Just about every busy mom dreams about hiring a personal chef. I mean, who wouldn’t love to have the likes of Martha or Julia sneak in the back door, whip up something fantastic, and then sneak out again—leaving you to take credit for those flower-shaped hors d'oeuvres, flawless mashed potatoes, and magazine-perfect slices of cake?
If you've tried and tried to work “personal chef” into your weekly budget, but can’t find a way to justify it, here are some brilliant hacks that might at least make your family suspect that you have Martha on the payroll.
10 Bake cookies in a muffin tin
Nothing says "home baker" like a cookie with flat edges—which is what happens when those once-perfect balls of dough spread into each other while baking and have to be cut apart with a spatula. And if you love a soft-baked cookie more than a crispy one, this easy hack will change the way you make cookies forever. Just grease a regular muffin pan, drop the dough in, and bake until set. You'll get rich, chewy, and delicious muffin-shaped cookies.
9 Use your waffle iron to make hash browns
If you've ever thought your rarely-used waffle iron might be taking up too much space, consider using it for other breakfast foods. Besides looking cool, hash browns made in a waffle iron are almost totally hands-off and come out extra crispy. No more undercooked centers, and it’s a lot less work, too. Tip: you can also use your waffle iron to make omelets.
8 Make everything you eat into flowers
Yes, everything. Because all personal chefs have a post-graduate degree in flower-shaped foods (don’t they?). Start with these lemon slices, which are really easy to make with a vegetable peeler and a knife.
7 Whip up extra-creamy mashed potatoes with a mesh sieve
Let’s face it, your family is tired of lumpy mashed potatoes (and if they’re not, it’s just because they’re afraid to say so). Try using a wire mesh sieve and a rubber spatula as a fast fix—just push the potatoes through the sieve and say “goodbye” to lumpy spuds forever.
6 Slice cake with dental floss
You put hours into baking and decorating that cake, why destroy all your hard work with the dull edge of a plastic cake slicer? A piece of dental floss will give you perfect, even slices with picture-quality edges. No more listening to your kids wail, “His slice is better than mine!” And you can use this trick for other foods, too, like refrigerated cookie dough, burritos, and soft cheeses.
5 Use an apple slicer to make potato wedges
The secret to perfect oven-baked fries is an even slice. If some of those wedges are bigger than others, you’ll get both undercooked and overcooked fries in the same batch. Instead of using a sharp knife and your best guess, try your apple slicer. Not only will you get perfect looking potato wedges, but your finished fries will all have the same crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-in-the-middle consistency.
4 Freeze Cool-Whip on cookie sheets and cut into fun shapes
Yeah, it’s pretty easy to throw a handful of mini marshmallows into a cup of hot cocoa, but if you want to really put some love into those snowy days by the fire, try making your own faux-marshmallows out of Cool-Whip. Just spread it out on a cookie sheet and freeze, then cut it up into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Tip: if you have small cookie cutters, you can do this with jumbo-sized marshmallows, too.
3 Put pancake batter in ketchup bottles
You may not look like much of a pro holding your Heinz bottle over the griddle, but I guarantee that those pancakes will say otherwise. The squeeze bottle gives you the control you need to make fancy shapes and designs without the usual batter splatter that almost always ends up all over your counter.
2 Woven bacon
The problem with the average BLT is the bacon-to-lettuce-to-tomato ratio. That is, too much lettuce and tomato and not enough bacon (there’s never enough bacon). You can solve this problem by learning the fine art of bacon weaving—it’s just like basket weaving except with, you know, bacon. Weave raw slices together and bake on aluminum foil or a wire rack and you’ll finally have a BLT that delivers bacon in every bite.
1 Pour melted chocolate over a balloon to make an edible bowl
Because you really need edible bowls to go with all that ice cream, right? Of course you do. Just blow up a few balloons—big or small—and spray them lightly with nonstick oil, then dip in chocolate and let cool on wax paper. Pop the balloon, and you’ve added another 200 delicious calories to your favorite dessert.