Ten SBK Favorite Kitchen Tricks

I love little kitchen tricks and have picked up several along the way and I thought it would be fun to share because after all, my blog is all about cooking with limited space and how to make the most out of everything.  So without further adieu, here are some of my favorite little tricks...

1. Save your jars! Don't toss out those old spice jars and jelly jars.  Instead, give them a good wash and stow them away somewhere (I keep mine under the sink).  This then gives you the creative licence (and storage capabilities) to create your own rubs or spice mix using the small spice jars.  With the larger jars, you can shake up a nice homemade dressing or stow away a new sauce recipe.  The best part is you can keep using them again and again, which saves you money.

2. Don't throw away Vanilla Beans! Have you ever bought vanilla beans?  They are wicked expensive, so why not get the most out of them?  If I know that I am going to be cooking with a Vanilla bean (which by the way, they are worth every single penny.  The flavor that you get from a Vanilla bean in unreal) I buy a small canister of sugar.  Then when I am done scraping the little beans out of the pod, I drop the Vanilla Bean remains into the sugar and give it a good shake.  The oils from the bean will infuse the sugar and make for one of the best cups of coffee ever!

3. Maximize counter space! If you're using a recipe, tape it somewhere above the counter. When I'm baking (that's really the only time I use a recipe) I like to tape the recipe somewhere above my counters (in my kitchen, I have a cabinet right above my counter).  That way, the recipe is easily read because it's at eye level, I'm saving counter space because I don't have it out somewhere and I this keeps the recipe clean and free of any baking debris.

4. Keep a recipe notebook! Whenever I come across an idea or some inspiration in a magazine, I tear out the article/recipe and save it in a three ring binder.  Then, when I'm looking to make something, I consult my binder for things that I want to try making.  I have my binder divided into sections (appetizers, soups/salads, pastas/side dishes, meats and desserts) and I have a folder for each.  Things I'd like to try go into the folder ad once I've tried them, they are the glued to a piece of three-hole punched paper and stuck in the appropriate section along with any notes of modifications or suggestions for next time.

5. Invest in the Flavor Bible! I highly recommend this book.  It is simply a major listing of pretty much any major ingredient that you can come up with and what it is known to pair well with.  It is essential in creating new recipes or when you're just playing around with something new and you're not sure what it goes with.  This book is also great when you're cooking and you realize your dish just needs a little something.  Referring to this will give you great ideas.  One final great use for this book?  When you're starting at your fridge towards the end of the week and you've only got mass amounts of leftovers but don't know what to do with it.  Consulting this book will help you tie it all together and create a meal.

6. Just Freeze it! I do a lot of cooking with nuts.  Unfortunately, the oils in the nuts can make them go rancid quickly if they are not stored well.  By freezing nuts, you freeze the oils in them which means they last longer.  Just give them a quick toast in a small frying pan before you use them to revive the flavor.  Another great thing to freeze?  The very last bit of a wedge of fresh Parmesan cheese.  Throw the frozen wedge into a soup or sauce and let it simmer.  You'll get a great flavor to the soup.  Just fish out the wedge and toss it out before serving.

7. Be a Spice Girl (or Guy)! I think life is too short to not have a wide variety of spice in your life.  The problem?  Have you noticed how ridiculously expensive herbs and spices are at the grocery store?  And they look like they've been sitting there for years.  I've been known to purchase an occasional spice or two from the grocery store but the majority of my spices come from Penzey's or Polcari's in the North End.  There, you can buy spices by the ounce which is perfect for something that you may only use once or twice.  This makes things much more economical and fun, because both places offer some rare ingredients at crazy low prices.  Unique herbs and spices can really shake up a tired out meal.

8. Grow Your Own! Growing your own herbs can be so rewarding, economical and it really doesn't take much space up.  This is the gift that keeps on giving.  If you don't want to go through the hassle of getting seeds and potting soil, you can also just buy herb plants at a Farmer's Market or even a grocery store.

9. Do A Double Take! There are a lot of household items that can be used in the kitchen as well as a variety of kitchen tools that can be used for multiple purposes.  For example, unflavored dental floss is a great way to evenly cut little bits of goat cheese or other soft cheeses and a Microplane zester can be used for citrus fruits, or easily mincing garlic, onions or ginger to create a fine almost paste-like addition to sauces, soups and dips. A coffee bean grinder also doubles as a great way to pulverize and mix herbs and spices for rubs.  Just be sure the thoroughly clean before and after use.  Channel your inner MacGyver.

10. Keep It Clean! At the start of each season, I take just an evening (usually a Monday night, because what else goes on on a Monday night?) to clean out my kitchen and go through what I have.  With such limited space, I don't want to take it up with items that might be passed their prime.  Although, I can sort of take inventory of what I have to make sure I always have the staples on hand.  (Olive oil, butter, canned tomatoes, flour, sugar, herbs, sea salt, pepper, etc) This also ensures that all of my ingredients are fresh and at their peak which results in better tasting food.

So there you have it.  Ten things that you can do to get the most out of kitchen endeavors.  Are there any other kitchen tricks that you've learned along the way that you'd like to share?


Boston Food Diary said...

Um The Flavor Bible???? How do I not own this already???? Great tips SBK! I love the idea of taping recipes above the counter!

Sarah said...

Love the vanilla bean mixed with sugar idea!!

Megan said...

Great tips!

I love The Flavor Bible and consult it often. I also have Starting with Ingredients, which is similar but gives more background on the ingredient you're using.

Also, when I get down toward the bottom of a spice container of cinnamon, I fill it with sugar, shake it up, and use it whenever I need cinnamon-sugar.

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

BFD, you would LOVE this book!

Megan, will have to check out Starting with Ingredients, thanks for the recommendation!

Joan said...

Love the sugar and vanilla bean!
Keep the jars...yes!

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

Great tips! I have a similar recipe book and my suggestion is to get those page protectors, which helps keep the recipe dry/clean when you're cooking with it!

Elizabeth said...

I love your tips! I keep a similar binder (which reminds me, it's a hot mess and desperately needs to be organized) and totally keep my little spice jars. Thanks for sharing these great ideas. :)

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