Tip #1 – Before you do anything in the kitchen……….READ YOUR RECIPE FIRST!! Look over the ingredients and make sure you have everything you’ll need to successfully pull together a dish. The worst thing is to be a few steps into making something and then you realize you’re missing a key ingredient. Also, read through all of the steps before beginning to cook so you know what to expect as you go along.
Lastly, do not be afraid to mark up your recipes and cookbooks!! I write on and in everything. I make notes about any changes I’ve made to a recipe as well comments regarding if I liked or disliked it. It’s so much easier to replicate a beloved recipe if you have informative notes for yourself.
Tip #2 – Mise en Place (“Everything in its place”) There is NO better tip in cooking and baking than this!! The key to successful execution of ANY recipe is to have all of your ingredients out, set up, and ready to go. There is NOTHING more frustrating than having to stop what you’re doing to dice an onion or hunt around for a particular spice.
I like to take out every ingredient and tool that I will need before doing anything. Then I measure, dice, chop, etc. and group my ingredients in order according to the steps of the recipe. When I am cooking it’s super easy to just go down the line, grab the already prepped ingredient, toss it in, and keep humming along.
Once you get in the habit of doing this you’ll realize just how invaluable it is. You’ll never forget an ingredient, measure incorrectly, or add the wrong thing!! Organization is key when cooking!
Tip #3 – When freezing your extra homemade tomato sauce, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the sauce before covering your Tupperware with a lid. The plastic helps to keep ice from forming on top of the sauce which wasters it down during reheating.
Tip #4 – When you finish off a chunk of hard cheese, such as Parmesan, save the rind!! Thrown them in a Ziploc bag and keep them in your freezer. The next time you make a soup or stew, toss the rind in for about 30 minutes during the cooking to add some delicious, intense flavor to your meal.
Tip #5 – Save time when making a bouquet garni for your soups and stews by using a basic tea ball strainer instead of cheesecloth. Just pack the tea ball with any fresh herbs and spices you need, clip it to the side of your pot, and you’re good to go! The best part, it’s reusable and super cheap to purchase, you can get one on Amazon for just a few dollars.
Tip #6 – Don’t let your fresh fruit go to waste! Before it spoils, freeze it. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat, lay out your fruit making sure the pieces don’t touch and then freeze. Once frozen you can just toss the fruit into a Ziploc bag.
Freezing the fruit BEFORE putting it into a bag keeps it from freezing into one giant chunk of fruit.
Tip #7 – Mason Jars – If you don’t already have a house full of them then you need to get on Amazon and stock up!! These are one of the BEST things in my kitchen (and house) and they even come in all different sizes and colors.
Aside from canning you can literally use a mason jar for almost anything. I love to mix salad dressings in them, just give them a shake to combine and you can store the leftovers right in the jar. I also use them to store homemade baking mixes, snacks, homemade condiments, and even odds and ends around the house like paper clips and pencils!! They also make super cute drinking glasses and are perfect little vases as well. They are an indispensable part of my home, I love them!!
Tip #8 – Use lemons to clean your microwave, they work AMAZING and smell delicious. Just cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice into a bowl, throw in the lemons with a little water and microwave until boiling. Leave the bowl in the microwave for 15-20 min and then you can wipe the microwave clean with nothing more than a paper towel. Even the most dried up gunk will wipe right away with ease.
Tip #9 – Use a saltbox to keep salt and pepper close by when cooking. Salt and pepper are easily my most used seasonings so I keep a handy little saltbox right next to my stove. I like having them right next to my cooking area so that I can adjust my flavors as needed without having to constantly go back and forth into my spice cabinet.
Tip #10 – Be Organized!! An organized kitchen makes for an organized cook.
In my spice cabinet I group my seasonings according to their use. I keep all of my baking spices together (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc) and then I group my savory spices together as well. I keep all of my different peppers together, the salts are grouped near each other and so on. When I need to grab something while cooking it’s much easier to find when everything is organized.
In my pantry closet I make “zones” so that everything on the shelves isn’t a giant mish-mash of food. I have a specific area for pastas, snacks, canned goods, condiments, cereals, baking supplies, vegetables (onions, potatoes, and garlic), paper goods, etc. Not only can I find what I need quickly but it makes it easier to keep track of what I am stocked up on and what is running low so that I’m not spending money on food that I don’t need. I also use bins, baskets, glass jars, etc to help keep everything in the pantry neat and tidy.
Tip #11 – For even sized, consistent cupcakes, muffins, and cookies get yourself a “cookie scoop”. They come in all different sizes, they make it a cinch to get batters and doughs out, and the result is evenly sized baked goods.
Tip #12 – Speed up the ripening of fruits such as plums, peaches, nectarines etc. by placing them in a brown paper bag. The concentrated ethylene gas in the bag will help to ripen the fruit faster.
Tip #13 – What do you do when a recipe calls for buttermilk but you don’t have any on hand? Make some!! Just measure out 1 cup of milk, stir in 1 tbs of lemon juice or vinegar, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. This “homemade” version of buttermilk won’t be quite as thick as the store bought version but it’ll act the same in recipes.
Tip #14 – Avoid using glass cutting boards. Aside from the fact that they make a horrible sound when you cut on them they will dull your knives and they are super slippery. Instead, opt for a wood, bamboo, or even plastic cutting board. Your knives (and ears!!) will thank you.
Tip #15 – Every so often, go through your spice cabinet and toss anything that is expired or that isn’t looking so vibrant and fresh anymore. While spices and seasonings don’t technically “go bad” they do lose their potency over time and will not impart the right flavor into your foods.
Also, don’t waste money buying huge containers of a spice that you won’t use often. Why spend $15 on a jug of cumin at BJ’s when you need 2 tsp for one recipe that you’re trying out? Save your money and buy the smallest container you can find.
Tip #16 – Bacon is awesome, grease splattering everywhere isn’t. Save yourself the headache and cook your bacon in the oven! It’s quick and easy and it comes out perfect every time. Baking it is especially useful if you’re feeding a crowd and need big batches of bacon on hand.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line cookie sheets with foil then lay the bacon strips directly on the pan leaving a little space between each piece. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your bacon it may take a little extra time. There is no need to flip the bacon during cooking. Cleanup is a snap too, just roll up the tin foil (trapping all of the grease), toss, and clean your pans with a little soapy water.
Cooking directly on the pan will yield bacon with a bit of chew to it. If you prefer a crispier bacon, place a rack on the pan and lay the bacon directly on top. This will allow the grease to fall below resulting in a more crispy piece of bacon.
Tip #17 – Revive you hardened brown sugar by placing it in the microwave for about a minute. Also, keep your brown sugar nice and soft by placing a “brown sugar preserver” inside of the bag or container. They work great, I’ve had one for years!
Tip #18 – A great tool to add to your kitchen arsenal is a flat whisk. They do an excellent job whisking together a roux, deglazing a pan, and making gravies because they are able to get into the corners of a saucepan, something a regular balloon whisk cannot do.
Tip #19 – To revive day old muffins sprinkle them with a little water, place in a paper bag and then pop the bag in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes. The steam that is created within the bag will help to restore moisture to the stale muffin.
Tip #20 – When using fresh vanilla beans, don’t throw out the pods after scraping! Simply place your vanilla bean pods into a sealed container of granulated sugar, give it a shake every now and again to break up the sugar clumps, and let it sit. In just a few weeks you’ll have yummy vanilla flavored sugar which is perfect to use in all of your baked goods.
Tip #21 – To clean your cast iron pots and pans NEVER use soap, simply use a stiff brush and some Kosher salt. Pour a generous amount of salt into the pan, scrub vigorously with a stiff brush until the pan is clean, rinse under hot water, and dry right away. Do not allow the pans to soak in water or sit wet, it will cause them to rust.
Using a paper towel, apply a very light coat of oil to the inside of the pan. Use a clean paper towel to wipe out the excess before storing in a dry place.
Tip #22 – Make a “Snack Bin” for your kids! Having pre-portioned snacks that are all in one place and ready to go makes life so much easier. At snack time I simply tell them to go to the bin and they are allowed to choose any ONE snack that they want. They love having the freedom to choose their own treats and I love the freedom to not have to stop what I am doing to portion out snacks a million times a day. Win-win!!
Tip # 23 – When a recipe calls for “roughly chopped chocolate” simply take your wrapped chocolate bar and give it a few good smacks on the counter top. It’ll break it up enough without having to bother with a knife, cutting board, and some elbow grease!
