lunchbox

My 10 Favorite Kitchen Tricks

by Sally on November 19, 2014

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- from Real Mom Nutrition

As a home cook, I’m a little bit lazy and a whole lot frugal. If there is a way to save money or time, I will try it. Not every effort is successful, but once in a while I stumble upon a kitchen trick that’s a real keeper. Here are my ten favorite:

1. Do-It-Yourself Chocolate Peanut Butter

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom NutritionI like Nutella and Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter as much as the next person. But sometimes it’s not wise for me to have a whole jar of it in my house (for obvious reasons such as lack of self-control). So occasionally I make small batches of a cheaper, quick-and-dirty version using peanut butter: Place a few squares of chocolate (or handful of chips) in some peanut butter, microwave for 30 seconds or until melted, stir, and spread on whatever you want. Use the ratio of chocolate-to-peanut butter that suits your tastes.

2. Chopping & Freezing Onions

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

I love adding the flavor of onion to dishes, but my kids don’t like big chunks of onion in their food. So I use my mini-chopper (this is the one I’ve had for years) to create very finely diced onions–almost creating an onion “paste”. Sometimes I process several onions at once, especially if I have too many and don’t want them to go to waste. Then I transfer the diced onion to freezer bags, and press flat. Then, when I have a recipe that calls for sautéing chopped onion, I just grab a bag, break off a chunk of frozen onion, and throw it into the pan.

3. Letting Dough Rise in the Microwave

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

Having trouble getting dough to rise? Place a glass measuring cup of water in your microwave (yes, that’s my microwave, not a wall oven) and heat it on HIGH for several minutes until it boils. Turn off the microwave, place your covered bowl of dough inside the microwave (keep the hot water in too), and shut the door. The warm, steamy air will allow your dough to rise faster.

 4. Soaking Dates in Milk for Smoothies

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

Dates are an easy way to sweeten a smoothie, but they can be hard to pulverize in a standard blender. I got this trick from a Real Mom Nutrition reader after posting a recipe for this yummy Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake.  She suggested soaking the dates in a dish of milk kept in the refrigerator, which softens them up so they blend quickly and smoothly. Now I do this too and it works great!

 5. De-Stemming Kale Quickly

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

To quickly pull the leaves away from the tough center stem, hold the kale leaf in one hand and slide your other hand along the stem. Then make this easy Sweet Tart Kale Salad.

6. Soaking Apple Slices in OJ & Lemon

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

I saw this trick on Pinterest and it’s one of my favorite lunchbox hacks ever. Slice an apple, pour the juice from one lemon and one orange (or OJ if that’s what you have) over the slices and refrigerate. Pull out slices to pack in lunch boxes (they won’t brown) or eat them straight from the juice. Many people already do this with lemon, but the orange adds sweetness and balances out the sour of the lemon. My kids go nuts for these.

7. Making Bacon in the Oven

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

I’ll never go back to making bacon on the stove after discovering this method. The bacon cooks so evenly, with barely attention from me (and with no grease spatters all over the stovetop). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place bacon slices on foil, bringing the foil edges up and over the edge of the pan. Bake for about 15 minutes or until desired doneness. Some readers also suggested putting a baking rack on the pan and laying the bacon on the rack, so the fat drips down and away from the bacon.

8. Assembling Freezer Smoothie Packets

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

To streamline the morning routine, I sometimes package up ready-to-go smoothie packets for the freezer full of fruit, greens, and extras like flaxseed. In the morning, just pull out a packet, dump it in the blender, and add cold water or milk. This is an especially handy way to preserve greens that are getting past their prime.

9. Using Uncooked Lasagna Noodles

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

Lasagna is one of my favorite cold-weather comfort foods, but I hate the extra time-sucking step of pre-boiling the noodles. So instead of buying the special no-boil noodles, I use my regular whole wheat lasagna noodles (this is a favorite brand) and simply skip the step of pre-boiling them. The key is using a healthy amount of sauce (in addition to sauce between the layers, be sure the entire surface is covered as well), and bake the lasagna tightly covered with foil.

10. Subbing Flaxseed For Egg

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

If you don’t have an egg for a recipe (or don’t want to use eggs at all), use flaxseed instead. Combine one tablespoon ground flaxseed and three tablespoons water, stir and let sit for five minute. Then add to recipes as usual. I’ve done this for pancakes and cookies.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you use any of these shortcuts? What are YOUR best kitchen tricks?

