Here are the 10 items that, in my opinion, no kitchen should be without.
1. Crock pot/Slow-cooker - If you have never made a crock pot part of your regular dinner routine, you don't know what you're missing. A crock pot allows you to start it early and forget it until dinnertime. It also allows you to dine on lower priced cuts of meat that because they have been slow-cooked come out juicy and tender. I use a 5-quart crock pot because you can usually cook smaller meals in a larger pot but you'll have trouble squishing big meals into a small pot. If you need some motivation to cook in your crock pot, check out my selection of slow-cooked crock pot recipes. The two crock pot cookbooks I use regularly are 365 Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker Recipes & More and Southern Living: Slow-Cooker Cookbook.
2. Food Chopper- This item is similar to a food processor just smaller. I have never owned a food processor so I cannot make a true comparison. However I have had my Black & Decker Food Chopper since I was in college (and it was my grandma's before that) and it is still running like new. It chops quickly and I do everything from nuts to salsa to beans to milkshakes in it. I use the smaller1-1/2 cup chopper but Black & Decker makes a 3-cup chopper as well.
3. Spice Rack - When I first got married, I had almost no spices and quickly realized how expensive spices are when purchased individually. Thankfully I had received a nice revolving spice rack as a wedding gift. Some of these spices I use regularly and some I rarely use but it great to have them in my kitchen. Usually a spice rack is also a space-saver so you don't need to find room for 20-30 different little containers.
4. Baking Stone - A few years ago, I purchased a Pampered Chef Baking Stone because of all the rave reviews I had heard about them from my friends. Well, now it is my turn for the rave review. These stones come is various sizes and shapes but mine is a typical bar pan/cookie sheet size. The stone cooks evenly, cleans easily and burns nothing. I do cookies, biscuits, chicken fingers, you name it on my stone and they all cook great.
5. Bread Maker- Whenever we used to go visit my husband's grandparents they would always have a couple of loaves of fresh homemade bread at their house. When his grandpa passed away, his grandma gave me her bread maker and I am happy to carry on the family tradition. If you have never baked a homemade loaf of bread, the smell is intoxicating. Also, knowing how to pronounce every ingredient in your bread is very comforting. I love the varieties of bread you can make and bread machine recipes abound both on and off the internet.
6. 13 x 9 Glass Dish - A 13 x 9 pan is used for everything from casseroles to cakes and baking them in glass is always my preference. If something has to be cut in the pan, I don't worry about scratching the non-stick finish. If food is crusted onto the bottom of the pan, I can scrub as hard as I want without damaging the dish. A pan with a lid is a plus and makes it easy to transport your food for potlucks or just for covering your leftovers. Also you can see through the pan to see how you food is cooking. A square glass dish (8x8 or 9x9) is also very handy.
7. Kitchen Spritzer - This is another Pampered Chef item that I cannot do without. I hated the price I had to pay for non-stick cooking spray every time I was out. I also didn't like the extra things that were added to the spray. Then I found out about the Kitchen Spritzer. You fill it with regular vegetable or olive oil and pump it to create the pressure to spray. The spritzer comes with two pump tops so you have an extra when the first wears out. That being said, I have been using mine for about 2 years and it is still doing fine.
8. Taste of Home's Quick Cooking Cookbooks - These are far and away my favorite cookbooks ever. All of the recipes come from Taste of Home Quick Cooking Magazine and are compiled at the end of the year into one large cookbook. They are also broken down within the book into great chapters such as "Give me 5 or Fewer", "30 Minutes Until Mealtime" and "Fast, Delicious and Nutritious".
9. Garlic Press - I love using fresh garlic when I'm cooking. There are so many health benefits from garlic and the taste is so much better then garlic from a jar. There was a time when I had no garlic press so I would mince the garlic cloves with a knife when I needed fresh garlic. Very tedious and flavor does not come through as well. It is worth it to pay a little extra for a sturdy, preferably stainless steel garlic press. I went through 2 five-dollar Wal-Mart garlic presses in a short period of time because the pressure of pushing eventually broke the front out.
10. KitchenAid Stand Mixer - Okay, I admit that this is not absolutely necessary in every kitchen - but it is so wonderful to have and it is one of my favorites. If you have to start saving up now or put it on your Christmas wish list, do it! I mix up cookie dough, meatloaf, meatballs, cakes, just about anything that needs electric mixing. If you shop around or online, you can pick from a plethora of different colors.
I just wanted to share with you the favorite items in my kitchen. Maybe this list will help you as you select kitchen items for a wedding gift, wedding registry, house-warming, college student or just someone starting out on their own. I also shared this list at We are THAT Family's Works-for-Me Wednesday. What is your favorite item in the kitchen?