I’m not a chef, but I am a cook.
And whether I was making a family supper, a sit-down dinner for 12, or a buffet for 60, there were always certain tools and gadgets that made making those meals easier. And when I began to cook a new and skinnier way, some of those tools became more invaluable than others.
Here are The Skinny Tools that I rely on now.
FOR THE OVEN
NON-STICK RIMMED COOKIE SHEETS/JELLY ROLL PANS: As you know from The Skinny Strategy, in order to save time and calories, you’re going to roast an amazing array of dishes in the same oven at the same time. Which means you’ll need at least 3, preferably 4, rimmed cookie sheets. Make sure you buy the rimmed type–also called jelly roll pans–so nothing ends up on the bottom of the oven. Even though they are non-stick, there are many times you’ll want to cover them foil anyway to short-cut the clean-up.
SILPATS: Instead of using foil to cover the baking sheets, you can save money investing in a few of these re-usable silicone baking mats. (Though if I know a recipe will make a really sticky mess, I use foil anyway so I can just throw it away.)
PYREX BAKEWARE: Pyrex is inexpensive and lasts forever. I have several sizes I use to bake casseroles like Skinny Enchilada Suiza or roast vegetable sides that through off a lot of liquid like Magic Mushrooms or Roasted Caponata. Available in a many sizes and sets, look for ones with lids so the dishes can go to fridge or freezer as well.
CORNINGWARE: Like Pyrex, Corningware is inexpensive, oven and microwave safe and lasts forever. It also can go easily from oven to table and many pieces have glass lids which come in handy for microwaving dishes like Cauliflower Rice. I also use Corningware for oven dishes that require a deeper dish… like Idiot-Proof Oven Baked Wild Rice or Egg Souffle.
NONSTICK VERTICAL POULTRY ROASTER: Even though we eat just a fraction of the meat we used to eat, because we entertain a lot, I own 6 of these things! 5 bucks for the best chicken you’ve ever roasted. I even use them on the grill. Just make sure you turn the burner directly under the birds completely off and cook by “indirect heat” or they will catch fire. (I speak from experience here…!)
FOR THE MICROWAVE
4 QUART PYREX BOWL or CORNINGWARE DISH WITH LID: For cooking Cauliflower Rice and other dishes that need to steam in the microwave, a lidded microwave safe bowl or casserole is a huge help. If you don’t have one but do have a plain Pyrex glass mixing bowl, just use it and cover with a plate.
PYREX GLASS MEASURING CUPS: You can have just one large one but I have 3…a 2 cup, a 4 cup, and an 8 cup. When measuring liquid ingredients for salad dressings or sauces, measuring chopped up veg or meat, or microwaving Better Than Bouillon Paste and water to make instant hot broth, these guys are so helpful.
TINY GLASS MICROWAVE SAFE PREP BOWLS: To cook quickly and effectively, it’s crucial to do what chefs do and have your “mise en place,” (things in place.) Especially when throwing together quick stir fry dishes, having all of your spices, garlic, herbs, zest and juices measured out and waiting will ensure you don’t burn any veg because you’re still chopping and organizing. I like these microwave safe bowls that have lids so I can store extra chopped garlic or herbs and use the next day.
FOR THE STOVE-TOP
ONE SMALL AND ONE LARGE NON-STICK FRYING PAN: Though I have ridiculous number of pots and pans, when it comes to daily cooking, I often only use a tiny one for omelets in the morning and a large one for stir fry dishes at night. (I actually own a huge wok, but it’s a pain to pull out of the cupboard!)
NON-STICK GRILL PAN: When it’s rainy or cold outside, or I’m out of propane–or I’m just too lazy to turn on the porch light–I use this to make grilled fish, chicken or veggies like zucchini, onions, asparagus, eggplant, or corn indoors.
LE CREUSET ENAMELED CAST IRON FRENCH OVEN: If you’re getting married soon, this is the gift you ask your “crazy rich aunt who always liked you best” to get for you. This enormous mother-of-all-pots by Le Creuset is all you need to make soups, veggie chili, skinny paella, spaghetti sauce, chicken curry, stuffed cabbage rolls or any other big vats of deliciousness. They are aren’t cheap and they are heavy… but their durability, versatility, good looks and easy clean up make them worth it.
FOOD PROCESSOR: I’ve had my 14-cup Cuisinart food processor since I got married (you know, in old timey days) but never before has it assumed such a prominent place in the kitchen. It now lives on the counter ranking in importance only behind the coffee maker. As you find yourself cooking with more and more vegetables, you need to make space on your counter as well. Seriously, unless you’re an Iron Chef and can chop/dice/shred and mince at the speed of light, you need this baby. But if the Cuisinart is too pricey, there are other options as well. In our cottage in Maine, I have this Black and Decker model that cost me only 30 dollars and still gets the job done.
IMMERSION BLENDER: I can’t tell you what a workout this little stick blender gets in my house. As you begin to make pureed vegetables, soups and smoothies, you’ll find it is invaluable since you can mash, puree, or liquify foods in the pots you’ve cooked them in without having to transfer them to a blender, food processor or electric mixer that you’ll have to wash. (Less clean up means more time to cook and eat!) Again, the one I use in L.A. is a more expensive model that was a wedding gift. In Maine, I picked up a 30 dollar version that has fewer attachments but works almost as well.
BROWN RICE COOKER: I was one of the last people on the rice cooker train. It seemed silly to me then to buy a machine (which I have no room to store) when I already had a pot. BUT, after switching from white to brown rice–which takes so much longer and can be so much trickier to cook–I became a rice cooker gal. The one I love is the Aroma brand that has a button for cooking brown rice (meaning I don’t have to think) and also allows me to steam or saute vegetables. Again, when in Maine, I don’t have many gadgets and cook my brown and wild rice in the oven. But at home in L.A., when I’m doing rice to last a month, I love this baby.
SALAD SPINNER: Because having your fresh greens clean, dry and ready to eat is key when conquering sudden hunger or making quick meals, you really need a salad spinner. There are many types available in a range of prices.
GARLIC PRESS: When recipes for stews are casseroles call for minced garlic and your fingers don’t feel like working, just put peeled garlic in the press and squeeze right into the pot.
MICROPLANE ZESTER: This is one of my favorite kitchen tools that also comes with a great back-story. It was created for use in woodworking but is actually the best tool ever for zesting citrus or adding a shower of finely grated cheese to any dish. There are now versions that offer a courser grate as well. Though its inventor was sorely disappointed when he didn’t revolutionize woodworking, I think the millions of dollars in sales he’s experience since have helped him get over it!
MANDOLINE: Not the mandolin, which is a lute like instrument, a mandoline is a food slicer used to make super thin slivers of everything from fennel, to potatoes, to onions. I’ve had my expensive one (again, a wedding gift) for a hundred years. But when we bought the house in Maine, I realized that now there are much less expensive ones that work just as well.
MISTO PUMP SPRAYERS: Because even the heart healthy oils, like olive oil, have 120 calories per tablespoon, one of the easiest ways to cut calories as you cook The Skinny way is to reduce the oil. And nothing delivers a light coating of oil on food better than a Misto Pump. I have 2. One holds really high quality Olive Oil, which I only add to dishes after they’re cooked. The other is filled with Canola Oil which I use to spray baking sheets or frying pans when I cook at high temperatures. I know many people buy the canned aerosol sprays like Pam…and I use them, too. But they’re not great for the environment and, over time, are so much more expensive. Even though you have to rinse the nozzle with hot water now and then to prevent clogging, for 10 bucks, you can buy a Misto that will save you money, allow you to spritz high quality oil on your food, and help the planet.
MEZZALUNA: Oh, I love this little curvy man. Mezzaluna means “half moon” in Italian and this little curved chopping tool is invaluable when mincing fresh herbs–which are so important to so many skinny dishes as they add so much flavor and no fat! I even have this double edged version that is so helpful on my farmers market shopping day. You’ll be able to mince a load of fresh herbs, save time and keep your fingers!
RETURN TO BLOG HOME