Measuring Ingredients

US teaspoon and tablespoon measuring set
US teaspoon and tablespoon measuring set

Measuring ingredients seems straightforward enough, but it isn’t. For instance, I’ve recently discovered that a tablespoon is not always a tablespoon! It seems Australian and New Zealand tablespoons are different from US measurements.

I knew metric and US were different (and how to convert), but I had no idea that something with the same name had two different meanings.

Australian tablespoons are 20 ml (or four teaspoons), while American tablespoons are only 15 ml (or three teaspoons).  And, British pints are different from American pints!

Gack!

 




A Bit of Clarity on Measurements

The measurements on this blog are in US measures: quarts, pints, ounces, tablespoons, and teaspoons.

US fluid ounce measuring cups
US fluid ounce measuring cups

Here are some links to conversion charts if you need them:

US to metric conversion – fluid, weight, pan size, and oven temperature conversion

Cooking units conversion – conversion by ingredient, just type in what you want to measure; this one also includes British units (as the British pints and ounces are different)

US dry/weight measuring cups
US dry/weight measuring cups

Grams to cups converter – type in your ingredient, the amount, the units you want to convert, and the units you want to end up with

Cooking equivalents – charts for dry and  liquid measurements, as well as conversions for common baking ingredients and oven temperatures




How to Easily Open a Tight Jar

Trying to open a tight jar can be a real pain.  I’ve seen a lot of fancy gadgets and dubious tips for opening tight lids, but there’s an easy way to do this.  And, you don’t need to go out and buy anything either: no neoprene, no appliances.

All you need is something you probably already have in your kitchen: the humble bottle opener.

My grandma taught me to do this long ago, and it works easily every time, no matter how tight the lid.



First take the bottle opener and slide it under the lid of the jar (see photo below)

open tight jar

 

Then, push down on the handle of the bottle opener, pushing up the pointed end (sort of like the downward motion of a see-saw).  This will break the vacuum seal and loosen the lid.

open tight jar

Once the seal is broken, you should be able to open the jar easily.  If it’s still stuck, turn the jar around and repeat the process on the other side.

open tight har

 

More Kitchen Organization Hacks and Tips

Kitchen Organization Hack: Oxo Peeler

Small Kitchen Storage Ideas: How to Store Everything You Need to Cook in a Tiny Kitchen

Easily Break Apart a Head of Garlic




Kitchen Organization Hack: Oxo Peeler

I love my Oxo peeler; in fact, it’s one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

However, it’s black. The trouble with that is that most of the other gadgets are also black (and much taller than the peeler).

To make things worse, my gadget holder is black, or at least mostly black. It’s also quite deep, in order to accommodate tongs and spatulas and other long tools. But, the peeler is relatively short.

I have the other gadgets and tools sorted, and can easily find them, but every time I put the peeler back in the gadget holder it would get swallowed up. When I wanted to use it again, I had a hard time finding it. Not good when you have a small kitchen, not much counter space, and kitchen organization is critical!

After a bit of thought, I figured out the perfect “kitchen organization hack”: nail polish!

I dabbed some red nail polish on the bottom of the peeler. Now, when I put it back in the holder, (bottom-side up) the red is easy to spot in the midst of all those black gadgets.

When the polish wears off, I simply reapply it. Voilà!

More Kitchen Organization Hacks and Cooking Tips

Small Kitchen Storage Ideas: How to Store Everything You Need to Cook in a Tiny Kitchen

How to Easily Open a Tight Jar

Top Kitchen Gadgets

Easily Break Apart a Head of Garlic

Quick Soak Beans in an Hour

Small Kitchen Storage Ideas: How to Store Everything You Need to Cook in a Tiny Kitchen

Working and cooking in a small kitchen can be a real challenge.  My kitchen is soo small (how small is it)? It’s so small, that only one person can stand in it at a time.  Since, I live in New York City, space is at a premium, and kitchen organization hacks are critical.

The storage space is minimal. There’s practically no kitchen storage at all. My counter is the size of a sheet of paper. No drawers. There are two standard size cabinets, and two half-size cabinets. And that’s it.

