Four Fave Tools That You Probably Aren’t Using

I’m passing on these gems in the best cooking tradition:
by stealing from others.

1. Garbage bowl

Rachel Ray uses this (I covet her confetti bowl).  I tried it and found that by simply putting a large mixing bowl on the counter and using it to collect my garbage – package wrapping, trimmings – I save a lot of time.  Even if your garbage can is only ONE STEP from where you prep, this bowl saves time.  Especially for those recipes that start with chopping an onion and peeling garlic.  Try it out a few times and let me know what you think.
(I realize it may be too late for you to send this to me for Valentine’s Day.  My birthday is August 12.)


2. Reusable Parchment Paper

My sister Gail discovered this and I have stored them at least in three different kitchens and given them as gifts.  It is similar to Silpat, but much thinner and more flexible. And much less expensive.  It is washable, so you can use it one day under a roast and the next day for cookies. I pour my toffee caramels on it and avoid buttering the pan. Folds flat and I store it in a ziploc bag with the cookie sheets.


3. Microplane


I know this is fairly common, but stealing again from Rachel Ray, it is the fastest garlic tool there is.  Every garlic press I’ve tried takes me much longer to clean than to actually grate the garlic.  Rubbing the garlic through a plane like this one is fast at both ends. It comes out of the dishwasher clean and has a cover to protect your knuckles in the cabinet.


4. Sink Strainer

Again, it is such a little thing, but will make your life easier.  Your cooking life anyway. You are on your own with the parenting.
Great for washing big batches of mushrooms, green beans, strawberries.  Better than holding an over-full strainer in one hand and hoping the stuff on the bottom gets clean.
(Yeah yeah I know – you are supposed to wipe mushrooms gently with a damp paper towel.  Yet I occasionally feed more than two people and prefer to NOT SPEND MY ENTIRE DAY GENTLY WIPING.  Plus, in my heart of hearts, I never feel as though I’ve gotten off all the dirt that they grow mushrooms in unless there is a lot of water involved.)

Hey – I didn’t steal that from anyone.  Just ordered it out of a catalog and tried it. Yay me!

What is your favorite/most unusual kitchen tool?

Note – I’m not getting paid to promote here (I wish!), just sharing cool stuff. Please see my disclosure.


Leaf Pile

Leaf Pile Holly Cookie Wreath Suggested pairing (music to cook by – sorry no Sample button!): Shrek – Music From the Original Motion Picture I made these cookies for Thanksgiving (because what goes better with pie than cookies?!) – really because they are so much fun to ice. I used my family recipe for the cookies – a little different because of the almond flavor, but my personal favorite. See a Halloween sample here. (Warning – zombies included.) Our family name for the recipe, & for which I have no explanation, is: Little Mirror Cookies Cream together:

  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2  C butter

Mix in:

  • 1 egg yolk (save the white for the icing, below)
  • 2 Tablespoons cream
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract


  • 2 C flour

This makes a very stiff dough and a stand mixer is recommended if you can get your hands on one.  If you are going to have a cookie-icing party, I suggest doubling or tripling the recipe. Cover and chill for at least an hour. (The dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen at this point.) Preheat oven to 375.  Roll out thinly, cut, and bake 8-10 minutes. Use this on your baking sheets – it makes life so much easier: reusable parchment paper.  Watch for browning around the edges. Perfectionists take note!  I have been doing this for 30 years, and I never get them rolled out evenly or cut out perfectly: Remember that there is ALWAYS someone who loves the burnt edges. And as my friend Tina says, “It’s not the Magna Carta!”  (Insert personal perfection reference here – Sistine Chapel, Taj Mahal, Cary Grant…) Icing:

  • 1 egg white, whisked until a little foamy & a little ribbony (I’m sure there’s a technical term for that somewhere)

Whisk in:

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Gradually whisk in:

  • 3/4 C powdered sugar, sifted

Divide into small bowls or ramekins and mix with food coloring choices. Grocery store color will do in a pinch, but you will be much happier with the results if you go for the good stuff: Wilton Icing Colors Ice thinly. Experiment with spreader knives, toothpicks, craft bottles, to get the look you want. If you paint on a base coat then add another color you can spread it around. If you want a discreet line or design, wait until the base coat has dried completely. (Note – this icing is not very tasty wet – it’s great when it’s dried & part of the cookie – I promise.) Disclaimer: this icing uses raw egg whites. Please use fresh eggs. That said, my family has been using this recipe for many years & I don’t know of a single person that has gotten sick from it. Please don’t be the first one.