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Tool Talk: Five Cool Gifts for Cooks

Stuck for ideas for foodie friends and family? Chef Domenica Catelli offers these five suggestions for kitchen basics that really work.
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Some of the best gifts you can give (or receive) are those that encourage people to get back into their kitchens and feel excited about it. Why? Because good tools make cooking faster, simpler, and more pleasurable, which translates into better eating habits. After all, it's hard to get our kids to eat better if we can't cook well. But if we can get over our blocks around cooking, our attitudes toward eating will improve -- and our kids will develop healthier attitudes, too.

Here are the top five essential tools for every cook.

One sharp knife (6 to 8 inches). Yes, just one. A good sharp knife will cut your prep time in half as well as reduce your risk of cutting yourself.

Hand-squeeze juicer. This is the quickest and easiest way to get great flavor on salads, fish, meat, and veggies. Place half a lemon or lime in the cup, clamp down, and you get fresh juice with no seeds, no electrical cords, and no big mess.

Large wood or bamboo cutting board. A postcard-sized cutting board won't motivate you to chop up a bunch of fresh kale. A large board costs only about $15. Place it over your kitchen sink, and your counter space expands by almost 2 feet.

Rimmed baking sheet (not nonstick). The rim keeps food from rolling off but doesn't create steam, so food caramelizes and develops a rich flavor quickly. Use it to roast asparagus, Swiss chard, or chicken breasts.

Microplane grater. Use the super-sharp grater to zest lemons and limes or grate Parmesan cheese.

Sesame and Soy-Roasted Fall Vegetables

Makes 6 servings


1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp granulated or chopped garlic

1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cut
into 1-inch cubes

1 sweet potato or garnet yam, peeled and
cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 parsnip or turnip, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 medium red onion, peeled, cut into eighths

twist of fresh cracked pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Mix sesame seeds, sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, and olive oil in a small bowl.

3. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl and coat with sesame and soy mix.

4. Spread vegetables on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper. Roast 20 minutes.

5. Stir vegetables on the tray with a spatula or wooden spoon and roast another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Per serving: 202 calories, 3 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 4 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 202 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 50%.

Reviewed on November 10, 2011

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