Having a well-stocked kitchen with all the tools you need to prepare a healthy meal just makes cooking easier. Here is a list of some items I love, to either include on your wish list or to buy for someone you love. May not be quite as good as Oprah's Favorite Things, but I think you will love them.
Spiralized vegetables (zucchini, squash, carrots, etc. cut into noodle like shapes) are all the rage lately. I recently had a friend say she was eating more of them but understood why people don't eat healthy because it is so expensive. Well, she was buying the veggies already spiralized at $4-$5 a pop. While this is a great convenience item that many stores have started selling and I am all for anything that gets people eating more veggies, spiralizing your own is super easy and WAY cheaper. I bought her one for her birthday and she is loving it. There are handheld spiralizers you can buy for $10-$15 and there are crank type countertop models that are a little sturdier for $20-$35. You can find them at Brown's Kitchen store on Capital Circle, N.E. or Target, Walmart, or Bed Bath & Beyond or online at Amazon.
My husband's grandmother gave us a microwave steamer several years ago and it has become one of my favorite kitchen tools. We use ours several times a week and I tell people about it all the time. You can easily steam perfectly cooked veggies or fish or seafood in just minutes. It is dishwasher safe too which makes clean up easy. The specific one we have is a Prepworks Fish & Veggie Steamer and is available at Target for $6.99. Brown's Kitchen also carries it.
A Decent Set of Pots and Pans
A decent set of pots and pans really is so important to be able to cook meals without a lot of hassle and can make all the difference. We have a gas stove in our home and so that has become what we are used to. So much so that we have developed an aversion for glass top stoves. When we travel and rent a place with a kitchen, we usually end up with a glass top stove and always have cursed them. What we figured out is that glass top stoves aren't so bad if you have a decent pot or pan to use on them. You can go top of the line, which can run around $400-$500 or more, but you don’t have to. You can get good quality for a decent price. Sets vary greatly in price and quality and it can be overwhelming to decide on the right one. One we got and have loved is the 14-piece T-fal Hard Anodized Nonstick Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Cookware Set and is $139.99 on Amazon. While that isn't small change, if it has been a while since you updated your cookware maybe this holiday season is the time or maybe someone you love needs a new set.
Baking or Cookie Sheet
Baking sheets are shallow rimmed pans that are great for roasting vegetables, among other things. To me, roasting vegetables is one of the best ways to prepare them, whether they are spiralized or otherwise. Roasting them adds a great caramelized texture and flavor that you just can't get by sautéing or steaming. I have found that just about any combination of vegetables is good together. I sometimes will go to Trader Joe's and just grab a combination of whatever looks good and put them all together. I have done a combination of mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, squash, and carrots and they were delicious. Really anything goes. Chop them up, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper or other herbs and toss them together to combine. Roast at 425 degrees until tender, stirring halfway through the cooking time. Baking sheets vary in size, but I like a large one myself, for plenty of room to make veggies for dinner and for leftovers later. You can pick one up anywhere really and they typically run between $15-$20.
If your plan is to cook at home more often, having a good knife is definitely essential. This is another tool that you can spend quite a bit on but you don't have to. I think the 8 inch size is versatile to cover all your chopping needs. J.A. Henckels makes excellent knives. I've had mine for years and with some occasionally sharpening and hand washing it has held up wonderfully. Prices vary depending on the line, but you can get their 8 inch International Classic for $54.99. A quick search on Amazon led me to another slightly less expensive option, the Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef 8 inch Chef's knife. It is priced at $29.50 and gets an average of 4 1/2 stars out of over 3,500 reviews.
So there you have it. Some great products to make your cooking adventures a little easier. Happy Shopping!