5 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without

Before my husband and I got married, we went through Target with one of those fancy wedding registry scanners, adding kitchen tools galore to our registry list.  I wasn’t much of a cook at the time (fancy dinner was spaghetti with jarred sauce) and I had no idea what I would actually need for our kitchen.  Many of the items I still have and use – like the measuring cups and spoons, the silicone spatulas, and the super adorable nesting bowl set.  Some of the items slowly made their way to the Salvation Army in the form of donations.  For example, never did I use the egg slicer.  I’ve never sliced an egg into rings in my life, and I don’t intend to start now.  I’m not sure what possessed me to put that on our wedding registry.  A few items didn’t make it at all – like the super trendy glasses we wanted that were terribly constructed and broke when being hand-washed.  After three shattered in this manner, I threw the rest away.  They were too dangerous!

Now that I cook almost daily, I realize how silly I was to add so many trinkets to our list.  There are only a few kitchen tools that I use every day.  Today I’m sharing 5 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without!
5 Kitchen Tools I can't live without
1. My 8 inch Wusthof Chef’s Knife.  My husband got me this for Christmas in 2014, and I have used it almost every single day since.  It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny.  I never listened to people who told me to invest in a good chef’s knife until I actually got one.  It is a lifesaver in my kitchen.  I have cut myself so many times with other knives, but not a single time with this one.  It’s the perfect weight so it doesn’t slip off of what I’m chopping and slice open my finger.  It’s extremely sharp, which is much safer than cutting with a dull knife.  If I didn’t have this knife I’m fairly certain I would have been to the ER by now to get stitches.  If you don’t listen to anything else I say in this post, GET A GOOD KNIFE.  It will completely change your cooking experience.

5 kitchen tools I can't live without

2. My Bamboo Cutting Board.  Mine was slightly different than the one I’m linking to on Amazon, but that’s because I got it on sale at Publix on a random day and it’s been so long I’m not sure what brand it was.  Mine has a groove just like this one and is the same size.  My bamboo cutting board is the perfect accompaniment to my chef’s knife.  I am chopping, dicing, slicing, or mincing something on it daily.  Because it’s bamboo, it doesn’t dull my knife.  I wash it in warm water and soap, and it dries almost immediately.  I’ve had the same one for about two years now.  It’s starting to show its age, but I’m confident it has at least another year, possibly two, of use before I need to replace it.  **IMPORTANT**  I only cut veggies and fruits on this board.  I’m vegan, so that’s not an issue.  My husband, however, is not.  This is the one kitchen tool that I am very strict about – no meat can ever be cut on this board.  I have a cheap plastic cutting board that can be used when necessary for that type of food.  I would never feel like the cutting board was actually clean if it was used for meat, even if it had been washed.
5 kitchen tools I can't live without
3.  My Vitamix.  Again, not a cheap tool, but it is one that I use daily.  I saved for several years before finally purchasing one.  I bought one of the certified reconditioned ones so that it was a little bit less expensive.  I love my Vitamix.  I’ve made smoothies, spreads, sauces, and soups in it.  It makes dressings, dips, “cheese,” and batter.  It even makes ice cream from frozen bananas!  This is one of two kitchen tools that never gets put away.  It has a permanent spot on my counter, because I got tired of getting it out every single day to use it.  There are other high-speed blenders on the market, so if you can find a better deal go for it.  As for me though, I’ll never give up my Vitamix.
5 kitchen tools I can't live without
4. My Ikea Cookware Set.  When I got my cookware set from Ikea, the pots and pans I was using were seriously banged up.  I had one lid between 4 pots, and most of them were scratched beyond all recognition.  I paid $80.00 for my cookware set a few years ago and I LOVE it.  The one I’ve linked to above is the closest thing I could find on their website.  It has the same number of pieces that mine does, but the handles on the pot lids are slightly different, and it’s a bit more expensive.  Of course, I bought my set in store and a few years ago.  Prices may have gone up since then.  I use the skillet and the medium pot the most, but every single size pot has been well loved since I got them.  I purchased the middle of the line set – not the really cheap ones, but not the ones that would make me go broke either.  They cook food wonderfully, and they are so easy to clean.  Even when I’ve burnt something onto them (and believe me, I have) a soak in some warm water lifts the food right off.  They conduct heat well and are just marvelous.  I don’t use any other pots.
5 kitchen tools I can't live without