Tip #24 – When you’re making a recipe that you come across online make sure to read the “comments” section before you start cooking. The comments sections offers some very useful tips and advice such: adjust cooking time, cut the salt, use a little more flour, add more vanilla, etc. Reading about other people’s experiences with a recipe beforehand will help you to avoid any pitfalls and setbacks yourself.
Tip #25 – When using a blender, make sure to put the liquids in first followed by any solid ingredients such as veggies or fruits. Doing this makes it easier for the blender to pull down the ingredients creating a smoother more consistent blend. It will also help to extend the life of your blender motor.
Tip #26 – Take advantage of “double duty” kitchen tools!
- Use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons of cheese or chocolate.
- A pizza cutter is great for cutting up quesadillas, garlic bread, even brownies!
- A colander can double as a steamer when placed in a pot.
- Use your Dutch Oven to bake a hot, fresh loaf of no-knead bread.
- Use a muffin pan to hold multiple ice cream toppings for an ice cream bar OR to sort all of the candy for your gingerbread house decorating.
- Use a coffee grinder (that is NOT being used for coffee) to grind fresh spices.
- Ice cube trays are great for freezing leftover broth, stock, fresh herbs, or tomato paste.
- Basic paper plates are great for using between delicate dishes to keep them chip free OR in between nonstick pans to avoid scratches.
- A Crock Pot is great to use on a buffet table to keep foods hot.
- Use an egg slicer to slice strawberries!
- Don’t have a rolling pin? Use a bottle of wine to roll out your dough!
- Use a cocktail shaker to scramble eggs.
- A tea infuser ball is perfect to hold herbs and spices that need to be discarded after cooking.
- Ice cream scoops are great to portion out the same amount of batter for muffins and cupcakes.
- Poke an ice pop stick through a paper cupcake liner, it’ll catch all of the sticky drips
Tip #27 – To dispose of cooking grease easily simply let the grease cool, place a Ziploc bag inside of a tall glass, and pour the grease right in. Make sure the bag is sealed and throw it right out into the garbage.
Tip #28 – It’s watermelon season!! Here’s how to pick the right one. Look for the “field spot”, meaning where it was laying on the ground. A more yellow spot indicates a riper melon. Check for brown webbing, the more webbing the sweeter the melon. The melon should also feel “heavy” for its size. Lastly, inspect the “tail”. A dried out tail is an indication of ripeness.
Tip #29 – Unlike cooking, baking is a very precise science. To achieve the best and most consistent results with your baked goods, weigh your ingredients vs. measuring by volume. There is so much variance when you you measure by volume however, weighing ingredients will be exact every single time. Electronic scales are best and are very inexpensive. You can find a good one for under $40.
Tip #30 – When baking, it’s important that your ingredients are at room temperature so that they emulsify into your batter and doughs better. To soften butter quickly, place it in a Ziploc bag and pound it with a rolling pin or meat pounder. Agitating the butter and flattening it out will help to soften it. For eggs, simply place them in a bowl of warm water and let them sit for about 5-7 minutes.
Tip #31– When checking to see if a cake is done baking, along with the “toothpick test“, gently rest your hand on top . If the cake pushes down and springs back, it’s ready. If not, continue to bake. Also, make sure the cake is golden in color to ensure a full bake.
Tip #32 – Keep your personal recipe binder organized with only the recipes you really LOVE, recipes that are tried and true. These recipes are ones that you’ve made, loved, and want to keep for the future. Any other recipes you come across (online or elsewhere) should get placed into labeled manila folders. Down the road if you make the recipe and like it, move it from the folder to your binder. If you didn’t like it, just toss it.
Doing this will keep your recipes organized and you won’t be stockpiling a million recipes you’ve never tried along with your “go to” favorites.
Tip #33 – When choosing a pineapple you want one that is ripe and sweet. Be sure to look for one that gives a little when pressed and that has deep green, healthy leaves. A center leaf will usually pull out easily when the pineapple is nice and ripe. Avoid pineapples that have yellow, wilted leaves or dark, damp “eyes”. Also, it should not feel overly soft or spongy.
Tip #34 – Chocolate chips are great when you’re making cookies however, not so much when you’re making a ganache. Chocolate chips contain additives that help them to hold their shape so when making ganache, be sure to melt down solid bars of chocolate instead of chips.
Tip #35 – Keep your prep area clean and save yourself a trip to the garbage every two seconds by using a “garbage bowl” and bench scraper.
I LOVE this bowl by Rachael Ray: Melamine Accessories Garbage Bowl Rubberized Bottom Traditional Style (Red) and I always keep it on the counter while I am cooking. I throw all of my scraps (onion peels, garlic skins, chicken pieces, etc) in there and then when I am done cooking, I have to make only ONE trip to the garbage to dump it all out.
A bench scraper like this: Rachael Ray Tools Bench Scrape Shovel, Red is great for scooping up large piles of scraps all at once to throw away in the bowl.
Tip #36 – To speed up the time it takes to peel potatoes, cut the ends off so you don’t have to deal with annoying curves and corners. Peeling in a straight line is so much easier!
Tip #37 – To keep homemade baked goods soft and moist for days place them in a sealed plastic container with either a slice of apple or a slice of bread. Both will help to prevent drying out so that they don’t get stale. Make sure to place a piece of waxed paper between the baked goods and the apple/bread.
Tip #38 – To keep counters and floors clean while spraying pans with nonstick cooking spray simply open the dishwasher door, lay the pan on the door, and spray. The next time you run a load of dishes the excess spray on the door will wash away.
Tip #39 – To remove unpopped kernels from popcorn simply place a cooling rack inside of a cookie sheet, lay all of the popcorn on top, and give it a gentle shake or two. The unpopped kernels will fall through the holes to the bottom of the tray leaving behind delicious, perfectly popped popcorn.
Tip # 40 – When grilling meat, line a platter with plastic wrap before placing the raw meat on top. Once the meat is on the grill you just have to remove the plastic wrap, throw it away, and now you’re left with a clean dish for the cooked meat. No worries about contamination and less dishes to clean after dinner!
Tip #41 – If you do not have a gravy separator when making homemade gravy just pour out all of the pan drippings into a large Pyrex measuring cup, throw 4-5 ice cubes in and give it a gentle stir. Within a few minutes most of the fat will have congealed onto the cubes. Use a spoon to scoop out the ice cubes and your drippings will be free of fat and ready to use!
Tip #42 – When baking it’s very important to mix your ingredients in a very specific order. Doing so will ensure a smooth, evenly mixed batter. First, beat together the butter and sugar. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients. Lastly, add the the liquid ingredients only after the first two steps have been completed.
Tip #43 – Use cookie cutters to create cute patterns, designs, letters, or numbers on cakes. You can even use the cookie cutters to create shaped pancakes or eggs!!
Tip #44 – Don’t throw out your empty pickle jars! Instead, thinly slice up a cucumber and throw the pieces into the pickle juice. In just a day you’ll have super crunchy pickles that are ready to eat and they’ll last about 2 weeks in the fridge.
Tip #45 – Ball Dissolvable Labels, Set of 60 are one of the best things in my kitchen!! I use them for canning however, they are also a great way to label leftovers in the fridge as well as anything you cook and store in the freezer. I label all of my leftovers and include the date too so that I can track when it’s time to toss. The labels easily dissolve away when you wash your containers.
Tip #46 – Use a Sharpie marker to write the date on one of your cooled hard boiled eggs then you will know how old the eggs are and when it’s time to toss them. Hard boiled eggs will last up to a week in the fridge.
Tip #47 – When you need to add several eggs to a batter “one at a time” first crack ALL of the eggs into a Pyrex measuring cup. You can then easily pour out one egg at a time into the batter without having to stop after each addition to crack another egg and get your hands all messy.
Tip #48 – Tape your printed recipe onto the outside of a cabinet door to keep the paper mess free and at eye level while you’re cooking. It’s so much easier then constantly looking down and you won’t have to worry about getting it wet or covered in food.
Tip #49 – Keep a box of cheap latex gloves under the sink. They are great whenever you need to handle messy foods or raw meat. Your hands will stay clean, nothing gets trapped under your nails, and they slip off easily when you’re done.
Tip #50 – When baking, it’s important to know the difference between “sifted flour” and “flour, sifted“. Sifted flour means you sift the flour FIRST and then you measure out what you need. Flour, sifted means you measure the flour FIRST and then you sift it after.
Tip #51 – To get the smell of garlic off of your hands simply rub them on a stainless steel faucet or along the inside of a stainless steel sink. The stainless steel will take the smell right off of your hands!
