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.
Tip #280 – Raw chicken is safe to keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. After that, it’s best to either freeze it or cook it. If the chicken has been previously frozen, the “2 day rule” goes into effect once the meat is completely defrosted.
Tip #281 – When melting chocolate be careful to avoid ALL contact with water, even the smallest droplet will cause the chocolate to seize and become unworkable. Ensure that your workspace, bowls and utensils are all completely dry before beginning the melting process.
Tip #282 – When marinating steak, be sure to score the meat with a knife or fork to ensure that the marinade penetrates as deeply as possible. Also, always keep your marinated meat in the refrigerator to prevent the spread of bacteria which can make you ill.
Tip #283 – If you don’t need a whole ham for Easter, you can easily make a half ham instead! Buy the butt portion instead of the shank end as it is meatier.
Tip #284 – To clean your baking pans, mix ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup white vinegar with hot water in the sink. Submerge your pans and let them soak for 30 minutes to an hour before scrubbing away with a scouring pad. It’s okay if the scouring pad scratches the pans, just scrub in an even circular motion to make the lines less noticeable.
Tip #285 – The best way to package meats for the freezer is with a vacuum sealer however, if you don’t have one just follow this simple packaging method. Wrap the meat very tightly in either plastic wrap or freezer paper, the tighter it’s wrapped the less exposure it will have to air. Then wrap a layer of aluminum foil around the meat and seal it inside of a zip-top freezer bag. Meats sealed this way should keep up to 3 months.
Tip #286 – The best way to store homemade chocolate truffles is in the cocoa you dredged them in. This keeps the truffles from sticking together and avoids the need for extra cocoa to touch them up.
Tip #287 – Keep strawberries fresher for longer by giving them a vinegar bath. Combine 1 1/2 cups water with 1/4 cup white vinegar and soak the berries for about 5 minutes. Remove and rinse in a colander. Place the rinsed berries on paper towels and allow to dry. Line a storage container with paper towels, place the berries inside and seal. The strawberries should last up to 2 weeks.
Tip #288 – When making French Toast, it is important to choose the right bread and stale is ALWAYS best. Challah bread is an excellent choice as it’s sturdy enough to hold up to the custard bath while offering a nice creamy inside when cooked . Sturdy country white breads are also a good choice. Avoid using thinly sliced, ordinary white bread as it will be soggy and fall apart.
Tip #289 – For a flavorful and moist meatloaf be sure to use meat that has some fat content to it. Using ground meat that is too lean will result in a very dried out meatloaf. Consider using a 80-85% fat ground beef or even try a blend of beef, veal or pork.
Tip #290 – Making some Italian dishes this Easter? Save yourself time on the big day by prepping your sauce ahead of time. Make batches of sauce now and freeze for Sunday. You can even assemble some pasta dishes early, such as stuffed shells, and freeze. For stuffed shells, freeze them in a single layer WITHOUT sauce. When ready to bake, cover in sauce and cook at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes or until heated through.
Tip #291 – Ham is best cooked low and slow and it should be covered to help retain its moisture and not dry out. Place the ham cut side down in a pan, tent loosely with foil and add a little water or white wine in the bottom of the pan for additional moisture as it cooks.
Tip #292 – You know a cake is finished baking if when you gently press on it with your finger it immediately springs back up. If your finger leaves an indent, the cake is not ready so you should allow it bake for a few minutes longer.
Tip #293 – When using an electric kitchen scale to weigh multiple ingredients in the same bowl be sure to ALWAYS hit the “tare” button in between each new addition. The “tare” button will zero out the scale so that you are accurately measuring each new ingredient added.
Tip #294 – Make really cool marbelized Easter eggs using shaving cream (or Cool Whip®!!)! Fill a pan with shaving cream or Cool Whip® and then place drops of different colored food dye all over the top. Gently roll the hard boiled eggs through the colored shaving cream or Cool Whip®, allow them to dry and then wipe away the excess. Enjoy your beautifully colored eggs!
Tip #295 – Always shred your own cheese. Bagged, pre-shredded cheeses are coated with fillers to prevent clumping. For the freshest cheese free of added fillers, grate your own.
