Inspired Living: 10 Kitchen Lessons

Today I thought I'd share a few tips and ideas that I live by in the kitchen. I hope one or two (or all!) of these inspire you to try something new. xo
1. Moisturize! Whenever you get a little extra oil on your hands, whether it be olive, coconut, or anything else, don't rinse it off! Take advantage of that gorgeous liquid and rub it right into your skin. It's great for your hands, arms, legs, elbows, knees. Keeps your skin soft and is the best moisturizer. This goes for the men, too! Men never seem to moisturize enough. (Especially not mine.)

2. Always buy extra lemons. Seriously. You can never have too many lemons! Squeeze them into your morning water, your tea, your cocktails. Squeeze them over fish, over chicken, over berries, use instead of salad dressing, zest the rind into anything you can. Use them to decorate the water in a vase of flowers or just pile a bunch into a bowl for a pretty and bright centerpiece. Use them to clean your fingernails and get the garlic smell (really, it's an aroma!) out of your hands. Put a drop on your face to dry a pimple. Add a few to the laundry to brighten your whites. Mix the juice and rind with sugar and olive oil and scrub your knees and elbows and the rough parts of your feet. Squeeze some into your hair and go out in the sun like an 80s teenager. Drop one down the disposal to freshen it up. And if you still have leftovers (seriously?) make lemonade. Make a LOT of lemonade.

3. If you can't remember when you last replaced the baking powder, just throw it out and buy a new one. The $2 you spend replacing it are well worth what you save in NOT ruining a cake or batch of cookies full of expensive butter, chocolate, spices, sugar, and flour.

4.  Whenever you spot an empty ice cube tray lounging about your kitchen, fill it with water and put it in the freezer. If you use an ice cube, refill the empty spot. Even if it's 2 AM and you were just going to get a glass of water before padding back to bed. You'll be glad you did when you go to make a cocktail and find that there are plenty of icy cubes waiting to clink into your glass.

5. Don't worry too much about expiration, sell by, and "best by" dates on labels and packages. Keep in mind that those are estimated dates, which vary based on a number of different circumstances, and which are purposely skewed to favor the manufacturer, not YOU. Use your God-given senses--taste, smell, sight, touch to determine if the food is still OK. If the milk looks good, smells good, and tastes good, it doesn't matter if the carton says it "expired" yesterday. Trust yourself, not things written on boxes. In fact...

6. Trust yourself, not things written on boxes by people trying to sell you stuff. Most words on boxes don't hold a lot of meaning, or are purposely put there to make you think something is cleaner, healthier, safer, more "green," than it really is. Realize that words and phrases like "natural" and "healthy" and "good source of whole grain" and "fat-free" and even "organic," don't necessarily mean that it is good. Really read the box, look at the ingredients, look up words if you have to. If you don't know what a word means (or can't even pronounce it), wait until you can look it up and find out what it is to decide if it's something you want you or your family to eat.

7. Hide the marshmallows. Trust me on this. I have no problem with keeping a few indulgent treats around, but it's better when they're hidden away and out of sight. You'll forget about them most of the time, and then that moment will come when you really need...something...and that's when you'll remember about that jar of Nutella tucked in the back of the cabinet or the Halloween candy in the freezer. And they'll seem like a discovery, a prize. Like even more of a treat than you could have imagined and exactly what you need at that moment. Hide them now, and surprise yourself later.

8. Spice up your eggs. Scrambled eggs are a good, solid, easy meal at any time of day. But there is no reason to keep it boring! In fact, they provide a great opportunity to experiment. Take a look at your spice rack and sprinkle in a little something fun! Add some turmeric for bright color, a subtle kick of flavor, and tons of health benefits (turmeric is a fantastic anti-inflammatory!). Or add cayenne for a little heat (and to ramp up the metabolism). Add smoke with paprika or cumin or chili powder. Add freshness with thyme. Sweetness with nutmeg or cinnamon (yes, seriously. You do it with french toast, right?) Add sesame seeds or za'atar or sumac or curry. Pull out that spice that you bought to make that ONE dish 3 months ago and then never used again and add it to your eggs. They're a blank canvas. Start painting.

9. Use Unsalted Butter. Unsalted butter gives you control. It lets you decide how much and what kind of salt to sprinkle on your buttered toast or sauteed veggies or grilled corn. It lets you regulate the salt in your baking. Even better, it's much more likely to be fresh because without salt, butter spoils quicker and there is nothing to mask the rancidity. Another bonus? Since it's less popular, some stores will actually charge less for the same amount and same brand of unsalted butter than they do salted!

10. Double It. Anytime you make anything that requires a little more effort than usual, double it. If you make a lasagne, make 2. If you're making stuffed shells, double the recipe. Make a bigger pot of soup, a double-batch of tuna or egg salad or rice or mashed potatoes. You're already peeling and chopping and dirtying up the pots, so take advantage and make a little more. Half is for dinner tonight, the other half is for the freezer. Then next month or next week or later this summer, when you're too tired or sick or hot or just having too much fun to stop and cook, all you have to do is open the freezer and pick out an already home-cooked meal. Your future self will thank you!

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