Sheree’s advice on outfitting your kitchen for health
Today’s home cook has such a huge range of appliances, gadgets and utensils to choose from it can be overwhelming. But counter space is valuable real estate and there is no need to clutter your kitchen (or your life!) with this season’s “As Seen on TV” gizmo. Here are a few of my must-have healthy-kitchen tools.
A good knife is, hands down, my #1 pick for “what to invest in first.” A healthy-eating lifestyle includes food—mostly fruits and vegetables—that must be chopped. A good, comfortable knife makes hours in the kitchen seem like minutes. You absolutely do not need a big wooden block with a dozen different tools in it! Start with an 8″ chef knife; it’s a good, all-purpose tool. Also consider a paring knife for peeling and making garnishes, and a serrated knife for soft vegetables and slicing. Good brands to consider include Shun, Mac, Henckels and Wusthof. Expect to pay $80 or more for a higher-end knife. Also, get a good cutting board, preferably not plastic and definitely not glass. I prefer bamboo or maple wood.
A strong blender will make the creation of things such as creamy soups, thick smoothies and fresh nut butters a breeze. My favorite brand is Vitamix. And while some might think $400 and up is a lot to spend on a blender, know that this workhorse comes with a 7-year warranty. Its versatile speed ranges from 11 to 240 miles per hour, which lets you not only do more, but also do it faster. Domestic blenders are prone to burning out with overuse, and they simply are not as efficient as a high-power blender. The Blendtec blender is another option to consider, but my alliances lie firmly with Vitamix.
The term “food processor” can include a wide range of appliances, but here we’re talking about larger units that have chopping, slicing and shredding capabilities—depending on their accessories. Prices can range from well under $100 to more than $700 for extra large or commercial grade models. Cuisinart is probably the most well-known brand of food processor, and there are a variety of models and sizes available. If you already own a food processor, you probably have used the standard S blade, but if your appliance also came with disc/slicer blades, it would be beneficial to learn how to use them. They will open up a whole new food prep world for you!
With so many kinds of juicers available, selecting the right one can be confusing. Consider the ways you intend to use your machine and how much you are prepared to spend. Centrifugal juicers are the most popular and the most affordable. They’re great at juicing almost any fruit or vegetable, but are not capable of making juice from wheatgrass or leafy greens. I like Breville centrifugal juicers.
Single gear (masticating) juicers use an auger that literally chews fruit and vegetable fibers and breaks up the plant cells. Generally more efficient than centrifugal juicers, they are good for juicing most fruits and vegetables. They will also extract juice from leafy greens and herbs, but they can be slower and usually require more chopping of food before using. I use the Sampson brand.
Twin gear (triturating) machines are among the most expensive, but they also offer lots of benefits. These juicers turn at slow speeds resulting in less oxidation and foam. I own a Green Star twin gear juicer I really like. It yields more juice than my other machines—the drier pulp is proof of it’s proficiency—but it takes longer to make the juice and requires a little more effort to clean up afterward.
An electric food dehydrator is perfect for simple preservation, such as making your own sun-dried tomatoes and banana chips. I also use mine for elaborate concoctions like raw vegan pizza crusts, kale chips and cookies. My favorite brand is Excalibur, which features a rear-mounted heating unit and horizontal airflow fan. The temperature can be regulated (85 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit) and the doors and trays are all removable, making it flexible for lots of uses, as well as easy to clean. I really like my nine-tray model, which also has a timer. Consider purchasing a few of the optional nonstick dehydrator sheets, which allow you to make fruit leathers, crackers and other “wet batter” treats that would drip through a standard mesh sheet.
Don’t put off your healthy food adventure because you don’t have this tool or that appliance. Can’t afford to buy new? You can often find good deals on eBay, Craig’s List, or at garage and tag sales. Get started now and build up your kitchen arsenal as your means will allow.