Every kitchen has its own rhythm. It takes time to create a flow, and to become accustomed to a new pattern when you move to a new place. After awhile, with practice, you move through your space without having to think too much about it. What was once like a rehearsal, with repeated stops and starts, eventually becomes like a well-performed dance from refrigerator to pantry to stove to sink. I love the kitchen dance. I don’t feel alone when it’s a solo turn, because I’m surrounded by the smells and sounds of food, and I get to play with whatever colors my cupboard holds. Sometimes, with two people in the kitchen, the dance is a duet, and sometimes it’s a competition. With several people, it’s a choreographed piece that goes smoothly if everyone remembers their moves, or quickly whirls out of control if someone forgets their place. You might think, in these days of celebrity chefs, or on a very good day in your kitchen, that the cook is the star, but you’d be mistaken. It’s always the food. In my kitchen, I’m just happy to be a part of the show.
Over time, and especially since I began this blog, I’ve collected a few tips that are a part of my kitchen dance. They might not be ingenious, but for me they save time, money, and help make the most of leftovers. Below, I’ve listed not just ten, but eleven tips (because eleven rocks just a little more). If you cook, you’re part of the dance, too; and whether your tips are elaborate or elementary, feel free to contribute and share them in the comments section below.
11 Kitchen Tips
1. I bake a lot of pizza crusts, and I use parchment paper to make the transfer from pizza peel to pizza stone easy. What you might not realize is that you can usually re-use that piece of parchment paper several times if you’re careful, and I do this as much as I can. For you food blogger/photographers, the used parchment, with its warm sepia tones and rustic texture, creates a great background for shots of bread and other baked things.
2. You know those little paper-coated wire ties from the grocery store that you use to tie up the bags of produce you buy? Instead of buying twine, I save lots of these and re-use them to truss roasted chicken.
3. When we’ve picked all the meat off the bones of that roasted chicken, I save the bones, skin and whatever else is left in gallon-sized freezer bags and use it for making homemade stock.
4. From every onion we chop, I collect the scraps (skins, ends, extras) and save them in another gallon-sized freezer bag, then store them in the freezer to use for the homemade stock as well.
5. Did you know you can save cleaned, dried and ground eggshells to add calcium to your garden soil? It’s especially beneficial for starting new bell pepper plants.
6. Instead of buying those little citrus disposal freshener balls, try a natural, cheap, more environmentally-friendly approach, and grind up a little discarded orange peel in your electric sink disposal to freshen it up.
7. Making even more use of your citrus, try zesting the skins of limes, lemons or oranges before juicing, and freeze the zest in teaspoon-sized portions for later use in recipes.
8. When we roast asparagus, I save those woody asparagus ends that have been snapped off and add them to a greens-based soup, which then gets puréed in a high-powered blender.
9. One of my most useful tools is a zip-lock plastic bag filled with different sizes of pre-cut unbleached muslin pieces, cheesecloth, and a trimmed gallon-sized heavy plastic bag. I use the unbleached muslin for straining homemade nut milks, stock, and homemade cheese or yogurt, among other things. I use the gallon-sized heavy plastic bag, with all its edges trimmed off so you have two separate pieces of plastic, for pressing out homemade corn tortillas in-between the pieces of plastic. I don’t bother with a tortilla press, but instead use a 10-inch frying pan as the press.
10. Along with pizza, I love to bake bread, so I’ve invested in some inexpensive woven round and oval baskets from a restaurant supply store. I line those baskets with cheap white cloth dinner napkins, purchased from one of those big box stores, to line the baskets and proof the bread dough, which gives the final loaf a nice shape.
11. I used to use aluminum foil to line our aluminum baking sheets before roasting vegetables or meat or fish. It’s kind of redundant, if you think about it, so now I just use the baking sheets as they are without the aluminum foil lining. For cleaning I just let the sheets soak in some hot soapy water for a bit. Sometimes it means a little extra scrubbing, but I’m not wasting as much foil, and the scuffed up sheet creates a great patina for food photos.