i recommend...

Kitchen tools:

I hate clutter and talk myself out of 95% of the kitchen gadgets and doodads I salivate over in gourmet shops and online. Besides the obvious everyday appliances [eg, food processor, blender], I couldn't live without these things:

One day I was making borscht--red beet soup--and I pureed it in my regular blender. I filled the blender too full and my kitchen looked like a murder scene, with crimson liquid splattered all over my white walls and appliances. I bought an immersion blender the next day and haven't looked back. These range in price but I don't think the costly ones are worth the extra money. I own a Cuisinart Smart Stick

KitchenAid Mixer
If you bake often, owning one will enhance your baking time. Plus you can extend the usefulness with all sorts of fun attachments. I have a cherry red, Artisan 5-quart.

Potato ricer
Makes mashing potatoes and root veggies so easy--no more peeling! Changed my life.

Garlic press
Same principal as the potato ricer. Life changing if you use a lot of garlic and hate peeling/mincing it like I do.

Silpat mats
Rolling out dough on a silpat mat is such a pleasure – no sticking and very easy cleanup. I got the large mat I own in Marshalls. It includes measurements which is useful when rolling out dough for pies and pizzas.

Pots
I own a mishmash collection of pots and pans. I still use the first "grown-up" stock pot I bought at age 19 for 25 cents at a thrift store to equip my first solo apartment kitchen. But my favorite pots and pans are Le Creuset enamel ware. These vessels are expensive, but this is one true case of "you get what you pay for." They are made extremely well, cook foods evenly and consistently, and gracefully stand up to lots of abuse in the kitchen. Plus, the pretty, bright colors always heighten my mood. I own a red 5-quart oval Dutch oven [which Le Creuset calls a "French" oven, bien sûr], cream colored soup pot and a forest green 3-quart saucepan. I've had them for about a decade now, and they see daily use – and abuse.

Foods:

I'm not a brand-name kind of girl. I'm frugal and generally go with the least expensive option - except for these exceptions:

Earth Balance margarines and shortenings
I try not to use many processed fats in my everyday cooking, but for baking, these are simply the best.

Vegenaise
Most vegan mayonnaises frankly taste like wallpaper paste. But Veganaise products are stellar--taste just like the artery-clogging real deal. I don't usually go for low-fat foods, but the reduced-fat version tastes just as decadent as the full-fat variety.

Mori-Nu Silken Tofu
I use this when I am making cheesecakes, my chocolate mousse or any other food that requires absolute creaminess. Refrigerated silken tofu has its uses, but when texture is of utmost importance, this is my go-to brand.

Better Than Bouillion: Vegetable Base
Soups and sauces are only as good as the stock you use. And I rarely have time to make mine from scratch, so I rely on this vegetable base. It lasts forever, and the flavor is well balanced. I love the vegetable flavor, but I'm not so crazy about the Mushroom Base, also put out by Better Than Bouillion.

Colavita Private Selection Italian Extra-Virgin Olive Oil [Née Fruttato]
I use extra-virgin olive oil often, so I am obnoxiously fussy and opinionated about this staple. I've loved and used this particular brand for years. I adore its fruity yet diplomatically assertive flavor and its subtle pepper finish. A close second is Colavita's Argentinian Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. Think of it as Private Selection's bossier older sister. Both are suprisingly affordable compared to other EVOOs.

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