How to get a "Smart" Kitchen
When it comes to eating healthy, one of the easiest things you can do to motivate yourself is to have a well organised kitchen. A kitchen that has functional equipment and a good layout makes the idea of "cooking a healthy meal" all the more enjoyable. On top of that, knowing some "smart" kitchen tricks in storing, preparing and cleaning, again, makes the whole idea of "cooking dinner" more appealing than buying takeaway.
My suggested "Must-have" kitchen tools:
Set of sharp, quality knives - you cannot chop fast with a blunt knife and this alone will save you several minutes each day in the kitchen.
Quality kitchen scissors - useful for deboning a chicken to opening a bag of rice, you can't go past one of these. If possible choose a pair that can be completely separated into two parts, as this makes them easier to clean and the sharpen.
Air-tight containers - there are many brands out there. Keeping food air-tight is the key to making them last longer and to freezing leftovers well. Mushrooms for example in a brown paper bag lasts around 4 days, whereas in an air-tight container it can easily last a week. Tupperware had looked further into food storage and has discovered that certain vegetables prefer to have less ventilation than others. That's why you can find air-vents on Tupperware fridge containers and a list of what to store together too.
Ice cube trays with lids - this is important for freezing leftovers of just about anything. I find them handy for excess lemon juice and peel, tomato paste, fruit juice and yoghurt. Rather than letting things go rotten, I freeze them. Then when I need a bit for a recipe, I just grab it from it's container.
Plenty of bench space - This isn't really a tool, more of a kitchen design essential. it's so much easier to prepare food when you have plenty of bench space. When you don't have this, a kitchen trolley is ideal. It will create extra bench space when you need it, but can be rolled out of the way when not required.
Organised pantry - do you know what's in the back of your pantry? Is there items in your pantry that you haven't used in ages and may be out-of-date? If this is you, then you need to re-organise your pantry so that you can see everything you've got and so that you don't buy extra of something you already had (doh!). Think creatively when reorganising, perhaps move some food items to your overhead cupboards so that you can easily see them. Howards Storage World and IKEA has plenty of pantry organising ideas.
Good set of pots and pans - I counted the number of pots and pans I have in my kitchen - just 8. One very large saucepan with lid (this also acts as my wok), one medium saucepan, one large pot with steamer insert, another large pot with lid, one medium pot with lid, a milk pan (small), and two very small pots with lids (which I use for re-heating food, as I don't own a microwave). I'm happy with the number of pots and pans I have and the all fit neatly on one shelf in a corner of my kitchen.
My recommended "top kitchen equipment":
Thermomix - If you get one of these you probably don't need the rest of the equipment listed here! I was introduced to this baby in 2009 and it's still the best gadget in my kitchen. It can cook, chop, grind, whip, stir, mix, knead and steam. If you're thinking of replacing a few things, I certainly would recommend one.
Food processor - when choosing one, ensure that it has the ability to chop, grind and mince food of all sorts of food like nuts, seeds and diced beef.
Slow cooker - this is a great one especially if your oven isn't new and fancy, as it has a steam/slow roasting function with a delay start button.
Oven - these days ovens are very multi-functional. The new range pyrolytic ovens are self-cleaning and really are as easy as wiping away the ash. Plus with delay start and auto shut off at the end of cooking, it's much simpler to program from defrost to steaming hot food, so it's ready when you walk through your door.
Grill - grilling meat and vegetables is a very fast way of cooking, so is handy for those "5pm panics".
The microwave actually isn't a top kitchen equipment in my home, in fact I don't own a microwave! The reason why its' not on the list is because the microwave way of cooking has been linked to increased nutrient losses and excess water loss in food.
To save on water use a plastic bucket or container that fits into the sink. You can then tip the water onto your garden (as long as your dishwashing liquid is friendly to plants).
For pots and pans that are too big to fit in the dishwasher, add a little water to cover the base of the pan, then reheat it on the stove until it starts to bubble or steam, then turn off the heat. Add a tiny drop of dishwashing liquid and clean your pot or pan directly on the stove. You've now used about a 10th of the water you normally would if you had filled a sink of water to wash it! This is also a lot faster than doing it the traditional way in the sink (waiting for the hot water to come out of the tap!).
Use a bit of hot water to clean down your stove and benchtop. You'll cut through the job a lot faster as the hot water dissolves any sticky food marks quickly.
There are many more ideas in my head, including ideas to make food look interesting, but these I've written here I'd have to say are the 'essentials'. You don't need to spend a lot of money and have a kitchen filled of loads of fancy gadgets, just a few that "get the job done" quickly and easily will make you a 'masterchef' in your own home.
Written by Elke Supple.