So you've probably been spending some quality time in your kitchen of late. For some, cooking can provide much needed entertainment, something productive to do, and can actually be quite a zen experience. For others, it's simply a matter of practicality and economic necessity. No matter which of these best describes your current culinary situation, there are ways to enjoy your time prepping, simmering, and sautéing a bit more. For example, some cooking essentials can improve your skills and elevate the experience in a way you probably didn't even think of — just ask The Zoe Report editors, who have been relying on a few unexpected items to step up their kitchen skills in this quarantine period.
A true cooking essential can take many forms. It could be a pot or pan that's versatile enough to tackle a range of projects, a condiment that makes literally every dish taste better, a cookbook that keeps you inspired, and so on. Pretty much it's anything that's integral to your preferred style of cooking.
The TZR staff tends to range from reluctant chefs to hostesses-with-the-mostest, but they're figuring out what works for them. So if you're in need of tools and other aids to keep quarantine cooking fun, exciting, and, of course, delicious, read ahead for the eight essentials that are helping our editors make the most of their homemade meals.
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You might be surprised at how renewed your interest in cooking could be with a fresh set of pots and pans. Ceramic cookware in particular is just as sustainable as it is beautiful and easy-to-use, which makes all the difference. "I just got a set of Caraway pots and pans and I'm obsessed: I've already cooked curries, baked bread, and fried eggs in them," says Aemilia Madden, Senior Fashion Editor. "It was one of those situations where I didn't know the sad state I was living in until I went for the upgrade. Life changed."
If you're not the most experienced chef, it's imperative to invest in some flavorful, versatile condiments and sauces (harissa, pesto, hot sauce, etc) that you can add to practically everything. And what better way to support your local restaurants right now that purchasing one of their signatures? "One of my favorite restaurants at home in Northern California is Sol Food, a super fresh, flavorful Puerto Rican restaurant in Marin," says Madden. "I garnish and cook with the restaurant's salad dressing and hot sauce all the time and they bring me a little taste of home while punching up the flavor of my dishes."
These big, heavy bottom pots are ideal for roasting, braising, soup making, and more. "I don't know how I ever lived without my Staub cast-iron French oven," says Anna Buckman, Shopping News Editor. "I can make huge amounts of food (hello, leftovers) in it and everything cooks so evenly."
Need a little bit of guidance? Stock up on cookbooks that will inspire you to cook nutritious, delicious meals, like nutritionist's favorite, Body Love by Kelly Leveque. "I bought this last year when I was feeling blah and wanted to improve what I was eating and cut down on sugar," Buckman explains. "It's helped me change my eating habits immensely by giving me loose guidelines on how to structure my meals so that I get more nutrients and actually feel full after eating. I use all of the recipes constantly, and most require limited ingredients so they're easy to make any time."
"As a HelloFresh subscriber, my meals require at least one sturdy multi-use pan to cook a variety of meals (tacos, bowls, pasta dishes, etc.)," says Angela Melero, Deputy Editor. "This Always Pan is the only thing I reach for when making dinner as it's the perfect size and shape for literally all the recipes I order on a weekly basis. I keep at the front of my pan cupboard for easy access!"
"I've become a smoothie connoisseur during this quarantine period — I have one every morning, and need a blender that can take all the frozen veggies and fruits, powders, nut butters, etc.," Melero adds. "This Ninja blender has really surprised me in how efficient it is at such a reasonable price!"
Really Good Olive Oil
"Every avid home cook — or even just a bourgeoning one — should invest in one really good bottle of olive oil that's just for finishing a dish," recommends Ashley Tibbits, Staff Writer. "The ones from Brightland aren't just sustainable and beautifully bottled (bonus), they're also bright and nuanced so they make even the simplest dish more multidimensional. I use this in dressings and simple pasta dishes or drizzle it on roasted veggies."
Reusable Storage Containers
"I'm making big batches of soups, chili, sauces, and even homemade coconut yogurt and since I live alone, having plenty of storage vessels is essential," Tibbits explains. "To be sustainable, organized, and aesthetically pleasing, I love stocking up on simple mason jars and Weck jars. They're great for displaying dry goods on open shelving, too!"