Kitchen Essentials (Last Minute Gift Ideas)

This is for you procrastinators out there who still haven’t finished up your Christmas shopping. If you’re buying for someone who likes to cook, or just so happens to be lacking in the kitchen department, here’s a list of my top 5 kitchen essentials. These are items I use on a daily basis or very often and I’m pretty sure anyone would be happy to receive them. Well, they may be a little thrown off by receiving a Dutch oven but once that puppy is in their kitchen and in use, they’ll be glad you gifted it to them!

To make your shopping easier, I’ve added links to each item of the exact brand/model that I own.

dutch oven1. Dutch oven– I didn’t receive one of these until a few years ago. And my dad gave it to me as a gift. But, I absolutely love it! I wish I’d had this many years ago. This is probably my most used cooking vessel. I only make soups in this thing and it’s also great for any type of pulled meat, pork, beef, chicken. What’s convenient about this is that you can cook on the stovetop and then transfer it to the oven.

cast iron2. Cast iron skillet– This is a kitchen staple. Everyone needs a cast iron skillet. They are so versatile. Frying, cooking, baking. They pretty much do it all. We took ours all the way to Colorado when we went tent camping on a river and it was the ONLY pan I took. These things are heavy duty, incredibly resilient and a must in every kitchen.

kitchen 23. A good blender– After our old glass blender fell out of the top cabinet and onto my head, I was really in need of a new one. Not a new head, but a new blender. Impact with my hard head caused a crack on the base of the blender but surprisingly didn’t shatter or break the glass at all. Anyhow, my dad once again gifted me with an amazing blender. Yes, my dad gives me a lot of kitchen supplies. One, he encourages my cooking. Two, I think he had a kitchen shopping addiction there for awhile. Well, a good blender is also a must. Most people keep theirs in the cabinet (like I used to) but this newer one sits on my counter because I use it so often. Smoothies, shakes, salsa, dressings, etc.

knife4. Kitchen knives– These are so important! Adam got me a great set of knives a couple of years ago and I love them. They are lightweight, but sharp and also comfortable to hold. Mine don’t have a block which I was hesitant about because who doesn’t have a block of knives sitting on their counter? Well, I don’t. At least not anymore. These stay in their velvest-esque holders in a drawer and it actually is pretty convenient. If you’re looking for a less expensive and more introductory set, click here. Same brand that I use, but just a smaller set.

kitchen5. Flat whisk– I finally got this last year. Where has it been all my life?!?! I use it daily! It’s not cumbersome like a round whisk can be, and I like the smaller size. If you’re looking for something small and inexpensive, you’ve found it.

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!

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Skillet Cinnamon Apple Cobbler

cobbler 10I told you I’d be cooking up a cobbler with those cinnamon apples! And lucky for you, it’s just in time for Thanksgiving. There’s always the traditional pumpkin, pecan and apple pie but this dessert would be a great detour from your standard Thanksgiving sweets. And it’s cooked and served out of a cast iron skillet. Rustic perfection!

So I altered my standby cobbler recipe that was given to me many years ago and turned it into THIS. I’ll explain to you how much I enjoyed eating this. Typical night in my house goes like this. After the kids are in bed, my hubs and I cuddle on the couch, watching TV and eating dessert. Together, alone, nice and quiet, no interruptions. Well, of course, I happened to let the dog out before I sat on the couch and just as I’m digging in and going “yum”, she’s scratching at the door to be let in. Hubs says he’ll get up and let her in. I pause the DVR, he lets her in, and goes upstairs to close her crate. By the time he gets back, I have ONE bite left. And not only was there cobbler in my bowl, but I also had a scoop of vanilla ice cream and milk poured all over it. Yes, I’m a glutton. But the plan had been to eat dessert while watching TV. That really didn’t happen but I’m happily blaming that on this delicious cobbler, and not the fact that I’m a sweet tooth pig. But seriously, it’s good. And don’t save it just for holidays because although it will make everyone ooh and ahh on Thanksgiving (it’s pretty in that skillet!), you’ll get that reaction any day of the year. YUM.

P.S. I reduced the cooking time on the apples since they’ll cook in the oven, omitted the alcohol and held off on adding the nuts until the cobbler was assembled. Aside from that, the apples are the same 🙂

Skillet Cinnamon Apple Cobbler (uses a 12″ cast iron skillet)

  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced in thin slices (any variety apple will do)
  • 5 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. chopped nuts of your choice (I used almonds, but pecans are screaming at me to use them next time)
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. Bisquik (I used the Heart Smart)
  • 3/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 12″ cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp. butter and let melt. Add in apples and cook for about 2 minutes. Then add in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir. Remove apples into a bowl and set aside.

Add in the remaining 4 tbsp. butter. Reduce heat to low and let melt. Once melted, turn heat off and add in the sugar, milk and Bisquik. Stir together until combined, but leave slightly lumpy. Evenly spoon the apples from the bowl over the batter. Sprinkle with the nuts and then sprinkle with a little bit more cinnamon. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven, making sure to use a pot holder or something on the handle since it will be HOT. Let cool and serve with your favorite vanilla bean ice cream.

cobbler 8cobbler 7cobbler 6cobbler 5cobbler 4cobbler 3cobbler 2cobblerWasn’t that easy? And your first bite will make you think….. apple pie alternative. cobbler 9

Get to Grillin’!

asparagusIt’s a little cold out for most people right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grill. I live in Southern California, so we can pretty much fire up the BBQ any time of year. However, sometimes I like to use my grill pan indoors, and for those of you experiencing a frigid winter, take this tip and grill inside!

Grilled asparagus. Super easy, super simple, and so flavorful. My kids are not partial to asparagus because of the after effects….if you know what I’m saying. But they ate this! And I definitely like asparagus prepared this way much better over steaming.

Grilled Asparagus
1 bunch of asparagus (the skinny kind), washed and trimmed
1- 2 tbsp. olive oil
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
Parmesan cheese

Heat a grill pan (I used cast iron) on your stovetop over medium high heat. If using cast iron, they take a bit longer to heat up.

asparagus 2Sprinkle asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When the grill pan is hot, add the asparagus. When the asparagus gets nice grill marks, turn over and cook the other side. I kind of just move mine around a bit on the pan to make sure the asparagus gets evenly cooked. I like my asparagus crisp tender so I didn’t cook mine long, maybe 5 minutes total. The skinny kind cook up much quicker. Transfer asparagus to a plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. *You can use a microplane hand grater to grate your cheese. If you don’t have one, you can use a box grater or the parmesan cheese in a container is fine too!

asparagus 3Have fun grilling indoors!