1 pound apples = 4 small apples, 3 medium apples, 2 large apples
1 serving of apple = 1 medium apple, 6 ounces juice, 1/2 cup applesauce
1 apple contains 80 calories and less than 1/2 gram fat
Best baking apples
Tart, crisp apples that hold their shape are best for piemaking. Fall or early winter is the ideal time to bake an apple pie because the apple crop is fresh. With the exception of Granny Smith's (tart, green apples from Australia and New Zealand that are available all year), apples found in markets in the spring and summer have been stored since the fall harvest and do not have the same taste or texture as fresh apples.
The following varieties are among the best for baking in pies: Baldwin, Cortland, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Johnathan, Macoun, Newtown, Pippin, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening, Rome Beauty, and Winesap.
Cooking with Granny Smith Apples
Selection: Good quality Granny Smith apples will be firm with smooth and clean skin. Granny Smith apples are a deep green with an occasional pink blush of the cheeks. Test the firmness of the apple by holding it in the palm of your hand. (Do not push with your thumb.) It should feel solid and heavy, not soft and light. These apples may be less attractive, but the flesh is still good to eat after cutting.
Avocados, available all year, vary greatly in shape, size, and color. Despite this variation in appearance, avocados are of good eating quality when they are properly ripened, becoming slightly soft. This ripening process normally takes from 3 to 5 days at room temperature for the quite firm avocados usually found in food stores. Ripening can be slowed by refrigeration.
For immediate use, select slightly soft avocados, which yield to gentle pressure on the skin. For use in a few days, buy firm fruits that do not yield to the squeeze test. Leave them at room temperature to ripen. Irregular light brown markings are sometimes found on the outside skin but generally have no effect on the flesh of the avocado.
Avoid: Avocados with dark sunken spots in irregular patches or cracked or broken surfaces. These are signs of decay.
To avoid the browning of avocado flesh when exposed to air, immediately place the peeled fruit in lemon juice until ready for use.
To prevent bacon from curling up when frying, make some small slits around the edges with a pair of scissors. The bacon should remain flat and cook easily.
Frying Bacon Put the bacon in a cold frying pan and put a cover on it. Put it on medium heat and it will not curl up. Turn over when it is done on one side and let cook till browned on the other side. You not only get straight bacon but there will not be splatters all over your stove to clean up afterwards.
A combination of ingredients, including baking soda, an acid such as cream of tartar, and a moisture absorber like cornstarch. An important chemical process occurs when baking powder is added to wet ingredients; carbon dioxide gas bubbles are released, which in turn cause the bread, cookies, or cake to rise and lighten in texture. The double acting baking powder used by home cooks acts twice, some gas is released when it comes in contact with the wet ingredients and then again when exposed to heat in the oven. Baking powder is fragile and loses effectiveness quickly. A good rule is to replace it at least once a year to guarantee baking results.
Produces carbon dioxide bubbles, but here the catalyst is an acid such as buttermilk, molasses, or yogurt. Baking soda reacts immediately, so it should be sifted first with dry ingredients, and then added to the acidic ingredient only right before the dish is placed in the oven.
Bananas that require further ripening should be left at room temperature, but away from heat or direct sun. To speed ripening, place them in a loosely closed paper bag. Putting an apple in the bag will further speed the process. Once ripened to your liking, bananas can be held at room temperature for a day or two. Then, you can store them in the refrigerator to slow down ripening; although the skins will turn dark, the fruits will remain perfectly edible. You can keep refrigerated bananas for up to two weeks. But never refrigerate unripe bananas. The exposure to cold interrupts their ripening cycle, and it will not resume even if the fruits are returned to room temperature.
You can salvage an overabundance of overripe bananas by peeling them, wrapping them whole or in chunks in plastic wrap, and freezing them. Eat them frozen or thaw them and use in baking, where peak sweetness and "mushiness" are desirable.
Control the flames on a barbecue grill by having a pint spray bottle of water mixed with 1 teaspoon baking soda.
Cooking brings out the appetizing aroma and texture of dry beans. Overcooking causes poor texture, color, and flavor. Microwaving doesn't reduce cooking time for dry beans.
Canned vs. Dried Beans Sure canned beans are fast and easy to use but you can also prepare dried beans from scratch and it can be economical to cook up a whole bunch and freeze in quantities similar to the can sizes you usually use.
Here are some equivalents and cooking instructions:
1 lb. dry beans = 2 1/2 c. dry beans = about 7 1/2 c. cooked beans
1 c. dry beans = about 3 c. cooked beans
14 oz. can beans = about 1 1/2 c. drained beans
19 oz. can beans = about 2 c. drained beans
First, rinse and sort dried beans. Then do a quick soak. In saucepan, cover dried beans with three times their volume of water and bring to boil. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for one hour. Drain. In a large saucepan, cover drained, soaked beans with three times their volume of fresh water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, and topping up with water if necessary, for about 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, depending on age and type of bean.
Pat beef steaks with paper toweling before cooking for better browning of the meat.
To peel a tomato, peach or anything else with skin, dip quickly in a pot of boiling water. Stick a fork into the stem and use a paring knife to easily remove the skin.
