Most of my favorite shortcuts or “tricks” involve using your hands, or minimal implements to reduce the number of things I have to wash. After all, hands predate every other tool, you can usually always find them, and they have the benefit of being easily washed.
Rinsing Canned Vegetables
If a recipe asks for canned beans, rinsed and drained, I just remove the lid, and pour out as much liquid as possible, loosely holding my fingers over the top. I then add water, close up my fingers and shake. Spread fingers a bit to drain. Just keep adding water, shaking and rinsing until the water runs clear.
Washing Basmati Rice
Basmati rice should be well-rinsed and drained before use. Put the rice in a medium-sized pot and add warm water. Swish the rice with your hand in the water, and carefully tip the pan over the sink, slowly pouring out water. Add more water and swirl the rice again. Pour out the water, and when the rice is starting to come out, hold your hand in the flow of water to catch any rice that falls out. Then just chuck any escapee grains right back in the pot. Click here for my complete rice recipe.
Making Chicken Stock – the Cheap and Easy Way
Costco and other stores sell roasted chickens at a super reasonable price and I always pick one up. When you get home, let it cool a bit and then remove all the meat, and tear it into chunks. You can use the chicken meat right away, or freeze it for later.
Take the bones, skin and any juice left in the plastic tray, and add the to a large stock pot with 8-10 cups of water. Simmer the whole thing for 2-3 hours, and let cool. Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar and refrigerate.
Costco’s chicken makes the most delicious stock imaginable. If you have tail ends of veggies, just chop them coarsely and add them in, but honestly – it’s fine just as it is.
When bell peppers in any color are cheap and plentiful, I wash them really well, then cut them into slices, removing the stem and seeds first. Then I just pop them into a freezer bag and take them out as needed. They are easy to cut when frozen and seem to work just fine.
Using up Tail Ends of Vegetables
I always seem to have odds and ends of vegetables in the refrigerator, and to keep from letting them go to waste, I will often cut them into bite sized pieces, lay them in a baking pan and throw a little olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic salt and red pepper flakes on them. Mix them with your hands to distribute the oil and spices and roast them at 450 for 20 minutes or so. They all roast into juicy deliciousness which is great over pasta, rice or potatoes.
Saving Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
The smoky heat of chipotle peppers really adds a lot of flavor to a dish, but they are pretty strong! I always have a can in the pantry, but since recipes rarely call for more than 2 peppers, I started emptying any leftover peppers and sauce into a Ziploc freezer bag, and popping it in the freezer. Just remove as much air as possible, and smooth the peppers and sauce out before freezing. Then it becomes super easy to just break off a chunk when you need to.
So many recipes benefit from a little bacon – whether turkey bacon or real bacon, and I have a shortcut I like.
I do a quick wash of the unopened package in soapy water, and then lay it unopened on a cutting board. There are between 12 and 16 slices of bacon in a package, so if a recipe calls for 4 slices, I know it’s about a quarter of the package. So, I slice right down through the plastic and the bacon beneath it about a quarter of the way down without cutting the bottom of the package.
I then carefully pull that whole quarter out, and cut through all the slices all in one go, in whatever size the pieces need to be. The bottom is still intact on the package, so you can shake the remaining bacon down towards the sealed end, and fold the leftover flap back. Works like a charm.
Recipes often call for celery by the stalk, and if you have a rough idea of how much you’ll really need, I have a really quick and easy way to cut celery. Instead of pulling off individual stalks and cutting them, I carefully wash and check the whole bunch and just start cutting through all the stalks from the top. If the celery has browned edges on top, I cut those off first, but I don’t worry about the leaves getting in at all.