A calorie-heavy casserole isn’t the only meal you can make with a baking dish. We found three surprisingly innovative — and healthy — ways to use each of the following five classic cooking tools already hanging out in your kitchen. Might we suggest an easier way to flip an egg, or using your blender for more than just protein smoothies? Meal prep has never been so creative…or easy!
15 Genius Kitchen Hacks
1. Sweeten up your hash browns. With sweet potatoes, that is. Instead of using regular ole white ones, grab the orange variety, packed with vitamin A. Devin Alexander, weight loss coach and celebrity chef of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, recommends shredding the potatoes and tossing on the starch. “It cooks in half the time and comes out nice and crispy,” she says.
2. Flip the perfect eggs. The worst part about making an omelet is the dreaded egg flip, when something goes awry and all the filling flies out. Avoid it altogether by adding your scrambled egg yolk to the iron, throwing in your favorite mix-ins and closing the lid. Let the appliance be the flip-master — you just enjoy the end result.
3. Lighten up a falafel. Ditch the deep fryer (and the high fat content), keep the flavor. Use a blender or food processor to pulse chickpeas, garlic, one egg white and seasonings until smooth. Form small patties — or simply add the mixture to the iron to make a waffle-shaped falafel — and cook for six to eight minutes.
4. Perfect your sushi practice. If you’re a rolling novice, Alexander recommends using a baking dish to make a sushi casserole. “Pack sushi rice (we suggest brown rice instead of white for a fiber boost), then layers of raw fish, vegetables like cucumber and zucchini, and cut it into servable cubes,” she says. Nobody will know you didn’t craft those gorgeous rolls the traditional way.
5. Fluff up your couscous. Instead of cooking this tiny pasta in a pot, try making it in a larger dish instead. Nadia G., host of the Cooking Channel’s Bitchin’ Kitchen, says allowing it to be spread out in the dish lets it breathe, in a sense, and stops the couscous from scrunching together. Result: a fluffier side dish.
6. Make vegetables more fun. If you’ve got kids in the house, a baking dish is going to make veggies look more appetizing. “My grandmother made ‘curled carrots’ for us as kids and it was always way more fun,” says Alexander. Peel carrots and green onions length-wise so they form long ribbons, then use the baking dish to soak them in ice water until they naturally begin to curl. Enjoy as a side dish for the little ones or use this technique to help garnish a bigger meal at your next dinner party.
7. Create your own baking flour. For this kitchen hack, replace white flour in baked goods with a homemade oat version. Katie Farrell of Dashing Dish adds the oats to her blender “to make a fine sand consistency ‘flour’ and use it for whole-grain and low-carb baked goods,” she says. “It’s a big money saver!”
8. Make your own ground meat. Save money by buying the whole chicken breast and grinding it up yourself at home. Alexander suggests tossing it in the blender and giving it a few quick pulses (you can do the same with pork tenderloin or top round) to get a lean meat that’s ready for cooking.
9. Stir up soups. Blenders aren’t just for chilled drinks (like that post-workout smoothie or refreshing margarita). Farrell suggests using it to make soups. Simply simmer vegetables, like carrots and cauliflower, in broth until they’re nearly falling apart, puree in the blender until smooth, then serve.
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10. Grind your own spices. Forget paying an arm and a leg for store-bought bottles of dried parsley or basil. Buy the whole variety instead and shred them at home to save a few bucks. All you need is your coffee grinder, says Alexander. “Just be sure to run bread in between uses,” she warns. “The bread soaks up the oils, so if you don’t, your coffee will taste like the spices.”
11. Create an almond crust. “I love using Blue Diamond almonds in the grinder, and putting them on top of my salad in place of croutons,” says chef Max Hardy. “You can also use it to make a crusted chicken or Mini Almond and Vegetable Sliders with Spicy Mayo.” At only 180 calories, the sliders are perfect during game night.
12. Pulverize herbs and seeds. Alexander suggests smashing herbs and seeds, like flax, in the coffee grinder so they’re nice and fresh and have tons of robust flavors. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
13. Dumb down dessert. There’s no reason to spend an hour or more making a decadent treat when your sweet tooth wants a quick fix — now. Tina Haupert of Carrots ‘N’ Cake suggests busting out the microwave for the Pinterest-popular dessert-in-a-mug recipes. This German Chocolate Protein Mug Cake Recipe (yes, we said cake) only requires two minutes of prep work and one-minute of cook time.
14. Foam milk. You don’t need a frother — or fancy espresso machine — to make creamy lattes at home. Grab a small jar with a lid (a jam jar works well), and fill it with milk, no more than halfway. Next, get a mini arm workout in by shaking the jar until the milk has doubled in size. Remove the lid and microwave for 30 seconds. Voila!
15. Zap an English muffin. There’s nothing worse than craving an egg sandwich and realizing there are no English muffins in the house. Little did you know you can make your own in under five minutes, thanks to your microwave. Use this gluten-free, Paleo recipe from Haupert. “It tastes just like a real English muffin and toasts really well,” she says. Plus, it satisfies the craving.