My Top 10 Favorite Cooking Tools: Making meal prep easier

When I first started to dive into meal planning and cooking more elaborate dinners (i.e. meals that weren't just soup can casserole recipes), I found that investing in a new kitchen tool that made a task easier or more fun inspired a slew of creativity and fun in the kitchen. A new knife meant pouring over recipes that used lots of fresh vegetables I could chop up. A hand mixer tempted me to try to make perfectly whipped mashed potatoes. My love for a great tool has remained, and I've determined the ten tools that made cooking simpler, easier and more enjoyable in my kitchen. This is not a definitive list - there are certainly many other useful items in my kitchen (pots, pans, bowls, plates!) but these are things that are a little less common, but that I think others would enjoy as much as I do.

1. Kuhn Rikon Flexible Spatula Knife
I use this little thing all the time. Not for what you might think though, not chopping veggies - but for cutting flat things with ease. Quesadillas, waffles, pancakes, pizza, paninis - anything you want to cut easily, even with a crusty bottom is a breeze with this because of the curved edge and wide blade. I would say I use this at least every other day if not daily. Love it!

2. A Cookie Scoop w/ Dough Release
Before I got this, I would always roll cookie dough in my hands and that was time consuming, messy and didn't feel so sanitary to me. A cookie scoop cuts down on cooking making time (and face it, anything that gets cookies into your mouth faster is a win) and eliminates inconsistently sized cookies. I like making cookies so much more now that I have one (I also highly recommend those silicone baking mats - life changing if you're guilty of burnt bottom cookies typically).

3. A Measuring Glass
This glass measures tablespoons and ounces and comes in really handy when I'm doing anything with multiple liquid ingredients. I also use it frequently to melt butter when recipes call for a few tablespoons of melted butter, as its microwavable. Easy peasy!

4. Pampered Chef Mini Whipper
If you make any type of drink that involves mixing powder into liquid (protein powder, hot cocoa or cider packets, instant coffee, etc.) or like the froth milk for your coffee beverages - you'll love this little looped whisk! No clumps of powder remain, just a perfect drink.

5. Citrus Ream w/ Measuring Cup
So many recipes call for a few tablespoons of lemon or lime juice and this little two piece contraption is incredibly useful and quick to bust out of the drawer and put to work without getting lemon juice all over your hands (if you have dry skin like I do, that BURNS!) It catches all the pips perfectly too and you can just toss it in the dishwasher to clean.

6. Mesh Strainer with Handle
This comes in really handy if you frequently boil things (ravioli, larger pieces of pasta, vegetables) and want to be able to quickly transfer the boiled items to another pan on the stove (this happens frequently when you're making sauces and Italian dishes). This is also helpful for the obvious (frying) uses, but I call it my ravioli scoop because that's what I end up using it most often for.

7. Silicone Garlic Peeler
Yes, I can smash garlic cloves with a knife to peel them, but this is a lot easier! Just stick the clove in the little sleeve and roll the sleeve on a flat service and your garlic is peeled. Presto!

8. Stainless Steel Garlic Rocker
Place your freshly peeled garlic clove under the cutting area and simply rock back and forth to instantly mince garlic. Even better, the stainless steel keeps your hands from smelling like garlic for the rest of the day, as it absorbs garlic smells. Awesome, right?

9. Wusthof Santoku Knife
When it comes to knives, if you want one really good one, this is the Holy Grail, in my personal opinion. Since receiving it for Christmas more than 5 years ago, I've received several other high-end knives as Christmas or birthday gifts, (I always feel funny asking my mom or hubby for sharp knives as gifts, lol!) but this one is the one I end up reaching for constantly. It's SO reliable. So sharp. So easy to work with and works for almost every cutting need I have. Fileting chicken breasts, chopping carrots and potatoes, slicing onions - it simply is an all star. Unlike the other items in my list here, this one isn't cheap (you can sometimes find it on sale for $89 around the holidays) but it is SO worth the money and you really could get away with just this one, good knife if you invested in it.

10. Microplane Fine Grater
This grater is so very useful and makes such quick work of zesting citrus or grating hard cheeses - sometimes I even use it on garlic if my rocker is in the dishwasher. Be careful, it's super sharp - but you'll love how easy it makes fine grating tasks!

Ok, now it's your turn! School me on what lives in your kitchen that I simply must try! I can't wait to hear!

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