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Kitchen & Health Essentials

kitchenaid-immersion-blender

KitchenAid KHB2351CU 3-Speed Hand Blender - Contour Silver

I’ve had this immersion blender for a couple of years and I love it. I’ve got a Vitamix that I’ll use for things like plantain pancakes or for making buckwheat flour, but for sauces that I don’t want to worry about breaking, this KitchenAid Immersion Blender is my go to. Delicious homemade mayo or aioli in under 2 minutes.

kettlebells

AmazonBasics Cast Iron Kettlebells

I love my kettlebells. There are countless workouts that you can do with them, but I like doing 25 kettlebell swings a couple of times a day. If I’ve been sitting for too long, I’ll get up and go knock out some kettlebell swings or some goblet squats. And Amazon makes it easy and delivers them right to your door. I started out with a 25# and a 35#. If those get too easy I’ll buy some heavier ones, but for now, those are enough to keep me entertained.

cast-iron-skillet

Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

I’ll admit that I still use my non-stick skillet a lot for cooking eggs or for sautéing veggies. And every year or two I may have to replace it because I treated it carelessly and I’ll start to nick up the non-stick coating and life’s too short to take chances with non-stick dietary supplementation.

But some tasks just beg for the heat retention provided by a cast iron skillet. Sous vide a pork tenderloin and want to finish it off with a hard sear to develop a crust- cast iron skillet to the rescue. Too lazy to build a fire in the Big Green Egg to cook some steaks- cast iron skillet to the rescue. Watching the flame die on the gas grill and realizing that you forgot to check on the propane tank. Cast iron skillet steps in to save the day and the still raw steaks.

A cast iron skillet is an essential part of every kitchen. Nothing else can retain heat like a cast iron skillet. The reason that’s important is that’s essential to developing that tasty crust on a perfectly cooked steak or pork chop.

I bought my Lodge Cast Iron Skillet over 10 years ago and it’s pretty indestructible. Sure, you need to clean it with a brush and maybe some salt when you’re finished cooking in it and no, you don’t want to use soap in it. But with just a minimum amount of care, it will help you make some incredible food and it will last you a lifetime. Enjoy!

Blood Ketone and Glucose Setup

Above is the setup that I use to measure blood ketone and blood glucose levels during ketosis. Some folks may opt for using urine test strips, but I’d recommend against that route. Once you’re in ketosis for while you’re not spilling as many ketones into your urine and a blood ketone level will give you the most accurate measurement. The needle is tiny and lancing device is spring loaded so the set-up is pretty painless. The ketone strips are about a buck a piece, but once you get into ketosis you start to get a feel for how you’re doing. I spent about a year in ketosis and now I cycle in an out. This summer I decided to enjoy fruit and a few more carbs, but in August I climbed back on the keto train. I like how I feel and it’s so much easier for me to keep my weight, as well as my energy and concentration levels where I want them.

blood-ketone-glucose-meter

DSS Precision Xtra Blood Glucose Meter Kit

lancing-device-lancets

Care Touch 30 gauge Lancets and Lancing Device

blood-ketone-test-strips

30 Precision Xtra Blood Ketone Test Strips

glucose-test-strips

30 Precision Xtra Blood Glucose Test Strips

grill-pan

Weber Style 6435 Professional-Grade Grill Pan

My grill topper is almost identical to this one - and if I ever wear it out I’ll replace it with this one. I love it for small items that I don’t want to worry about getting sacrificed to the grill fire gods. I used to have a light weight one but those are a pain in the ass because high heat will warp them.

sheet-pan

18x13 inch Vollrath aluminum sheet pans

My wife and I love roasted veggies and we love fat head bagels and because of that I’m constantly using sheet pans. If you’ve already got some you love great–I just put these in here to make it easy for folks that don’t have a local source. I used to have some lighter duty ones that I threw away because as soon as they got hot they would have a convulsion in the oven when they warped. Life’s too short for unnecessary kitchen drama.

wusthof knife sharpener review

Wüsthof - 2 Stage Hand-Held Sharpener (2922)

I have two knife sharpeners - a simple Wusthof like this one that I use for day to day maintenance and a Spyderco that I use a couple of times a year to take the edges up a notch.

tri-angle knife sharpmaker review

Tri-Angle Sharpmaker

This is a very serious knife sharpener for people that hate dull knives and that want to be able to sharpen just about anything that has an edge.