With a space this tiny, clever kitchen storage ideas are a necessity. Here are some of the kitchen organization hacks I use everyday so I can find what I need, and still get food on the table. Yes, I do cook in there!

Repurpose

Look at organizing with a fresh eye; use a sock organizer for small jars and container lids.


Sock Box – Clear Drawer Organizer – Set of 2

This is supposed to be for socks, but I use several in my microwave cart in the kitchen. They’re great for keeping smaller items in one place. One has plastic container lids, another has small cans of tomato sauce and tomato paste. A third has small bottles (like sesame oil and rice vinegar), and a fourth one has boxes of tea. No socks in sight.

SE – Storage Container Set – Plastic, Round, Screw Top, 6 Pc

I stole this idea from my mom. I think she got them in a marine store (they were supposed to be for fishing lures). However, they’re also great for storing spices. They can be stacked, labeled, and stuck in a drawer or a cabinet, without taking up a lot of space.

Ten Easy Small Kitchen Storage Ideas

If your space is small, then you need to think a bit creatively.

  1. Limited floor space? Look up! Hang things from the walls. I’ve got my spice rack, wire shelving, teaspoons, and paper towels on the wall.
  2. Use wire racks to double your shelf space. I put wire shelves in my microwave cart, giving me two levels instead of just one.
  3. Get pots that stack! If you’re really stuck for cabinet space, try a marine or camping store. They’ve got sets of pots that stack into each other, so they take up less space.
  4. Measure appliances and space before you buy. Not every toaster oven or blender will fit. Take a tape measure when you go shopping, or measure (and write down) your counter size before you buy online.
  5. Look for double (or triple) duty appliances and furnishings. My microwave cart is also a cabinet, a towel holder, a knife block, storage for silverware, and counter space.
  6. Move cookbooks to another room. Since my living room/dining area/kitchen is all really one big space, the cookbooks are on a shelf over the TV. I only have to walk a few feet to get the one I need.
  7. Store plastic bags in an old tissue box. Thumbtack or nail it to the inside of a kitchen cabinet door. Or, for a more elegant solution, try a fabric plastic bag holder.
  8. Use wire baskets to separate your cleaning supplies, or keep all your pots together.
  9. Hang small appliances (like microwaves or toaster/ovens) under your cabinets.
  10. Get slide-out drawers for more storage.

Use Your Kitchen Door

An over-the-door spice rack saves counter and wall space.


Organize It All 3-Tier Wall-Mounted Spice Rack – Chrome
Keep all your spices organized and easy to reach. This spice rack is very sturdy, and big enough to clear out an entire cabinet of spices.



Shelf on Rails Pantry Pull Out Shelf

Wire storage shelves are essential in small kitchens. You can use them to create an extra shelf (and get twice as much space in your cabinets), or just to keep your food, ingredients, or cleaning supplies all in one place.



ClosetMaid  Two-Tier Cabinet Organizer

These stacking shelves give you split level cabinets. I used them to create extra space in my microwave cart. There are more in my kitchen cabinet, which let me stack sandwich size plates on top of larger dinner plates.

Stack Everything

Get bowls, containers, and even pots that stack. They use less space.

Stansport Stainless Steel 7 Piece Cookset

The pots nest inside each other, so they use up a lot less space than standard pots. If you’re really, really stuck for space, this set includes 4 quart , 3 quart, 2 quart and 1 quart pots, 10 inch fry pan, a universal lid and a detachable handle. The whole set fits in a small box (so you could even use it for actual camping if you wanted to).


Add a Rail

small kitchen storage tips
small kitchen storage tips
Source: wiccahwang on flickr cc 2.0

Here’s an easy kitchen storage solution: hang your utensils, potholders, and extra shelving.

More Storage Solutions for Small Kitchens

This old house storage tips– a pegboard drawer (like turning a workshop board on its side
Not Martha– 
Do it yourself storage projects
Creative storage solutions
– Storage outside your cabinets, clear shelves in the windows, or open shelves under cabinets.
Kitchen Storage Solutions: Pantry Storage Tips & Cabinet Organization Tips
A spring rod tension shelf (for spices), a cookware organizer, and an instant plastic bag holder (use an old tissue box).

