Minimalist Cooking Hacks

09.26.2017

0600

As someone who likes to make my routines as simple as possible, I also try to create simple cooking habit routines as well. This approach simplifies the ingredients I buy and my grocery shopping haul trips. Here are seven simple tips and tricks for cooking hacks.

 

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1. Focus on Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods

  • Whole, single-ingredient foods are the key to good health.
  • Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, poultry and eggs are great examples. These foods are incredibly nutritious and satisfying.
  • When you focus on whole foods and high-quality ingredients, you will automatically start to eat less processed junk foods.
  • Processed foods often come with misleading health claims and long lists of ingredients, many of which you can’t even pronounce. However, truly healthy foods don’t even need an ingredients list. They are the ingredient.

Bottom Line: Eating healthy can be quite simple. Stick to whole foods and avoid processed foods made with refined ingredients and artificial chemicals.

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2. Use Simple Flavorings

  • If you buy high-quality ingredients, you don’t need to add a lot of flavoring. Olive oil, salt and pepper may be enough.
  • Fresh herbs can also do wonders for a meal.
  • Try to avoid buying new flavorings unless they are something you think you will use often.
  • If a new recipe requires hard-to-find spices and condiments, you can most likely replace them with something you already have.
  • A rare ingredient that you will end up using only once is a waste of money and space in your kitchen. Most of the time, you can stick to common ingredients that you already own and know how to use.

Bottom Line: You don’t need to own a lot of rare ingredients in order to add flavor to your food. Simple ingredients like high-quality olive oil, salt and pepper can be used in almost anything you make.

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3. Clean Out Your Spice Cabinet

  • Most people keep a lot of herbs and spices on hand. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you use them regularly and don’t have duplicates.
  • If your spice cabinet is disorganized and overflowing with spices you never use, you might want to tidy it up a bit.
  • Try to combine duplicates into one container and donate spices you never use. Throw away/compost spices that are old or bland.
  • Having a tidy spice drawer will help you cook faster because it will be easier to find the spices you’re looking for.
  • A good rule of thumb is to go through your spices at least once per year.

Bottom Line: Having a tidy spice cabinet will make you more efficient in the kitchen. Keep spices you use regularly within reach and combine duplicates. Throw out old spices and donate the ones you never use.

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4. Keep an Organized, Minimalist Pantry

  • Keep a clutter-free pantry stocked with quality foods you use regularly. Preparing healthy meals will become much easier.
  • A clutter-free pantry also makes your food less likely to spoil, since you’ll be able to see all your food items neatly organized.
  • You’ll find it easier to navigate your pantry and locate the items you’re looking for when cooking. Here are a few tips to help you organize your pantry:
    • Optimize storage: Store items you often use on the bottom shelves or near the front. Items you use less often can be stored in the back or a little higher.
    • Sort and group: Designate shelves for similar items, such as keeping your canned foods on one shelf and your breakfast foods on another.
    • Label everything: Label all of your pantry items and store them in clear, well-sealed containers so that your foods don’t spoil.
    • Increase accessibility: Try to place items so they are either directly accessible or you can reach them after moving just one item.

Bottom Line: Taking the time to plan and organize your pantry will make both shopping and cooking easier and more enjoyable.

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5. Simplify Your Kitchen Tools

  • There are tons of clever gadgets you can purchase for your kitchen.
  • Yet many are nonessential, single-purpose appliances.
  • You don’t need fancy kitchenware to cook a great, healthy meal. Simple meals require just a few basics.
  • If your kitchen is cluttered with items you rarely use, consider selling or donating them. Focus on keeping the functional items you use on a regular basis — it’s a plus if they serve multiple purposes.
  • However, figuring out what’s essential is entirely up to you. This varies, and something you regularly use may seem unnecessary to someone else. What you use depends on your lifestyle, how you cook and what kinds of foods you like to eat.
  • Try storing the items you rarely use in a box. If you haven’t opened it in six months, then it’s probably safe to sell or donate those things.

