Long ago, meal prep was simply a necessary part of daily life. In recent years, people started using the term “foodie” to refer to someone who has a passion for or interest in all things culinary. Many people are in a category that’s sort of between these two extremes. They know they have to eat every day and want to make things as delicious as possible. A lot of people have also begun to want to improve the health aspect of their diets, which is a good thing. For most people, modern life is busy. So, anytime there are some great food hacks working their way around the internet, folks love to jump on board.
This post contains a few food hacks you’ll want to try if flavor, ease and convenience are important in your culinary life. The best thing about cooking is that you can customize almost any recipe to adapt it to your own preference. If you don’t like a particular ingredient (For instance, I’m not crazy about thyme.) swap it out for something you think is better (Basil, anyone?). After reading through the ideas mentioned below, you can incorporate them into your daily food routines by experimenting with them and tweaking them as you like.
The first of our food hacks: Stop turning your meat so often
If you’ve ever watched Cajun chefs work their wonders in a kitchen, you know they’re all about “blackening” food, especially things like fish. If you’re looking for some great food hacks where meat is concerned, adapt this blackening idea to the beef in your pan. When it’s steak or some other cut of beef, we usually call it “searing.” Most people are afraid to burn their food in a pan, so they tend to flip it often. Expert foodies (Are they a thing?) say that the key to delicious meat flavor is to leave it alone (as in, DO. NOT. TOUCH.) for the entire suggested cooking time in the pan, before turning.
When a recipe calls for searing, avoid the temptation to flip it over too soon. If the recipe says 3 to 5 minutes on each side, don’t be stabbing it with a fork after 2 minutes! The same goes for meat that you’re roasting in an oven. We non-expert-foodies tend to think we’re doing a good thing by moving the meat all around so it “cooks evenly.” Those who know such things say it will taste a lot better if we stop flipping it so much.
Quick food hacks to fix a flavoring mistake
Have you ever added a wrong ingredient or too much of something to a recipe, thinking you’ve ruined it completely? There are several flavor food hacks that might help save your meal, the next time this happens. There are five basic flavor groups in the culinary world. They are: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and savory (which is otherwise known as “umami”). You can use them to counteract each other when you make a flavor mistake.
If, for instance, you’ve added too much spicy seasoning to a dish (I know some folks will say there’s no such thing as too much spiciness. lol) you don’t have to toss the whole meal out. Try adding some citrus to the pot, instead. It will balance things out. Likewise, if you’ve added too much sweetener, you can counteract that by adding a tad bit of an herb or a tiny splash of vinegar. Do the opposite if the problem is that you’ve made something too sour — add a smidgen of sugar. Whatever flavor food hacks you’re using, the trick is to use a teensy weensy amount at a time, until you find the right balance.
You can pickle almost any type of vegetable
While scouring the internet for fun food hacks to share with you here on The Hot Mess Press, I came across a quick-pickling recipe. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to add it to our list! I’m all about pickling things, especially during harvest season when I’m bringing in a lot of fresh produce from the garden. I have too many hungry teenagers in my house to bother with canning. No sooner do I line storage shelves filled with canned produce, when they start hauling the jars back up to the kitchen to eat what’s inside. I often tell my “canning friends” that my family is in a consumption phase of life rather than a preservation phase. To save time and energy, I opt for pickling and freezing whenever I can.
ANYHOO — you’ll be glad to add this quick pickling recipe to your list of food hacks:
(And, to give credit where credit is due, I found this recipe on dallassinglemom.com.)
- Choose whatever veggies you want to pickle and chop them into chunks.
- Stuff the veggies into a jar.
- Make a marinade with 4 cups cider or white vinegar, 4 cups water, 2 tablespoons sea salt, 2 cups extra virgin olive oil, 5 cloves peeled and sliced garlic, fresh black pepper cloves, and chopped fresh thyme. (Y’all know I’ll be swappin’ out that last ingredient for some basil or mint. lol)
- Mix the marinade well and pour over the veggies in your jar, leaving a little space at the top but making sure all veggies are submerged.
- Put it in the refrigerator, where it can stay for a couple weeks. (You can use it any time you like — you don’t have to wait.)
The gal over on the website I mentioned says she uses her pickled veggies in salads, on sandwiches, in stir-fry, and more!
Use a box grater on chilled butter for “dotting”
When you’re making an apple crisp or some other confection, your recipe might call for “dotting” butter over top. Avoid the messiness of this step by chilling your butter first, then using the largest holes on a box grater to “grate” the dots of butter onto your dish! It’s a simple trick that helps you get an even, overall “dotting” instead of clumps here and there that are sticking to your knife and fingers, making a greasy mess.
Try this to get rid of freezer burn on your ice cream
It’s nice to have some ice cream in the freezer to enjoy on a hot, summer day. Nobody likes to see a layer of icky freezer burn on their ice cream when they remove the lid, though. Freezer burn is apparently caused by an excess of air circulating inside a container. When you bring ice cream home from the store, it’s filled close to the top of the container. As you remove servings and place the container back inside your freezer, there’s more and more space inside of the container, each time. All the air floating around in there is what makes freezer burn.
Remember these food hacks, the next time you buy ice cream! Simply trim around the top of the ice cream container, each time you remove some. Cut it so the amount of ice cream left inside is still close to the top. Don’t worry! The lid will still fit! This easy hack helps you adjust the size of the ice cream container. A smaller container helps avoid excess air. Less air means less freezer burn!
You’ll go bananas over this food hack
You’ve probably stuck a bunch of bananas into your freezer when their peels have browned. This is common when you don’t want to waste them. Many people do this with the intention of later making some banana bread. It’s a great idea. Who doesn’t love a fresh slice of warm banana bread with some butter or cream cheese on top? There’s something else you can do with frozen bananas — you can make quick-and-easy ice cream! Simply chop your frozen bananas into a blender and whip them up into creamy deliciousness. Add hot fudge, caramel or some other topping of your choice, and enjoy! What can be easier than a one-ingredient ice cream?
Let us know if you try any of these food hacks. And, if you have some more ideas to share, we’d love to hear about them!