Tip #296 – If you’re making sauce in a Crock-Pot, sauté your onions, garlic and meat on the stovetop first. Then add it to the Crock-Pot with the tomatoes and seasonings and cook on low. Sautéing instead of adding them in raw will add a greater depth of flavor to the sauce.
Also, if using wine, deglaze the pan of onions and garlic allowing the alcohol to burn off and the wine to become a little syrupy. Then add everything into the Crock-Pot.
Tip #297 – To hard boil eggs without them cracking start with cold water. In a large pot place a single layer of eggs on the bottom and cover with cold water. Bring the pot to a boil, once boiling lower the heat so that the water is at a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let the eggs stand for another 10 minutes before removing from the water.
Tip #298 – To avoid tough meatballs, be sure to add enough eggs and binders such as breadcrumbs and/or bread moistened with milk or water. Protein shrinks as it cooks, the eggs and binders will help to keep the meatballs tender and moist. Also, handle the meat gently and don’t overwork it when forming your meatballs.
Tip #299 – Save those leftover, scraped vanilla beans and make a batch of “vanilla sugar”. Place the beans in an airtight container, cover with granulated sugar, seal and allow to sit in the pantry for a few weeks. The vanilla beans will impart a delicious vanilla flavor into the sugar which is perfect for baking.
Tip #300 – If your leftover almond paste has become hard simply place it in a Ziploc bag with a slice of bread. In just a few days the almond paste will become soft and pliable again.
Tip #301 – Got leftover, stale brownies? Save them and reuse later in other desserts. Pulse leftover, stale brownies in a food processor until they form coarse crumbs, store in a Ziploc bag and freeze. Use later as a topping for ice cream, pudding, or other desserts!
Tip #302 – Use your egg slicer to cut softened butter into small, uniform pieces that are perfect for pie and biscuit dough.
Place up to 4 tbs of butter into the slicer and press down to create “planks”. Rotate the butter a quarter turn and push down again to create small, even pieces.
Tip #303 – Use stale bread to make quick microwave croutons! Brush four slices of bread with oil or melted butter and sprinkle with 1 tsp Kosher salt and 1 tsp chopped fresh herbs of your choice. Cut the bread into 1″ pieces and place in a single layer on a microwave safe plate. Microwave on high for 4-5 minutes or until cubes begin to brown. Remove and allow to cool, they will crisp up as they cool down.
Tip #304 – Keep your sugar cones from dripping ice cream with these two simple tricks! Dip the bottom tip of the cone into melted chocolate then place it upside down on a wire rack to cool and harden. Fill and serve! Or, pop a mini marshmallow or upside down Hershey’s Kiss into the bottom of the cone before filling with ice cream. Enjoy!
Tip #305 – Free up space in your kitchen drawers by storing all of your baking/pastry supplies in a basic, inexpensive toolbox from your local hardware store. Fill it with your cookie cutters, icing spatulas, pastry bags and tips, etc. When you bake, everything you need is neatly stored in one convenient place!
Tip #306 – Always remove cupcakes from the pan right after they come out of the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack. If left in the hot pan they will continue to cook and can become very dry.
Tip #307 – Wake up the flavor of your chocolate cakes by adding a pinch of espresso powder to the batter. The espresso powder will add a complexity and intensity to the chocolate flavor without adding a noticeable coffee taste.
Tip #308 – When baking cheesy casseroles such as lasagna or chicken parmesan, instead of using aluminum foil to cover the dish use a large baking sheet! The rimmed baking sheet will sit a little higher on the dish which helps to prevent the cheese from sticking to the top.
Tip #309 – If you don’t have a splatter screen for when you’re frying, try covering your pan with an overturned wire mesh strainer of an appropriate size.
Tip #310 – Avoid soggy bread when making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich by spreading peanut butter on both sides of the bread and then spreading the jelly in the middle.
Tip #311 – To quickly soften cream cheese down to room temperature for use in frostings or cheesecakes, simply submerge the foil wrapped package in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.
Tip #312 – If your cupcakes, cake or even cookies come out a little less than perfect looking, instead of tossing them into the garbage, make parfaits! Using plastic cups or Mason jars, crumble up cookies or cake into the bottom, pipe some frosting on top and repeat until the cup/jar is filled. Top with sprinkles or crushed candy.
