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Favorite Tools for a Whole Foods (Plant Based) Kitchen

I had intended to write this post before we moved. But you know how moving goes - it takes a lot of time. Way more than you anticipate. So this post never made it past the outline phase.

But now is a really good time to publish this because I am sharing a kitchen with my mom for the next four months or so. And these are the kitchen tools I could not live without.

Ok, that's bit of an overstatement. We could live without them but life in the kitchen would be a lot more work and potentially more expensive. 

As luck would have it, my mom has these very tools in her own kitchen (and a bunch more like a grain mill) so I didn't need to keep mine very accessible in the move. The pictures below are of my own appliances. I took the photos when we still lived in Maine. 

I'll be honest, when Damien first suggested buying most of these tools I balked at the price. I am the tightwad in the family. Damien believes in buying quality tools and has convinced me likewise.

These tools allow our family to make delicious and healthy whole, plant based foods. For us, that makes them worth the cost, especially since they are used almost daily. 

We added these essential appliances to our kitchen over the years.

If someone asked me, "What one appliance should I buy to help save time and money in the kitchen?" this is how I'd answer: 

1. Vitamix Blender

Our family owns a Vitamix Vita-Prep, a commercial quality Vitamix model. My mom has the Vitamix 5200. Ours is packed in the trailer so we're using my parent's and I haven't been able to tell a difference between the two, for whatever that is worth.  

We've had ours for five or six years and I haven't used any other high powered blender so I can't compare the Vitamix to a different brand.

But what I can say is that the Vitamix kicks butt on any standard blender I've ever used. 

With this blender we make smoothies, sauces and sometimes dry chop nuts, grains and seeds. It's handled everything I've thrown in there.

It's amazing. I use it most every single day, often more than once. 

Just this morning at my mom's I made almond milk with it. Yesterday night, I used it to blend cashews and broth for our family's favorite potato broccoli soup.

I'd be lost without my Vitamix. This summer I plan on making more slushie drinks for afternoon refreshers. My mom has a cookbook that came with her model with a bunch of recipes for inspiration. I'm looking forward to trying them.

2. Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cooker

Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker

We've had our Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cooker for a few years now, at least six. Once again, the files are in the trailer and I don't recall the exact year we purchased it.

What do I love about this pressure cooker?

Cooks beans like nobody's business. I cook beans, in some form or another every couple days. I usually soak my beans overnight first (I haven't yet gotten into the routine of long soaking beans like everyone seems to be recommending these days). After an overnight soak and rinse, the beans take less than 10 minutes under pressure to cook completely. This is compared to 2-3 hours that beans normally take to cook.

What this means is that I don't have to be so on-the-ball in the kitchen. As long as my beans are soaked I can cook them up in under 30 minutes total time (bringing to pressure, pressure cooking and then cooling down). This is a huge time and sanity saver for me.

I also cook all our soups and stews in this pot. I can make a soup in one hour, including my chopping time - and I spend a lot of time chopping. 

The pot itself is really solid and I use it as my all purpose large stock pot even without the pressure lid.

The customer service and warranty is excellent. We've had it fixed twice in the years we've owned it, at no charge (we did pay shipping). Being without my pressure cooker during those weeks while it was being fixed was almost as bad as being without my camera.

I know there are other brands out there. My mom has one of them and I don't like it. No offense to my mom, but my Kuhn Rikon cooks circles around her model. So much so that I had Damien find ours from the trailer so I can use it this summer. I really do love my pressure cooker.

3. Cuisinart Food Processor

food processor pesto

You've probably noticed I'm mentioning a lot of brands in this post. When it comes to kitchen appliances I am brand loyal because I have found these machines to really work for me.

Our Cuisinart food processor is no different. 

I grew up with a food processor in my mother's kitchen and Cuisinart was the brand she used. It's the brand she recently bought new and it's the one that sits in our trailer right now.

We both own the 7 cup model and find it works well for most family sized food processing needs.

The attachment I use the most is the S shaped chopping blade. Yes, you can hand chop all your nuts, dried fruits, veggies, etc. But I spend enough time as it is in the kitchen. This little baby makes my life easier - saving my wrist and my time. 

