Essential Kitchen Items Any Aspiring Home Chef Should Own

Stocking your kitchen with cooking utensils may seem daunting, and one look at the price tag on a new set of knives will make it seem even more so. When it comes to creating a functional home kitchen, however, all it takes are a few key items to help you make just about any recipe under the sun. Take this list of essential kitchen tools with you to the store and leave with your budget still in tact.

  1. Chef’s knife. This do-everything knife can replace almost an entire set if you’re trying to save space (or money). Choose one with an 8- or 9-inch blade and a sturdy handle.
  2. Tongs. Metal or rubber tongs can be used for flipping meats and veggies, removing hot garlic bread from a pan, and everything in between.
  3. Ladle. This is one of those items that you just can’t replicate. Instead of making a mess with too-small serving spoons, add an affordable ladle to your utensil collection.
  4. Rubber spatula. There’s nothing better for removing batters, sauces, and the last bit of peanut butter from the bottom of the jar.
  5. Measuring cups and spoons. They don’t have to be expensive, but they are necessary.
  6. Vegetable peeler. If you’re cooking from scratch, this will make your life a whole lot easier.
  7. Cutting board. A sturdy wooden or plastic cutting board will keep your counters safe.

The Kitchn's Guide to Essential Prep Tools & Utensils [The Kitchn]
Essential Kitchen Tools Checklist [Real Simple]
Stock Your Kitchen With These 12 Essential Kitchen Tools [Cooking Light]

Cheese, Please! How to Make a Memorable Cheese Plate

For the avid foodie, there are few things in life more beautiful than a good cheese plate. If you want to create a truly gourmet quality cheese plate for your next dinner party or holiday gathering at Windsor at Mariners, use these simple tips for assembling the perfect spread.

  1. Consider the basics. Before beginning, consider how many people you’ll be serving and what other types of food you’ll have. This will help you to determine how much cheese to buy.
  2. Determine quantity. For an hors d’oeuvre, your cheese plate should include one to two ounces of cheese per person. If you plan on serving it after the main meal, pare it down to just one ounce per person.
  3. Choose the perfect serving platter. Invest in a sturdy cutting board, a marble cheese platter, or an attractive slate slab.
  4. Choose the cheeses. Lighter options, like goat cheese and fresh mozzarella, are great options for before dinner, while fuller bodied cheeses include cheddar, aged gouda and bleu cheese.
  5. Create a theme. If you’re still unsure of which cheeses to choose, create a theme. Pick cheeses from one specific region of the world, or opt for cheeses that are all made from goat’s milk.
  6. Organize. Spread your cheeses out on the platter for easy cutting, and be sure to offer a different knife with each kind. You’ll also want to serve complementary breads and crackers alongside.

The Perfect Cheese Platter [Real Simple]
How to Set Up a Cheese Platter [Food Network]
Creating the Perfect Cheese Plate [Food and Wine]

Allergic to Eggs? These 3 Webpages Provide Info About Egg Substitutions

Vegans and those with egg allergies may think that certain foods are off limits, but thanks to egg substitutes, you can still enjoy things like cakes, breads, and other baked goods. These helpful websites are full of tips for using egg substitutes to help you create egg-free dishes that taste just as good as the originals.

Though this website is tailored toward vegans, its tips are helpful for anyone who wants to remove eggs from their diet. The Egg Replacements page features information about all of the different types of egg substitutes, including silken tofu, potato starch, ground flax seed, and canned pumpkin. There’s also a list full of tips about egg substitutions.

The Kitchn
The Kitchn’s Vegan Egg Substitutes page helps you to choose the perfect egg substitute for any dish. It offers full descriptions of everything from tofu to applesauce, and it also provides information about the best brands of commercial egg replacers.
The vegetarian section of is a wonderful resource to learn more about egg substitutes. It answers readers’ most pressing questions about cooking without eggs, and it also describes which egg substitutes work best in different types of recipes.

Think Beyond the Salsa With These Cilantro-Centric Recipes

When you think of salsa, you likely think of the zesty flavor added by cilantro. Cilantro is also a great addition to many other dishes, however, even those outside of Mexican cuisine. These three recipes will have you rethinking the way you view cilantro in the most delicious ways possible!

