I've got one friend who says she does her deepest thinking while she vacuums. Another, while she washes dishes. Me? I process a whole lot while I'm cooking. That's why, whenever I come up on a cooking hack, try it and it works, I get hyped like some of y'all get about a new pair of shoes (no joke). And since cooking is something that, at least most of us do, I thought I'd put you on to some hacks that have made food prep and eating a helluva lot easier and even fun. Ready?
1. Cut Salad Ingredients Differently
Let's start with salad prep. When it comes to your actual greens, stop cutting them up with a knife because all that does is bruise them. Instead, tear the leaves off with your hands; they'll remain fresher and last longer that way. As far as your other veggies go, be intentional about cutting them into small pieces. A lot of us miss the fact that a perfect salad consists of being able to get as much of what we put into the salad into every bite. Oh, and if you're prepping your salad for another time, leave the high-water veggies (like tomatoes and cucumbers out) until you're about to eat the salad. Watery foods will make your salad all mushy 'n stuff if you put them into your salad too soon. Yuck.
2. Also, Put Dressing on Your Salad Bowl—ONLY
While talking to one of my clients (I'm a doula), I teased her when she told me that she loved eating salad. On the surface, that's great, but I knew to dig a little deeper. See, salad is really only good for you when you're not piling on a ton of dressing, meat and Lord knows what else to drown out the freshness of the greens and other veggies.
If you can't imagine eating one with only a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, a cool hack is to pour the dressing into the bowl before putting your salad into it. That way, you'll typically end up with less dressing and your greens and veggies will get "equal" dressing love—instead of big clumps of dressing here and there—too.
3. Open Bananas from the Bottom Up
I don't know about y'all, but I'm a bit of a banana snob. It's got to be perfectly ripe (dry, not slimy with no bruises on it) for me to even consider eating one. And even then, it annoys me that those stringy things seem to always get in the way. The solution? Open your bananas from the bottom up. That way, the strings will come off along with the peel and you can enjoy your banana without all of the extra drama.
4. Put Ice Cream in a Plastic Bag
I'm thinking that this might be the kind of hack that some of you are already pretty familiar with, but for those who might've never heard of this before—if you want to keep your ice cream fresh and also avoid that nasty freezer burn that sometimes is on the top of it, all you've got to do is wrap the container up in a plastic bag (you know, like the bags you get from the grocery store). I've been doing this for years and I can definitely tell the difference from when I do vs. when I don't.
5. Apply Clothespins and Hangers Differently
My relationship with chopsticks is a bit of a hot and cold one. Sometimes, I'm able to master them perfectly; other times, it's nothing but mayhem. If you can totally relate, one way to put your chopsticks on training wheels is to pull apart one of your clothespins. The silver part? Wrap it in between the two sticks so that it serves as an anchor as you try and pick up your food. It will help the sticks to open up just enough without them flying all over the place. Pretty cool, huh?
As far as hangers go, if they're the kind that are plastic and have the clip attached, break off the clip. Why? Well, that way, you can use it to keep your potato chips and cookies closed. It's the cheapest way to keep bags of food fresh. Can you dig it?
6. Place Bread into Your Cookie Containers
If you adore homemade cookies but you don't want to eat the entire batch in one setting (good for you, girl), you can keep them nice and moist by putting a piece of bread into whatever container you're keeping your cookies in. Finally, a purpose for the ends of your bread, huh?
7. Cut Small Produce with Plastic Lids
This is definitely one of my favorite food prep hacks. When you've got tiny veggies (like cherry tomatoes) that you want to cut without them sliding all over the place or you running the risk of nicking one of your fingers, just anchor them in between two plastic lids that are the same size. Then take your knife and slice everything horizontally in between the lids. After a couple of tries, you'll wonder where this hack has been all of your life.
