Bonus Content: Listen to Episode 10 of the Food Smarts podcast to hear Kirsten and Amie discuss the items listed below. Subscribe in Stitcher and iTunes so you don’t miss a show.
A NUTRIVORE seeks nutrients and eats to love and care for themselves and their body. What kind of kitchen does it take to be a nutrivore? It can be as basic or as complicated as you choose. The absolute requirement is that you go into the kitchen and prepare food. Unless you have a private chef (and if you do, you likely wouldn’t be reading this post,) doing some basic cooking is required to eat well.
You can eat delicious, nutrient-dense food with very little kitchen equipment. You really, truly only need a cutting board, two good knives, and a cast iron skillet. For the knives, you need a paring knife and a good chef’s knife. That’s what I use 95% of the time. Knives can be pricey so my advice is to get the highest quality knives you can afford and don’t stress about it. They will serve you well and may well last you a lifetime. Why cast iron? Cast iron will last forever, heats well, is inexpensive, is non-stick when used properly, and even adds a little iron to your meal. You can also find cast iron pretty often at second-hand stores. Above all, if you have any non-stick Teflon type cookware, please replace it. The non-stick coating releases toxins when used at high temperatures. Additionally, as soon as you have a scratch on the surface, the coating starts to break down and go into your food. It’s just not worth the health risk. Please, throw it out.
Good knives, a cutting board, and a cast iron skillet will get you a long way. That said, I am going to talk about some of the other pieces of equipment in my kitchen that I use regularly and find useful in preparing nutrient dense meals. If anyone is asking you for gift ideas or you are looking to up your game in the kitchen, here are my suggestions:
Spiralizer: This is a simple, hand-cranked device you can use to turn fruits and vegetables into noodles and now there is a great stainless steel model. I use mine all the time. At under $40, it’s a relatively small investment with a huge impact. For example, butternut squash can be quickly turned into spaghetti-like noodles. From there, you can easily saute the noodles for a quick side dish. One way my family eats butternut noodles is sauteed with bacon and kale.
With a spiralizer, the sky’s the limit. Other things I have spiralized include beets, sweet potatoes, apples, cucumbers, carrots, celeriac, and sweet potatoes. There are great cookbooks out there to inspire you and lots of free recipes on the internet. My favorite spiralizer cookbook is Inspiralized by Ali Maffucci. Spiralizing is especially great for kids. They might look at chunks of squash unappetizingly, but squash noodles are fun. If you have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, they have a spiralizer attachment. I have not personally tried it, but I have heard good things.
Food Processor: I did not have a food processor for a long time. Then, I had one but didn’t use it much. Now, I use it a ton. It’s a bit of an investment, but it is my secret weapon for quick vegetable prep. Just like the spiralizer, the food processor is a huge time saver. Not only do they both make for quick prep–the real magic is that they make for quick cooking. Compare roasting whole brussel sprouts to spending a few minutes running them through the food processor with the slicing blade to make very fancy sounding shaved brussel sprouts and then finishing them with a quick saute. A 30-minute process just became a 10-minute process. When I buy brussel sprouts, I run them all through the food processor and then store in the fridge for the week. I vote for buying a large capacity high-quality food processor. In the long run, it’s the better buy. I put mine through a lot. When I am harvesting from the garden this gets a lot of use. I even take overgrown veggies and quickly chop or slice them up to freeze for pet food all winter long.
Easy Fermenter Wide Mouth Lid Kit: Fermenting foods seems mysterious and overwhelming to people, but the truth is it’s incredibly easy. Fermentation is the oldest form of food preservation. Fermentation makes foods like traditional pickles, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and even chocolate possible. Basic fermentation is call lacto-fermentation. You are letting naturally occurring bacteria on the food to ferment (essentially begin to digest) the food into a magically different food (think cabbage to sauerkraut and cucumbers to pickles) that is brimming with natural and diverse probiotics. Probiotics are all those gut-friendly microbes we need in us to digest our food and keep us healthy (and so much more.)
