Saturday, June 16, 2012

BIG Kitchen Adventures

I love cooking. And I love cooking good food in my small kitchen.
This weekend, though, I have the privilege of cooking in a commercial kitchen...6 burner stove, grill, walk in cooler, walk in freezer, two big oven, massive mixer, and a dishwasher. Wow! Paradise.
I am cooking for a guy's retreat. It is a pretty small affair. We have only 21 people at each meal (except for lunch today, then I am feeding 35.) But guys EAT, you know. Whatever is available gets eaten. Every time. I enjoy cooking for guys because they are very enthusiastic eaters. Big job satisfaction payoff. Girls, on the other hand, are very peer dependent eaters. They don't want to look like pigs, so they eat like birds. Me, well, I could care less what others think about the amounts I'm eating. I guess that is the difference between a teen and a 30-something.
That was a rabbit trail.
I like cooking-big, commercial kitchen, or small and efficient home kitchen.
I cook daily. I try new recipes weekly. I cook for friends. I cook for enemies. I cook for relaxation. I cook for sustenance. I cook for love. (is food a love language? It should be.)
For my new readers, my kids' favorite television show is The Biggest Loser. Their goal is to be on the show someday. It took some convincing to get them to realize it is the better goal to be a trainer on the show, not a contestant. Seriously, I could just hear them having their heart to heart moment with Jillian or Bob. "I'm this size because of my mom. She always made us eat. She made cookies and cakes and fresh bread and jam. What were we supposed to do?"(second rabbit trail?)
You don't have to have the biggest kitchen to enjoy cooking. You don't have to have all state of the art   appliances. You don't have to own every utensil that Bed, Bath and Beyond offers.
Here is my essential list of kitchen tools. I use each of these tools on at least a weekly, if not daily, basis. Some I use every meal.
1. Pampered Chef spatulas. Indispensable. The tops are attached to the handle which makes them more hygienic. I have the large and medium. I need the small. I use them for scraping, for sautéing, and for stirring.
2. Pampered Chef flipper. The black handled cake flipper thing. I use this for getting cookies off the sheet, and for serving desserts. Its small size is perfect for a whole lot of things.
3. Non-stick and metal sauce spoons, slotted spoons, flippers, and ladles. I have one of both of everything but the ladle. I just have two pretty metal Oneida ladles, one big and one small.
4. Knives-3 to be exact. I use a long serrated knife for cutting bread, cake and tomatoes. My go-to knife is my chef's knife. I use it for chopping vegetables, cutting meat, and crushing garlic. I am always using that knife. I also keep a paring knife on hand for peeling fruit.
5. Vegetable peeler. Great for peeling vegetables, and making chocolate curls. I have had several, but I finally landed with an Oxo peeler. It is the best, and definitely worth the price.
6. Can opener. I have a hand can opener. But, someday, when I have a huge kitchen, I am going to get one of the counter top openers. The ones with the handles that you push the can against and then ram the handle down to bore a hole in the top. And then crank, crank, crank-its open. Love it!=)
7. Speaking of satisfying kitchen sounds, I'd never give up my metal measuring spoons and cups. The sound of knives tapping down ingredients in metal is aesthetically pleasing to my ears. These are an investment also, but lots of bang for your buck. (pun intended)

8. IKEA metal mixing bowl. I have their huge bowl. It runs around $15, and it is very handy. I use it to mix up bread dough when I didn't have a mixer. I use it for big quantity things. I use it for foot baths.
9. Mixer. Whether stand or hand, a kitchen isn't quite complete without one. I have both. And they are Kitchen Aids.
10. Pepper mill. There is something very high brow about pepper mills. And they are fun.
11. Wire whisk. I have gone through many of these. I don't know if I have found the perfect one yet. But, I keep looking. I have spent less and more money on different whisks. I like the one I have now, but it isn't that old, either.
12. Non-stick pans and pots. It is just easier. And, I'm going to die someday, so it may as well be from using non-stick pans.
13. Tongs. A good pair of tongs are very convenient-for frying and serving.
14. Four cup liquid measuring cup. Two cup is good, four cup is better. You can mix and pour a lot of things in a four cup measure.
15. A crock pot. I am such a fan of crockpots. I probably cook in mine at least once a week.
16. A pasta fork. Hey, if you don't eat pasta, you can use it for a back scratcher.

 17. Scissors. They are just handy to have in the kitchen-opening packages, cutting herbs.

That's my essential list. I also would add that a potato masher, a pastry knife, heart shaped cookie cutters-all sizes, a chopper and a blender are nice. I use mine occasionally, so I keep them. A grater is essential. Though it seems like I rarely use mine.
I am currently on the look out for a juicer. A friend of mine had one that I used when I helped her cook. It was much easier than trying to squeeze the juice out by hand.

Noticeably absent from my list would be strainers, a garlic press, an egg separator, wooden spoons (they always break) and automatic foam whipper thing. (it didn't work)

I told you it was big
This is my list. What kitchen appliances and utensils do you use all the time? Is there any I left out? Have you found that you registered for, or were gifted a drawer full of utensils that you never use? If you were marooned on a desert island, what utensil would you want? What couldn't you live without?

Well, I'm off to whip up Mac and Cheese for 35. Deliciousness!