Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kitchen Tips

This is a collection of cooking tips collected from various books, the internet, recipes, and experience. I will add to them often because I add a new tip on facebook several times a week for my readers. I wanted to show them on here for my e-mail followers and fellow bloggers. So check back often.

1. If you are going to freeze a loaf of bread, make sure you include a piece of paper towel in the package to absorb moisture. This will keep the bread from becoming mushy when it is thawed out!
2. Store brown sugar in the freezer and it won’t clump up. Best to place it in a plastic baggie and removie it from the box.
3. The best location to store spices is in a cool, dry spot where they will not be around heat. Storing spices near a microwave exhaust fan or over the range are two of the worst locations.
4. When baking biscuits it is important to cut out as many biscuits as possible from the first rolling of the dough. The more you roll out the dough, the tougher, the biscuit will be.
5. Blueberries are the top source of antioxidants in the produce department. You should always check the bottom of berry containers to be sure they are not stained from rotting or moldy berries.
6. Milk should be purchased as your last purchase in the supermarket. The longer it is away from refrigeration, the shorter its lifespan and freshness.
7. When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.
8. Don’t store apples and carrots in the same fridge compartment. The apples emit a gas that makes the carrots bitter.
9. Self rising flour is made by adding 1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt to 1 cup all-purpose flour. If you want to substitute self-rising flour for regular flour in a recipe, just omit the baking powder and salt from the recipe, and use self-rising.
10. For a crisp skin on a baked potato, prick the skin 3 or 4 times and place a few drops of oil on the potato, then rub it in. Next, sprinkle the potato with salt before baking.
11. Microwave garlic cloves for 15 seconds and the skins slip right off!
12. Always buy peppers and onions when they’re cheap…chop them up and freeze them. Use as needed.
13. For the crispiest french fries sprinkle them with all-purpose flour before frying.
14. When using dried beans and peas, keep in mind that 1 cup of dried beans or peas makes 2 1/2 cups cooked.
15. Mushrooms should be wiped off with a damp cloth and not washed under the faucet since they are like sponges and will absorb the water.
16. If your soups and sauces are too thin or watery, try adding a few instant potato flakes as a thickener.
17. If honey or molasses crystalizes, place jar, without lid, in a pot of hot water about 1/2 hour and crystals will be gone. Can also put jar in microwave about a minute or two.
18. In your fruit and vegetable drawers put tin foil in the bottom with the shiny side up. Keeps fruit and vegetables fresher for longer and drawers clean, too!
19. If a pie bubbles over in the oven, put a handful of salt on top of the spilled juice. The mess won’t smell and will bake into a dry, light crust which will wipe off easily when the oven has cooled.
20. Romaine lettuce is loaded with vitamins. Compared to iceberg, it has 3 times as much Vitamin C and six times as much Vitamin A.
21. Save bacon drippings and use to season vegetables, eggs, soups and sauces. They add meat flavor.
22. Butter pie pastry scraps, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake like cookies. Children love them!
23. Rescue stale or soggy chips and crackers. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread chips or crackers in a single layer on baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool, seal in plastic bags or containers.
24. If your recipe says preheat your oven to 400 degrees, you should preheat to 425 degrees and decrease to 400 when you put your dish in. You lose heat when you open the oven door.
25. When a recipe calls for you to sift the flour and dry ingredients together, it is much easier and quicker to put the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir or beat together with a whisk.
26. If you want to test baking powder for freshness, add a teaspoon to a glass of water. If it does not fizz the baking powder is too old and should be tossed.
27. For measuring sticky ingredients like peanut butter, honey, syrup, etc. coat or spray the measuring cup with vegetable oil for easy pouring and ingredients will not stick to the cup.
28. Use canola oil for frying. It is low in saturated fat, has high burning point, and does not detract from the flavor of the food you are frying.
29. Use a small electric coffee grinder, found at Walmart for less than $20, to grind seeds, whole spices, and nuts for recipes.
30. Unless the recipe calls for a specific size, assume that all eggs used in recipes are Grade A large. Using medium or extra-large eggs could throw a recipe off.
31. Grate any cheese you plan to add to a recipe. It will melt more quickly with no clumps.
32. Make sure cookie sheets are not too thin. The heavier your sheet, the less likely your cookies are to burn. If yours are thin and you can’t afford new ones, layer with aluminum foil.