Tip #52 – To clean your blender quickly and easily after use, fill it up halfway with warm water and a tiny squirt of soap, run the blender for about 10 seconds (the suds will build up quickly) and then rinse thoroughly.
Tip #53 – If your cutting board doesn’t have any kind of gripping on the bottom, keep it from slipping all over the counter by placing a damp paper towel or damp kitchen towel underneath. A piece of non-slip mat, the kind the you line your drawers and cabinets with, also works great!
Tip #54 – Don’t remove the paper cover inside of a Hersey’s Cocoa Powder container. Instead, cut a straight line across the middle opening up just one half while leaving the other half of the paper behind. The next time you go to measure out cocoa, as you withdraw your measuring spoon you can easily swipe off the excess cocoa and level it.
Tip #55 – When making homemade sausage, meatloaf or meatballs take off a small chunk and either fry it in a skillet or microwave it for 15-20 seconds so that you can taste the meat and adjust your seasonings accordingly. You don’t want to make a big batch of food and then find out after it’s served that it was under or over seasoned.
Tip #56 – Use plain, unflavored dental floss to slice cleanly and easily through cake layers, cheesecakes, cinnamon roll dough, and even cookie logs.
Tip #57 – Running out of counter space while you’re cooking? Use your ironing board to create some extra room! Just throw a tablecloth over it and use the space to house your cookbook, utensils, bowls, etc. Instant, portable space!
Tip #58 – To make a beautifully frosted cake, always do a “crumb coat” first. The crumb coat is what will make your finished cake look clean and neat instead of covered in runaway crumbs.
To crumb coat – Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake without worrying too much about the appearance. Chill the crumb coated caked for at least an hour. After the cake is chilled do the final frosting and decorating to make it pretty.
Tip #59 – If you don’t already, use parchment paper! It helps batters and dough to bake more evenly, cookies won’t stick or spread while baking, and brownies and cakes will release easily from the pan.
Tip #60 – Make yourself some “premium cocoa” by warming up a mug of milk and then adding in chocolate truffles. Stir until melted and combined.
Tip #61 – Roasting garlic removes its “bite” leaving behind a deep, rich, mellow flavor. Use roasted garlic in mashed potatoes, to make garlic bread, to season vegetables. as a spread on crusty bread, or to top a steak.
Tip #62 – When measuring sticky ingredients such as honey, syrup, or peanut butter first spray the inside of your measuring cups with a little nonstick cooking spray. Everything will slide out more easily leaving less waste behind.
Tip #63 – When cracking eggs avoid doing so on the side of a bowl or other surface edge because it forces bits of shell up into the egg. Instead, hold the egg horizontally and give it a firm tap on a flat, hard surface. Pull apart the shell at the crack and VOILA!……………shell free yolks and white!
Tip #64 – When loading your dishwasher, sort like utensils and tools together in the basket. Unloading them later will be super quick and easy!
Tip #65 – Take advantage of the inside of your cabinet doors! Use them to store useful cooking tips, often used recipes, measurement conversions, weekly meal plans, or even small measuring tools. Adhere small pockets on the inside to hold take-out menus, appliance instructions, or other important kitchen paperwork.
Tip #66 – When making corn on the cob for a crowd take advantage of your large cooler! Because of the insulation the cooler will also keep the corn hot for hours without continuing to cook it. Place up to 24 husked ears of corn in a CLEAN 50 qt cooler. Pour enough boiling water over the corn to cover by 1″ and close the lid for 45 minutes. Serve. (The corn can be held in the water for up to two hours)
Tip #67 – Use empty cardboard tubes to store your silicone baking sheets. Tightly roll up the silicone baking sheet, insert into the cardboard tube, and label.
Tip #68 – When vacuuming sealing meats cut the label off of the package and place it in the bag with the meat before sealing. You’ll know exactly what is inside, when you purchased it, and how many pounds you have without having to write anything on the outside of the vacuum bag.
Tip #69 – To quickly soften butter, fill a glass with VERY hot water, let it sit for a minute or two then toss the water and place the hot glass over an opened stick of butter. The heat and steam from the glass will soften the butter in no time.
Tip #70 – Always use unsalted butter when baking unless otherwise specified. Depending on which brand of salted butter that you use the overall salt content will vary so there is no accurate way to determine just how much additional salt is being added into your recipe.
Tip #71 – Store potatoes and onions in a cool, dry area separate from one another. Both release moisture and gases that will cause the other to spoil more quickly.
Tip #72 – Intensify the flavor of nuts by toasting them. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, toast in a 400ºF oven for about 10 minutes, shaking once halfway through to ensure even toasting. When their color has deepened and you can smell their aroma they are ready.
Tip #73 – Instead of letting leftover broth or stock go to waste freeze it for later use! Just pour the leftovers into an ice cube tray, freeze, and then pop them out and store in an airtight container. Two cubes equal about a 1/4 cup.
Tip #74 – To ensure that you get an accurate reading when using a digital scale it’s important that BEFORE you weigh anything you set it to “tare” by pressing the “on/tare/off” button. Tare, sometimes called laden weight, is basically the weight of any empty container or vehicle. If you’re weighing multiply ingredients in the SAME bowl, be sure to hit the tare button after every new addition.
Tip #75 – When storing cut-up watermelon always make sure to cover with plastic wrap to avoid drying out. Also, to keep it fresher longer drain off the accumulated juice in the bowl every day or so. This helps to keep the watermelon that sits at the bottom of the bowl from getting mushy by absorbing too much liquid.
Tip #76 – Use your muffin pan for more than just muffins! Try out some of these great ideas:
- Large ice cubes topped with a slice of citrus for your drink pitcher
- Mini meatloaf “cupcakes” topped with whipped mashed potatoes
- Mini pizzas
- Granola bowls that can be topped with yogurt and fruit
- Mini egg frittatas
- Tortilla bowls – just flip it over and bake soft tortillas
Tip #77 – Shred your own cheese. Not only does it taste better and cost less money but it’s also better for you! Pre-shredded cheeses are treated with chemical additives in order to keep the cheese from clumping together in the bag. Skip the yucky stuff and break out your cheese grater instead!
Tip #78 – When smashing garlic, place it in a small resealable plastic bag first so that your knife and cutting board won’t smell.
Tip #79 – Don’t experiment with new recipes or ingredients when cooking for a crowd or for someone special that you don’t usually cook for. Instead, use a tried and true recipe that you know for sure will come out great. Save the experimenting for when it won’t matter if it’s a flop!
Tip #80 – To get the most amount of juice from a lemon or lime, place it on the counter and roll it under your palm for a minute or two before squeezing.
Tip #81 – To test if your oil is hot enough for frying, stick a wooden skewer in the pan, if bubbles form around the base of the skewer you’re good to go!
Tip #82 – The best way to store fresh basil is to keep it at room temperature as it’s sensitive to cold. Just place it in a glass of water, loosely covered with a plastic bag. The plastic bag keeps the moisture in but allows the ethylene gas that builds up to escape which leaves the basil fresher for longer.
Tip #83 – To reduce the heat in chile peppers simply remove the seeds. They will still be spicy but not quite as fiery hot!
Tip #84 – To prevent water from boiling over, place a wooden spoon across your pot. Wood is not a good material for conducting heat therefore the hot water will stray away from the spoon.
Tip #85 – To easily slice meat for a stir fry, partially freeze it first.
Tip #86 – Before slicing into a watermelon clean the outside with soap and water. This will prevent any dirt, germs, or chemicals that are on the outside rind from entering the flesh of the melon as you slice through.
Tip #87 – Freeze leftover pan sauces and gravy. When you need a quick meal just cook your protein, reheat your sauce, and combine. You can also use them as a “base” to make more of the same sauce or gravy.
Tip #88 – When eating outside, keep your food bug and particle free by covering bowls with a clean, new shower cap. They work great and are much easier to deal with then plastic wrap which gets bunched up and sticks to itself.
Tip #89 – Out of cupcake liners? No problem! Just use 5″ squares of parchment paper instead. Use a little cooking spray on each square so it sticks better, press into the pan and fold as needed to create flat walls. Your cupcakes or muffins will look extra fancy using these makeshift liners!
Tip #90 – To quickly peel a head of garlic, give it a good whack on the counter to open the white casing. Then place the head of garlic in a Mason Jar and shake vigorously for a minute or two. When you take the garlic out you will have naked cloves that are ready to use!
Tip #91 – Scallions will last 2-3 times longer if placed in water. Snip only what you need and they will continue to grow while on your counter.