Asian Noodle Salad with Chicken and Cilantro [Martha Stewart]
Instead of the usual Southwestern cuisines, try cilantro in an Asian-cuisine-inspired dish for a change. This noodle salad requires no cooking at all to create a fresh, interesting meal with a traditional Vietnamese sauce. Top it with cucumber and cilantro for a bit of added flavor.

Miso-Maple Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce [The Kitchn]
There are so many delicious flavors in this taco dish, your taste buds will hardly know where to begin. Tender sweet potatoes covered in a miso and maple syrup glaze take the place of the usual taco meat, and avocado, cilantro, and toasted pepitas make a tasty garnish. The cilantro comes in at the end, when it’s blended with coconut to create a uniquely flavorful sauce for topping.

Zesty Quinoa Salad [AllRecipes]
If you want to eat healthily without sacrificing taste, you’ll absolutely love this quinoa salad. Fresh vegetables and black beans make it bright and nutritious, while cilantro and black pepper add major flavor.

Know These Three Terms Before Getting Creative in the Kitchen

Any cook knows that for a dish to turn out as intended, he or she needs to have a clear understanding of the recipe. That includes knowing the different common ways to cut and slice ingredients. Here are three terms you should know before getting started in the kitchen.

  1. Pare. Preferably done with a paring knife, to pare a fruit or vegetable means to peel the outer skin from it. Apples and potatoes are often prepared this way.
  2. Mince. You can do this with a sharp knife or kitchen scissor, just so long as you cut or chop the ingredient into very fine pieces. Mincing often applies to herbs and spices.
  3. Dice. If a recipe asked you to dice an ingredient, it means to chop it into small, uniform pieces. Chunky salsas and fruit salads often employ this action.

The Basic Kitchen:Glossary of Cooking Terms [Le Petites Gourmettes]
Glossary of Cooking Terms [Better Homes and Gardens]
Cooking Terms [Recipe Goldmine]
Glossary of Cooking Terms [Cookery]
Culinary Terms: Food Dictionary and Glossary of Cooking Terms [Culinary Arts]

Think Beyond Pesto With These Basil-Centric Recipes

Let’s talk about basil. It’s one of the most popular herbs, but its uses are often limited to pesto, Italian pastas, and not a whole lot else. Whether you have an overgrown basil pot or you simply want to experiment with more basil-heavy dishes, there are a number of different ways to incorporate this fresh, flavorful herb into your cooking. Here are just a few exciting basil recipes.

Grilled Tuna with Basil Butter and Fresh Tomato Sauce [MyRecipes]
If your mouth is already watering at just the thought of basil butter, you’ll be even more enthralled when you find out how easy it is to make. Combined with the hearty tuna and zesty tomato sauce, this is a unique entree with basil as the main attraction.

Succotash Salad [The Kitchn]
Channel your inner Southerner with this lighter version of succotash. Corn, beans, and grape tomatoes provide some favorite summer flavors, while basil and feta cheese are the perfect accompaniments.

Apricot-and-Basil Shortbread Tart [HuffPost]
Few things are more indulgent than a freshly baked pastry, and this one has a shortbread influence that tastes rich and buttery. Roasted apricots sit atop a layer of creamy custard, and basil brings a cool flavor to this otherwise sweet treat. The finished tart looks rustic and attractive, which makes it the ideal dessert for an outdoor dinner party.

Learn to Cook with Turnips from These Online Guides

Turnips peak in October and continue to grow throughout the fall and winter, making them a delicious but often forgotten choice for warm, hearty cold weather meal planning. These online guides will teach you how to choose the perfect turnips, give you tips for preparing them, and provide you with enough recipes to last through the season.

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is a reliable choice for many cooking needs, and her Turnip and Rutabaga Basics guide does not disappoint. Here you’ll find what to look for when purchasing a turnip at the grocery store or farmers market, as well as how to store turnips in your home kitchen. She also provides a number of turnip recipes for side dishes, breakfasts, and nutritious salads.

All Recipes
Like the name implies, you’ll find just about any recipe you can imagine on All Recipes. The site’s section of turnip recipes is vast and packed with unique options, from Creamy Turnip with Paprika Soup to Crispy Turnip ‘Fries’ that even the kids will love.

