Do you ever tell yourself “there’s gotta be a faster way of doing this!” when prepping food? Or “I wish I could add flavor to my food and still keep it healthy.” Over the last several years, I have gradually added these 9 “must-have” kitchen items to my own kitchen, and honestly use them if not every day, almost every day. I use these them so much that I want to share them with you to make your life a little easier and give a healthy, tasty kick to your meal planning. These 9 must-have kitchen essentials are an instant boost to nutrition and function! Try one or two of these must-have items to see if they make your life easier and your cooking regimen more enjoyable!
1. Food processor
I feel so strongly about having a food processor, that this is the only must-have appliance on my list. This appliance has a limitless uses. In seconds you can have protein bites, low carb “cereal”, avocado ice cream cookies (I promise you can’t taste the avocado), secret ingredient date bars, diced veggies, shredded meat, crushed up nuts, pureed fruit, mashed cauliflower….the list goes on and on. Talk about easy meal-prepping extraordinaire!! Seriously, I’m in love with my food processor and use it almost every day. When I upgraded to a larger unit, I couldn’t part with my “old” food processor, just in case I needed a back-up. I even love food processors more than my InstantPot! Food processors are worth their weight in gold! I have two Cuisinart food processors – a 7 cup and a 14 cup. They both do an amazing job!
- I highly recommend getting no smaller than an 7 cup food processor. Once you fall in love with your food processor, you will regret it if you don’t. I wanted a larger capacity one because when I make things, I make large batches so it lasts several days/weeks.
Silpat liners are magical cooking aides, and serve multiple functions, including actually making cookies bake more evenly and have a better texture. They seem pricey for “just a baking liner”, but I use mine for not only baking cookies, but also low-carb tortilla chips, healthy low-carb cereal/granola, and virtually any baked item. I even throw it right on top of casseroles or other dishes as a “lid” while baking so they won’t burn (instead of using aluminum foil, which at high temperatures, can be hazardous to our health). I also use it instead of waxed paper to roll cookie dough or other pastry out with a rolling pin, and have even put them in the freezer when “setting” my chocolate peanut butter protein bites. (I freeze them first immediately after spooning them out onto the pan, then put them in a smaller container in the freezer.)
Better, yet, purchase two of these and “sandwich” veggies in between of them (so you’ll have one liner on the pan and one directly on top of your veggies). The liners seal in the moisture during baking and you can use a lot less oil on your food.
I have extra large cookie sheets, so this Silpat liner fits it perfectly. The liner size is 16.5 x 11.5 inches. You can sometimes find these liners cheaper if it’s an out-of-season pattern (i.e. I have one with snowflakes on it and it was on sale during the summer). They come in all different sizes and even shapes.
I have had my liners for over a year and they wash and wear well.
3. Chia seeds
These suckers are small but mighty! They are best known for their calcium, protein, and fiber, but they also are amazing at soaking up liquids. I add them to everything I reasonably can get away with (pancake batter, cereal, smoothies, almond chips, protein bites). They do this trick where they make you feel fuller longer (think–helping you not overeat or constantly graze). I use them as a thickener in some of my recipes, so if you purposefully (or accidentally) add too much liquid to a recipe, let it sit a while and the chia seeds will soak up the moisture. Like magic! You can also add them to foods “as-is”, straight out of the package. They have a tiny crunch this way, but chia seeds have virtually no flavor.
Mirror check. Have your dental floss ready or eat least do the “Do I have anything in my teeth” check. Especially if eaten “dry”, these can sometimes get stuck in your teeth and stand out like a sore thumb. If you need a way to camouflage them from your kids (as my 3 year old doesn’t like little black things floating in his cereal), buy the white chia seeds. I get white chia seeds at Natural Grocers. Black chia seeds are cheapest at Costco.
- I discovered this about a year ago and it still blows my mind. It’s packed with B vitamin, folate, and protein, and adds a savory flavor with minimal calories. Plus it has magical immunity boosts! It’s flakiness quickly dissolves in liquid, so can be added to soups. (I use it for the cheesy flavor but love all the nutrients it has!) I also use as a salad topper, in scrambled eggs, and almond chips.
- Appreciate the actual flavor of peanuts with the natural oils (which, bonus–these serve as excellent “binders” to hold foods together when making things like protein bites). Plus it doesn’t have all the added “junk” (sugars, processed oils, and other random strange things) major food companies put in peanut butter. Don’t trust food labels. Even though it may say “Natural” it may have crap in it. The ingredients should only have nuts and maybe a little salt. That’s it! So good! My current favorite is chunky Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter (the organic is sometimes the same price as non-organic). Some grocery stores even have self-serve peanut butter machines. It’s like soft serve ice cream–only way healthier. Try it!
- My kids love quinoa and it’s like a chameleon–you can make it taste like anything. You can also hide it in casseroles if they’re not particularly fond of it by itself. See my go-to Mexican Quinoa dish that is a staple in our house (my kids both love it). It’s cheapest at Costco.
- I don’t use Liquid Aminos as often as I’d like, but they are an excellent, healthy substitute for Soy Sauce or general seasoning. It’s a lot less sodium than Soy Sauce and has quite a bit of protein sourced from plants.
- I’m not sure I even own regular table salt anymore. I use Celtic Sea Salt for everything–cooking, baking, and even a pinch to my morning hydration routine. Side note—Celtic Sea Salt is very different from Himalayan Sea Salt, which has been found to have microplastics in it!
9. Organic No-Salt Seasoning (Costco)
- I love that this is plant-based and can go in anything! I add it to my almond flour chips, soups, burger patties, stir fry…the list goes on and on. It’s instant flavor!