I recommend most people consume at least 1/4 cup fermented foods every day. This kit includes lids that fit on mason jars and all you need in addition to start fermenting is a wide mouth canning jar, water, salt, and the produce. A great veggie to start with is carrots. They ferment beautifully. This kit includes good instructions for basic ferments. I really like the book Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods by Jill Ciciarelli. If you get really excited, check out books by Sandor Katz, regarded as the “father of fermentation.” A nice article about the resurgence in fermentation and Sandor Katz can be found here.
Canning Jars: Wide mouth pint and quart jars are really a must–even if you don’t do any canning. Don’t buy them online. You will find them at your local farm store and at most grocery stores much cheaper. They are an often found at yard sales too. I once bought 13 dozen quart jars from my UPS man for a fraction of the cost! He and his wife used them for tomatoes but were down-sizing. I was just getting deep into farming and canning so it was a win-win. If you don’t can food, this is why you still want these:
- Storing leftovers, drinks, etc. (get the chemical-leaching plastic out, reduce waste, and use glass!) I even use them to make iced tea and coffee.
- Storing dry foods like flours, dried fruits, etc.
- Packing lunches (don’t send with small children of course, in case of breakage)
- Freezing leftovers (use jars with no shoulder and leave room for foods to expand to prevent breaking the jar when freezing)
- Storing everything and anything outside the kitchen—craft supplies, cotton balls, nails, you name it
- Spice jars (the small 4 oz jelly jars are great for this)
- Canning jars are now all the rage and you can get a million different lids and gadgets to turn them into everything from a drinking glass to a honeypot
Funnels: This nice set of funnels will last forever and serve numerous purposes. If you are using canning jars for dry storage, freezing, and leftovers, a good canning funnel makes this a much easier and cleaner process. A funnel with a strainer is great for fresh juices and broths as well as bottling kombucha. The narrow funnel is fantastic for liquids and other items you need to bottle. I use funnels nearly every day.
Instant Pot: My biggest kitchen timesaver. This is an electric countertop pressure cooker. An Instant Pot can be used to cook just about anything. I use mine to hard-boil eggs, steam veggies, make soups and stews, make frittatas, braise meats, make rice, simmer bone broth, and make pet food. You can also saute in it so you can brown a roast and then finish it in the same pot. It has a slow cooker function as well. Once your food has finished at the time and pressure level you choose, it will keep the food warm for up to 10 hours. In addition, you can set a delay timer to have the cooker start later than when you load it. An internet search will turn up recipes for almost anything you can imagine. I was a very early adopter, but Instant Pot’s (and copycats) have taken off in the US in a big way and there are recipe resources everywhere as well as numerous social media groups devoted to Instant Pot cooking. I use this so often that I actually have two–the 6 quart and the 8 quart. One is usually making food for humans and the other for pets. There is a small learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy.
Blender: 8 years ago I purchased a Blendtec blender and it is still going strong. This blender isn’t cheap, but when you look at the lifespan it is an excellent investment. A high-quality blender that can liquefy basically anything really makes itself invaluable if you drink smoothies. My daily goal is to consume 9-12 cups of vegetables and fruit. Having a daily smoothie is my number one life hack to make that possible. Smoothies allow me to pack a lot of nutrition into a manageable portion of food. The great thing about a blender like mine is that you add plenty of dense, fiber-rich vegetables into your smoothie as well as the usual fruits and greens. I use items carrots, beets, and even cauliflower in my smoothies in addition to the standard items. I like to add seeds and cacao nibs too. Thanks to my blender, it all comes out as smooth a silk. A great blender can even make flours and nut butters. I use mine daily to blend my coffee with collagen and ghee and to make matcha lattes as well.
Immersion Blender: I’ve owned several of these (different brand) that failed me. I buy kitchen equipment and I expect it to stand up to real use. This Epica immersion blender has never failed me and has REAL power. I use it regularly to mash vegetables and mix batters. It is a fantastic value. I’ve owned mine for 4 years already.