Real Food Kitchen Tips

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The real food movement is going full steam, but it is not merely another “bandwagon” to hop on. The truth is this is how most of our grandparents {or great grandparents, depending on your age} ate. It’s a back to the basics approach; choosing foods that nourish our bodies, support local farmers, and the environment. Farm to table, nose to tail, nutrient-rich, holistic values. This approach of eating has allowed many to take control of their health and see major improvements.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be! I have put together over 30 Real Food Kitchen Tips {many of which are practical whether or not you follow a real food lifestyle} in this post to help those who aren’t comfortable or confident in the kitchen, sourcing many amazing real food recipes along the way.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

1. Keep it sharp.

Using a sharpening steel before you use a knife along with occasionally honing/running the blade through a honing device will not only make your knife work more efficient, you’ll be less likely to cut yourself.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

2. Stop slipping cutting boards in their tracks.

One trick to keep a cutting board or chopping block from slipping on the counter is using a piece of leftover “grip” cabinet liner {I always seem to have leftover pieces!} or a damp kitchen towel.

3. Peeling garlic cloves in a pinch.

For a few cloves, smash with the flat side of your chef’s knife and remove the paper before chopping or pressing each clove. For recipes where you’ll be using an entire head of garlic, pop it in a storage container with the lid secured. Then shake vigorously for a few minutes, this will separate most of the cloves from the papery skin. Added bonus, it’s a fun activity for kids! πŸ˜‰

4. Garlic paste.

Trim the ends of two garlic cloves on a chopping bock. Peel them as suggested above, with the back of a chef’s knife. Sprinkle the cloves with a pinch of sea salt and chop. Pile the chopped garlic together. While tilting your knife, drag the blade over the garlic, scraping it across the chopping block. Gather it back together and repeat the process until the garlic is a smooth paste.

5. Get more use from your veggie peeler!

I own a trio peeler set that allows me to create thin julienne sticks, the serrated peeler allows me to peel softer/delicate fruits {like mango, peaches, kiwi, and tomatoes – if I were to eat tomatoes}, and the scalpel peeler works as a standard peeler which is great for peeling sweet potatoes, squash, apples, etc. BUT you can do much more than peel vegetables with your standard veggie peeler!

You can use it to make beautiful chocolate curls, remove the stringy fiber from celery stalks {especially handy for kids’ snacks, both of my kids have gagged because of those strings before}, and make larger citrus peels for garnishes. For those that consume dairy, this peeler can also peel perfect pats of frozen butter and grate luscious curls of cheese.

Plus, this is a fantastic tip for using your peeler in a more fluid motion. Most peelers have two opposing blades – for good reason! When peeling veggies, instead of using the peeler to peel in one direction, utilize both blades by going back and forth. Take a look, it will take some getting used to, but you’ll pick it up!

6. Combat the angry onions.

There’s a reason some people wear those chemistry goggles when chopping onions. Incoming science truth bomb…

“Onions contain amino acid sulfoxides that form sulfenic acids in the onion cells. Both the enzymes and the sulfenic acids are kept separately in the cells. When you cut the onion, the otherwise separate enzymes start mixing and produce propanethiol S-oxide, which is a volatile sulphur compound that starts wafting towards your eyes. The gas that is emitted reacts with the water of your eyes and forms sulphuric acid. The sulphuric acid thus produced causes burning sensation in your eyes and this in turn leads to the tear glands secreting tears.” ~ Why Do Onions Make Us Cry?

I’ve tried most every trick, but ultimately I’ve found a few things to help minimize tearing up when cutting onions. I only wish I had known about these tips when I worked in the restaurant and the prep cooks were chopping onions. I’d be tearing up while posting invoices in the office… πŸ˜€

Tried and true: Dab some water beneath your eyes BEFORE {there was amusing that time I was distracted and chatting with a friend and realized I had already started slicing… doh!} you begin chopping onions. Since the gas chemically reacts with the water in your eyes it will reach the water you’ve placed beneath your eyes first. Magic and trickery. I usually reapply after chopping half an onion. The Mister found this fantastic tip on Reddit {of course}. I’ve been using it ever since!

