Sunday, December 14, 2014

Life Hacks, Kitchen Edition

Non-triathletes who patiently read this blog (hi, Mom!) rejoice, here's one that might actually interest you! And since it involves food, keep reading, fellow tri geeks. Now that it's the off-season and Elliott and I have more time for socializing, we've hosted a few food-related events. Each time, we receive questions or comments about some items in our kitchen (or how we work there). Here are the highlights, in case you are interested in acquiring something similar...or want hard evidence that we really are dorks.

  • Tea Baller: Like loose leaf tea but not the hassle of scooping juuuust enough tea into the awkwardly clomping strainer before it spills all over the counter? We are big fans of this clever spoon. Just scoop the tea and twist the handle to seal. We painted one of the handles with nail polish so we can tell them apart. Bad things happen when I drink Elliott's stiffly sweetened mostly sugar ewww brew tea. 
  • Rolling Pin: Sure, you can use a wine bottle or a Nalgene. But a marble rolling pin is far more fun. You can chill it in the fridge so it keeps dough cold (and easier to work with) and it's so heavy, you can just roll it back and forth and the dough gets out of your way. Plus, it feels super classy for about $20-- not a lot of dough (ha, see what I did there?).
  • Water Bottle Rack: How to store all your water bottles without risking a domino disaster? Use a wine rack or build one out of PVC pipe. The advantage of the latter is you can pick the pipe diameter to fit the types of water bottles you use, e.g. bike bottle or Nalgene. And you can brag to your friends about having a bespoke water bottle rack. 
We can turn wine [racks] into water [bottle holders]!
The soft light. The roaring fire. The PVC pipe... 
  • Silicone Baking Mats: Baking something and don't want it to stick? Sure, you could grease the pan, but that gets sticky and makes the delicious, delicious chocolate chip cookies even less healthy. Parchment paper to the rescue...until you realize you are out. Again. Enter silicone baking mats. They are naturally non stick, can handle high heat, and will last for years. 
  • Spice Rack: This is a DIY project that has served us well for years. Attach a magnetic strip to the wall or cupboard door (Ikea sells them as knife racks) and super glue a washer to the back of a spice jar. Magic science!
Hey, nice rack!

  • Vacuum sealer: Want to avoid having a freezer full of ice-crusted tupperware? Use a vacuum sealer for your leftovers. It even works for wet(ish) items, like spaghetti with tomato sauce.
  • Sous Vide: It may sound fancy, but it actually feels like cheating. Put meat, veggies, fruit, etc. in a sealed bag (or ziploc), dunk it a pot of water, set the sous vide to the proper temperature, and walk away. The sous vide heater will bring the water to the set temperature (e.g. 135F for medium rare steak) and hold it there, cooking your item to exactly that temperature without going over. This means goodbye to rubbery chicken, steak that is rare in the middle and scorched on the surface, etc. (You can sear the outside of a steak with a blowtorch if that makes you happy. And it probably will.) Even if meat isn't your treat, you can also use it to make incredible Greek yogurt for around 25% the cost of buying from a store. 
  • Books: Yes, the internet also has recipes, but cookbooks are far more fun. We often check them out from the library first to make sure we actually like the recipes and not just the photos. Over the past year, our three favorites have been Oh She Glows, Smitten Kitchen, and Mighty Spice. OSG is vegan. We are not. But we still love all the recipes. That says something. SK is fun to read, features incredible desserts, and includes a few American-Jewish classics that make me feel right at home. I even gave this book to my mom and she raves about it. MS is organized by--you guessed it!--spices. Want to finally use that turmeric that has been staring at you from your spice rack for months? Now is your chance! (Pro tip: it will make everything yellow. Plan accordingly.)
Yes, they are organized by color. And yes, there are more shelves. 

  • Eat Your Books: Cookbooks are awesome. Searching each book's index for a particular recipe, not so much. Eat Your Books has indexed thousands of cookbooks, magazines, and blogs so you simply add the names of your books to an online bookshelf and search all of them at once. This site has helped me rediscover books that I hadn't used in years (often, admittedly, the ones without pretty pictures) and quickly figure out what on earth to do with the abundance of {fill in the blank} from our garden or CSA. 
What are your favorite kitchen toys or tips? What are your standard kitchen-themed birthday or wedding presents?


  1. Personally I love my french rolling pin more then any of the other rolling pins I've used. I feel like I get the most control out of it.

  2. Oh man -- I just started setting up Eat Your Books and it is amazing! Thank you!