Tips and Tricks

In the Kitchen:

  • Put marshmallows in with your brown sugar to keep it soft.
  • Add a couple Tbsp of baking soda to your water when boiling eggs. It will help the shells peel off the eggs, so you can use fresh eggs for hard boiled eggs if you don’t have time to let them sit around.
  • Some recipes say to use eggs at room temperature (for meringues and such). To speed up the process, drop your eggs into a bowl with luke-warm water for about 10 minutes. Make sure it’s not too hot, or else you could actually end up cooking the outer part of the egg!
  • While in my baking classes, I learned how to soften butter. If you put it in the microwave, it just gets all melty in the center. To properly soften butter, place it in the microwave for 5 seconds. Turn it on it’s side, and microwave it for another 5 seconds. It usually takes 15-20 seconds of total microwave time, turning after each 5 second interval, to get it perfect. Works every time and it never ends up melted inside!
  • Cut up peppers and onions and freeze them spread out on a sheet pan. Once they’re frozen, store them in a ziplock bag in your freezer, and use them in place of dehydrated onions and spices. Make the most of veggies while they’re in season! I love being able to add just a little bit to a dish without having to worry about using up an entire onion or pepper before it spoils, and without the extra hassle and time. It’s just as quick as using dried spices because it’s ready to go!
  • When chopping onions, place them in the freezer about an hour before you need them. Chilled onions release less of the gasses that make your eyes water.
  • When buying fresh herbs in the store, it’s not always easy to use all of them before the wilt and spoil. Wash and prepare all of your herb like you normally would for cooking. Freeze them in either olive oil or chicken stock, using ice cube trays, and keep them in a ziplock in your freezer. You can then either thaw them and use them like fresh, or add them to dishes.
  • Buy chicken in bulk while it’s on sale. Place thawed chicken on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes- hour, or until they’re up to temp. Let the chicken breast cool, and cut them into bite size pieces. Freeze on a sheet pan, and store in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Makes for an easy addition to meals! I like to thaw it in the microwave, and whip up chicken salad for lunch, or to add to a salad. We also use it a lot for stir fry.
  • A kitchen aid mixer does a fantastic job of shredding chicken for salads and pulled pork.
  • Cook ground beef in bulk, and season it with taco seasoning. Freeze it in sandwich size ziplock bags for an easy go-to meal. Add it to nachos, or make tacos or taco salad.
  • Cook ground beef in bulk, and freeze it flat in a gallon size ziplock bag. Break off how much you need for an easy addition to meals.
  • Bake bacon on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Turns out perfect every time.
  • Buy in bulk! Things like yeast are much cheaper if bought in bulk. A 3 pack of yeast usually goes for $1.50 in the grocery store, but I recently bought a 2 lb. package in a bulk foods store for $4.99! It will take me forever to use it all up, but I keep it in a ziplock bag in the freezer. I make bread, rolls, or pizza dough at least once a week, so it makes more sense to buy it in bulk. You could always buy it and split it with a friend!
  • Instead of wasting your money on seasoning packets, make your own! I make my own taco seasoning in bulk (here’s my recipe) and store it in my spice cupboard. It’s much cheaper than buying it at the store. You can find all sorts of recipes for seasoning mixes to keep on hand.
  • Make a large batch of bread dough. Divide it into smaller chunks, and roll it into balls. Freeze rolls on a sheet pan, and store in a ziplock bag. It’s great for a last minute addition to meals. Frozen dough balls can be defrosted in the microwave or on the counter top, and risen and baked like normal.
  • Make a batch of cookie dough and spoon it onto a baking sheet. Freeze on sheet pan, and store in a ziplock in your freezer. Bake 1-2 at a time, so you don’t feel like you have to eat an entire batch of cookies by yourself! Baked (but not frosted) cupcakes also store well in a ziplock bag in the freezer.
  • When baking cakes, always line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper. The easiest way to do this is to sit the pan right side up on your wax paper, and trace around it with a knife. This should score it easily enough that you can tear the circle of wax paper right out and place it in the bottom of your pan. It makes for easier clean up, and you’re guaranteed that your cake won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. This is something you especially want to do when you have a 4 or 6 layer cake, but only 2 pans. You can just pop the cake out, re-spray your pan, and pour more batter in to bake. Easy as that! (Keep in mind, you still need to spray your pan after the parchment paper is in there!)
  • To keep your ice cream from getting freezer burnt, lay saran wrap directly on the surface, and then put the top on, so the air can’t get to it. It will taste much fresher, and won’t get an icy layer on top.

In the home:

  • A lot of pests dislike the smell of mint. When we had a bat problem in an old house we lived in, we placed little bags of herbs and spearmint leaves above our doors. It kept the bats away, but we soon realized that the bats had been keeping all the bugs away! This also works well for mice. We recently had a mouse problem in our kitchen, and kept finding mouse droppings all over our dishes, talk about revolting! After an unsuccessful try with poison (oh, just wait for the story) we decided to try mint. Put a couple drops of mint oil (the kind you find for candy making is fine) on a cotton ball and place it under your trash and wherever else the mice get into. They hate the smell of it! You can also plant mint plants in your yard, up close to your house to keep them away. My parents had a couple small mint plants in their front herb garden, and soon they spread all over the yard! It’s a very easy herb to grow and maintain.
  • Sun has some amazing bleaching powers. If you have a stubborn stain that isn’t touched by bleach or peroxide, wash it, and lay it in the sun to dry. It will remove most stains from clothes (especially stubborn baby poop, formula, breast milk, and spit up!) without ruining the color on the clothes.
  • Cornmeal works great for ant control. Ants eat it but can’t digest it. I set about a tablespoon of cornmeal where I see ants (in a corner, under something) and within days they’re gone.
  • Stinky towels? A safe way to strip them is to wash them with vinegar, and then wash them again with baking soda (about a cup of each). They come out feeling soft and fresh, and it gets rid of all of that detergent and fabric softener build up.
  • Have a stubborn stain in your carpet or rug? Spray it with water until it’s wet through, lay a towel over top of it, and press it with a hot iron. It will draw the stain straight out. You can also make a mixture of half water and half ammonia and douse it with that before pressing. Make sure the area is well ventilated though, because it is really powerful!

View my board on Pinterest for more home solutions.

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