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Cutting board can help save countertops

My kitchen counter is all scratched up. It seems that my occasional kitchen laziness and often lax chopping antics have caught up with me. Apparently, if you're slicing and dicing, you're supposed to reach for the cutting board. Oops.

If you're in the market for a chopping block, you'll find several materials to choose from, each with pros and cons. Some people swear by hearty, long-lasting wooden boards, but others say germs cling to this type. Plastic and acrylic cutting boards are easy to disinfect, but they can also show scratches and look less than elegant. Then there are chopping mats, which are ultra-flexible and germ- resistant, but being so bendable can have its drawbacks, too.

Ultimately, picking a chopping board boils down to personal preference. For me, that means a board with a bit of flair and a pinch of innovation.

Aiming to put an end to cross-contamination by cutting boards, the KitchenZone Color-Coded Flexible Mats from Silicone Zone are ingenious. Each mat is emblazoned with a different food emblem (chicken for poultry, carrot for vegetables, a cow for other meats and a fish for, you know), reducing the worry of a salad laced with salmonella bacteria. The clear mats, each lined in a bright color, are anything but boring. The silicone mats are dishwasher-safe and feature a no-skid grip. Retailing for $11.95 for a set of four, they are sold at area home stores and online at www.surlatable.com.

The Trudeau Over the Sink Bamboo cutting board fills a variety of slicing needs. The board is made of bamboo, a renewable resource, meaning it's Earth-friendly and super sturdy. The board helps to cut down on counter messes by enabling cooks to cut chicken, slice carrots and chop chives over the sink. The nonstick, no-scratch board expands from 15 to 20 inches for added cutting room. The best feature, though, is a small strainer that means clean-up can be completed in one sweep. Retailing for $29.98, the board is available at area home stores.

Taking an original spin on the plain square board, the Chop and Scoop board from Crate and Barrel has a unique, oval-like shape. With its odd dimensions and easy-grip handles, the board makes the board-to-bowl transfer a breeze. Constructed of polystyrene, the board is safe for use with all types of food and compatible with the dishwasher. It's nonstick and nonabsorbant, and its nonporous surface assures it won't dull knives. Retailing for $9.95, the mat is sold at Crate and Barrel.

If you're lazy about hauling out the cutting board every time you want to slice an apple (ahem, me), then replace the counter space with the Reversible Counterboards by J.K. Adams. The boards actually hook on to the counter and easily become part of the kitchen motif. One side features a grooved edge for catching overspill, while the opposite side is flat for cutting out cookies or rolling out dough. As an added plus, the backsplash keeps stains from hitting the walls. Made of maple with a renewable oil finish, the cutting board is available in three sizes. Retailing for $70, $80 or $100 depending on the size, it is available at area home stores and online at www.jkadams.com.