My Favorite Kitchen Things

As you may know, I’ve published over 6500 blog posts here on Design Mom. I rarely go all the way back in the archives, but during the site redesign last year, I needed to, and I discovered two things. First, there are many old posts that are no longer functional — perhaps the photos have disappeared or the text has become irrelevant. So I’ve been taking down old posts as needed while I go through the archives month of month. It’s a sloooow process.

But the second thing I discovered is that there some really killer content in those early years, from lots of different voices, that I had forgotten about and that you probably haven’t seen either. For example, I came across a post written 10 years ago by Adriana Velez, who is both an excellent cook and an excellent writer, where she details her favorite kitchen things. When I saw it, I was curious. Are these picks still her favorites?

So I emailed her the original list and asked her if it was still relevant, and happily, she wrote back with an updated list! So I thought it would be fun to re-publish the post with her new and old picks side-by-side. I think it’s so fun to see how things have changed, and what has stayed the same.

One thing I know that has changed for sure since this list was first posted: Online Shopping. Back in the day, when blogging was still in its infancy, so was online shopping. Amazon Prime wasn’t a thing yet, and internet shopping was still pretty unusual. So when Adriana first wrote her list, she didn’t include product links — because so few of these things were buyable online yet! Isn’t that crazy to think of? Hah!

Here’s what Adriana wrote back in the day, plus her updated picks:

First I just want to say how thrilled I am to be guest blogging on Design Mom. I have ZERO design experience but a growing interest. Design Mom has been one of my favorite classrooms — how fabulous, then, to appear on her pages!

Since my expertise is in cooking rather than design I’m going to start off in the kitchen. Perhaps you’ve seen Oprah’s “My Favorite Things” episodes around the holidays; this is my version. These are My Favorite Kitchen Things. Regrettably, the audience will not be going home with these items. But they’re cheap and easy to find!

1) Old pick: Citrus squeezer. This squeezes lemons and limes with ease; juice gushes out while seeds stay in.

New pick: So I’ve moved on from the citrus squeezer to the classic glass reamer. I like having that reservoir there.

2) Old pick: Bonne Maman jam jars. We reuse these jars for everything. We drink juice from them, collect grease in them, store food in them (microwavable, unlike your plastic storage containers). Salad dressing is a snap: just add your ingredients, close the lid tightly, shake vigorously, and pour. The jam isn’t bad, either.

New pick: I still love jam jars. Now there’s also Talenti Gelato jars, but they’re plastic so not for microwaving or food storage.

3) Old pick: Box grater. I’ve tried just about every cheese grater out there and this is my favorite. The cut edges enable you to work with gravity. Meanwhile, the box holds all the grated cheese in. Unless you have room for an electric grater (and I don’t), there is simply no substitute for the box grater.

New pick: Still love the box grater.

4) Old pick: Little scrubby friend. One of my Swiss friends gave me this for Christmas. It’s for scrubbing veggies, but I use it for scrubbing dishes. He’s just adorable, isn’t he? When I’m not using this fellow I’m using another great dishwashing tool, the flat scraper by Pampered Chef. And I feel like the most glamorous lunch lady ever with my pink dishwashing gloves.

New pick: I don’t remember the scrubby friend! But I still use that Pampered Chef scraper. There are loads of other by different brands — I like these colors. For scrubbing, I rely on those yellow and green scrub sponges, one for dishes and another for counters.

5) Old Pick: Cast iron pot with skillet lid. I love my All-Clad and Le Creuset, but this old lady really delivers. The pot is deep enough for chili, roasts, and even baking bread. The lid doubles as a skillet, perfect for scrambled eggs.

New Pick: Still love the cast iron.

6) Old Pick: Mr. Happy cold/heat pack. This isn’t exactly a kitchen item, but it does live in our refrigerator. These little guys help soothe the many boo boos an active, boundary-pushing kid collects throughout the day. You can heat it in hot water as well.

New Pick: Still have a freezer cold pack which I use more often for cooking burns.

7) Old Pick: Danby countertop dishwasher. This will give you an idea of how small our apartment is. It hooks up to the sink. I can’t imagine life without it.

New Pick: I’ve since moved into a larger place with a proper, full-sized dishwasher. I FEEL LIKE ROYALTY. But for small apartments I still stand by the Danby. If you can find a newer/updated version, go for it. But that thing was a lifesaver for years.

And here are a few more of my new picks:

8) Silicone scraper for scrambled eggs. So much more control than a spatula!

9) Boston Warehouse makes this series of tools called Animal House — love them all, especially this monkey peeler.

10) I love my immersion blender. It makes pureed soups easier. Also, I ditched my 20-year-old hand mixer when I moved, and my immersion blender has a whisk attachment that lets me whip cream and eggs.

11) I use my coffee grinder as a spice grinder. You can also use it to turn granular sugar into powdered sugar.


So many great picks, Adriana! Thank you for the update. I love seeing which items are still staples in your kitchen over a decade later. True classics!

What about you, Dear Readers? Have your favorite kitchen items changed over the years? Any recent discoveries you can’t do without?

P.S. — More favorite kitchen tools. Also, the original 2007 comments are still intact below.

Credits: Adriana Velez is a freelance writer and former food editor at SheKnows. Photo by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.