33. Use a pizza cutter to easily slice through flats of fudge and candy squares. The process is fast and easy and you get nice, neat squares.
34. Cookies should look a little underdone when removed from the oven and should be light around the edges. They will continue cooking from the heat of the cookie sheet once removed.
35. Unsalted butter instead of margarine gives cookies a lighter texture. Using a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop to spoon out cookie dough gives cookies a uniform look and size.
36. To dress up cakes and pies, place a paper doily on top, then sprinkle with powdered sugar and remove. Quick and impressive.
37. Soften dried fruits in the microwave by placing fruit in a small bowl and sprinkling with water. Cover with plastic wrap and heat on high for 30 to 40 seconds.
38. Real vanilla flavoring is only necessary if what you are making is vanilla flavored such as vanilla ice cream. Otherwise, imitation is fine and less expensive!
39. To easily remove burnt-on food from skillets, add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan and bring to boil on stovetop – skillet will be much easier to clean!
40. When making chocolate chip cookies always add the chocolate morsels last to the mix. It is best when they are very cold. I keep mine in the freezer. Just barely stir the morsels in — don’t over mix.
41. When cooking steaks or meat do not use a fork to turn the meat. Use cooking tongs or a spatula to keep the juices from leaking out.
42. To soften bananas for banana bread and muffins, pierce unpeeled bananas once or twice and microwave, uncovered, at 100 percent power for 1 minute, turning over at half time. Cool and peel.
43. If you accidentally put too much salt into your dish, you can re-balance the saltiness by adding chopped potatoes, tomatoes, or even a teaspoon of sugar. This will help bring the saltiness back down to a normal level.
44. Store the ice cream container in a big Ziploc plastic freezer bag. This will stop ice crystals from forming when it is in the freezer.
45. The best way to store fresh celery is to wrap it in aluminum foil and put it in the refrigerator–it will keep for weeks.
46. Before storing tomato-based sauces or other foods that can stain, spray your plastic storage container with nonstick cooking spray.
47. Slice open the top of a marshmallow bag then place in a large ziploc freezer bag. Freeze. Remove the amount of frozen marshmallows you need as you need them. Thaw and they’re soft and ready to use. If you have hard marshmallows in the pantry, try tossing a piece or two of sliced bread in the bag. Seal, then check after a few days. The marshmallows should be soft again.
48. Cooking vegetables in boiling water removes most of the nutrients, so try cooking veggies quickly by steaming or stir-frying.
49. Whole wheat flour (substitute up to half the amount of white flour called for with whole wheat; use white flour for the other half or the baked goods may turn out heavy and dense)
50. Buy large lemons and limes, they tend to be much sweeter. Make sure that the skin is thin, those are much juicer. To obtain more of the juice from lemons, limes or oranges, microwave on high for 30 seconds and then let stand for a couple of minutes before cutting and squeezing. Rolling them between your hand and the counter will also help release more juice.
51. Keep any left over nuts fresh by freezing them. No need to thaw for recipes or to eat.
52. To make a bought pie crust taste more “homemade” brush the bottom with milk and sugar before baking.
53. To make a bigger cake from a mix, add 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp. baking powder.
54. Store spices in a cool, dark place. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor more quickly. Although the most convenient place for your spice rack may be above your stove, moving your spices to a different location may keep them fresh longer.
55. When cooking dried beans, cook the beans with the lid on for soft beans and with the lid off for firm beans. If you salt beans while they are cooking they will take longer to soften. Salt beans after they have finished cooking.
56. Never wrap warm meat or poultry in aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator. Foil is an insulator and the meat will remain warm for too long allowing bacteria to thrive.
57. When cooking pasta use a large pot to keep water at a rolling boil. Pasta placed in water that is not boiling will not “set” properly and may stick together.
58. Do not use low-fat or whipped butter or margarine for baking. Both have too much water and air content and may cause cakes or cookies to collapse or flatten out.
59. Never refrigerate potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic or parmesan cheese(the kind in the green can). They lose quality, texture and taste.
60. Pepper is one of the most popular spices but ground pepper loses its flavor quickly. It is best to use a pepper grinder so your pepper will be fresh and flavorful.
61. Always lock the tabs on each end of the Reynolds wrap, Saran wrap and plastic wrap. They hold the roll in place and save you time rewinding unwound rolls of paper.
