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Top ten cookware essentials. February 7, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. If you could name just ten kitchen tools that you use constantly and that make your life easier, what would they be? Here are my ten:

* A gas stove. Gas has it all over electric when it comes to temperature control. Not only can you adjust the burners to the precise heat you need for each dish, but once you turn the burner off, it’s off (cool): no long cooling-down period as with electric. It’s got to be gas!

* LeCreuset pots and pans. Heavy, enamel-coated cast-iron pots and pans are a lifesaver in my kitchen. They have all the heat-retention of cast-iron without the bother of seasoning, rusting, off-flavors, and so on. They also are very easy to clean. I love my LeCreuset Dutch ovens and large, heavy frying pans. But they’re not the only options: I found a wonderful Mario Batali enamel-coated cast-iron saute/saucepan at a thrift store for pennies on the dollar of my LeCreuset pots and pans. (I’ve also bought LeCreuset pans and lids on eBay and saved big bucks.)

* A rice cooker. Perfect white rice, brown rice, lentils and rice, anything and rice, any kind of rice, every time: amazing. As someone who could never manage stovetop rice, the rice cooker has been a real godsend to me. We love rice and eat it often. And the rice cooker is fine with plain rice or rice doctored with everything from hemp and chia seeds to sauteed onions and mushrooms. Best of all, no worry about standing over the stove ’til it’s done. And its $19 price can’t be beat.

* Little Vicky. My Victorinox paring knife (fondly referred to by fans as “Little Vicky”) stays sharp and cuts beautifully. And it costs a fraction of what high-end knives like my Wusthof Trident paring knife go for. The Victorinox has serrations, unlike the Trident, and I find them helpful for holding slippery veggies in place while I’m trying to cut them.

* A real potato masher. I inherited mine from my mother, who may have inherited it from hers. It’s a heavy stainless-steel circle (of course, on a heavy handle) with square openings all over it. This design makes it not only incredibly easy to mash potatoes (or any other vegetable), but also to mash beans for refried beans or black bean soup. It serves as the perfect low-tech substitute for a blender or food processor when you need to thicken anything from a dip to a soup.

* An air-popper. Here’s another $19 item that will make life simpler if you happen to love popcorn. The air-popper spews out a bowlful of hot, fresh-popped popcorn, which you can choose to top with melted butter, shredded cheese, or whatever you like. No gross, stinky, carcinogenic microwave popcorn, no oil-coated popcorn and long, greasy cleanup. Once the air-popper is cool, just wipe it out with a paper towel and store until you need it.

* Pyrex dishes with lids. Forget storing leftovers in carcinogenic plastic containers, or storing takeout in the original containers. Buy an assortment of Pyrex glass containers with tight-fitting lids. They’ll go from fridge to oven (minus the lids), they keep food fresh, and they’re easy to clean. Avaialble in groceries everywhere.

* Corningware. I’d be lost without my Corningware, from individual heating dishes to casserole-size dishes with glass lids. I’ve bought all of it from thrift stores, except for the individual baking dishes, a hand-down from a friend, and I use them every day. I love the individual dishes because you can serve up a portion of leftovers and heat it up, just the right size for one serving.

* Bamboo spoons. I’ve dutifully used wooden spoons all my life, but they tend to fray and shred, even crack, over time. In my experience, bamboo spoons offer all the benefits of wood without the fraying and cracking.

* A good cutting board. Mine’s handmade maple, a gift from a friend. I use it every day, as I do so many items on this list. If I didn’t have this cutting board, I’d probably be looking into one made of bamboo.


* A hand-mixer. I have an old Sunbeam hand-mixer that I use whenever cream or eggwhites need to be whipped or butter and sugar beaten for a batter. It does the job perfectly and is easy to store afterwards, unlike a stand mixer.

There are so many other essentials that it’s hard to know when to stop. I couldn’t function without my set of stainless mixing bowls, which I use for everything from beating eggs for an omelette to serving as a salad bowl. What makes your top ten?

‘Til next time,


Try ’em, you’ll like ’em (if you can just lift ’em) May 18, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. I don’t know why pots and pans popped into my mind today as a post topic, but they did. Our friend Ben and I grew up in a more innocent era when our mothers used thick aluminum pots and pans, many passed down the generations, which conveyed and retained heat beautifully without being heavy. But then Alzheimer’s reared its ugly head, and there’s no way we’re using aluminum cookware. (We wish we could avoid aluminum-based antiperspirants, too, since we’re really convinced that they’re the culprits, but we haven’t seen even one attempt at a commercial alternative. Marketers, are you listening?!!)

Back to cookware. The ideal cookware holds heat, so it cooks food easily without burning or scorching. It doesn’t rust. It’s easy to clean. It’s attractive. It will outlast you, even if you use it several times a day as I do. What is it? Two words: LeCreuset.

After researching cookware at endless length in grad school, I decided that LeCreuset cookware was the best there was, and I’ve had no reason to change my mind since. My beloved Mama was kind enough to buy me a starter set as a graduation gift, and I’m still using those original pieces to this day. I’ve added a few pieces over the years via eBay (a great source for new or used LeCreuset pieces at great prices, if you’re willing to bid on them) and thanks to generous friends. I love cooking, and I love LeCreuset.

There are two caveats, however. (“Caveat” comes from “caveat emptor,” Latin for “let the buyer beware.” Always a wise policy!) First, LeCreuset cookware is expensive. Yow! This is why eBay is a great option—you can find pieces at a fraction of the store price. My “starter set” included a frying pan and Dutch oven with a shared lid, and I often needed to use both—with lids—at the same time. Thanks to eBay, I was able to find a second-hand lid for a few dollars. Hooray!

The second caveat is the weight. LeCreuset cookware cooks so perfectly because it’s cast iron with an enamel coating. No rust, easy to clean, but heat-retentive. Fantastic!!! But oh, my, that cast-iron cookware is heavy. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, lack arm strength, or just aren’t as strong as you used to be, LeCreuset is not for you.

Otherwise, it’s the ideal cookware. Partner it with a Crock-Pot and a toaster oven and you’ll have everything you need for a lifetime of great cooking. Did I mention that it comes in fabulous colors, too? Sadly, my starter set is a boring grey, but I’ve purchased or been given additional pieces in beautiful shades of red, chartreuse, and true blue. And LeCreuset honors its lifetime warranty, as I know because our good friend Carolyn wrote the company when her LeCreuset Dutch oven developed a chip after twenty-odd years of hard use, and the company sent her a replacement with no questions asked. Wow.

So, there you have it: My best-of cookware recommendation. I’ve seen a lot of cookware, and nothing has ever made me even think of abandoning my LeCreuset. Try it, you’ll like it! (If you can just lift it…) 

                  ‘Til next time,