I have this friend whose culinary prowess amazes me.

She can walk into your kitchen/pantry/life and instantly know what needs to be done in order to make your dinner a zillion times more delicious than you even thought possible.  She’s like a fairy god-sister who descends upon a plate of raw chicken with sugar and spice and everything nice, waving her magic wand to transform bland to bad ass.

In the way I have ideas for stories, she has ideas for delectable dishes using just what you have in your pantry, which to me feels very much like extracting order from chaos (you should see my pantry, it’s terrifying), or creating earth from a dust cloud.

Her’s is a talent that mystifies me.  This knowing how to make anything taste good, this knowing how to whip up awesome entrees with ease.  Are chef like creatures born or made?  And if they can be made, where do I start?

This was part of what inspired The Good Wife Project.  Me, wanting to reward my hard-working husband with home cooked meals each week.  Me, wanting to help my little family save money by eating in, since we’re currently taking a break from Dream Dinners.  Me, desiring to create restaurant tasting meals with the best quality ingredients I can source, organic, local, and pasture raised goodness where available.

So when this Gourmet Goddess decided to come stay with us for a few days, I asked her if she’d teach me everything she knows.  Or some of it, at least.

Enter this list of “kitchen hacks” that are still blowing my mind.  I may not be a chef by nature, but I CAN learn to act like one.

1. Kitchen towel under cutting board. So that it doesn’t slip. Duh. How did I not know this obvious trick to add friction to your chopping surface?! Talk about a world altering way to cut ANYTHING.

2. Smash a little garlic with your knife. Smash a little garlic for your life. (Sung to the tune of  Lour Bega’s, Mambo No. 5). When my visiting pantry diver saw in her adventures that I recently purchased a small weapon sized container of pre minced garlic from Costco, she winced. “It just isn’t the same,” she said, when comparing its flavor to that which we could chop ourselves.  I protested that it’s just so difficult, un-peeling those deliciously stinky bulbs. “But it’s not at all,” she informed me, tossing a husk covered thing onto my cutting board.  She then laid a large knife upon it, flattened her hand, and smashed the knife and garlic clove with one hard smack.  After that, the shell just fell right off so chopping could commence.  It was quick and fun too.  And fairly easy considering the pay off of better tasting food.

3. Core it up, little darling, core it up. Clearly, you know what song THAT should be sung to. Anyway. Yes, I have an apple corer and it goes a long way, but it’s awkward to use, and since I’m learning how properly to use a knife, the Gourmet Goddess of Kitchen Goodness bestowed upon me a little trick for slicing a pear. You halve it, then half your halves, then come in at a 45 degree angle and off with your cores.  Genius!  And the slices look so pretty too.  Next time, I’m taking more pictures…

4. Speaking of pictures. Okay, so while the very essence of me is creative, bountiful with ideas, I often lack technique.  Like with taking pictures.  Pictures of food to be exact.  And since I’m going to be trying out all sorts of new recipes here, and likely on my other blog Credible Feast too, it’s imperative that I learn to adequately photograph food. Well, I was in luck when GG came to town because not only can she cook’em, she can photograph’em too.  The before picture is what I thought would suffice, and the after is her doing.

Before and after teriyaki

“You have the dishes, use them,” she said, in not so many words.  Another trick she shared, rub water on your chicken and vegetables to help them catch the light.  Brilliance! Are you as amazed as I am how the picture of making-my -own-Teriyaki sauce transformed?  And this is without any filters or editing.

Maybe the items I shared above are obvious to those of you who know your way around any kitchen, but to me they’re like giant light bulbs being flicked on in a room with blackout curtains.  If you have any other simple cooking solutions to impart to this Good Wife in training, please please share them with me!  My husband and taste buds will thank you.

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