Cooking Tools of the Trade

Are you getting ready for an amazing holiday season like I am? If so, take my advice and make sure you have every essential kitchen tool all cooks (ahem, chefs) should have in order to perfectly prepare traditional seasonal favorites…and maybe some new dishes, too!

One of my favorite cooking tools is the KitchenAid stand mixer. For those not in the know, it has several attachments and it allows you to prepare everything from bread and pizza doughs, to cakes and even fresh pasta. In addition, if you want to impress your guests, make sure you have the following tools:

Good quality knives

These include chef’s, serrated, paring, and utility. Knowing how to use each one of these is critical to success in the kitchen. The chef’s knife is great for slicing butternut squash and meats. The paring knife is good for small items, such as apples, nuts, and garlic. The serrated knife is mostly used for slicing bread, but I also find it useful when slicing heirloom tomatoes. The utility knife could be used to cut small pieces of fish and poultry, as well as small fruits and vegetables, such as shallots and pears.

Immersion blender/food processor

This tool is great for blending cream soups in the same saucepan after cooking them. It is also good for quick smoothies in the morning, as well as gravy or homemade mayonnaise. The food processor is very useful for shredding carrots and cabbage for slaws, making breadcrumbs, pesto, and salsas.

Potato masher

There are many types of mashers on the market. I love the potato ricer, because it makes the mashed potatoes creamier and more velvety. The potato mashers could be used for regular potatoes, as well as sweet potatoes, or even cauliflower.

Garlic press, citrus hand juicer, and zester

The garlic press is very nice, because it mashes the garlic into very fine paste. That way, it can be used to make garlicky finishing sauces and marinades for meats in a snap. The citrus hand juicer is normally used for limes and lemons, whenever you want to quickly get some fresh juice for fish, tea, or salad dressings.

Nowadays, microplane citrus zesters are very popular. I use them every now and then, if I want to garnish some dish with fresh lemon zest.

Baking pans, dishes, saucepans, and skillets

If you are planning to make desserts, you will need to stock your kitchen with different types of baking pans. For instance, for decadent brownies, you may need an 8×8-inch square baking pan. For cakes, it is often useful to have 8- and 9-inch round pans. When you make casseroles, you will need ceramic or glass baking dishes. For soups and stews, make sure to get different sizes of saucepans. Finally, nonstick skillets! These are super essential for making egg omelets in the mornings.

I will share with you some easy recipes that could be handy for your holiday season. I believe that during cool days, everyone craves warm, homemade soup. And a great vegetable side dish will never disappoint. Check them out on our website. Don’t forget to make some good bread to go with!

To make the Cheese and Onion Quick Bread, I used the following essential kitchen tools: KitchenAid stand mixer with flat beater attached, 9×5-inch loaf pan lined with parchment paper, wood cutting board, chef’s knife, cheese grater, measuring cups and spoons, kitchen scale, large nonstick skillet, and wire racks for cooling.

Cheese and Onion Quick Bread (14-16 slices)

  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 c. yellow onion, diced (about 1 small)
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 3/4 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 (12-oz.) bottle of beer
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes. Cool slightly. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cooked onion, cheese, and beer. Stir with the flat beater until moist. Pour the batter into a 9×5-inch loaf pan, previously lined with parchment paper. Drizzle evenly with melted butter.

Bake the bread for 45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan on a rack. Remove the bread from the loaf pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Slice the bread into 14-16 slices, using serrated knife. Serve with your favorite cream soup!

Roasted Broccoli Florets

  • 1 bunch of organic broccoli
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper chili flakes

Preheat oven to 400°F. On a large wood cutting board, chop the broccoli into medium-sized florets, using a utility knife. In a large bowl, mix florets, salt, oil, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a silicon-mat covered jelly-roll pan.

Bake for 15 minutes. Serve them as a side dish to meat, poultry, or fish.

Warm soup is heaven for the soul. Especially when it is topped with yummy, salty Italian ham (prosciutto) and fragrant pine nuts! This soup is enough for six small servings, but you can easily double or triple the ingredients to suit your needs. To prepare this tasty sweet potato soup, I used hand immersion blender, vegetable peeler, medium saucepan, whisker, and slicer knife.

Sweet Potato Soup with Prosciutto and Pine Nuts

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 c. water (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt and pepper
  • 2 oz. prosciutto, cut into strips
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette (optional)

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add potatoes, cook 5 minutes. Pour in water. Mix in salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.

Pour the mixture in a large bowl. Puree it with immersion blender.

In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk for 30 seconds. Gradually add the milk and whisk constantly. When slightly thickened, add the pureed vegetables. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.

Pour the soup into individual bowls. Garnish each with prosciutto strips, toasted pine nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette.

I hope this guide and these easy recipes will help you make the most of your favorite meals and even some special holiday dishes. Now, go make sure your kitchen is ready for all your upcoming culinary adventures!

I hope this guide and these easy recipes will help you make the most of your favorite meals and even some special holiday dishes. Now, go make sure your kitchen is ready for all your upcoming culinary adventures! LET’S EAT!

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