8. Reheat Pizza in a Skillet
There's not enough time or space today to get into why it's best to cook with an oven/stove instead of a microwave (Wellness Mama has a pretty good read on this very topic here). One of the main reasons why I tossed mine is because, when I used to try and reheat food in there, I didn't like how hard everything got if I didn't eat my food in five minutes or less; especially foods like pizza. If, like me, you want to be able to thoroughly enjoy the crust the next day (or day after that), put a little oil in a cast iron skillet and heat up your pizza that way. It will make your pizza taste so much better than any microwave oven can do.
9. Use Mason Jars for Meal Prep
If you don't want a billion plastic containers in your kitchen cabinets, one way to store your salad and grain food prep ingredients is to put them in a couple of mason jars. Speaking of mason jars, if you're sick of your asparagus and celery turning all rubbery and droopy, if you pour about three inches of water into a mason jar and stick those stalks in there, they will remain fresher and last longer than if you didn't.
10. Store Your Pancake (or Cake) Batter in an Old Ketchup Bottle
Know what gets on my very last nerve? Trying to make pancakes but the bowl makes it hard to get the cakes as round as I'd like. A good solution is to store your batter in a big, old, empty ketchup bottle. That makes the batter easier to pour and, it's a much easier way to store any batter that might be leftover. By the way, this is a cool way to utilize your cake batter too.
11. Wrap Hard Tacos with Lettuce
Tacos are great. There is something that annoys TF outta me when it comes to them, though. It's the fact that it's hard to bite into a hard one without it falling apart and the filling falling all over the place. A way to avoid that is to wrap your tacos up into a leaf of romaine lettuce so that it catches all of what's inside of your taco for you. Or, if you're someone who struggles with even getting your taco off of your plate, all you've gotta do is put the sides of the shell into a couple of teeth of your fork and lift it up that way. Voila.
12. Put Your Popsicles in a Foil Cupcake Liner
Listen, I enjoy a good popsicle as much as any kid does. But when it starts to melt and get all sticky, that is more than just a little irritating. The solution? Ram your popsicle stick through a foil cupcake liner. That way, any of the drippings will fall into it rather than onto your hands. (Parents, you're welcome.)
Speaking of cupcake liners, if you cut a slit into non-foil ones, turn them upside down and put a straw through the slit, you now can enjoy your drinks while you're sitting outside because the glasses will be covered and you won't have to worry about flies or debris getting into them.
13. Turn Your Tongs into a Juicer
Money is tight out in these streets. If you want a juicer for convenience's sake, but it's just not in the budget right now, slice open your fruits, put each slice in between a pair of tongs and squeeze the juice out that way. You'll be able to get a good amount of freshly-squeezed juice without creating a mess in the process.
14. Cut Your Burgers with a Glass
Are you someone who likes to make fancy burgers? Like maybe one that has an egg in the middle of it, but the problem is you can never get raw meat to cooperate with you? If you want to make the circles perfectly round, here's an idea. Take one of your glasses, turn it upside down and cut through the middle of your burgers that way.
Speaking of meat, if you need to defrost some and you don't want it to take for-e-ver, try washing it off and then wrapping it up in some aluminum foil. Foil naturally draws heat to it, so it can help your meat become room temperature in a fraction of the time that it would take if you didn't wrap it up at all.
15. Have Fun with Your Ice Cubes
I've got on more and some might say that I saved the best for last. Even if you've got an ice maker on your fridge, still make sure to keep a couple of ice cube trays around. Use one tray to put leftover sauces (like pasta sauce) in. That way, they will last longer than being in the fridge and you'll be able to save more space in your freezer. Another cool ice cube hack is to pour your coffee into them. If you're a big fan of iced coffee, this will help you to enjoy it without it getting all watered down 'n stuff. Just put a couple of cubes into a glass, add some more freshly-brewed coffee and you're all set. A final hack is to mix some of your favorite milk (or milk alternative) with some crumbled-up cookies (like Oreos). Put the combo in your ice trays and set them in the freezer. Once everything is frozen, put a couple of cubes into your milk (or milk alternative) and you'll literally be drinking a tall glass of milk and cookies! Dope. Dope. DOPE.
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