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20 Basic Cooking Hacks Everyone Should Know

20 Basic Cooking Hacks Everyone Should Know

Wise old women will tell you that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but any experienced man will also tell you that one of the best ways to impress a lady is to cook for her. We all need some kitchen skills, from young students living alone to moms and dads feeding their family. If scientists are to be believed, our food choices are even linked to our character. While some may be naturally gifted, or have had the pleasure of growing up with some talented cooks who were happy to give them a few pointers along the way, there are a lot of people out there who shy away from the kitchen because they find cooking complicated, and even a little bit confusing.

Fortunately, there are tons of great little tricks that can help anyone greatly improve their cooking game, and perhaps get a few people interested in further developing their skills. Here is a run-down of some of the most useful cooking hacks that can benefit everyone, regardless of skill level.

1. Put ice cream in a bag before putting it in the freezer

Bagging ice cream

    Ice cream can get rock hard in the freezer and it takes ages to thaw out just enough that you can eat it. A simple trick to keep it just the right consistency is to put the container in a plastic zip lock bag before throwing it in the freezer.

    2. Freeze a banana to use as base for a healthy ice cream

    Frozen banana ice cream

      When frozen and then mashed up, bananas create a perfect creamy ice cream base that you can be mixed with other fruit and various toppings to create a super-healthy home-made ice cream.

      3. Mix pancake batter in a plastic bag to save time and make less of a mess

      Pancace batter in plastic bag

        A zip lock bag or a pastry bag can be used to mix up pancake batter. Make sure to make a small cut in a corner of the plastic bag if you don’t have a pastry bag. You have to clean up less afterwards, and you can make some very creative shapes.

        4. Cut softer foods using a dental floss

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        Cutting with dental floss

          Things can get messy if you are cutting a particularly large cake and only have a small knife, but even things like cheese and Swiss rolls can be difficult to cut precisely. You can use dental floss to make quick and precise cuts and avoid the trouble.

          5. Cook up enough food for several days on Sunday and store it in the fridge

          Prepping food in advance

            You can spend a couple of hours on a lazy Sunday and cook up enough frozen veggies, chicken, fish, steak, rice, baked potatoes or whatever else you like to eat, and store the food in plastic containers. Mix it up, and you will have quick meals ready to go for the next few days or the entire week.

            6. Use protein powder, almond milk, oat flour and frozen fruit for healthy snacks

            Protein pancakes

              People often view pancakes as a dirty pleasure, but you can make healthy and diet-friendly pancakes using protein powder, almond milk, oat flower, different fruit and other healthy ingredients.

              7. Freeze a fresh herb mixture in olive oil to add to your meals

              Freezing herbs in oil

                If you are the kind of person who likes to add fresh herbs to meals, you can stock up on herbs, chopped them up, put them in ice cube tray, cover them in olive oil and freeze them. Next time you are cooking something, just drop a cube in and have yourself a treat.

                8. Dry out herbs in the microwave

                Drying herbs

                  For a more permanent storage solution, you can buy a bunch of herbs at the flea market – make your own unique blend of herbs – and then dry them out in the microwave. Put them in for 20 second intervals, and keep turning them over until they are completely dry, at which point you can crush them up.

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                  9. Throw a slice of apple in with baked treats to keep them soft and moist

                  apple slices

                    Baked treats tend to get fairly dry and don’t taste so good after a while. A good way to combat this is to keep them in a plastic container with an apple slice, which will help them preserve moisture and stay yummy for much longer.

                    10. Let you eggs sit in the fridge for a few days if you want them to peel easily

                    Eggs with funny faces

                      Boiled eggs are sometimes notoriously difficult to peel, but that’s just fresh eggs. Week old eggs are perfectly fine to eat, but they are incredibly easy to peal, so make sure you buy eggs well in advance and let them sit in the fridge for a while before boiling them.

                      11. You can use a spoon to help you peel fresh eggs more quickly

                      Peeling an egg

                        In case you just have to eat some boiled eggs right now and you only have fresh ones, you can add a little salt in the water with them and then use a spoon to crack one ends slightly and start peeling the shell from the inside. It’s incredibly quick and simple.

                        12. Soak eggs in white vinegar for several minutes when making poached eggs

                        Soaking eggs in white vinegar

                          To make perfect poached eggs you need to keep the eggs in a consistent shape when boiling them in water. A simple, trick to ensure that the egg whites keep a consistent shape is to soak the eggs in white vinegar for several minutes before breaking them open.

                          13. Weave bacon strips into a square shape and bake them in the oven

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                          Bacon weave

                            Bacon is actually cooked much more evenly in the oven than in the frying pan, and to go a step further you can weave them into a square shape first. It’s a great shape for sandwiches, and you won’t have chunks falling out.

