5 Fool-Proof Kitchen Tips for the New Chef

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Today is April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day. It’s probably my 4th grade son’s favorite as he loves to “prank” others; his classmates & teachers should be on the lookout for whoopee cushions and “shock” gum! But all jokes aside, having a fool-proof kitchen can keep you on your game when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle and cooking nutrient-rich meals.  Healthy cooking, clean eating, losing weight and improving your lifestyle are all easier when you’re prepared and set up for success.  While practice makes it possible, being prepared is just as essential.

Here are my top 5 fool-proof kitchen tips for the new chef.

  1. Help Your Produce Live a Long Life

    Once you commit to healthy, clean eating you’ll be spending plenty of time at farmers’ markets or in the produce section of the grocery store.  But it’s so frustrating to spend money and watch these fresh gems go bad from sitting in the fridge too long.  Here’s how to extend the life of your produce. Don’t wash until you’re ready to use. You can absolutely make your juices ahead of time, but hold off on washing greens, mushrooms, ginger, apples, carrots, and most other produce until you are ready for prep and use. You could wash and dry the night before for juicing quickly in the morning, but be sure to dry everything well before returning to the fridge.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with a soggy, brown, wilted, spoiled mess.

  2. Don’t Throw Everything in the Fridge

    Tomatoes, avocado, onion, garlic, bananas, potatoes, winter squash, and whole pineapple should all sit on the counter until they are cut up.  Refrain from popping those tomatoes into the fridge when you get home from the store. If they are ripening faster than you’re ready to use them, then you can add them into the fridge to slow down the ripening process. This is an especially useful tip for avocados and bananas.

  3. Produce That Sits Together Ripens Together

    If you don’t want your apples or potatoes to get mushy so fast, keep them away from your bananas and onions.  Ethylene, the “fruit ripening gas,” or “plant growth hormone,” is emitted from certain produce, naturally.   Before you envision your cantaloupe sprouting bulging biceps, let’s review the chemistry behind this either pesky or helpful produce process.

    Ethylene helps ripen fruits, triggering a variety of enzymes to do their job. For example, softening the pectin, sweetening as starches are broken into simple sugars, color enhancing as chlorophyll is reduced revealing vibrant phytonutrients like the antioxidant, anthocyanin (think of the blue in blueberries) and more fragrant. Things that speed up this process include storing fruit in plastic bags, damaged or bruised fruits ripen faster and ripen those around them faster too.   The highest ethylene fruits include avocado, peaches, apples, cantaloupe, honeydew, banana, tomato, pears and plums.  If you do store produce in a bag, use one that’s perforated.

  4. Keep a Kitchen Ready for Cooking

    Looking for some fun kitchen tools, like a mandolin for making a Gorgeous Simple Salad?  Check out this hit list  for all Reboot-related needs, for your next shopping adventure. While all you truly need is a sharp knife, why not treat yourself to a new produce-prep tool rather than a sugary treat next time you’d like a reward.

  5. Know How to Use Your Knives

    These days you can purchase a specific slicer for just about every kind of produce and while that can be cute and fun to have around, you may end up with cluttered drawers full of tools you never use.   Instead, use these quick and easy tips that you just need a sharp knife for:

    • Avocado: If you purchase a hard, green one you’d like to convert to a soft, delicious topping for your next salad, store it in a brown paper bag to help it ripen.
      Ready to eat?  Slice that avocado around its entire perimeter in a circle, holding it so it looks like the shape of a pear standing up, not across its middle where you’ll encounter the pit.  Once you’ve made a clean slice around, you can gently twist to separate.  Scoop out half with a spoon and discard the skin.  If you’re saving the other half, keep the pit in and top with a touch of lemon juice to help prevent browning in the fridge.Insider Tip: When you make guacamole, keep the pit in the bowl to reduce browning during your party.
    • Tomato: This can be a tricky one to prepare properly. Here are more tips from chef Ayinde Howell on the Joe Show.   Slice your tomato in half, then place skin-side down on your cutting board, to preserve the seeds inside.  Slice or dice then scoop into your salad or sauce.
    • Onions: Yes they can make you cry but here are tips for slicing them more easily. Cut off one end of the onion, keeping the skin on, then slice in half.  Next, peel off the skin and remove the other end of the onion.  Lay flat side of onion on cutting board and make horizontal cuts as thin or thick as you’d like.  For long, thin slices to top your salad, stop here. If you’re looking for small, square, diced onion, now slice vertically.

Happy Cooking!


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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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