Honorable mention: I also think that having a SHARP knife helps immensely.

Tried and helps quite a bit: Gordon Ramsay even suggests to avoid cutting the onion at the root. After reading the above chemistry lesson, I can see how this will minimize/prevent the mixing of the enzymes and acids and will save yourself some tears. Which brings me to…

Real Food Kitchen Tips

7. Chopping an onion like a pro.
    * Leaving the root end on, remove the papers {save for bone broth}.
    * Slice the onion in half, from root end to top.
    * Slice off the top of the onion {save for bone broth}.
    * Using your knuckles as a guide, slice in long strokes vertically {assuming the root end is facing you}, letting the weight of the knife do most of the work. Slice as close to the root as you can.
    * Holding the onion together with your finger tips, slice about a third of the way through, sliding the blade back towards the root end.
    * And slice again towards the top of the onion {2/3 mark}.
    * Now you can chop horizontally, gripping the onion like a ball.
    * When you get to the base, trim off what you can and discard the root.
8. It’s got to be hot.

Especially if you want a good sear on your meats! Only when I’m in a rush do I put non seared meats {like chicken} in the slow cooker. I did that last week when I was hastily loading the crock with dinner before I started making lunch πŸ˜€ #keepingitreal

A hot pan is essential for a good sear on proteins and sauteeing vegetables. It will also help with preventing food getting stuck. A good way to check the oil is to place the tip of a wooden spoon’s handle in the oil, if it bubbles a bit your pan is ready.

9. Give a little love pat.

Dry your meats thoroughly before searing. Or if you plan ahead, salt them and let them chill overnight, uncovered on a rack in the fridge. You’ll achieve fantastic searing that way!

Real Food Kitchen Tips

10. Prep bowl.

Or as Rachael Ray dubbed it a “garbage” bowl. Having a bowl next to your prepping area minimizes back and forth trips to the garbage can/compost bin. When prepping vegetables you can save all scraps to add to your next batch of bone broth.

11. Ginger.

Did you know you can peel ginger with a spoon? Simply scrape away. Then I use my microplane to grate the ginger finely.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

12. Reuse vanilla beans!

I never toss vanilla beans. They’re like gold! πŸ˜€ Depending, I either:

    1. Stick them in my home brewed vanilla extract.
    2. Supplement The Mister’s vanilla sugar. I keep organic evaporated cane juice in a mason jar with used vanilla beans. I give it a shake now and then – he loves it in his coffee.
    3. Soon enough, I’ll be using them to supplement my vanilla salt.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

13. Herbalicious.

Store soft-stemmed herbs like parsley, basil, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon in a mason jar with a touch of water . Treat them like you do a bouquet of flowers! They’ll stay fresh for about a week if you replace the water every two days. I even trim the ends now and then. If your kitchen is too humid, too dry, or too much of anything they may do better stored in the fridge. You’ll have to play with it. I kept parsley and cilantro in the fridge until we started curing bacon again {and dropped the temp WAY down}. Now they do best on the counter.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

The herbs with a rugged, woody stem {such as rosemary, oregano, marjoram, and thyme} do best when wrapped in a damp tea towel followed by a loose wrap with plastic wrap before storing in the fridge.

14. Taters.

When you’re boiling {sweet} potatoes, start with cold water. That way by the time they are fork tender, the outsides won’t be mushy and falling apart.

I prefer steaming {sweet} potatoes for making mashes. Steaming makes it so they aren’t so water logged when it’s time to mash them.

15. Expansion.

When freezing soups/stews/broths always, always leave ample room for expansion, at least half an inch. And please make sure your jars are freezer-safe!

Real Food Kitchen Tips

16. Zesty.

Every.single.time I use citrus in a recipe, I zest it first. It seems like such a waste to only use the juice or the fruity segments! The zest and citrus oils hold so much flavor, making it the perfect addition dressings and sauces, or even a garnish.