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through this link, your cost will be the same, but I will receive a small commission to help with operating costs of this blog. Thanks for your support!

{ 38 comments }

Your Child’s Lunch Makes Me Feel Inferior

by Sally on August 28, 2014

Bri Lunch Collage

Ever been gripped with insecurity after seeing photos of stunning packed lunches on Pinterest or Facebook?

I have.

I mean, c’mon. Look at these lunches. They are things of beauty!

They were all packed by my friend and fellow blogger Bri from Red, Round, or Green. She often posts photos on Facebook of the lunches she assembles for her kids. My first thought when seeing her photos is usually, I wish Bri packed MY lunch.

No doubt your social media feeds are filled right now with lunchbox photos. Lunchbox recipes. Lunchbox game plans. And you may hear a quiet (or loud) voice telling you that your value as a mother is in direct correlation with how beautiful or well-balanced your child’s lunchbox is–or even worse, that you may as well hang it up because your child eats the school lunch.

This is a plea: Shush those voices.

I’m not going to rail against moms who cut sandwiches into shapes. I’m not going to rant about how we existed just fine on Hostess snack cakes and bologna so why do our kids need organic sorghum and beet greens? I’ve read those posts, and while they’re good for a guilty-pleasure chuckle, they’re not really fair. Who am I to disparage anyone who spends time packing a gorgeous and nutritious lunch?

These parents aren’t creating amazing lunchboxes to make you feel bad about yourself. They enjoy it. Their kids enjoy it. And they have some awfully good ideas–like frozen raspberries, never thought of that! (By the way, Bri also swears that her lunches only look pretty because of the Lunchbots containers she uses, but I think she’s selling herself short.)

When you see these photos and ideas, take them for what they are: ideas. Maybe some of them are realistic for you, maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re things your kids would like, maybe they’re not. Maybe there are foods your children (like mine) will happily eat at home but won’t authorize for their lunchboxes. That’s okay too.

So go ahead. Pack a sandwich and an apple. Or a thermos of leftover spaghetti. Or a themed “Frozen” bento with a rendering of Elsa made entirely out of hard-boiled eggs and chives. Or put money in your kid’s account for a month of school lunches. Whatever works for you and your child. Because wanting a nutritious lunch for your kids is a good thing, but agonizing over some notion of lunchbox perfection is not.

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One Of The Best Things You Can Do On A Sunday

September 3, 2013

If you read my last post, you may be thinking that by “one of the best thing you can do” I mean “go to yoga class” or “ignore the mountains of laundry and snuggle with your kids” (read “A Back-To-School Pledge To Myself“). And yes, do those. And go to religious services. Or watch football. […]

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{Recipe} Lunchbox Oatmeal Bars

August 9, 2013

Like most kids, mine love a little sweet treat tucked into their lunchboxes. I  don’t include a dessert every day. But when I do, I love when it can be homemade. Ever since I saw this video for Katie Morford’s new book Best Lunch Box Ever, I’ve been wanting to make these Oatmeal Bars. So […]

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{Giveaway} Best Lunch Box Ever

August 2, 2013

It’s the second day of August, which means there are only 19 days left of summer vacation for my kiddos. Which means only 19 days left until I have to start packing lunches every day. And this year, I’ll be packing two of them. I’m prone to geek out over lunch packing gear, namely adorable […]

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Simple No Bake Cookie Balls

August 24, 2012

When you’re hankering for something sweet–but don’t feel like turning on the oven or spending a bunch of time in the kitchen–I’ve got four words for you: No Bake Cookie Balls. I already love these Peanut Butter Balls. But I recently discovered three delicious-looking cookie ball recipes from Snack Girl. So I made them all, one […]

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New Year, New Gear: My Lunchbox Gameplan

August 13, 2012

Anyone else geek out over lunch packing gear? I caught the bento bug two years ago (read Bento-a-Go-Go). I hope that someday I’ll have the energy to cut cucumbers into flowers and draw faces on tuna sandwiches. But in the meantime, I just like the fun and ease of divided containers. And I finally found […]

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Bento-a-Go-Go

September 21, 2010

After the nightly wrangling of kids into the bath, into their PJs, onto the potty, into bed, back into bed, and under the covers, I typically collapse into a useless heap on the couch. And the last thing I want to do is pack a lunch. I’d welcome anything that made this task less tiresome. […]

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