Also, there are some things you just can't make chopping on your own - like almond butter, which I just made last night. So much cheaper than buying it, about half the price and really easy to make. You might be able to make nut butters in the Vitamix but we find it's easier (to make and clean) in the food processor. 

I often prefer a large hand shredder for shredding veggies as I find washing out the food processor is more work that the actual shredding. Unless of course I'm making a large batch of something and needing to chop many different vegetables, than I use the shredding attachment. 

We've owned our Cuisinart for many years and I've never had any problems with it. I highly recommend this brand though I know there are other food processor brands out there.

4. SoyQuick Soymilk Maker

SoyQuick

The best thing about owning this soymilk maker is the amount of money we save. 

When we first started eating mostly vegan, about 10 years ago we switched to rice milk. We actually drank the stuff if I recall correctly. After all, you need to drink milk - just like all those advertisements say, right? 

We didn't like all the additives in the rice milk (sugars and such) so we switched to an additive-free soymilk. But regardless of which one we bought they were both expensive, even when we only used it for topping our morning hot cereal.

Making a quart of organic, non-gmo soymilk costs about 10 cents in our soymilk maker. The Canadian grown soybeans might be a bit more expensive. I'm not sure, we still have a big bag of beans to use that we moved with us. But even with higher prices in Canada it can't be more than a few pennies more per quart (or should I say litre - welcome back to metric Renee).

There are no additives and no packaging. And it's really easy.

The newest SoyQuick, the one we own, is also easier to clean. Which is a big bonus. This summer we're back to using the older model my mom has and I tell ya, it's a pain to clean.

We make soymilk a couple times a week and use it for breakfast, sometimes smoothies and maybe baking, the very limited baking that I do.

We love almond milk but it costs WAY more to make and so we reserve that for a treat. The SoyQuick can also make other grain and nut milks.

Alternatively, you can make soy, nut and grain milks in a high powered blender, like a Vitamix. But my SoyQuick makes the job easier and produces a creamy and not too grainy soymilk, which matters to the children. 

If you've ever bought nut, bean or grain milks for a family for a period of time, say 6 months, you probably could have purchased a SoyQuick Soymilk maker with the amount you spent at the grocery store. And doing so would have eliminated all those packages. Just something to think about. 

5. Dehyrator

dehydrated fruit leather

This is where I don't recommend a brand as such, though I love my 5 tray Excalibur.

Before we owned one, we borrowed a friend's dehydrator (thanks Spring for getting us started). A dehydrator is a kitchen tool you can pass around and share since they aren't used heavily every day, except maybe during harvest season. 

We use our dehydrator primarily for:

  • Drying fruits & veggies - This is especially great during harvest season when there is an over abundance and we want to preserve some of that (we don't do a lot of food preservation). We also use the dehydrator to eliminate or cut down on food waste. If something doesn't taste great fresh (a mealy bag of apples for example) or is too overripe to eat we can dehydrate it and it will taste great as a fruit leather or slices.
  • Preparing trail food - This may have been the original reason Damien convinced me to buy this appliance. But once we got it we used it for so much more than just this purpose. Our family loves the outdoors and backpacking adventures. We need to prepare food that is light in weight (we don't take coolers into the woods), healthy, and filling. The dehyrator is an awesome tool for preparing this kind of food. 