Tip #92 – Always line the bottom of your cake pan with a circle of parchment paper to prevent it from sticking and breaking. Coat the pan with either butter or cooking spray, place the parchment round on the bottom and coat again. Finally, lightly dust with flour. Once the cake is cooled it should slip right out of the pan with ease.
Tip #93 – Leftover wine? (I know, seems crazy but it does happen!) Freeze it in ice cube trays so that you always have some on hand when you’re cooking.
Tip #94 – Don’t panic over a broken cake, salvage it by making a trifle. Layer chunks of broken cake with homemade whipped cream and fresh fruit and you’ll have a beautiful and delicious dessert.
Tip #95 – Before prepping your ingredients, take out everything that you will need and place it on an empty cookie sheet. Your ingredients will be in easy reach and you won’t have to hunt around during prep trying to find things.
As you use each ingredient, place it to the side of the cookie sheet so that you know it was used thus avoiding the possibility of forgetting ingredients in your recipe or adding them multiple times.
Tip #96 – Got leftover burger and hot dog buns? Don’t let them go to waste. Instead, tear the buns into pieces and freeze in a Ziploc bag. When you’re in need of breadcrumbs just toss a few frozen handfuls into your food processor and give it a few quick pulses. Instant breadcrumbs!
Tip #97 – Use your egg slicer to make perfect, evenly sliced strawberries.
Tip #98 – For a perfectly round fried egg, great for breakfast sandwiches, spray a Mason Jar ring with cooking spray and set it on a hot pan. Gently crack an egg inside the ring and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the ring with tongs and serve.
Tip #99 – To easily remove corn from the cob, use a Bundt pan! Place an ear of corn upright in the center of a Bundt pan, hold it steady, and run a knife down the cob. The kernels will fall away and catch in the pan.
Tip #100 – Don’t have a roasting rack? No problem! Just use a few large spoons to elevate your meat in the pan OR roll up a few pieces of tin foil into long strips and place the meat on top.
Tip #101 – To keep your cake plate clean when frosting or glazing a cake, place strips of wax paper on the edge of the cake plate then place the cake on top. After you’re done frosting, gently pull out the wax paper from underneath and you’ll have a nice clean cake plate free of frosting globs and smears.
Tip #102 – If you don’t have a lemon squeezer use a pair of tongs instead. Just place a halved lemon in between the narrow part of the tongs and give a good squeeze.
Tip #103 – Every oven has “hot spots” and knowing where they are helps to ensure that your baked goods come out perfect. To test for hot spots simply turn your oven to 350°F and place 9 slices of bread in a grid pattern on the middle rack. Bake until just toasted, you will be able to see by looking at the doneness of the toast where your oven hot spots are located.
Tip #104 – Speed up your morning smoothie routine by prepping your ingredients ahead of time! Fill a sandwich bag with all of the ingredients for one smoothie and then freeze. In the morning just dump the bag into the blender, add your liquid, and blend. Fast and easy breakfast!
Tip #105 – For a mess free, perfect pancake use a cleaned out squeeze bottle to hold your pancake batter.
Tip #106 – To make perfectly caramelized onions just follow these simple steps. Do not slice the onions too thin, cook them slowly on low heat, use a combination of butter and oil in the pan, and be sure to deglaze the pan after cooking to get up all of those flavorful bits stuck to the bottom.
Tip #107 – Invest in quality bakeware. Cheap, flimsy, thin pans will not conduct heat efficiently which will cause your baked goods to cook unevenly and be of poor quality. A good pan will make all the difference in the finished product.
Tip #108 – Break out your pizza cutter and use it for more than just pizza! It’s a great tool for cutting up quesadillas, sandwiches, pancakes, brownies, dough, soft cheeses, and more! It’s also perfect for cutting up kids food into bite sized pieces!
Tip #109 – To keep your freezer working efficiently make sure you store food away from the freezer vents. This will allow the cold air to circulate freely.
Tip #110 – When baking, resist the urge to keep opening and closing the oven door to check on your baked goods. Every time the door is opened cool air is let in which interrupts the baking process.
When testing for doneness, do not leave the oven door wide open. Instead, remove the baked good from the oven immediately closing the oven door behind you and then test. If more cooking time is required, place the baked good back into the oven as quickly as possible.
Tip #111 – Store spices in a cool, dark place to maintain their flavor and potency. Humidity, light, and heat will cause them to lose flavor quickly.
Tip #112 – When cooking, always taste as you go. Don’t wait until the end to see if your food tastes good, adjust the seasonings as you’re cooking to ensure you have the right balance of flavors.
Tip #113 – To add a quick protein boost to your meals, pick up a rotisserie chicken at you local supermarket. Shred the chicken and add BBQ sauce for a quick no-cook pulled chicken, dice it up for chicken salad, add it to your favorite pasta dish along with some fresh veggies or make a quick broth based soup. The possibilities are endless!
Tip #114 – To keep your cookies from spreading in the oven during baking, chill your cookie dough. If your cookie dough feels particularly soft, sticky, or warm just pop it in the fridge until it firms up slightly. Chilling also helps to develop the cookie’s flavor and it creates a thicker, more solid cookie once baked.
Tip #115 – To safely store sharp knives in your drawer, pop a wine cork on top.
Tip #116 – To keep a cake fresher for longer after slicing it, gently press a piece of plastic wrap into the cut area of the cake sealing the exposed area. The less air the cake is exposed to the less likely it will be to dry out.
Tip #117 – When grilling steak, be sure to take it out of the fridge about 20-25 minutes before cooking so that it can come down to room temperature. A freezing cold steak will not cook evenly.
Tip #118 – When frosting a cake, always do a “crumb coat” first which is just a thin layer of frosting that traps all of the stray cake crumbs. Once the crumb coat is dry, apply the final frosting.
Tip #119 – When forming burger patties proceed gently and do not overwork the meat. Too much manhandling and shaping well result in a dense, tough burger.
Tip #120 – Do not put oil in your pasta water to prevent sticking! Adding oil will make your pasta greasy and cause the sauce to slip off. Instead, give the pasta a good stir as soon as it’s added to the boiling water and then a few more times during the cooking process.
Tip #121 – To neatly store your silicone baking sheets, roll them up tightly and place inside of a cardboard paper towel tube.
Tip #122 – When rolling out cookie dough, use a light dusting of powdered sugar on your counter instead of flour. It will prevent sticking and add a touch of extra sweetness to your cookies. Using flour will cause too much extra flour to be incorporated into your dough.
Tip #123 – Before doubling a batch of cookies make sure your stand mixer can hold the extra dough without spilling over. You will avoid a big mess as well as over-mixing the dough as you struggle to incorporate all of the ingredients.
Tip #124 – Always bring pizza dough (fresh or frozen) to room temperature. The dough will be easier to work with and less likely to shrink back on itself as you stretch it.
Tip #125 – When cooking pasta, make sure you bring the water to a rapid boil before adding in the pasta. Starches absorb water instantly and if you add the pasta too soon, it will become soggy and cook improperly.
Tip #126 – Over-handling pie dough will cause it become very tough. Work it as little as possible and if you need to fix rips or tears in the dough, patch them rather than re-rolling the crust.
Tip #127 – Here’s a tip for making GREAT apple pie. Toss your apples with all of the filling ingredients (spices, flour, butter, and all sugars) and let it sit overnight. The sugar will draw out the liquid from the apples which will result in a moist, not soggy, filling.
Save those juices though! Reduce them in a sauce pot until it becomes thick and syrupy, then add it back to the apples. Your pie will end up with a more concentrated, deep, rich flavor.
Tip #128 – Keep your pantry tidy and organized by investing in pretty containers, baskets, and jars. Group like items together so that they are accessible and easier to find while cooking.
Tip #129 – When greasing baking pans, use only shortening or cooking spray. Butter, margarine, and vegetable oil can burn and stick to metal surfaces which makes clean-up very difficult.
Tip #130 – Never place cookie dough on a hot baking sheet, it will cause them to spread during baking. Instead, invest in a few baking sheets so if you’re baking big batches of cookies you’ll always have a room temperature pan on hand and ready to go.
Tip #131 – When cooking, work cleanly. Don’t let a mess pile up around you as you prepare food. Start with a clean working area, wipe down counters as needed, keep a “garbage bowl” nearby for scraps, and load the dishwasher as you go along. If you follow these tips, once the prepping and cooking is done you won’t be faced with an overwhelming mess and a pile of dishes in the sink.
Tip #132 – Always let your cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks. This will give the cookies a chance to set up so that they hold their shape when moved.
