Confession: I don’t love cooking. But that’s because to me "cooking" conjures up images of slaving away in my kitchen, stressed over complicated recipes, with every appliance in use and a sink full of dirty pans. Not for me. But what I do love — adore in fact — is creating meals. However my method for doing so is simply about assembling a handful of clean, wholesome ingredients. And there a few go-to kitchen gadgets that make that oh so easy, so I can whip up simple meals in minutes and have fun doing it:
I was introduced to the microplane when I signed up for a vegan, organic culinary training (intense but awesome) and now it's like my magic wand. I use it to grate fresh ginger for everything from hot or cold tea to oatmeal, parfaits, stir-fry dishes and dark chocolate truffles. I also use it to zest citrus rinds, finely shred coconut and grate blocks of dark chocolate and garlic cloves. Love, love, love this thing! You can pick one up for $12-15 at any home goods store.
Everyone probably has one of these in the old utensil drawer, but you may not be using it to its full potential! After slicing the not so pretty skin off of carrots keep on peeling. You’ll create long, thin, even “ribbons” that can be curled, shaped or layered, along with 'peeler slices' of zucchini or cucumber. Instead of a paring knife I reach for my veggie peeler to slice celery root, beets, apples and pears. It’s also great when you need larger slivers from a block of dark chocolate.
This one serves two purposes: it's a major time saver and it makes meals look beautiful. Slicing or cubing melon can be messy and time consuming. With this gadget I simply slice my melon through the middle and scoop away. Easy but also pretty, and that's important. I advise my clients to 'play food stylist' when prepping meals, because dishes that are visually appealing are more enjoyable and satisfying. Try this trick: slice a cantaloupe in half, remove seeds, scoop out the flesh with a melon baller then use the half melon itself as a bowl. Fill with yogurt (nonfat Greek, soy or coconut milk) or nonfat cottage cheese mixed with fresh grated ginger, melon balls and fresh berries, and top with toasted rolled oats and sliced almonds.
Don't do dairy? No problem. Use your box grater to shred cabbage, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, radishes, onions, and hardy fruits like apples, pears, kiwi and pineapple. Grating is a great way to sneak healthy ingredients into dishes and it also ups the volume for far fewer calories. For example: swap a half cup cooked whole wheat pasta for one cup of shredded zucchini and you’ll save over 100 calories for double the portion size.
Blenders are awesome for smoothies and yes, margaritas, but they also work above and beyond beverages. I use my blender to make cold soups in the summertime (hello gazpacho!) as well as dips and hummus. My easy breezy hummus recipe involves tossing in chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, roasted garlic and whichever seasonings I’m in the mood for (dill, paprika, curry, cilantro…). I also use it to transform leftover roasted veggies into dips or spreads, especially eggplant, onions and peppers.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.