Tip #313 – Sometimes sauces, such as a beurre blanc, can be finicky and break apart if they get too hot. To fix a broken sauce, simply remove it from the heat and whisk in an ice cube until the sauce comes back together.
Tip #314 – Easily sprinkle Kosher salt on meats and other foods by placing it in an cleaned out spice jar with a shaker top OR an inexpensive cheese shaker. The large holes allow for the Kosher salt granules to pass through without getting stuck.
Tip #315 – To keep the topping of your casserole crisp during transport to a potluck or dinner party, place a paper towel or clean dish cloth over the top of the dish before covering in aluminum foil. Steam from the hot casserole will be absorbed by the towel instead of condensing on the foil and then dripping back onto the casserole causing it to become soggy.
Tip #316 – Restore rock hard and clumped up granulated sugar with a potato masher. Press the masher into the sugar a few times to loosen up the granules.
Tip #317 – Before dipping fruit in chocolate it must be completely dry. To quickly dry, lay the freshly washed fruit on paper towels and give them a blast with your hairdryer set to low.
Tip #318 – Use a grapefruit spoon to easily seed peppers. The spoon’s serrated edge quickly and easily pulls the veins and seeds from the inner core and walls. The spoon’s shape makes it easier to glide around the inside of the pepper.
Tip #319 – Easily “sugar coat” cookies such as gingersnaps or sugar cookies by filling a small container with sugar, place a few of the rolled cookie dough balls inside, seal with a lid and then give the container a gentle shake. The cookie dough balls will be evenly coated and ready for baking!
Tip #320 – To keep fresh ginger from disintegrating while grating on a rasp grater, freeze it first. Place the peeled ginger in a sealed plastic bag and freeze for about 30 minutes prior to grating.
Tip #321 – Grilled pineapple is delicious but hot buttered rum grilled pineapple is even better! Cut a fresh pineapple into spears, coat with a little brown sugar then brush with the hot buttered rum. Set aside until ready to grill. When ready to cook, grill each side until slightly charred and caramelized. Brush with a little extra hot buttered rum during cooking, especially right at the end. Serve warm.
Try out this super simple hot buttered rum recipe. Store the extra in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Warm before using. Hot Buttered Rum Sauce
Tip #322 – To remove blemishes from a head of fresh cauliflower, run a rasp grater (Microplane) over the discolored areas until they disappear.
Tip #323 – If you love your coffee light and sweet but you ran out of half & half, try using sweetened condensed milk instead! You’ll get the same sweet, creamy flavor as you would from adding cream and sugar. A can of sweetened condensed milk will last 2-3 weeks in the fridge.
Tip #324 – Need a little extra shelf space in your fridge when entertaining? Place a baking sheet on top of flat casserole dishes or bowls and stack smaller items on top!
Tip #325 – Remove unpleasant kitchen odors in the air by simmering 2 tbs ground cinnamon in 2 cups of water. Offending odors will be replaced with the sweet smell of spice!
Tip #326 – Leftover pasta can be dry and unappetizing however, adding a little of the original pasta cooking water will revive your pasta to moist and delicious. Save some of the pasta cooking water and when reheating, stir a little in. It will help to loosen up the pasta and make it fresh tasting.
Tip #327 – Tired of forgetting about condiments and other food stuffs in the back of the fridge? Pop a “lazy susan” on one of your shelves and use it to keep food organized and visible.
Tip #328 – To get the most juice out of your fresh lemons, squeeze them twice. Squeeze once, then flip the lemon over and squeeze again.
Tip #329 – Tired of fumbling through your pantry and spice cabinet for ingredients when it’s time to bake? Then make a “baking bin” instead! Fill a clean, plastic bin with all of the baking essentials such as spices, vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda, sugar etc. and when it’s time to bake all you have to do is pull out your one bin and everything will be at your fingertips!
Tip #330 – Fresh cut fruit can exude a lot of juice resulting in very soggy fruit at the bottom of the bowl. Avoid this problem by storing the cut fruit in a salad spinner which allows the juices to drain through the spinner basket and collect in the bowl leaving your fruit crisp, fresh and free of sogginess. If you do not have a salad spinner, a colander set inside of a bowl works just as well.
