I have about five recipes I can make really well. They aren’t that simple, either – they’re pretty complicated recipes that I’ve perfected over the years. However, five perfectly wonderful foods that are nutritious, delicious and really freaking boring if you keep having them over and over, so I’m trying to branch out. I find myself getting intimidated by the photos of people’s homemade dinners that I see on Instagram. Then I become paralyzed with fear that nothing I make will come close to that Mayfair-filtered goodness.
We are in a new era of domestic goddess-ness! Gwyneth Paltrow and Pinterest have turned all your Facebook friends into amateur chefs and part time homemakers. It often makes me feel inadequate as an adult, as a woman and as a human being. If you’ve ever gotten that chain email recipe exchange and submitted Jello as your recipe, then you know what I mean. While getting in the kitchen and actually starting to learn to make a souffle is daunting, talking about it with people that know how to make one is even more so.
Here are eight kitchen shortcuts, tips and recipes that will have even the GOOP-iest of your friends buying you a new apron and calling you “chef”…but hopefully they won’t actually ask you to cook.
1. The freezer is a magical place for kitchen shortcuts.
Besides the trend in freezer cooking or cooking tons of food at once and freezing it, people are using the freezer to create all sorts of hacks for the kitchen. Make a bunch of chicken stock, freeze it in muffin trays and then have instant stock when you need it. Or to make fresh mozzarella easier to grate, freeze it first. Same goes for butter that needs to go into pastry dough. Dump recipes are also pretty popular. These are recipes that include a meat, some veggies, and a sauce, that you freeze, then the day you want to dump, you defrost and as it is defrosting, it is marinating! Bake for 20 minutes and you’ve got dinner!
2. I’m over quinoa, now it is all about freekeh.
Freekeh is the new “it” grain. It is young green wheat that has been toasted and cracked. Like quinoa, it’s a great source of protein for you vegetarians and vegans out there. And freekeh is a great source of fiber. Look for this grain to show up on recipe blogs and Food Network shows all over.
3. Coconut oil and coconut milk are my favorite for cooking, I’ve almost stopped using anything else.
I’m marrying an Italian, so the likelihood of me getting away with not using olive oil anymore is slim. But coconut oil is super healthy and flavorful. You can substitute it for butter or vegetable oil in pretty much any recipe. Coconut in general is growing in popularity, so it’s a staple for any kitchen these days.
4. Ever since I ate at trendy restaurant I’ve been dying to try and make their popular dish.
When I was a kid, I always thought you could get arrested for sharing a restaurant recipe! But as an adult, it’s one of the ultimate life hacks: you save money and you can make foods healthier! For me it started as a protest to Chick-fil-a. I recreated the chicken sandwich to what many would believe to be perfection (the trick is to marinate the chicken in pickle juice). Then my favorite restaurant in New York closed its doors and the recipe for its signature dish popped up online. Now, I’m nowhere near skilled enough to eat a meal and then try it at home. My palette isn’t that refined. But loads of people are recreating restaurant foods and posting it!
5. What I hate most about cooking is cleanup, but it’s so much easier with a garbage bowl and bench scraper.
Cue the Rachael Ray theme music. She probably isn’t the first to think of the simple trick of putting an empty bowl on your counter for scraps, but she made it marketable. This saves you multiple trips to the trash can and the bench scraper gathers all your chopped ingredients up quickly and efficiently so there is little waste of the stuff you have painstakingly chopped and minced.
6. When I need help planning meals for the week, I just go to a menu planning site. There are tons!
Another life hack in the kitchen is menu planning websites, like eMeals. They take your zip code and make you a menu based on sales at your local grocery store! You can even put in dietary constraints. Other sites give you recipes based on what you already have or give you basic ingredients to always have on hand and then weekly email you extras that you will need for that week’s recipes. Or you can forget going to the store altogether and order from sites like Blue Apron that give you the recipe and ingredients for three dinners a week already portioned out.
7. You can always pickle some kimchi or apricots with all those Mason jars you’ve collected.
Pickling isn’t for pickles anymore. You can take most vegetables and/or fruits, set them in vinegar and different herbs/spices and have pickled whatever in a matter of days. If you want to get serious. You can get a canner. And put all those leftover Pinterest project Mason jars to good use!
8. I will never cut garlic again since I got a microplane.
Even if you don’t have one, this is a great tool to know! The microplane is like a long thin grater. You can mince garlic, ginger, create citrus zest, or even take that mozzarella you’ve been freezing and grate that on to pizzas or atop a soup for a lovely garnish!
FOR MORE INFO
The wealth of information out there about cooking is almost enough to overwhelm you. Here are a few of the most popular and best sites for recipes.
The Smitten Kitchen - homefood blog from NYC
Once A Month Meals – great freezer cooking site
Not Without Salt – Savuer‘s Best Food Blog 2013
Green Kitchen Stories – vegetarian home cooking blog