It's funny, if you go to the Excalibur website you'll see they market their dehydrators to veggie types, health conscious folks, gardeners, and outdoorsy people. I guess that about covers us from all angles. No wonder we like it so much!

~~~

What tools (beyond the basic knives and bowls and such) do you use most in your kitchen?

(Disclosure: all amazon links are affiliate links.) 

8 June 11

Comments

I absolutely love this post,

I absolutely love this post, especially because it's something that's been on my mind recently. A friend just recently gifted me with her 20 year old food processor and I became an INSTANT fan, follower, devotee, regular user. I'd been doing all that nut butter/bean patties/hummus stuff in the vitamix and been very frustrated. And feeling disloyal, because I love my vitamix dearly and use it pretty much every day. :) )

The kitchen aid is my other must have. It has the privilege of sitting on the counter (along with the vitamix and now the food processor).

I'm so intrigued by the soymilk maker...never heard of it! And when I think of how much soymilk we buy...

Very thorough discussion of

Very thorough discussion of kitchen tools! I NEED a food processor. It's even more clear to me now. I've been shredding carrots until my wrists fall off. But I'll probably go on being a thrifty martyr. ;p Thanks for the post.

Love this. I was just

Love this. I was just thinking about getting a food processor after trying to make date nut bars in the Vitamix (which is at the top of my list as well). it is the best Christmas gift I have ever received. Thanks Renee, for the information.

Here, here, for the pressure

Here, here, for the pressure cooker! I would love to see some of your pressure cooker recipes posted here (stumbled here searching for pressure cooker recipes). I also have a Kuhn Rikon duromatic!

You made your food processor look so good with the garlic scapes (hmmm!)

I didn't know soy-milk makers existied!!!

Ciao!

L

hip pressure cooking
making pressure cooking hip, one recipe at a time!

I've been dreaming of having

I've been dreaming of having a pressure cooker and proper blender for ages! It's true that there is a bit of sticker shock at first, but when you take into account how much good equipment will be used it's easier to see the cost as an investment. :)

I'd love to hear more about how you prepare food to go on camping adventures with your family. We are currently car-campers, but I'd love to free ourselves of the cooler and travel light.

Wow, thank you so much for

Wow, thank you so much for this post! The timing couldn’t be better!

I am currently in the process of evaluating different models of Excalibur dehydrators. The price of 9-tray is a bit repealing for my taste, so I’m considering the 5-tray. We are also a family of 5 members (mama, papa 10, 7 & 4 yo), have 3 large vegetable gardens and eat almost only dehydrated food during our (numerous!) summer camping trips.

From your perspective, is the 5-tray big enough?

We are a family of 4 and have

We are a family of 4 and have the 9 tray model. I can easily fill the 9 trays with a dozen bananas, a pineapple, apples, and pears. It would drive me crazy to have the 5 tray model. The time saved with the 9 trays is worth paying the extra money. You will use the extra trays for sure!

I would get the 9 tray if you

I would get the 9 tray if you possibly can. I have I think a 4 tray. I don't think its 5...anyways it is an excalibur. It was a gift so I won't complain but if I could have a bigger one like the 9 tray that would help a lot more. For what you want it for and for your family size I don't think you would be happy with the smaller model.

I would also recommend the 9

I would also recommend the 9 tray. We have a family of four and easily go through the food contents of a 9 tray in a week (OR LESS!). (The food really shrinks so you aren't left with much afterwards!) If you're running the machine, you might as well get as much as you can out of it.

Thank you all for your

Thank you all for your input!

By the time I make my mind, I should have put enough money aside to buy the 9 tray!

And you're right, Renee. The 9 tray, while containing more, seems more energy-efficient...

Great post. I am looking to

Great post. I am looking to buy a new food processor, I ruined mine making almond butter. Not an Oster fan anymore, perhaps I'll look into your Cuisinart. I would love it if you did a cooking post on using a pressure cooker. I really know nothing about those this appliance and you seem to love yours so much. I'd like to know more. I make soups alot, so if a pressure cooker would benefit me, that would be lovely.

My favorite kitchen 'gadgets'

My favorite kitchen 'gadgets' or tools are my kitchen-aid mixer (gift from my dad who decided it was time I stopped doing everything by hand?!); Berkey water filter; little coffee press - makes me happy everytime I see it or use it; Nutrimill grain mill. I really wanted to buy a vitamix but decided yesterday it'll have to wait as my son is getting braces and that will be a big expense for us...but I can start putting $ aside for it. I wait for years to buy things b/c I dislike having a bunch of (particularly electric) gadgets and prefer to try and do things by hand but that does limit me in the kitchen somewhat.