5. My Rice Cooker.  This rice cooker is the only item on my list that I don’t use daily.  However, I do use it at least once a week.  I am literally always cooking rice.  Before owning this kitchen tool, I didn’t eat much rice, because it would inevitably get burned to the bottom of my pot.  I hated cleaning rice pots.  This rice cooker makes it so easy for me.  It’s the only thing that stays out on my counter next to my beloved Vitamix.  Get a rice cooker.  It will save you so much time.
5 kitchen tools I can't live without
I get seriously jealous when I watch Food Network and they show beautiful kitchens.  The kitchen in our rented condo is small, and it has white laminate countertops.  Yes, I said white.  And laminate.  The countertops are horrendous.  They show every crumb and spot, and they’re annoyingly hard to clean.  The only way to get them stain free seems to be with bleach, and I really hate the smell of bleach.  The cabinets are small, the refrigerator is tiny, and there is simply not enough room for two people to be in there at once without someone getting burned or stabbed by accident.  Because of the state of my kitchen, I spend a lot of time dreaming about what kind of room I’d like to cook in someday.

I want REAL countertops.  And they had better not be white.  I want a stainless steel, double door refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom.  I could fit so many vegetables in there you guys!  I want an island.  A beautiful, modern island that you can pull bar stools up to for breakfast or socializing.  I want a dishwasher that actually cleans dishes (my current one doesn’t at all).  And I’d really, really love a stove with more than four burners and double ovens.  I’ve been playing around with this Build Your BlueStar site all night, thinking about what kind of range I would buy for my dream kitchen.  There’s so many options y’all!!  I could have a skinny oven, a wide oven, or one and a half ovens.  I could have a combination of burners and charbroil/griddle stations.  I could cook ALL THE THINGS with one of those ranges.  And I could make it red.  Or blue.  Or pink!  Well, maybe not pink.  My husband wouldn’t really go for that last one.  😉

Before I started cooking seriously, I surveyed kitchens from a purely aesthetic point of view.  Now I want function and prettiness.  Someday, this will happen.

What kitchen tools are your must-haves?  Do you have a dream kitchen?  Tell me about it!  And if you don’t have a dream kitchen, check out BlueStar Cooking.  You’ll get the kitchen dreamin’ bug instantly.

5 Reasons “The Last Meal” is Killing Your Chances at Being Healthy

We’ve all been there – promising ourselves we’re going to start eating healthfully tomorrow, or Monday, or the beginning of the next month or year.  We set a specific date and vow that we’re going to start fresh, that we mean it this time, that things will be different and we’ll finally see the results we want.  And then in preparation for this date we stuff our faces full of every item on the “NO” list of our diet.

French fries and cupcakes and junk food, oh my!  We sprint towards our favorite comfort foods with open mouths, silently screaming “Get in my belly!”  After we’ve eaten ourselves into a food coma, we shrug helplessly.  What could we do, after all?  We just needed to eat that Last Meal before the descent into the endless deprivation of dieting.  Wrong!!!  The Last Meal is killing our chances at being healthy, and today we’re going to look at five reasons why.
5 Reasons "The Last Meal" is Killing Your Chances at Being Healthy
Reason Number 1: We’re “dieting,” not making lifestyle changes.

The concept of dieting is generally built around deprivation.  We list the foods we can’t have anymore and pledge to avoid them for a certain amount of time until we lose weight or see results.  The diet model is built on “CAN’T” instead of “WON’T.”  For example, if my diet does not allow me to eat cheeseburgers, but I’m out at a restaurant with friends that are ordering the juiciest, cheesiest grease bombs on the menu, I will be likely to say something like “I can’t eat that, I’m on a diet.”  I want the burger, but I can’t have it.  Now I’m sad, my friends feel sorry for poor deprived me, and I go to sleep that night dreaming about the dinner I didn’t get to eat.

When we diet, The Last Meal becomes extremely important to us.  We convince ourselves that we need this particular food because we “CAN’T” have it anymore.  Changing the focus from “CAN’T” to “WON’T” takes some of the pressure off.  Lifestyle changes are important because they affect how we approach the world, not just specific meals.  If I no longer eat cheeseburgers, it is because I have made a personal choice to embrace something that is worth more than a cheeseburger – health.  In the same scenario at the restaurant, I will say something like “I don’t eat that.”  And that’s it!  No further explanation is necessary.  The choice belonged to me, I did not pawn it off on some vague diet concept that restricts my food intake.  I no longer eat cheeseburgers because it’s not part of my food identity.  I “DON’T” eat them, because that’s not who I am anymore.
5 Reasons "The Last Meal" is Killing Your Chances at Being Healthy
Reason Number 2: We start “tomorrow” instead of right now.

