The tomatoes are getting a little wrinkly on the counter. The side salad I planned to make for dinner the other day was replaced by the more gratifying side dish of french fries. It’s time to toss that salad before I waste more food. Dang! Sad, wilted lettuce in the bottom drawer again. Did I just waste another dollar, or is there something I can do to revive my greens?
It’s no secret that cooking isn’t a natural talent for me, and I would rather spend my time doing something else – like playing with my kids, writing for you, or getting bamboo placed under my fingernails.
BUT as a health advocate and a cost-conscious home executive, I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen cooking for my family.
Just like anything we have to do but don’t want to, we find shortcuts. Outsourcing meals (eating out or ordering in) is convenient, but not something we can do every day. Well, we could, but this would happen.
So I try to work around my kitchen shortcomings to make healthy meals.
As I think about the kitchen hacks I’ve learned over the years, most of them I learned from my grandmother’s kitchen. And so many of them I picked up just from watching her as a child.
As a tribute to my Grammie, who has been watching and messing with us from heaven for almost six years now, I share my favorite kitchen hacks with you in a section I call Grammie’s Kitchen Hacks.
Allow me to introduce Patty. My Grammie was an Irish and German redhead raised by a single mother in New York City in the 1930’s and 40’s. She went to private catholic school and raised hell on those poor nuns.
Grammie was left-handed, but Catholics believed left-handed people were criminals or witches. The nuns whacked her hand with a ruler when she used her left hand to write.
Experiences like this made Grammie resourceful. At such a young age, she couldn’t do what was natural and easy for her – she had to learn to do things in other ways. Grammie was an incredibly creative and talented woman. I am extremely blessed to have learned her expertise in the kitchen.
Grammie’s Kitchen Hack:
Place your wilted greens in a bowl, cover them with cold water, and add ice cubes (optional). Wait 20 minutes to 1 hour for the magic to happen!
Whenever we would eat dinner at my Grammie’s house, she would put the lettuce for the salad in a big bowl with water and ice cubes. Grammie said it made the lettuce crispy. I never realized this tip would take limp, wilted leaves and turn them into fresh greens again!
I usually have greens on hand, especially since I got a salad spinner, but sometimes my intentions are better than my actions. Too many times I have put a head of lettuce in the drawer only to find a sad heap of wilted greens a few days later.
I remembered the bowl of ice water for the salad and thought I’d try it one day. I was so pleased with the result! My soft, wilted kale was crisp and curly once more!
What Happened to my Wilted Lettuce, Anyway?
As a reluctant cook, I never realized I could take something that went “bad” and make it edible again. But let’s get something straight. Greens that are sad, limp, or even brown have not “gone bad.” Browning is the natural process of oxidation that happens when enzymes in damaged cells meet oxygen in the air. It is still safe to eat.
Lettuce has gone bad when it is slimy. Slimy means bacteria or fungus is taking over.
Lettuce gets soft and limp because it loses water. Fruits and vegetables are mostly water, with iceberg lettuce at 96% water. In the fridge, lettuce and other greens lose water to the air, the cells that hold the water shrink, and the outward appearance is wilted and limp.
This, by the way, is why we have “crisper” drawers in our refrigerators. If you put veggies in the drawers, the small area will keep the moisture in the veggies longer.
Why does wilted lettuce become crisp when it is soaked in water?
Soaking your lettuce in water will cause osmosis – remember that from middle school science? Water moves from areas of lots of water to not so much water so everyone can share.
The water will plump up the plant cells and make the greens rigid and crisp again. Yummy!
The reason you should use cold water, and even ice cubes if you have them, is a little more complicated. The short version is colder water is more dense, meaning the water molecules are closer together. As in the picture above, you can see water molecules that are closer together form a higher concentration so more water will move into the cells faster.
I soak my greens directly in my salad spinner, drain, then use the centrifugal force to dry. My salad spinner even doubles as storage, keeping my greens hydrated much like the crisper drawer in my fridge, only more visible. I find I eat more greens when they are stored already washed in my salad spinner on the shelf. It is convenient, and I don’t fall prey to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that causes my carrots to sprout in the bottom drawer.
I know I wasted a ton of money throwing away limp greens before I figured this out. Hopefully, you learned something new to help you rock your kitchen today!
I am always looking for ways to feel fresh in the kitchen. I keep thinking some day I will fancy myself a cook if I learn enough tricks.
What are your favorite ways to revive less than fresh food? Share your tips in the comments below!