photo by chispita_666

photo by chispita_666

Summer’s vegetables are here! I’m scrambling to add fresh garlic scapes, sugar snap peas, and baby chard to our daily meals before the next box from our CSA arrives.

Ideally, I would sip from a glass of fine wine as I sauté the chard until just tender and bright. In reality, there are the two children, straddling that fine line between too much snacking and hungry for dinner, asking for legos to be broken apart and playdough to be rolled and flattened. In particular, my 2 ½ year old daughter is transitioning from the age of taking an afternoon nap and waking up crabby; to not taking a nap and remaining crabby from 3 o’clock until the aforementioned dinner. At our house, I call the time before dinner “the witching hour.”

But dinner is important to me, to have a time where we sit down as a family, share each other’s day, and enjoy a home cooked meal together. Prep time is much easier with the proper tools, so here are my favorites.

  • A sharp knife
    I’ve heard chefs’ most prized possession is their knife, but I never experienced how much this matters until I cooked at my brother-in-law’s house, using his quality knives. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. It slices! It dices! I could cut vegetables easier, faster and safer, and it made prep work a breeze.
    Now I have a new Santoku knife. It’s inexpensive but sharp, and that alone makes a huge difference. I never add it to the dishwasher to maintain its sharp edge.
  • Multiple cutting boards
    I have three large and three small cutting boards. They store flat, fit easily in the dishwasher, and allow me to keep on chopping.
  • Salad spinner
    My CSA farmer does a bit of prewashing, but the greens still hold a considerable amount of dirt. The salad spinner consists of a colander and bowl, and makes quick work of washing and drying greens. It’s also more earth-friendly than blotting dry with paper towels.
  • Food chopper
    I like my hand-held food chopper when I have a lot of chopping to do. It’s from Pampered Chef, with a plunger handle and Z-shaped blade. Unlike a food processor, it works right on the cutting board so there’s no bowl to clean, and it works under your own power. It’s especially nice for chopping and mincing onions.
  • Sink or dishpan full of soapy water
    If I have a lot of clean-up, I fill one side of my sink with hot soapy water. When I finish with a tool, I simply slide it in. By the time dinner is done, the tools will have practically cleaned themselves, and it uses less water than washing each of them individually.

What are some of your favorite time-saving tools?