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I do a lot of research before buying kitchen stuff at this point in my life.  I used to be pretty impulsive about these kinds of purchases just getting whatever was easiest from Safeway or maybe venturing out to a cooking supply store, but not often.  Now, I have limited storage available, an oven that is a bit smaller than average, and a requirement that items really truly do a lot more than one job in the kitchen.

I prefer the non-stick pans sold by King Arthur Flour.  I have slowly been adding in more of their items to my collection and I cannot find a single thing that detracts from them.  They cook evenly, really are non-stick, and the ridged design gives me amazing control over color and quality.  I do admit though that I baby these pans by only hand washing them, they never go in the dishwasher.

Mandoline Slicer
It took me a while to give in to owning a mandoline slicer.  I always felt I could slice things by hand just as well.  Although my knife skills are pretty good, they can be very sloooow and not as consistent as I need for some dishes.  I really like the V Slicer Plus because it works great and all the parts fit back together so it stores neatly and small in comparison to other designs.  I also like how this slicer can handle heavier projects like slicing many heads of cabbage for making sauerkraut or other big tasks.  Be sure you get one of these cut-proof gloves as well, trust me, you will be so very glad you are wearing it.

Microplane Grater
I use a microplane grater in place of a zester and as a way to grind up whole fresh spices like nutmeg or ginger instead of having ground versions on hand.  It is also the best tool for adding hard cheeses such as Parmesan to the top of a dish in a fluffy garnish.

I am not a huge fan of non-stick anything.  I own only one item that is non-stick and this one I can recommend.  Scanpan makes a line of cookware that has stood the test of time in my household without starting to flake or otherwise add unwanted chemicals to my cooking.  These require hand washing and if you put them into the dishwasher you risk damaging the finish on them.  Because they are non-stick though cleanup really is easy.

A remote thermometer is a great help when you are trying to cook something to a set temperature, like when making yogurt or roasting meats.  You keep one part of the thermometer with you after setting the desired temperature and leave the measuring part inside your cooking item.  It will then notify you when your temperature is reached.  The Taylor 1479 Commercial Wireless Remote Digital Food Thermometer was tested by Cooks Illustrated and voted the best.  At under $25, affordable too.