When I first got married and set up house (all those years ago!) I spent a lot of money on things that I probably didn’t really need. Things that have long since been donated to the thrift store or are buried deep in a landfill somewhere. Things that today, I don’t even remember owning. And then there were other things I bought or received as gifts that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time but which have since proven their worth after giving me 35+ years of service. In some cases, it is the most boring of gifts that have turned out to be my favorite things.
If you are setting up house for the first time yourself or are just looking for a wedding or housewarming gift that your friend will still appreciate many years from now, this is my list of kitchen must haves. Many of them won’t be found on wedding registry lists with the china place settings and silver butter dishes. They are much too boring and dull. But they are gifts that will be appreciated 10, 20 and even 35 years from now.
A set of three glass pyrex mixing bowls was probably the most boring wedding gift I received and has become my most favorite. I’ve used these bowls almost everyday over the last 35 years. From cookies to fried chicken, it would be hard to cook anything without them.
Another favorite wedding gift I received all those years ago was the traditional set of three Corningware Casseroles with lids. I have since added a couple of smaller versions but none are as useful as the original set. I particularly like the large flat one which I’ve use to cook just about every meat dish I’ve ever made. When my husband broke a lid, I easily found a replacement for it on Ebay. These have been such popular sellers that they are now super easy to find at the thrift stores for just a few dollars.
I will admit to being a cookbook junkie. I love sitting in a chair reading them and using post it note tabs to mark recipes that I want to try. But, if truth be told, I don’t really need all of the cookbooks I’ve collected and could in fact, probably live with just one. As long as it is this one– The Betty Crocker Cookbook. I have the spiral bound version which I love because it lays flat when open. I bought it when my friend Kerry told me how great it is. Boy, was she ever right. Anything I ever want to know I find in this book. The basic recipes you remember Mom making are all here along with new updated ones. If you want to know how to grill a steak, roll out a pie crust, prepare a Caesar salad, or make a shaken martini it’s in this book. Charts for buying and cooking meats, a section on cooking with herbs and spices, descriptions of different cheeses, etc. There is so much packed into this book that I find it amazing. And if that wasn’t enough, this book also has the absolute best ever recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies!
Eventually everyone is invited to a Tupperware party and we all feel obligated to buy something. My favorite Tupperware purchases have been my measuring cups and spoons. Unlike most sets that you find in stores the Tupperware sets come with extra pieces. You not only get a standard 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1 cup measures but you also get a 2/3 and 3/4 cup sizes. The measuring spoons also give you additional sizes which are very handy to have. One of the other best Tupperware purchases that I made was a large handled bowl with measurements down the side called a Mix N Store. I loved this piece most of all for making pancakes but I used it for many other things as well. Unfortunately, my husband left it sitting too close to a stove burner one day. Sometimes you realize how important something is when you no longer have it.
Another Tupperware favorite: My four piece Servalier canister set. No, I don’t find the yellow plastic particularly attractive. Not so that I’d want it sitting out on my counter. But I have plenty of more attractive items to sit on the countertop and since this is stored in my baking cupboard I don’t mind the outdated look of it. It still seals beautifully and holds my flour, white, brown, and powdered sugars. They conveniently nest for easy storage but I’ve never had cause to store them. I have a similar orange set as well which makes for great cookie holders at Christmas time. I imagine these pieces have been updated over the years but if you want the old styles like mine they are readily available on Ebay.
I never use the small silicone pad that came in my set of two but the large one has made rolling out pie crust a breeze. I use it to roll a thin crust and then lift it onto the pie plate with no tears or cracking. You can find silicone and plastic pad versions with diagrams showing you how large your crust should be. Mine has no markings but I love it just the same.
Once my piecrust is made I put it into these favorite ceramic recipe pie dishes. They are larger than most so they make a great big deep dish pie. Mostly I just love the look of them with all of the different recipe patterns that are available. The downside is that they are so big they won’t fit into the most plastic pie keepers. I cover my pies with those disposable elasticized bowl covers instead.
