Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Vol. 21: 7 Time-saving Kitchen Tricks

Thanks to Jen for hosting! This week, I decided to share some little tricks I use in the kitchen to make things faster and easier, since lack of time and unnecessary complication seem to be the reasons most people choose not to cook. Bonus? A lot of these tips apply to boxed or canned foods, making them even faster and easier to prepare when you're crunched for time.

--- 1 ---

Use tongs. That's right, that favorite BBQ utensil is more versatile than you might imagine. You can serve pasta, turn meat in a skillet or sauté pan, turn sandwiches or toast while under the broiler (don't forget your oven mitt!) and pluck potatoes or other vegetables out of boiling water. They do a much better job than the pancake turners, forks, and spoons often used for these jobs.

If you don't own a pair of tongs already, make sure you get some that have a good range (a locking mechanism so they don't take over your utensil drawer is a plus here) and look for a pair that has wide enough tips to actually pick things up. You'll also want a heat-resistant coating on the ends so that the tongs don't melt when they come in contact with a hot pan.

--- 2 ---

Whisk it together. Preparing canned soup, instant pudding, boxed cake mix, or pancake batter? Put the spoon down and use a wire whisk. The wires blend liquid and solid together without pushing them around, so you are less likely to end up wearing what you're mixing. In addition, the wires break up solid substances such as condensed soup while you are mixing so you don't have to try to mash them. In a pinch, you can even whip cream or egg whites with a whisk.

--- 3 ---

Spice it up. Most convenience foods can be improved on, even when you're in a rush. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to elevate tomato soup, or dried minced onion flakes and dried parsley to chicken soup. Frozen burritos benefit from some shredded cheese and a drizzle of chili sauce on top, added right after you are done heating them.

--- 4 ---

Prep your cups (and spoons, pans, etc). Measuring something sticky, like honey or molasses? Spray your measuring cup or spoon with a little nonstick cooking spray before adding the sticky substance. You'll never again wonder if you actually added what the recipe called for!

--- 5 ---

Add some heat. Serving ice cream or frozen yogurt to your guests? If you figure you'll use more than half the container, you can soften it in the microwave (about 30 seconds - start with 15 if you have a very powerful microwave) and it will be easy to scoop. To make it even easier, have a bowl of very hot water to dip your ice cream scoop next to the bowls you're filling. This also works if you think you'll use less than half the container.

--- 6 ---

Make some extra. The next time you cook rice or chop vegetables to cook, make a double portion and put the second half in a freezer bag. Just add some protein and you'll have a meal that saves you time and money - and it will be healthy too! You can do this with any main dish as well, since doubling a recipe takes only a few minutes more, and then have a homemade frozen dinner made to order the next time you're too tired to cook.

--- 7 ---

Clean up smart. So despite your best efforts, dinner stuck to the pan and now you're stuck - cleaning up, that is. Don't despair! Simply fill the pan with water and add a few tablespoons of baking soda. Place over low to medium heat until water is almost boiling. The heat activates the baking soda and the stuck-on food comes off easily. (This method works well on stainless steel pots and pans - it shouldn't be necessary to use it on nonstick pans, nor would I recommend trying it!)

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  1. Thank you for these!! I always am looking for some kitchen tricks!

  2. Great tips! Some I've been using for years, others I am SO excited to try now that you shared...woohoo for saving time!