Hi, my name’s Becki, and I’m a food addict.


Luckily for my family, I’m not just addicted to eating it, I’m addicted to shopping for and preparing it, too.  When I saw that The Motherhood was hosting a video chat about cooking with Sommer Collier of A Spicy Perspective, I knew I’d be watching. I figured even an old hand in the kitchen like me could pick up a tip or two, but I was wrong.



I picked up TWENTY tips. I’d used a few of them before, but most were brand-new to me. And they weren’t tips like “choosing the proper spoon for your caviar.” They were time-saving, effort-saving, and money-saving tips I’ll use all the time. Read on; I bet you will, too.


You can watch the video here, too.



Sommer Collier’s Twenty Terrific Kitchen Tips:


Trick #1: Chopping an onion without tears: Tears are caused by the gases onions release when they’re cut. Stick onions in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before chopping, to slow the release of the gases. Cut the onion in half, then do a horizontal cut toward the root end, cut toward the root, and then cut crosswise. This keeps the onion together, which also helps reduce those pesky gases.


Trick #2: How to peel garlic easily: Take one clove at a time, and, placing the flat edge of a knife on the garlic, give it a good whack with your hand. This loosens the paper and flattens the garlic so it doesn’t move around as you chop or mince it.



Trick #3: Getting more juice out of a lemon: Microwave a hard lemon for 10-20 seconds, then roll it on the countertop to get the juices flowing before you even cut it open.


Trick #4: Selecting and cutting avocados: You don’t have to squeeze! That bruises the ones you don’t pick.  Instead, pick off the belly-button looking stem. This will show you the color of the avocado on the inside. When you get your avocado home, start cutting at the top, down toward the seed, then rotate the avocado. When you have your avocado halves, slice them while in the skin. Turn the skin inside out, and out pop your slices!



Trick #5: Making chocolate curls: Use your vegetable peeler along the edge of the chocolate. If you’re not getting large curls, make sure all the foil is off the chocolate bar, microwave for 5 seconds, and try again with the slightly warmer chocolate.


Trick #6: How to shave meat very thin for stir-fries and quick-cook recipes: Put your meat in the freezer just for 20-30 minutes before slicing. This allows it to firm up enough for cutting control, but doesn’t make it a solid block.



Trick #7: How and when to peel ginger: Ginger doesn’t always need to be peeled. If the skin is tight and firm, not dry and wrinkled, you don’t need to peel it if you don’t want to – ginger peel is edible. If you do want to peel, scrape along the side of the ginger root with the edge of a spoon. The skin comes right off!


Trick #8: Making your own buttermilk: If you need buttermilk for a recipe but don’t want to buy a whole quart, try this: take regular plain milk and add a little mild acid, like vinegar or lemon juice. Use one cup of milk, less a tablespoon, and add a tablespoon of your acid. Let this sit for a few minutes, and voila! A perfect substitute.



Trick #9: Removing corn silk from ears of corn: Take a clean, damp, paper towel, and rub down your shucked corn. No need for more expensive, and less-effective brushes or gadgets.


Trick #10: How to neatly slice soft produce: Think mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, strawberries: Take the produce, stick a fork in one end, and use the fork for leverage against the cutting surface so you don’t squash the produce while holding it down with one hand.



Trick #11: Leveling a cake: Use dental floss! Take a length of plain, unwaxed floss, wrapped tightly around your fingers, and pull toward you across the top of the cake layer. This avoids the uneven layering you get from using a serrated knife. This trick also works great for slicing soft cheeses, cheesecake, and even ice cream.


Trick #12: Making fluffy scrambled eggs: Avoid cooking on high heat, and make sure you get enough air in your eggs. Crack eggs into a bowl with high sides, add a splash of milk, and beat with a whisk or an actual egg beater until you have a fluffy, bubbly consistency (1-2 minutes with an egg beater, 3-4 with a whisk). It takes time and muscle, but it gets the air into the eggs! Then cook over low heat. Add the salt close to the end of cooking; if you do it earlier, it breaks down the air pockets and reduces the fluffy factor.



