Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kitchen Tools: # 1

I'm going to do a series of blogs about my favorite Kitchen Tools and why you might want them too.

First Up:
Penzey's Spices
Japanese Chef Knifes
A Zester

I discovered Penzey's probably about 4 years ago. Somebody mentioned it in a forum that I belonged to so I checked it out and discovered they had a store in Phoenix. I didn't know much except that it had spices. The first time I stepped in it's door I was in heaven. I can only describe their spices as taking a spice from the store and stepping it up 10 times. They are the best I've ever used and I can absolutely attest it's changed my cooking. I didn't replace all my spices at once but over time I have. Once I used a spice up that I bought at the store I replaced it with Penzey's. You can order it online if you don't have a store near you and once you get on their mailing list they send you catalogs with free spice coupons several times a year. I would recommend starting with at least the Cinnamon (they have 5 kinds - my favorite is the Vietnamese) and the Italian seasoning. They are both spectacular and get used A LOT at our house. Let me tell you their vanilla is amazing and if you've never used a vanilla bean because you didn't know how to, theirs are the juiciest I've ever seen.

They have a lot of spice blends that don't contain salt but do contain a lot of flavor so if you need to cut down on salt try their salt-free blends. Their website is here. I also love that they include recipes in every magazine and if you visit one of their stores they have rip off recipes you can take with you for free everywhere in the store.

About 4 years ago I picked up a Japanese (like) knife set on Black Friday. Why I didn't own one before I'll never know. That set of 3 knives is what I use every night to prepare dinner. They can dice or chop so finely and has made a huge difference in my prep work. They are super sharp and really it's hard for me to cook without them. I have even taken them with me on trips where I know I'll be cooking. They ARE that good. You don't need to invest in a $100 knife but try to find one and even if it's a little spendy it's well worth it. A dull crappy knife can make making dinner a more painful and frustrating experience.

This little zester has been my new favorite friend lately. I use it to shred parmesan cheese, zest my lemons, grate nutmeg and chocolate and anything else that is hard and needs to be grated. Rachael Ray uses her to grate her garlic. I tried that once but garlic juice got into a cut in my thumb and hurt like the devil so I haven't tried that again.

I love its little holes and I think it looks so cute. I find that it helps make my little jobs a lot easier. I'm all for making my cooking easier and more streamlined and having a little fun too.
Those are my kitchen tool tips for the week. If you use Penzey's spices - which is your favorite? If you have a Japanese knife - please tell me why you love it? If you own a zester - what do you use it for? Please leave a comment and share!


  1. I do love the cinnamon from Penzey's! I need to make another trip there soon! The Rocky Mountain seasoning is great with eggs.

  2. Thank you for introducing me to Penzey's 3 years ago. I love it, and make a catalog purchase on a regular basis. My favorite is the high fat cocoa. It makes any recipe with cocoa so much better! I cook with confidence using Penzey's spices. Now I sound like a commercial.
    Loving the food blog!

  3. I have wanted those knives for years and I love my microplane grater. I will check out those spices they sound great.

  4. My dumb knives are always dull and I don't seem to have a knack for sharpening well. What brand knife do you have? Does it stay sharpened or do you have to sharpen it all time? I need one of those graters...wish list. And I've been looking to replace my mismatched spices with something better since all my spices are on a spice shelf out in plain view now, and the mismatched bottle thing looks lame. These bottles look perfect, though I'll be replacing slowly I'm sure.