ThermoWorks Products

Wouldn’t it be great if food could tell you when it’s done? Imagine if that chicken you’re roasting could just say- “Yo, I know you’re busy, but if you’ll pull me out of the oven right now I’ll make you look like a genius.” Well, don’t worry, you don’t have to negotiate with talkative poultry, but with Thermoworks Smoke, DOT, or ChefAlarm you’ll still get to look like a genius.

I’ve used Thermoworks products for years, but I always just used their instant-read thermometers. So, I’d be opening the oven and checking meat temps, or opening and closing my Big Green Egg, trying to navigate that perfect intersection where the meat is done but not over done. The first unit that I bought was the Smoke, it’s a dual probe unit with a wireless receiver. The first probe can clip to the grate and will tell you the ambient temp inside your smoker and you insert the second probe into what you’re cooking and it will tell you the internal temperature of the meat. Note - the probe is rated to 572 and the cable is rated to 700 degrees, so these aren’t geared for high temperature searing where grill temps can greatly exceed those. These are designed for low and slow barbecue and smoking.

I liked the Smoke so much that I recently bought the DOT for indoor cooking. If you’re cooking a sirloin tip roast, you insert the probe in the thickest part of the roast and if you want to pull the roast out of the oven when it hits 130 degrees. Set the DOT for 130, when your roast reaches that temp the alarm will sound and out comes your perfectly medium rare roast. Want to pull your roasted chicken when the breast reaches 150 degrees. Same drill - set the temp for 150 and pull the chicken when the alarm sounds.

And own your genius.

fast pocket thermometer review

Super-Fast® Pocket Thermometer (RT600C)

thermoworks-DOT_Black-01

DOT®

thermoworks-smoke_generic-01

Smoke™ 2-Channel Alarm

thermoworks-chefalarm_generic-01

ChefAlarm®

wusthof knife block review

Wusthof Classic 9-piece Acacia Knife Block Set

I love my Wusthof Classics. I hate dull knives and I hate knives that won’t take and hold an edge. Did I say that I love these knives - that would be because they take and hold an edge and they feel great in your hand. A few years ago I bought a knife roll like the chefs have - and although I always feel a little like a poser any time I pulled it out I bought it out of necessity. Every once in a while, Jude and I will rent a house somewhere in the hill country around Austin just to get away for a weekend. The first time we did it I didn’t bring any of my kitchen gear - I just used what they had there. Big mistake. Now I pack my chef’s knife and my paring knife in my chef’s roll. I also put in several other items that are part of my kitchen essentials. I suspect that when I check out to the great beyond my knives will be something of mine that my kids will want because they know that in addition to them, my knives are something else that makes me smile. Enough said.

If you don’t want a Knife block - below are some individual options.

wusthof-classic-8-inch-chefs-knife

Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife (4582/20)

I’ve had a Wusthof Classic 8 inch Chef’s Knife for close to 10 years and it’s my most used kitchen tool. It takes an edge great and I love the balance and how it fits my hand.

victorinox-fibrox-pro-chefs-knife

Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife, 8-Inch Chef's FFP

For a lighter and less expensive option the Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife, 8-Inch Chef's FFP consistently garners rave reviews. I bought my son one for Christmas and he loves it.

victorinox-4-inch-classic-paring-knife

Victorinox 4-Inch Swiss Classic Paring Knife with Straight Blade, Spear Point, Black

Victorinox 4-Inch Swiss Classic Paring Knife with Straight Blade, Spear Point, Black. Just got one of these and they are wicked sharp and a pleasure to use.

oxo tongs review

OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs

Another thing that gets used every day and goes with me when I’m packing kitchen essentials. And life’s too short to use shitty tongs.

best pepper grinder

COLE & MASON Derwent Pepper Grinder - Stainless Steel Mill Includes Gourmet Precision Mechanism and Premium Peppercorns

I got tired of putting pepper dust on food that I’d cooked. I wanted a pepper grinder that was genuinely adjustable and my Cole & Mason pepper grinder satisfies that requirement. No more pepper dust.

