boiling water for rice or pasta, making hot chocolate, heating up tomato sauce or canned veggies.
Casserole dishes don't have to be for "one can of Campbell's Cream of Some Icky Stuff" dishes. They're for (yay!) baked mac & cheese, lasagne or ziti, and can even do a small roast (2-pound turkey breast, for example, or a small ham).
LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE and be sure to get one with handles! My very chic white casserole dishes are beautiful but terrifying when trying to get them out of the oven.
Searching Target's website for "casserole" brought up some really pricey options, and some less expensive ones that I wouldn't recommend. But searching for "Pyrex" brought up this terrific option for all of $8.50. I still have and use my grandmother's Pyrex dishes.And a search for "Corningware", another have-it-for-life company, brought up this very nice 4-quart casserole; be careful with Corningware, though, because of the handle issue.
We're not going to get into baking or anything fancy just yet. There's a whole lot more on the market, but if you want the bare essentials, this is it.
- At least one wooden spoon. They never get hot and they don't scratch non-stick.
- At least two pot holders - your mileage may vary, but I can't get a good grip on anything with those sheets of silicone, no matter how cute they are.
- A decent chef's knife - it will be labelled "chef's knife" and it should be very, very sharp. It's actually more dangerous to cut with a dull knife, since you apply excessive pressure to it and can't control it. These can quickly get expensive, and I say they're worth every penny. I also like this Oneida knife, and its li'l buddy - $19.99 for the set. But if you have the funds and want to get a really good knife, go for a Santoku like this Henckels for $29.99.
- A cutting board - never, ever, ever cut on glass. Spring for a bamboo cutting board; it doesn't have to be one of the ten-pounders, either. We have at least 4 in the house, and I use the little (4" x 6") quite a lot to slice one tomato or some herbs or strawberries or whatever.
- A digital meat thermometer - tremendously important, especially if you're new to this world of "food" and you're afraid you're going to kill your dinner guests with improperly cooked food (I swear I still feel that way about canning - "Merry Christmas! It's botulism - I made it myself!"). The $10 to $15 you'll spend on one of these babies will be well, well worth it. And hold onto the card that says pork should be X degrees and turkey should be Y degrees and so on.
- A few glass or metal mixing bowls - plastic can hold odors and stain (yes, I mean YOU, spaghetti sauce). If you go with metal make sure it's weighted at the bottom, or else you'll give it a stir and send it flying across the counter. From, um, what I've heard.
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Grater - I can't find mine on the Target site, but this is close - mine doesn't have a little boxy-thing on the top and for darn sure it wasn't pushing $20. It takes up much, much less room than a box grater, and I've been known to put mine on top of a saucepan full of pasta and drain the water into the sink. I LOVE things that have more than one use!
- If you don't have one on your stove, a kitchen timer is essential. Many a would've-been-terrific meal took a Hefty vacation after someone said "Oh, I'll just remember to take it out in 45 minutes."