Whole Parenting Family

My Five Fav Kitchen Items and Cookbook Recs

fav Kitchen itemsWhat can I say? I was raised on Velveeta and Tastee bread. But I’ve come around to love real food. And love making it for my family. So much so that when we took a family-do-nothing-vacation, I relished the opportunity to cook–> photos back here. I used to blog a lot more about food so recipes & other items related to food & garden are here. I ran a meal planning linkup for a while, too, called WeekEats. I’ll even throw up food pics on instagram under #wholeparentingeats

But now, I’m a slacker in this. Trying to get back into planning ahead. With three kids at home with me and always underfoot, I’ve finally figured out how to make dinner without crashing and burning. I make it during NAPS in the afternoon. And then warm it up for their 5pm dinner time. My husband doesn’t get home til after six, but at least the kids aren’t howling monkeys, or if they are, it’s not for empty stomaching.

A quick list of things that make my multitasking life easier in the kitchen:

1) Digital Probe Meat Thermometer.

Gift from my sister Bridget a few years back. I use it on meatballs, meat on the grill, you name it. Love it. So so much. I summarily wipe the pointy blade clean and put it away. No more wondering if the chicken is done and overcooking it. Like I did for about a decade.

2) Plastic Cutting Board with Grip.

I’m picky about not cutting my garlic and onions on the wooden cutting boards in the kitchen. Then when I go to slice an apple for the kids, they make that face. I also know I can throw these in the dishwasher and really disinfect them. To top everything off, they have GRIP. My counters are slippery granite. They need this. I need this. My sister ALSO gifted me with one of these. You can tell she’s a foodie.

3) Slotted Stainless Spoon with a Corner.

A corner. Did you hear that? It means you don’t have to wrench your arm around to get into every corner of your pot or pan. I buy this regularly for newly weds. It’s my weird-go-to-gift. I literally use it every single day. That’s a lot of hyperbole for “I hope you have one of these to make your cooking life a better place.”

4) Zester Grater.

Top that soup with parm? Top those green beans with lemon zest? Don’t snag your knuckles and shred them like you do on the box one? Yes, yes, and yes. And my secret fav way to use it? Freshly grated nutmeg in Dutch Pancakes–> recipe here.

My mom picked one of these up after seeing and experiencing it in my sister Molly’s kitchen. She and her husband should have some kind of reality food show. They’re superb in the kitchen. So I’ve been exploiting my mom’s purchase ever since.

5) Cast Iron Skillet.

When this puppy is seasoned (so the base of it is smooth and oiled like butter), you can literally do an over easy egg and flip it. It’s the most versatile of all my pans and we use it all the time. If you need a quick saute of veggies or to brown meat? Your gal is right here. And they’re so affordable!!

+ Cookbooks I Can’t Live Without.

whole parenting fav cook books

People gave us cookbooks for our wedding many moons ago and I love and cherish those thoughtful gifts. But these few in particular I use regularly and have learned so so much from. Okay, I lied. FIVE. Not that few.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

The King Arthur Flour’s Baking Companion

Jerusalem, a Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Alright, tell me your cooking wins and needs.



  1. Tacy on September 29, 2015 at 6:59 am

    I love my stick (immersion) blender! Smoothies and soups are so much easier!

    • Natural Mama Nell on September 29, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Oh YES!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Oh so smart. We love ours, too!

  2. Elizabeth on September 29, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Yes to all of the above! I don’t have #3, but I do own a few bamboo spatulas (with corners) that I use all. the. time.

    I’ve been wanting to get “Ad Hoc at Home” since I saw it in a friend’s apartment a few years ago, but it felt impractical for some reason. I’m glad to hear it’s in regular use at your house; maybe I’ll finally get myself a copy!

    Fun fact(s) about Microplane: they’re based in my hometown in Arkansas, and the Graces (Grace Manufacturing, the company behind Microplane) are Catholic(!) and are good church friends of my parents. My big claim to fame is that I babysat their grandkids once in high school. 😉

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      How cool is that! Love it!

  3. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany on September 30, 2015 at 7:38 am

    Yes! I love my meat thermometer. I used to always over cook, or sometimes undercook chicken (and then end up throwing it in the microwave after my husband would reveal the super pink insides upon cutting into it). I think I need to get one of those spoons 🙂 And I love my Jerusalem cookbook and Ad Hoc at Home. I’ll have to check out the other ones. I am a cookbook junkie!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      I love it!

  4. Rachel @ Efficient Momma on September 30, 2015 at 8:09 am

    I haven’t tried any of those cookbooks and I’m thinking I need to now 🙂 I’m a total foodie and love all of the things you’ve listed

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Girl! You’ll love them!

  5. Laurel on October 1, 2015 at 9:50 am

    I did not know how great the microplane zester was until I owned one. Indispensable. Great collection of cookbooks!!! What is your favorite for desserts??

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 3, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Smitten Kitchen & The King Arthur Flour!

  6. Anamaria on October 7, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Marcella Hazans Essentials of Italian Cooking is my fav- looks intimidating at first but many of the recipes are quite simple. All are delicious. Most, especially the soups, have very simple ingredients.

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 9, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Great rec!

  7. Julie Baldwin on October 22, 2015 at 10:02 am

    The New Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated is my favorite cookbook! I’m excited to check out your recommendations too!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 23, 2015 at 10:42 am

      ooo! I’ll have to check that one out!