There’s no doubt you’ve seen a hundred videos or more on social media showing you a thousand “hacks” to make cooking easier – like the one that shows you how to peel a whole head of garlic with two bowls. It’s a great idea and works perfectly, but how often do you need an entire head of garlic?
Sometimes we need to weed out the stuff that doesn’t make sense, and focus on the real tips that makes cooking easier and more joyful. My friends at NESTEA are all about eliminating all the “extra” stuff and offering up the best things in life. They recently launched a line of real brewed iced teas that include a simpler recipe with real ingredients – just water, sugar, tea, and citric acid.
When we were designing the NESTEA Tiny House, we worked hard to focus on including things that would make a real difference in the functionality of the kitchen. Like this pull-out cutting board that opens right into the trash can, then tucks neatly away. These smart additions make cooking simpler and more fun.
In the spirit of focusing on the good stuff, here are some of my favorite and most useful kitchen tips to help you put a delicious meal on the table without a lot of hassle and time.
1. When a recipe calls for shredded, cooked chicken and you’re short on time, stop by the supermarket and grab a rotisserie chicken and shred that. It will save you tons of time and adds great flavor.
2. Carve out some time on the weekend to focus on meal prep for the week. For instance, cooking several pounds of ground beef on Sunday will save you tons of time on a busy weeknight when it’s time to make spaghetti or tacos. Simply cook the beef and drain the fat away. After allowing it to cool, divide it up into gallon size zip-top bags and refrigerate for later use. You can even freeze it!
3. While you’re focusing on meal prep on the weekend, go ahead and wash and chop your veggies for your meals. Onions, peppers, carrots, garlic, celery, etc. will all work well when chopped in advance and store (separately) in the fridge in zip-top bags or reusable storage containers.
4. It never fails. Every time we buy one of those clamshells of spinach/spring mix/lettuce, we always end up throwing half of it out. One thing that seems to add a few days to the fridge life is to add a few paper towels to the top and bottom of the packaging. The paper towels help to wick away excess moisture and keep it from spoiling so quickly. We also really prefer the clamshell packaging over the bags – it seems to last longer that way for us.
5. The same goes for fresh herbs. When we don’t have them growing in the garden and have to buy them, they often get tossed into the vegetable drawer and end up a drippy, nasty mess. To keep that from happening, treat them like flowers… well sort of. Trim the ends of the stems off and put them in a jar of water. Store them on the counter or place a plastic bag over them and store them in the fridge. This will help you get a lot more life out of them.
6. Nonstick cooking spray is a great helper in the kitchen, but it sure is heck to get off when it’s baked on. To keep that from happening, use it just as you would, add the food to your pan or batter to your baking dish, then use a rag or paper towel to wipe away the excess spray from the edges and rims of the pan. If there’s nothing to get baked on, there’s nothing to have to scrape off!
7. When recipes call for fresh ginger, there’s just nothing quite like it – the ground stuff just doesn’t stack up. Simply peel your ginger with a spoon or vegetable peeler, use what you need, then store the rest of it in a zip top bag in the freezer. This will ensure you’ve got it fresh whenever you need it and it won’t end up as a mysterious dried lump of stuff in the bottom of your produce basket.
8. Lots of folks are intimidated when a recipes calls for you to cut butter into flour using a pastry blender. Here’s an amazingly easy way to make it happen. When you know you’re going to make something like that, simply pop the butter into the freezer for a few hours before you need it (or just be like me and keep some in the freezer). Then when it’s time to use it, simply grate the butter into the flour on a box grater and stir it to combine. That’s all there is to it!
9. Got a recipe that calls for buttermilk, but all you have is regular milk? Make a simple substitute by combining 1 scant cup of regular milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes and thicken. Use as you would buttermilk.
10. A meat thermometer is your best friend. It is one of the most reliable ways to easily ensure something is cooked properly. If you always have dry, over cooked chicken breasts this is a life saver. Buy one and use it. Seriously.
These are some of the tips and tricks I use constantly in my kitchen to simplify the cooking experience. I hope they’ll help you out a little too!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of NESTEA. The opinions and text are all mine.