Tip #133 – Store potatoes in a cool, well ventilated space away from light. Perforated plastic bags and paper bags are the best environment for extending their shelf life. Also, keep potatoes and onions separate from each other, the gases and moisture that they both release will cause one to spoil and rot the other faster.
Tip #134 – Avoid using plastic containers to reheat your food in the microwave. Although some are labeled, “microwave safe, that just means they won’t melt when heated. However, the microwave can still degrade the chemical bonds in the plastic causing harmful substances to leach into your food. Opt for glass containers which are safer, healthier, and easier to clean!
Tip #135 – Use a silicone pastry brush to coat meats and food with sauce instead of just pouring it on right from the bottle. You’ll cut down on both waste and calories!
Tip #136 – It is not just the cut of meat that determines how tender it is, it’s also how it is sliced. Always slice meat “across the grain” rather than parallel with it. Cutting parallel to the grain will result in tough, chewy meat.
To determine which way to slice, look at the meat and see which way the muscle fibers are running. Position your knife in the opposite direction of the fibers or “across the grain” and slice.
Tip #137 – To keep the lid of your food processor squeaky clean when in use, cover the top of the work bowl with plastic wrap before processing. **This only works if you’re not using the chute**
Tip #138 – When making homemade pizza, sprinkle your prep area with semolina instead of flour. Not only will it keep the dough from sticking but it will also add texture and flavor to the crust.
Tip #139 – When making stew do NOT use lean, pricey cuts of meat as they will become chewy and tough after cooking for so long. Instead, choose tougher, less expensive cuts such as chuck. The longer cook time will break down the tough fibers in the chuck and make it very tender and flavorful.
Tip #140 – Always line your brownie pan with either parchment paper or aluminum foil. Not only will cleanup be a breeze but it will also prevent the brownies from sticking to the pan which makes cutting them neatly almost impossible.
Tip #141 – Apples release a substance called ethylene gas which softens its skin and flesh. Because of this, even after being picked, apples will continue to ripen. To slow this process down and keep your apples fresher longer, keep them cold and store them in the crisper drawer set to “low humidity“.
Also, the same gas that ripens the apples will also ripen other fruits and vegetables so if possible, store apples separate from other produce.
Tip #142 – Never let your cast iron pans soak in water, it will cause them to rust. As soon as you’re finished cleaning cast iron you should dry it off, give a quick wipe down of oil, and then store.
Tip #143 – To make grating semisoft cheeses like mozzarella or fontina easier, freeze the cheese for 20-30 minutes before grating.
Tip #144 – Unsalted butter is generally recommended when baking because the amount of sodium contained in butter is not consistent across brands. If you do use salted butter, half the amount of salt called for in the recipe.
Tip #145 – If you don’t have a steamer basket, no problem! Use your metal colander instead. Fill a pot with about two inches of water, bring to a boil, put the colander inside, fill with veggies, and cover.
Tip #146 – When making roasted vegetables, place your roasting pan in the oven as it preheats, When the vegetables hit the hot surface they will get a jump start on browning.
Tip #147 – Heavy Cream vs. Whipping Cream – Heavy cream has a higher fat content than whipping cream. It will create a stiffer whipped cream which is good for piping. It’s also less likely to curdle when heated in a sauce. Whipping cream has less fat (between 30-35%) and will result in a lighter, softer whipped cream which is perfect to use for a dollop on desserts.
Tip #148 – For smoother homemade mashed potatoes use a ricer. It pushes the potatoes through tiny holes which creates small, rice like pieces. If you prefer chunkier homemade mashed potatoes, use a potato masher instead.
Tip #149 – To avoid a soggy, doughy crust always bake your pie on the bottom rack of the oven. Doing so will ensure that the bottom crust gets nice and golden brown.
Tip #150 – Keep handy “cheat sheets” around the kitchen for reference when you’re cooking. Print them out and stash them in your cookbook, kitchen drawer, or tape to the inside of your cabinet door.
Tip #151 – Don’t have any pumpkin pie spice handy? Make your own! Combine 3 tbs ground cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp ground allspice and 1/2 tsp ground cloves.
Tip #152 – Make sure your appliances are set to the proper temperature so that your food stays fresh. The fridge should be set to at or below 40°F (4°C) and the freezer should be at 0°F (-18°C).
Tip #153 – Hard cheeses such as cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss can be safely eaten even if they develop a little mold on the surface. Mold cannot penetrate far through hard cheeses so just cut away the moldy part and enjoy as normal.
Tip #154 – Cocktail shakers make a great drink but they can also work “double duty” to quickly and evenly beat eggs! Crack a few eggs into the cocktail shaker and just give them a good shake!
Tip #155 – Before using your box grater lightly spray it with cooking spray to make food glide more easily and clean-up a cinch!
Tip #156 – When making homemade gravy always start with a roux, a mixture of fat and flour, which will help to thicken the gravy. Without this step, your gravy will be thin and watery.
Tip #157 – Before using your box grater lightly spray it with cooking spray to make food glide more easily and clean-up a cinch!
Tip #158 – When making muffins be sure to not overmix the batter. Doing so will crush the air bubbles and ruin the muffins fluffy, pillowy texture. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until just barely combined and no visible dry flour remains.
Tip #159 – Bread is the most essential ingredient in stuffing as it provides both structure and texture. It’s crucial that you use stale, dried out bread when making stuffing otherwise you’ll be left with a soggy, mushy mess.
Allow bread to sit out and become stale a few days before you plan on making your stuffing. Alternatively, you can dry out bread in the oven as well. With the oven on low, toast bread cubes on a baking sheet until dried out.
Tip #160 – Use a fresh pair of loofah gloves to scrub and clean vegetables and fruits, especially root vegetables which tend to be the most dirty.
Tip #161– It’s important to choose the right type of potato when making mashed potatoes. Avoid waxy types such as red potatoes. Instead, go for a higher starch potato such as a Russet or my personal favorite, Yukon Gold.
Tip #162 – If you don’t have metal or ceramic pie weights, use pennies instead! Line your pie crust with either parchment paper or aluminum foil and place the pennies right inside.
Tip #163 – When you’re hosting a party or holiday the last thing you want to be doing on the big day is scrambling for serving dishes, platters and bowls. So instead, plan out your serving pieces ahead of time by laying them all out and labeling each one with a post-it note indicating which food will go in each serving piece.
Tip #164 – When making sugar cookies, keeping the dough firm and chilled is essential. Instead of rolling all of the dough out at once, do it in batches so that the remainder of the dough can stay cold in the fridge.
Tip #165 – To thicken up your homemade cranberry sauce stir in a little gelatin, pectin, or a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch whisked into water). Also, before placing the finished cranberry sauce in the fridge, allow it to cool completely so that it sets up properly.
Tip #166 – Give yourself some extra “fridge space” on Thanksgiving by putting your ice chest to work! Use it to store pies and desserts, cold appetizers, or condiments and miscellaneous items from your fridge that are just taking up space on the big day! Since it’s insulated, you can even use it to keep foods warm. Just line it with aluminum foil and towels and place your hot dishes inside.
Tip #167 – On Thanksgiving, prepare all of your side dishes in either square or rectangular pans. You’ll be able to fit more into your oven at once giving you the ability to cook more things at one time. Odd shaped pans will take up precious real estate in your oven.
Tip #168 – Don’t have a biscuit cutter? Use the top of a wine glass! Lightly dip the rim of the glass in flour and push straight down into the dough, don’t twist, for a perfectly cut biscuit.
Tip #169 – Don’t your waste time trying to individually scrub your potatoes clean. Just place them all in the top rack of your dishwasher and put them through a “rinse cycle” (NO soap). They’ll come out squeaky clean and ready to be cut and cooked!
Tip #170 – Overcooked, dry turkey meat? Just pour a little warm chicken broth over the meat, it’ll help to both moisten and flavor the turkey.
Tip #171 – To chill a bottle of wine quickly, wrap it in a damp dish towel and place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Tip #172 – Dice all of your celery, carrots, onions, etc. a few days out from Thanksgiving and keep them in Ziploc bags or airtight containers. You’ll save yourself precious time on the big day by prepping in advance.
Tip #173 – For an easier way to slice the turkey breast, carve the whole breast away from the turkey first. Carve each side away, one at a time, and then slice.
Tip #174 – Use your Crock-Pot to keep your mashed potatoes nice and warm. Butter the inside of the Crock-Pot, add in a little heavy cream, and then spoon the mashed potatoes in. Set the temperature to low and give them a stir about every hour to keep them smooth and silky.
