A few years ago, I was an engaged woman.  And being engaged, along with wearing a fabulous, shiny new ring, means planning.  A LOT.  Wedding planning, honeymoon planning, outfit planning, new home planning, name change planning- I could go on.  Thankfully, my mother is a fabulous designer and excels at event planning.  So she took care of SO much of our wedding planning.  But the planning I excelled at: kitchen registry.

Just moments after he proposed!

Geez, that sounds so shallow.  I excelled at asking for gifts!  But really, the registry process is beyond glamorized.  Visions come to mind of the happy couple in a large, airy store being outfitted with the exciting registry gun and meandering blissfully around the wares, choosing the perfect items.  HA.  In real life, registering is exhausting and anxiety producing.  Did we get enough pots?  Will we really use 17 different kinds of spatulas?  Should we register for the really nice flatware now, or use this plain stuff and upgrade later?

Decisions that should probably be inconsequential become pivotal...  You don't want a monogrammed crystal ice bucket?!  Why not?  It's a symbol of who we are!  We need this for our FUTURE!!! [insert slamming down of registry gun and running immediately to Starbucks]

Mr. S&S and I had a far abbreviated registry process, mostly because we lived in Kenya at the time, so therefore I did it almost all online.  However, we did have a lovely experience in Crate&Barrel involving high hopes followed by dazed wandering and the obligatory coffee jolt back into functioning.  But because my days in Kenya involved 8 hours working and 8 hours thinking about food/cooking/meal planning, I did plenty of research about what the perfect kitchen should hold.  Now that I've been cooking with most of it for a year and a half, I have a sense of what was a success and what wasn't.

So for all you lovely engaged ladies or anyone thinking of changing around their kitchen, here's the first part of a list of my favorite and most useful kitchen items: Stovetop Pots and Pans.

Top Left: Cast Iron Skillet 
This pan is a workhorse!  I do everything with this pan from roasting chickens to carmelizing onions.  It goes from stovetop to oven very nicely and only requires maintenance, not a full cleaning every time.  

Bottom Left: Cast Iron Grill Pan 
This is a great pan to have if you don't have a real grill or have a grill, but don't like using it in cold weather/hot weather/ it takes charcoal and therefore forever to start.  I use it to cook various meats, and it leaves those lovely grill marks.  Same as the skillet, the cast iron gets seasoned with everything you cook and develops a wonderful flavor in itself.

Middle: Le Creuset Dutch Oven
I have two of these beautiful dutch ovens (the 5.5 quart and 6.75 quart in a blue that's discontinued now), and I use them all the time!  They are so lovely that you can cook in them and then serve from them, and just like the cast iron skillet and grill pan, they go from stovetop to oven.  I also use them for soups, boiling pasta, and the best bread ever.  Le Creuset is a pretty hefty investment, but it will be with you for life!

Top Right: Non-stick frypan
While I use my cast iron pan for most cooking, this non-stick pan is quite necessary for jobs like cooking eggs, fish, and sauces.  Don't go for an overly expensive one, as Teflon inevitably gets scratched and has to be replaced.

Bottom Right: Non-stick saucepan
It's important to have a non-stick, medium sized (mine is 2 quarts) saucepan for smaller jobs like cooking grains, oatmeal, and sauces.  Mine is not a Le Creuset, but they do sell this smaller sized saucepan!

I know 5 pans doesn't seem like much, but I also cook a bunch in the oven.  And I've cooked for groups and parties with just these 5 (well, 6 counting both dutch ovens).  Hey- you only have 4 burners!

More of my kitchen favorites list to come!

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