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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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      Last Updated on July 10, 2020

      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

      We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

      We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

      So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

      Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

      What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

      Boundaries are limits

      —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

      Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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      Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

      Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

      Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

      How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

      Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

      1. Self-Awareness Comes First

      Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

      You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

      To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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      You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

      • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
      • When do you feel disrespected?
      • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
      • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
      • When do you want to be alone?
      • How much space do you need?

      You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

      2. Clear Communication Is Essential

      Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

      Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

      3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

      Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

      That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

      Sample language:

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      • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
      • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
      • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
      • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
      • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
      • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
      • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

      Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

      4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

      Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

      Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

      Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

      We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

      It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

      It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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      Final Thoughts

      Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

      Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

      Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

      The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

      Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

      Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

      They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

      Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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