It can be helpful to have a specific date that your lifestyle changes will begin.  You may need to go shopping and stock up on healthier options.  You may need to prepare your family for new foods by educating them before changing all their meals.  You might need to go through your pantry and discard all the processed foods.  A specific date can give you something to work towards and be motivating.  However, “tomorrow” is generally just an excuse to continue unhealthy habits today.  We say we’ll start Monday because we want to gobble up mountains of sugar, salt, and fat on the weekend.  Instead of cleaning out the pantry with a trash bag, we “clean” by eating all the processed food it holds, so it “won’t go to waste.”

When you start your diet tomorrow, The Last Meal is easily justified.  After all, you’re just going to “make up for it” by eating vegetables on Monday!  Don’t start tomorrow.  Start NOW.  With your next bite.  Make the healthiest choice you can immediately.  Doing this will take away some of the power The Last Meal has over you.  You don’t need a final hurrah, because you’ve already started making changes!
5 Reasons "The Last Meal" is Killing Your Chances at Being Healthy
Reason Number 3: We get emotional about comfort food.

Comfort food lives up to its name, at least in theory.  When we’re feeling sad, stressed, or angry, a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips makes us feel better.  There’s an entire science behind how specific (unhealthy) foods trigger pleasure receptors in your brain.  The food manufacturers know this, which is why processed food is loaded with salt, sugar, and fat – three items that put us on cloud 9 emotionally.  But it doesn’t last!  If you’ve woken up the morning after a binge session with food and looked in the mirror, you know that your problems are still there.  The food didn’t make your issues go away.  The food high wears off and leaves us craving more unhealthy food.  And worst of all, we have to deal with our guilt over our lack of willpower.

The Last Meal is almost always comprised of foods that make us feel a certain way emotionally.  We mistakenly assume that because we are now choosing to avoid certain foods, we will have nothing to soothe us when we’re feeling low.  We gobble up our personal comfort grub at The Last Meal, trying to hold on to the way it makes us feel.  Doing this only reinforces our incorrect belief that lasting tranquillity comes from food, instead of more beneficial practices such as exercise, meditation, or relaxation tasks like coloring.
5 Reasons "The Last Meal" is Killing Your Chances at Being Healthy
Reason Number 4: We eat WAY too many calories at The Last Meal.

As we discussed above, our brains don’t like the deprivation model.  When we think we “CAN’T” have certain foods anymore, we eat them to excess before making changes.  The night before we start eating more healthfully, we tend to consume thousands of calories.  Yes, thousands.  Where we normally might consume a sandwich and a small handful of chips, at The Last Meal we take down a foot long sub, an entire bag of chips, and an extra large soda.  And then we throw in a chocolate bar or cake slice for good measure!

Unless you’re a mega athlete in the middle of an intense training program, there is no reason to eat that many calories in one sitting.  Eating more doesn’t help you hang on to the emotional “high” of your food longer.  It just makes it harder to start fresh the next morning, because your body is still struggling with the poisons it was stuffed with the night before.  I advocate not having a last meal at all, but if you do, make sure that you eat very slowly.  Chew your food.  Eat with friends, not by yourself in front of the TV.  This will ensure you eat a reasonable amount of food and that your body has enough time to signal you that it is full.  (These eating tips go for any meal!)
5 Reasons "The Last Meal" is Killing Your Chances at Being Healthy
Reason Number 5: The cravings only get worse when you feed them.
If you eat salt, sugar, and fat, you will crave salt, sugar and fat.  The more you eat them, the more your body will scream for them, just like the old saying “I scream; you scream; we all scream for ice cream!!”  If you start your morning with junk food, you will crave junk food the rest of the day.  Your body is addicted to processed food and it takes time to break the desire for more.

The Last Meal overloads your body with junk food, sabotaging your efforts the next morning.  To break a craving, you have to stop eating that food.  The more you eat, the more you want to eat.  It can feel like your mind is screeching at you, shaking you and dragging you towards the unhealthy food.  Resist.  Take a walk.  Meditate for a few minutes.  Drink 8 ounces of water.  Distract yourself.  Distraction is easier than saying “NO.”  If you can distract yourself the craving will likely subside, at least for a little while.

5 Reasons "The Last Meal" is Killing Your Chances at Being Healthy
The plant-based, vegan lifestyle is not a diet.  It’s a way of approaching food, the world, and our own bodies.  We don’t diet.  We eat according to our goals.  The Last Meal gets in the way of our goals, and it sabotages us before we even begin!  We don’t need a last hurrah for the processed crap that is ruining our bodies.  Start now, with your next bite.  Better health is waiting for you!