When grilling brats, use tongs to prevent piercing the casing with a fork and causing the juices come out. You will dry the brats out and lose a lot of the flavor to the coals. If instead of parboiling, you take the fresh brats straight to the grill, be sure to cook them slowly over a low temperature. If the coals are too hot it will be almost impossible to fully cook them on the inside.
If dough seems too soft to roll, chill until firm. If dough seems slightly dry, work in one teaspoon of cream or butter with hands.
For extra fine textured bread let the dough rise twice in the bowl before shaping. Dough will continue to rise during the first fifteen minutes of baking. It is important you do not open the oven during this time.
Milk adds a velvety texture to bread plus needed nutrients.
Sugar adds flavor and color to the bread. A good rule of the thumb might be a minimum of 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar for each called for cup of flour.
Salt adds to the flavor of the bread and controls the fermentation by retarding the action of the yeast.
Breads should be kept away from drafty areas while rising and when cooling.
Self rising flour is not suitable for yeast breads.
Kneading the dough for a half minute after mixing improves the texture of baking powder biscuits.
Add a cup of water to the bottom of a broiling pan to absorb grease and smoke.
If brown sugar has hardened, place for 2-3 days in freezer. Sugar will be soft after it has thawed out.
If your brown sugar is getting hard, place a slice of plain bread in the package, seal it up, and the next morning your sugar will be soft again.
If you have a pan that you burnt some food in, just boil a few cups of water with a cup a vinegar added. This loosens the burnt on foods so you can wipe it away.
To soften butter quickly, cut it in pieces, put it on a plate and cover with a metal bowl that's been rinsed with hot water.
Salted vs. Unsalted
Most professional chefs like to use unsalted butter because it is one way of controlling the salt content of a dish. When baking, many recipes for desserts and other sweet items do not call for salt —hence, unsalted butter is the only way of being sure that nothing goes into the recipe other than what is called for.
When melting butter or margarine, add a few drops of water to the pan. This prevents it from burning or scorching.
When baking a cake, instead of dusting the pans with flour, use granulated sugar. The cakes come out of the pan just as easy and taste better with that little bit of melted sugar on them.
Frosting a Cake
When frosting a cake, eliminate crumbs by having the spatula only touch the frosting, not the cake itself. Use dabs of frosting to "glue" the bottom layer to serve plate to hold it steady as you frost the cake.
When frosting a two-layer cake, place four pieces of waxed paper on plate to square it off. Place first layer on plate, upside down (flat side up). Frost bottom layer then place top layer flat side down and frost as usual. when cake is frosted, pull gently on waxed paper strips until removed. Plate is clean on edges with no clean up!
Slicing Cake Layers
If you have to slice cake layers in half (as in preparing a torte), get out your dental floss. Position floss on far side of layer and then slice through.
Open cans of things that settle (like beans or chili) from the bottom. The ingredients come out much easier. If you have a can that can't be opened from the bottom, try storing it upside down.
Cantaloupes and other melons should be left to ripen at room temperature, turning them once a day so they don't develop soft spots.
Lemon juice added to carrot cooking water will help keep the color bright.
Good-quality cauliflower will have white or slightly off-white heads that are firm with no space between the curds. The leaves should be fresh and green. There is no quality difference between large and small heads. Avoid cauliflower that is soft or wilting, has ivory to light brown coloring or that has small dark spots on the curds. Keep cold and humid and use as soon as possible.
Adding a tsp. of fresh lemon juice to the water will maintain the white color of cauliflower. A splash of milk will do the same thing.
To keep celery fresh and crisp wrap it in foil when you put it in the refrigerator.
Store cottage cheese upside down in the refrigerator to preserve longer.
Always freeze uncooked chicken if it is not to be used within 2 days.
Chicken should not be thawed on the countertop.
It takes about 24 hours to thaw a 4-pound chicken in the refrigerator. Cut-up parts, 3 to 9 hours.
For quick thawing of raw or cooked chicken use the microwave. Thawing time will vary according to your microwave.
Chicken may also be safely thawed in cold water. Place chicken in its original wrap or watertight plastic bag in cold water. Change water often. It takes about 2 hours to thaw a whole chicken.
Use a potato or vegetable parer to make chocolate curls for decorating cakes and pies. You can use bars of semisweet or bitter chocolate. The chocolate should be at room temperature or even very slightly warmer. You can adjust the thickness and length of the curls by the pressure of your strokes.
To melt chocolate, chop fine. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave, uncovered, stirring every 10 seconds.
To clean your microwave, heat a bowl of water on high power for 5-10 minutes. Keep the door closed for several more minutes to allow the steam to do its magic. Using oven mitts, carefully remove the bowl of water, then wipe the walls of the oven.
For a quick clean up with no smell, clean your kitchen sink with baking soda. Works great on white or almond sinks.
To remove grease from inside your oven, put a small pan of ammonia in the oven in the evening, and then close the oven door. In the morning, remove the pan of ammonia. The grease inside the oven will wipe off very easily.
Dried out coconut can be revitalized by sprinkling with milk and letting it stand for about ten minutes.
Store coffee in the freezer. It keeps the coffee fresh from the first to last cup. Put enough coffee into small snack size zip lock bags to make 8 cups, then store them in the freezer. When you're down to the last couple of bags you know it's time to buy more.
If you run out of coffee filters, try using a paper towel instead.
