I never really cooked at all growing up. I think the only time I was ever invited to contribute in the kitchen was in making Christmas cookies. That’s just sort of the way life was. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college when I had a kitchen at my disposal for the first time, and no one there that felt obligated to cook me meals. I think the only thing I “cooked” (meaning more than turning on an oven or boiling water for pasta) was chicken, which my incredible roommate Becky taught me how to make using an egg, flour, poultry seasoning, and then just frying the chicken. I can’t tell you how proud I was of myself for “cooking”. We lived together for the last 3 years of college, and she taught me a lot about having a true appreciation not just for food, but the process of making a meal with care and thought. She’s started her own blog over at Sweet Home Savory Life, and you can take a look at some of the incredible recipes she shares!
Becky and I lived separately after college, and she moved out of the apartment while I was abroad. I came back with only a few days to get my stuff packed and moved out, and I was completely shocked when I opened our door: of the communal living spaces, I owned MAYBE 3 things. I think my contribution was the microwave, and a mismatched set of stolen dining hall dishes.
Living alone for a year and then moving in with Wes, I had a huuuuge learning curve when it came finding my way around the kitchen, and the easiest (laziest?) way to do things. So some of these “helpful hints” will be more like “obvious statements,” so feel free to scroll past one or all of these! But maybe you’re a kitchen noob like I was (still am) and this will be useful on some level!
*Note: all opinions are my own and I’m not being compensated at all. Links to products available through AmazonSmile, benefitting my workplace/favorite charity ever, Lucy’s Love Bus. We provide comfort and quality of life to children with cancer through free integrative therapies, and any purchase made starting at our AmazonSmile link equals some money to help continue our work!
1. Minced garlic
So I’m probably WELL behind the times here, but when I happened to stumble upon a very open and obvious display of jars of minced garlic, I think I could literally hear the angelic “aaaahhhhhhhhhh” that accompanies most euphoric moments. We like garlic. Love it. So we use it a lot, and a lot of it (more than called for in recipes, most of the time)… but I haaaaated mincing it. It makes your fingers smell, the garlic is slippery when you try to cut it, and it always goes in the recipe first so you have to mince it first and then wash the juice off your fingers before cutting other veggies which is just a waste of time aaaand I digress. Anyways, this is a time and sanity saver, and the jars come in different sizes (with an organic option!). #worthit
2. Lemon squeezer
Likely another example of how little I knew about cooking, but there are devices that will get all that freshly squeezed lemon/lime juice out for you, into a recipe! I had been cutting citrus in half and squeezing it like an idiot, always upset with how much I was wasting for my inability to get all the juice; but now, I juice the hell outta those suckers. Mmmm tangy.
When I asked for a crockpot for Christmas in 2014, I think everyone thought I was kidding. I was not. This is a present that has been used more than most presents I’ve received, except for the RipStick my parents sent to me in college for my 18th birthday which was used so much that my dorm actually had to legally amend the rules to include the specific word “ripstick” in the list of things that were banned in the halls. Again, I take pride in the strangest things.
But back to the crockpot: this has been life-changing. Even though I work from home, I’m still working, and like others, sometimes I’m just so exhausted at the end of the day that I can’t even think about putting a frozen pizza in the oven. (Only mildly over-exaggerating.) The great thing about crockpots is you can do all the prep work in the morning before you leave, dump it in the crockpot, and then you have dinner ready when you get home. I’ve also done some weekend sessions of making freezer crockpot meals, so the night before I plan on having one for dinner, I put it in the fridge to thaw (so it fits better in the crockpot) and then put it in in the morning! There are a few times when I’m home and will make it all around lunchtime, but I acknowledge that my ability to do that is dependent upon the days I work from home. I also use crockpot liners to make cleanup a breeze—the drawback is the realization that I’m cooking my food in plastic for a prolonged period of time… a realization I had after receiving my Amazon order of 6 boxes of liners. I’ll have them for a while, but will likely just do my crockpotting au naturale once those run out.
Guys- this thing is THE. BEST. We actually found this during a trip to Isle au Haut (link to be added later), stopping in a local gift shop, Shore Shop Gifts. The owner tries to buy Maine-made goods as much as possible, and stumbled upon Vejibags at a trade show. I didn’t buy one on the spot, and have regretted it ever since. (Buy local, as much as possible!) I ordered it online after I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I’ll never go back. This thing keeps your veggies fresh foreverrrrr. Especially for my friends who are into green smoothies, I’ve found that spinach in particular lasts TWO WEEKS longer than normal. Not even joking. Just check and make sure the bag is damp, and you’re golden. It’s machine washable, so clean as you go and wash thoroughly when you can.
5. Ninja blender/food processor
Our apartment is tiny. It was added onto a house as an afterthought, so everything is mismatched and storage is so very clearly not a priority. There’s no storage in the kitchen, and even less counter space. So when my old Magic Bullet bit the dust, I wanted to get something that would make the space worth it. I also really wanted a food processor or something with that capability, so I asked some friends and read some reviews, and I’m just so happy with our decision! The exact one we purchased is the Ninja Master Prep QB1000. If I were cooking for more than 2, it would be too small or I’d have to go in batches. What I like most is that there isn’t a “base” – the power attachment sits on top of the blender or food processor, and you just plug it in and pulse! There aren’t different speeds or settings, so you can only control the length of pulse, but I don’t make much that needs different options. It works for smoothies, things like our fav Butternut squash mac and cheese, and making your own bread crumbs. Good enough for me!
So there ya have it! My kitchen hacks for the kitchen novice/lazy chef! What would you add to this list? Any life-changing devices/gadgets you think I should know about? Please share!