One of the beautiful things about starting a Paleo or Whole30 type diet is that you don’t need any special equipment to get started. You simply alter your recipes to make sure you are making everything from scratch. But there are a few things that can make your life a lot easier, especially as you’ll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen than you used to.
Three types of kitchen equipment I highly recommend to save time in the kitchen are:
- This Instant Pot on Amazon.com – I wish I had known about the Instant Pot when I first started cooking grain-free meals from scratch. It’s truly a magic time-saver in the kitchen, cutting the time to make stews and soups by 66%, often by hours. I recommend this model that includes sauteeing and pressure cooking right in the same pan.
- This hand blender on Amazon.com – A hand blender can be very useful for making soups so that you can blend right in the pot rather than having to transfer hot soup to a traditional blender. It’s also great for making one of my favorite Paleo dessert toppings, coconut whipped cream. We love this model due to it’s strong motor sufficient for any job and it’s food grade stainless steel shaft that won’t melt when immersed in hot soups.
- This avocado slicer on Amazon.com – If you are an avocado lover like I am, the design of this avocado slicer will both prevent accidents with removing pits and help you quickly scoop out all of the avocados cleanly. It has saved me a lot of time and aggravation over the years.
The Magic of the Instant Pot
I was initially skeptical myself with all the hype from food bloggers surrounding the Instant Pot. But now after owning an Instant Pot for several years, I can now see that all the hype was actually deserved.
If you are going to be making real food from scratch daily, which is pretty much what grain free diets like Paleo/Whole30/AIP require you to do, the Instant Pot is a huge time saver. It really does seem like magic after you make your first few soups and stews with it.
Pressure Cooking without the Pressure
Although the instant pot has several functions (you can even use it as a rice cooker on our model) the feature I’m really raving about is the pressure cooker mode.
Using the Instant Pot as a pressure cooker is what saves you all that time on each dish. It is not just that the Instant Pot works as a pressure cooker, I had an old pressure cooker previously that I was always afraid to use, it’s that it automates all the parts that were historically scary or time consuming about pressure cookers.
With the instant pot, you can place your ingredients inside and either start cooking or set a scheduled for when you want everything to begin cooking. At the other end, when it’s done cooking, it automatically switches to a keep warm mode and slowly releases the pressure.
So instead of having to baby sit it like a traditional pressure cooker, your time is freed up to do other things.
What Kind of Time Savings are we Talking About?
For stews and foods with a sauce base, it’s nothing short of magical.
Do you ever make stews or soups that you would ideally keep on the stove for hours or all day to get the optimum flavor? Do you ever notice that stews and soups tend to taste that much better the following day after the flavors have had time to sit together and sort of “meld”?
In my experience, stews that would take 3 hours on the stove can get the same delicious fused flavors in 30 minutes in the instant pot. Stew that would take 6 hours or all day can typically get to the same flavor and consistency in an hour or so.
The same is typically true for soups. Often in order to get a soup to the point where it is ready to blend you have to cook the ingredients for an hour or so. With the instant pot after 20-30 minutes the ingredients are already starting break down on their own.
I often just cook soups longer in the instant pot and forego the blending step altogether when it’s a soup where a slightly chunky consistency might make sense, and just stir it instead of blending.
Saute Right in the Pressure Cooker
One other time saver that is fairly unique to several Instant Pot models like ours it the ability to sauté ingredients (like onions, etc) right in the same stainless steel pot before you switch it over to the pressure cooker mode.
This is nice for those recipes that start off with sauteeing as a first step. You don’t have to start everything off in a pan, transfer everything over and have additional dishes to wash.
Never Prep Again
This may sound incredibly lazy, but one of the things I have tested out with the Instapot is whether it’s possible to make dishes using just packages of organic frozen vegetables.
Most dishes made with predominantly ingredients from the freezer aisle do not taste very good. This is too bad as the health benefits of frozen ingredients which are harvested when they are in-season, not to mention the cost savings and time savings of using pre-washed and prepped ingredients are huge.
Surprisingly with the magical powers of the Instant Pot, if you make a soup or stew-like dish using almost or even 100% frozen vegetables the taste can often be close to a version where you washed and chopped all the ingredients as the first step in cooking.
Think about that for a moment. I have literally made soups where I took a minute opening bags of frozen vegetables into the Instant Pot and pressure cooker soup button on the Instant Pot and and 45 minutes later (or whenever I got around to it) I would open up the Instant Pot and it was ready to season and eat.
Some would rather start with fresh ingredient, which don’t get me wrong will yield the most incredible flavors, but it’s pretty amazing what it can do with just bags of frozen vegetables.
One other tool I find quite handy, especially for making soups, is the hand blender. For those that don’t already have one and are thinking of taking the plunge another great use for it for those on grain free Paleo-like diets. We often use our hand blender to make a coconut milk based vanilla whipped cream that is delicious on deserts.
The only ingredients required in the whipped cream are a can of coconut milk (or coconut cream) and maybe a little Paleo friendly vanilla and a touch of honey or maple syrup (you can also omit the sweetener and it’s still a delicious topping).
If you have a hand blender, you simply put a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator so the solids and liquids separate, pour off the liquid and put the solids into a glass jar or small metal pot and whip it up with the hand blender. The result is a decadent topping that will help you forget that whipped cream is no longer on the menu.
Besides the Paleo coconut whipped cream, the more typical convenience of having a hand blender is when making your own soups from scratch (something that I have been doing much more frequently since committing to a whole food lifestyle).
Instead of having to transfer soup into a traditional blender while it is still piping hot, the last step in many soup recipes, you can instead simply blend it right in the pot. It does make your life making uniform creamy soups a whole lot easier.
Love Avocados? The Case for the Avocado Slicer
Although it may sound silly at first – if you eat a lot of avocados (like I do), you might consider getting an avocado slicer.
This is simply a plastic tool that makes taking the pits out of avocados simpler and less dangerous. It also helps you to quickly and more efficiently scoop out the avocodo so that you aren’t wasting good avocado leaving it stuck to the peel.
Did you know that avocado related injuries requiring ER visits have risen to the point where it has it’s own nickname in the healthcare industry, “avocado hand”?
The biggest feature of the Oxxo Avocado slicer that I’ve settled on is the circular ring of metal prongs that let you easily grab and twist out the avocado pit.
Although a simple device, this does prevent two things:
- The avocado pit slipping away and bouncing all over your kitchen, getting avocado everywhere..and
- Slipping and jabbing your hand with a blunt knife like a butter knife, or Avocado hand, which can be surprisingly dangerous
The other useful feature of the Oxxo slicer is the scoop. Yes, scooping an avocado out with a spoon is simple enought, but this large slotted scoop creates uniform, pretty looking slices of Avocado, a nice thing when putting together a summer salad.
But the more important part of the scoop is that it helps you to cleanly scoop out the avocado, so that all that is leftover is a clean peel. Given the prices of avocados these days, not wasting part of each avocado stuck to the peel is worth something.
Studies have also shown that the most nutritious part of an avocado flesh is the dark green flesh that hugs the peel, so it’s definitely worth it if you can consistently eat this part. This type of slicer helps you do that while not wasting too much time peeling the avocado like a bananna.