I remember donning the top and thinking, “I was born to wear this.”

Gossamer chiffon, brightly patterned, lined with sequins and cut into angel-like wings along the hem and sleeves.

“I was born to wear this,” I told the smiling (smirking?) saleswoman as I snapped it up.

I wore it a few times. Then sanity prevailed, and I gave it away.

“What was I thinking?”

We all have those moments, where clarity pricks our (un)reality and shows us a better way. They happen with wardrobes. Relationships. Careers.

And cooking.

Here, five kitchen “aha” moments that made me wonder what in the world I used to be thinking.

1. Get those clams out of the broth:


I love a big pot of clams and mussels, but the mollusks always get rubbery in my dishes.

That’s because I’m overcooking them! I’m keeping every clam and mussel in the pot until they’ve all opened.

The smarter way: Check the seafood after 10 minutes of steaming. Remove the mollusks that have already opened. Steam an additional five minutes, then discard any laggards. Put everything back in the pot, and serve. Our clams, mussels and sausages have never tasted so fresh and tender!

2. Repurpose the bagel:

bagel croutons

My husband gets a baker’s dozen bagels for us every Saturday. Invariably, one or two remain long past their use-by date.

I usually toss the laggers. But the other night, the little boy and I decided to make croutons. We tore the bagels into rough chunks; tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper; and baked them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. They emerged from the oven hot, crispy, toasty — good for a salad or to snack on alone.

3. Ditto tortillas:


We gave stale corn tortillas the same treatment. Snack-chip companies should take note.

4. Top with cream:


I love the drama of serving a pavlova or napoleon for dessert. But mine never look pretty for long.

That’s because I’ve always used whipping cream as one of the layering components, and its slippery texture causes the entire dessert to list.

Nowadays, I use whipped cream as a topper. The dessert still wows, and all its ingredients stay stacked.

5. Add some color:

red onions

Yes, monochromatic white food has its uses. But color is much more interesting.

risotto broth with saffronWhen a sauce features onion, use a red one. When making risottos, add a pinch of saffron to your broth. The extra color will amp up your dish and its flavor profile.

Leading you to wonder …

“What did I used to be thinking?!”