A solution to cooking fatigue
With working from home still going strong and fewer opportunities to eat out, the kitchen has become a high traffic area in many homes. In the early days of the pandemic, scratch cooking became a badge of honor and a homage to grandma, even spiking conversations with her on how to make meatloaf. While preparing all our meals daily was initially found to be fun and nostalgic, unfortunately, the novelty of this daily grind has taken its toll after months and months of slicing and dicing.
According to a survey conducted by the Food Industry Association, there has been a steady rumble among many people looking to downsize the amount of time they’re spending in the kitchen. Dubbed as COVID cooking fatigue, many folks, especially culinary newbies, want to “scratch” the laborious time needed in scratch cooking and get the heck out of the kitchen in record time. They’re hungry for short cuts to help them prepare and flavor their meals in nanoseconds.
According to a report by Mintel, a global research company, almost 60% of weekday cooks want to spend less than 30 minutes preparing a meal. Let’s face it: All this meal preparing is cutting into our Netflix time.
One of the ways to ease up on kitchen duty is to use gadgets that are designed to save prepping and clean-up time. The following gadgets, recommended by savvy culinary nutrition professionals, are so easy to handle that even novices will feel as though they are trained chefs when using them. These time-shaving gadgets are also perfect gifts for the holidays.
Toby Amidor, registered dietitian nutritionist, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of “The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook,” can’t live without her vegetable chopper. Whenever a recipe calls for chopped onions, carrots, celery, peppers or any other vegetable or fruit, she whips out this gadget and dices these ingredients in record time.
This handheld gadget allows you place vegetables on a grid-like blade and slap it down in one, fast movement, creating uniform chopped pieces. I also have one in my kitchen, and it’s my BFF.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian nutritionist, the creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of “Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table,” keeps her fresh, delicate greens crisp by using a salad spinner.
This gadget contains a plastic bowl, an inner colander and lid to spin the washed produce and remove excess water. The salad greens are so fresh and crunchy that you’re likely to go back for seconds. The spinner can also be used to soak, rinse and quickly spin berries and a variety of veggies. It’s also good for storing leftover greens.
Herb scissors and mill
Fresh herbs enhance the flavors of all foods, especially vegetables, which greatly reduces the reliance on using salt to perk up your meals. While many Americans are currently consuming more than twice the amount of sodium recommended daily, substituting fresh herbs that need to be chopped can be time consuming.
That’s why Virginia-based Jill Weisenberger, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of “Prediabetes: A Complete Guide,” uses herb scissors to quickly snip gobs of fresh herbs to season her meals. It’s as easy as using the salt-shaker but adds much more flavor and is healthier for you.
As the founder and CEO of The Produce Moms, Lori Taylor, who is based in Indianapolis, is so busy that she doesn’t have the time to destem and chop herbs into pieces that are uniform in size for the proper seasoning of meals. She would rather just grind them in an herb mill. The mill minces herbs, such as thyme, cilantro and basil, in seconds, and best of all, there isn’t any chopping board or knives to clean up afterwards. I would also imagine that this could be a wonderful way to release stress at the end of the day. Grind, baby, grind.
New York City chef and registered dietitian nutritionist Abbie Gellman uses a citrus reamer to get every drop of vitamin C-rich juice from fruits such as oranges, lemons and limes to flavor her foods. After cutting the fruit in half, she uses this uniquely shaped gadget to drill down into the meat of the fruit extracting all the juice in record time. The juices add fat-free flavor, moisture and nutrients to her meals.
Nicole Rodriguez, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer in the metro New York area, uses a microplane grater to grate fresh garlic and ginger, as well as making citrus zest. Shaped like a 12-inch ruler, this long grater can be used to quickly shred these foods into thin slivers that can be used to add a fine dusting of flavor to salads and stir-fries. If you buy one, just remember to not throw away the sheath it comes in as you will want to store it in the gadget drawer with this protective shield.
Ratchet pepper mill
For Oklahoma-City-area-based Beau Coffron, aka, The Lunchbox Dad, a ratchet pepper mill is his go-to gadget. With only a flick or two of the mill’s handle, he’s able to add the perfect kick of fresh, ground pepper to dishes without relying on the calories, fat and sugar of a heavy sauce for flavoring.
Liz Weiss, a registered dietitian nutritionist in the Boston area and host of the Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and blog, swears by her gravy separator. When roasting a big chicken or turkey for dinner, the gravy separator works its magic by instantly separating the heart-unhealthy saturated fat in the poultry from the flavorful pan juices. She then thickens the juices in a saucepan using a paste she creates by combining about an ounce of cold water and a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch. This slimmed down gravy is fabulous at reviving reheated leftovers by keeping the bird moist.
To save time in the kitchen, Keri Gans — a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York City, author of “The Small Change Diet” and podcast host of The Keri Report — is a one-pot cook. Her logic is that the less you mess, the less you have to clean up. Using a huge wok, she can saute a ton of veggies and some shrimp in one spacious, sizzling pot and then toss in leftover, cooked pasta. This generous volume of food allows her to cook once and eat twice, as leftovers are a given.
It’s not the meal prepping that irks me, but rather, I despise the time devoted to cleaning up the kitchen after dinner is served. My rule for meal preparation is that the cleanup should take less time than the cooking process.
That’s why I use a splatter screen whenever I am sauteing veggies or simmering spaghetti sauce. The screen covers the pot or pan, keeping oil splatters and tomato sauce off my cooking surface and backsplash. Once the screen is used, it goes straight to the dishwasher.
What’s your favorite kitchen gadget? The health team at U.S. News & World Report shares their favorites. Send us yours at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— “I don’t know what I’d do without my basic, sharp six-inch kitchen knife. I use it to trim the skin off salmon fillets, to chop up veggies and to open well-sealed, seemingly adult-proof food packages. It’s a versatile and indispensable kitchen tool.” — Ruben Castaneda, Staff Writer
— “An electric water kettle makes kick-starting my morning routine quick and easy. I fill the kettle, flip the switch and before I know it, boiled water is ready to pour in my French press for a cup of coffee or to make a cup of tea. Look for one with an auto shut-off feature, and make sure to clean your kettle regularly to avoid buildup inside.” — Christine Comizio, Health Editor
— “My Ninja blender is a favorite for mixing hummus and tahini dressing and blending hot liquids like pepperoni and tomato sauce. Just be careful of the super-sharp blade when cleaning.” — Lisa Esposito, Staff Writer
— “I recently discovered the life-changing brilliance of the guac-lock — a small container that creates an airtight seal to keep your guacamole from browning. It makes it easy to look forward to fresh, green guacamole for as long as it takes you to finish eating a batch.” — Angela Haupt, Managing Editor of Health
— “I love the convenience of my immersion blender, especially when pureeing veggie soups directly in the pot for one-pot cooking — and cleaning.” — Gretel Schueller, Senior Health Editor
Must-have kitchen tools
— Vegetable chopper.
— Salad spinner.
— Herb scissors and mill.
— Citrus reamer.
— Microplane grater.
— Ratchet pepper mill.
— Gravy separator.
— Splatter screen.
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