Kitchen Tips

5 Kitchen Hacks We're Stealing From Cookbook Author Tara O'Brady

We crashed O'Brady's stunning kitchen to learn some of her best tricks, including new uses for an ice-cream scoop.

Tara O’Brady’s Toronto work space at the upscale Toronto housewares store Herriott Grace is truly kitchen goals. The award-winning cookbook author and food writer keeps the place well-stocked with all the ingredients necessary to create meals that taste as good as they look.

O’Brady, who lives in the Niagara area, gave Chatelaine the grand tour of her home away from home and shared some of her best kitchen tricks with us, including why you should always have an ice cream scoop on hand, especially if you love baking.

Drawer filled with stainless steel cookie scoops.

O’Brady has multiple ice-cream scoops.

1. The ice-cream scoop is a kitchen multi-tasker

A spring-loaded ice-cream scoop does more than its name implies. O’Brady uses hers to perfectly portion muffins and cookies (she prefers a large scoop for both). Tara O’Brady’s chocolate chip cookiesRecipe: Tara O’Brady’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies She also puts her scoop to work when icing big batches of cupcakes. To speed up the process, she drops a scoop of frosting on each cupcake and then flattens the buttercream with the back of spoon.

2. Choose chocolate chunks for better cookies

Chocolate chip cookies might be a classic, but O’Brady gives hers one important tweak. Instead of using chocolate chips (which contain stabilizers so they maintain their shape), she uses chocolate chunks so the chocolate is swirled throughout the cookies. Try her addictive recipe for yourself — and be sure to use a large cookie scoop to portion them.

Containers and jars inside Tara O'Brady's fridge

Mid-week meal building blocks.

3. Think meal prep not meal planning

Instead of meal planning, O’Brady spends one day a week preparing what she calls meal building blocks (lentils, rice and beets, for instance) and keeps them in the fridge to create quick and easy dishes on the fly. With her grains, for instance, she can make kimchi fried rice topped with an egg for satisfying lunch or dinner.

Tara O'Brady's salt drawer

Salt and other flavour enhancers.

4. Pass the salt, please

O’Brady’s kitchen is equipped with an entire drawer devoted to salt. And while no one really needs a salt drawer, O’Brady does recommend having at least a few types of salt on hand. Play around with different varieties, such as Himalayan pink salt (a more mineral flavour), sea salt (for finishing dishes) and kosher salt (for general purpose seasoning) to see how it changes your food. After all, salt is a relatively inexpensive way to experiment and shake things up in the kitchen.

Pink lid and cast iron Dutch oven on stove.

Don’t be afraid of cast-iron.

5. Bread loves cast-iron

O’Brady keeps two type of cast-iron pans on hand for cooking. She loves her enamel braiser for slowly building flavour in rich and hearty dishes, and uses a raw cast-iron Dutch oven for baking bread. O’Brady says its dark colour is perfect for giving her sour dough loaves and seeded boules a beautiful brown and crackly crust.