Having the right tool for the job makes cooking much easier. Tongs, pictured here, can be used for a variety of tasks including turning meat to sear it. Think of a pair of tongs as extensions of your fingers.

Are you spending more time in the kitchen making meals since COVID struck? I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but when I was on furlough I took cooking to another level and it was fun. And like my husband, Mike the Mechanic, always says, “Having the right tools for the job makes the task so much more enjoyable!” So If you don’t have these tools, consider purchasing them.

Dutch oven: Ah, the classic Dutch oven! Do your research, they’re expensive and you want it to be everything you had hoped for. There are different sizes, interior finishes, exterior colors and weights. This pan can go from the stovetop to the oven. No more transferring meats into another pan, which will reduce dishes too. My husband bought me one for Christmas and I just love it. I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without one.

Garlic peeler: I recommend a garlic peeler that comes with a silicone roller to help remove the skins. A handy cleaning brush to remove the minced bits is a must also.

Food thermometer: The only way to determine if your food is cooked to the correct internal temperature is to use a food thermometer. This ensures that food is cooked properly and decreases the risk of food poisoning. Always insert probe into the thickest part of the food.

Chef's knife: A good knife is a chef’s best friend. Carbon-plated stainless steel will stay sharp over time, but go to a specialty store to find the best match for you. It should feel balanced in your hand, easy to hold and control, and not too heavy. It's important to keep your knife sharp.

Flexible plastic cutting board: After cutting vegetables, fruits or herbs, you can lift them up and pour the contents into whatever bowl or pan you're using. They're also dishwasher safe!

Kitchen shears: Sturdy, sharp kitchen shears can perform many tasks, from cutting herbs, bacon, or trimming fat from meats. Many are labeled dishwasher safe and will separate for more thorough cleaning.

Prep bowls: I have a fetish for bowls (don’t tell my husband). Consider bowls that are metal or glass because they’re less porous than plastic and won’t pick up stains or odors. I love colorful bowls and collect the vintage Pyrex nesting bowls. So fun.

Cookie droppers/scoops: Cookie droppers/scoops work like an ice cream scoop where you push a lever on the handle to push out batter. I like to use my scoop when putting batter into a muffin tin, dropping cookie dough or serving mashed potatoes. The scoop ensures muffins/cookies are uniform in size and it’s a timesaver.

Tongs: I’m always finding new uses for mine, like holding a roast to sear it on all sides, or dipping bread for French Toast, or reaching into the oven to check my latest creation. Think of them as extensions of your fingers.

Handheld citrus juicer: This handy tool directs the juice into a bowl or cup. By squeezing it you can get the most juice from your fruit. No more seeds or pulp to pick out of your juice.

There are many more kitchen tools that are awesome, these are just some of my favorites. It really depends on what type of cuisine you like to eat. When making your next meal, consider if you have the right tools for the job.



Looking for a new recipe to start your new year? This is one that will have your family raving.


Asian Chicken Salad Wraps

One serving of Asian Chicken Salad Wraps delivers 300 calories and 23 grams of protein.

1 1/2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast

1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple

1/3 cup chopped celery

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1/3 cup diced red pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/3 cup shredded carrots

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

2 tablespoons sliced green onion

4 whole wheat tortillas

3 tablespoons low-sodium teriyaki sauce

Chow mein noodles, optional

Directions: In a large bowl, combine chicken, pineapple, celery, red pepper, carrots and green onion. In a small bowl, whisk teriyaki sauce, peanut butter, lemon juice and ginger. Stir into chicken mixture. Place about 1/2 cup chicken mixture on each tortilla. Top with chow mein noodles, if desired. Fold into wrap.

Serves 4. Per serving: 300 calories, 23g protein, 35g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 8g fat, 630mg sodium.

Source: Hy-Vee Seasons Healthy Living Recipes Cookbook

Peg Christenson is a registered nutrition and dietetic technician at Hutchinson Health.