BBC Food
The popular British television network features delicious and nutritious turnip recipes on its great food website, with many dishes that you may not have even tasted here in America. Categories like main courses, snacks, and appetizers organize the recipes, and the site features tips for buying and storing turnips as well.

How to Eat Healthy When Dining Out

You really never know how a meal is prepared when you’re eating out, and even the healthiest seeming salad can be packed with fattening cheeses, heavy oils, and excessive amounts of sodium. Instead of boycotting restaurants, use these smart tips for eating healthy while eating out.

  1. Know the lingo. When navigating the menu, recognize that words like “crispy,” “au gratin,” “creamed,” or “battered” are just as bad as “deep-fried.” Instead, look for dishes that are “grilled,” “poached,” or “roasted.”
  2. Choose restaurants with healthy or light menus. If you want to make navigating the menu even easier, research which restaurant chains offer separate menus of healthier dishes.
  3. Avoid appetizers. Instead of ordering extra food before your meal even arrives, eat your healthy entree and then reevaluate to see if you’re still hungry.
  4. Ask for sauces on the side. If you order a salad with dressing or a sandwich with a creamy sauce, ask for it on the side and only use as much as you need.
  5. Ask for a to-go box with your order. If your biggest challenge is overindulging, there’s no shame in packaging a portion of your meal up before you begin eating. This will ensure that you don’t go overboard.
  6. Don’t skip dessert. No, you don’t have to pass on dessert; just opt for healthier treats like fresh fruit, sherbet, or flourless cakes.

Deciphering the Menu [American Heart Association]
Ordering Your Meal [American Heart Association]
Tips for Eating Healthy When Eating Out [USDA]
It's About Eating Right [Eat Right]

Tips for Properly Cleaning Your Wooden Cutting Boards

If you’ve ever owned a wooden cutting board, you know just how finicky they can be. These kitchen essentials are ideal for chopping vegetables or serving a cheese platter, but they’re also very difficult to clean. Here are four smart tips to help you properly clean your cutting board.

  1. Use vinegar as a disinfectant. Using soap and water on your cutting board can cause it to weaken or crack. Instead, disinfect it with a full-strength white vinegar after each use to kill E coli, salmonella, and other dangerous bacteria.
  2. Remove odor with lemons. Rub your cutting board all over with the cut side of half a lemon in order to remove the odors left behind by onions, meat, or crushed garlic.
  3. Deep clean with baking soda. Every so often, deep clean your cutting board with baking soda to ensure that no bacteria is lurking beneath the surface. Scrub it with a paste made of one tablespoon each of baking soda, water, and salt.
  4. Remove stains with salt. If your cutting board is covered in oil stains, remove them by sprinkling each stain with coarse salt and scrubbing with a sponge dipped in hot water. Repeat as needed until the stain is completely gone.

How to Clean a Cutting Board: 7 Effective Treatments [Reader’s Digest]
5 Ways to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board [Food Network]
How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board [Paula Deen]
Clean Wooden Cutting Boards Naturally with Lemon and Salt [The Kitchn]

How to Prepare Butternut Squash for Cooking

Butternut squash is very versatile, but if you’ve never prepared it before it may seem a bit confusing. Although it has an odd shape, butternut squash is fairly simple to prepare if you know the proper techniques. Follow these simple steps to peel and prep your squash like a pro.

  1. Slice off both ends of the squash using a large, sharp knife. It’s very important that the knife is sharp, as a dull knife requires more pressure from you and may result in a dangerous slip.
  2. Peel the entire squash using an extra strong peeler, preferably one made with carbon steel blades. Because the squash is curved in the middle, it’s best to peel lengthwise.
  3. Cut the squash in half at its center, which is approximately between the thin “neck” and the larger “body” portion.
  4. Slice the neck portion down the center to create flat, cylindrical pieces. Then, slice these pieces into wide strips and eventually cut them down into cubes.
  5. To cut the body, first slice it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and innards with a spoon. Finally, slice the two pieces into cubes the same way that you did with the neck.

How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash [The Kitchn]
How to Peel and Cut Butternut Squash [Cooking Light]
7 Steps to Cook Butternut Squash [Good Housekeeping]

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