Splurge Vs. Save: Kitchen Edition

Cooking is a great way to connect with loved ones and save a little money while you’re at it. But home food prep can become less affordable when you consider all the kitchen tools you need to put a meal together. While we always prefer quality over quantity every time, there are a few shortcuts you can take to save cash when it comes to kitchen tools. Take a look at five items where you can save and five where you should splurge– you’ll have a chef-worthy kitchen in no time!

Our Surf Rider apartment community in Metairie offers spacious kitchens perfect for foodies.

Our Surf Rider apartment community in Metairie offers spacious kitchens perfect for foodies.

SAVE: Affordable Kitchen Tools

Mixing Bowls: No need for fancy ceramic bowls here. A set of simple, stainless steel bowls will provide you with the mixing space you need and also resist bacteria buildup. Bonus? They also perfect for a lunchtime salad or gigantic bowl of cereal.

Baking Sheets: Baking sheets are prone to food buildup, so no need to purchase expensive ones that will lose their luster quickly anyway. Pro tip: use a topper like aluminum foil or a Silpat sheet to preserve the smooth surface.

Spatula: Even the most expensive spatulas are still relatively affordable, but since these don’t get much wear and tear, an inexpensive model will last!

Colander: Whether for draining pasta or rinsing fruit and vegetables, this smart tool doesn’t have to be a splurge. Any model will do, although we recommend stainless steel over plastic for its antibacterial properties.

Nonstick pan: This is a kitchen workhorse, meaning that it’ll accumulate wear and tear quickly. It’s best to replace the pan as it wears (evidence suggests the nonstick coating can have carcinogenic properties as the coating breaks down).

SPLURGE: High-Quality Necessities

Stainless Steel Skillet: Unlike a nonstick pan, this is a kitchen necessity where you can (and should) spend a little extra. These pans are good for everything from pancakes and eggs to steaks and chicken – and since they don’t have a coating, it’s better to get a high-quality pan that will last and last.

Cutting Board: A teak wood cutting board is an incredible kitchen tool. Instead of a cheap plastic board, teak wood boards are easier on your knives and also limit bacteria – even if any sinks into the wood, it can’t survive inside (unlike a plastic board where bacteria can hang out on top).

Food processor: The right food processor will make you a whiz in the kitchen. The key here is to opt for a quality processor that actually does the job. Cheaper models often don’t process the food properly and are prone to breaking quickly.

Storage containers: Hear us out – it might be tempting to buy cheap, plastic storage containers, but consider spending a little extra on quality containers that won’t crack, are BPA free, and are microwave safe. Brands like Tupperware and Pyrex are a good place to start.

Olive Oil: Did you know that a high percentage of olive oils available for purchase are actually fraudulent? Oils of inferior quality are being passed off as extra virgin olive oil. Instead, reach for real, high-end oils or go for a happy medium with Whole Foods California 365 – it’s “real” olive oil at a more digestible price point.

Presto, Pesto! Quick Pesto Recipe

Want to take your pasta up a notch? Add depth of flavor to burgers? Take a break from basic butter on your toast? There’s a spread that does it all, and then some — and it’s so, so easy to make.

Pesto comes from the Italian word for “pounded,” and though it was originally made in a mortar and pestle (it’s still traditionally made this way in parts of Italy), today, you can whip it up ultra fast thanks to modern cooking appliances like blenders and food processors.

pesto ingredients

All the ingredients you’ll need for a classic, Genovese-style pesto. (Photo via Flickr user umami)

Read our Pesto Genovese recipe below, courtesy of Saveur, and keep scrolling for clever modifications that produce bold, rich flavors, plus tips and tricks for perfect pesto every time.

Pesto Recipe: Pesto Genovese

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Coarse salt, to taste (sea salt preferred)

Recipe:

Place basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor blender and process until finely minced. Slowly add olive oil in a steady stream as the machine is running. Continue adding oil until the mixture is smooth. Then, add the cheese and process just long enough to combine.

Pesto Recipe Variations

Once you master a basic pesto recipe, there are infinite variations! Try different nuts, like pistachios or walnuts. You can also experiment with different oils, like avocado oil or coconut oil, or cheeses like pecorino. Even the herbs are up for experimenting! Skip the basil and try adding parsley, spinach, or kale. Just adhere to the basic recipe below for the ratio you’ll need of each ingredient:

  • 1 part herbs
  • ½ part nuts
  • ½ part cheese
  • ½ part oil
  • ¼ – ½ tsp salt
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic

Pesto Pro Tips

Pesto is almost foolproof, but there are a few tips and tricks worth knowing:

  • If you’re using a basil pesto, search for the smallest, palest leaves, which indicate the youngest, freshest plant.
  • If you can’t find young basil, you can soften leaves by blanching them in simmering water for about 30 seconds and then plunging into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  • Italian pine nuts are the gold standard for classic pesto, but they’re also expensive. Save money by opting for walnuts — but soak them first in hot water for at least an hour to alleviate any bitter taste.
  • Lightly toast the nuts for an added depth of flavor.
  • You can modify your pesto to meet vegan requirements by swapping parmesan for vegan cheese.