best wine aerator pourer set

Redevino Wine Aerator Decanter Pourer Set with Glass Stand

I like a glass of red and I’ve used an aerator for years. The one I had for a long time started leaking wine out of the aeration hole on the side of the aerator. It made a mess and it was a waste of wine. Jude got me a Redevino for Christmas and it works great! No squandering perfect aerated wine, no mess and it does a great job of helping your red unwind.

frying pan review

Vollrath 12" Wear-Ever Fry Pan w/ PowerCoat 2 Interior & Cool Handle

I bought this pan recently and I’ve been happy with how it works. Eggs release easily and it’s a snap to clean. I like that it’s a little deeper than my previous pan. Unfortunately, I don’t look at non-stick pans as long-term relationships. If they get nicked-up or they start to lose their non-stickness they end up in the good will box. I don’t use metal in them and always hand wash them but a year or two has been about my average so far. I hope this one outlast that average.

all clad 10 piece set review

All-Clad Stainless Steel 3-Ply Bonded Dishwasher Safe Cookware Set, 10-Piece

Full disclosure - this is not the set that I have at home. Mine are not All-Clad they’re Kirkland - but I know that not everyone is a Costco member.

I was going to put a link to the set that I got from Costco but it looks like they’ve discontinued them. There are other TriPly cookware sets on Amazon and at Costco but the better sets at Costco are close to the All Clad prices. At the end of the day if you get a good set of triply stainless they should last almost as long as you do.

cuisinart-mcp-stainless-steel-cookware-set

Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set

While All-Clad (see above) is sort of the gold standard, but I don’t think you necessarily have to spend $ 600 to get a good set of pots and pans - this one is much more reasonable in price.

chefmos-grill-gloves

Chefmos Grill Gloves,932°F Extremely Heat Resistant BBQ Gloves, 13" Protective Oven Mitt, Premium Insulated & Anti-Slip Aramid Grilling Gloves for Cooking, Grilling, Baking

These look crazy - but they’re fantastic. I got real interested in high temperature gloves when I grabbed a stainless-steel pan that had been sitting in a 450 degree Big Green Egg for a while. I didn’t grab it bare handed - I had on a pair of thick leather “barbeque gloves”. Bad idea. There was a thin spot in one of the gloves and that just so happened to be the part where I was holding the pan. And like an idiot I didn’t drop the pan because it had a beautiful piece of salmon that had only spent just a few minutes in the offending pan - and why burn the shit out of your hand and trash dinner. So, I finished carrying it into the house and set it down. That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a “rub a little dirt on it and it will be fine” sort of an issue going on. Not sure I’ve ever had a burn hurt that bad before. But my “barbeque gloves” got retired that night and the next day I ordered these bad boys. They’re rated to 932 degrees. Not 930 degrees, not 935 degrees, but 932 degrees! And they work great for Big Green Egg work, grill work or anywhere else that you need to grab a screaming hot pan or skillet.

organic coconut milk

Native Forest Full Fat Organic Coconut Milk Count of 12 13.5 oz. cans

I buy this by the case because it’s easier and cheaper that way.  Amazon delivers it to the door and I save about a buck a can versus buying it at Whole Foods.  I use it in a curry dish that I make with okra, I put it in soups, in smoothies and if I’m feeling ambitious I’ll use it to make ice cream.  So, it makes sense to buy it by the case.

heavy duty cuisinart review

14 cup heavy duty Cuisinart

I gave my 7 cup Cuisinart to my kid because I got tired of making half batches of stuff. I saw that Costco had a 13 cup Cuisinart that cost about 25 bucks cheaper than this one and who doesn’t want to save 25 bucks so I bought that one. Got it home and realized there was a problem before I even pulled it out of the box. It was a toy Cuisinart. I don’t mean an actual toy but it weighed about a third of what my smaller Cuisinart weighed. I put it back in the box and took it back to my friends at Costco and they said no problem and refunded my money. I just got the 14 cup version the other day and it’s a proper beast. Double batch of Fat Head Bagels - no problem. Cauliflower/ Celeriac root puree - piece of cake. The 7 cup version is also a heavy duty / non-toy version.

