Sunday, January 28, 2018

25 Kitchen Tips and Tricks

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So I am always finding new little tricks to help me in the kitchen and I wanted to share some with you. I have a list of 25 Kitchen Tips for you below. If you try and any let me know how they work for you or if you have a tip feel free to leave it in a comment.

Taco Night - Make your own crunchy taco shells without frying. If your corn or flour tortillas are stiff, heat them quickly on a hot griddle, then lightly spray both sides with cooking oil. Drape tortillas over two clean bars of an oven rack and bake at 375*F until crisp, about 10 minutes. 

Cheese Plate - The perfect cheese plate is all about balance. Choose cow, sheep, and goat varieties from distinct categories - creamy, crumbly, funky, fresh. Serve with something pickled, salty (olives), crunchy (nuts), and sweet (fruit). Good bread and crisp crackers are the finishing touches. 

Cool Down - An ice pack is handy for everything from a black eye to a box lunch. An inexpensive, simple alternative is to soak a basic kitchen sponge in water and freeze it in a small ziplock bag. As the water melts, it is reabsorbed by the sponge, which stays sealed inside.

Mousse That Rocks - This rich and seductive dessert is sure to be a hit. Combine 2 cups fresh ricotta, 4 ounces melted semisweet chocolate, and 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar in a blender and puree until smooth. Chill and serve garnished with whipped cream. 

Odor Remover - To remove the smell of garlic from your hands, simply grab a stainless steel pot and rub your hands against the metal under cold running water. The sulfuric compounds in garlic bind to the stainless steal ions, lifting away any clinging particles of garlic. 

Soup Help - Soup too salty? Just toss in a whole peeled potato and let it soak up the extra seasoning. Remove the potato once it's cooked through. Soup too thin? Add a peeled potato or handful of white rice to your pot, cook until soft, then puree soup for a thicker, creamier texture. 

Soft Butter - What to do when you're all set to bake but the recipe calls for softened butter? Heat is not your friend, since you don't want the butter to melt. Instead, slip your cold butter into a ziplock bag and use a rolling pin to pound it until soft.

Avocado Picking - Selecting a perfectly ripe avocado is something of an art. If the touch test isn't for you, pluck out a small steam at the top of the fruit and examine the color underneath. Pale green indicates it's unripe, dark brown that it's overripe, and yellowish hue means you've got a winner. 

Cutting Board Care - To keep your wooden cutting board looking new and smelling fresh, sprinkle it with coarse salt and massage with half a lemon to clean away food residue. Once a month, condition the wood by using a clean cloth to rub in food-grade mineral oil or softened beeswax.

Soak It Up - For a relaxing interlude, make this heavenly bath soak from ingredients in your pantry. Add 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oil (I recommend Young Living) to 1/2 cup baking powder, then whisk in 1 cup coconut milk powder and 1/2 cup cornstarch. Sprinkle this softening and soothing mix into a warm bath.

 April "Fool" Dessert - For an easy, elegant dessert known as a "fool", gently simmer chopped fruit with a bit of sugar until it's soft and syrupy. Cool, then fold into lightly sweetened whipped cream, stirring to create a swirled effect. Chill thoroughly.  

Buttermilk Help - To make an effective buttermilk substitute, add a tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice to whole milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken up. Another option is to use 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream thinned with 1/4 cup water or skim milk. 

Banishing Smells - Certain smells - like fish and cabbage - can linger like unwanted guests. To eliminate them from the air, try leaving an open bottle of white vinegar out overnight. To remove smells from your hands, scrub well with the unlikely combination of coffee grounds and lemon juice.

Brushing Up - If you need a basting brush, or don't want to use yours for garlic butter or something equally pungent, make a disposable one by folding a piece of parchment paper over and over to make a small rectangle. Use scissors to cut a fringe into one side and baste away.  

Perfect Eggs - Steamed - rather than boiled - eggs have a superior texture, and rarely break in the pan. Place up to a dozen in a steamer basket set over an inch of boiling water. Cover and steam for 12 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath for 15 minutes before slipping off the shells. 

Juice Help - Make fresh juice without a juicer by placing peeled, chopped produce in a blender. Fruits and vegetables with a high water content work best - like cucumbers and watermelon. A splash of water or lemon juice may be necessary to get things moving. Blend until smooth, then press juice through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the pulp. 

Use for Pulp - The pulp left over from making fresh juice can be mixed into quick breads or stirred into cream cheese. For crisp crackers, combine 3 cups vegetable pulp with 1 cup water, 1/2 cup flour, and seasoning to taste. Roll out, cut into squares, and bake at 350*F for 50 minutes. 

Seasonal Prep - Get your kitchen ready for its summer workout. Replenish canning supplies, make sure you've stocked with ice-pop stick and wooden skewers, wipe out coolers and beach bags, and toss a few bags of hot dog buns in the freezer. 

Grate Cleaning - Clean your grill by firing it up and letting the heat burn off food particles, then scrub the grates vigorously with a heavy-duty grill brush (I recommend Cave Tools Brush). Or you can put the grates in your oven and use the self-cleaning option. Lightly oil the grates before grilling to help prevent food from sticking. 

In Full Bloom - Make beautiful ice cubes with colorful edible flowers. Fill an ice tray halfway with water, then add unsprayed nasturtiums, violets, or snapdragons. Freeze, then add more water to fill to the top and freeze again. These look beautiful in a glass of lemonade or iced tea.

Berries Year Round - When flats of ripe strawberries start appearing at your farmers market, bring some home to preserve at the height of their flavor. Hull them, then arrange in a single layer of parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid and store in freezer bags for up to a year.

Frozen Fruit - Make delicious sorbet without an ice cream maker by placing frozen berries or frozen chunks of fruit in your blender or food processor. Add agave or maple syrup to taste, a little lemon juice, and a few tablespoons of yogurt, then puree until smooth and creamy. 

Pickle Juice - Reuse brine to make quickles - easy refrigerator pickles. Drop slices or spears of fresh cucumber into leftover pickle brine that does not look murky or cloudy. Very pungent brine will yield new pickles in a couple days but weaker brine will take longer, so taste as you go. 

Flies Away - The arrival of summer brings those annoying persistent fruit flies to the kitchen. Trap them by setting out a small glass of wine, fruit juice, or cider vinegar covered with plastic wrap in which you've poked a few tiny holes. They fly in but can't fly out.

Leftover Wine - Have a bottle of your favorite wine that you can't quite finish and don't want to waste? Pour the leftovers into ice cube trays and freeze. Pull out a few cubes to enrich a pan sauce or use them to cool down a wine spritzer or a pitcher of sangria.

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