Cleaning your Coffee Pot
To clean your coffee pot, fill it halfway with vinegar and let it run through. Then brew 2-3 cups of water to get the vinegar taste out. Wash brew basket and coffee pot in hot soapy water.
Tips on How to Avoid Flat Cookies
Don't omit nuts. If you must, add 1-2 tablespoons extra flour.
Melted Butter: Using melted butter makes a flatter cookie with a shiny surface and a slightly crackled appearance. The cookie browns evenly. Using melted butter is acceptable but not suggested.
Unsalted Butter: You may substitute unsalted butter, or omit salt from the recipe.
When using margarine, do not soften. Use directly from the refrigerator.
Use ungreased baking sheets.
Allow baking sheets to cool between batches. Chill baking sheets briefly in the refrigerator or freezer to hasten cooling between batches.
Wipe baking sheets clean of grease or wash and dry between batches.
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons extra flour on humid or rainy days.
Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
Boiling – length of cooking time depends on the freshness of the corn. If the corn is young, fresh and tender, remove the husks and cook for 2 minutes maximum in rapidly boiling unsalted water (salt makes the kernels tough) and forget the sugar, the corn is sweet enough. If the corn is a bit older or has been refrigerated, boil it for 4 minutes.
Microwave – Best for cooking only one or two ears of corn. Cook with husks off at the highest setting (one ear for 2 minutes, two ears for 5). Rub ears with butter or olive oil before cooking, if desired.
Roasting on the grill – Husks on or off, there's really no need to soak the ears or remove the silks (they'll come off with the husk). Place on hot grill. If husks are on, let them char a bit to impart a wonderfully smoky flavor to the corn and grill six to eight minutes. Or remove husks for beautiful color and taste (the heat caramelizes the sugar in the corn) and grill for 3 minutes.
Roasting in the oven – Set temperature to 450 degrees and roast 6-8 minutes with husk on. If you desire seasoning, first pull back the husk, rub with flavored butter or olive oil and pull the husks back over the tops.
Buttering Corn on the Cob
Melt a stick of butter in a pan of hot water. The butter will float, to butter corn, simply dip in the pan, the butter sticks, the water doesn't.
Use vegetable brush on ears of corn to remove the silk between rows of kernels.
Cream will whip faster if the bowl, beaters and cream are all chilled first.
If you don't have time to cool your white or red wines before serving, add 2-3 frozen grapes in your glass. White grapes for white wine and red grapes for red wine.
After greasing and flouring cake pans, set the pans in the freezer for 2 minutes. That way, cakes will not stick.
To keep cucumbers fresh for at least a week, wrap each one in a dry paper towel, then store them in the crisper bin in your fridge. Every day or so, change the paper towel, even after you've cut into the cucumber.
Drying Celery Leaves
Take the leaves off celery and dry them as well. Simply put the chopped up leaves on a paper plate and leave it on the kitchen counter for a couple of days. They are great to add to soups and stews.
Make the perfect doughnut without all the dough-rising, etc. Just take your favorite canned biscuit and a sterilized thimble. Get your biscuits and use your thimble to make the perfect hole. Then drop them in lard or oil (320 degrees) until they are puffed and golden brown. Put in a paper bag containing powdered sugar or cinnamon and powdered sugar and shake until coated.
Bring eggs to room temperature quickly by putting them in a bowl of warm, not hot, water for 5 to 10 minutes. It's easier to separate egg yolks from whites when the eggs are cold.
If you drop an egg on the floor, cover it with salt and leave it alone for 2 minutes. The salt absorbs the egg and makes it easier to wipe it up.
When stiffly beaten, egg whites will expand to approximately 6 times their un-whipped volume. But they will not whip up if even a speck of yolk is included or if the dishes or utensils used for whipping have any oil or fat on them.
If you have a recipe that uses just egg whites, you can refrigerate the yolks for later use by storing them, unbroken, in a small bowl, covered with cold water for up to two days.
To make deviled eggs with no mess put eggs yolks from hard boiled eggs in 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. No mess, no fuss.
For perfect hard boiled eggs, put eggs in a large saucepan with cold water to cover them by 1-inch. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand covered 15 minutes. Pour off water; put pan under running water to stop further cooking. When cool enough to handle, crack shells and peel. To prevent the black ring around the edge of the egg, plunge straight into cold water after cooking.
Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs
Add 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the water before you boil your eggs. Boil eggs for 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool at room temperature. The shell can be peeled easily and cleanly from the egg.
When using Equal no-calorie sweetener, use recipes designed for Equal or maintain sweetness by adding Equal after removing the dish from heat. Prolonged cooking at high heat levels may result in some loss of sweetness.
Mix half milk and half water to use as a milk substitute in recipes.
Enhancing Flavor and Cutting Fat
When making vegetables, always put a little lemon on them, it works the best on green vegetables. Brings out flavor and cuts fat.
Fat Free/Low Fat
Cook crumbled hamburger meat for spaghetti sauce or tacos in boiling water to save fat and calories. After cooking, place in a colander and run hot water over it to rinse much of the fat away.
For perfectly cooked fish, measure fish at its thickest part and cook, using any method, 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
Thaw frozen fish in milk. The milks helps to draw out the "frozen" taste. Discard the milk before cooking.
Flaky Pastry Dough
The butter or shortening should be very cold. Some people even freeze their butter before beginning to work it into the flour. This way, the heat of your hands will not melt the butter.
Do not overwork the dough —it's preferable that there are small beads of butter (about the size of green peas) left in the pastry.
When you go to add the water to the flour/butter mixture, make sure it's ice water, and add only enough to make the mixture come together into a ball.
When following a recipe, always add the water a bit at a time, because many times you do not need all the water that a recipe will call for.
Once your dough has come together, flatten it into a disk, wrap it well with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the dough for at least one hour before rolling it out. This allows the butter to firm up and will help ensure a flaky, tender crust.
Rinse (don't bother peeling) garlic cloves if you're removing them after cooking.
Microwaving makes garlic easier to peel and lessens the "garlicky" smell on your hands. Microwave unpeeled garlic cloves at 10-20 seconds, cool, and store in a self-sealing plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Use the garlic within two weeks.
This year, try planting a few bulbs of garlic around your roses and in your flower beds to help with insect control.
Slipping garlic clove skins off is easy if you zap them in the microwave for about 15 seconds first.
Keeping garlic in a cool, dark, and dry location works best. The problem with keeping it in the refrigerator is that there is ambient moisture, and this is why your garlic starts sprouting before you use it.
To make quick garlic butter, squeeze a clove of garlic through a garlic press with a small amount of butter for perfect garlic butter for some quick toast or to season veggies, fish, chicken or whatever!
Dress up a side dish, such as mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes with a long sprig or two of fresh rosemary or thyme.
Add flair to dinner rolls with fresh herbs. Before baking the rolls, brush them with a mixture of one egg white beaten with 1tablespoon water. While the egg white glass remains moist, place fresh Italian parsley or sage leave on the rolls. Brush again with the egg white mixture. Bake as directed.
Add a few ice cubes to aluminum foil packet dinners or vegetables to prevent them from burning and keep them moist.
Brush molds for any gelatin dessert with salad oil to prevent sticking.
For less mess and time saving, when crushing graham crackers, put in a zippered bag and crush.
Chuck makes juicier, more flavorful hamburgers than ground round or sirloin. Much of the extra fat will cook out during broiling or grilling. To keep burgers juicy, handle the meat as gently as possible and don't press them while cooking.
When making hamburgers, rolls out seasoned hamburger and cut in rounds with a large fruit can. Hamburger shrinks as it cooks; when done, it will fit hamburger bun to a perfectly.
Perfectly Grilled Hamburgers
Make a tiny hole, about the size your index finger could fit through, in the middle of her burgers. During grilling, the hole in the middle will disappear but the center will be cooked the same as the edges.
Don't wash herbs until ready to use. If already wet, loosely wrap them in a paper towel. Hardy herbs such as rosemary and thyme may keep up to 2 weeks refrigerated in plastic bags; fresh bay leaf can be stored longer. Refrigerate delicate herbs such as basil, parsley, sage and cilantro with their stems or roots in a jar of water and the leaves loosely covered with a plastic bag.
Dill, parsley, sage, thyme, chives and basil leaves can be frozen with blanching or drying. Just slip them in freezer containers or resealable freezer bags. Remove what you need and use immediately.
If honey becomes crystallized, it is still good, just warm it up in a microwave or put in a pan of boiling water or microwave for a few minutes. A quick stir and it will be as good as new.
Ice Cream Drips
Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to keep the ice cream from dripping.
Jelly or Jam
If you use products like Sure-jell or Ball pectin, on your final boil after adding the sugar, add a half teaspoon of butter or margarine and it will not foam.
Sharpening steel at a comfortable angle and with a relaxed grip. Start with the knife in the vertical position, lightly touching the steel at a 20-degree angle to the knife. Keeping your arm still and using a smooth wrist action, pass the blade along the length of the steel. Note that the completed action is basically an arc. Place the blade on the opposite side of the steel and repeat the sharpening motion. Repeat the above steps 3-4 times to sufficiently realign the edge of the blade.
Lean to Fat Beef Ratio
Many supermarkets have started adding numbered ratio codes to the different grades of ground beef. Along with the titles "Ground Chuck" or "Ground Sirloin" you may see a number like "80/20" or "90/10." This is simply a "lean/fat" ratio (for example 80/20 means the meat is produced using 80% lean and 20% fat). This is actually more accurate because Ground Chuck is seldom produced using only Chuck roasts. Keep in mind that leaner is not always better for all recipes. A burger made with 90/10 ground chuck can be dry and flavorless.
4 lemons yield about 1 cup of juice.
After squeezing lemons for cooking, freeze the rinds. Whenever you need freshly grated lemon zest, you can grate it from the frozen lemons. Saves a trip to the store or buying a lemon just for a small amount of zest.
Squeeze limes or lemons that are starting to get too old and freeze the juice in small containers or ice cube trays. When you need a tablespoon of juice pop it into the microwave and you are ready to go.
Lettuce won't "rust" in the refrigerator if it is wrapped in paper toweling.
10 limes yield about 1 cup juice.
Measuring with Oil
When a recipe calls for oil and honey, measure the oil in a measuring cup first and then measure the honey in the same cup. Every drop of the honey will easily slide out.
