Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed
1. A cast-iron Dutch oven that does the job of a pricier Le Creuset one.
2. BOU, a broth cube that makes the perfect on-the-go soup + hangover drink (lol, but seriously).
Michelle No / BuzzFeed
I love soup, but quite frankly I've hated almost every single canned or boxed soup I've ever tried. It's either been bland, weirdly gelatinous, or just didn't hit the spot.
Enter: BOU. I discovered these babies at a health fair in my office. They're just bouillon cubes, but what's different about them is that they're made with supposedly 30% less salt than other bouillon cubes *and* with zero artificial flavors. Most important, they taste AMAZING. I wouldn't be surprised if the people behind BOU had somehow perfected the recipe for umami — savory taste — and reinvented it into three different broth flavors.
You can use them as a base in stews, soups, and stir-frys, or when cooking quinoa or rice. Personally, I like to sip on it by itself (I microwave half a cube in a cup of water) as a weird bedtime snack on a cozy, cold night in. I've also found that it's kind of the perfect beverage when you're dealing with a hangover but when it's also cold AF in your apartment. The beef flavor is amazing, but my personal favorite is the vegetable flavor, which is peppery and just slightly more savory. —Michelle No
Get them from Amazon for $3.25 each or six-pack for $27.66.
3. A multiuse, fine mesh strainer to rinse quinoa, sift flour and cereal crumbs, and rinse fruit and beans.
Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed
Okay, some of y'all are probably looking at me like, "Really? A simple strainer is the best you could come up with?" But I didn't grow up in a house with a strainer, and I never used one when I was learning to cook. And guys, it's a little bit of a life-changer. Need to rinse some quinoa? No more lining my colander with a paper towel and awkwardly making it work. At the bottom of a box of cereal, but hate the dusty crumbs? Hold it over the sink, and dump the cereal in, then easily transfer your breakfast to your bowl. Does a recipe call for sifted flour? Turns out you don't need a special "flour sifter," just your trusty old strainer. Gotta rinse fresh berries or some canned beans? Grab the strainer!
While I don't have the exact strainer linked above (I just bought a cheap version at my grocery store), any inexpensive mesh strainer will do the job. I will say I do still drain my pasta in a colander that I can set down in the sink, because I prefer to use two hands to lift a pot filled with boiling water. But for everything else, there's the strainer. —Natalie Brown
Get a set of three from Amazon for $7.34.
4. Trader Joe's Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce to make into the perfect vinaigrette and sear chicken in.
Marie Telling / BuzzFeed
A friend of mine recently moved to the West Coast and gave me all of her condiments when she left — and among them was this baby. I'd honestly never even seen it at TJ's, and it stayed untouched in my fridge for a few weeks. But one day I decided to use it in my vinaigrette instead of using my usual mustard. And boy was it good — a delicious mustard with a garlicky aioli flavor. I've adopted it entirely for my salad dressing (a classic vinaigrette with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and this mustard), but my favorite use has actually been as a coating for roasted chicken.
To make the chicken, I just sear some seasoned chicken thighs and drumsticks on a stovetop over high heat in a cast-iron skillet. Once the chicken is golden and crispy, I generously coat it with aioli mustard with a kitchen brush. I then place all of this in the oven at 400–450°F for about 20 minutes (I've never really checked how long it takes but I check the temperature with my meat thermometer and just take it out once it's gone past 165°F). I rest the chicken 10 minutes in its juice and then serve it. It is SO, SO GOOD. I've been making it every week for the past month and I'm still not tired of it. —Marie Telling
Get it from Amazon for $11.26.
5. Jacobsen Salt's huge, paper-thin flakes, which are perfect for sprinkling on veggies and desserts.
6. Small Victories, a classic cookbook that'll guide newbies and experts alike through essential home recipes.
I have a bit of a cookbook problem. As in, I own way too many of them and treat them like my children. But my favorite one over the past year — and the one I've cooked from the most — has been Small Victories by Julia Turshen.
Every recipe I've tried, from her fried eggs and her chicken soup to her roasted mushrooms on toast and her curried lentils, has been a hit. Her style is thoroughly relatable and approachable, her recipes are never intimidating, and the most involved ones are truly worth the effort. She also offers variations on each of her recipes so you feel empowered to stray from the original and use what you've learned from her to get creative in the kitchen. All in all, a great investment and the kind of book you'll keep for a long, long time. —Marie Telling
Get it from Amazon for $23.79.
7. Trader Joe's nitro cold-brew coffee that'll give you a coffee-shop-worthy caffeine fix at half the price.
Amazon / Via amazon.com, Melissa Harrison / BuzzFeed
Confession: Cold brew is basically my religion at this point. I drink it daily, often making my own, but also — on especially busy mornings — popping into the coffee shop next to the BuzzFeed office. If the wait is crazy, I'll opt for a quick grab-and-go bottle.
But the problem with packaged options is that they can get costly, often retailing for between $3 and $4 per bottle. So when I saw a new version on the shelves during a recent Trader Joe's run, it immediately caught my eye — because it was a) organic nitro cold brew, and b) $1.99 (!) a bottle, or cheaper than pretty much any competitor I've seen. Naturally, I grabbed three. LOL.
And guys? If you're looking for a bottled option, this stuff is the real deal. It's crisp, strong, and — if you pour it into a separate glass — it has that impressive, lightly foamy top that fresh nitro taps give off (but that often is lost in bottled versions, I've found). Needless to say, I've got a small stockpile in my fridge now. Cheers! —Melissa Harrison
Find it at Trader Joe's for $1.99 per bottle.
8. These cheap plastic containers that'll help you Marie Kondo the shit out of your kitchen.
9. A veggie spiralizer that'll make meal prep a breeze.
Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed
As a single person who lives alone, I'm always looking for ways to balance meal prep with freshness — the dinner that's great on Sunday night won't always last well through Thursday night. The Veggetti is one of the tools that's helped me actually achieve that balance. I buy four or five zucchini and make a big batch of meat sauce on Sunday. Then each night, I spiralize some fresh noodles, salt them a little, mix them up with the sauce, and heat the whole thing in the microwave. Easy, healthy comfort food...and the zoodles are always fresh.
Here's exactly how it works: You cut the ends off your zucchini, choose if you want thicker or thinner noodles, stick the zucchini into that side, and twist. Out come your slightly flat zoodles. You can make them as long as you want, which can be fun, but I sometimes break 'em up so they're about spaghetti-length. I just have two small complaints: I'm always left with a 1-inch zucchini end that's not pasta-shaped and some zucchini that has inevitably squeezed through the small hole in the middle of the Veggetti's hourglass shape. But I slice up the extra into small rounds and the squeezed bits are vaguely fusilli-shaped, so everything goes in. Why waste?
I will say that if you want to make sweet potato, carrot, or other veggie noodles, a big spiralizer's going to be easier for those. But if you tend to want ~only~ zucchini noodles, or are not sure about buying a bigger spiralizer, the Vegetti might be right for you! —Natalie Brown
If you've got questions, here's a full review of the Veggetti.
Get one from Amazon for $8.59.
10. This Hedley & Bennett apron, loved by chefs and servers alike for its sleek look and durability.
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