Lemon Pantry's Must-Have Kitchen Essentials

I thought it was high-time I let you all in on my favorite go-to kitchen essentials.  These are some of my absolute favorite things I just can’t go without.  Honorable mentions include mason jars (duh) because they are so darn functional for storage and cute for cocktails as well as my Pampered Chef pizza stone for nice, crispy pizza crusts every time.  Take a peek at my list and let me know what your favorite items are in the kitchen!

Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus Food Processor, 3-Cup
This food processor is PERFECT for making your own pesto or hummus.  I find it so handy when cooking for one but it also is just the right size for making dips for entertaining.  Find it here.

Calphalon Kitchen Essentials Non Stick Pan
This pan gets used almost every night at my house.  Perfect for grilling salmon, veggies or even fruit.  You can also make Panini’s (although I never have) or toast up bread on it.  It leaves great grill marks you just can’t get otherwise in the dead of winter.  Find it here.

Rachael Ray Cutlery 3-Piece Japanese Stainless Steel Chef Knife Set with Orange Handles and Sheaths
Ray-Ray no longer makes these exact knives but has changed the style slightly and still carries a similar version, here.  The chef’s knife is absolutely perfect.  What more can be said.

NutriBullet Hi‑Speed 12‑Piece Blender and Mixer System
I didn’t even know about the NutriBullet until I received it as a Christmas gift a few years ago and I am hooked.  It is incredibly handy and totally took the place of my old blender.  For real, I got rid of that thing because the NutriBullet is so easy to clean and user friendly.  Ideal for smoothies and the second blade is great at grinding up nuts and seeds.  (I also recommend these to my patients on modified-texture diets.  Because of the different cups it saves you from washing a regular blender 3 times for a single meal.  This way, you can puree meat in one, potatoes in a second, and peas in a third.)  Find it here.

Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender
If you are into making your own soups then you need one of these, really.  Every time I use it I am just so happy I have it.  It saves so much effort and prevents me from spilling hot soup while I try to get it into a blender to puree.  This one has a blade that detaches for easy cleaning.  Find it here.

100% Greek Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
This is not exactly a kitchen tool but I use it so frequently I had to include it.  I cook with a LOT of olive oil and lemon juice and this just saves me one step in flavoring most dishes.  It’s also nice to drizzle over dips or salads.  Find it here.

Anchor Hocking 10-Piece TrueSeal Storage Set
I found these on Amazon for a STEAL and they are still available, find here.  I have switched almost 100% to glass Tupperware and I have to say I much prefer it.  I just love that you can get glass Tupperware REALLY clean and it doesn’t stain like plastic.  Also, it looks nice in the fridge and makes it easy to see what you have on hand!


Black Bean Soup

I had a different post planned for the first Lemon Pantry recipe of the year but with the Nor'Easter coming (or already here if you're further south) I thought a nice warm soup would be just perfect for a snowed in weekend.  I had a couple weeks off from blogging which I think was needed after a busy holiday season but I am happy to be back!  How are you all doing?!
This soup is my take on a classic that is so nice and filling but great for you.  It is low in fat and sodium yet high in fiber and a great vegetarian protein-packed meal! Plus, beans are a good source of magnesium and potassium.  I topped my soup with diced avocado and pico de gallo but you could serve it with sour cream or a few tortilla chips or even crumbled bacon if you're feeling frisky.  Best thing of all this tastes amazing and won't set your New Year's resolutions off just yet!  Have a great weekend everyone!

Black Bean Soup
Recipe by Ali Caron, RD
Serves 6-8

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped finely
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cumin
2 cans black beans (do not drain)
1 cup vegetarian low sodium broth

Garnish: diced avocado and pico de gallo*

Directions: Heat olive oil and onion in a large soup pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic cloves and cumin after a couple minutes and continue to stir until onions are translucent.  Pour in black beans and bring up to a simmer.   Remove 1-2 cups of soup with a ladle and puree in a food processor.   (Optional: Here I also scooped out most of the onions to puree to avoid having big chunks in the soup.)  Add pureed beans and broth to soup pot and bring back up to a simmer.  Dish into bowls, garnish and serve.

*For pico de gallo:  Finely dice onion and tomato and add a pinch of salt, a splash of lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro.  Mix and serve.

Nutrition Facts: 427 Calories, 5g Fat, 72g Carbohydrates, 25g Protein, 18g Fiber, 56mg Sodium, 1714mg Potassium