Measuring without Oil
Measuring Honey or Molasses is easier if you first spray the measuring cup lightly with cooking spray. The sticky liquid will slide right out.
Always marinate your food in the refrigerator and for a minimum of 30 minutes. A great way to marinade is to use a sealed, plastic, food-safe storage bag so it can be flipped over a couple of times for a more even marinating. For safety purposes, do not reuse marinade that has been in contact with raw meat, poultry or fish. Instead, reserve some marinade on the side for basting and dipping or just make a separate batch.
To revive marshmallows that have become hard, place them in a plastic bag with a couple slices of fresh bread. Seal the bag and after a few days the marshmallows will be as good as new.
Let cooked roasts stand at room temperature 10-15 minutes before carving to let the juices settle. The meat will firm up for easier slicing. Wet your hands in cold water before mixing or shaping ground beef and the meat won't stick to them.
It is easier to slice meat finely if it is still slightly frozen. Fresh meat can be frozen for about 30 minutes until firm, slice and cook.
Tenderize meat with equal parts of strong brewed tea and double strength beef stock to a tough pot roast or stew.
Use the plastic bag from large bread loaf cut open to pound chicken breasts or any meat flat because ordinary plastic wrap makes a mess and doesn't flatten the meat as well without tears.
It is best to use a meat thermometer instead of continuously cutting into your roast or turkey just to see if it is done cooking. No more guessing and the benefits of making this minor investment will prevent food borne illness and overcooked food.
For nicely shaped, same-size meatballs, use a 1 ½-inch spring-action scooper.
When using bread as a filler in meatloaf, moisten the bread and whip it together with the egg, liquid, and other ingredients. The result is a more uniform texture. When making meatloaf instead of using breadcrumbs or oatmeal, use stuffing mix it gives it great flavor and is just the right filler.
You can use applesauce in meatloaf instead of milk to soften your bread crumbs. This makes for a wonderful tasting meatloaf.
To avoid milk from boiling over and spilling, add a drop of vinegar to the milk at boiling point, it won't boil over.
For nicely rounded muffin and quick bread tops, grease only the bottom and halfway up the side of the pan so the batter can cling to the sides and rise. If you only have one muffin pan and want to cool it quickly before refilling it with batter, turn it over and run cool water over the underside so you won't wet the muffin cups.
No Burnt Edges
Before placing double crusted pies in the oven, loosely wrap aluminum foil around pie crust edges. This will help the edges from browning too quickly. Remember to remove the aluminum about 10 minutes before pies are ready to come out of the oven so the crust is properly browned.
Use oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs in meatloaf. A bonus is more nutrition and fiber in your diet.
Removing Kitchen Odors
Spread baking soda or freshly ground coffee in a shallow pan and let it stand uncovered in the refrigerator for a few days to absorb odors.
Put a fabric softener sheet on the bottom of a wastebasket bin to prevent odors.
Grind a few lemon rids and ice cubes down to the garbage disposal once a week to keep it smelling fresh.
Lingering odors and be removed from plastic containers by putting crumpled up newspaper inside and sealing it tight. Let sit overnight and the smell should disappear.
To get rid of odors in the microwave, combine 1 cup water, grated peel and juice of 1 lemon and several whole cloves in a 2 cups glass measure cup. Boil for several minutes. Allow to site in oven until cool. Wipe interior of microwave with a soft cloth.
Removing Odors from Hands
To remove the odor from your hands after slicing foods such as onions or garlic, just hold a spoon between your hands and run cold water over them.
For cooking, you may want to choose between corn, vegetable, safflower, canola, and olive oils. These are all good choices for everyday cooking. If you intend to use an oil as a means of providing flavor to a dish, then use a more flavorful oil such as extra-virgin olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, or sesame oil. They each have a significant amount of flavor but are rarely used to sauté or fry because they tend to burn at high temperatures. As for frying, use canola or peanut oil. And if you are really looking for a whole lot of flavor, use pork fat in the form of lard.
Virgin: must be produced by a cold-pressed method in which the olives and their pits are crushed by a machine, without the use of chemical solvents or any other means.
Other "grades" of virginity determined by the percentage of oleic acid in the oil. Those oils with 1 percent oleic acid or less are deemed to be extra-virgin. If the percentage of oleic acid exceeds 4 percent, then the oil must be rectified to lower the acid content, and the oil may no longer carry the label of virgin.
Reducing Eye Watering
To reduce tearing when peeling or slicing an onion, chill for 30 minutes or cut off the top, but leave the root on. The root has the largest amount of sulfuric acid, which is what causes tears when the onion is peeled or cut. Remove the root before cooking or eating. Prolonged cooking takes the flavor out of onions. Cook only until they're tender when tested with a fork.
Place a sauté pan over a medium-high heat, and melt about two tablespoons of butter in it. Once the butter is melted, add the onion slices to the pan and stir every couple of minutes. Season the onions with salt and fresh cracked black pepper, remembering to stir often. Continue to cook over the medium-high heat, stirring often for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are brown and appear sticky. If the onions seem to be burning, lower the heat slightly, and continue to stir them. Remember that the volume of the onions will reduce to less than half of their original volume.
