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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 August 20, 2018

      35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

      35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

      Every mature relationship has had a less-than-memorable anniversary. Maybe one of you forgot, or both of you got busy with work, kids, family issues, or something else. Whatever happened, the day came and went without fanfare. And neither of you seemed to notice or much care.

      But for the health of any relationship, it’s important to make important days feel special. Anniversaries offer the wonderful opportunity to relive beautiful memories, practice gratefulness for your partner, and to show your love and strengthen your bond. Make this year’s anniversary with your significant other something special  — one that will bring you closer together.

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      The best way to create a memorable anniversary is to do something new and different together as a couple. Stretch yourselves a bit.

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      While boredom can silently kill a relationship, new experiences reinforce the shared bond you already have and create strong new memories. Just think back to the most significant memories you have right now with your spouse and imagine what new ones you can create!

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      While you enjoy your chosen anniversary activity, be sure to keep a positive attitude and make your partner happy too on that day. Leave all arguments and day to day detail behind. Just celebrate your relationship. Whether you’re going to spend the day together at home, getting away, or having a wild and crazy new experience together, you can have your best anniversary yet!

      If You’re Staying In

      1. Spend an evening with no technology, just the two of you and maybe a board game. It’s hard to keep ourselves away from our computers and smartphones long enough to have a meaningful conversation. Make a rule not to use your tech and you’ll rekindle your relationship!
      2. Make wine or beer together. If you enjoy drinking together, this is a fun activity to try together. Just remember to buy the necessary equipment ahead of time.
      3. Learn something new about each other. With an open mind, try asking some of the New York Times’ 36 questions that lead to love. They’ll help spark intimacy and will lead to some really honest moments.
      4. Have a lazy day. Breakfasts in bed, spend all day in bed talking and napping. Follow breakfast with champagne and dessert! If you feel like getting more active, cook together or play some games. Here’re some simple breakfast ideas for you.
        • Learn to dance at home. This is best for those active couples who work out together and also enjoy learning something new together. Just go on Youtube to find any music with dance tutorials and learn together.
        • Visit model homes or open houses and plan your dream home.
        • Have a special dessert – champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Having an unusual treat makes a day feel extra special. If you want to make the dessert really special, try these tasty dessert recipes.
        • Create a playlist of your favorite songs as a couple. Choose songs that tell your story, and songs that you bonded over throughout your relationships. Here’re some love songs ideas for your inspirations.
          • Write your love story. Write it together or ave each of you write your own and then bring them together in an interesting, both sides of the story format.
          • Get a fondue pot. Fondue is a fun way to enjoy melted cheeses (for savory items) and melted chocolate (for sweeter treats).
          • Decorate! Turn your home into a dressed-up french cottage, a sophisticated restaurant, or simply with flowers. The different ambience will immediately change the feel of your home and make it feel like a staycation.
            • Talk about the future together. It might sound simple and everyday, but imagining how you want to spend your retirement together, or planning future trips can be exciting and romantic.

            If You Want to Get Away

            1. Take a day trip together to your favorite spot. If you live in a city, it can be incredibly refreshing to get away for an afternoon and drink in the outdoors.
            2. Go on a scenic drive and stop at a wine and cheese bar. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have lots of options where you live, try a brewpub. There are tons of small craft breweries with fantastic food options too.
            3. Go camping. Relatively affordable and, if the weather’s right, beautiful and romantic.
              • Take an overnight backpacking trip. For the more adventurous couples, backpacking is an even more intense way to challenge yourself physically while becoming one with nature.
              • Take a wine tasting tour. If you live on the West Coast or in the Northeast, take a drive to the nearest winery. Many offer relatively inexpensive tastings and deals if you purchase a certain amount.
              • Take a scenic train trip. Taking the train means less stress traveling: nobody has to drive, you don’t have to stop for breaks every few hours, and you can sleep if you need to!
              • Save up for a destination vacation. What better time than your anniversary to enjoy the beach at a beautiful resort?
              • Explore a new city. Whether you’re on a budget or have a lot saved up, you can have a great time just exploring an unfamiliar town.
              • Rent a cabin for a weekend away, in the woods or next to a lake or ocean. If you like the outdoors but can only take so much nature, try glamping.
                • Go on a retreat. Yoga retreats, meditation retreats, beautiful natural surroundings … they’re all the rage. Search for centeredness and calm with your partner.
                • Spend a day at a food festival. Many cities have fun and affordable food festivals, occasionally based on a theme. Check out your town’s (or a nearby city) calendar for inspiration!

                New & Exciting Experiences

                1. Go spelunking. Dark, damp, and utterly exciting!
                2. Go on a hot air balloon ride. Because the basket is relatively small, this can be a romantic and deeply personal – and yet thrilling –
                  experience.
                  • Try sky diving. If you and you S.O. are real thrill-seekers, sky diving can really push you to the edge!
                  • Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or scuba diving. This may take you far away from where you normally live and work, which is an added bonus.
                  • Experience white water rafting.
                  • Drive or hike to the highest spot nearby for a new view of the world. America has tons of beautiful mountains where challenging hikes (or drives) can deliver breathtaking views.
                  • Take a craft or cooking class. Up your craft skills or food  making skills, and enjoy something new!
                    • Take a wine and painting class today. These classes are easily found these days and even a beginning painter can create a nice painting. Challenging but relaxing, fun, and you get to go home with some artwork!
                    • Learn to salsa dance. Dancing is a fantastic way to actively get closer and coordinate physically with one another.
                      • Visit a nearby festival you’ve always wanted to go to. Have fun and let go with fellow audience-members!
                      • Spend the day at an amusement park together. Laugh and carry on like teenagers.
                      • Meet new people! At a restaurant, concert, or class, make it a point to meet new friends. Striking up conversation with someone you don’t know – but with whom you have shared interests – can be an adventurous and rewarding experience.

                      Whether your budget is big or small, and whether you have a little or a ton of time together, focus on each other. There are tons of options, in terms of location, level of physical activity, and cost. You can make the day special in a way that’s right for you!

                      Featured photo credit: Photo by Taylor L. Spurgeon on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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