Love this post! My favorite

Love this post! My favorite gadgets are similar: a vintage Vitamix 5200 that has been a workhouse daily for the past 8 years or so ($100 so well spent!); my crockpot for beans (I do them overnight or all day); my extra coffee grinder for small batches of nuts & seeds; my vintage Champion juicer (for juice, pesto, nut butters, frozen banana treats and a $17 dehydrator that does the job for soaked flax crackers and fruit leathers...for now. I've also use my simple sprouter daily and have done a few trays of microgreens on my counter (pea and beet shoots- the kids love picking a stem as they walk past!) I've been doing nut milks with the vitamix/ cheesecloth method...but you're right, it's pricey and time consuming. I may check into the soy milk option too- thanks!

Hi Renee, "Used Victoria" is

Hi Renee,
"Used Victoria" is a great resource for us locally- you could try a "Used__" for the area you live (it's become a popular sales list in larger Canadian cities.) Craigslist and Kijiji are great too! We have a simple "Biosnacky" sprouter- 3 small trays, nothing fancy...they run about $25 at most health food stores, and the seeds are inexpensive, so the system pays for itself quickly. I've done the jar/mesh lid too which works..this just drains a little better and produces more. Hope that helps :)

Yes, I was wondering about

Yes, I was wondering about the 5 tray Excalibur, too..... I would like to make crackers, etc. My sister made the most AMAZING mushroom burgers in her dehydrator! But would it be big enough for that? How many burgers could you make in it?

I'll return the thanks for

I'll return the thanks for introducing me to the Vitamix- I don't know how I lived so long without one! :) I am hoping to tax my dehydrator much more than this, with more preserving, as it's a little dusty these days!

I believe in buying quality

I believe in buying quality tools and appliances too when we can, but we can't always do that. We have a few quality things that were gifts or saved up for though. One thing I use a lot is my grain mill especially since I can get non wheat flours a lot cheaper (and a lot healthier!) that way. I save tons of money even though the upfront cost was high.

I also use my blender almost every day. I can't afford a Vitamix or similar at this point but have found that my Oster Blender (beehive classic) is the best blender that I have used that is not a high end one. I have used other ones and this one is the best I've used for the price. Its not perfect and is nothing in comparison to the high end ones but compared to some others I've used its amazing. It was a gift and they retail about $100.

I couldn't do without my good chef's knife. It was a gift too and its also worth about $100. Seriously I love that knife and am lost without it working in someone else's kitchen.

I also own a dehydrator and really enjoy using it too. Its an excalibur like yours. I think its only 4 trays.

I think my counter space is my biggest blessing though. I love the counter space I have here especially compared to some other places we've lived in. Its not an appliance or tool but its worth even more to me than any of those things!

I was going to buy a food

I was going to buy a food processor this year, but my other half, who cooks most of the dinners in this house (I bake) is quite happy to chop and he said we don't need one. So I am yet to get one ...

We have the same soymilk maker, and I agree it is great, though I still buy soymilk for my coffee (homemade goes a bit yuck). The other two electrical kitchen tools that get the most use - the rice cooker (a really basic cheap one we have had for ages) gets used all the time, and the breadmaker is in use nearly every second day. Our current oven is rubbish, and also I like the idea of just chucking everything in and walking away, so the breadmaker rather than 'artisinal' bread it is :)

One thing that we tried and soon got rid of - a slow cooker. Everyone raves about them, but I found that there was still a lot of prep (braise this first, brown that, etc. etc.) that we thought why not just do some prep then cook something? (and the dinner cook in this house works full time outside the house and is still happy to come home and cook a meal rather than go the slow cooker route). Perhaps if we cooked with meat it would be worth it, but as vegans we can't see the point.

We were thinking about a dehydrator for making camping/trail meals, but we don't grow our own produce so were wondering if it was really worth it or just stick with buying stuff. If you had to choose between a pressure cooker and a dehydrator, what would you choose? (I realise they are for totally different things, but I am trying to keep our 'things' to a minimum).

Thanks for the reply Renee.

