If you’re a reader of mine, you know how I love simplicity. So, whether cooking, prepping or storing food, simple and easy for all levels of kitchen expertise is what I strive for. Too many cooks get discouraged when even the simplest of dishes comes out not quite the way they had anticipated, so below are 20 cooking hacks to help you make superstar dishes each and every time.
1. Adding in 1 teaspoon of FRESH squeezed lemon juice to each quart of cooking water (32 ounces) when preparing rice will help to keep rice soft and fluffy. This works whether cooking stove top method or using a rice cooker.
2. Give your measuring cup a quick hot water rinse before measuring out sticky ingredients such as raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc. This will ensure all of the called for ingredient gets poured into your mixing bowl and makes for easier cleanup.
3. Adding in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of aluminum-free baking powder to mashed potatoes (along with your other ingredients) before beating helps to make them extra creamy and fluffy.
4. Make perfect herb-infused tea by adding in FRESH sprigs of mint, basil, rosemary, lavender, etc. to just brewed tea while it is still warm. Transfer into the fridge to chill. Strain out fresh herb sprigs prior to serving. This makes an absolutely fabulous flavored iced-tea that is free of fake chemical flavorings and will leave your family and guests wanting more.
5. When making oatmeal cookies, toast your oats on a dry cookie sheet for several minutes before combining with remaining ingredients. You’ll be surprised at the difference in flavor. Bakery delicious!
6. Whenever you have fresh citrus in the house, give them a grate with a microplane before peeling and keep the zest stored in a small glass jar (like a mini mason jar). This way you’ll always have fresh citrus zest on hand to add to sauces, beverages, soups, salads and other dishes that will make them pop with flavor.
7. Boil your veggies, rice, potatoes and pasta in vegetable broth instead of plain water for a surprising addition of flavor.
8. To keep salads crisp, serve in a pretty colander instead of a bowl and place a plate underneath the colander to catch excess dripping water. This easy trick prevents salads from going soggy due to it sitting in excess water or dressing.
9. If a recipe calls for you to pulse a sticky ingredient such as dried fruit, soak them first in ice water. This will help prevent them from making a sticky mess in your blender or food processor, as well as make it easier to pulse and combine with additional called for ingredients.
10. Never omit called for sea salt in a sweet recipe. Sea salt not only acts as a leavener, it also subdues and melds the flavors of ingredients. Just remember to always use sea salt, NOT commercially processed salt.
11. The perfect soft or hard boiled eggs are actually never “boiled”, but rather cooked at a simmer instead.
12. Add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to water when boiling cauliflower to keep them nice and snowy white.
13. Don’t throw out celery tops when cutting up celery. Keep them and add them into your soups, stews and fresh juices. Celery tops contain lots of flavor and nutrients.
14. When cutting raw root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beets, etc., run your cutting knife under hot water first. This help to make cutting and chopping safer and easier.
15. When boiling or steaming cabbage, add a splash of vinegar to the water to help prevent your entire house from smelling like cabbage.
16. Popcorn should always be stored in the freezer. This helps to keep it fresh longer and reduces the amount of un-popped kernels.
17. For the crispiest French Toast you’ll ever make, add a “pinch” of all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free) to the beaten egg-milk mixture before soaking and frying. This results in restaurant perfect French Toast every time.
18. When making meringue for pies (or meringue cookies) add in a generous pinch of baking soda. This will keep your meringue from collapsing and makes for a nicely stacked meringue on pies, or fluffy meringue cookies.
19. To prevent that white dusting on the outside of cake and other baked desserts when you coat cake and bread pans with flour, use cocoa powder instead. The outside of the cake / bread will stay a nice brown and the flavor will be negligibly detectable, if at all.
20. To minimize nutrient loss when boiling vegetables, boil water (or vegetable broth) FIRST before adding in vegetables.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews