In honor of Earth Day tomorrow I wanted to share the top ten kitchen essentials that help to make plant-based living as enjoyable, efficient, and eco-friendly as possible in my home. These items save time, help cut back on plastic waste, and allow me to try fun, flavorful new recipes every day!
You certainly don't need a kitchen full of gadgets to incorporate more whole foods into your lifestyle-- but the more you can simplify preparing and cooking your food, the more likely you are to enjoy the process... and the final result!
A Sharp Knife
If you're eating a lot of plants, that means you'll be slicing and dicing more often. I cannot express the importance of a decent knife for these tasks. When I removed meat from my diet, my knife needs changed. That sounds weird, but it's true! I don't need a big block set of utensils and steak knives. I use one good quality knife every single day, and that's truly all I need. I also have a bread knife on hand, but I rarely use it. I use Calphalon because I've been gifted with many of their items over the years from relatives who work for the company, but any brand will do if it slices through your food with ease.
Dual Citrus Squeezer
There are a lot of citrus juicing tools out there, but this kind is easy to use and easy to clean, and the slits allow the juice to escape while also catching stray seeds. Lemon juice is often used to enhance the flavor of veggie dishes and vegan "cheese" recipes, so I'm pulling this out constantly. Fresh lemon juice has anti-viral and immune-boosting powers, so do yourself a favor and juice them as you need them instead of buying bottled lemon juice. You'll be using less plastic and gaining countless nutrients! I use this one, but I see other versions at the grocery store all the time.
Some might turn up their nose at the idea of using a garlic press, but I'm not trying to win Top Chef over here so they can take their noses elsewhere. If a gadget can save me time, energy, and help me avoid garlic fingers, then I'm sold. Garlic is a great source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties-- but only when it's FRESH. Ditch that tub of minced garlic if you're hoping to reap the nutritional benefits and incredible flavor of the real thing. A garlic press will help keep your hands clean and your nutrient intake high, and that's one less container you have to throw away or recycle!
Steaming is one of my favorite ways to prepare veggies and greens because it helps to retain the nutrients of the plants. Boiling, on the other hand can rob your food of its nutrients. This inexpensive vegetable steamer is versatile and easy to use. I bring an inch or two of water to a boil and set this inside of or on top of the pot. In just a few minutes, your veggies are ready to go! This is the one in my kitchen, but there are several other types out there to choose from.
When I first saw an herb keeper, I assumed it was one of those frivolous items that retailers make you think you need, but oh was I wrong. If herbs aren't watered, they'll wilt rapidly in the fridge. I don't know about you, but I rarely use the entire bunch when I buy herbs for a recipe, and this little guy does an incredible job of keeping them fresh. I've tried storing herbs in cups or mason jars with a plastic baggie covering the top, but the results were definitely not the same. I have the older plastic version of this one, which is now made with glass!
I have the Ninja Ultima, which is sort of like the cheaper little brother to the Vitamix, and I absolutely love it. I use it to make soups, smoothies, cashew "cheese" sauces, salad dressings, banana "milkshakes," and so much more. A high powered blender is the one appliance that I'd encourage plant-curious peeps to invest in because it is so versatile and powerful. I love that the Ninja came with individual size travel cups and a smaller blade, which I use even more often than the large pitcher these days.
I debated leaving this one off the list, since a good quality blender can perform many of the same tasks, but there's still a special place in my heart for my food processor. I use this bad boy to chop and shred vegetables (in seconds!), to puree beans, to knead doughs and mixes, and to make nut butters and banana ice cream. If you have the ability to add this small appliance to your kitchen, you will definitely save yourself time that would otherwise have been spent at the cutting board.
Oh, mason jars. What aren't they good for, really? I bought a pack of the quart sized jars last year, thinking I'd mostly use them to store dry goods in the pantry. Since then I've also started using them to hold my salads for the week, and I even use them as drinking glasses because I'm cheap and hey, why not? It's easy to track how many ounces you're taking in throughout the day as the measurements are listed right on the jar! They're cheap (less than $20 for a dozen), and are usually BPA free and made in the U.S.!
Glass Storage Containers with Lids
We all know not to microwave our food in plastic anymore, right? Right. I love having various sizes of glass storage containers on hand for easy-to-grab leftovers and homemade dips and nut butter. Brands like Pyrex are freezer and oven-safe too, so you can bake or re-heat without having to dirty another dish. Win! I can't get enough of these. In fact, I need to add another set to my collection soon...
My brother gave me these straws for Christmas last year, and while they don't necessarily save me time in the kitchen, they certainly have helped me cut down on waste and the annoyance of plastic straws that bend and crack. The Hummingbird brand is made in the United States and is sturdy and easy to clean. I love how solid these straws are! I recommend rinsing them out immediately after use or cleaning can become more difficult.
So there you have it! My favorites. If you're hoping to add more to your kitchen lineup, don't feel like it needs to happen all at once. Remember these items at holidays, or when you have a retail gift card burning a hole in your wallet. Start to accumulate them slowly over time, and before you know it your kitchen will be stocked with items that will make your life easy breezy.
What are YOUR favorite kitchen gadgets?!
What are YOUR favorite kitchen gadgets?!