Choose your brand; choose your model; but choose a crock pot! I have gone through three or four different models over these many years. They don’t last forever. But I’ve never been without one. Some of my best recipes come out of the slow cooker. And even though I like to cook, there comes a day now and then when I don’t want to. On those days nothing is easier than throwing a cut of meat into the crockpot with some vegetables and potatoes. Six to eight hours later dinner is done.
Pair your slow cooker with one of these “Taste of Home” slow cooker cook books. I’ve seen several different versions but all have been filled with great recipes. I have been a big fan of Taste of Home recipes since first being introduced to their monthly magazine. Reading their recipes that are submitted by everyday cooks reminds me of big family reunions or church potluck suppers where everyone brings their best home cooked dish. Many of them are now in my recipe file of favorites. In addition to cook books and a magazine they also have a great website where you can find recipes for anything and everything.
Instead of refrigerating the butter this old time butter dish lets you leave the butter sitting out on the counter where it stays soft and spreadable. Water fills the lower chamber and a stick of butter goes in the upper chamber. Once the pieces are fit together something about evaporation keeps the butter from spoiling. I don’t really know how it works but I have used this butter keeper for at least 10 years with no problems. I’ve seen a round version called a “butter bell” for sale in local Amish stores but I really like the shape of mine since it holds a whole stick. It’s great to always have soft butter for my toast!
I splurged and bought my white KitchenAid mixer several years ago and I love it. The best thing about a stand mixer is that you can add your ingredients, turn it on and then walk away to work on another chore while the mixer does its thing. This is great especially when making buttercream frosting that takes a good 15 minutes of mixing time. KitchenAid mixers come in an array of colors and I would love to have a pistachio green one. The problem with colors though, is that the KitchenAid mixer lasts forever. Most people don’t buy more than one in their lifetime. They are so indestructible that many people are using their mother’s or grandmother’s hand me down. If you want your mixer to match your kitchen through all of its years of decorating updates and changes you need to buy a white or stainless steel mixer. Or go ahead and buy your favorite color and don’t worry about whether it will match your kitchen in 20 years. Just keep in mind all of those people in the 90’s who were desperate to replace the harvest gold and avocado green refrigerators that they bought in the 70’s!
I’m not much for kitchen gadgets. I find that they take up space and are often difficult to clean. But one “gadget” that I bought which has turned out to be a good buy is my bread making machine. I don’t see people buying these as much these days. But I’ve had mine for many years, it’s simple to use and it always makes a tasty loaf of bread. It’s particularly nice to have during those winter storms when I don’t want to drive on icy roads to go to the grocery store.
I am currently without a whistling tea kettle and I miss it greatly! I read something about boiling water and molecules improving the flavor of tea and whatever the cause, I will attest that a cup of tea or even instant hot chocolate just doesn’t taste the same when the water has been microwaved or heated in the Keurig. I don’t remember what happened to my tea kettle, but for several years now I’ve been boiling water in a pan on top of the stove. The problem with that method is that I forget I’m boiling water on the stove! The whistle is therefore an important feature and I need to put “tea kettle” on my shopping list.
I don’t know where I got these trays but they get daily use in my house. No, they aren’t really a kitchen item but we do use them when we want to eat lunch or dinner in front of the TV.They give me an extra work surface in any room of the house. I use one when I want to pay bills or work on crafts. I like mine which are a solid, heavy wood. They are a lot more sturdy than the old metal version that our grandmas used to have.
If you drink wine by the bottle it may not be such a big deal, but when we open a bottle of wine it usually takes us several days to finish it. This screw on wine stopper works great for sealing bottles. Just slip it on the bottle top and turn the knob. And it’s much easier than trying to squeeze that cork back to the bottle! Add it to that bottle of wine you intend to take to your next party and it makes a nice hostess gift.
Everybody needs an attractive set of dishware.You use it many times throughout the day so it really should be something that you like or even love. I have two favorite patterns, one for every day, and one for special occasions. My daily dishes are a green patterned ironstone that I purchased at IKEA when I got married. I still love their color and pattern. The other set which I have been collecting for years is a set of classic red transferware. My set does not match but I buy any piece that is the right color and style. It all works together on the dining room table.
I’ll bet you have your own list of kitchen favorites and I’d love to hear what they are. Be sure to let me know in the comments. I’m always on the lookout to try something new!