If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you probably know by now that I'm a huge advocate for time-saving strategies in the kitchen (kitchen "hacks", if you will). I'm convinced that one of my callings as a dietitian is helping people learn to cook healthy and delicious food without having to spend hours on end slaving away over the stove (dramatic, I know). I didn't make any of these up myself, but these are tips that I've stumbled upon over years of experimenting in the kitchen that I think others might benefit from (you can thank me later).
Here are ten of my favorite kitchen hacks that I think every home cook should know about.
Add spinach before heating up leftovers to pump up the nutrition and add color.
This is a classic and it also helps cut down on produce waste. Spinach isn't my favorite leafy green (um hello arugula) but I do appreciate it's versatility. In addition to using it for salads or sandwiches you can also saute it, add it to smoothies or toss it in an egg scramble. Any sort of hot dish that you have leftover from dinner and plan to eat for lunch the next day can also be "boosted" with spinach. Think soups/stews, casseroles, pastas, etc. Just add it before microwaving and then stir it in until wilted.
Use foil on a cutting board to transport meat to the grill.
Then you can simply toss the foil so you can put the cooked meat on the (clean) cutting board without contaminating it. This is a huge time-saver and prevents having to use and clean multiple serving dishes. Even better - use a silicon cutting board and then you can just toss it in the dishwasher when you're done with it.
Run warm soapy water through a blender after using so you don't have to scrub it later.
Total game-changer. I used to hate reaching my hand in the blender to scrub every little crevice with a dish rag. Messy blender, no more! Giving warm soapy water a whirl gets all of the food particles or smoothie out so all you have to do is rinse and wipe dry.
Use a fork to hold up tacos while you assemble them.
No elaborating necessary. Never let your tacos tip over and spill everything on to your plate again!
Use ketchup as a replacement for tomato paste.
If you're like me and never have it on hand of course! Am I the only one that hates buying tomato paste? I know you can freeze what you don't use, but I just never remember to do that. Ketchup works well in a pinch.
Use a glass to help you slice a mango.
If you've ever seen someone do this, your mind was most-likely blown. Simply slice the two sides off like normal, make long slices on the inside, and then use a glass to "scoop" out each slice. Check out this post for a tutorial. Here's the other way to cut a mango, by the way:
Shake hard-boiled eggs in the sauce pan to make them easier to peel.
Let's be honest, peeling hard-boiled eggs is the worst. One trick that I recently learned is leaving them in the saucepan with just a little bit of cold water, holding the lid on and then giving it a couple of big shakes. Each egg cracks just enough for easy peeling.
Use dried chives on everything.
I have always loved fresh chives for finishing a dish with a pop of green or making scrambled eggs feel gourmet (many restaurants will serve scrambled eggs with chives to jazz them up). However as many amateur cooks can agree, buying fresh herbs often means a lot of waste since it can be hard to use them up before they go bad. Dehydrated chives are just as good as the fresh ones and "come to life" once added to something warm. It really doesn't get much easier. Find them in the produce section or spice aisle.
Use a waffle iron as a makeshift panini-maker.
A panini maker is one of those single-use appliances that doesn't seem worth it to buy. While you can certainly make one in a skillet, why not spice things up a bit and break out your waffle maker instead? You get the fun waffle pattern and crispy edges on top of the deliciousness that is a pressed sandwich.
Make homemade salad dressings or sauces in a jar.
This is probably my favorite shortcut of all. I tend to save jars from dressings, jellies, condiments or anything else that comes in a small glass container. Then I re-use them for my own homemade salad dressings for easy shaking (instead of stirring). It also doubles as a storage container, and when it's empty you can put it in the dishwasher for easy clean-up.