EQUIPMENT BASICS:Let's start with equipment. I love a kitchen gadget store just like the next person, but frankly a lot of these items are just a waste of your time. Here's what I find I use regularly:
Knives: I regularly use my 10", 8", two paring knives, boning, and bread knives. Mine are Henkel's Professional series, but frankly you can get great results from cheaper brands. Just make sure that you have one chef's knife that you are comfortable with and you can accomplish almost everything you need to do in a kitchen!
Silicone Spatulas: I have approximately 5 of these in varying sizes, and I use them ALL the time!
Whisks: I have approximately 3 of these and one miniature one. I prefer the wire balloon-style, but also have one that is straight with steel balls on the end, and a silicone one that I use occasionally.
Cutting boards: I am old-school when it comes to cutting boards. Mine are hardwood (maple or bamboo) and I prefer them because I find that they are gentler to my knife edges. There is controversy about boards and some people insist that plastic is safer as they don't harbour any bacterias etc. My response is that if you take a good look at your plastic boards, you will see that they are stained. Stains are the result of cuts in the surface of the board where bacteria could lay. They can be dishwashered whereas wood can't, but I just ensure that I diligently bleach my boards once a week. I just fill my sink with hot water and a capful of bleach (I use the environmentally safe version as we are on a septic system and part of the Oak Ridges Moraine). I then just immerse my clean wooden boards in the water for approximately 5 mins, rinse and let dry. Also after cleaning my boards after use, I spritz them with white vinegar and this will remove the vast majority of possible contaminants as well as odours.
Measuring Spoons & Cups: I have two sets of spoons (one for wet ingredients, and one for dry), and two one-cup glass measuring cups, and two four-cup glass measuring cups.
Baking Sheets: I tend to use these a lot (but not for baking!!!) I have about 5 metal rimmed baking sheets that I use for baking my homemade granola, roasting veggies and nuts. I always line my baking sheets with parchment paper prior to use, so mine are not the non-stick version. In my opinion, these are invaluable and a crucial item in my kitchen. I also have a couple of loaf pans and two baking stones (used for pizza) in my cupboard.
For smaller appliances I tend to use my food processor, steamer, mini chopper, and immersion blender the most. I am so lucky to have a husband who is also a Contractor, so I got to design my kitchen to suit me. As you can see in the above photo, my small appliances are contained in one cupboard of my pantry, on slide-out drawers for easy storage and access. I find if these appliances are easily reached, they will be used! I also have a panini grill and an ancient sandwich maker/press which see a lot of action in our house!! The standing mixer was a gift to me, but since I don't bake, and that's Greg's passion, he tends to use it more than I.
PANTRY BASICSThere are items that I religiously keep stocked in my pantry as I know that I will always need them. Here's a list of what can be generally found in my pantry:
-legumes: dried black beans, dried lentils, canned chickpeas, canned kidney beans, Heinz baked beans (easy supper for the kids with toast!), dried split peas, canned sweet peas (mainly for my Dad whose favourite meal is peas & boiled potatoes!)
-sauces: chili sauce, organic salsa, HP sauce, mango chutney, sweet chili sauce, miso paste, ketchup, plum sauce, a variety of local mustards (both grainy and smooth - Dijon especially), tomato paste, tomato sauce (I want to make my own this summer, but right now purchase the best quality, organic ones that I can find), and I have one bottle of "Diana's Herb & Garlic Marinade" always on hand for my picky daughter who will only eat chicken souvlaki that is marinated in this sauce...sigh!
-oils: EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), coconut oil, Olys cereal-based oil.
-herbs: I keep quite a variety of dried herbs and seeds always on hand as I routinely use them in my dishes. The most common are: allspice, basil, curry powder, cumin, coriander, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, dill weed & seeds, fennel seeds, herbs d'provence, mustard powder & seeds (both yellow and black), rosemary, thyme, sage, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, salba seeds, parsley, paprika, black and red pepper, red chili flakes, nutmeg, a variety of salts (my primary cooking salt is Kosher, but I also have started experimenting with Hawaiian red, Fleur de Sel de France, grey and pink salts).
-grains: basmati rice, long grain rice, wild rice, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread crumbs and panko bread crumbs.
-pasta: spaghetti, fettuccini, ziti, couscous, lasagna, rice noodles, farfalle, shell pasta (jumbo for stuffing, and small), broad egg noodles.
-freezer items: beef/chicken/vegetable stocks that I have made and frozen in 1 cup portions, whole ginger root, vanilla bean pods. Carrots/corn/peas/potatoes/onions/squash/spinach/beets/turnip/sweet bell peppers that I have received from my CSA basket and prepared, chopped and bagged in measured portions for use. Vegetable purees (broccoli/cauliflower/carrot/spinach/butternut squash) that I sneak into my kids' food! Dried wild mushrooms, phyllo pastry, organic meats (chicken/beef - in a variety of forms/pork - in a variety of forms), cod and trout fillets, fresh herbs harvested from my garden, a variety of bread (because I really am a carb-o-holic!), fiddleheads, and lemonade (that I use when I am called upon to produce a punchbowl!)
-other: whole wheat and white organic flours, cornmeal, white/brown/golden/icing/vanilla sugars, COFFEE (organic free-trade, Hazelnut-Vanilla, Illy Espresso, and decaf for my sister-in-law and any pregnant friends). Sundried tomatoes in oil, garlic cloves that I have roasted and packed in EVOO and keep in a mason jar, Parmesan-Reggiano, goat's cheese, blue and stilton cheeses, cheddar (medium and old), creamed cheese, ricotta, feta, bocconcini, mozzarella. Organic salted and unsalted butters. Tea - my Dad's Typhoo, and a vast array of herbals. Honey, molassas, dried coconut, chocolate chips, rolled oats, ground & roasted flax seed (I purchase it from Can-Mar Foods from Saskatchewan because the owner has perfected the roasting technique to capture the highest level of Omega 3's while growing it organically! Check it out and make sure that you include a tbsp. in your morning yogurt or breakfast cereal!!) My homemade granola, organic yogurt. In my vegetable bins you will find potatoes (fingerlings, white, red, sweet potatoes), onions (cooking and red), shallots, garlic, and squash.
There are a ton of other items that I have stored away, but I find with these items, as well as a good variety of colourful fresh fruits and veggies, I am able to create tasty, nutritious and appealing dishes anytime!