Thanks for the reply Renee. Married Quarter ovens are usually quite rubbish, so the thought of trying to dehydrate in one is something I wouldn't really consider. And even though there are only three of us, buying food for a camping/backpacking trip can add up! So I will see what kind of dehydrators we can get around here.

Love it.. You always manage

Love it.. You always manage to inspire me Renee, I know I haven't mentioned that before but you do.. My favorite kitchen appliance is my stainless steel Cuisinart hand blender. I use it mostly for soups and hot sauces, it's dishwasher safe and I really love it. I've been searching juicers recently, any recommendations on these? Does your Vitamix blender make vegetable juices -including leaves-?

If you are looking for speed

If you are looking for speed and quick/easy clean up, I would recommend the Breville line of juicers. It's a centrifugal, which is different than masticating (Champion) and possibly not as efficient in extracting the maximum juice, but it's perfect for our high-energy family. It has a smaller footprint, too, than the Champion.

Just getting to this post

Just getting to this post after returning from vacation and I love it! We own all but the SoyQuick (I make almond milk in the VM). Did I tell you that I bought the Kuhn pressure cooker? Cooked little white beans so far and came out a little mushy, but I think I cooked them too long (8 minutes instead of 6 which I'll try next time). Regardless, I loved it. I am all for a quality appliance. If I'm going to spend the money, I want to spend it once and have it last a long time.

As far as other appliances we love, I would have to add the KitchenAid stand mixer, which my husband uses for pizza dough and I use for cookie dough. And, we just started making bread weekly in our Zojirushi bread maker. We are very happy with the 60% whole wheat bread it turns out and the ease of use is remarkable. On the smaller scale, the Kyocera slicer is used almost daily to slice thin veggies for the kids. They love thin slices of radishes, carrots, cukes, etc...

Have you tried baking with

Have you tried baking with Bob's gluten free mix? Or made your own GF flours? We try to limit our use of wheat and mix it up a little with a variety when it comes to whole grain baked goods. I have a Bob's mix in my freezer, but haven't tried it yet.

I would love your recipe for 100% WW bread in the Zoji. Willing to share? :-) The first 100% one I made was edible, but too dense.

Oh, and I almost forgot to add my juicer. I use that baby every day. I love the Breville Ikon juicer. This particular one has been going strong for about a year and a half now. The Hurom looks enticing for my next juicer, but you can't beat the speed or ease of cleaning of the Breville.

I make an apple oat vegan

I make an apple oat vegan pancake that is gluten free if you use gluten free oats (I grind quick oats in my VM dry container) from Eat Drink and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. It's our favorite and go to recipe for pancakes. They don't rise like traditional pancakes, but are very tasty.

We don't eat much bread either, but I do like toast with almond butter a couple times a week.

I will check out those links!

Beans in 10 minutes?! Wow!

Beans in 10 minutes?! Wow! That sounds VERY promising... we eat beans about twice a week + chick peas about once a week. Seems like a pressure cooker would simplify things here (but I think that I even more want a grain mill - we eat a lot of bread here and it is just so much more healthy to mill the grain yourself.)
Apropos beans - do you have some good bean recipes to share or link to? We eat a lot of them, but I'm a bit uninspired when it comes to beans and often just hide them in soups or puree them. :-)

This is such a great post! I

This is such a great post! I really want to invest in a Vitamix, I had been holding off, but your review is really pushing me to do it :). I love our Excalibur, could never use anything else, but have to admit that I haven't tried anything else either. There really are a few tools that I just love and could not live without. We use a Breville Juicer that I find to be so amazing. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000QBFFU8

Thanks for so many wonderful tips!

Thank you, Renee! I'm reading

Thank you, Renee!
I'm reading through your vegan eats & health section now - so interesting!
I also live in the North (actually, Novia Scotia is really down south from here ;) + I share all your thoughts about eating locally! It was so good to read another Northern opinion on that. :-)

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[...] I've said at 30 Day Vegan today and also in Tools for a Whole Foods (Plant Based) Kitchen my Kuhn Rikon Duromatic pressure cooker is one of my favorite and most often used kitchen [...]

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[...] Making hemp milk does not require a special blender. The seeds are very soft. This is a great option for those allergic to cashews or without a powerful blender.  [...]

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