Forged Knife Set - a good set of forged sharpened knives is a must, mine is a set of KitchenAid, but I'll go with Wustoff as replacement is necessary
KitchenAid Mixer - is an explanation really necessary
Food Processor - makes quick work of coleslaw, pie crusts, dips, etc.; could I live without it, yes, would I want to, no! Mine is a KitchenAid.
Stainless Steel Skillet - must have for great browning and fond for gravy
Bamboo Spoons - don't split like wood and they are dishwasher safe
Cooking Tongs - I find it much easier to manipulate food with tongs instead of a fork
Whisks - particularly my coil whisk, Pampered Chef's Mini-Whipper.
Parchment Paper - prevents burning, makes a quick collar for mousse or souffle
Pyrex Liquid Measuring Cups - I use the big ones as prep bowls as well
Pepper Mill - I debated including it, I went back and forth between the pepper mill and silicone spatulas. The pepper mill won. If I didn't have a silicone spatula, I'd just leave stuff in a bowl as I'm scraping it. However, without a pepper mill, I wouldn't have freshly ground pepper and that makes a huge difference in food flavor. I'll take flavor over convenience anyday.
The only item with a specified brand is the mixer, as well it should be. For home use, short of buying a professional mixer like a Hobart or Berkel, the KitchenAid Mixer is worth the investment. For everything else, use your best judgement, but don't go overboard. Sure you can buy a $200 pepper mill, but why when you can get one for a tenth the price.