Tip #331 – Don’t let your fresh herbs go to waste! Quickly turn them into dried herbs that can be stored and used for up to 3 months.
After washing and drying the herbs, place them on a paper towel and microwave on high for 30-40 seconds. Crumble the dried herbs into a clean, airtight jar and store in your spice cabinet.
Tip #332 – Short on kitchen space? Take advantage of the back of your pantry door and hang a clear pocket shoe organizer. Use it to hold spices, snacks, kitchen gadgets, utensils, etc. The clear pockets make it easy to see everything before you reach for it!
Tip #333 – To remove offensive smells from your refrigerator, place a handful of charcoal briquettes in a disposable container with no lid and put them in the fridge. Discard the charcoal once the offending smell is gone.
Tip #334 – Divide up a big batch of fresh pesto into ice cube trays, freeze, toss the cubes in a Ziploc bag and you’ll always have fresh pesto on hand for pasta, to season chicken or even use as a delicious dip!
Tip #335 – Use blue painters tape to label leftovers in the fridge and freezer. You can write on it with a marker and it can be removed easily from food containers without leaving any residue behind.
Tip #336 – To protect the coating on your nonstick pans when stacking them, place a paper plate or paper towel in between each pan so they don’t nick and scratch when stacked.
Tip #337 – Build up your cookbook collection without spending a fortune!
Check out your local library, they usually sell withdrawn library books for just a few cents and most are in excellent condition. I picked up two nice cookbooks yesterday for only $0.50/each.
Also, when shopping on Amazon be sure and click their link for “other buying options”. There you’ll find used copies of cookbooks that are very often in near perfect condition and cost so much less than buying brand new.
Tip #338 – Cleaning burnt batter from muffin tins is such a pain! To avoid this mess and simplify cleanup cover the entire muffin tin with aluminum foil, cut slits in each hole and press the foil into the indentation and then drop your paper cupcake liners right in. After baking, simply remove the dirty aluminum foil and toss.
Tip #339 – After opening a container of half-n-half, heavy cream, etc. use a marker to write the date it was opened. It’s easy to lose track of how long these items have been sitting in the fridge, writing the date ensures they are discarded at the appropriate time.
Tip #340 – Try this simple trick to separate glasses that have become stuck together. Fill the top glass with ice cubes and then place the bottom cup into a bowl of warm water. The contrast in temperatures between the two glasses will allow the seal to loosen so that you can gently pull them apart.
Tip #341 – Trying to frost a cake when the icing is too stiff can be challenge. To make the icing more spreadable, warm up your spatula in hot water before spreading.
Dip the metal spatula into hot water for about 5-6 seconds, remove and dry completely and then spread your icing. Repeat process as needed.
Tip #342 – When baking with nuts, toast them before adding to your wet batter. They’ll stay crunchier and they will release more oils as they bake which will give your finished product a richer, more nutty flavor.
To toast nuts, place them in a dry pan set over low heat. Watch closely as they can burn quickly.
Tip #343 – Keep your digital scale clean and free from germs by covering it with a piece of plastic wrap or sliding it into a large Ziploc bag before using.
Tip #344 – For an effective and chemical free way to clean your countertops, fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water.
Tip #345 – Don’t throw out scraps of cured meat such as dry sausage or prosciutto. Instead, seal them in a Ziploc bag and store in the freezer. The next time you make sauce, soup or stew toss in some of the cured meat for extra flavor.
Tip #346 – Use your melon baller to scoop out hard to reach foods such as maraschino cherries and olives. The excess juice/brine will drain through the tiny hole in the scoop making removal neat and easy!
Tip #347 – Create flavored iced tea by stirring scoops of frozen juice concentrate into your pitcher. Try yummy flavors like limeade, fruit punch, lemonade or even orange!
Tip #348 – To keep fresh vanilla beans from drying out, store them in an airtight glass container in a cool, dark place. To keep them extra moist and full of flavor, store the whole beans in a glass jar filled with vanilla extract.
Tip #349 – Keep a few clear plastic squeeze bottles on hand for parties. They are an easy and neat way to serve up condiments such as chocolate syrup, sour cream, caramel sauce, mayo and more!