Bottom Line: You don’t need highly specialized, fancy tools for most tasks in the kitchen. Consider selling or donating kitchenware you don’t use often and keeping only the most useful kitchen items.

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6. Think Before You Shop

  • You should think carefully before you purchase a new kitchen gadget.
  • Start by asking yourself if you really need it. If you’re not sure, think it over for one week before you decide to buy it.
  • Setting yourself a rule of “one in, one out” may also help. So for any new item you bring into the kitchen, another needs to go.
  • Think creatively and you might even be able to use something you already own in a different way than you’re used to.

Bottom Line: When it comes to kitchen appliances, less is more. Think carefully before you decide to add another item to your kitchen, especially if it’s an item that’s designed to perform just one specific task.

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7. Clear Your Kitchen Counter

  • It’s time to de-clutter your kitchen counter.
  • Store kitchenware you use less frequently in your cabinets and drawers instead of on the countertop.
  • This is especially important if you live in a small apartment with limited counter space.
  • You’ll have more room to prepare meals and you’ll probably enjoy cooking more if there is less clutter around you.
  • This will also allow you to be more organized and focused while cooking.
  • If you need to keep items on the kitchen counters because of limited cabinet space then make sure they’re frequently used and essential for food preparation.
  • If you like to store items like keys, mail and wallets on your kitchen counter, make sure everything has a place where it belongs.

Bottom Line: Kitchen counters tend to attract clutter. Keeping them clear will give you more space to prepare meals and enjoy your time in the kitchen.

 

 

Backpack Hacks

08.15.2017

0600

 

With all of my backpacks that I have ever owned, I hack them the exact same way as I always have. Going back as far as middle school, I always had to hack my backpacks. It was my way of customizing my carrier to my exact needs and over time I would edit it as my needs changed. Within each compartment I always created some type of hanging or attachment mechanism to hang my water bottles, extra bags within the compartments or hang something I needed access to immediately. most of the time I hung items that I needed access to so that those items weren’t at the bottom of my bag, where I had to go digging around to look for them.

 

Front of the backpack

  • I always attach extra reflectors so that in low light, vehicles or any type of light can bounce off of my backpack and I can be visible. These reflecting straps are for bikers, but I took two of the straps and weaved them through my exisitng strap set up.

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  • For all of my zippers that open to significant compartments, I always sew a section of the zipper, so it limits the access to that compartment to only one direction of movement for the zipper. I prefer to only have access in one direction for the zipper movement so it’s easier to watch over and maintain. I also attach metal rings right below the point of the sewing block (through the exposed zipper tape) so that I can use this ring to lock my carabiners from the outside but to also hang items on the inside of the bag.

 

 

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  • On the inside, I hook extra interior metal rings with carabiners to the exterior rings that are popping through the tape so I can hang items on the inside. I’ll hang my water bottle from these interior rings (when my external water bottle pocket has my coffee tumbler in it) or small bags so I can keep items separated in the same compartment. These interior rings are there for anything that needs to be hanged or utilized.

 

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Sides of the backpack

  • I also sew blocking for my smaller compartments and create a locking system for these pockets as well. For the smaller pockets, it really just depends how and where you want to secure the pocket. I chose to insert an extra ring so that I could attach an extra carabiner to it and lock the zipper with it.

 

 

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  • For my external water bottle pocket, I usually take one of the extra backpack straps (that I trimmed off)  to create a safety strap for the external water bottle pocket so that it can hold taller water bottles more securely. There have been a few incidents where my external water  bottle pocket wasn’t deep enough and due to the fact that I had so much stuff in my backpack, my water bottle managed to get squeezed out of the pocket.

