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Cooking Tips

Experience is the best teacher...


On this page I'll include some of my tips and tricks to make cooking easier and your food taste better.
Please feel free to contribute your own cooking tips -- I'll post them so everyone can see them.

Kitchen Hints

did u know this?

When you buy bread**!    { Each color tie is for a certain day of the week for freshness }!
When you go to buy bread in the grocery store, have
you ever wondered which is the freshest, so you "squeeze" for freshness or softness.
Did you know that bread is delivered fresh to the stores five days a week?
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Each day has a different color twist tie.
They are:
Monday - Blue
Tuesday - Green
Thursday - Red
Friday - White
Saturday - Yellow
So if today was Thursday, you would want red twist tie
- not white which is Friday's (almost a week old)!
The colors go alphabetically by color Blue - Green - Red - White -Yellow,
Monday thru Saturday. Very easy to remember.
on the day you are shopping.

How Long Will Frozen Food Keep?

NEVER keep frozen foods longer than recommended
in this handy guide:

Frozen dinners - three to four months
Ground beef and turkey - three months
Bacon, unopened - one month
Roasts - six to twelve months
Whole fish - five to six months
Fish fillets - four to five months
Shellfish - four to six months
Whole chicken or turkey - twelve months
Chicken or turkey pieces - nine months
Cooked poultry - four months


To keep boiled vegetables bright-colored, add a few drops of olive oil to the water.

 To give gravy and stew great color and flavor, add a few teaspoons of soy sauce.

 For crispy French toast, add a touch of cornstarch to the egg mixture.

Before chopping nuts in a food processor, dust them with flour. This keeps the nuts from sticking to the processor.

Emergency Substitutes

An emergency is the only excuse for using a 
substitute ingredient - recipe results will vary somewhat.
1/1/2 tsp.cornstarch 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup half -and- half cream 1 Tbsp.melted butter + enough milk to measure 1 cup
1 cup tomato juice 1/2 cup tomato sauce + 1/2 cup water
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate 3 Tbsp. cocoa + 1 Tbsp. fat
1 cup honey 1 1/4 cups sugar + 1/4 cup liquid
1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar + 1/4 tsp.baking soda
 1 small chopped onion (1/3 cup) 1 tsp. onion powder or 1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1 cup buttermilk 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar + enough milk to measure 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using)
1 whole egg 2 egg yolks+1 Tbsp. water (cookies)
or 2 egg yolks(custards, similar mixtures)
1 cup whole milk 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water or 1 cup reconstituted non-fat dry milk + 2 tsp. margarine or butter.

The following is a list of ingredients that will make up a basic well stocked pantry. These are suggestions. Don't run out and buy everything on the list. Not all ingredients will appeal to all people. However, most of the items listed here are basic ingredients that will go into the making of a wide variety of recipes.

Various Oils: olive oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil.

Spices: basil, oregano, parsley, tarragon, rosemary, cumin, cayenne, crushed red pepper, thyme, bay leaves, ginger, mustard powder, marjoram, allspice, nutmeg, paprika, cinnamon, salt, pepper, white pepper, whole black peppercorns.

Extracts: vanilla (a must), other useful options are lemon, almond, peppermint, butter and maple.

Staples & More:

Corn Starch
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Sugar (powdered, granulated and brown)
Stock (chicken, beef, vegetable)
Maple Syrup
Wine (for cooking)
Hot Sauce
Lemons (or lemon juice)
Parmesan cheese

Handy to Have on Hand:

Canned or frozen vegetables (usually frozen taste better, although there are some brand exceptions)
Dried beans
Orange Juice
Canned cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
Plain yogurt or sour cream
Cream Cheese
Green Onions

By having these items on hand you should be able to assemble and prepare plenty of delicious meals for your family.


The Basic Kitchen

IMAGE by Cheri Sicard

So you want to start cooking but you're not sure where to begin? Before you boil your first egg, let along turn out a spectacular meal, you have to have the right equipment. These lists pertain strictly to cooking equipment, we are not talking dishes to serve the food on, tableware, etc. It is also assumed that you have a stove and oven.

Now don't just go out and buy everything on the list. Some of these items are only necessary for certain tasks. For example, pie pans are only necessary if you plan to make pies (or if you're bored and want to learn to juggle). If pies aren't your thing, you don't really need the pans. If one specific use isn't given, however, you can probably assume that you will need the item in question at one time or another during your culinary adventures.

Here is a list of the bare bones minimum you should have in your kitchen:

set of measuring cups - cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup, 1/8 cup

set of measuring spoons - teaspoon, 1 tablespoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon

nonstick skillet(s) - one small about 8 inches in diameter, one large about 12 inches in diameter.

pots and lids - one small, one medium and one larger, deep stock pot.

spatula - plastic if using no-stick cookware.

cake pans - if you plan to do any baking at all get a set of two 8 or nine inch round cake pans.

baking sheet(s) - a large rectangular baking sheet or two will come in handy

springform pan - essential for making cheesecake and many other types of cake. This pan has a separate bottom which the side part fits around. The side has a hinge that tightens it onto the bottom. When it's time to take the cake out of the pan, you simply open the hinge and life the cake out.

loaf pans - essential only for making certain kinds of breads or cakes. The disposable tin foil ones will do if you don't want to invest in the real thing.

pie pans - essential only of you plan on making pies. The disposable tin foil ones will do if you don't want to invest in the real thing.

wooden spoon(s) - get a few, you'll be glad you did!

garlic press - these range in price from a couple of bucks to twenty or thirty. Don't buy the cheapest model, it will break easily (beware of plastic handles) and not do the proper job. Ikea carries a decent garlic press in the five dollar range.

knives - invest in a couple of good knives. You will need a small paring knife and a larger chef's knife. A medium size in between wouldn't hurt either. A "Ginsu" type serrated knife is also indispensable, they really are as good as the commercial says, they last forever and are very inexpensive too. I've had my "Ginsu" for about 12 years now and it's still going strong (yes, I have used it to cut aluminum cans just like the commercial and it still slices tomatoes just fine).

rubber spatula(s) - these are handy for scraping every bit of batter out of a bowl, the last bit of mayonnaise out of a jar and hundreds of other uses. Rubber spatulas usually come in sets of a couple different sizes (handy, but not essential). It is important the rubber spatula is flexible. The cheaper models are too stiff and thus cannot do the job they were meant to do. Also, do not put these on the bottom shelf of your dishwasher, they will melt!

electric mixer - a hand held electric mixer is essential. You can get by without a lot of more expensive pieces of kitchen equipment if you have this one.

mixing bowls - a set of mixing bowls is a must. Get at least three, a small, medium and large. If you can, invest in an extra-large mixing bowl. If you're ever having a party or cooking for large groups (or making lots of leftovers) you'll be glad you have it.

slotted spoon - a large slotted spoon is necessary for removing items from liquids.

grater - a grater is necessary for grating cheese, vegetables (cabbage and carrots for coleslaw come to mind), citrus zest etc. One grater will usually have several different sets of blades for grating different textures and sizes. Graters can be clumsy and time consuming and there are many other gadget that can do their job, but make sure you have something in your kitchen that can grate.

colander - for draining pastas, vegetables and anything else that has been cooked in hot liquid.

strainer - a wire mesh strainer will come in handy for washing rice. Used like a colander it can separate food from cooking liquids or to strain large pieces out of sauces, etc.