Multipurpose Storage/Furniture

A microwave cart (like the one below) is counter space, pantry, and towel rack.


Winsome Wood Single Drawer Storage Cart, Natural

This compact cart is made of real wood (not particle board). It’s got a counter top for extra workspace or small appliances, plus a towel rack, and a drawer for silverware. The cabinet underneath has a built-in shelf. Add more storage with wire baskets and shelving. Since it’s small (19×25, 34) you can push it out of the way when you’re not using it.


Whitmor Supreme Cart

This holds my recycling (on the bottom shelf, with bags tucked into a repurposed Amazon box), cat supplies in the middle, and coffee and tea supplies on the top.

It’s pretty easy to assemble, and you can adjust the shelves up and down to whatever height you like. And, it has wheels, so you can roll it out to get easier access.

It’s only 13″ wide, so it takes up very little space. If that’s too wide, there’s a smaller one that’s only 9″ wide.

Got a small kitchen? What are your best storage ideas and tips?

Quick Soak Beans in an Hour

Waiting for dried beans to soak overnight can be a real pain (especially if you’re hungry).  You can, of course, buy them in cans, but the canned beans often have extra salt and/or preservatives in them.

Luckily, there is a way to speed up the process, which cuts the time from eight hours to only one and change.  Much better!

Quick Soaking Beans

Here’s all you have to do.  Just measure out the amount of beans you need.  Put them in a large saucepan and cover them with water (about an inch or two over the top of the beans).  Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Let the beans boil for two minutes.

Turn off the heat, and allow them to rest for an hour.

They’re now ready to cook.

Easily Break Apart a Head of Garlic

Tip: How to Easily Break Apart a Garlic Bulb

separate a head of garlic
How to separate a head of garlic

Need to break open a garlic bulb?  Use this quick trick to do it simply and easily.

Just place the bulb on a cutting board, with the larger end down (see photo on right).

Then put a knife right through the top of the neck, as if you were stabbing it.  Twist the knife and the cloves will come apart.

Once you’ve got it separated, use this handy tool to peel the cloveszak garlic peeler

Top Kitchen Gadgets

Every cook loves kitchen gadgets. Hey, that’s part of what makes cooking fun. These are the top kitchen gadgets I own – the essential tools and utensils I can’t live without.

From a microplane grater to a garlic peeler, to an Oxo can opener, these gadgets make cooking much easier and faster.

Most of these are under $20. And, since they’re pretty cheap, you don’t have to feel guilty about treating yourself. They’d also make great gifts for your favorite cook.

Plus, I’ve added some helpful tips to give you more inspiration on how to use them.

zak garlic peelergarlic peeler

Zak Garlic Peelerzak garlic peeler
If you’ve ever struggled trying to laboriously peel the skin off a clove of garlic, you know what a pain it is. It’s thin, it’s crinkly, and removing it is really hard.

Well, those days are done. Put a clove of garlic inside the tube, roll it around on your counter, and voila! It’s so easy, you may find that you just can’t stop using it. Just be mindful of the neighbors and your friends after you eat all that garlic!

microplane zester


Microplane Zester/Gratermicroplane zesterr

The microplane started its life in woodworking, as a rasp, and moved over to food. You can do lots of things with it. Use it to shave chocolate over a hot cup of cocoa or a freshly-baked cake. It’s also handy for grating hard cheese easily or zesting lemons. It also grates ginger (which is really hard to cut or chop with a knife).

The only tricky part for me is cleaning it (but that’s because I don’t have a dishwasher). It is dishwasher safe, so you can just toss it in and not worry about it.

