Hawai‘i Parent Hacks: 22 Cooking Tips and Tricks to Try at Home
Make your life easier with drip-free ice pops, no-mess bacon, perfect-peel eggs and more.
Before having kids, I never realized how all consuming feeding a family could be. Prepping, serving or packing three meals a day often feels like a full time job. And, it’s supposed to be nutritious, tasty and adorable enough for Pinterest. Impossible? Maybe. But a good set of kitchen hacks can at least help. My research for this blog revolutionized the way I cook bacon, store sandwiches and slice ice cream. But, in an effort to weed out fake hacks, I found a few duds. Perhaps other people’s avocados ripen wrapped in foil in a 200 degree oven for just 10 minutes. Mine felt and tasted like rubber an hour later.
What exactly is a hack? We define it as a quick trick that solves a problem or speeds up a process easily. Check out what did work for me and the HONOLULU Family team and come back to honolulufamily.com for more parent hacks and tips for the home, garden, beach and more.
15 Kitchen Hacks
1. Drip-free ice pops. Love ice pops but hate the drippy mess? Add gelatin to your recipe and they’ll stay firmer, melt slower and have a fun, gummy consistency. We tried it by just dissolving half a package of Jello into a cup of hot water and pouring it into apple juice. The pops made from that mixture took twice as long to drip, even when the pop was soft enough to easily bite into. Find everything from funky colored Jell-O to healthy, fruit-filled options here.
2. Cut a dozen grapes at once. Slicing grapes and cherry tomatoes in half can cut down your keiki’s chances of choking. Make it less time consuming by cutting a dozen at a time. Lay the grapes or tomatoes in a single layer on a plate. Put another plate of the same size on top with the bottom of that plate touching the fruit. Push down on the top plate with one hand and use a serrated knife to slice through all of the grapes with the other hand. See it done here.
3. Perfectly cut mangoes. Mangoes are a tasty but sticky treat if you don’t know how to cut them correctly. Here’s a hack that makes slicing and dicing easy. Cut the mango in half, avoiding the pit. Then, on each half, slice a checker-board pattern into the flesh (but don’t cut through the skin.) Push on the back of the skin so that the diced bits pop up and slice them off. This video shows how easy it is to end up with perfect pieces.
4. Mess-free measuring. Spray measuring cups, spoons and tools with nonstick spray first. Honey and molasses will now slide right off.
5. Freeze sandwiches. Speed up your mornings by freezing a batch of peanut butter (or sunflower or soy butter) and jelly (or honey) sandwiches in sandwich bags ahead of time. They’ll stay fresh for six weeks in the freezer and will thaw by lunchtime.
6. Gel pack hacks. Out of ice packs? Hack a gel pack two ways:
- Pour dishwashing liquid into a freezer bag. Squeeze the air out and double bag it.
- Freeze and use. When done, cut a hole in the bag and return your dish soap to its original container.
- If you don’t have dish soap, you can use one cup of rubbing alcohol and two cups of water instead.
7. Ripen fruit faster. If you need to ripen an avocado (and have failed at the oven method like I did), place it in a closed paper bag with bananas. Bananas, and also apples, release ethylene which helps mature fruits ripen more quickly. Disclaimer: This will speed up the process but it won’t work instantly.
8. Keep apple slices fresh. Here’s a way to slice an apple and keep it fresh for later: Cut the apple in a tic-tac-toe pattern of nine pieces, spritz each slice with lemon juice, put the apple back together and wrap it with a rubber band. Here’s a video lesson.
9. Sliced ice cream. Tired of waiting for ice cream to soften? Cut the box into discs. You can also wedge a slice of ice cream between large cookies or wafers for a homemade cookie sandwich. Here’s a tasty tutorial.
10. No-boil lasagna noodles. HONOLULU Family editor Christi Young’s family loves lasagna, so she always uses this super time-saving hack. Instead of boil lasagna noodles, just add a little more liquid to your sauce and bake the lasagna covered. The noodles will cook right along with everything else. This works even with noodles that are not techinically “no-boil.”
11. No-mess, quick-cooking bacon. Frying batches of bacon in a pan used to take me forever until taught Christi me this super simple hack: Bake a whole package of bacon on a double layer of foil on a baking sheet at 400 degrees. In about 15 to 20 minutes you’ll have it with without any oil splatter to clean up. If you prefer extra crispy bacon, some website suggest baking it on a cooling rack.
12. Easy-peel kiwi. Kiwi has a rough but thin skin that’s difficult to peel. Instead, slice both ends and sllide a spoon in between the kiwi flesh and skin. Turn the spoon and you can slide the kiwi right out. This video shows how it’s done.
13. Stop avocado from turning brown. Want to save part of an avocado for later without it going brown? Don’t slice it in half lengthwise. Instead, cut just what you need off the top, leaving the pit inside and less flesh exposed to the air. Cover the cut side with plastic wrap.
14. Skin garlic cloves quickly. Smash garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife. The skin will come right off.
15. Remove eggshell bits easily. Chasing bits of eggshell around a bowl of cracked eggs can be pretty frustrating. Wet your fingers with water first and the shell will won’t run away. Or use an eggshell like a spoon.
More Kitchen Tips and Tricks:
16. Prep your smoothie bar. Many of us have heard about freezing overripe fruit for smoothies. Slice and freeze bananas and other fruits and vegetables—even chopped cauliflower works—on a baking tray so it doesn’t stick together. Use ice cube molds to freeze yogurt, milk, almond milk or even sweet potato, spinach and other purees. Put a few ice cubes and frozen fruit and vegetables into individual resealable bags. When it’s time for a smoothie, you or your keiki can grab a bag, add a little liquid of choice and blend away for a single drink.
17. Easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs. Our family likes hard-boiled eggs, especially when I peel them warm and put them in cute egg molds that change their shape. But, sometimes getting the shells off is a real pain. Use a pot with a steamer basket. Bring an inch or two of water to boil. Place the steamer basket with eggs on top and cover. Steam for 12 minutes then immediately place eggs in ice water bath.You may need to switch out the water once after it heats up.
18. Quick defrosting meat. Measure one-pound portions of ground meat into freezer bags or vacuum-seal bags and pound flat. The thinner frozen meat stacks neatly in the freezer and defrosts in minutes.
19. Quit mincing garlic. Buy peeled garlic cloves at warehouse stores, chop in a food processor and freeze small portions in resealable bags. Defrost and measure one teaspoon for every clove of garlic called for in recipes.
20. Perfectly green pesto. Keep pesto green by blanching basil leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds, then immediately shocking it in ice-cold water. Our editor Christi adds just enough olive oil to make a paste so it freezes neatly in a resealable bag. When ready to use, break off a piece and mix it with room-temperature olive oil to speed-up the defrosting process and get a pesto consistency.
21. Be your own sous chef. When chopping onions for a recipe, chop an additional onion to refrigerate in a resealable container. Next time you’re ready to cook, you’re already prepped. Same idea with garlic.
22. Rotisserie chicken broth. If rotisserie chicken is a staple every week, freeze the carcasses until you have about 3-4. Cover with water and boil until the carcasses fall apart. Freeze the broth in containers. On weeknights, pull out one, toss in a pot, bring to a boil, then add carrots, celery, mixed frozen vegetables, pasta, or whatever you want for a quick, hearty soup.
Do you have a hack that makes your cooking life easier? Send it to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, tagging us on Facebook or post it on Instagram with hashtag #HFHacks. We will share our favorites online!