With the holiday season coming, all the big family meals, and baking yummy treats for friends and family, I figure we can all use a little help in the kitchen. I’m not a natural cook. I don’t have an innate sense of how best to do things in the kitchen. But, I have become a pretty decent cook and a pretty great baker over the years. That’s mostly because I keep trying. I also read and I listen to friends’ tips. I’m always trying to figure out how to do it all better. Sometimes the things I try don’t turn out well at all. But sometimes, I discover a new time-saving trick or something that suddenly makes everything so much easier than it was before. Some are really obvious, but not things I thought about until someone pointed them out. I always wish I had known about those little tips and tricks–oh, you know, for an extra decade or so. So, I thought I would share some of my favorites so you can have an easier time in the kitchen, too.
What do you do when you run out of eggs, but you really want to bake those cookies anyway? Or, when you have someone with an egg allergy or a vegan you need to cook or bake for? You can substitute a ¼ cup of applesauce for an egg in many recipes where eggs are used as a binder. Since we discovered that my one-year-old has an egg allergy, I’ve tried it with great results in cookies, quick breads, meatloaf, and meatballs.
Want a way to dress up your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? Swap out the vanilla extract for another flavor extract. I love to use a teaspoon of peppermint instead of vanilla for mint chocolate chip cookies.
If you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk, but you don’t have any on hand or you don’t want to buy some just for your recipe, you can make your own substitute. Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 1 cup of milk and let it sit for a few minutes until it starts to thicken. This is perfect for banana bread or pancakes.
FASTER & EASIER
Want to shuck corn in a much faster, easier way? Cut off the base, just above the “handle.” Then, separate the corn silk at the top with your two hands and pull apart. Everything comes off the ear of corn in one pull.
Slice here. Then pull apart from the top.
I like using small potatoes, like Yukon Golds, for mashed potatoes, but I think they’re impossible to peel, and I don’t like peels in my mashed potatoes. So, here’s what I do. Take a paring knife and score each potato all the way around. Then boil the potatoes until they are as soft as you like them for mashed potatoes. Place your boiled potatoes in ice water, then use your hands to peel the potatoes. The peels come right off! (For the most part. This is not perfect every time, but even when it’s not perfect, it is way easier than attempting to peel tiny potatoes with a potato peeler.) If you’d like a video demonstration, this one by Ginger from Gilligan’s Island is pretty funny and also informative.
Does your pie crust stick to your rolling pin or the counter even when you’ve floured them? Try this. Dampen your countertop with wet paper towel. Place two overlapping pieces of plastic wrap on it. It will stick nicely to the damp counter. Put your dough in the center, then put two more overlapping pieces of plastic wrap on top. Roll out as usual. Then lift it all up by the bottom plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for five minutes. It will be easy to move and the plastic wrap will peel off without taking any of your dough with it.
Brown Sugar Bear:
I hate it when brown sugar gets all dried out and hard. Keep it from happening with a brown sugar bear. I got one of these at a white elephant party holiday party years ago and it’s one of the best presents ever. It’s basically a clay tile that absorbs all the moisture from the sugar so that it stays powdery rather than bonding together. If you don’t have one of these guys yet and your brown sugar is rock solid, pop the sugar in the microwave for a minute. It will come out soft enough for you to use.
Tired of your bananas taking up space on the counters or browning too soon? Use a banana hook to hang it under your cabinetry. It just sticks up, no tools needed to put it up, and when you are not using it, you can even fold it up out of sight against the bottom of the cabinet.
Cooking Spray Hacks:
Mixing up something that’s a pain to clean after? Maybe hamburgers in a mixing bowl or thick dough, like for molasses cookies. Just like you do for easy clean-up in your baking pans, spray the bowl with Pam or another cooking spray, and it’ll be so easy to clean up. You can do the same to your own hands if you are mixing something by hand that you don’t want to stick to you. I also sometimes spray measuring cups when I’m measuring something really sticky like molasses so that it will just slide right out.
Meat Tenderizer Trick:
More fun with plastic wrap. If you use a meat tenderizer (which my family does all the time for better tasting chicken breasts), put a piece of plastic wrap over top of the meat. You’ll save yourself a ton of cleaning. The meat won’t splatter and pieces of it won’t get stuck in the grooves of the tenderizer either.
I hope these tips and tricks help you feel like a pro in the kitchen.
Do you have a favorite kitchen tip that I haven’t mentioned? Share it in the comments!
If you love these tips, join our “Moms in the Kitchen” Facebook group! Join us to share recipes, cooking and baking tips, and to get involved with other local moms with some fun get-togethers, like a holiday cookie swap. Find us at “ICMB Moms in the Kitchen” on Facebook and request an invite. We’d be happy to have you!