You can use a rasp/microplane for fine zesting, a citrus zester for long and thin strips of zest, and either a vegetable peeler {explained above} or a paring knife to create larger pieces of zest. For all of these methods, be mindful to not get any of pith {which is quite bitter}.

17. Citrus coolers.

Slice lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit and freeze. Use them as colorful “ice cubes” so you don’t water down your refreshments!

Also, here are some stunning “spa water” ideas:

Real Food Kitchen Tips

The above pictured spa water comes from the lovely Holly of The Common Woman on Instagram // Facebook.

“A lively blend of citrus and mint bottled up and ready for the go! I enjoy these lovely drinks at local restaurants, park play dates and offer them to all my guests. So many people ask me where I bought these “happy” H2O blends. All you need is a glass jar, slices of clementines, mint leaves, filtered water and your drinking this hydrating blend.” ~ Holly

7 Fruit-Infused Water Recipes via Sweet Potatoes and Social Change

On a related note, It’s Me Charlotte also shares Eight Warm Weather Mocktails with us.

18. Citrus juicing.

Roll your citrus beneath the palm of your hand before slicing. This helps release the juices and lets you get more juice out of the fruit. I use this beautiful olive wood citrus juicer.

19. Soak skewers.

Always, always soak your bamboo skewers before threading and grilling/broiling. Alternatively, switch to reusable stainless steel skewers.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

20. Regrow green onions.

Yes, another mason jar to have on the counter. πŸ˜‰ Next time you buy green onions, save the roots! You can regrow them using a mason jar with a little water. Change the water frequently as you would for your stored herbs. If you have a green thumb, you can also see them thrive again in a small container with soil.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

21. Score!

Scoring your meat can give great results. The scoring marks allow for uniform cooking and lessens the chance of overcooking since the cut marks cut quicker than the inside. If you’re using marinades or sauces, the scores will make it so the flavor gets deeper into the protein and in the muscle {which also helps relax the meat}. This is also a nice tip for skin-on poultry, you’ll commonly see it with duck breast, the scoring marks allow the fat beneath the skin to release and flavor the entire protein. Don’t cut too deep. An added bonus is a beautiful presentation. Marks on meat are sexy. Whether it’s scored marks or grill marks! πŸ˜‰

22.Clean as you go.

This is quite possibly my favorite adage. Wiping up spills, clearing distracting clutter, loading the dishwasher, washing handwashable items as you go will make cleaning your kitchen after meal prep or batch cooking a breeze.

23. Mis en place.

I remember the phrase “mis en place” being cheerfully repeated {to the point of annoyance} when I worked in the restaurant, much like Tim Gunn’s catchphrase “Make it work!” The idea was to have everything at the ready, quite literally β€œputting in place” everything you will need. That is one of many tips I took away from my old job, before I make our meals all ingredients are prepped, measured, and ready to go. This is especially helpful if you find that a recipe that says it takes 20 minutes {because the ingredients specify chopped, peeled, etc.} takes you 45 minutes to prepare πŸ˜€

Real Food Kitchen Tips

24. Batch Cook.

Batch cooking saves so much time {and sanity} in the long run, especially when embarking on a real food and/or healing journey. Mickey Trescott recently released the AIP Batch Cook program to guide you through the process of preparing a variety of nutrient-dense foods ready to re-heat at your convenience. This is an essential tool for those following the autoimmune protocol – for both the novice and the seasoned AIP cook. Because we all can have days where our energy level is low!

Real Food Kitchen Tips

25. Make your own specialty foods.

Making your own specialty ingredients can save you some money while letting you control the ingredient quality and integrity!