It’s Sharp!
One thing about this zester, is that it is very, very sharp! Be careful when you use it, and make sure to keep it in the holder so you don’t scrape your hands when you pull it out of a drawer or gadget holder.

oxo kitchen tongs

Kitchen tongs

These are great for tossing pasta, grilling fish, or transferring cutlets from egg to bread crumbs. The locking mechanism keeps them from getting stuck to other gadgets in your kitchen drawer. Like all Oxo products, they’re ergonomically designed so they’re easy to hold. I have the 12″ model, which is probably the best size for kitchen use. However, the longer ones (16″) would probably work well for a barbecue (when you need to be further away from the source of heat).

oxo good grips vegetable peeler

OXO Swivel Peeler

I love this potato peeler! My old peeler wasn’t very sharp and it hurt my hand. The good grips peeler really lives up to its name. It’s much easier to hold, my hand doesn’t hurt, and I could peel a whole peck of potatoes with this one and not mind.

And it doesn’t just stop with potatoes. It even peels butternut squash easily. I bought one and peeled it in seconds (without straining or hurting myself)! Wow!

oxo steel can opener

OXO SteeL Can Opener

There are several Oxo can openers, but this one is the best— and has high ratings on Amazon too. It cuts through cans like a knife through soft butter! You can hardly tell the can is there.

It’s also really easy on your hands (my old metal can opener used to dig into my palms). And, it looks sleek and shiny sitting on my counter in my gadget holder.

Cuisinart  Immersion Hand Blender

cuisinart hand blenderLots of soup recipes call for you to make the soup, puree it in small batches, and then return it to the pot. You have to get the big blender out, pour small amounts of soup in, puree it, then get another pot to put it in, and keep repeating over and over. You end up with 2 dirty pots and a dirty blender to clean.

With the immersion blender, you just prepare your soup, turn off the heat, stick the hand blender into the pot and whir away. It’s the best immersion blender I’ve tried. And, it snaps apart when you push a button, so you can just wash the shaft with the blade, and put the motor half to the side (where it won’t get wet).

Soup Cooking Tip
With this blender, you don’t have to bother pureeing soup in batches in your regular blender.
Just take the pot off the heat, stick the blender right in the pot, and whirr away. It’s a lot faster and easier to clean.

vacu vin wine saver

Vacu Vin Wine Saver

Drinking wine with dinner is great, but when you’re one person, there’s always some left over. I used to stick it in the fridge, and then forget it was there. Two or three days later, I’d end up with a half bottle of really expensive vinegar. Not good.

My mom gave me a wine saver as a gift for the holidays one year and it’s great. All you have to do is pop on a stopper and vacuum the air out of the bottle with the little pump. The wine will stay fresh for nearly two weeks: no waste, and no vinegar.

black and decker mini chopper

Black & Decker Food Chopper

This little gadget is great for mincing and chopping, without having to haul out (or clean) your big food processor. Use it to chop onions, bread crumbs, grind nuts, and mince fresh herbs. It’s easier to clean than a blender, and comes with a mini spatula to scrape down the sides.

Since it’s so small, you can keep it out on your kitchen counter, where it’s handy, rather than having to drag it down out of a cupboard.

tea ball

Stainless Steel Mesh Tea Ball

Lots of recipes call for adding spices, such as bay leaves or cloves, in cheesecloth so they can be removed later.

I’ve never seen cheesecloth in a store, and since I have a small kitchen, I don’t want to keep it around if I do find it. So, I use the tea ball instead. Rather than fishing out the bay leaves, cloves, or the peppercorns one by one (my dad does this!), I put them in the tea ball.

This way the flavor spreads into the soup, without making a mess. Pull the tea ball out with a spoon when you’re done. Pretty simple.

oxo gadget holder
OXO Good Grips Brushed Stainless Steel Utensil Holder

I’ve got about 30 (maybe more) kitchen gadgets (trimming this page down to just a few top gadgets was hard!). My old gadget holder was looking pretty grim. So, I decided to treat myself to this sleek new one from Oxo.

It’s got three sections, so I can sort everything by type – spoons in one section, spatulas in the second, and everything else in the third. I wasn’t quite sure it would hold all my gadgets – but it does. It’s got an elliptical shape, so it doesn’t take up a lot of space (another plus, as space in my kitchen is at a premium).

What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets? And do you have any unconventional ways to use them?