Need more dinner ideas? Check out all of our cooking tips

Hearty Cabbage Recipes for Sides and Mains

With its meaty texture and family-friendly size, cabbage is a versatile vegetable for weeknight meals (bonus: it stores beautifully and has a long fridge life of up to two months!). Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that boasts anti-carcinogenic properties, so it’s a great food to incorporate into your diet. Whether you caught a cabbage in the St. Patrick’s Day parades or just picked one up on special at the grocery store, here are a few cabbage recipes ideal for a side dishes or entrees.

cabbage recipes

Braised red cabbage is a quick and easy side dish. (Photo via Flickr user Citrus and Candy)

Cabbage Recipes for Sides and Mains

Sides

Sauteed Cabbage and Apples: A quick saute of green cabbage helps the vegetable retain its satisfying texture while also adding a touch of sweetness thanks to tart, crisp apples. Get this basic recipe from My Recipes. Once you’ve mastered it, feel free to improvise! Try adding an egg on top for breakfast or stirring in some grainy mustard (and keep scrolling to learn how to transform this side into a main dish).

Cheesy Cabbage Casserole: Who needs mac ‘n’ cheese when there’s cheesy cabbage casserole on the table? This recipe from The Pioneer Woman is an instant comfort classic. The green cabbage casserole pairs great with brisket or chicken, but as recipe author Ree Drummond points out, “Sometimes, this really feels like a meal in itself.”

Braised Red Cabbage: This dish from Bon Appetit can be made ahead and reheated — perfect for a busy weeknight! Pantry ingredients like vinegar and chicken broth are all you’ll need (bacon is optional).

Mains

“Unstuffed” Cabbage Rolls: Cabbage rolls are a beloved preparation of the vegetable, but they can be tricky. Get all the flavor without any of the persnickety rolling by cooking all the ingredients together in a skillet. About Food has the easy recipe.

Smoked Sausage with Cabbage and Apples: Remember the quick sauteed cabbage and apples recipe in our Sides section? Simply add in your favorite smoked sausage (we like turkey kielbasa) for an instant main dish.

Shortcut Choucroute: Chef Mark Bittman found a quick and clever way to prepare a whole cabbage with his shortcut choucroute recipe. This easy main dish requires just about 5 minutes of prep. Let the oven do the work — you’ve got better things to do!

For more recipe ideas, visit our Cooking Tips hub on the blog. 

This Hearty Chili Recipe Tastes Even Better the Next Day

A homemade bowl of chili is kind of like a hug. It wraps itself around you, comforts you, and is there for you at the end of a long day. Using common pantry items and a slow-cooker technique, you can assemble this easy chili recipe in the morning. By the time you get home, it’s ready to go — simply add toppings of your choice like sour cream, thinly sliced jalapeños, crushed tortilla chips, avocado, fresh cilantro, or shredded cheddar cheese (or all of the above!).

Our favorite part about this chili is that it tastes even better after a day or two. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator to let the flavors marry together, then enjoy a bowl for lunch the next day, use it as a topping for chili dogs, or make late-night nachos with the leftovers.

Before you get started, take a look at some of our other ideas for weeknight cooking, like these 5 healthy ingredients or these 10-minute dinner ideas.

Chili made in the slow-cooker is ideal for weeknight meals. (Photo via Flickr user Foodie Baker)

Chili made in the slow-cooker is ideal for weeknight meals. (Photo via Flickr user Foodie Baker)

Slow-Cooker Chili Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound ground chuck (you could also sub for another meat like ground turkey for a leaner chili)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound chuck-eye steak, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup crushed garlic cloves (about 10 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans (note: you may want to soak overnight)
  • 1 (28-oz.) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups chicken stock

Recipe

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 6 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Transfer browned beef to a 6-qt. slow cooker. Add chuck-eye cubes to the skillet, and saute them for 6 to 8 minutes, or until brown on all sides. Then, add the chuck-eye cubes to slow cooker. (Note: You can brown the meat the night before, sealing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, to save time)

Add the remaining ingredients into slow cooker except the stock. Then, pour in the stock and stir. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours, or until beans are tender. (Note: Using pre-soaked or canned beans can shorten the cooking time)

This Painless Pancake Recipe is Perfect for a Crowd

Whether you know a certain Tuesday as Mardi Gras Day, Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, there’s another name for it, too: National Pancake Day. In New Orleans, you’ll probably find us eating king cake or Popeye’s (or both) on Mardi Gras, but many people use the day to honor that humble, fluffy breakfast-time favorite.

Whip up a crowd-pleasing stack of pancakes in no time when you follow our pancake recipe. (Photo via Flickr user Caterina Guidoni)

Whip up a crowd-pleasing stack of pancakes in no time when you follow our pancake recipe. (Photo via Flickr user Caterina Guidoni)

Pancakes are an easy and affordable way to feed a crowd, and they’re also useful as a make-ahead breakfast — seal them in individual plastic baggies for a quick, grab ‘n’ go breakfast that heats up in the microwave in seconds.

If you’re looking for a delicious pancake recipe, take a look at one of our all-time favorites courtesy of Bon Appetit. It’s just as simple as using a boxed mix, but so much tastier! Craving something else to eat? Check out our other cooking tips on the blog.

Easy Pancake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (Don’t have any? See our note on DIY buttermilk below)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Vegetable oil or butter (for cooking)
  • Maple or cane syrup for serving

Recipe

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and melted in a separate, medium-size bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over-mix! It’s OK for the mixture to have some lumps.

Next, heat up a griddle or large skillet using medium heat. Brush with oil or add a pat of butter to coat the surface. Cook the pancakes in batches by scooping small cupfuls (about 1/3 cup should do) into the skillet. Cook them until bubbles form on top — usually just about 3 minutes. Flip, and cook the other side until golden brown, which usually takes another 2 minutes.

Serve with syrup of your choice!

DIY Buttermilk

No buttermilk? No problem! Common buttermilk substitutes include watered-down plain yogurt or watered-down sour cream, but you can also make your own buttermilk using this easy recipe:

  • Pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Next, add enough milk until it measures 1 cup. Stir, and let sit for five minutes.

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