Finding success on the paleo diet means being handy in the kitchen. You need to spend time planning, prepping and cooking all your fresh ingredients. That being said, there are certain tools in your kitchen that can take the drudgery out of some of the less exciting prep tasks and turn them from chore to score! I have a few items in my kitchen that I find indispensable as they make prepping and cooking go so much faster. Some are appliances, some utensils, and some are just “things” you need.
This is the boss of my kitchen and the workhorse that I use almost every day. I’ve had this Cuisinart food processor for as long as I can remember and it never disappoints. I use this regularly to make my homemade pico de gallo, to puree my jalapeno green sauce, and to chop and shred all kids of vegetables. I also use it to make certain kinds of paleo cookies and crackers. The blade does an awesome job of chopping dates, nuts and anything else you want processed. I also routinely made paleo mayonnaise in this before I found something I liked better.
This is the perfect investment for cooks of all kind.
What’s so good about a mandoline? This tool can thin-slice, julienne, and (in some cases) waffle-cut fruit and veggies with consistent uniformity and precision. Where a food processor may limit the size of the vegetable you can slice, the mandoline with it’s broad base, can handle a variety of widths. If you find a good, quality brand, there are no limits to how you can slice. You can adjust the thickness of the cut or the style of cut depending on the blade (straight blade or wavy). I love to use mine to make gratins, cucumber salads, french fries, french onion soup, or anything that requires lots of uniform slices.
Handheld Immersion Blender
Another one of my favorite small appliances is the hand held immersion blender. I bought mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond with the ubiquitous 20% off coupon. It makes making paleo mayonnaise literally foolproof and is also nice when you have a big pot of soup you’d like to puree without having to pour it into a blender. It’s easy to clean and small so it stores easily.
Knives, sharpener, and kitchen shears
Probably one of the MOST important things to have in your kitchen is a sharp knife. Working with poor quality, dull knives not only makes the task harder, but it also makes it more dangerous. You can spend a lot of money on a good knife and there are a few I have my eye on, but will probably have to wait until next Christmas. I have some good Henckle’s knives that get the job done in the meantime. I use my chef’s knife the most and have that in two sizes. I also have a Santoku knife that works similar to my chef knife. Keeping these knives sharp is half the battle. We purchased a Chef’s Choice knife sharpener many years ago and it does an very good job of keeping a nice, sharp edge on my blades. In addition to sharp knives, a pair of kitchen shears always comes in handy.
This nifty little item falls in the “food processor” category. What I like about this is that it easily spiralizes veggies so you can have veggie “noodles”. I use mine to make zucchini noodles, cucumber noodles and any other thing I want in long spirals. This item is relatively inexpensive, but you will want to use it all the time.
This is the big daddy of blenders. You can throw all kinds of stuff in the VitaMix and it will have no problem quickly turning it into a smooth, creamy concoction. Mine is a basic style with just a “high” and “low” speed button. I mostly wanted it for making smoothies and purees and wanted it to be able to blend ice well. The motor on this machine is very strong and it takes no time to turn whole pieces of fruit and veggies into a smoothie. I also like this for when I make pancake batters out of plantains because it purees everything evenly and nicely.
Big Scoops and Good Spatulas
Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference. I have a variety of sizes of kitchens scoops and spatulas (flippers) and each one comes in handy and makes whatever task I’m doing just a little easier. The scoopers are great for spooning batter into muffin tins or batter for pancakes or any other kinds of foods that are measured out and possibly fried in a pan. (Egg foo young from Nom Nom Paleo for example). Size does matter in this case and having the right tool at your disposal makes what you’re cooking consistent and uniform. Being able to squeeze out just the right amount with one hand makes it efficient as well. I have different spatulas or flippers, whatever you call them, for different tasks. I have metal squares and rectangles, some with straight edges and some with rounded. I also have a really big round metal spatula for the times I’m frying two eggs in my small pan and I want to flip them. I pour them onto the big spatula and then turn them back over into the pan, yellows intact. Sometimes with a nonstick pan, I need a plastic flipper to do the job. So you really can’t have too many of these!
I found this nifty little gadget at Bed Bath and Beyond and I use it all the time. It’s like a measuring cup with a pour spout that you can mix up your homemade vinaigrette and then store the leftovers. There is a little knob on the top that you can open or close to keep it airtight. I’ll make a big batch of balsamic or red wine vinaigrette and then use it over the course of the week.
Mini Non Stick Frying Pan
We have about 4 of these and I use them every day. They are about 8in in diameter, which is the perfect size to make your eggs and spinach in the morning or heat up a single serving of leftovers. I bought mine at Sam’s and they are relatively inexpensive. They last for a while and when I notice that the coating is wearing off, I simply Goodwill it and get another one.
This is something I can’t do without in my kitchen. Whether it’s for baking cookies (paleo, of course), lining a casserole pan, or used to line a roasting pan, this stuff is indispensable. When used for roasting veggies, fish or even marrow bones for stock, nothing sticks to it. Veggies seem to brown more even and everything releases easily. It’s great for lining a casserole dish whenever you make an egg casserole or meatloaf because you have nothing sticking to the side of the pan. Once you try it, you won’t believe how you ever survived without it!