62. The russet potato is best for baking, mashing, and french fries. The red or white potatoes are best for boiling, make great potato salad, stews, soups, and scalloped potatoes.
63. Steam vegetables instead of boiling. Boiled vegetables lose 42% of nutrients compared to 2% when steamed.
64. A well-marbled piece of beef, pork or lamb will baste itself during the cooking process and the meat will stay moist, juicy and tender. Ultra-lean cuts of meat can dry out if they’re not basted, so think of a well-marbled piece as self-basting.
65. Freeze leftover vegetables from a meal to use in vegetable soup. No need to put in separate containers for freezing. Saves you money and time!
66. A couple of ways to re-freshen and heat biscuits: put them in a well-dampened paper bag, twist it closed and put in a 300ยบ oven for several minutes or until warm or can put in Reynolds wrap and sprinkle the biscuits with water and heat for several minutes.
67. Always add the chocolate chips last to the cake mix. It’s best when they are very cold. Just barely stir the morsels in –don’t over mix. I keep mine in the freezer.
68. When browning ground meat, brown several pounds and drain. Divide evenly and freeze in containers. Unthaw in microwave for quick fixing next time.
69. Southern cooks always add a pinch of sugar to the water when cooking vegetables. It brings out the flavor.
70. When separating eggs, break them into a funnel. The whites will go through leaving the yolk intact in the funnel.
71. Use milk to thaw frozen fish. It takes away the fishy taste and tenderizes the meat.
72. If you have over-ripe bananas place them in bags in the freezer. The skins will get dark but the banana will be perfect to use.
72. If you need to use only 1/2 an onion in a recipe, save the root half. It will keep longer.
73. Always turn meat and chicken pieces with tongs instead of a meat fork. Piercing with a fork allows juices to escape and causes meat to be dry.
74. Raisins and other dried fruits are better if plumped before adding to dough or batter. Pour boiling water over the dried fruit and soak 30 minutes. Drain on paper towels
75. Leaving the skin on the chicken, when cooking it, helps to hold in juices, which increases tenderness. Removing the skin before eating chicken eliminates about two thirds of the fat content.
76. Crush garlic with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Skin slips right off.
77. You can use your crock pot to heat things ups. For example: canned soups, water for tea and even leftovers. The crock pot can be used for more than just cooking
78. To freeze muffins wrap well in foil and place in resealable plastic bags.
79. To preserve your wooden cutting board, occasionally rub it down with a couple of drops of edible cooking oil. This will also help prevent food from sticking to the board.
80. To soften dried fruits in the microwave, place fruit in a small bowl and sprinkle with water. Cover with plastic wrap and heat at HIGH for 30 to 40 seconds.
81. You have 2 hours from the time you remove food from the oven until it needs to be refrigerated for safety.
82. Always remove baked goods as soon as a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Baked good will be dry if over cooked. If a recipe says 25 to 30 minutes, I always check at 20 to 25 since different ovens vary.
83. Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it “home”, can’t digest it so it kills them. It may take a few days but you don’t have to worry about pets or small children being harmed.
84. Today’s tip – Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.
85. Use the “whack” method to soften butter and margarine: Give each side of the chilled stick a good “whack” with a rolling pin
86. Fruit juices such as pineapple, orange or mango can be used as salad dressing by adding a little vegetable oil, a dash of nutmeg and honey if desired. Great on fruit, seafood or mixed greens.
87. The most convenient warm place in which a batter OR dough can rise is the inside of a switched-off oven with the light on.
88. Cooked rice freezes quite well for as long as 3 months. In the refrigerator, it stays fresh for a week.
89. How to tell a hard-cooked egg from a raw one? A hard-cooked egg spins beautifully; a raw one wobbles as it spins.
90. To keep egg yolks from crumbling when slicing hard-cooked eggs, dip the knife into water before each cut.
91. Egg whites whip best at room temperature, but cream whips best when cold.
92. To freshen shredded coconut, soak in milk with a dash of sugar a few minutes before using or place in a sieve, set over boiling water, and steam until moist.
93. To any yellow or white cake mix, add 1 teaspoon each of vanilla extract and lemon extract for a much-improved flavor.
94. If raisins dry out and become hard, soak them in hot water for 3 minutes before using them
95. Save the juices from canned fruits. Combine several kinds and add orange juice and/or ginger ale to make a great punch drink for children. Freeze it in ice trays for popsicle treats, too.

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