Tip #175 – Be sure to allow plenty of time for your Thanksgiving Day turkey to thaw. As a general rule, if you choose to thaw in the refrigerator allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 lbs of turkey. If you choose to thaw in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey.
|In the Refrigerator (40 °F or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
|4 to 12 pounds||1 to 3 days|
|12 to 16 pounds||3 to 4 days|
|16 to 20 pounds||4 to 5 days|
|20 to 24 pounds||5 to 6 days|
|In Cold Water
Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
|4 to 12 pounds||2 to 6 hours|
|12 to 16 pounds||6 to 8 hours|
|16 to 20 pounds||8 to 10 hours|
|20 to 24 pounds||10 to 12 hours|
Tip #176 – Stock up on a variety of “throw away” containers before the holiday so that guests will have something to pack all of their leftover goodies in.
Tip #177 – Save yourself time on Thanksgiving by prepping the turkey the night before. All you’ll have to do in the morning is pop the bird in the oven.
Tip #178 – Save yourself time later by making your pie crusts this weekend. Freeze the crusts and next week when you’re ready to make your homemade pies just thaw the crusts, fill, and bake.
Tip #179 – Bread is what gives stuffing its structure and texture and for the best stuffing it’s important you start with stale, dried out bread. Using fresh bread will result in a mushy, soupy stuffing.
A few days before you plan to make your stuffing get it stale and dry by letting it sit out. You can also speed up the process by cutting your bread into cubes and toasting them in the oven until dry.
Tip #180 – Make sure all of your dairy is warmed up before adding it to your potatoes. Also, always add the butter first to avoid “gluey” potatoes. The warmed butter will coat the starch molecules and create silkier mashed potatoes.
Tip #181 – Tomorrow is the “big show”!! Keep yourself organized and on track by writing out a “to-do” list. Write down your menu, what’s left to cook, what needs to be done the “day of”, as well as any other important details. Lastly, stay calm. Somehow it’ll all get done and Thanksgiving will be great!!
Tip #182 – Gather your baking supplies now so that you’re stocked and ready to go when cookie baking rolls around in the coming weeks!
Tip #183 – Cooking Italian food for Christmas dinner? Reduce your holiday stress and cook most of it ahead of time. Make and freeze your sauce, meatballs, and even certain pasta dishes.I make stuffed shells often at Christmas so I like to stuff them, lay them in a single layer on a disposable pan, and freeze. On Christmas I cover the frozen shells in sauce and bake. Perfect!
Tip #184 – When making decorated sugar cookies first outline the cookie with royal icing and let dry. Then go back and “flood” the cookie with more royal icing and spread gently using a small offset spatula. This will create a very pretty and neat cookie with no dripping on the sides.
Tip #185 – Turn all of your leftover mashed potatoes into delicious potato croquettes.
Tip #186 – When making homemade hot cocoa always use good quality, solid chocolate instead of cocoa powder. Solid chocolate will melt into a beautifully smooth and creamy cocoa.
Tip #187 – Always store like cookies together, do not mix different types of cookies in the same container. Storing softer cookies with crispy cookies can cause the softer cookies to leach moisture away making the crispy cookies go limp.
Tip #188 – For the best tasting banana bread always use very ripe, almost black bananas. If you don’t have any overripe bananas in the house but you want to bake try this simple trick: Bake unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet in a 250°F oven until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool, peel, and start baking.
Tip #189 – Got limp celery? Perk it up and make it crispy again by cutting off the top and bottom of the stalks and placing them in a pitcher of ice cold water.
Tip #190 – Traditional eggnog is made with raw eggs and while that can seem a little scary, the actual risk of contracting salmonella or any other illness is quite small. The booze in the eggnog acts as both a preservative and a sterilizer. Very few bacteria, including salmonella, can survive in the presence of alcohol. So go ahead and drink up!!
Tip #191 – For the best possible results, bake your cookies one batch at a time on the middle rack. If you need to bake more than one batch at a time rotate your baking sheets from the top rack to the bottom and turn them around a few times as well to ensure even browning.
Tip #192 – To enhance chocolate desserts such as brownies or puddings, add in a little coffee. The coffee will provide an extra depth of flavor to your dessert.
Tip #193 – Keep a stash of pipe cleaners in your kitchen for those times when you lose the twist tie to your bread or run out of chip clips to seal your bags. For smaller ties, just snip the pipe cleaner in half.
Tip #194 – Let your ceramic teapot perform double duty by using it to serve gravy. The lidded pot will keep the gravy hotter than traditional gravy boats and the spout will make for neat and tidy pouring.
Tip #195 – To avoid your waffles sticking to the iron always make sure there is some fat in the batter. Not only will the fat help to prevent sticking it will also make the waffle crisp on the outside. Also, before spooning the batter use a pastry brush to thoroughly grease the iron with vegetable oil or melted shortening.
Tip #196 – When making homemade whipped cream be sure to keep the cream, bowl and beaters well chilled before mixing. When the cream becomes too warm the fat inside is more likely to coalesce and turn into butter.
Tip #197 – To keep your cookies moist and chewy try this simple trick! When you take your baked cookies out of the oven, drop the pan from about thigh height onto the floor. Any air that is in the cookies will be driven out and they will flatten which helps to keep them moist and chewy. Crazy, but true!
Tip #198 – To easily fill a pastry bag first place the empty bag in a tall, narrow glass and then fill, remove, twist, and decorate.
Tip #199 – To keep your cookies moist and chewy try this simple trick! When you take your baked cookies out of the oven, drop the pan from about thigh height onto the floor. Any air that is in the cookies will be driven out and they will flatten which helps to keep them moist and chewy. Crazy, but true!
Tip #200 – For rich, tender baked goods increase the acidity in your batters and dough. Yogurt, buttermilk, and sour cream are all great choices and can be used interchangeably in baking. Just be aware that each of the three will produce a slightly different flavor and texture in your baking.
Tip #201 – Good quality kitchen shears are a great tool to chop many types of herbs and vegetables. Easily snip fresh herbs such as parsley or chives. Use the blade closest to the handle to cut tougher items such as scallions, celery or sun-dried tomatoes.
Tip #202 – To give your cakes and cookies a delicious new twist, take advantage of the many delicious extracts that are available. Almond, amaretto, and hazelnut are some of my favorites!
Tip #203 – Take advantage of frozen fruits and vegetables. Because they are picked and put on ice at their peak they are chock full of nutrients and great flavor! Plus, you can enjoy your seasonal favorites all year long!
Tip #204 – Almost always, the first step in a cookie recipe is to cream the butter and sugars. This step is so important because it forces in tiny air bubbles which help to create the structure of the dough and cause the cookies to rise. Cream the butter and sugars for about 3-5 minutes or until it appears light and fluffy and is no longer grainy to the touch.
Tip #205 – When building a cheese board follow these simple steps to create something beautiful and delicious. It’s really very simple, takes just a few minutes, and can be tailored to your tastes and likes. Cheese boards are always a big hit at any get together or party!
- Pick a pretty, rustic board
- Choose a variety of different cheeses, both soft and hard
- Add in some salty things such as meats, olives, or nuts
- Add in some sweet things such as fresh or dried fruits
- Add in some carbs such as breadsticks, crackers, or slices of crusty bread
- Add in condiments such as mustard or jam
- Fill in empty spaces and garnish as needed
Tip #206 – For a pretty Christmas cookie, try using a stencil! Gently lay a festive stencil over an unbaked cookie, pour sprinkles over the stencil, then bake. Alternatively, you can frost baked cookies and then stencil them.
Tip #207 – When baking layered or bar cookies, making sure the crust, filling, or batter is level before the pan goes into the oven is critical. Uneven batter will cause the bars to bake unevenly resulting in burnt or underdone areas.
Tip #208 – To make sticky gingerbread dough easier to work with, chill it in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling it out.
Tip #209 – For easier handling of a sponge cake that’s made in a jelly roll pan, use parchment paper when baking. Also, when a sponge cake is done you will hear a very faint crackling noise as some of the trapped air pockets rupture within the cake.
Tip #210 – Don’t have time to make tray after tray of holiday cookies? Make batches of cookie bars instead. They are quick, easy, and equally delicious!
Tip #211 – For the best winter sangria, add in some high-proof spirits. A couple of ounces each of orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec, etc) and brandy are a good base. A splash or two of a fruity cordial is also a nice addition.
Make your sangria the night before for the best flavor. The longer it sits before serving the better it will taste.