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Back of the backpack

  • I usually trim the extra strap slack that comes with the backpack straps. I don’t like any loose hanging straps so I will measure how high I want to carry my backpack and trip, then hem the straps accordingly.
  • For my backpack straps, I like to keep my smaller items very close to me. So I will attach some type of pocket (large enough to fit my “wallet” items and my cell phone) to the front. This backpack didn’t come with a pocket for those types of intimate items.

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  • I also ALWAYS, ALWAYS attach an extra carabiner to the other strap, so I can hook my keys onto my strap quickly.

 

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So there you have it, those are the hacks I made for this backpack. This is my day to day back pack, so I’ll run to the store or go hiking with it. I do have another hiking backpack that’s a 65 gallon capacity for traveling and I’ve hacked that accordingly as well. Hopefully you may see a hack i described here that you would like to use on your own backpacks or carrying bags that you may want to use.

 

Cooking And Serving Preparation Hacks

07.18.2017

0600

Quick, easy and simple are always my goals when I do any type of task. If I can hack a procedure to simplify steps in any task, then I will. I find more value and satisfaction in saving time and energy when I do tasks. I’m simply not the type to make extravagant dinners or parties. There are always ways to simplify life and that is always a goal in life for me. My personal hacks might cut out one extra step but one less step is still saving time.

Cooking Preparation Hacks

When you’re in a hurry, and you need to eat or prepare food fast, here are some hacks that I use so I can speed up the preparation process.

  • Using a spoon to scoop and round produce or vegetable that fits in the palm of your hands
    • Hard boiled eggs, avocados, kiwis or any other small round produce that will fit in the palm of your hand

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    • Dicing or Cutting on a cutting board
      • To change the direction of the cuts, rotate the cutting board or move your own position towards the board. Don’t move the produce on the cutting board.

 

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  • Sliding produce to pan from cutting board
    • Once done with dicing or slicing your vegetables on the cutting board, use the opposite side of the knife blade to slide the chopped items the pot or larger container. This way, you don’t ruin the blade of the knife.

 

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  • Cutting oranges
    • Cut oranges in half by cutting the first slice horizontally, and then create the divides from there. That way you create small triangles when you peel bech each individual slice.

 

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  • When cutting long vegetables
    • When cutting long vegetables, always cut the produce in half for each cut, so it takes less cuts to reach the desired length.
    • When I cut carrots it’s in a similar manner. I cut them in half and then split the halves into halves. I pretty much use this method for most any vegetable I cut.

 

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  • Extracting garlic
    • Gently extract garlic out of its skin by using the side of a large knife and simply pressing on it, on the counter. The garlic will loosen from its skin and simply cutting off the end of the garlic will release the skin from the garlic meat

 

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Serving Food Hacks

A lot of my workday consists of time management so my hacks really stem from my desire to save time.

  1. Serving Food
    1. I use glass tupperware bowls when I eat, that way, if I have leftover food, I throw on the tupperware lid and I’ll have leftovers for a snack or for another meal. Also, there are less dishes to wash after the meal.
    2. Mugs with handles are our friends for foods that have temperature issues such as hot soups, or cold ice cream.

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The Princess Project 2017

02.14.2017

0700

I discovered The Princes Project a few years ago, back in 2002. I actually gave my prom dress away along with the accessories that I wore with it. I really respect this organization and I encourage anyone to donate to it. Although you will pay for dry cleaning for the dress initially, it’s really not a big deal, consider it a gift you’re giving along with the dress. The Princess Project is a local nonprofit that promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses to high school teens. They provide free prom dresses and accessories to high school teens who cannot otherwise afford them. Each year they set up multiple locations for donations around the Bay Area as well as in San Diego. For more information, please visit their general website at The Princess Project Silicon Valley .