Here are some ideas:

Real Food Kitchen Tips

26. Steak doneness.

Press your index and middle fingers into your opposing hand to compare the feedback of your steak and your hand. Yes, there were many summer days {and nights} where I was in our old backyard touching my hand and the steak on the grill. I must have looked so funny to anyone who saw me… For rare, you should have the same feedback you get as touching the base of your thumb, towards your palm where it is the most fleshy and soft. Medium is found near the base of your thumb, semi-firm with slight resistance. Well done {which is steak blasphemy, in my opinion} is the same feedback as the spot on your palm that is slightly above the wrist line and in the middle of the very base of your palm.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

27. Put ’em up.

Homecanning is a great way to preserve each season’s bounty. You can preserve fruit sauces and butters using a water bath method or safely put up meats, soups, lower acid foods, and broths using a pressure cannner.

Garlic Sauerkraut

28. Fermenting fun.

The possibilities for fermented foods are seemingly endless. I tend to stick to sauerkraut varieties, not that I’m complaining! There are some handy tools I use as well, like Kraut Kaps and Crock Rocks.

Here are some other delicious fermented recipes for you to try:

Real Food Kitchen Tips

29. Charcuterie.

I’ve said it before, charcuterie is my favorite kind of batch-cooking. πŸ˜‰ I love making our own bacon, smoking duck, making pate, and smoking hams. I’m all about it!

And The Mister has been making his own beef jerky for quite a while now using our dehydrator. He doesn’t measure anything, butt I know he does an overnight brine with salt and apple cider vinegar for sliced beef roast. Then he rinses the meat well and leaves it to dry on racks before rubbing with seasoning and salt and dehydrating.

Other recipes:

30. Non-Stick for Measuring Sticky Sweeteners.

Using a paper towel, lightly coat the measuring spoon or cup with a mild-flavored oil before measuring maple syrup, honey, or molasses. It will pour out effortlessly, with minimal waste!

31. Wear Protection.

Ask me how many “bacon kisses” my shirts have endured over the years and I’ll avoid the question. πŸ˜‰ Mainly because I know they could have been avoided. In order to save your shirts from stains while prepping and cooking, you’ll need a sturdy apron. I bought an adjustable bib apron that either I or The Mister could wear.

Real Food Kitchen Tips

Meet your meat.

I believe it is important to know where your food is coming from. But I also believe in {and practice} the good, better, best approach. I understand not everyone is in a place where they can invest and buy a cow for beef. Most the meat my family currently eats currently is not grass-finished, But I do strive for organic when possible, eat plenty of offal, and fish is always wild-caught {that is something I’m not willing to compromise, ha!}. This is another opportunity to send out good hunting vibes for The Mister this year πŸ˜‰

If you are unable to find a local source for grass-fed meat and are in a place where you can afford it, US Wellness Meats has an excellent selection and they always seems to have a promotion going on.

Dirty Dozen.

I recently made an AIP version of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. If you aren’t following the autoimmune protocol, check out EWG’s original Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. πŸ™‚

Tell me, what are some of your favorite kitchen tips?

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  6 comments for “Real Food Kitchen Tips

  1. April 24, 2015 at 8:28am

    Girl, you are on roll! Adding this to my FB share list. πŸ™‚
    Eileen @ Phoenix Helix recently posted…Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable #71My Profile

  2. April 24, 2015 at 9:44am

    Haha thanks, Eileen! I’ve been piecing this one together for a little too long now. It feels nice to finally have it done! πŸ˜‰
    Erin recently posted…QuotablesMy Profile

  3. April 28, 2015 at 11:13am

    Awesome tips! A few will come in handy for today’s dinner – I have orange ginger citrus carrots on the menu. πŸ™‚
    Lisa Brown recently posted…Why I’m Removing My Kids From The InternetMy Profile

    • May 3, 2015 at 10:09pm

      Ooh, that sounds delicious! I love orange and ginger together.

  4. May 8, 2015 at 1:13am

    Cant wait to try the tip using oil before Measuring Sticky Sweeteners.
    Thanks for the tip.
    melissa recently posted…Cutting Edge: How to Sharpen Your KnivesMy Profile

    • May 11, 2015 at 11:14pm

      Thanks, Melissa! πŸ™‚

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