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3 Food Hacks Your Mom Didn’t Teach You

3 Food Hacks Your Mom Didn’t Teach You


    In continuing with the great posts on food, I thought I’d include a few kitchen hacks I’ve come across. I’ll be the first to admit: I’m no chef. I love to cook; to whip up something new or different–but the way it tastes is, unfortunately, not always what I intend. That said, I have found a few ways to make some of the most common foods my wife and I eat actually taste good. While you won’t be able to use these techniques for everything, you can start right now, in your own kitchen! Here are a few hacks to implement before dinner tonight:

    The Grilled-Cheese Sandwich Hack

    Ah, the comfort food of modern American youth. While my family dips the grilled cheese in tomato soup, my wife likes hers plain–just the good ‘ol wheat bread with a slice of American cheese in-between. Growing up, my mom–who ran a home daycare, and didn’t have time to cook often–used to whip these up for the kids, and they were always good. Use this method to cook your own home-made grilled cheese in minutes, better than you’ve ever tasted.

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    Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (a perfect starter cookbook) mentions a few things that have helped my grilled-cheese cooking:

    1. You won’t need a special panini press, or Foreman-style grill. Just use a flat-bottomed large pan or skillet, heated on medium-high. Throw in some butter to melt.
      • Prepare the sandwiches by placing a slice of cheese between two slices of bread. Place the sandwiches, two at a time, on the heated pan.
      • And here’s the awesome hack: Place a smaller pot, or heavy object, on top of the cooking sandwich(es). Yes, I mean to say: place another, smaller, object directly on the sandwiches, acting as a sort of “press” to flatten the sandwiches.
      • Cook until desired doneness.

      You’ll find that not only are the sandwiches amazing, they’re also dead-simple to clean up after: just wash the pan and any utensils used!

      The Chicken Hack

      Okay, here’s one that’s less specific: Whenever you plan cook chicken (breasts, thighs, quarters, whatever), you can make your chicken restaurant-quality by doing one simple thing:

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      Brining.

      Brining is the process of submerging your protein in a water bath of saltwater for about thirty minutes. It helps the meat retain moisture, so when it’s cooked it won’t release it’s inner juices into the pan. Actually, brining can help you retain up to 80% more liquid in the meat–making for a much juicer cut–than not brining.

      To brine your chicken (or turkey, for that matter), you just need to defrost the chicken and place it in a bowl of saltwater, completely covered. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least twenty or thirty minutes, and no longer than an hour. I usually shoot for 45 minutes, but do what works best. When you’re done, drain the chicken and dry it thoroughly, then season/prepare it as normal.

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      Trust me, it’s different in a really good way.

      The Steak Hack

      I’ve talked and blogged immensely about how to cook the perfect steak recipe–just check out my site for that–but there’s one thing that really sets my steaks apart from the average weekend BBQer:

      Salting the steak.

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      Again, salting a steak is such a simple process, it’s a wonder not many other people I know of do it. The goal is to dry out your steak (I know, it sounds counterintuitive0 as much as possible before seasoning, marinating, and cooking. You’re literally taking a defrosted, patted-dry steak cut (any cut will work, but the best ones are aged, thick ribeye and top sirloin) on a plate and pouring salt on it. I like sea salt, as its crystals are larger than table salt. Let it sit for awhile–sometimes 30 minutes will do the trick. You’ll start to see bubbles of moisture mixing with the salt–that’s the salt literally pulling the moisture from the inside of the meat.

      Rinse it off in cold water, pat it dry, and do it again if you want. When it seems dry enough, you can continue your recipe as desired, and be amazed at the results!

      In Closing

      These are just three of the ways I’ve discovered to “hack” my weeknight meals in a way that makes them special. My wife and family love them, and not in a “we have to” sort of way. Give them a shot the next time you decide to cook one of these, and let me know in the comments section how it turns out!

      (Photo credit: Food Ingredients on the Oak via Shutterstock)

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      Nick Thacker

      Nick is a novelist and founder of Sonata & Scribe. He shares productivity hacks on Lifehack.

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      Last Updated on November 9, 2020

      10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

      10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

      Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

      Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

      Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

      If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

      Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

      1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

      Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

      Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

      Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

      2. No Motivation

      Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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      This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

      If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

      3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

      Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

      A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

      A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

      The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

      4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

      One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

      We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

      Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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      You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

      5. Upward Comparisons

      Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

      The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

      These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

      Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

      6. No Alternative

      This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

      Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

      Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

      Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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      7. Stress

      As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

      When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

      We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

      If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

      8. Sense of Failure

      People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

      Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

      Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

      If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

      9. The Need to Be All-New

      People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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      These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

      10. Force of Habit

      Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

      Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

      These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

      Final Thoughts

      These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

      There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

      More on Breaking Bad Habits

      Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
      [2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
      [3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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