Generally speaking, we are healthier when we can prepare more of our own food. This means that we also need to spend more time in the kitchen prepping and cooking. However, we also live in a society where, for many of us, we are stretched thin with busy schedules, work, errands, taking care of others, and the list goes on. Who has gobs of time to cook? Some folks do, but many of us don’t. So what do we do?
To get any task done well and efficiently, we use the proper tools that fit our needs. We save ourselves time by having dishwashers to clean dishes, laundry machines to do laundry, computers/smartphones to automate tasks, vacuum cleaners to clean our floors, etc. However, how equipped is your kitchen to help you save time? I’m talking beyond just the typical microwave and oven/stovetop. There are so many kitchen gadgets in existence, and I am going to share with you a handful of key kitchen tools I have used to save time – thereby making cooking and a healthier diet more practical than before.
This is like a glorified food blender. It is high-powered and has many settings to cut and slice your foods and vegetables in various ways. Also, if you are needing to create purees, the food processor is fantastic at this. There are many “make-it-yourself” recipes out there (especially if you are needing to prepare healthier alternatives to packaged foods) that might require you to puree the ingredients – so if you do not have a food processor (or other equivalents), then you are a bit out of luck. This kitchen tool can not only save you time but also open up the options available to you for what kind of recipes you can enjoy.
There’s a great video of Ross Pelton’s “Salad Buzz” that highlights just what a food processor can do for you to save time.
The technology for oven cooking has continued to evolve – such as to the toaster oven. Now, air fryers seem to be the next generation in convenient quick-cooking convection oven technology. The main purpose of the air fryer is that it allows you to get some of that “crip” texture in your food (sweet potato fries anyone?) with minimal cooking oil needed. However, I enjoy the air fryer more for the fact that it just cooks certain things a whole lot faster – especially if you want to cook something that normally requires an oven, but you don’t need to prepare a lot of food – just enough, perhaps, for a few servings (but it depends on how big an air fryer you get!).
I recently was able to receive an air fryer (in this case, the Ninja brand) and it preheats in 3 minutes. Did you get that? 3 minutes. Normally preheating the oven takes anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes (at least for my oven…) – and of course, if I forget (and who hasn’t done that?) then my hope for making a meal in a reasonable amount of time just goes out the window. My wife and I have even been able to start cooking frozen salmon filets right out of the bag, or frozen shrimp, frozen chicken, etc. No more time/preparation needed to thaw, getting the oven to preheat, etc. It can be a game-changer with saving you time and also allow you to get better outcomes in that texture you’re hoping for in your food. Also – the cleanup is really simple since it’s just a couple of components that need washing afterward (at least, with the Ninja brand).
Things to consider:
- Some air fryers have a wire mesh basket, which can be a pain to clean up. When you research what air fryer you want, keep in mind the design of its components and research how easy or difficult it is to clean afterward.
- If you regularly cook for more than a couple of people (i.e. a whole family), then the air fryer might not be the right choice (since it can only fit so much food in the basket). However, if you are working on dietary changes and your family is not as onboard thereby putting you in a tough position to cook a meal for yourself separately from what your family eats, then the air fryer could be a big help.
Pressure cookers use pressure to build high heat, and the effect results in cooking things faster. Cooking faster means more energy saved, more nutrients retained, and more TIME saved. Unlike an air fryer or other convection oven types of tools, pressure cookers retain more of the moisture and are great, therefore, for things like soups, legumes, mashed potatoes, tough cuts of meat, whole chicken, vegetables, and more. It is also quite spacious allowing you to cook a large quantity of food. One thing I have enjoyed using it for is to prep lots of chicken breasts really easily. I take 3 large frozen (so no thawing!) pieces of chicken (~ 4 lbs total), put a little water in the pressure cooker, and place the chicken in on a tray (that comes with it). Once the pressure cooker has pressurized, the chicken is completely cooked in 10 minutes. I can then plop them in my Kitchen Aid mixer and shred it up in 60 seconds, put in a container in the fridge, and I’m done (with only the steel cooking bowl of the pressure cooker to clean)! If you like to do slow-cooker recipes, you can do that with a pressure cooker as well. A very popular brand/product of a pressure cooker is the Instant Pot.
Things to consider:
- Pressure cookers do need time to pressurize before the cooking actually begins. This can take some time (similar to waiting for an oven to preheat). The cooking is still faster than using a conventional oven or stovetop, but keep that in mind – many recipes/sites boast how quick you can cook a meal, but seem to fail to mention this fact.
- When you explore pressure cooker recipes, double-check the instructions to see if it is a multi-step process or if it is truly a “throw it all in and cook” kind of recipe. Some recipes advertise themselves as a pressure cooker recipe when it’s actually requiring you to do some things on the stovetop first and then only at the end you use the pressure cooker.
What do I mean by a “personal” blender? I am referring to blenders that are specialized to make one or two servings of smoothies, such as the Magic Bullet or Nutribullet smoothie blender. If making smoothies regularly is something you do (or want to do), then this can be a great tool and fairly economical in cost. The reason is the components are simple to clean (instead of having a large blender with multiple components to clean afterward). These blenders can also be a quick way to grind up things (like with the food processor) if needed, such as nuts/seeds.
Things to consider:
- Make sure to get a high-powered blender. Many folks find they don’t like smoothies because of the texture and feeling bits of leafy greens in their mouths/throats – if this is the case, it’s because you need a better blender.
- If you want to make large batches of smoothie at one time, then a larger blender may be a better choice for you than the smaller personal blender I am describing.
But that takes money. . .
You are right, one disadvantage is that these tools do not come free, and some may not be chump change to purchase. If that’s the case, save yourself $15 a month as your kitchen gadget fund. Very quickly you could get one or two of these types of tools each year and you probably won’t even notice a dent in your budget. Or do some research on what kind of kitchen tools you’d like and get a wishlist going that you can share with friends and family when your birthday or the holidays come around 😉
So just remember, if you find that cooking takes longer than is realistic for you, and you have a good 20 – 30 minutes to make some food, consider what tools you need, then go find them and use them. Save yourself time cooking, and save yourself time cleaning! Make the kitchen a place that works for YOU.
To you health and wellbeing,
Senior Health Coach, Dan Tribley
EPIC Functional Medicine