26 thoughts on “My Favorite Kitchen Things”

  1. I am so in love with my cast iron skillets. I use them more than any other pans.

    Now I’m interested in that countertop dishwasher….

    Great list. I love the little scrubby dude.

  2. I’m so glad you posted on those citrus juicers! I saw an episode of Martha that featured them, but I couldn’t tell what they were like up close. Where does one find such a tool?

  3. “this old lady delivers’ best line ever. hehe and with iron in the kitchen it doubles as a good work-out! I am too much of a weakling to bring that into my kitchen, but recognize it’s abilities.

    great post!

  4. Hey, A: I like the pot/skillet thing. Clever. And I’ve got something similar to your on-the-counter dishwasher. Mine’s on casters and sits in the corner of my apartment next to our kitchen table. It contributes extra counter space, and wheels into the kitchen, hooks up to the sink, and plugs into the wall when it needs to be used. Nifty little thing, portable dishwasher. A good investment, too.

  5. i’m so happty to see someone else loves bonne maman jam jars as much as me. it makes my day when the jam goes on sale and i can stock up on paint jars, salad dressing bottles and jam of course!!

  6. I’ve got to get a citrus juicer like that. I’ve been drinking lemon & honey all week (since I’m STILL sick)and since I use the reemer and am too lazy to wash a strainer, it’e been full of seeds! (Also, your little cold pack guy is actually Mr Strong. Mr Happy is yellow & round. We have the Mr Bump version – and we love it too.)

  7. hey adriana, quick question. do you use the box grater as a zester as well? i’m in the market for a new one. let me know if you have any tips.

    ps: i saw jasper’s b-day pictures on your blog. i love how aiden managed to slip into every one of them!

  8. Namona, thanks for the tip on the juicers. I got mine at the Park Slope Food Coop but I thought I’d seen them elsewhere.

    Lindsey, we ordered our dishwasher online (google “danby” and “countertop dishwasher” and you can compare prices), but supposedly Target and Wallmart carry them. After three years we had to replace a part, but it was inexpensive and easy to do so through the company’s website.

    Tania, thanks — I threw the packaging away and Jasper just named the guy himself. Our friend has Mr. Bump, too. So cute.

    Sara, you could use the grater as a zester, but a smaller tool would be better. Crate & Barrell and other similar shops carry the smaller, hand-held zesters that make it easier to zest directly into a pot or bowl. They’re also good for grating nutmeg.

  9. I love my gloves too; they’re just like yours! I looked everywhere for some long enough and small enough for my hands. I liked these ones so much that I stocked up. And they’re so bright and pretty!

    Now I just need to get me a cute scrubbing fellow to keep me company while I do dishes. And I love the juicer. Both are adorable items.

    Also, I haven’t even begun looking, but have wanted a pot/skillet thingy forever. Where would I look for one like yours?

  10. i just re-read and realized i missed that straight scraper thing for doing dishes, tell me more about this, is it to replace the fingernail scratching the dishes clean?

  11. Jenni, you can get the scraper thing from — look for it under their “stoneware” (the scrapers are made for cleaning the stoneware, but so useful for everything else!)

    Brooke, the little scrubby guy is by “Kozial” and I found some on Before my claims of “easy to find” I should have admitted that a friend in Switzerland gave me mine! But I’ve seen them in a kitchen store in my neighborhood.

    As for the cast iron pot, I got mine at the Broadway Panhandler here in New York (again, so much for “easy to find…”) It’s by Lodge Cast Iron Cookware — there are lots of places to buy it online. You may also find it at camping supply stores.

  12. i love those citrus juicers. i got a smaller “cruder” one at a mexican tienda about 7 years ago. since it’s mexican, it’s really made for limes, but i’ve found that if i cut the lemons into smaller pieces, it works just fine. i love the bright yellow and bright green ones — mine’s just metal.

    and the little scrubby guy is great!

  13. That scraper reminds me of one of our favorite tools. MSR brand scraper purchased at REI for about $5. Has bristles on one side and great for dishes, including cast iron on the other. We have one with our camping and one for the sink.

  14. Adriana was the reason I discovered Design Mom. Has it really been ten years? Wow.

    Adriana was my aunt, and after Adriana stopped blogging and I stopped reading ApartmentTherapy, Design Mom became my favorite blogger.

  15. Jennifer West

    I save Talenti gelato jars and use them to gift Christmas cookies!! They work perfectly to give small amounts to co-workers and acquaintances.

  16. I’m still in love with Williams Sonoma spatulas and a metal pastry cutter from Sur la Table.

    I almost never use my Cuisinart stand mixer or food processor (both wedding gifts) though the food processor gets pulled out every few months.

    I’m in love with my new immersion blender from Costco. It has fancy attachments like a whisk and food processor though they’re still boxed up. My instant pot is giving my slow cooker a run for its money.

  17. What a great post! I like that many of the favorites are still favorites. I used to think I couldn’t live without nonstick fry pans, but after the discovery of cast iron, I see there is no need for them anymore. Cast iron is a real workhorse! And the jam jars totally got me! That’s exactly what I do as well. I’m always reusing those. Trader Joe’s jarred peaches and pears also make excellent storage jars. My kitchen is filled with them. Thanks for this, that was fun!

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