Store onions in a cool, dry place with good air circulation and away from bright light and out of any direct sunlight. Place onions at least one foot away from walls to provide air movement. Do not store whole onions in plastic bags as lack of air circulation reduces storage life. Do not store onions with potatoes as potatoes give off moisture that can cause onions to spoil.
When boiling pasta, put a little sugar in the water along with the salt. This will bring out a better flavor.
You can prevent pasta from boiling over while cooking by rubbing a small amount of butter or shortening around the rim of the pan. It really works. No need to add oil to the water and have all that wonderful sauce run off.
Boil your water, then put in your spaghetti. Turn off the heat and in 20 minutes, you will have perfect spaghetti.
To make a pretty garnish, cut small pickles like a fan cutting down the pickle's length but not through the bottom in thin slices. Spread slices like a fan to garnish plates.
Safe Pork Handling Tips
Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling fresh meat.
Refrigerate meat as soon as possible after purchase.
Place meat package on a plate or in a container before placing in refrigerator to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.
Always defrost in the refrigerator.
Always place cooked meat on a clean plate, not one that has been used for uncooked meat.
When using an automatic, clock controlled oven, do not leave fresh, unfrozen roasts or casseroles longer than one hour before start time.
For longer periods of time use a frozen product.
Potatoes soaked in salt water for 20 minutes will bake a lot faster. To get snowy white potatoes, add a teaspoon of vinegar or fresh lemon juice to the boiling water.
Keeping Potatoes Fresh
Store potatoes in a cool, dark place at about 50 degrees. Do not wash potatoes before storing, because the moisture can cause sprouting.
Do not refrigerate potatoes. Storage in temperatures cooler than 45 degrees converts the potato starch into sugar which changes the taste and causes the potatoes to darken prematurely when cooked.
Protect potatoes from turning green and acquiring a bitter taste by keeping them out of strong light. If a potato has any green spots, simply pare these areas off before cooking.
Potatoes will take on a golden taste and appearance if sprinkled lightly with flour before frying.
Mash potatoes while hot. Give mashed potatoes a beautiful whipped cream look by adding hot milk to them before you start mashing. The top half of a double boiler works great for reheating leftover mashed potatoes.
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. To save time when making potato salad, use a pastry blender to chop the peeled cooked potatoes and hard-boiled eggs.
Bake potatoes in half the usual time by letting them stand in boiling water for 15 minutes before popping them in a very hot oven.
Roasting chickens or turkeys breast side down will help keep the breast meat moister.
When harvesting pumpkins the stems should be cut so you have a 4 or 5 inch stem if possible. Pumpkins without stems do not store well, so it's important to pick them up from the bottom not by the stem.
Pumpkins should be harvested when mature and the rind is hard, but before night temperatures fall below 40 degrees. Don't harvest when the pumpkins are wet or allow them to become wet after harvesting. Any of these things will cause them to rot more quickly. After harvesting, allow the pumpkins to "cure" if possible. This is where they sit for 10 days or so in a temperature around 80 degrees and a high humidity of 80%. This can sometimes be done in the field if it's warm enough, or near a furnace. The pumpkins will last longer if cured first.
Prolonging the Life of a Carved Pumpkin
After all of your effort carving that expert pumpkin, wouldn't you want its life span to be at least through Halloween? Pumpkins shrivel up after losing moisture so slowing down the dehydration process and deterring the onset of mold will help make them last longer. You can usually restore them back to their original condition by soaking them in water overnight.
One technique is to coat all cut surfaces of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly immediately after carving. This includes a light coating of the entire inside of the pumpkin. If you can't do the whole inside, at least try to coat the design that you've cut. The petroleum jelly acts as a barrier to seal in the pumpkins internal moisture to help slow down the dehydration process of the pumpkin. You can use a finger to coat the eyes, nose and mouth but you may want to use a paper towel with jelly on it to coat the inside. It's less messy that way. There are also spray pumpkin preserver products out there if you can find them at a craft store.
Add 1/2 tsp. white sugar to the water when cooking frozen peas for a much brighter color.
When making pie dough, always remember to add cold water or water with ice cubes to the dough.
Regular Oats vs. Quick Oats
If you ever accidentally pick up regular oats instead of quick oats, take and pour 2-cup portions on a cutting board. Coarsely chop until most oats are cut at least a couple of times, then measure out amount that you need for the recipe.
Raspberries, Boysenberries, and Similar Berries
Look for a bright, clean appearance and a uniform good color for the species. The individual small cells making up the berry should be plump and tender but not mushy. Look for berries that are fully ripened, with no attached stem caps. Avoid leaky and moldy berries. You can usually spot them through the openings in the ventilated plastic containers. Also look for wet or stained spots on wood or fiber containers, as possible signs of poor quality or spoiled berries.
For tender ribs on the barbecue grill, first make sure they have been cut apart (if they are beef ribs) or for pork ribs, rolled up. Stand ribs up in a crockpot adding a little water so they don't stick to the bottom. Heat on high for several hours before throwing on the grill to finish cooking and soak up BBQ sauce.
Add a teaspoon of lemon juice to each quart of water used to cook rice. The grains will stay white and separated.
It depends on the recipe, what you're cooking, and how much you've over-salted, but often you can salvage the recipe if you've added too much salt. Sometimes adding a bit of an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, will counteract the saltiness. If you're cooking a slow-cooked dish, such as a stew or soup, add a peeled, halved, raw potato to the dish and it should absorb some of the salt.
