How to Keep Your Cats Off the Kitchen Counter, Once & For All

After several years of model behavior, one of my cats recently discovered that very tasty food like shredded chicken is often left on the kitchen counter at dinnertime. Now, it seems like I can’t turn my back without Henry sneakily jumping on the count…

After several years of model behavior, one of my cats recently discovered that very tasty food like shredded chicken is often left on the kitchen counter at dinnertime. Now, it seems like I can’t turn my back without Henry sneakily jumping on the counter to grab a bite. 

Henry isn’t the first feline who prefers the kitchen counter over the best cat trees. Over time, I’ve found several tactics to keep my kitties with four paws on the floor. If you’re looking for ways to keep cats off the counter, here are the strategies that have worked for me (and thus, my dearest Henry).

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Don’t Forget to Sterilize Your Canning Jars—Here’s How

We’ve officially reached the point in summer when my garden is producing way more vegetables than we could possibly eat. I’m talking 3 or 4 pounds of cucumbers per day! Because I hate to see anything go to waste, I started learning how to preserve prod…

We’ve officially reached the point in summer when my garden is producing way more vegetables than we could possibly eat. I’m talking 3 or 4 pounds of cucumbers per day! Because I hate to see anything go to waste, I started learning how to preserve produce a few years ago, and now, canning is one of my favorite summertime activities. On any given weekend, you can find me pickling cucumbers, zucchini, and beets or making jam from homegrown rhubarb and peaches.

I’ll be the first to admit that canning can be a bit intimidating, as you have to follow recipes precisely and properly sterilize your equipment to ensure the food is safe to eat down the road. There’s a lot of different information online about how to sterilize canning jars, so we turned to the experts at Ball for definitive answers on how it should be done and when it’s necessary. Here’s what they told us.

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How to Prevent Freezer Burn Once and For All

Freezers are magical appliances: They allow us to save homemade soups and sauces for months on end, keep ice cream frozen for our daily after-dinner sundaes, and store ice for cocktail parties (a must). As essential as it is to freeze leftovers and fro…

Freezers are magical appliances: They allow us to save homemade soups and sauces for months on end, keep ice cream frozen for our daily after-dinner sundaes, and store ice for cocktail parties (a must). As essential as it is to freeze leftovers and frozen pizzas for zippy suppers, freezers aren’t always our friends. In fact, they can sometimes be the foe—namely, when so-called “freezer burn” infiltrates our supply of frozen foods.

Let’s get one thing clear: Freezer-burned food is completely safe to eat. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “freezer burn is a food-quality issue, not a food safety issue.” The FDA notes that freezer burn often presents itself as “as grayish-brown leathery spots” on the food in question. So even though freezer burn doesn’t always look or taste quite right, it doesn’t mean your food is spoiled or otherwise harmful if consumed.

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How to Make the Most of Your Kitchen Cabinets

My current rental’s kitchen has builder’s grade maple veneer cabinets. When I first saw them, I knew I wanted to cover them up with black contact paper (I am a renter, after all). But once my partner and I moved in, I realized they weren’t so bad at al…

My current rental's kitchen has builder’s grade maple veneer cabinets. When I first saw them, I knew I wanted to cover them up with black contact paper (I am a renter, after all). But once my partner and I moved in, I realized they weren’t so bad at all and surprisingly, were in decent condition compared to other apartments I’ve rented. I no longer had grand plans to change how the cabinets looked, but I still wanted to change up everything around them: swapping out hardware, painting the walls, adding a rug, changing lighting. Even the ugliest kitchens (and yes, that is in the eye of the beholder) can be saved with a little thoughtful accessorizing.

With that in mind, I went ahead and swapped out the nickel hardware for brass, painted the walls a complementary color, and what do you know? I actually like the cabinets now. So, the best advice I have is to lean into the material and don’t try to force-fit a design style that simply won’t work. For instance, if you have traditional-style cabinets, adding lots of modern accents can make them feel even more dated, and vice versa. Plus, if your cabinets aren’t all that bad, why not spend your time and money elsewhere in your home?

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How to Open a Coconut Safely

I wish I could tell you that I learned how to open a coconut while I was vacationing in Tahiti, or that I first cracked one open out of thirst-quenching necessity after a day spent surfing Oahu’s North Shore. But I’ve never been to Tahiti, and I immedi…

I wish I could tell you that I learned how to open a coconut while I was vacationing in Tahiti, or that I first cracked one open out of thirst-quenching necessity after a day spent surfing Oahu's North Shore. But I’ve never been to Tahiti, and I immediately run toward shore at the first sign of a 5-foot wave. No, I actually learned how to crack open a coconut in my kitchen, through trial and error, after being lured by a full stack of whole coconuts at the grocery store. I had grabbed one and placed it in my cart nonchalantly, hoping my fellow shoppers would catch a glimpse (you’re lying if you say you don’t glance sneakily at other people’s carts) and think I was the kind of cool person who consumed fresh coconut as often as a piece of toast. This is real, this is me. Narrator: It was not real. Let’s learn how to open a coconut together.


How to Open a Coconut

Step One

Locate the “three eyes” on the top of the coconut. Stare at the coconut and watch as it stares back at you. Use a metal skewer to poke and prod the eyes like an optometrist and find the one that feels the softest; once you do, push the skewer through to create a hole. You may need to use a mallet or hammer for added pressure, but do so carefully.

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The Hands-Free Cleaning Hack for Those Stubborn Burnt Bits

I clean to procrastinate.

