Hints, Tips & Shortcuts

Easy: not hard or difficult; requiring no great labor or effort; capable of being accomplished with ease.
Over the years we've heard about, run across or discovered (often by accident) numerous things that make our time spent in the kitchen a bit more pleasant- easier, if you will.  We're happy to share them here with you-  and if you know any great tips or hints that we missed, please leave a comment or shoot us an email so we can try them out and add them here.

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Baking
Roll out your cookie dough on powdered sugar instead of flower- adds a touch of sweetness and your cookies won't dry out as much.
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When storing cookies for extended periods (like to ship overseas to our soldier friends) put a slice of bread in the tightly sealed container- zip top bags work great.When making chocolate cakes, instead of flouring the pan, use cocoa powder.
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For a smooth finish on your cupcakes, microwave your icing for 30 seconds and dip them in- gives you that lovely fondant look when they dry.
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When making cream pies, dust baked crust with powdered sugar - prevents crust from becoming soggy.
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When making brownies or chocolate cake, replace water with cooled (brewed) coffee- the stronger the coffee, the more mocha-y the flavor.  Alternately you can add instant coffee or espresso powder.  Even a little bit really enhances and brings out the flavor of the chocolate.
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Unflavored, unwaxed dental floss is perfect for slicing cakes into layers- it is also great to slice your decorated cake without making a mess or dragging a knife through your design- wrap the floss (make sure it is longer than the cake) around your fingers like you do for flossing then push down through the cake to the bottom, let go of one end of the floss and pull through. Your fingers will get messy but your cake will stay lovely.
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Cleaning
Put a wooden spoon across the pot when you are cooking something that is prone to boiling over and you won't have the problem.
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For pots and pans with baked on grime, add dishwasher detergent or one of the individual packets of the detergent to the pan and let it soak while you clean the kitchen or overnight and the gunk washes right off.
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A used drier sheet will do the same thing- fill with hot soapy water, drop the used dryer sheet in and soak while you clean your kitchen or overnight, remover the drier sheet and wash/wipe clean.then take the dryer sheet and wipe clean.
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Eggs
To tell if an egg is fresh, cover with cold water. If it floats, it's rotten and needs to be tossed.
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To keep the shells from cracking, put a couple of toothpicks in with the eggs before boiling- it will prevent the shells from cracking.
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When you beat egg whites, beat up 2/3 of them until they form very stiff peaks then add the remaining 1/3. The beaten batch won't collapse and the additional whites with produce a glossy, firm texture.
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Fruits &Veggies
When you boil vegetables, start root vegetables with cold water, anything that grows above the ground in boiling water.
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Scrub potatoes with a bbq brush and the peels come off lickety split.
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Wrap celery in foil before putting in crisper to keep it fresh longer.
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A really easy way to core head lettuce is to give it (the core) a good thwack against the counter or cutting board and it will pull right out.
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To easily peel tomatoes, peaches, etc- place in boiling water for 1 minute then remove to cold water- skins slide right off.
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Freeze your head of cabbage for several hours or overnight then let it sit on the counter for a bit and the leaves peel right off and are very pliable so you can easily make your cabbage rolls. Alternately, you can boil for 10 minutes.
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Wash and trim your fresh herbs, green onions, etc as soon as you get them home and let dry completely. Once they are all clean and ready for use, put in a tight sealing container with a folded paper towel in the bottom. They stay fresh longer and it makes getting your recipes ready that much quicker.
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Herbs such as parsely, cilantro, etc can be stored upright in a glass in the fridge (who has room for this?). Make sure to change out the water frequently.
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Onions
To remove onion odor from your hands, rub them over stainless steel while running water (a spoon or table knife works great, or even running your wet hands over the faucet if yours is stainless will do the trick)- you don't even have to use soap to get rid of the smell, but that's just gross and will never be recommended by the divas. ;-)
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For some reason eating meatloaf made with onions makes several family members and friends all belchy later, but they didn't want me to leave them out because they are essential to the overall flavor.  One time I was out of fresh onions so I used some minced dried and no more belching.  This has worked every single time and everyone I have told who tries it has had the same results.
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The following tips are to prevent you from tearing up when chopping onions:
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We have NOT resorted to wearing goggles so can't verify but we have heard it works for others.
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Curling your tongue over your top teeth while slicing will help keep the tears at bay.
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Chop near an open flame- gas burner or candle both work
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Use a fan to blow the flames away from you.  A small personal fan will do it.
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Chop them by the sink while running water.
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Freeze for half an hour or so to cut down on the gases.  Storing them in the fridge does the same thing and has the added benefit of keeping them from sprouting for much longer.
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Breathe through your mouth.
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Use a very sharp knife- clean cuts expose less gas producing surface areas.
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Rice
For fluffy rice every time, brown slightly in dry pan over low heat before adding water or broth.
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To prevent rice from boiling over add a teaspoon of lemon juice to water- no taste and no spillover.
 
 
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