Cooking Hints and Tips


Deserts | Household Tips | Cooking | Time Savers | Money Savers

For a low fat/low calorie dessert, make sandwiches out of graham crackers and non or low fat frozen yogurt. Prepare a platter in advance, hide them in the freezer and surprise the family they'll never know it's healthy!

Household Tips
Dip a new broom in hot salt water before using. This will toughen the bristles and make it last longer.

Sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice inside your Jack O'Lantern to give the air a spice aroma!

If you have a problem opening jars: Try using latex dishwashing gloves. They give a no-slip grip that makes opening jars easy.

A solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda to 1 quart warm water will remove most "off" odors from plastic storage containers. Simply give them a thorough dip in the soda solution, rinse with fresh water, and dry.

Fresh fish freeze well in a milk carton filled with water.

At your next party, chill your canned and bottled beverages by putting in top load washer and covering with ice. After you have removed all the drinks just spin out the water.

Create your own colored sugar by placing granulated sugar in a plastic bag. Add a few drops of your favorite food coloring and shake to blend. Pour out into a plate and let dry, then use.

Try using raw spaghetti instead of toothpicks when securing stuffed chicken breasts and meats. It works great and it's edible!

When baking and you need to "cut in" the butter, an easy way is to keep the sticks of butter in the freezer. When needed, use a cheese grater to grate the butter into fine pieces.

To get snowy white potatoes, add a teaspoon of vinegar or fresh lemon juice to the boiling water

When making potato salad, add the dressing to warm potatoes for the best flavor. Once cooled, the potatoes will not absorb the dressing as well.

Slide a strand of unwaxed dental floss--one end wrapped around the forefingers of each hand--under fresh cookies to unstick them from a cookie sheet. Floss also makes a clean cut through a cake for layering. No more crumbly edges!

For extra smooth, well-mixed oil and vinegar salad dressing: Combine all ingredients in a screw top jar, add an ice cube and shake then discard what's left of the ice cube.

If you put onions in the freezer 15 minutes before you chop them, you'll reduce the spray of vaporized onion oils - which means your eyes won't tear when you cut the onions.

To prevent cream whipped ahead of time from separating, add one quarter teaspoon of gelatin to each cup of cream during whipping.

A jar lid or a couple of marbles in the bottom half of a double-boiler will rattle when the water gets low and warn you to add more before the pan scorches or burns.

When mincing garlic, sprinkle on a little salt so the pieces won't stick to your knife or cutting board.

If your cake recipe calls for nuts, heat them first in the oven, then dust with flour before adding to the batter to keep them from settling to the bottom of the pan.

Noodles, spaghetti and other starches won't boil over if you rub the inside of the pot with vegetable oil.

Brown gravy in a hurry with a bit of instant coffee straight from the jar... no bitter taste, either.

For a juicer hamburger add cold water to the beef before grilling (1/2 cup to 1 pound of meat).

To keep cauliflower white while cooking - add a little milk to the water.

Let raw potatoes stand in cold water for at least half an hour before frying to improve the crispness of french-fried potatoes.

Use a gentle touch when shaping ground beef patties. Over handling will result in a firm, compact texture after cooking. Don't press or flatten with spatula during cooking.

Never heat pesto sauce the basil will turn black and taste bitter.

Butter pie pastry scraps: sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake like cookies.

When slicing a hard boiled egg, try wetting the knife just before cutting. If that doesn't do the trick, try applying a bit of cooking spray to the edge.

Microwave a lemon for 15 seconds and double the juice you get before squeezing.

Microwave garlic cloves for 15 seconds and the skins slip right off.

A Perfect Pastry Crust? In your favorite recipe, substitute a 4:1 ratio of lard: butter.

It's important to let a roast  beef, pork, lamb or poultry, sit a little while before carving. That allows the juices to retreat back into the meat. If you carve a roast too soon, much of its goodness will spill out onto the carving board.

Do not use metal bowls when mixing salads. Use wooden, glass or china.

Sausage patties rolled in flour before frying won't crack open during cooking.

Two drops of yellow food coloring added to boiling noodles will make them look homemade.

When separating eggs, break them into a funnel. The whites will go through leaving the yolk intact in the funnel.

When tossing a salad with a basic vinaigrette, always make the vinaigrette at least 1/2 hour ahead of time and let the mixture sit to allow the flavors to marry. Pour the vinaigrette down the side of the bowl, not directly on the greens, for a more evenly dressed salad.

For the perfect boiled egg, cover eggs with cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a full boil. Remove the pan from the heat and cover. Let the eggs sit for 8-9 minutes. Drain the water and place the eggs in ice water to cool to stop the cooking process.

When braising meat, cook it at a low temperature for a long time to keep the meat tender and have it retain all the juices.

When cooking any kind of strawberry dessert, add a splash of aged Balsamic vinegar to the recipe to enhance the flavor of the strawberries.