So it was bittersweet when, a few years ago, by way of dinner party chaos, I accidentally discovered a trick that both dissolves all of the burnt build-up on my dirtiest dishes with ease, and is nearly completely hands-free. …

I clean to procrastinate.

So it was bittersweet when, a few years ago, by way of dinner party chaos, I accidentally discovered a trick that both dissolves all of the burnt build-up on my dirtiest dishes with ease, and is nearly completely hands-free.

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Lessons in Speed-Cleaning Your Kitchen, Learned From a Video Set

In 2020, I went from writing cookbooks and articles about food to also making cooking videos. Ever since, I have hosted four cooking shows, making everything from Punjabi chole to Raj kachoris, chaats in waffle cones, even a laborious nalli nihari—all …

In 2020, I went from writing cookbooks and articles about food to also making cooking videos. Ever since, I have hosted four cooking shows, making everything from Punjabi chole to Raj kachoris, chaats in waffle cones, even a laborious nalli nihari—all under the hawk eye of the camera.

Even as I was teaching viewers how to make these recipes, I was constantly picking up tips and tricks from the set. For instance, it blew me away to see food programmers use everything from glue in ice cream commercials to plastic ice cubes for chilled colas and motor oil on pancakes in place of real honey (oops—did I give it away?). But I also noted the little things that our kitchen stylists did to make the space look pretty between shots—giving the kitchen a facelift in a hurry, if you will. It continues to be endlessly fascinating to me to see a set kitchen go from looking like a hurricane had blown through one minute to being completely calm and clean the next.

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This TikTok Hack Is Saving Our Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is good for adding an intense, red hue, deep tomato flavor, and body to bolognese sauce, chili, and marinara sauce. Need to dress up as a vampire for Halloween in a pinch? Tomato paste is there in all its faux-gory glory. But nobody’s perf…

Tomato paste is good for adding an intense, red hue, deep tomato flavor, and body to bolognese sauce, chili, and marinara sauce. Need to dress up as a vampire for Halloween in a pinch? Tomato paste is there in all its faux-gory glory. But nobody’s perfect. If you’ve cooked with tomato paste before, then you know well that most recipes call for only all for a tablespoon or two of the paste; since most cans of tomato paste are sold in eight-ounce quantities, it will take a lot of chili and marinara sauce to get through the entire can. And whoever finishes an entire can without it going bad? Seriously, email me. I want to know. And mold, as always, creeps its way in and finds a way to ruin the leftover tomato paste before you can even make a dent. So instead of crossing your fingers and lying to yourself, saying “I’ll definitely use this all up before it goes bad,” listen to the beauty and brains of TikTok.

In a recent video posted to the social media app, TikTok user Rebeca Huffman addressed this very issue. “It’s the saga of the wasted tomato paste,” she begins. Instead of letting mold and rust fester in the can, she came up with the easiest way to store tomato paste, hands down. Grab a snack-size Ziploc bag, scoop the tomato paste into the bag, and pat it down to remove all of the air and flatten the contents. Next, seal the bag, take the spine of a knife (aka not the sharp part of the blade), and create perforations by scoring the bag to create four distinct rectangles of tomato paste. Place the bag flat down in the freezer and let it harden completely. Next time you need just a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, break off one of the individual squares and add it to whatever you’re cooking. Most days, TikTok makes me feel old and out of touch, but after this hack, I’ve never felt stronger.

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How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal & Stave Off the Gunk for Good

Speaking as someone who didn’t have a garbage disposal until she was 25, these kitchen appliances are honestly the best. Gone are the days when you have to fish little chunks of food out of a drain filter or worry about gunk getting clogged up in your …

Speaking as someone who didn’t have a garbage disposal until she was 25, these kitchen appliances are honestly the best. Gone are the days when you have to fish little chunks of food out of a drain filter or worry about gunk getting clogged up in your pipes. Instead, all you have to do is flip a little switch, and woosh! There it all goes, shredded into tiny pieces.

Like any kitchen appliance, though, garbage disposals require regular cleaning, and if you skip out on maintenance, you can often end up with a stinky, slimy mess on your hands. After all, the food particles that don’t get washed down the drain can quickly rot. The good news, however, is that it’s actually very easy to clean a garbage disposal—and that’s coming from someone who absolutely hates cleaning. Here’s what you should do to keep your disposal pristine and odor-free.

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Throw Out Your Kitchen Sponge ASAP—Yes, Really

If you’ve been mulling over whether or not it’s time to buy or replace a dishwasher, here’s the information that could put you over the edge: There are 54 billion bacterial cells on a single cubic centimeter of the average kitchen sponge. They are bree…

If you’ve been mulling over whether or not it’s time to buy or replace a dishwasher, here’s the information that could put you over the edge: There are 54 billion bacterial cells on a single cubic centimeter of the average kitchen sponge. They are breeding grounds for all types of germs and bacteria. Dishwashers are naturally a much more sanitary way to wash and disinfect dishes, utensils, glasses, and some cookware (but don’t you dare put your cast iron in there).

You might already know that it’s your kitchen, not your bathroom, that has the most microbial activity, and that’s indeed because of your sponge—"the biggest reservoirs of active bacteria in the whole house.” But did you know that cleaning your sponge only makes things worse? Sticking your sponge in the dishwasher or boiling water to disinfect is a no-go, and leaving it to sit in soapy water at the bottom of your sink is also a bad idea. Yes, really.

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