Simple but genius: Kitchen hacks you wish you learned sooner

Whenever I’m in the kitchen and I use a cool trick I've learned, I always think to myself, “Oooh, I have to mention that in a Ladles post!” Only I never do. Because kitchen tricks are these random, stand-alone pieces of advice that don’t fit into a narrative, or a recipe. But they’re good. Real good.

These nuggets of wisdom are so random, it's a joke trying categorize them. I mean "garbage disposal wisdom" - did I actually write that? Let the randomness commence...


Garbage disposal wisdom (a phrase I never thought I’d type)

  • Squeezed all the juice out of your lemon? Instead of tossing it in the compost bin, drop them into the garbage disposal every once it a while. It not only disinfects all the germs that linger in the summer heat, but it leaves a fresh lemony scent in its wake.
  • Cracked a few eggs? These are also great for composting, but every so often, you should toss them into the garbage disposal too. These sharpen the blades of your garbage disposal, which helps to eliminate food scraps faster.
  • While I’m here, never put a bunch of rice in the garbage disposal. It may be soft while on your plate, but it dries into a hardened crust, much like the texture of raw rice. Not only will it gunk up your garbage disposal, but it can block your plumbing.

composting indoors

It ain’t easy being green. Actually it is.

  • I live in an old house, so I have a small kitchen. I don’t have one of those cute pull-out trash drawers. It’s all in the open, so my metal compost bin is hidden in a corner. It’s a pain to walk back and forth to deposit all those garlic peels and coffee grinds, which are the most prevalent items in our compost. You can learn a lot about people based on what’s in their compost bins. But I digress. To save time walking to and from your compost bin, have a little container on the counter to catch scraps as you cook, then deposit everything at once. You can use plastic grocery bags, large bowls or a to-go container you may have sitting around.
  • The recycling bin is a treasure trove of items that can serve as your countertop compost catch-all.
  • You can use brown paper shopping bags to hold recycling as well. It’s satisfying to toss the whole bag in the recycling bin, rather than dumping out a plastic bin, and lugging it back with you. Which, as you may have picked up, is too big for my tiny kitchen anyway.

tomato paste

Holding it all together

  • If you are mixing something in a bowl, or otherwise need to have a no-slip surface under your bowl or plate, place the bowl atop a damp towel. It won’t go anywhere.
  • Tomato paste is the tangy, zesty ingredient that doesn’t get the hype it deserves. In fact, it’s so packed with flavor that it comes in a tiny can, and still takes a while to get through. Don’t let mold get to it first. Conserve the paste by pouring olive oil over the top of the exposed paste. In the fridge, the olive oil will harden into a silky, airtight seal, and never hurts whatever recipe it ends up in!
  • Who needs those plastic ties on bread? If you find the tie is missing, simply twist the top plastic a couple of times (close to the loaf), then take the remaining plastic bag that hasn’t been twisted and fold it back down over the bread. It’s so unfussy, that I toss out the plastic holders when I first open the packages.
  • I don’t know if this counts as a kitchen hack or a fashion hack, but those rubber bands that hold together asparagus spears and broccoli shouldn’t be thrown out. They are a godsend in my dressing room, where I wrap them around the ends of each side of my wire hangers. They have amazing grip, and clothes won’t slip to the floor.
  • And if you are pulling a Mommie Dearest by side-eyeing wire hangers, allow me to drop some knowledge. They’re great when space is tight, and can hold a lot more clothes on the rack than if you were using thick plastic or wood hangers.

stock pot filled with soup

So random there’s just no category

  • Brown sugar tends to harden once opened, but strangely, even supernaturally, a piece of white bread in the container will keep it malleable.
  • Can’t open a mason jar? Slip on a dishwashing glove for incredible grip.
  • Opps! Did you accidentally drop too much salt in your broth? It happens. But your pho needn’t taste like the Dead Sea. Drop in a halved potato or apple, which will absorb the excess salt.
  • Dip a knife into hot water between slices of cake – especially if the dessert contains hard ice cream or sticky icing. The clean, slick blade will make picture-perfect cuts.
  • A squeeze of lemon juice will stop exposed avocado halves from turning brown, especially if you don’t have an avocado hugger. They say that putting the avocado in a covered container with a bit of water does the trick as well, but I haven’t personally tried it.
  • Want to know if your eggs have truly gone bad? Place an egg in a cup of water. If it floats, it’s gone bad. If it sinks, bon appetit.

There’s more, but perhaps this should be a series. Do you have a hack you’d like me to know about? Please share, and I’ll mention you by name in the post when I share tips. Unless you don't want your name associated with...garbage disposal wisdom

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