oxo-salad-spinner

OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner

We use this multiple times a week - but most of the time it’s not used to dry lettuce or spinach. I buy lettuce, power greens and spinach from Costco or Whole Foods that’s been triple washed and dried. Another one of those things to save time and headaches. But - we use the salad spinner for getting kale ready before we roast it and collards ready before we sauté them. When I do buy lettuce or salad greens that have not been prewashed, etc. I definitely dry them in the spinner. I don’t wash my mushrooms, but I read either in Food Labs or on Serious Eats that Kenji Lopez-Alt washes mushrooms in the basket and then uses the spinner to dry them. I’ll keep that in mind if I get some mushrooms that appear in need of a cleaning. Most of the time I just wipe them off with a paper towel.

sleep-mask

Sleep Master Sleep Masks

Who doesn’t love a great night’s sleep? Especially those times where your head hits the pillow and you’re out like a light and you wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Sound sleep is more elusive for some folks than others, but there are a few things that you can do to tip the sleep scale more in your favor. Light exposure after sunset (especially the blue wavelength light produced by artificial lighting, TV, phone and computer screens) tells your body to ease up on its melatonin production. Disrupting melatonin productions can throw a serious wrench into your plans for a great night’s sleep. Blackout curtains are great but they don’t travel well. Also, they’re not effective at keeping gadget light or any stray light from inside the house from bothering you while you sleep. That’s why I love my Sleep Master Sleep mask. It’s comfortable, it fits securely and it keeps light out of my eyes. What’s not to love. It works great at home and I always make sure to pack it for road trips. It’s an essential part of my sleep arsenal.

blue light blocking glasses

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Another part of my sleep arsenal. I could just swear off the TV, computer screens and iPhone screens after sundown and transition to candlelight after dark but I haven’t reached that level of enlightenment and self-discipline and not sure that I ever will or want to, so instead I’ll opt for blue light blocker glasses.

heart-monitor

Wahoo Tickr X Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap with Memory, Bluetooth/ ANT+

I used to be a heart rate dumb-ass. I’d hit the elliptical and after a few minutes of warm-up I’d crank my heart rate up to 160-170 BPM and push myself to maintain that for 10-12 minutes. That was foolish on two fronts. At 60 years old, that was not an effective heart rate zone for me to burn body fat or ketones as a fuel source and the duration was too long to allow the multiple all-out effort/ short recovery intervals necessary for an effective sprint session. Do yourself a favor–get a Wahoo Tickr X Heart Rate monitor or the heart rate monitor of your choice and keep your aerobic training in the (180- your age) heart rate to burn body fat and build your aerobic base. As long as your doc deems you healthy enough to engage in sprint activity, once every 7-10 days push the needle closer to the max with a brief interval sprint session.

food scale

Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale

Getting healthy doesn’t have to be an ass whip, but it does require some work and some awareness. When I cook I frequently eyeball quantities of ingredients because a ½ a teaspoon of basil isn’t going to move much of a flavor needle. But when I’m making fathead bagels I weigh the goat cheese and the sheep’s milk cheese that I use in my recipe because the last thing I want is failed fat head bagels. I also suggest that people weigh and measure what they’re eating during the first few days of tweaking their diets because it’s easy to get faked out when you’re calculating your macros at first. You need to know what an ounce of almonds looks like and four ounces of various proteins look like.

instant-pot

Instant Pot DUO60 6 QT

I always get skeptical when something comes out and people just lose their minds when they describe it. I don’t care if it’s a movie, a book, or a restaurant. I’m always prepared to be disappointed because it’s so hard for something to live up to all that hype. I definitely had that sentiment prior to buying my InstantPot. I was hoping that it wasn’t going to be one of those gadgets that take up space and leaves you resentful that you talked yourself into buying it.

