I love the holiday season. The sparkling decorations, the sparkling dresses, the sparkling drinks!! But I also go into it with a bit of anxiety because I know that based on past experience I tend to get over-booked, over-stressed, and yes, overweight. The problem is not the rich, fattening foods that are plentiful on Thanksgiving and Christmas — on those occasions I’ve learned to eat with some restraint. My problem is on the days in between. The random Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays when I’m busier than ever buying presents, sending holiday cards, making plans, and dinner becomes an afterthought. Afterthought as in order a pizza or pick up fast food on the way home. Or, if I’m really frantic, eat an entire bag of chips and dip while I wrap gifts. Not smart, I know, especially during a time of year when I need nutritious, healthy meals to power me through my long days.
The key to avoiding these dinner-on-the-fly decisions is of course planning. And having the right tools to help you make a meal fast. And fortunately, we’ve found several products that do just that. Not only will you be able to make delicious, nutritious meals, you’ll also be saving so much money by eating in instead of out. And that’s a gift to yourself year-round!
1. Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker
Crock-Pot has been synonymous with slow cooking for decades, but now the brand is getting into the fast pressure-cooking craze with the debut of its new multi-cooker. This one unit can be used as a pressure cooker, a slower cooker, a steamer, or to sauté and brown. If you’re not familiar with pressure cooking take my word — it’s a magical solution for turning a mix of raw ingredients into a delicious meal in no time! I love that this has eight pre-set pressure settings so I can just push a button and it gets to work. Chicken, beef, soup — I made all of them in minutes. And the non-stick interior makes cleanup fast and easy.
2. Chef’n VeggiChop Pro
This is one of those kitchen tools that I wonder how I ever lived without. The chore of chopping vegetables, nuts, and herbs is turned into a fast — and even fun! — task with this manual food processor. Just put your ingredients in the five-cup glass bowl, attach the top, grab the ring handle and start pulling. Each pull spins the blades inside, dicing the ingredients. The more you pull, the finer the dice. I’m also using this to make things like salsa, hummus, and pureed fruit.
3. Cuisinart Cook Fresh Digital Steamer
This is the ultimate tool for a meal that’s both fast and healthy since steaming is often touted as one of the best ways to prepare a nutritious meal. This electric steamer makes the process simple. Just put your ingredients in the five-liter glass pot, add water to the tank, plug it in and set your time. In a matter of minutes I had perfectly steamed vegetables and shrimp.
4. Black & Decker Purifry Air Fryer
I have a weakness for fried food — chicken wings, French fries, fried zucchini. But I don’t like the way heavy, oil-fried food can make me feel. So this air fryer is a great alternative. Food turns out crispy without added fat. The temperature can be set up to 400 degrees and the timer can automatically shut off the machine when cooking is complete. And this means your oven is free to cook the rest of your meal!
5. Joyce Chen Classic Series Carbon Steel Wok
Stir-frying is one of the fastest ways to make a healthy meal. Use your favorite combination of vegetables and protein (chicken with broccoli and red peppers is my go-to), add them to a super-hot wok, toss with your favorite sauce, and dinner is served! This wok is made of heavy carbon steel that conducts heat evenly and the 14-inch size means it’s big enough to cook for the whole family.
6. KitchenAid 2-Speed Hand Blender
Hot, creamy soup is a wonderful wintertime meal, and many soup recipes can be ready quickly. An immersion blender makes it so easy to get the perfect consistency. Just submerge it in your pot on the stovetop, turn it on and watch your ingredients blend into smooth perfection. This one has a comfortable, non-slip handle, is dishwasher safe, and comes in more than a dozen fun colors.
7. Breville Panini Duo
Elevate a simple sandwich into a warm, toasted piece of deliciousness with a panini press. This one can make two sandwiches at once and has four adjustable height settings (so you don’t over-smoosh your fillings!). The nonstick surface wipes clean in an instant.
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