Cooking Tips

General

• Always cook with a sink of hot soapy water at the ready. It makes for easier cleanup.

• Write the date and your opinion along with any adjustments on your recipes. I also make a note in the index i.e. VG (very good), etc. for future reference.

• Sponges are a manmade cleaning treasure that is a breeding ground for bacteria. Discard your used sponge, no matter how clean it looks, monthly.

• No one needs a whole sponge for doing dishes. Cut the sponge into quarters. Use one now and save the remainder for the following month.

Meats

• Do not flour roasts before you brown them. All you’re browning is the flour and the meat is not sealed to hold in its juices.

• Always allow roasts, steaks, etc. to sit on a cutting board for 10 minutes, with a foil tent over, before you carve it. This allows the juices to sink back into the meat.

Fruits

Avocados

• Do not toss the pits when you make guacamole or another dip that uses avacadoes. Save them to plunge into the serving dish. The dip will stay green and fresh for at least two days.

Bananas

• The easiest method to peel a stubborn banana is from the bottom up. That’s right, flip it end over end and strip away.

Cantaloupes

• For the sweetest fruit, skip the smooth rinds. Search for the rinds that have cellulite looking wrinkles.

Pineapples

• The day prior to serving cut off the top. Turn the pineapple upside down on a plate and allow it to sit on your counter. All the beautiful juices return to the cut end and make the entire pineapple more flavorful.

Strawberries

• What you see is what you get. Strawberries are the only fruit that does not ripen more once it is picked. Those big white sections you see in the plastic container are with you forever.

• You can store fresh strawberries in the refrigerator for up to four days. Do not wash them. Lay a paper towel on a plate or low dish, then add the strawberries, but do not mound them. Wash when ready to use.

Tomatoes

• Place unripe tomatoes in a brown paper bag. Store in a cool dark spot. This is also great for all the green tomatoes you rescue from your garden at the end of summer.

• Do not store tomatoes in the refrigerator. They lose their flavor.

Vegetables

• Steam fresh vegetables to retain bright color and crispness. Place a metal steamer in your saucepan. Add chicken stock, white wine, and water to just below the bottom steamer holes. The stock and wine add a little extra flavor and the alcohol cooks away.

Dried and Canned Beans

• When cooking beans for soup, stews, and the like, add a teaspoon or so of baking soda to the mixture. This cuts the negative intestinal reactions to beans and does not affect the flavor or cooking.

Fresh Green Beans

• Add a paper towel to the plastic bag when you store green beans in the refrigerator. It absorbs the excess moisture so the beans stay fresh for a longer period of time.

Celery

• What to do with those extra stalks that you don’t need, but don’t want to throw out at today’s prices? Chop and sauté in a mix of olive oil and butter. Store in small containers, and freeze until needed for soups, stews, and the like.

Garlic – Fresh

• Use a garlic press instead of chopping. The press brings out more flavor and you’ll use less garlic.

Lettuce

• All types need moisture to stay fresh. When buying head lettuce, look for the longest stem. Scratch the nub with your nail, sprinkle with water, and place in an open plastic bag. Store in the fridge, preferably the crisper drawer.

• Leaf lettuces should be rinsed in cool water, wrapped in a dish towel or other cloth, and stored in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

• Remoisten the lettuce after each use to retain freshness.

Mushrooms

• Clean mushrooms just before using. Wipe with a dry paper towel to remove the growing soil.

• Loose mushrooms keep reasonably well in a paper bag and stored in the refrigerator.

• After you use a portion of mushrooms that come in a plastic container, cover the remainder with cling wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Onions

• Cut the root end off onions first. This allows the gas that makes your eyes water to escape.

• After you cut the roots off a green onion, use a piece of paper towel to pull off the slippery end. Stops your fingers from smelling and being sticky.

• What to do with the rest of an onion when the recipe calls for a small amount? Sauté the remainder. Freeze in small containers for your next recipe.

Salads

• Make your salad early in the day and never worry about it turning brown or mushy. Add your salad ingredients, without the dressing, to a large bowl. Gently toss until well mixed. Cover with a damp paper towel and store in fridge until you’re ready to add dressing and serve.

Herbs

• Chop fresh herb leaves easily. Place the leaves, without stems, into a cup and snip with scissors.

Dairy

Cheese

• Spray your cheese grater with a little non-stick cooking spray. The cheese won’t stick and cleanup is a breeze.

• Grate your own Parmesan, Asiago, Swiss, etc. fresh when you need it. The remainder of the block will keep in your fridge for months if you cover tightly with cling wrap or aluminum foil, then store in a plastic bag. Should a little mold appear simply scrape it off with a knife. Surprisingly the cheese is still good.

Eggs

• Make hardboiled eggs easily. Eggs should be in your refrigerator no less than 5 days otherwise they are devils to peel. Set eggs in a saucepan and then fill with cold water to cover. Be sure to add the lid so the water boils faster. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the burner and keep the pan on the burner for 8-9 minutes.

• Peeling hard boiled eggs is easy. After the eggs are boiled, pour out the hot water. Add cold to the pot. Crack the end of each egg against your sink gently, then place them back in the cold water while you do the others. Roll the eggs along the counter or the middle part of your sink with a little pressure. This takes a little practice to master so you don’t mush the egg. The shell peels off easily.

• Store peeled hardboiled eggs for up to five days in a glass container. Cover the eggs with water. Change the water every other day.

Milk

• Children of any age should not drink expired milk, but adults can for an additional day or two without a problem.

Additional Tips

Bread

• Don’t store bread in the refrigerator. This dries it out.

• Bread freezes well for up to one month.

Brown Sugar

• When light or dark brown sugar hardens place it into a plastic bag. Add a slice of white bread and seal. Within hours the sugar is back to a usable state.

Cooking Oil

• Test if the oil is hot enough for frying by adding a small piece of white bread to the heated pan. When the bread toasts golden quickly the oil is ready.

Ice Ring

• The following recipe is simple and adds a festive look to any punch bowl.

Water
1 orange, peeled and sliced thin
10 maraschino cherries, halved
15 seedless red grapes, halved
10 strawberries, halved
25 blueberries

Arrange thin citrus slices and another fruit of your choice, or any combination of fruits omitting the orange, in an attractive design in a Bundt pan. Pour water into mold to partially cover fruit. Freeze.

When frozen, add water to fill mold ¾ full. Another option is to use orange juice, another juice, or ginger ale whichever works best with your recipe in place of water. This keeps the punch cold without diluting it. Refreeze.

At serving time, unmold by dipping the pan in hot water to loosen the ice. Float the ring fruit side up in punch bowl.

Pasta

• Don’t add oil or salt to the cooking water. Those additions make it difficult for the sauce to cling to the pasta.

• After pasta is cooked al dente and drained, return it to the pot. Stir in a few ladles of hot sauce. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving. This stops the watery ring that forms on your dinner plate or bowl.