Trick #13: Saving leftover herbs: Herbs are expensive to buy, and what do you do with the leftovers once you’ve made your recipe? Dice unused herbs, place in an ice tray, just barely cover with water, and freeze. Sommer says this works great with parsley, cilantro, thyme, even green onions. Ice cube trays also work for saving small bits of stock, wine, or coffee for use in cooking, too. Once frozen, pop the cubes loose and store in a freezer bag.


Trick #14: How to clean a cast iron skillet the right way: Sommer credited talk co-host Robyn Stone of Add a Pinch with this one: take a little kosher salt, sprinkle it in the dirty skillet, and rub with a paper towel. Salt is a natural disinfectant, so it kills bacteria in your skillet. After you do this, pour a little oil in the skillet and rub it in. It’s like exfoliating and moisturizing your skillet! And, if you’ve ever wondered how to season a cast iron skillet, Robyn offers this tip from her blog.



Trick #15: Measuring sticky substances: I love making cookies with honey or molasses, but measuring them is a pain. Sommer says, if your recipe calls for oil, measure that first. That way, the measuring spoon is coated, so the sticky substance slides off of the measuring spoon or cup. If your recipe doesn’t call for oil, spray your spoon or cup with nonstick cooking oil spray. Speaking of which…


Trick #16: Homemade nonstick cooking oil spray: Did you know that commercial nonstick sprays contain additives that can harm your pots, pans, and baking stones? I didn’t. Sommer’s solution: Use a dollar store spray misting bottle. Thin oils like vegetable oil (not olive) work best.


Trick #17: Make dulce de leche caramel sauce: Take cans of sweetened condensed milk, peel off label, put in a large pot of water with at least two inches of water over top of cans (very important). Bring to low boil and boil for four hours. Do several cans at a time so you have lots on hand. It’s delicious on everything, and it’s much less expensive than buying cans of dulce de leche.



Trick #18: Preparing fluffy rice: Fluffy or sticky rice depends on the water content. Most rice calls for two cups of water per one cup of uncooked rice. If you want sticky rice, add a little extra water. If you want fluffy rice, reduce the water to about 1 3/4 cups. Also, if you sauté the rice in a little butter or oil for a few minutes before adding  the moisture, it will be perfectly fluffy and have a nice flavor. Sommer calls this the “Rice a Roni trick.”


Trick #19: Breathing new life into old spices: You can revive old spices by toasting them in a clean, dry skillet, tossing gently so the spice doesn’t burn. This helps the oils in the spice release; it even intensifies new spices. Works well for spices that start with a “c”: cinnamon, cumin, coriander, etc.


Trick #20: Making vanilla sugar: Add plain granulated sugar to a Mason jar. Stick a couple of nice, fresh, supple vanilla beans in the jar. Shake the jar to make sure the beans are covered. Let sit for a couple of weeks. You can keep adding sugar to the jar, removing the beans once they’ve “kind of petrified.” You can make vanilla extract by putting vanilla beans in vodka for 4 months or so. When you remove the vanilla bean, it makes a great vanilla paste. Vanilla sugar and vanilla extract make great gifts, and because you start them early, they’ll be ready to go during the hectic holiday season!


Bonus trick: Caramelizing onions — talk co-host Diane of Created by Diane says low and slow is the key. Stir sliced onions over low heat for about 20 minutes and they will caramelize beautifully.



Want more? Watch the video, and definitely visit the websites of Sommer and her culinarily gifted co-hosts:


Summer Collier ( A Spicy Perspective )

Robyn Stone  (Add a Pinch)

Kristen Doyle ( Dine & Dish )

Angie McGowan (Eclectic Recipes )

Kathy Strahs (Cooking on the Side and Panini Happy)

Aggie (Aggie’s Kitchen)

Diane (Created by Diane)