For whatever reason, I dislike the term “Kitchen Hacks” that seems to have become so popular recently. So I thought I would share some “Tricks and Saves” that might make your life easier in the kitchen and home.
They are in no particular order.
- A clothespin in the kitchen – a clothespin is small and can easily be stored in a drawer. I use them when making a couple quarts of ice tea, or to keep a bunch of herbs from getting lost in a pot of soup. Just clip it over the edge of the pot and hold the teabag tags or string tied to your herbs.
- If your baking goods are in a jar or can with no edge to level the ingredient, create one. You can make a edge for leveling with a couple pieces of masking /duct/clear tape, or tape a small piece of wire over the top of the jar. Then when you have a overloaded teaspoon, just swipe along the tape or wire to scrape off the excess.
- If you’ve got a cavernous cabinet – you know the kind, a dark hole where items in the back are lost and forgotten – make it more accessible with boxes or baskets. I had a pantry like this – just large shelves with no pull out trays. I ultimately used several baskets to keep like items together, and when I needed something, I could pull out one basket to get it out of the way, and then pull out the one in the back for what I wanted. It’s not ideal, but it worked. You can cover up some cardboard boxes with pretty contact paper, or even use sheet tray.
- To clean a blender, before you even attempt to wash it, put in a couple drops of dish soap, add a cup or two of water, and whir it for a minute or two to “pre-wash” it. Nearly all the debris will be removed.
- To make Ice tea less bitter (I don’t add sugar), add a pinch of pure stevia or baking soda. It dissolves best when the tea is still hot and the bags steeping. Or dissolve into a bit of water and add to sun tea.
- When the recipe calls for softened butter, and you just took it out of the fridge or freezer, grate it. Use the larger holes of a box grater to make thin strands, which will soften quite quickly.
- If you are making yeast bread, but the kitchen is too cold for it to rise properly, there are a couple things you can do: try placing the bowl of dough on a heating pad, set on low. The pad heats up the bowl and keeps it just warm enough for dough to rise. Alternatively, I have turned on the oven (maybe 300F) left it on just for a minute or two until the temp inside rises to about 100F, and turn it off. The oven stays warm enough for a couple hours of rising time. If you have a storage drawer underneath the range, it too will get warm when the oven is in use, and bread can rise there just fine.
- Store plastic shopping bags in an empty large tissue box – it’s easy to pull one out when needed, and it’s amazing how many fit in a box!
- Never have that quarter cup of wine when you need it for a recipe? Net time you have a bottle open, fill up an ice cube tray and let it freeze. Pop out the cubes into a bag or container and put back in the freezer, and next time you need a bit of wine when cooking, you’ve got it stored.
- Use those ice cube trays again to freeze leftover stock so it doesn’t go bad sitting in the back of the fridge.
- If you have berries in bulk, and want to freeze them, don’t just put them in a bag or container – they may freeze into a block. Spread them out on a sheet tray, place in the freezer. Once frozen they can be transferred to a container and it will be easy to remove a cup at a time when you need them. I always do this with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.
- When you need to slice something sticky – yeast bread prior to baking, figs or dates, brownies – spray the knife with a little bit of cooking spray so it glides right through.
- If you need to flatten and apply a bit of sugar to the top of cookie dough (we make my mom’s sugar cookies this way), put some water in one saucer and sugar in the other. Using a drinking glass, dip it in the water, then the sugar and “stamp” the cookie dough. Every few dips you’ll need to use the water to keep sugar adhering to the glass bottom.
- I have little drawers in my kitchen, which I use to keep like items together – measuring spoons in one, pens and a note pad in one, peelers, and melon ballers in one,. If you don’t have built -in drawers, use an organizer places strategically on the counter or in a cabinet to keep small but often used items handy, like like this box or this tool organizer. If you have lots of space, a a tool chest with drawers is just perfect! That junk drawer may just disappear!
- if your brown sugar has hardened into a brick: to use immediately get out that box grater again. Shave off what you need. Put a slice of plain bread into the jar/bag of brown sugar and seal it up. The moisture from the bread will soften the brown sugar back to the original consistency.
And bonus 16. When measuring something sticky – honey, molasses, peanut butter – spray the measuring cup with baking spray. It will slide right out, making clean up easier too.
These are my personal tips and hacks that I use routinely…but for a whole lot more the book Kitchen Hacks – how clever cooks get things done by Cooks Illustrated has another 350 pages worth of ideas.
What are your favorite tricks and tips from your kitchen?? Give me something new to try!