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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: