A Few Smart Little Kitchen Tricks



In my childhood, my mom was The Queen of Garage Sales. For a certain number of years, I spent many a summer afternoon "going sale-ing" (get it?), treasure hunting in the more affluent Chicago suburbs. Sometimes we'd go with friends, making a day of it, a bunch of kids crammed into a van, driving to the North Shore, as our mothers drank Tab and gossiped and squealed and high fived over their finds. Other times it was just my mom and sister and I, and I'd bring a handful of small change and singles hoarded from found stray money around the house and playing mother's helper for the family across the street for three dollars an hour--just in case I found something that I thought was interesting, then I wouldn't have to beg for it.

In case you're wondering how weird of a little kid I was, one of my favorite finds was an old Heloise Hints paperback, thin and worn with a yellowed, curled cover, for a mere ten cents. But I found the contents absolutely fascinating--basically a MacGyvering guide for the modern housewife (or enterprising 10-year-old girl, as the case was). I skimmed the bullet points daily, and spent the rest of the summer dropping knowledge wherever I could, telling my Gramma to boil a cup of vinegar on the stove after she stunk up the place making corned beef and cabbage, and advising mothers of friends to light a birthday cake's candles with a long piece of dried spaghetti at parties. I'm sure this wasn't annoying at all.

My love of "why didn't I think of that?" tips continues to this day. Anything that makes life in the kitchen a little snappier and re-purposes what's already around gets bonus points, in my book. In fact, I've bookmarked some for years. And then I thought, why am I not spreading this goodness? So now I'll be doing just that occasionally from here on out. Here's a round-up of some of my favorite culinary tricks.

♥ Finding little shards of egg shell in the bowl when cracking eggs? Me too. It's called life. These things happen. Good thing there's such a thing as EGG MAGNETISM. (Actually, I don't know if this is the real term for this--what do I look like, a scientist or something?) Here's one of my favorite tricks for feeling like the David Copperfield of baking: the next time you find a stray egg shell shard after breaking an egg, instead of desperately pinching your fingertips together in the slippery lagoon of egg white, trying to chase the dang thing like a crazy person, simply use a broken egg shell half to scoop out the bits of shell. For reasons unknown to me (again, not a scientist), the in-tact shell attracts the errant shards like a magnet. Ta-daaa!!

♥ Avoid the oil slick! When spraying my baking pans, I've taken to opening the dishwasher, setting the pans on the inside of the door, and spraying them there. Any overage on the door washes away the next time you run a load. No slippery faucet after trying to spray pans over the sink, or surprise slip and slide area on your kitchen floor from where the mist mysteriously traveled. My lower back loves this trick.

♥ A PIE BAG. For rolling out a no-mess, perfect circle of pie crust. What a world!

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 8.04.52 AM

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 8.04.52 AM

♥ And in other pie-related blow-minds-and-take-names news, I made the "lattice" crust above with this handy cutter--just make sure you chill the crust again after it's rolled out to get the fastest, cleanest cuts, unless you're really interested in a slow, frustrating death by pie crust.

♥ Also, speaking of the perfect pie crust, I feel like we're always searching for ways to make things flakier, while still keeping it all-butter. Here's a "grate" (sorry/not sorry) pastry tip from Food52.

♥ One of my favorite things in the world is scoops. I'm the Scoop Queen. I have, like, five sizes and use them for everything from tiny cookies to big cookies to muffins and meatballs. One of my favorite bloggers, Amelia Morris, shows us why this is totally stupid. She also has a new book coming out that I'm very excited about.

♥ Ripening bananas in the oven. WHAT. Never wait for optimal banana bread making conditions again!

♥ How to get the perfect cake slice, for the obsessive-compulsive cake eaters among us. And I have to agree with the presenter, here--a cleanly cut slice of cake does somehow taste better.

POC TipsShauna Sever