Tip #350 – To clean bottles with a narrow neck add some uncooked rice to the bottle along with soapy water and shake vigorously. The friction from the rice rubbing against the bottle will help to loosen grime and stuck on food particles.
Tip #351 – Round up your leftover sprinkles, candies, cookies crumbs and junk food cereal and make some quick “gourmet” ice cream sandwiches! Grab a few homemade or store-bought cookies, place a big scoop of your favorite ice cream inside and then roll the edges in toppings. Wrap individually and freeze.
Ice cream cookie sandwiches also make a fun treat for parties! Set up a “cookie sandwich bar” with various toppings, cookies, and ice cream flavors and let your guests make up their own yummy creations!
Tip #352 – Keep a bowl of soapy water handy when cooking and place knives, measuring spoons, and measuring cups in the bowl as you use them. When you need them again for the next step of your food prep just give them a quick rinse in the sink and they are good to go!
Tip #353 – Save time and effort when making your own vinaigrette by marking a clear plastic bottle with the “fill lines” for each ingredient. You won’t have to waste time with measuring cups and spoons, simply pour in the oil and vinegar to the appropriately marked line, add your spices and herbs and shake!
Tip #354 – To keep your spices organized and easily accessible, especially in small places, create “zones” inside of your cabinet.
Keep baking supplies stashed together in one convenient pull out tray, keep savory spices grouped together in another and use clear airtight containers for things such as sugars and flour which make it easy to see what’s inside.
Another great organizing tool is pull out spice drawers. They hold a lot of jars and make finding the ingredient you need a cinch!
Tip #355 – Add a greater depth of flavor to Rice Krispie Treats by browning the butter. The brown butter will impart a delicious nutty flavor that really makes these ordinary treats extraordinary! Check out my recipe for Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats right here!
Tip #356 – Making homemade fruit pops is so easy and they are far healthier for your kids than the sugar laden pops in the store. Plus, it’s a great way to use up any extra fresh fruit you have in the house. Check out this easy recipe from the Food Network®! Easy Fruit Pops
Tips #357 – Short on kitchen space? Take advantage of unused garage space to organize and store less used kitchen items such as baking pans, appliances, platters, etc. You can pick up inexpensive shelving at your local home store.
Tip #358 – Make a big batch of muffins, wrap them individually and freeze. When you’re in the mood for a freshly baked muffin, just pull one out and warm in the microwave.
Tip #359 – Did you know that most libraries have an extensive collection of cookbooks in their digital database? Before investing in a brand new cookbook, “preview” it on your eReader to see if you like it!
Tip #360 – Use a water and vinegar mix (3 parts water to 1 part vinegar) to safely and effectively clean fruits and vegetables. A vinegar wash also helps to preserve the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
Tip #361 – Reduce, reuse, recycle! ♻️ Empty gum containers, candy boxes and pill bottles make great storage for things such as herbs, spices, sprinkles and more!
Tip #362 – Instead of trying to smear cold butter with a knife onto corn on the cob, use melted butter instead. Melt butter in a small bowl and brush on corn using a small pastry brush.
For added flavor, mix in spices, salt and pepper to the melted butter and then brush on the corn.
Tip #363 – Always store fresh cherries in the refrigerator, they will spoil faster at room temperature. Also, avoid washing until your ready to eat them.
Tip #364 – When forming burger patties make an indent in the center of each one with your thumb. This will prevent the burger from bulging in the center during cooking and becoming too “puffy”.
Tip #365 – Revive stale marshmallows by placing them in an airtight container with one slice of bread. Within 24 hours they should be soft and ready for use. Discard the slice of bread.
Tip #366 – If you would like to serve a marinade alongside your cooked meat please be sure that you use marinade that has NOT come in contact with any raw meat. Instead, make a little extra marinade and set it aside for serving BEFORE adding the rest to the raw meat.
Tip #367 – Season your bacon slices for a unique flavor treat! Try using ingredients such as maple syrup, bourbon, brown sugar, crushed pecans, roasted garlic OR ground black pepper. Lay the bacon slices in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake at 400°F until done, about 20 minutes.