Wooden bamboo skewers are inexpensive and easy to find, but they must be soaked at least 30 minutes in water preferably warm to the touch prior to use. This keeps them from easily catching fire. If you get into the shish kebab habit, then you may wish to invest in stainless steel reusable skewers.
Wash all meats and seafood thoroughly and pat dry before skewering and adding to marinade.
Meats should optimally be cut in uniformly sized 1 to 2-inch cubes for quick and even cooking.
It is not necessary to de-vein shrimp, but generally, any shrimp big enough to have a visible vein should be de-veined. Inside that vein is digested material and sand that needs to be purged from the shrimp's body. Leaving the vein in can also produce a gritty texture in the shrimp.
Fresh or thawed shrimp that has not been cooked is very perishable. Shrimp should be used within two days of purchase to ensure optimal taste and texture. Store fresh shrimp that will not be cooked immediately in the coolest area of the refrigerator, preferably on ice and covered with waxed paper. The waxed paper allows air to circulate around the shrimp.
Remove fat from stews and soups by chilling them with plastic wrap covering the surface. The fat will harden and come off when you lift off the wrap.
Soups and stews should only simmer (never boil) when cooking.
In a hurry to skim the fat from the soup? An ice cube floated in the soup will help to congeal the fat and make it easier to remove.
A leaf of lettuce dropped in a pot of soup absorb the grease from the top.
Freeze the liquids from canned mushrooms or vegetables; use it in soups or stews later.
Another way to thicken your soup, take some of the cooked vegetables out of the soup and puree in the blender. Then return to the original soup mixture.
When boiling meat for soup stock, make large quantities and freeze some in pint containers. When frozen, remove and wrap in freezer paper and keep on hand for future use.
When picking, look for berries with a full red color and a bright luster, firm flesh, and the cap stem still attached. The berries should be dry and clean, and usually medium to small strawberries have better eating quality than large ones.
Avoid berries with large uncolored areas or with large seedy areas (poor in flavor and texture), a full shrunken appearance or softness (signs of over-ripeness or decay), or those with mold, which can spread rapidly from one berry to another.
Don't just jump at those discounted case prices. In most containers of strawberries you will likely find a few that are less desirable than others. Try to look at some of berries lower in the container to be sure that they are reasonably free from defects or decay.
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.
Allspice: Cinnamon; dash of nutmeg or mace; or dash of cloves
Brown Sugar: 2 cups Splenda, Granular, 1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup. Mix ingredients well. Replaces 2 cups of regular brown sugar to be used when baking or canning. To make more than 2 cups, just multiply ingredients by the number of cups you need.
Cake Flour: Substitute 1 C. all purpose flour minus 2 tsp. for 1 C. of cake flour in your recipe.
Chili Powder: Dash bottled hot pepper sauce plus a combination of oregano and cumin.
Cinnamon: Nutmeg or allspice (use only 1/4 of the amount).
Molasses: 1 cup honey can be substituted for 1 cup molasses. Note flavor will be affected.
Mustard, Dry: 1 tablespoon prepared mustard can be substituted for 1 teaspoon dry mustard.
Mustard, Prepared: 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard plus 2 teaspoons vinegar can be substituted for 1 tablespoon prepared mustard.
Onion (1 medium or 1/4 cup): 1 tablespoon instant minced onion or 1/4 cup frozen chopped onion or 1 tablespoon onion powder.
Make in the microwave: Slice ripe tomatoes thinly and place on a microwave safe plate and cook for 45 minutes on 30% power. Store dry in a plastic zipper bag or in a jar covered in good olive oil.
Make in the oven: Turn oven on lowest setting. Halve or quarter tomatoes and sprinkle with equal parts salt and sugar. Bake until shriveled and slightly tough about 12 to 14 hours. Store in the refrigerator or you can freeze for later use. You can also store in oil, in the fridge.
How to Select: When trying to choose a sweet potato, choose a medium sized variety with smooth unbruised skin. You will want to choose an unblemished yam with unwrinkled skin.
Storage: Store your sweet potatoes in a dry, dark 55 degree area for approximately a month. Otherwise, use your sweet potato within the week. Never place a sweet potato in the refrigerator. Store your yam in a cool, dark, dry place up to 2 weeks. Never place your yam in the refrigerator.
Nutritional Qualities: Sweet potatoes have high Vitamins A and C. Yams have higher sugar content.
Equivalencies: 1 pound fresh = 3 medium = 3 ½ 4 cups cooked and chopped.
Preparation: A sweet potato can be prepared like a potato: baked, boiled, sautéed, steamed, microwaved, or fried. A yam can be prepared like a sweet potato.
Store fresh vegetables such as broccoli with plenty of air circulation. Wrap them in a damp towel or place in a perforated plastic bag. Putting them in an unventilated plastic bag will cause humidity to build and decay to set in.
Store sour cream upside down in refrigerator to preserve longer.
Tenderize chicken, beef and lamb, by sprinkling with fresh lemon juice.
Remember that every time you open the oven door, the temperature drops about 25 degrees. The coldest part of any refrigerator is the top back shelf. Never freeze more than four pounds of fresh food per cubic foot of freezer capacity at one time. For highest refrigerator efficiency, air should circulate around each container.