                            14. Grill your fish on top of lemon slices

                            Grill fish adn lemons

                              Fish will tend to stick and even break up when placed on the grill, but if you put it on top of lemon slices and grill it like that it will be much easier to prepare, and it will get that nice zesty flavor.

                              15. Slap some wet paper towels on bottles of soda or beer to cool them much faster

                              Cooling beer with paper towel

                                You have guests arriving any minute now, and your beverages are all lukewarm? Well, have no fear, just take a few wet paper towels and wrap them around the bottles before throwing them in the freezer. It will cool your drinks down incredibly fast.

                                16. Make the perfect hash browns using a waffle iron

                                Hashed browns

                                  Making hash browns can be a bit of a hassle, but a very simple trick is to just throw them on a waffle iron and slam it shut. That golden brown color you are going for will be nice and even, and you won’t have to do much work at all.

                                  17. Microwave oysters for 10-20 seconds to make them much easier to open

                                  Opening oysters

                                    Oysters can require quite a bit of brute force to open, and you don’t want to be pressing hard on something with a knife and risk having it slip and hurt you. The simple solution is to microwave them for 10-20 seconds, which loosens them up and allows you to open them using much less force.

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                                    18. Run some water over stale bread and throw it in the oven to make it fresh and crunchy

                                    Loaves of bread

                                      If all you’ve got is a baguette or a loaf of bread that is getting a bit stale, but you don’t have time to run to the store and get some more, just run it through some water and put it in the oven for 5-10 minutes. You can also wrap it in a damp towel and then pop it in the oven. It will be fresh and crunchy like you just baked it.

                                      19. Drip chocolate over a balloon to create edible dessert cups

                                      Chocolate bowls

                                        Melt some chocolate into a bowl and then dip an inflated balloon in it so that the chocolate sticks all around it in a semicircular shape. Once it has cooled down just pop the balloon and take it out. Voila! You now have chocolate bowls to serve your dessert in.

                                        20. Use two plates to slice cherry tomatoes in one smooth motion

                                        Plates and cherry tomatoes

                                          If you are making a salad and need to chop a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes in half, just trap them between two plates and slice through them with a knife. You can slice a dozen or more of them in one clean movement.

                                          Make sure to arm yourself with these great cooking hacks, as well as a little bit of patience, and you will soon become the master of your kitchen, cooking up decent meals and flaunting your new-found skill in front of others.

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                                          Ivan Dimitrijevic

                                          Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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                                          Last Updated on August 20, 2019

                                          How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

                                          How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

                                          Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

                                          Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

                                          I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

                                          You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

                                          Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

                                          When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

                                          I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

                                          Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

                                          Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

                                          Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

                                          1. The Inner Critic

                                          This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

                                          • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
                                          • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
                                          • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
                                          • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

                                          The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

                                          Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

                                          2. The Worrier

                                          This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

                                          The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

                                          3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

                                          This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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                                          This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

                                          The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

                                          4. The Sleep Depriver

                                          This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

                                          The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

                                          • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
                                          • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
                                          • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
                                          • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

                                          How can you control these squatters?

                                          How to Master Your Mind

                                          You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

                                          Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

                                          There are two ways to control your thoughts:

                                          • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
                                          • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

                                          This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

                                          The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

                                          Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

                                          For the Inner Critic

                                          When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

                                          You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

                                          For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

                                          You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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                                          “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

                                          If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

                                          • They rile up the Worrier.
                                          • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
                                          • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
                                          • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
                                          • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

                                          Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

                                          Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

                                          For the Worrier

                                          Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

                                          Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

                                          You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

                                          • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
                                          • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
                                          • Muscles tense

                                          Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

                                          If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

                                          Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

                                          “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

                                          Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

                                          If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

                                          Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

                                          Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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                                          For example:

                                          If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

                                          “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

                                          Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

                                          “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

                                          Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

                                          For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

                                          Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

                                          The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

                                          • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
                                          • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
                                          • Muscles tension

                                          I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

                                          Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

                                          Breathe in through your nose:

                                          • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
                                          • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
                                          • Focus on your belly rising.

                                          Breathe out through your nose:

                                          • Feel your lungs emptying.
                                          • Focus on your belly falling.
                                          • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

                                          Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

                                          Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

                                          One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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                                          Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

                                          For the Sleep Depriver

                                          (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

                                          I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

                                          Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

                                          1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
                                          2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

                                          When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

                                          From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

                                          For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

                                          If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

                                          You can also use this technique any time you want to:

                                          • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
                                          • Shut down your thinking.
                                          • Calm your feelings.
                                          • Simply focus on the present moment. 

                                          The Bottom Line

                                          Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

                                          You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

                                          Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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                                          Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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