpensive and easy to use. It works better than any sharpener I’ve tried.
7. Good oils and fats –  I use local, pastured lard (why? read “Oh My Lard!”), tallow and butter, organic coconut oil and organic olive oil. I also want to experiment with grape seed, walnut, flax seed, avocado and palm oils.


8. Food and recipe websites, blogs, books, t.v., movies – I regularly use Allrecipes.com, Epicurious.com, EatingWell.com and FoodNetwork.com. I almost always alter recipes to make them more nourishing or to suit my family’s taste and sometimes to use what I have on hand. The reviews are extremely helpful. And here are some of the blogs that keep me going: Cheese Slave, Nourished Kitchen, The Food Renegade and 100DaysofRealFood. My favorite books are Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, In Defense of Food, Nourishing Traditions, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, The Conscious Kitchen. I’m on the public library’s waiting list for The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Some shows and movies that inspire me are Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Food, Inc., Fast Food Nation (the movie is cheesy, but delivers the message loud and clear), Super Size Me (I strongly suggest you watch that one), Top Chef, Food Network Channel and where this journey really began – Dr. Oz.


9. Tea – I like it so much that I blogged about it here.


10. Water Kefir – This stuff is so much fun! I love nurturing the grains and experimenting with flavors and ingredients. It’s delicious and nourishing. To find out more read “Water Kefir”. Oh and since posting that blog, I’ve found that it can in fact get very fizzy, just like soda. Though I’m not quite sure how I got it so fizzy that one time. I’m not sure whether it was the amount of time, right ingredients, temperature, etc. Lots more experimenting to do.

Random Stuff

I’ve finally had some success baking bread!! I’ll still play around with the recipe. I’m starting to get the “feel” of the dough. I’ve been trying to avoid adding gluten, which I finally figured out was like putting the cart before the horses. Whole wheat is harder to work with, so until I get the basics down, I’ll keep adding gluten (in the form of King Arthur’s organic unbleached all purpose flour for now) back into the recipe until I get it right. Then I’ll start working backward again, until I figure out a way to make it with just whole wheat. I just need the training wheels a little longer. I checked out King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook from the library, to get a few more tips.

Speaking of books, I’ve read a few lately. Mostly about food of course. Even Eat, Pray, Love had a section solely dedicated to food. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan was okay, but honestly it wasn’t anything I hadn’t already heard. If you just skip to the last section, you’ll get the entire book in a nutshell. If you aren’t already familiar with reasons to eat whole food, Big Industry and Big Agriculture and such I recommend it. I’ve been told I might like another one of his books,  Omnivore’s Dilemma more.

I read Building Bone Vitality, which was boring, to be quite honest, but there was some really compelling information in there explaining what’s wrong with the current recommendations to eat lots of dairy and take calcium supplements to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.  The authors/doctors recommend eating less meat and dairy and other the high acids foods that steal the calcium right from your bones. Instead eat calcium rich fruits and vegetables like collards, kale, spinach, broccoli, carrots, oranges, dates and raisins. Even nuts and seeds have calcium.

I also read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. They actually had it on cd at the library, so I listened to most of it while chauffeuring the kids back and forth to school. (The girls were so glad when I finished it.) The author basically uprooted her family from Arizona and moved back to Virginia where they grew most of their own food (fruits, vegetables, eggs, chickens and turkeys) and ate locally for one year. Very inspiring, and there was a lot of insight in this book about eating local, whole foods.

Now I’m reading The Conscious Kitchen by Alexandra Zissu. I like this book the most because it’s more of a why and how to. She gives lots of tips and resources, like how to read PLU codes (those little stickers they put on produce). 5 digit numbers beginning with a 9 are organic and according to her, conventional produce begins with a 4 and has a four digit number (however I know that some also begin with a 3). Genetically Modified produce can be labeled with a five digit numbers beginning with an 8, but good look finding those. PLU’s are optional and I doubt those producers would be willing to divulge that information. She also has touches on almost everything I’m concerned about these days – from dairy to fish to plastic and more. Read this book!!

Next on my list is Real Food What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck. Then maybe the other Michael Pollan book.

One more thought. I caught a quick glimpse of an episode of Oprah last week in which she was discussing the horror of puppy mills. Shortly after that, I was shopping at HT and found myself in line behind a woman with reusable grocery bags (great!), but she also had a ton of prepackaged food in her cart. I know every little bit helps, so I’m not knocking their efforts by any means. In fact I need to ramp up my own. What I’m suggesting is that now that we’re paying attention and doing our part to rid the planet of puppy mills and plastic bags, it’s time to take the next step, whatever that means for you.

Pick one thing that concerns you and figure out how you can make that situation better. When it becomes a habit, choose another. Recycling is good, but avoiding all that packaging is better. (Something I need to work on.) Likewise, if you can’t bear the thought of puppies raised in a mill, then you should reconsider buying conventional meat from the grocery store. That steak or chicken was once a living animal that most likely came from a factory farm. The animal abuse and neglect happening on factory farms is much worse than that of a puppy mill. (See pictures below.) Livestock and chickens aren’t bred for adoption and the public isn’t looking to rescue them. The whistle’s been blown and still no one is listening.

For me, the next step is going to be further avoiding packaging and any meat that might have been factory farmed. I’m going to reuse all the produce bags I’ve been saving. I use them at the farmers market, but now I’m going to take them into the grocery store too. Once they’re gone, I’m going to put a couple of those handy grocery baskets inside my cart and put the produce right in there. I’m also going to try and eliminate paper products at home. That will be a little harder and the additional washing will probably fall to me. I’m not sure if I’ll get a lot of support at home for this one.

Avoiding conventional meat outside of my home will be difficult. I have been reluctant to take this step, because it’s not something I can do discretely. It will leave me vulnerable to ridicule and some people will question it. But I’m going to do it. Some might think I’ve gone vegetarian, and that’s fine I guess. In fact, this would probably be easier to explain than: I only eat minimal amounts of meat from animals that were raised humanely and fed a proper diet, free of growth hormones and antibiotics. Unfortunately, someone along the way will take offense to that. They might assume I think I’m too good to eat what they are eating or that I’m judging them, when in reality I’m just taking a stance against something I feel strongly about. I’m sure there will be opportunities for me to show my girls that standing up for what you believe in may not always be easy, nevertheless it’s an important virtue. Of course I’ll probably break the rules every now and then, when it can’t be avoided, but I am going to give it more effort. Saying “I will never eat” or forbidding myself from any food is not something I’m willing to do.

 

How is this...

 

 

... different than this?

 

 

Mama pigs are literally pinned down so that her babies can nurse freely and to keep her from rolling over on one of them, which is a real possibility. But still no excuse.

Mama pigs are literally pinned down so that her babies can nurse freely and to keep her from rolling over on one of them, which is a real possibility. But still no excuse.

 

 

These might be considered "Free Range" chickens on a factory farm, but not to me. Buyer beware.