Tip #212 – Take advantage of your crisper drawers, they work really well to keep your produce fresher for longer.
The general rule of thumb is to put foods that tend to rot in a drawer with a low-humidity setting. This includes fruits and veggies that emit an ethylene gas such as apples and pears.
In the high humidity drawer place produce that is sensitive to moisture loss. This includes leafy greens such as arugula, herbs, and spinach as well as veggies like carrots, green beans, and broccoli.
Tip #213 – To get the best possible flavor from your stew always sear the meat first. The dark, sticky glaze that will begin to appear in the bottom of your pot from the searing will become the base for the most flavorful and delicious stew.
Tip #214 – To increase the flavor and browning characteristics of your homemade pizza dough, place it in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge for a few days. This process, called “cold fermenting”, gives the yeast a chance to slowly digest the carbs in the dough which result in a better crust.
Tip #215 – When working with yeast it is important to remember that it’s a living thing that needs to be cared for. To extend the active life of your yeast, store it in an alright container in the freezer.
Tip #216 – Clear storage containers are a great way to store all of your baking ingredients from flour to chocolate chips. You can easily see everything you have, they stack neatly in your cabinet or pantry and it’s much more convenient to scoop and measure from a sturdy container.
Tip #217 – Nuts take on a deeper color and enhanced flavor when toasted. Because nuts are high in fat, they can scorch easily so toast them at a moderate temperature of 300-325°F in a single layer on a shallow pan. The nuts are done when they are golden brown and you can smell their aroma. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer them to a cool surface to minimize carry-over cooking.
Tip #218 – Creamed fat and liquids can be difficult to mix thoroughly because the butter/sugar mixture sticks to the sides of the bowl. The only way to ensure even mixing is to stop partway through and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Tip #219 – The best way to measure out flour is by weight and not volume however, not everyone has access to a kitchen scale. If you must use measuring cups, do not directly scoop the flour as the “packing” into the cup can result in too much flour. Instead, scoop it with a spoon and then gently shake the flour into the measuring cup until it’s overfilled. Then level with a knife and add to your ingredients.
Tip #220 – Short on time? Bake your meatloaf in a muffin tin! “Meatloaf Cupcakes” are adorable, cook more quickly, and make serving a cinch!
Tip #221 – To extend the life of your lemons and keep them as fresh and juicy as possible, toss them in a sealed plastic bag and store in the fridge. Lemons kept on the counter at room temperature will dry out and rot much more quickly then if kept sealed and cold.
Tip #222 – Use your freezer space more efficiently by freezing foods flat. A vacuum sealer is great for this but filling Ziploc bags and removing as much air as you can will also work well.
Tip #223 – Sweeten up strawberries by mixing them with a little sugar and letting them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. “Mascerated” strawberries are delicious as a topping for cake, ice cream, or stirred into yogurt. Try adding a splash of lemon juice, Grand Marnier or even balsamic vinegar for a more unique flavor!
Tip #224 – Although you can use table salt and Kosher salt interchangeably be aware that they do not measure equally in recipes. Because the crystals in table salt are so fine they are more easily packed together when measuring compared to the large crystals in Kosher salt.
Therefore, a recipe that calls for 1 tsp of salt might taste oddly salty if you use table salt over Kosher. As a general rule of thumb, use half the amount of table salt than Kosher salt for a more balanced flavor in your recipes.
Tip #225 – When cracking eggs, never tap them on the side of a bowl as it causes shell fragments to be driven up into the egg. Instead, always tap them on a hard, FLAT surface.
Tip #226 – When making muffin batter, mix the dry and wet ingredients together until they are just combined and no dry flour is visible. Resist the urge to keep stirring and mixing, overmixing the batter crushes the air bubbles that are needed to develop a light and fluffy muffin.
Tip #227 – Enhance the flavor and richness of your chocolate cake by adding a little coffee or espresso powder to the batter. Try swapping out a tablespoon or two of the liquid ingredients called for in your recipe (such as the milk or cream) with some strong brewed coffee.
Tip #228 – While both parchment paper and aluminum foil can be used to line baking sheets when making cookies, be aware that when using aluminum foil your cookies will cook faster, spread out more and be slightly more browned and crispy. Also, regular aluminum foil is NOT nonstick whereas parchment paper is so you may struggle with little bits of foil sticking to the bottom of your cookies. When baking cookies, I prefer to use either parchment paper OR silicone mats.
Tip #229 – To sweeten cocktails and drinks such as lemonade and sweet tea, use a simple syrup instead of granulated sugar which does not dissolve well in liquid.
To make a simple syrup, combine equal parts granulated sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute without stirring. Let cool and either use immediately or store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Simple syrup will keep indefinitely.
Tip #230 – To keep your kitchen sponges clean and germ free make sure to periodically give them a quick cleaning. To kill the germs they can be soaked in a bleach and water solution, zapped in the microwave, tossed in the dishwasher or soaked in vinegar. Click here for specific directions on each method.
Tip #231 – For the juiciest and most flavorful burger, use an 80/20 ground chuck. Although not the healthiest of the ground meats, the extra fat definitely makes for a better burger. The leaner your ground beef, the drier and less flavorful your burger will be.
Tip #232 – For stovetop oatmeal, WHEN you add in your oats will determine the overall texture of your oatmeal. If you prefer a more creamy oatmeal, add the oats after the liquid has come to a simmer. If you like a sturdier oatmeal where the oats hold their shape, add them to the cold liquid before increasing the heat.
Tip #233 – Periodically, take a minute to test the effectiveness of your baking soda and baking powder. To check baking powder, add 2 tsp powder to 1 cup of hot water and stir. If there is an immediate fizz, the baking powder is fine. To check baking soda, add 1 tsp of soda to 1/4 cup vinegar and stir. If there is an immediate reaction and fizz, the baking soda is fine.
Tip #234 – Want fluffier, lighter pancakes? First separate your eggs and mix the yolks in with the other wet ingredients. Then, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Very gently, fold the egg whites into the pancake batter until they are just combined. Scoop, grill, and serve!
Tip #235 – Don’t tie yourself into buying a perfectly matched set of pots and pans. Often times these sets contain pieces that you won’t have a need for in your kitchen. Pick and choose the pieces that will work best for you and buy them individually.
Also, don’t be afraid to incorporate different types of pots into your collection. Certain materials work better in certain types of cooking so it’s nice to have a mix of inexpensive cast iron, stainless steel, hard anodized steel and nonstick.
Tip #236 – When making homemade soft pretzels be sure to not skip the baking soda “bath”. Giving pretzels a dip in boiling water and baking soda is what helps to give them their chewy texture, caramel color and slightly salted flavor.
Tip #237 – When churning your own homemade ice cream it’s vital that both the ice cream bowl and the ice cream mixture is ice cold. If the ice cream mixture is even the slightest bit warm the ice cream will not come together no matter how long you churn it for.
Tip #238 – When making ravioli, always fill the pot about 2/3 full with water and salt generously. Also, be sure to not crowd the pot, ravioli need space to move around as they cook. Divide the ravioli into two pots if need be to ensure even cooking.
Tip #239 – There is nothing worse than a soggy, stuck waffle. Avoid this by preheating your waffle iron for at least 10 minutes before using and then allow it to reheat for 1-2 minutes between waffles to ensure the iron stays hot and the waffles come out crispy.
The oil/butter in the waffle batter is what helps to keep them from sticking. If you find the waffles keep sticking to the iron, add a little more oil/butter to your batter.
Tip #240 – Using red wine in cooking adds a delicious, complex flavor to your dishes. Make sure to ONLY use a wine that you would drink, using a poor tasting wine will result in a poor tasting dish.
For best results, wine should be added early on in the dish and NOT at the end. Allowing the wine to simmer with the other ingredients will enhance the flavor of the food, adding it right at the end will impart a harsh, unpleasant flavor to your dish.
Tip #241 – The best way to store flour is in a plastic or glass container with a tight fitting lid. This will prevent the flour from absorbing odors and moisture and it will also keep out any bugs or pests. Store your flour in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and it will keep for about 6 months in the pantry. To prolong the life of your flour, store it in the freezer.
Tip #242 – To quickly ripen bananas for baking, place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 300 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the peels turn black. Let them cool, peel and add to your recipe.
Tip #243 – When measuring out brown sugar, always make sure to pack it down into the measuring cup whether the recipe specifically calls out “packed brown sugar” or not.
Tip #244 – To make the best scrambled eggs cook them slowly over medium-low heat in a nonstick pan, use a flexible silicone spatula to gently move the eggs around and account for “carryover cooking” by removing them from the pan BEFORE they are finished cooking.
