5 Must-Haves for Every Newbie Chef

5 must haves

My mother tells me all the time, "Don't spend money on really nice things for your kitchen before you're married!" I understand why she gives thing warning, but I have to say, there are a number of must-haves that every newbie chef should have in his or her kitchen. Below I've compiled a list of the top 5 must-haves that I feel are necessary in any kitchen. These items will get you through just about any recipe - cooking or baking. Perhaps in the coming weeks I will do an additional post, "I Have a Little More Money to Spend of My Kitchen...".

Take a look at what I feel every young chef should have on hand. Let me know, is there something that you cannot live without in your kitchen?

  1. Chef's knife: Be sure to get a size that fits you! Generally these knives will come in two different sizes, large for larger individuals, small for smaller. This may be an additional items, but it is smart to have a good durable plastic or resin cutting board that you are able to put in the dishwasher. It'll help make the clean-up easier!
  2. Spices and herbs: This is an absolute must for cooking. A few staples to have on hand at all times would be: basil, cayenne, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage and thyme. Spice mixes can be a great item to have on hand as well, take a look at Cajun seasoning, Chinese five spice blend, herbs de Provence and Italian seasoning.
  3. Dutch oven: I myself just got a dutch oven for my birthday. More and more I am seeing that slow is the way to go with cooking these days. There is nothing better on a cool fall or winter day than some comfort food for dinner. Be sure to season your dutch oven and remember, this may take time. In fact, my mother now has my grandmother's dutch oven and it cooks beautifully.
  4. Pans: You should have one excellent nonstick small skillet for eggs and crepes, a large pot for pasta, and then regular sized pots for multiple uses. Having a variety of shapes and sizes will give you options when cooking different components of meals - sauces, pasta, reductions.
  5. Baking sheets: Preferably not dark sheets - these are coated with teflon and generally nonstick. While they may be great for the occasional baker, they bake fast and may not be true to time or temperature. Instead, go with plain metal stainless steel sheets. Have a ready stock of parchment paper and use the sheets for baking or broiling.

A Few of My Favorites - 08.08.14

080814 1. Chuck Taylors: Every so often I find a pair of shoes that I live in. In high school they were Birkenstocks, in college they were a pair of grey and neon green Nike Shox and currently, I find myself wearing my pair of all black Chuck Taylors as often as possible. They are comfortable. They are slick. They are classic. And they go with just about everything.

2. Tinto de Verano: I was shopping at Trader Joe's yesterday and fell upon something that I had long been looking for since I left Spain six years ago - sparkling lemonade. Tinto de Verano is a drink made up of equal parts red wine and sparkling lemonade. I have tried everything else under the sun - Sprite, 7Up...but nothing was the same. Until now! Thank you Trader Joe's!

3. NutriBullet: I kind of feel like I am cheating on Vitamix with this one... But let's be honest with ourselves here, I am an incredibly broke 27-year old and I don't have the money to go out and buy a $700 blender. So for now I will go with the cheaper, and surprisingly amazing, lesser version. Best of all, I can blend my smoothie in the mug that I take on the go. Talk about convenience.

4. Trader Joe's: New York introduced me to Trader Joe's and I've been forever changed. No, you may not be able to get everything you need here, but you can get pretty close. Best of all, the prices are absolutely reasonable. TJ Favorites? Roasted Gorgonzola Flavored Oven Crisp Crackers, Cilantro Jalapeño Hummus, Cold Brew and the frozen mac & cheese. Last night's dinner? Trader Joe's Mac & Cheese with a few glasses of tinto de verano.

5. Andy Grammer Magazines or Novels: I've seen Andy Grammer in concert a number of times at Ravinia in Illinois and have always been a fan. His most recent album, Magazines or Novels, came out this past Tuesday and it has been on repeat ever since. Simply put, the album does not disappoint. Song after song I find myself blurting out nonsensical words as if I knew the lyrics (I will learn them eventually).

A Few of My Favorites - 07.25.14

072514 1. Lululemon The Mat: After running, yoga is my favorite way to sweat. When I first started practicing though, I could not stand it. I thought it was boring. As I kept at it, I was able to gain an appreciation for it. The problem that I faced time after time was my mat. I purchased a generic brand from Target and it was thin and slippery. Downward dog would turn into flat-on-my-face dog. A few weeks ago I bucked up and bit the bullet. I spent the money on The Mat from Lululemon and I am convinced that it is going to save my yoga game.

2. Sakura Pigma Micron 05 Pen: Being a writer, I always carry a Moleskin notebook around with me. Whether I am jotting down ideas or notes for myself, it helps to keep everything in one place. One weird pet peeve of mine is Bic pens. I hate them. Why? I cannot answer that. No matter where I go I have to carry my Sakura Pigma Micron 05 pen with me - try it once and you'll never go back. They are amazing pens.

3. Epicurean Slate Cutting Board: Being a food blogger I must have good kitchen tools, a cutting board is perhaps one of the most vital of these. I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to the cutting board that I use day in and day out. I am not particularly fond of plastic cutting boards. My mother bought me one of these a few years ago for Christmas and it has been my go-to ever since.

4. Freshmints Tic Tacs: These are my drug. Just the other day I opened a new container in the morning. By 4:00pm, it was empty. I cannot resist the tic tac.

5. belVita Blueberry Breakfast Biscuits: These breakfast biscuits are my favorite on the run breakfast, all though most mornings I need to eat at least two packs of them, plus a few other things, in order to be full. They come in a number of flavors, but the blueberry is by far the superior.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Be sure to come back next week for some great new posts!