Saturday, May 26

Spending Spree

It's not enough to just pork out; no, I have to spend money, too -- because there's no sight quite so entrancing as a big gal with a credit card.

But I'll be living without pots and pans, the toaster oven is going into storage, and the crock pot is banished. To live my raw vegan life, I'm acquiring the following supplies, some of which I already own from my last go-round:

Must Haves

Good knives. I accidentally purchased this set of Ginsu knives about two years ago, and have loved them. Accidentally? I told you I fall down a lot. Sometimes my finger falls on the "Purchase Now" key when I'm only checking prices.

Anyway, the Ginsu knives have maintained a sharp edge, look great, and feel good in my hand. What more could you want from a set of knives?

Containers for storing prepped food. I grow weary of trying to match lids to bowls when I own 23 different kinds of containers. I finally decided to standardize on sturdy Rubbermaid food storage containers. Red lids, translucent containers. They're tough enough to stack lots and lots of chopped veggies in my refrigerator.

Cutting boards. The cheap, thin, flexible plastic mats from Ikea are fine...except they're so thin they sometimes drop betwen the counter and refrigerator. Thicker bamboo cutting boards are beautiful, and in a raw-food kitchen, you don't have to worry about dressing your veggies in a hazmat suit to protect them from nasty, Salmonella-laden chicken guts that cause so much trouble when you use wooden boards in a meat-eating kitchen.

Knife sharpener. This inexpensive Accusharp Knife Sharpener got a glowing review from America's Test Kitchen. Good enough for me! And if you're more courageous, try a sharpening steel. The top-rated J.A Henckels version is still less than $20. (Here's ATK explaining how to sharpen a knife.)

Tough to Live Without

Blender. The BlendTec machine beats the much-loved VitaMix simply because it's five inches shorter, so it fits on the countertop under the cupboard. The VitaMix has a somewhat better warranty, a four-prong blade rather than two prongs, runs a bit faster, and comes with a metalic base. But those five inches count for more than all the other features combined. Either way, you're out 400 bucks. A cheaper option: any blender at all (This Ninja QB900B is inexpensive and gets high marks from reviewers). And save up for the BlendTec.

Dehydrator. Everyone raves over the Excaliber 9-Tray Dehydrator, but I picked up a nearly identical machine (six 11-inch square trays, plus an adjustable thermostat) for $25 off Craigslist. (Don't hold your breath waiting for the same deal. My dehydrator is a Sears and Roebuck model manufactured in 1968. It seems safe, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't blow up and and set the house on fire.)

The goal with raw food is to maintain the live enzymes...and dehydrators without an adjustable temperature setting put nutrients at risk. Most raw foodies suggest keeping it below 115 degrees. (Here's a link to a well written dehydration primer.)

A tip: We keep our dehydrator on top of our dryer. A towel under the dehydrator keeps the two machines from direct contact, and we never run them both at the same time. But with its large footprint and its constantly-running fan, the dehydrator is just too large and a little too noisy to keep on the kitchen counter.

Food Processor. If you're just getting started, an inexpensive machine like this fairly well rated Black and Decker will do the trick until you save up 200 smackers for your stainless steeel Cuisinart.

Grinder. My neighbor, gourmet chef and part-time firebender Christina Arokiasamy, swears by her mortar and pestle for grinding spices, but an electric grinder is inarguably faster. Whatever you decide, don't purchase a used grinder. The smell of coffee beans will overwhelm the nuts and spices you're working with.

(By the way, Christina's book, The Spice Merchant's Daughter, is an absolute work of art. Have a look. And the book she's writing now will incorporate lots more vegan dishes, so put her name on your Amazon watch list.)

Salad Spinner. Another Ikea purchase for us (can you tell I live just down the road?), but perfectly good salad spinners can be found inexpensively just about anyplace with a kitchen department. This one from Progressive International gets impressive reviews.

Sprouter. My little three-tray sprouter is genius. It sits on my counter compliantly growing sprouts from seeds, from wheat, from beans -- sometimes all three at the same time. No electricity, barely any work, lots of crunchy sprouts.

Strainer. I'll save the germ story for another day, but a large colander is a big help when cleaning fruits and veggies straight from the market.


Niceties

Apple Slicer. Another hubby favorite: Apple slices and nut butter. For that reason, this corer/slicer is my most essential kitchen tool.

Apple Peeler. If your grandma made apple pies, she probably had some version of this: An apple slicer/peeler/corer. Personally, I prefer the Pampered Chef version because it uses a clamp rather than a suction device to attach itself to the tabletop.

Box Grater. Every kitchen, but especially a raw kitchen, needs a sturdy box grater. Zesting lemons, grating carrots, any kind of quick small food prep job -- ya need a box grater.

Citrus Juicer. My KitchenAid mixer will be feeling a little neglected when I go completely raw. The citrus juicer attachment is so much cleaner and easier to use than the full scale juicer that I'll probably keep it permanently attached. If you lack a KitchenAid mixer, a standalone citrus juicer is still a worthwhile purchase, if only because the 30-second cleanup beats reassembling the big juicer.

Garlic Press. The equipment corner is my favorite part of America's Test Kitchen. In this video you'll see how they tested two dozen garlic presses to come up with a favorite: The Kuhn Rikon Easy-Squeeze Garlic Press (you don't see it in this video, but this plastic version of the stainless one in the video is ATK's new favorite).

Pineapple Corer. Handiest gadget ever, if you're as much a fan of pineapple fan as I am. This one from Vacu Vin has removeable blades, meaning it fits flat in a kitchen drawer.

Spiral Slicer. The Saladacco model we own is lots of fun. It turns veggies into noodles. Well, pretend noodles. But that's fun, isn't it? The hubby's in love with his Italian food. He wants his spaghetti.

Vegetable Juicer. I'm not a fan, but my husband loves his juice. To me, juicing is a messy undertaking and strips perfectly good food of all its chewy fiber. Nevertheless, we own -- and use -- a juicer. For him. Because ya gotta keep your man happy.

Water container. Because you're not drinking enough water. My dad talked me into carting around a two-liter water bottle -- enough to keep me hydrated through a 30-minute session with Johnny Walker. This one has a mouth large enough to collect crushed ice straight from the freezer door.  Ahhh. That's the ticket!