March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
By Sharon Salomon, MS, RD
Walk into a kitchen supply store and you'll encounter a vast collection of gadgets and goodies. But what kitchen tools do you need if you're a novice home cook? This collection of cooking essentials for your kitchen will help you prepare healthful and delicious meals at home.
Mixing bowls: Look for glass or metal mixing bowls in various sizes. Plastic bowls hold odors, are harder to keep clean and can bend out of shape.
Colander and salad spinner: A colander is perfect for draining pasta, washing fruits and vegetables, and for sorting and rinsing legumes such as lentils and beans. Colanders can also be substituted for salad spinners to dry lettuce and other leafy green vegetables.
High-quality knives: Start with a paring knife, small and medium chef's or Santoku knives, and a serrated knife. Don't forget to buy a sharpener.
Several cutting boards: Whether they are wooden, bamboo or plastic is less important than keeping them clean and dry. Use separate boards for meats and produce.
Wooden spoons: Wooden spoons are best because they don't transfer heat and they won't scratch the surface of pans. Plus, they are inexpensive.
A small and large whisk: Contrary to common belief, whisking some ingredients with a fork won't incorporate enough air. Use a small whisk for vinaigrette and dressing, and a large one for aerating flour and beating eggs.
Heat-resistant spatula: Any spatula may scrape a bowl, but not all are appropriate for hot pans.
Long tongs: Keep hands safe by using tongs to lift or turn foods over heat or in an oven.
Grater: You can use a box grater for cheese, garlic, ginger or citrus fruit zest.
Glass measuring cups: Liquid volume measuring cups should be clear so you can see the meniscus, and glass will not bend or warp like plastic.
Basic pots and pans: Everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to cookware, but instead of buying a large, expensive set to start, purchase individual pans as you need them. Perhaps begin with a pair of large and small saute; pans, a soup pot, a sauce pan and a Dutch oven — used on the stove or in an oven, and some call a "French oven."
Electronic scale: While not necessary for cooking, it can help you familiarize yourself with portion sizes. Also, some recipes call for ounces instead of a cup measure.