To peel, fill a saucepan with enough water to cover tomatoes; bring to a boil. Immerse tomatoes about 30 seconds; drain and cool. Remove stem ends and slip off skins. Use a melon baller to take the stems off tomatoes for less waste.
To seed, cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half, using your fingers to remove seeds. To reserve the juice for use in dressings, sauces or soups, seed the tomato into a strainer held over a bowl.
1 small tomato = 3 to 4 oz.
1 medium tomato = 5 to 6 oz.
1 large tomato = 7 or more oz.
1 lb. of tomatoes = 2 1/2 C. chopped or 1 1/2 C. pulp
Cooking Green Tomatoes
Instead of breading and frying those wonderful green tomatoes (which is a perfectly delicious way of enjoying them), cut off the outside meaty part leaving the skin on. Cut into bite-sized pieces and sauté in extra virgin olive oil with onion pieces of about the same size. Season with salt and pepper.
To ripen tomatoes quickly, place them in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple. Poke a hole in the bag and place it in a dark place. The apple will give out ethylene gas and cause the tomato to ripen.
When preparing meatless tomato sauce, use beef broth to dilute the cans of tomatoes instead of water. The beef broth gives the sauce much more flavor.
Thawing your turkey in the refrigerator is the preferred method for safety reasons, but you can also thaw it in cold water. The thing to remember about both methods is that they keep your turkey cold while thawing the key to preventing excessive bacterial growth.
The refrigerator method:
Using the following chart, simply place the turkey in its original wrap on a tray or in a pan to catch moisture that accumulates as it thaws.
8 to 12 pounds 1 to 2 days
12 to 16 pounds 2 to 3 days
16 to 20 pounds 3 to 4 days
20 to 24 pounds 4 to 5 days
Cold water method:
If it's the day before you plan to serve your turkey and you just remembered that it's still sitting in the freezer, don't despair. Check the wrapping to make sure there are no tears, and simply place the bird in its unopened bag in the sink or in a large container and cover it with cold water. If the wrapping is torn, place the turkey in another plastic bag, close securely, and then place in water. You will need to change the water frequently to assure safe but effective thawing. The National Turkey federation recommends every 30 minutes as a rule of thumb.
8 to 12 pounds 4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 9 hours
16 to 20 pounds 9 to 11 hours
20 to 24 pounds 11 to 12 hours
Utensils, flatware and place settings for formal occasions
Generally, the more formal the occasion, the more courses are served, which of course means more flatware. There should be a different set of utensils for each course: salad fork, dinner fork; dinner knife, bread knife; and so on.
Building from the basic setup (dinner fork on the left of the plate; knife to the right of the plate, dinner spoon to the right of the knife): On the left side of the plate put the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. On the right add a soup spoon to the outside of the dinner spoon if soup will be served. Place the soup bowl above the soup spoon and to the right. The bread plate goes to the left, about two inches above the fork. Place the butter knife across the bread plate at a diagonal, upper left to lower right. Small salad plates go to the left and a little below the bread plate. Dessert spoons, or in some cases knife and fork, are placed about an inch above the top of the plate with the handle(s) on the right side.
The largest glass on the table is the water glass which goes on the right side above the dinner knife. It may be filled and iced when guests arrive or left empty to be filled at each diner's request. If wine or some other beverage is served, set the appropriate glass to the right and a little down from the water glass.
Whenever you cook vegetables (broccoli, carrots, etc.), save the cooking water and keep it in a plastic freezer container. You can keep this in the freezer and add to it every time you cook vegetables and always have vegetable stock on-hand for cooking.
Use aluminum foil to wrap your lettuce and celery. It will keep them fresh for quite a long time.
Store shelled nuts in the refrigerator on the upper shelf will last about a year. Frozen walnuts will be good up to two years. If shelling your own, remove the papery section that is between the two halves as it's bitter.
Melons may be kept at room temperature, uncut, for about two weeks. Store whole melons at 50-60 degrees. Cut melons should be wrapped and stored at 40-50 degrees. If you need a small amount of watermelon, it is best to buy a piece of a larger one. It may be more expensive per pound, but you will be more likely to get good flavor.
Cut watermelon in half, then in quarters. Cut through the flesh of the melon along the seed line with a pairing knife. Now, lift off the piece of the melon you just cut. Using a fork, scrape the seeds from the piece you just removed and the remaining flesh on the rind.
Choosing a good watermelon
Choose a firm, symmetrical fruit that is free of bruises, cuts and dents.
Before you buy, pick up your melon. The heavier it feels, the better – a good watermelon is 92% water, which makes up most of its weight. On the underside of the watermelon, there should be a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
To prevent whipped cream from deflating, store in the fridge with a paper towel covering the container.
Yeast can either be mixed with the dry ingredients or dissolved in lukewarm water beforehand. Some sugar and flour should be added to feed the yeast. Also, yeast should be proofed (allowed to become foamy) because that is an indication of activeness.
Many yeast recipes do not give the exact amount of flour needed. Start as directed, work in more flour, until dough is soft and comes clearly away from sides of bowl.
Store lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit rinds in the freezer. Grate fresh citrus zest whenever you need it.
A special thanks to Cooking with Tammy for providing Helpful Hints.