Cambrian: Slice of Life

Here’s a recipe for life hacks that go down smoothly

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

It used to be an insult to be called a “hack.” In fact, one definition in still is “a person who is a professional at doing some sort of service, but does crappy work.”

Well, that’s succinct.

I wonder how “hack” morphed into “hackers” as a name for skilled but unethical people who use technology to get into a cyberspot where they’re not supposed to be.

Weirder yet, the latest usage of “hack” defines simple, alternative uses for something, or a better, quicker way to do a chore, cook a meal or make a cake.

We’ve all got our favorite life hacks or shortcuts. And, as social media users have discovered, we sure do love to share them. I just Googled “life hacks” and got nearly 37 million hits!

Among the ideas were:

(1) How to sharpen scissors (repeatedly cut a sheet of aluminum foil).

(2) Put a cutting board atop an open drawer or over the sink to gain more workspace.

(3) A zillion ways to use binder clips, hair clips or empty toilet-paper rolls. (Who knew?)

(4) Fill a nearly empty Nutella jar with ice cream for a quick use-it-all sundae.

(5) Burn tortilla chips as emergency kindling.

(6) Trigger your memory with cellphone pictures of your friends and what they just borrowed, or take a shot of someone’s business card, in case you lose the card.

(7) Make a cake-mix cake taste more like homemade (add an egg and real vanilla, use melted butter instead of oil and milk instead of water).


The Tanners have life hacks, too, many of them kitchen-oriented.

I put a plastic bread tab under the end of a roll of the blue painter’s tape we use for labeling food and other containers.

Another hack? I slather hand cream on my hands before I put on the rubber gloves. The hot water gives me a beauty treatment while I wash dishes.

Make a creamy, puréed soup out of leftovers. Enchilada bisque? Why not?

A box of facial tissues is handy in the kitchen, so I can grab one fast to use as a landing pad for a sticky spoon, to wipe off the lip of a jar, coffee cup or pan, to clean up small spills or, of course, to quickly block the aerial spread of sneeze spray over the omelet.

Another? I make a big batch of oatmeal, scoop it into the cups of a silicone muffin pan, chill the cereal, pop out the pucks and freeze them.

But my favorite hack is a combination of breakfast cereal and fruit plate with the consistency and taste of a milkshake. It’s a full, balanced breakfast with lots of protein, fiber, vitamins and good flavors.

I mentioned Husband Richard’s hearty smoothies in a column last year, and several people have begged for the recipe. One woman wanted it so she could make the breakfast drink for her paralyzed son, who also has trouble swallowing. So, here ’tis.

Husband Richard’s Breakfast Smoothie

Mix this the night before and refrigerate:

• 2 cups vanilla or plain yogurt

• 2 cups rolled oats

 1/4 cup white or brown sugar (optional)

• Sweet spices

The oat-yogurt blend keeps for days in the fridge. It’s good by itself, too, especially with fresh fruit.

The next morning or later, combine in a large blender jar:

 1/3 - 1/2 cup of the oat-yogurt blend

• 1 banana

• Other fruit (your choice: Apple, pear, tangerine, peach, melon, berries or even grapes or avocado)

• A handful of greens, such as parsley, spinach or kale (optional)

• Half a bottle meal-substitute drink (we use vanilla Boost)

Blend until smooth (usually about a minute). Open the blender and add:

• The rest of the meal-substitute drink

 1/4 - 1/2 cup Egg Beaters (pasturized and therefore safe to consume uncooked)

• Optional fruit juice. Husband Richard loves mango.

Shake or stir to blend, depending on the blender model you have. Husband Richard drinks his with a milkshake straw.

I’ve mixed this up the night before, which saves time and produces a really good, cold smoothie without the addition of ice, which can dilute the flavor.

Yup, we love our life hacks.

Now, if someone could just please find a life hack that makes everybody respectful, polite and kind to one another.

Editor’s note: Some of the hacks above came from We use a 32-ounce NutriBullet jar for Husband Richard’s smoothies. Just don’t overfill above the MAX line before you blend. If you do, the results aren’t pretty. They can be as bad as what happens if you start a regular blender before you put the top on.