One of the perks of being a Soup Challenge finalist is getting to pick out a “goodie bag” of Cool Tools – kitchen appliances that are fun and functional. We are a bunch of enthusiastic foodies here at New England Country Soup, and love to experiment with new tools that can make us even better in the kitchen.  All our Soup Challenge finalists are winners, so the Cool Tools are our way of saying congratulations for getting this far in the competition!

The Soup Challenge invites the best of homemade to go head-to-head with our soups on taste and nutrition. So the healthfulness of each recipe is an important factor for success. Healthy cooking is the inspiration for our first group of Cool Tools. Whether you are trying to cook fat-free, incorporate more fresh produce and vitamin C into your diet, or just wanting to drink more water, these cool tools will inspire you to achieve those healthy food goals and perhaps incite a bit of kitchen-envy from your friends and neighbors.

Roasting Laurels ($24.95 via Sur la table)

When the kids ask, “Where’s dinner?” you can answer haughtily “resting on its laurels!” And, if you don’t get as much enjoyment out of puns as we do, you can at least be reassured that anything you roast atop these silicon “laurels” from rosemary-chicken to a stuffed pork tenderloin, spiced butternut squash, to a Grecian-style leg of lamb, will become a juicy, golden brown delight. Unlike traditional roasting implements, these silicon laurels conform to many pan shapes, are much easier to clean, and ensure that your meats and veggies are roasted to perfection without bathing in the fat and drippings in the pan below.

Citrus Spritzer ($14.95 via Sur la table)

Unless you live in the sunnier parts of the US, fresh citrus is a precious commodity. Recipes often only call for a tablespoon or two of juice, forcing you to chop a lemon or orange in half, take the juice you need, and leave the rest to shrivel up in the fridge to use later (if you can remember it’s in there).  This citrus spritzer eliminates the need for slicing and leftover citrus and keeps your fruit fresh and juicy. Simply twist the spritzer into the fruit and spray as needed. Works for baking recipes, spritzing seafood, meats, and vegetables, a light salad dressing, and makes plain water exciting! The set comes with two sizes: one for smaller citrus like limes and a larger one for hefty citrus like grapefruits.

Cuppows ($7.99 via Think Geek)

Admit it, even if you didn’t grow up in the country, canning your own produce and drinking out of a mason jar is just plain fun. It makes even water exciting – and the glass just seems to imbue this clean clear taste – and allows you to show off your nifty beverage choices to the rest of the world. One problem: mason jars weren’t meant for drinking. The heft of the glass, the wide opening, the grooved lip; all these factors often result in an issue known as “drink-on-face foul.”  But, have no fear, Cuppow is here! Whether you drink iced tea (like Southern country gals), lemon water, or even hot coffee, these BPA-free plastic lids fit onto any standard wide-mouth mason jar, creating a new, stylish travel mug for all beverage occasions. A sippy cup for adults!

Cooking Mesh ($15 via Sur la table)

Old fashioned cooking methods have retained their popularity for many reasons, but mainly because they are tried and true, even if they call for more time over the stove. Although we almost always endorse these traditional techniques, there’s nothing wrong with a few shortcuts, as long as they help you eat more fresh, healthy, and home-cooked meals. Here’s one of the newest tool for the modern kitchen: cooking mesh. Made of silicon and BPA-free, this cooking mesh makes wrangling steamed or boiled veggies a breeze, helps drain whole grain pasta in the blink of an eye, makes blanching peaches a pie-walk , and even functions as a bouquet garni (spice and herb pouch) in soups and stocks. There are literally a thousand different ways to use this easy-to-clean mesh, most don’t even require the application of fat or oils, and will ease your way to eating healthy this year. Plus, it’s just cool.

As you can see, it doesn’t take a complete kitchen renovation to redirect your diet. Eating clean is simple, natural, and easy, especially when aided with a few new cool tools. Come back soon for part two – “Cool Tools: Cooking is a Science.”