To hull strawberries, use a sturdy plastic straw. Push it up through the bottom of the strawberry and through the top. It does a great job quickly and neatly. The berries look excellent if you want to leave them whole.

For a different flavor and less fat, use chicken stock instead of butter or milk when whipping up mashed potatoes.

Time Savers
Use greased muffin tins as molds when baking stuffed peppers.

Making noodles is easy by adding an egg to a package of pie crust mix. Mix; roll out, cut, and let dry.

Keep a small plastic bag in your can of vegetable shortening. When it comes time to grease a pan, just slip your hand in the bag, scoop out what you need and spread it on the pan.

Use a 1-1/2 inch natural bristle paintbrush dipped in melted margarine or oil to grease muffin tins, cookie sheets or cake and bread pans. It's much faster than using a skimpy pastry brush.

To slice meat into thin strips, as for Chinese dishes - partially freeze and it will slice easily.

A roast with the bone in will cook faster than a boneless roast - the bone carries the heat to the inside of the roast quicker.

To hasten the cooking of foods in a double boiler, add salt to the water in the outer boiler.

No "curly" bacon for breakfast when you dip it into cold water before frying.

A dampened paper towel or terry cloth brushed downward on a cob of corn will remove every strand of corn silk.

When working with dough, don't flour your hands; coat them with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Poke a hole in the middle of the hamburger patties while shaping them. The burgers will cook faster and the holes will disappear when done.

A high quality hard boiled egg slicer makes easy work of slicing mushrooms for sauces or salads; it will also slice strawberries and peeled kiwi fruits perfectly.

To make deviled eggs with no mess put eggs yolks from hard boiled eggs in a plastic sandwich bag. Add remaining ingredients, close bag and mix. When finished cut small tip off corner of bag and squeeze into hollowed egg white, then simply throw away the bag.

Money Savers

Fresh ginger will last longer by storing it in a pot of sand.

Dried out coconut can be revitalized by sprinkling with milk and letting it stand for about ten minutes.

Don't have a roasting pan? Make a rack out of vegetables like celery, carrots and onion and place your chicken, turkey or roast on top. The excess fat drips away from the meat and your pan drippings will be more flavorful.

Rescue stale or soggy chips and crackers: Preheat the oven to 300F. Spread the chips or crackers in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then seal in a plastic bag or container.

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.

To make your own corn meal mix: combine 1 cup corn meal, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 4 teaspoons baking powder. You can store it in a tightly covered container for up to 6 months.

Buy mushrooms before they "open." When stems and caps are attached snugly, mushrooms are truly fresh.

Lettuce keeps better if you store in refrigerator without washing first so that the leaves are dry. Wash the day you are going to use.

Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice cream drips.

To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.

Don't throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.

Ground spices really should be replaced every 6 months or so! Unless you know you will use them up fairly quickly, buy a bottle in partnership with a friend and split the contents. You'll each benefit from fresh spices.

Instead of the water your recipe calls for, try juices, bullion, or water you've cooked vegetables in. Instead of milk, try buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream. It can add a whole new flavor and improve nutrition.

When browning ground meat, brown several pounds and drain. Divide evenly in freezer containers and freeze. Unthaw in microwave for quick fixing next time.

Marshmallows won't dry out when frozen.

Fresh eggs shells are rough and chalky; old eggs are smooth and shiny.

Add a little lemon and lime to tuna to add zest and flavor to tuna sandwiches. Use cucumbers soaked in vinegar and pepper in sandwich instead of tomatoes. Use mustard instead of mayo to cut the fat and add a tang.

Steak Sauce With A Kick: Deglaze your frying pan (after searing your New York steaks) with brandy. Add two tablespoons of butter, a little white wine and a splash of Grand Marnier. Serve over steaks - you'll never use steak sauce again.

Sunlight doesn't ripen tomatoes, warmth does. Store tomatoes with stems pointed down and they will stay fresher, longer.

Place green fruits in a perforated plastic bag. The holes will allow air to circulate while retaining the ethylene gas that fruits produce during ripening.

For fluffier, whiter rice, add one teaspoon of lemon juice per quart of water. To add extra flavor and nutrition to rice, cook it in liquid reserved from cooking vegetables.

Cheese won't harden if you butter the exposed edges before storing.

Make your own celery flakes. Just cut and wash the leaves from the celery stalks; place them in the oven on low heat or in the hot sun until thoroughly dry. Crumble and store in an air-tight container.

When picking a melon, smell it for freshness and ripeness. Check to see that the fruit is heavy in weight and that the spot on the end where it has been plucked from the vine is soft.

Save all kinds of leftover bread, bagels, baguettes, sandwich loaves, rolls, crackers, biscuits, and buzz to very fine crumbs in the food processor. Freeze in self-sealing plastic bags and use for stuffings and toppings.

To keep milk past it's expiration date add salt. A pinch of salt in a gallon will do it. The salt slows the rate of bacteria growth.

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  Cooking Notes 2006