Over the years, working with chefs, nutritionists, and home cooks, I learned to move in the kitchen in a much more artful and efficient way, and I’ve discovered kitchen tools and shortcuts to make cooking quicker and more enjoyable. These are a few of the things I use on a very regular basis in my culinary endeavors (and in just throwing edible things together).
I discovered Takeya at the Natural Products Expo many years ago, and as a tea connoisseur, I had to have the little 24-ounce Takeya Tea Maker immediately to brew my loose teas in the office. The pitchers are made of BPA-free AcraGlass and work great with hot and cool liquids. And as a Gemini, not long after, I had to buy a second one – this time the 2-quart Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker. Make sun tea, or add hot water to loose tea leaves, and have it ready in minutes.
I use my silicone baking mats for cookies, french fries, low-carb pizza crust – anything that goes in the oven. They help cut back on oil, and never stick to the food – they peel right off – and they’re safe in the oven. When you’re ready to clean, just scrub with the sponge and a little dish soap and they’re ready to go back to use. It’s a pan-saver and minimizes cleaning time, which is always my goal. Arguably my handiest, most used kitchen helper.
I wish everything in my kitchen could fold up nice and neat…and in my life, for that matter. This BPA-free silicone colander set is good for everything from rinsing apples, to draining spaghetti to peeling green chiles. Plus they come in funky colors.
One year at our annual Nutrition & Health Conference, Jo Robinson gave a fascinating talk on her book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, focusing on how crops and food production have changed our phytonutrient profile, ways to optimize your nutritional intake, and how to make the most of the foods you are eating. For example, to keep lettuce fresh longer, put it in a zip top bag, squeeze out excess air, and then poke tiny holes in the bag with a pin to allow the gases lettus emits to escape. According to Dr. Weil, “Garlic contains several compounds that possess antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, earning the nickname ‘poor man’s penicillin”’ and it’s especially effective at fending off oncoming crud. Robinson tells us that in order to maximize garlic’s healing properties, we have to cut, smash, or mince it and let it sit for 10 minutes before adding it too foods. Of all the tools she and chefs recommend, the Zyliss Garlic Press always rises to the top. Throw a whole unpeeled clove in the press, and smash it through, then clean the press with the included tool to punch out the holes.
I have a real issue when I have water in my foods that are supposed to be dry, and I hate smushy vegetables, so the idea of steaming veggies is innately gross to me, but this Trudeau Stainless Steel Vegetable Steamer is a great way to get perfectly steamed vegetables and maintain the nutritional benefits. Unfold the petals, put your chopped veggies in the center, fold the petals back up and drop it into the sauce pan, and after 5 minutes, lift it out by the handle, and enjoy.
Zesting is one way to add brightness to your dishes or put the finishing touch with garnish. Use this Raniaco Stainless Steel Zester to add orange zest to oatmeal, lemon zest to salad dressings, garlic to your potatoes, or to grate parmesan reggiano over your pasta.
Do you dream of slicing an entire cucumber in 10 seconds? Me either, but it’s cool when youc an. The Dynamic Chef Mandonline Slicer is your new best friend. Quickly and easily julienne carrots, slice super-thin turnips for a salad, prep your eggplant parmesean, and all your cuts look perfect and uniform. I have to be honest: sometimes you don’t care what your sliced veggies look like and you don’t want to have to wash the damn thing so it will stay stowed, but especially when you want your food be beautiful, this baby is the way to do it. If you get on a roll and are slicing like there’s no tomorrow, the mandoline doesn’t discriminate against fingers….watch your finters…speaking from experience.
Before I got my Vitamix, I listened for years to friends gushing about this machine, but I never saw any need for anything more than a $20 Oster for decent smoothies and margaritas, but after thinking about it for a while, I bought my Vitamix on a whim, swayed by a Costco demo. I will be the first to say that spending more than $100 on a blender seems crazy, but there are real, concrete reasons that it’s a good investment. The blender has longevity, you will use it constantly (I use mine almost daily) for years, and the things it does are just not possible with other machines. It gives an amazingly creamy texture to pureed soups, you can make even kale microscopic in a smoothie, and emulsify anything. I know it’s a large investment, but it’s one that any health nut, home cook, or chef will not regret.
That said, the Vitamix is loud, requires transferring foods from it to another container (more washing), and it heats up, which is great when you’re making a soup, but totally ineffective when whipping egg whites unless you want an omlette. In comes the immersion blender. I acually also use my Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender. Dr. Weil first told me that he relies on his to make his famous (and delicious) black bean soup, and it’s great for smashing refried beans right in the pot. I use it on weekday mornings to blend a simple smoothie without waking my daughter, and on the weekends when I do my real cooking for for whipping egg whites, whipping my own cream, and more. It may seem ridiculous to have more than one blender, but given their cost per use, having both in my household makes sense.
I cook a few times a week, and prepare food every single damn day, and I wash a ton of dishes. If I’m going to spend an hour washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen, feeling like a maid, you’d better believe I’m going to look more like the nighttime version of Cinderella. It may sound silly but getting some cute dish gloves will make you feel like you’re there cleaning by choice, and loving every moment of it. Grin and bear it, put on some great music, make the place shine, and be fabulous.
Disclosure: A few of the hyperlinked products here that I use and recommend (and link to for your convenience) contain affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase after clicking on them, I will receive a small commission (for my convenience). Feel free to buy from the suggested vendors or from anywhere else you frequent or find value.