For creamy, large curds use long sweeping motions covering as much surface area as possible when moving the eggs around the pan. For smaller curds, use rapid circles.
Tip #245 – When measuring, be sure to use the proper vessel for the ingredients you are measuring.
- Dry ingredients, such as flour and sugar, should be measured in dry measuring cups. Fill them to overflowing and then sweep a knife across the top to level.
- Liquid ingredients, such as milk and oil, should be measured using a glass/plastic liquid measuring cup. Be sure to place it on a flat, level surface to get the most accurate measurement.
- Measuring spoons can be used to measure out both dry and liquid ingredients in small amounts.
Tip #246 – When making nachos, be sure to choose a thick, sturdy chip. Thin chips will fall apart under the weight of the toppings. Also, use a blend of cheeses for maximum ooey, gooey goodness. Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar are a nice mix. Lastly, make a double layer of chips and toppings.
Tip #247 – Keep a stash of small, single serving wine bottles in your pantry so that when called for in a recipe, you always have the wine you need on hand.
Tip #248 – When selecting garlic you should always choose bulbs that are big, plump and firm with its paper-like covering intact. Stay away from soft, shriveled or spongy bulbs. Store garlic in a cool, dry place. An unused bulb of garlic will last 3-4 months, individual cloves with last about 5-10 days.
Tip #249 – Wake up the flavor of a bland soup or sauce by adding a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar.
Tip #250 – Use your vegetable peeler to make fancy chocolate curls, perfect for decorating cakes, custards, and cupcakes. Run the blade lengthwise across a block of chocolate to create the curls, refrigerate until ready to use.
Tip #251 – Capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers, resides in the membranes and seeds. To lessen the heat and potency of a hot pepper, simply remove all of the seeds and white membranes from inside before adding them to your recipe.
Tip #252 – Stock your pantry with different flavored extracts, there are so many to great ones to choose from. Some of my favorites are amaretto, almond and of course, vanilla. Extracts add delicious and interesting flavor to cookies, cakes, waffles, pancakes and other baked goods!
Tip #253 – Make a “simple syrup” to add to your beverages. Sugar by itself does not dissolve well in cold water so not only will your drink be improperly flavored but it will also have grainy sediment in the bottom of the glass.
To make a simple syrup, measure equal parts sugar to water, warm over medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved, cool slightly and then it’s ready to be used.
Tip #254 – To celebrate Valentine’s Day, make a super cute “conversation heart” with a box of brownie mix, a cookie cutter and some frosting. Bake brownies in a 9X13 pan, cut out two large hearts using a cookie cutter, frost one heart then layer with the second heart and finish with a sweet message on top. Easy and delicious!
Tip #255 – You can use milk or buttermilk interchangeably in homemade cake recipes. Milk will add a creaminess to your finished cake while buttermilk will add tang and tenderness.
Tip #256 – To prevent muffin batter from being overworked, combine the wet ingredients and in a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Make a well in the dry ingredients and carefully pour in the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Add any “mix-ins”, such as fruit or nuts, at the end and give a gentle stir to combine.
Tip #257 – It is so important to know how long raw meats will stay fresh in your fridge. If you are unable to use them quickly enough, simply wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap or vacuum seal and then freeze.
- Raw ground meats, all poultry, seafood, and variety meats: Refrigerate 1 to 2 days
- Raw roasts, steaks, and chops (beef, veal, lamb, and pork): Refrigerate 3 to 5 days
- Cooked meat, poultry, and seafood: Refrigerate 3 to 4 days
Tip #258 – When choosing apples, gently press a small area of the fruit’s skin to check for ripeness. When pressed, an apple should be firm to the touch. Avoid any apples that are noticeably soft, discolored, or indent easily after you press the skin.
Tip #259 – When making baked ziti, layer your ingredients instead of tossing everything together. First add a layer of sauce in your baking dish, then a layer of pasta, then add spoonfuls of the cubed mozzarella/ricotta mixture, then repeat. Sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese on the top and bake until bubbly.
Tip #260 – When frying, it’s very important to select the right oil. Choose an oil with a high smoke point so that you can cook foods safely and have them absorb less oil in the frying process. Sunflower oil and extra light olive oil have the highest smoke point, followed by peanut oil, canola and safflower oil.
Tip #261 – Don’t let fresh herbs go to waste! Chop them up and add to softened butter to make a flavorful compound butter. Use it on meats, breads, veggies or even hot popcorn. Compound butter can be frozen and stored in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Tip #262 – When pre-baking an empty pie shell, set it on top of a rimmed baking sheet. The metal conducts heat very well and will help to nicely brown the crust. Additionally, once the pie crust is filled the baking sheet will catch any spills or overflow while it’s in the oven.
Tip #263 – When making a recipe in the Crock-Pot that requires diced/chopped chicken, cook the chicken in the Crock-Pot whole and then chop it up later. Keeping the chicken whole ensures that it stays nice and moist over the several hours of cooking.
Tip #264 – You can reuse your frying oil up to four more times before disposing of it. Once the oil is cooled, filter it through a fine mesh strainer lined with paper towels. Place the strained oil in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator.
Tip #265 – When removing the zest from citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, etc) be sure to remove just the thin, colored skin and leave behind the soft, white pith which has a bitter, unappealing taste.
Tip #266 – When roasting vegetables it is very important to use the right amount of oil. Using too little will result in dried out veggies and using too much will make them greasy. A good rule of thumb is 1 tbs of oil per pound of vegetables.
Tip #267 – When using your Crock-Pot, refrain from opening the lid during the cooking process. Every time the lid is opened the temperature inside the pot drops about 10-15 degrees which considerably increases your overall cooking time.
Once your meal is within the last 45 minutes to an hour of cooking time, it’s okay to take a peek since at that point whatever is inside will be mostly (if not all) cooked through.
Tip #268 – To yield the best baking results, opt for lighter to medium colored metal pans. However, if you do use dark metal pans, it’s important to adjust both the baking time and oven temperature to ensure proper, even baking.
Dark pans absorb and distribute heat better and faster than lighter pans which means things will bake faster and have a greater risk of burning. When using dark pans, lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees and start to check for “doneness” about 10 minutes before the baking time suggests.
Tip #269 – Grilling corn can turn the kernels tough and dry, keep them plump and moist by soaking the husked corn in salt water before grilling.
Tip #270 – To make perfect white rice, remove the pot from the heat as soon as the rice is fully cooked. Then, cover the pot with a clean dish towel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Tip #271 – Revive limp celery by trimming an inch from the ends of the stalks and then submerge them in ice cold water for 30 minutes.
Tip #272 – Get in the habit of checking the clearance section at your local supermarket, you can find some amazing deals on items like spices and baking goods. Generally the items put there are perfectly fine but they are seasonal so they need to clear them out.
I got a bottle of Rubbed Sage yesterday for 75% off!! It was $6.49 marked down to only $1.62 and it doesn’t expire until June 2020. You can’t beat that deal!!
Tip #273 – To remove excess moisture from zucchini simply sprinkle it with salt and let it drain in a colander for about 5-10 minutes. Then, place the zucchini in the center of a clean dish towel or between several layers of paper towels and squeeze until dry.
Tip #274 – To easily seed a cucumber, slice in half lengthwise and run a small spoon along the inside of each cucumber half. Be sure to scoop out of all of the seeds and surrounding liquid.
Tip #275 – Prep fresh green beans faster! Instead of snapping off the ends individually, line up several beans in a row and quickly trim the ends with one slice of a knife.
Tip #276 – To prolong a tomato’s shelf life, store them at room temperature with the stem side facing down.
Tip #277 – Got leftover taco meat? Make some loaded nachos for dinner tonight! Just layer nacho chips with the taco meat and shredded cheese, bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and top with scallions, tomatoes and black olives! Easy, crowd pleasing dinner!
Tip #278 – When using food dyes, always start small and build up the color over time. It’s much easier to add and deepen the color than it is to remove and lighten it.
Tip # 279 – Use leftover pickle juice to make a batch of easy refrigerator pickles! Slice up 1-2 cucumbers into spears (skin on) and coat them in 1 – 1.5 tsp of Kosher salt. Place them in a colander that is set over a bowl and allow them to sit for an hour.
Pour the pickle juice into a pot and bring to a boil. Pack the pickle jar with the cucumber spears and pour the hot pickle juice over them. Seal the lid and refrigerate for at least 24-48 hours before eating.