Happy Friday everyone! How did your week go? We had some gorgeous weather (back in the mid 70s – huh??) I got out for a wine-tasting night with some of my new MOPS friends (best decision I ever made joining that group,) and my little bugger boo and I got some QT in with nature. It was all fun and games until I heard what sounded like chips crunching only to look over and see a leaf hanging out Lincoln’s mouth. Where’s the laugh/cry emoji when you need it? (Honestly I feel like that emoji pretty much sums up my entire life. Which one can you relate to most?)
In anticipation of colder weather ahead, and needing some new indoor entertainment ideas, I also got Lincoln got a bird feeder for the back yard this week. He already loves looking out our family room windows to watch all the “bir” pecking away at the bird seed. Now that was all fun and games until I put the leftover seed bag in a cupboard in our outdoor kitchen and a family of squinnies decided to team up and tear it all to shreds. That called for the streaming tears while screaming emoji.
Anyway, I’m really excited to share today’s post! My #1 favorite part of writing IGE is getting emails or comments like, “I made this dish for my husband last night and he said it was the best thing I ever made him!” Sweet, sweet small victories! Another thing I love is sharing kitchen tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that make cooking and my life in the kitchen a little bit easier. Every “I’ve never heard/seen/thought of that before!” makes me shout a little hooray! in my mind.
Usually I sprinkle tips within the step-by-step instructions of a blog post, so they can get buried. That said, I decided to comb through the IGE archives and round up all my favorite tips from over the years. I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and even kitchen hacks that you swear by too, so leave those in the comments section.
Hope you enjoy, maybe learn a thing or two, and have a great weekend!
Scoop leftover tomato paste into a plastic baggie, separate into portions with your fingertip, and then freeze flat. Break off a chunk the next time you need a little for a recipe (same goes for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.) Since tomato paste is so sticky it’s easier to scoop it into a bag then into a ice cube tray. Details >
Chop big pieces of lettuce quickly and easily by zipping through them with a pizza cutter right in the salad bowl. Details >
Clean a microwave faster and easier by nuking 2 cups water in a microwave safe vessel for 2 minutes then wiping down the insides with a clean cloth. Add a wedge or two of lemon to the water for some real cleaning power!
Freeze soft cheese like fresh mozzarella for 15 minutes to make it easier to slice or shred. Details >
To easily strip kale leaves from stems, grip the leaves at the thickest end of the stem then pull the stem out with the other hand (kind of like stripping fresh thyme leaves from the stem.) Details >
To stuff cupcakes with filling or colored frosting, cut a cone from the top with a small knife at an angle. Cut off the cone from the lid, fill, top, and then frost! Details >
No need to peel garlic cloves if you have a garlic press. Just pop the whole clove in the hopper, press, and then remove the empty peel.
Easily slice big-leafed herbs like basil and sage by stacking, rolling, and then slicing across into ribbons. Details >
To prevent quinoa from falling through your fine mesh sieve while rinsing, run the sieve under water first to create a barrier between the quinoa and mesh. Details >
If your grill’s got a little gunk on it and you can’t find the grill brush, crinkle up a big sheet of foil then rub it along the grates before lighting the grill. Details >
To ensure chicken breasts cook evenly from top to bottom, place the chicken on a cutting board then cover with Glad Press’n’ Seal or saran wrap, and then whack it with a rolling pin or meat mallet until the chicken is the same thickness. Details >
Always peel hard-boiled eggs when they’re freshly cooked. If you refrigerate with the shell on then try to remove it later it’s nearly impossible to peel. Details >
Place dough that need to rise in a bowl over a heating pad set to low for even, consistent heat. Details >
Use measuring cups or a cookie scoop to pour out pancakes, muffins, cupcakes, etc to ensure they all come out the same size. Details >
Pierce hard squash with a sharp knife two or three times then microwave for 1 – 1-1/2 minutes to make it easier to slice open and deseed. Details >
Buy separate cutting boards for meat-only, gluten-free only, veggies-only, etc to avoid cross contamination.
Don’t over-muddle mint or it could become bitter. Details >
If a dish starts to burn on top before it’s done baking, gently lay a piece of nonstick sprayed foil on top and continue baking. Details >
For super crisp, no mess bacon, lay bacon strips on a nonstick sprayed cooling rack set atop a foil-lined baking sheet then place inside a cold oven and turn the heat to 400 degrees. Let bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Details >
Crush Rice Chex in a plastic bag with a rolling pin for instant gluten-free “panko” bread crumbs. Details >
For “pretty” halved cherry tomatoes, slice through the fattest part of the tomato vs the skinnier side. Details >
No cherry pitter? No problem. Use an empty bottle and a hard straw or chopstick to remove pits from cherries and olives. Details >
Stock up on fresh bagged spinach when it goes on sale at the store, throw the bag straight into the freezer, and then add the frozen spinach to smoothies for a healthy, ice-cold addition.The frozen spinach leaves don’t stick together like frozen spinach blocks do. Details >
Freeze extra chopped herbs in ice cube trays with olive oil then add to sauces, veggies, and in the skillet when sauteing meat.
Cook quesadillas next to each other instead of one tortilla stacked on top of the other. Makes flipping without losing the filling SO much easier! Details >
To peel a kiwi the easy way, slice the top and bottom off then wedge a spoon between the peel and flesh. Give it a spin then voila! Details >
Save the rinds from wedges of parmesan cheese then stash in the freezer. Add to simmering soups and stews to add unbelievable depth of flavor. Details >
Make your own roasting rack by rolling sheets of foil then placing in the bottom of roasters. Details >
Line baking sheets with foil or parchment paper when roasting to make clean up super quick. Details >
Peel ginger skin with the side of a spoon instead of a knife for less waste. Details >
Hook a plastic bag around the faucet head in your kitchen sink then peel potatoes, slice off melon rinds, etc straight into the bag for easy cleanup. Details >
Freeze chilled soups flat in Ziplock freezer bags for easy, convenient storage. Details >
If you have bacon grease you don’t want to save, line a prep bowl with foil then pour bacon grease inside. When it hardens, crumple and toss. Details >
Use two chopsticks or 1/4″ dowel rods as rolling pin guides to make sure cookie dough rolls out to the same thickness. Details >
Spray measuring cups with nonstick spray before measuring sticky ingredients like honey, maple syrup, or molasses. They’ll slide right out!
Easily peel fresh tomatoes by slicing the top off then scoring an “X” on the bottom of the tomato. Plunge into boiling water for 10-15 seconds then remove and peel when cool enough to handle. Details >
Always salt pasta water with a minimum of 1 teaspoon salt per 8oz pasta to flavor the pasta from the inside out. Details >
If your grill doesn’t have a grease trap, and you’re grilling something with a lot of fat, place a disposable pie tin or a homemade one made from heavy-duty foil, on top of an unlit burner under the grates to catch the drippings. Details >
To get the most juice out of your citrus fruits, roll them firmly between the palm of your hand and the countertop. Slice then squeeze!
Don’t let ice cubes water down drinks and coctails – use frozen grapes instead. Details >
Partially freeze meat for 15-20 minutes to making slicing whisper-thin for stir fry that much easier.
Never freeze bananas for smoothies with the peel on as it’s next to impossible to peel frozen. Peel then place bananas inside a ziplock back and then squish. There’s no need to uniformly slice the banana as the chunks will come right out of the bag. Details >