In my childhood, my mom was The Queen of Garage Sales. For a certain number of years, I spent many a summer afternoon “going sale-ing” (get it?), treasure hunting in the more affluent Chicago suburbs. Sometimes we’d go with friends, making a day of it, a bunch of kids crammed into a van, driving to the North Shore, as our mothers drank Tab and gossiped and squealed and high fived over their finds. Other times it was just my mom and sister and I, and I’d bring a handful of small change and singles hoarded from found stray money around the house and playing mother’s helper for the family across the street for three dollars an hour–just in case I found something that I thought was interesting, then I wouldn’t have to beg for it.
In case you’re wondering how weird of a little kid I was, one of my favorite finds was an old Heloise Hints paperback, thin and worn with a yellowed, curled cover, for a mere ten cents. But I found the contents absolutely fascinating–basically a MacGyvering guide for the modern housewife (or enterprising 10-year-old girl, as the case was). I skimmed the bullet points daily, and spent the rest of the summer dropping knowledge wherever I could, telling my Gramma to boil a cup of vinegar on the stove after she stunk up the place making corned beef and cabbage, and advising mothers of friends to light a birthday cake’s candles with a long piece of dried spaghetti at parties. I’m sure this wasn’t annoying at all.
My love of “why didn’t I think of that?” tips continues to this day. Anything that makes life in the kitchen a little snappier and re-purposes what’s already around gets bonus points, in my book. In fact, I’ve bookmarked some for years. And then I thought, why am I not spreading this goodness? So now I’ll be doing just that occasionally from here on out. Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite culinary tricks.
Avoid the oil slick. When spraying my baking pans, I’ve taken to opening the dishwasher, setting the pans on the inside of the door, and spraying them there. Any overage on the door washes away the next time you run a load. No slippery faucet after trying to spray pans over the sink, or surprise slip and slide area on your kitchen floor from where the mist mysteriously traveled. My lower back loves this trick.
How to Quickly Bring Eggs to Room Temperature. I do this nearly every time I bake, and no one illustrates it better than Irvin.
How to Make Brown Sugar. For when you’d rather sew your head to the carpet than make another trip to the grocery store.
How to Not Wreck a Nonstick Pan. The 24-year-old new bride in me with a rash of new nonstick cookware would’ve benefitted from these tips. I know better now.
How to Clean a Cooling Rack. Sometimes I need a trick for the simplest tasks.
How to Make Baking Powder. Because we always have it on hand. Until suddenly we don’t.
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