I wanted to show you my journey this year with The Princess Project. I actually don’t donate each year because I don’t always have gowns to donate, but this year I reached out to friends and asked for their donations. The Dress Donation Guidelines are as follows:

  • They DO accept:
    1. Dresses MUST be current styles from 2008 to present
    2. Dresses MUST be dry-cleaned and on hangers
    3. Dresses MUST be prom dresses, formal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, or fancy party dresses, short and long, appropriate for teenagers, sizes 0-30
  • They CANNOT accept:
    • out of style garments
    • garments that have not been dry cleaned
    • accessories, shoes or purses
    • make-up
    • casual dresses
    • wedding dresses
    • tuxedos or men’s clothing
    • dresses your mother would wear!

I initially asked for donations from my friends and had the task of dry cleaning them. (It’s requested that all dresses be dry cleaned before donating). My friend Julia had more dresses to donate than me, and thank goodness she had already dry cleaned three of them, so I didn’t have to dry clean all of them. I took the time out to research which dry cleaners I wanted to spend my money at. I found an eco-friendly dry cleaners in my hometown. Green And Fresh Cleaners. They are the first environmentally friendly, green dry-cleaners in Mountain View – 100% PERC Free. Green is better for your clothes, better for the environment, and better for you. I don’t’ ever dry clean clothes, so I did take the time out to make sure I spent my money where it would harm the environment less. I didn’t even know about green dry cleaning until I spoke to my brother and subsequently did research on it.

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Did you know that most dry cleaners use  PERC (also know as perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), a chlorinated hydrocarbon classified by the EPA as a Toxic Air Contaminant. PERC can irritate eyes, nose and throat. It can cause headaches, dizziness or fatigue and is classified as a possible to probable human carcinogen by the EPA. We use an eco-friendly and green cleaning solution called GreenEarth. This solution is made from sand, the most abundant natural resources. In fact, it was discovered by a scientist working with a solution used in cosmetics. It’s the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, soaps and lotions, so it’s safe for you and your family.

At Green & Fresh Cleaners, they are 100% PERC free! So the images below shows the bundle that I brought into the dry cleaners, and the following picture shows the result after the dresses were cleaned and ready for transport to the donation site.

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After I picked up the dresses from the dry cleaners, I dropped it off at Tuxedos & More. The last image is the collection of dresses building up at the store. Our contribution is on the right side of the line of dresses. The store employee actually informed me that the left side of the dress collection was from the owner of a gown store that just went out of business, so technically, all of the other dresses were brand new! I’m so proud of our contribution to this organization this year. Prom can be expensive or even slightly out of budget for some families and this organization eases the gown part of it for the girls.

Did you know:

  1. A new study (April 2016), by Visa found that the average cost of promposals is a whopping $324. Here’s how the costs breakdown by region:
    1. Northeastern families will spend an average of $431 on promposals and $738 on prom night for a total of $1,169.
    2. On the west coast-$596 on the dance and $342 on the promposal totaling $937
    3. In the south, the prom night averages $544 and the promposal $305 for a total of $859
    4. Midwestern Families will fork over $515 on prom and $218 on the promposal for a total of $733.
  2. In 2015, American families spent an average of $919, according to Visa Inc.’s ‘ annual prom survey.
  3. A full 80% of respondents said they planned to spend money on the “promposal,” — an average of $324 — about a third of the average prom budget.
  4. For girls, the whole “prom look” will cost around $400, and a new survey from Visa found that on average, families will spend $1,139 on prom in 2013.

This organization wasn’t around when I was in high school, but I’m so grateful that it’s here to lend a hand to families who may need it. Prom is a privilege and not everyone will experience it for a number of reasons. The cost and look of the dress was always a stress factor when I was younger. I hope more organizations like this become more prevalent. I hope I will be able to contribute each year, but if not, I hope that it stays and grows as our society grows and the next generation grows up.

Please consider donating to an organization like this around your area. This community effort brings people together and to help one another is what bonds us together as humans. Although you may have to pay for dry cleaning, consider it a gift along with the dress(es). It’s for a great cause and you may be contributing to a young girl’s dream to go to prom without the stress of the dress.

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