Featured Life+Family

Kitchen Essentials Edition

In the past year,  I did four rounds of the Whole 30. And when I say that I did four of them, what I mean is that I actually accomplished two of them. The other two were more like Whole 30-ishes. But even the ishes were solid attempts.

For those that aren’t familiar with the Whole 30, it’s a strict 30-day challenge to help you with your food addictions, get your body clean, improve your health/sleep/skin and reconcile your relationship with food. It places emphasis on eating real foods in their whole form, but you’re not just stuck eating kale and apples every day–that would be terrible. There’s lots of guides and cookbooks available out there to help you eat approved Whole 30 meals–and are still delicious (but to be honest, there’s a lot of dud recipes out there too). Specifically, the Whole 30 means no sugar, legumes, grains, alcohol, dairy, MSG, or fun (just kidding). There were some days that I felt straight up rage that rice was not an approved Whole 30 food–I think I almost cried. Seriously.

Obviously, I’m still working through some rage strong feelings I had while doing the Whole 30. Despite my breakdowns, I’m glad I did it because it did change how I cook and how I eat overall. Today, I’d say I follow the eating plan 80% of the time, except during the Film Fest when all I ate was popcorn for two weeks.

Whether you’re doing the Whole 30 or not, I thought I’d share some greatest hit items from my kitchen. These are things I use repeat week after week. Not all of these are Whole 30 compliant, but they sure are great to have around.


  1. Oh She Glows Cookbook-  I purchased this two years ago and it still holds prime real estate on my kitchen counter. My smoothie-making career got started with the Salted Chocolate Shake. I’ve sent this recipe to countless people and they still high five me for it (well, they should). I omit the cinnamon in this recipe because I can. You can too. Or put it in–whatever.
  2. Cuisinart Smart Stick-  I’ve had this for about 8 years and it never lets me down. I use it to puree soup, chop onions, and make salad dressing. If it ever died, I would buy the exact same one because I use it all the time. It’s a must.
  3. Silicone Baking Cups– I like the ideas of muffins, or even little individual egg bakes, but I absolutely despite cleaning out each little circle of a muffin tin. What a waste of time. I read about this silicone baking cups and decided to give them a shot. Wow–my life just got easier. Check out the Easy Bake Egg Muffins in the Whole Smiths Cookbook and see what you think.
  4. Whole Smiths Good Food Cookbook- This woman knows how to cook. Sure, it’s Whole 30, but she knows what’s up. My favorite recipes are Pork Loin w/ Caramelized Apples & Applesauce and Chinese Takeout Spaghetti Squash. Whole 30 never had it so good.
  5. Collagen- It’s flavorless powder that you can add to your smoothie or morning coffee for a solid WHAM of connective tissue-building, joint-easing awesomeness. Also–bonus–it’s great for nails and skin too. Boom.
  6. Unsweetened Coconut- Have you ever had an acai bowl? If you want to give one a try, head over to On the Bus inside the Public Market in Milwaukee to see if you like it. It’s basically a super thick smooth blend of acai (a superfood) with various add-ins like almond milk, cocoa, almond butter with some toppings like granola, strawberries, banana, coconut blueberries–whatever suits you. If you like the On the Bus version, give it a whirl at home (add some of that good collagen powder!) and put some good ol’ unsweetened coconut on top with bananas and strawberries. Yum.
  7. Blendtec Blender- When I started out making smoothies and then graduated to acai bowls, I knew I needed an upgrade in my blender game. Our 14-year old blender did a fine job blending stuff until I got to the bottom of the jar and all the dates were in massacred clumps and I had to strain them with my front teeth while drinking. Not cool. I started researching and my research showed that Vitamix & Blendtec were the two best blenders out there. But…the best blenders always come with scary price tags. I ended up getting a refurbished one to save some cash and absolutely love it. No more date clumps and everything blends evenly throughout the jar.
  8. Cacao Nibs- Yep, these are great atop that acai bowl. Don’t expect them to be sweet on their own, but on top of a acai bowl, they’re amazing.
  9. Hemp Hearts- These little guys go in my smoothies and acai bowls too. High in protein and iron, it’s another way to sneak in some good stuff.  I’m not a fan of their texture on their own, but if they’re blended in, no one will know they’re in there. I always tease Lucy, my most particular kiddo, about all the mysterious healthy things that are in her smoothie that she can’t taste and will never know about. Ha, too bad kid. Your mama just gave you some hemp & collagen! Take that.
  10. Instant Pot Paleo Cookbook- We have dance class for the girls Monday-Thursday nights and I need a chef cooking for me on those nights. Since I can’t afford one, having an instant pot is the next best thing. Put stuff in a pot, walk away and when you come home, it’s ready to eat. I have to admit though, I’m still a little scared of my instant pot because I don’t really know what I’m doing. I got this cookbook so I wouldn’t have to guess or light my kitchen on fire. Try the Creamy Tomato Soup, Egg Roll Soup, Spaghetti Squash (I make homemade marinara in advance and pour in on top when I’m ready to serve), and Cilantro Chicken Meatballs.
  11. Terra Cotta Brown Sugar Saver- I just got this in the mail and if this actually saves my brown sugar from becoming a solid lump of uselessness, I’ll be happy. For the price, it’s worth a shot.
  12. Instant Pot Steamer Basket- You’ll love this for spaghetti squash and hard boiling your eggs in your instant pot. I use this all the time.
  13. Israeli Couscous- My girls love this stuff. I used to buy it in store, but it’s becoming hard to find, so now I order it on Amazon. It’s bigger and softer than regular couscous. I always cook it in chicken broth instead of water to impart more flavor. It’s a great staple to have on hand when you don’t know what to serve on the side. The answer is couscous.

Do you have some favorite, can’t live without kitchen essentials? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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