I think the first thing that I fixed in mine was a pastured pork roast. I put a tablespoon of bacon grease in the pot and seared the roast on both sides for 5 minutes a side, pulled it out and sliced it into half inch slices and let it hang out on the cutting board while I used the pot and the sauté function to sauté some onions, a couple of chopped cloves of garlic, some chopped stuffed olives, and some sun-dried tomatoes. Then I added some fish sauce, a little red wine, and just a little chicken stock, added the sliced pork back into the pot and sealed the pot and set the pressure setting on high for 8 minutes. It took it just a few minutes to come up to pressure and then the 8-minute countdown started. Once it completed the 8 minutes I let it naturally release for about 10 minutes and then did a quick release to finish venting it.

Damn. It was a profoundly religious experience. The flavors were incredible, the meat was tender and the amount of time that it took was ridiculously short.

I’m just starting to scratch the surface of what this thing will do, but so far bone broth, short ribs, and roasts have far exceeded my expectations. Do yourself a favor- take the plunge.

instant-pot

Instant Pot DUO80 8 QT

The 6 quart Instant Pot is a great size for 2-4 people but there are times when I want to be able to cook mass quantities and freeze meals for later. Just ordered the 8 quarts for those occasions.

foodsaver

FoodSaver V4440 Vacuum Sealing System

I initially bought the food saver for use in sous vide cooking and it works great for that but I also love it for freezing food after a batch cook. I love to be able to pull out a package of brisket from my freezer that I’ve already brined for 24 hours, sous vided for 24 hours and smoked for a couple of hours and know that all of that work has already been done and now I just defrost it, heat it and dive in.

I’m a huge fan of the following 3 books: The Flavor Bible, The Food Lab, and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. They’re in my library and I recommend them enthusiastically. They have significantly impacted how I approach cooking and they’ve helped me up my cooking game. I enjoy figuring out flavors and foods that work together and techniques that bring out the best in those foods and flavors with the least amount of hassle. These books have helped in that process.

the-flavor-bible

The Flavor Bible

Most of the time when I look at a recipe it’s more for inspiration or the kernel of an idea instead of a step by step set of instructions. The exception to that is if I’m making something where ratios are critical like fat head bagels or pancakes or undertaking something that I’m unsure of—like making tamales at Christmas. Normally I look at a recipe to get some ideas about temperatures and cooking times, but I’ve learned the hard way to be careful about blindly following that guidance. (I learned that lesson with a rack of ribs burned beyond redemption). The beauty of the Flavor Bible is that it can help you start to figure out flavors that work together and it will also give you a heads up on combinations that you might want to avoid.

An example is pork - the Flavor Bible has it broken down by various cuts-i.e., belly, chops, loin, ribs, etc. with guidance for each cut, but they also have a general section for pork. You’ll find recommendations for techniques for more tender cut- broil, grill or roast as well as moist heat options for tougher cuts like braising and stewing. Next, you’ll find flavors that work well with pork, like apples, cabbage, onions, black pepper, and rosemary. Makes me hungry just typing this up. There’s also an affinity section that includes combinations that are recommended for pork like pork plus, bacon, mustard, and sauerkraut. Or pork, chile peppers, cilantro, garlic, lime, and peanuts. Or pork, curry, garlic, and yogurt.

My son is a chef and I still remember watching him put together a meal in a kitchen that he was unfamiliar with and with just a few ingredients he made this incredible meal. That was years ago but it convinced me that I wanted to get a better idea of how to do that. To figure out how to use the foods that you have in the fridge or the pantry and to build something that tastes great and even more important that you’re using real food and not grabbing something from the drive-through or eating take out. The Flavor Bible and the next two books will help you along that journey if you’re interested.

salt-fat-acid-heat

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

I had seen this cookbook recommended by Addie Broyles of the Austin American Statesman and then I read Tim Ferriss’s interview of Samin Nosrat in Tribe of Mentors and I ordered my copy of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat that same day. The author made me realize that I had been too timid when it came to salting the food I was preparing and I usually wasn’t salting it early enough to get the most benefit and that I needed to up my use of acid to brighten and balance the flavors of my food. Add this one to your collection and pretty soon people will think that you’ve hired a chef or have secretly become one.

the-food-lab

The Food Lab

This one just appeals to the science geek in me. And I like figuring out how stuff works and using that understanding to help me recover if things start to go sideways and also how to keep improving as a cook. From how to make a better omelet to killer no hassle salad dressings to cooking the perfect steak you’ll get both the science and the techniques.

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