We love binge watching reruns of sitcoms like “King of Queens” and “Big Bang Theory” at night after the kids are in bed. They’re so funny and so real! One of my favorite episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” is when Marie teaches Debra how to make her famous meatballs. Through a sabotaged cooking lesson where nothing Debra cooks is as good as what Marie cooks, we learn that the secret ingredient in Marie’s kitchen is love.
The women in my family cook with lots of love too. My mom makes the best sweet potato casserole and the best banana bread ever with extra helpings of love (and sugar, but I’m ok with splurging on occasion!). My mother in law is the queen of dessert. My grandmother “Abuela” poured love into her cooking as an amazing chef, even catering our wedding for 125 people with some of the best food I can remember eating.
My sister in law Lauri is my mom-chef hero. She’s a magician in the kitchen, transforming basic ingredients into little bites of Heaven. I often wonder how she can make even ordinary ingredients taste extraordinary…I’m pretty sure it’s the love. She is a self-proclaimed lover of food and a people-lover too. Taking care of friends of family is second nature to her and often involves food.
When I was still in the hospital after having Preston, Lauri stocked my freezer with homemade meals including chicken soup. I’ll never be sure if it was the perfect ratio of rice/veggies/chicken or the sweet memory I have of such a kind act of love, but in my mind no chicken soup will ever compare.
Cooking from scratch is a necessity, especially in our family because we avoid processed foods and have food allergies to deal with. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking for my family and it is most definitely a labor of love.
I was thinking about some of the tools that make me happy in the kitchen and make life a little easier. I’ve got some nice, more expensive gadgets I love, but a lot of the tools I use every day are simple, inexpensive items. Here are my top 15 kitchen tools under $15 that help me add a little extra love to my cooking.
1. Plastic Baggy Holder I got this little gadget for Christmas a few years ago and once I figured out what it was for, I fell madly in love with it. I tell random strangers about how cool this kitchen tool is. I freeze tons of leftovers and this little gem makes spooning food into plastic bags a one person job without any mess. I’m really not sure how I ever lived without this!
2. Lemon squeezer I use this daily to squeeze lemon into my morning lemon/cayenne pepper water. It’s quick, easy and keeps seeds from getting into my mug, and I love that I can throw it in the dishwasher when I’m done.
3. Flexible cutting mats I made the switch to all bamboo cutting boards, but it’s nice to have these for a few scenarios when I prefer something dishwasher safe. I usually cut raw meat on one of these and then toss it straight into the dishwasher.
4. Microplane I didn’t know how bad I needed this tool until I actually got one. I have a few favorite recipes that call for lemon zest (like this lemon raspberry muffin recipe) and this tool easily creates super-fine, pillowy zest with no effort. Just be careful because it’s ridiculously sharp and you could easily add a bit of knuckle to your recipe.
5. Round cookie cutters I’ve got a few themed cookie cutters set aside for holidays, but this set of round cookie cutters stays out year round, and I use them all the time. I use these mostly for biscuits because we like to make smaller, kid-sized ones and bigger ones for the grown-ups. The handle makes these easy for little handles to help with the cutting and I like how these nest for clean storage.
6. Dishwasher basket I started using this to put pacifiers and baby bottle parts in the dishwasher, but now that we’re past that stage I find myself continuing to use this daily. It’s great for other little things like baby spoons and mason jar lids as well as all the parts to my husband’s coffee gadgets like his espresso machine and French press. The straw holder on the side is pretty genius too!
7. Reusable produce bags I got these bags to store produce from our garden without making a mess in the crisper drawers, but they’re a great option for replacing plastic bags at the grocery store for produce or bulk items. These are sturdy and easy to clean in the washing machine.
8. Dish drying mat I used to have a nice bamboo drying rack for my dishes, but after decluttering with the KonMari method I realized that clear countertops made me happy and I should put dishes away instead of letting them sit out to dry. Now I use these mats to set the dishes on while I’m washing and drying and then I can put the mat away as soon as I’m finished with no lingering kitchen clutter.
9. Dressing jar Store-bought salad dressings, even organic ones, are filled with less than desirable ingredients. This jar makes it easy to create homemade dressings because the recipes are right on the jar.
10. Chip clips I’ve always resisted using chip clips- I’m more of a twist the bag and fold it under kind of girl. My husband on the other hand is a firm believer in chip clip usage and often found himself frustrated because he couldn’t find one. After finding magic in our kitchen with the KonMari method, I got a set of matching chip clips from IKEA and now I’m obsessed. The set comes with two sizes, and I use them on everything now!
11. Stainless steel wide-mouth funnel I purchased this to use for canning but I actually use it for so much more. I use mason jars for storing bulk items and individual servings of leftovers and this wide-mouth funnel is so handy when filling up jars with messy items like soups and casseroles. It’s super sturdy and dishwasher safe too.
12. Onigiri mold I use this mold to make a fun and easy lunch with wow factor. Depending on the filling, onigiri gives us the taste of sushi in a remarkably portable “sandwich” that feels way more sophisticated than our standard fare.
13. Small Cookie Scoop I use my cookie scoops every day, and I especially love the small size scoop. It makes it super easy to neatly fill a mini muffin pan, make kid-sized pancakes and little cookies.
14. Nut milk bag Making homemade almond milk was such a messy process before I discovered this little bag. It’s made on nylon and the mesh is incredibly fine which makes it great for straining nut milks, yogurt, smoothies and for making cold brew coffee.
15. Parchment paper muffin liners There is nothing worse than making a delicious muffin and losing half of it when it sticks to the paper muffin liner. These parchment liners are non-stick and work amazingly well for all kinds of muffins, mini quiche or baked eggs.
Do you use any of these kitchen items already? Or do you have a favorite that I don’t know about yet? I’d love to hear from you in a comment!
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