Tip #368 – What’s better than warm maple syrup on your pancakes or waffles? Keep syrup from getting cold by serving it in an insulated carafe or insulated gravy boat. It will stay nice and warm all throughout breakfast!
Tip #369 – Soften cold butter quickly and easily with a rolling pin! Place the cold butter into a resealable plastic bag and then roll back and forth over it until the butter warms and softens.
Tip #370 – Instead of using a fork or knife to pierce through potatoes try a corn cob holder! They work great and they pierce the potato just enough so that the steam can escape during baking.
Tip #371 – Use blue painter’s tape to label leftovers or freezer meals with the date and reheating instructions. The blue tape will peel away easily from any container.
Tip #372 – To easily remove greasy residue from your hands such as butter or meat fat when you’re cooking, wash with dish soap instead of hand soap. Dish soap will cut through the grease on your hands the same way it does on pots and pans and leave them squeaky clean!
Tip #373 – It is not necessary to pre-rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. There is a sensor inside of the dishwasher and if it detects little or no debris on the dishes, it will run a lighter wash cycle which may result in dishes coming out with residue or bits of food on them.
Check out this great article from Good Housekeeping for even more reasons why it doesn’t pay to rinse your dishes beforehand. Why You Shouldn’t Pre-Wash Your Dishes
Tip #374 – Use a popover pan or muffin tin to serve burger toppings at your next BBQ. Fill each compartment with pickles, diced onion, relish, ketchup, mayo, etc. Everything is contained in one pan which makes serving and cleanup a breeze!
Tip #375 – Use your bundt pan to make a pretty and festive ice ring for punch bowls. Just layer assorted fruits in the bottom of the pan, fill with water or juice and freeze. When you’re ready to add the ice ring to the punch bowl simply run the bottom of the pan under hot water and the ice ring should release easily.
Tip #376 – When using wooden skewers for kabobs, be sure to soak them in water for 10-15 minutes before skewering your food and grilling. Soaking will prevent the skewers from burning and disintegrating on the grill.
Tip #377 – When skewering chicken (or beef) for kabobs, leave a little space beaten each piece so that the heat can circulate around the meat and cook it evenly.
Tip #378 – When using wooden skewers for kabobs, be sure to soak them in water for 10-15 minutes before skewering your food and grilling. Soaking will prevent the skewers from burning and disintegrating on the grill.
Tip #379 – When making your grocery list, organize it into sections according to where things are located in the supermarket. Group things such as fruits and veggies together, meats and dairy, frozen, etc. It’ll make shopping quicker and easier and you’ll be less likely to forget things on your list!
Tip #380 – To easily remove the pit from a peach while keeping the fruit intact, simply cut from the top all the way around, gently twist and the two halves should come right apart. Remove the pit with a paring knife or spoon.
Tip #381 – Jazz up your breakfast favorites such as oatmeal, toast, muffins, waffles and pancakes with warm, fragrant spices. They add a ton of flavor and little to no calories.
Tip #382 – If you do not have any cornmeal in the house when you’re making homemade pizza, use very finely ground breadcrumbs instead. Lightly dust the pizza peel with breadcrumbs and it will keep the dough from sticking the same way cornmeal does. Also, the flavor added is very neutral so you won’t notice the difference.
Tip #383 – Check out your local Dollar Store for great finds on dining and kitchen items. They have a good selection of tin trays, cookie boxes, platters, serving utensils, appetizer bowls/dishes/utensils, glass dishes and even wine glasses! While not the highest quality they are perfect for things that you may only use a handful of times.
Tip #384 – For the best scrambled eggs, cook them low and slow. Cooking eggs over high heat will cause them to dry out. Also, account for “carryover cooking” and remove the eggs from the heat just before they are done cooking and still a little “loose”.
Tip #385 – Make delicious fruity iced teas by simply brewing your favorite tea along with a fruit flavored teabag. My favorite is apricot but you can try peach, raspberry, blueberry or more! For a stronger fruit flavor, brew the flavored teabag longer and for a more subtle flavor brew the teabag for a shorter time.
Tip #386 – Think brown eggs are a healthier bet? Actually, there is NO difference in taste or nutritional value between white and brown eggs. In fact, the difference in color is attributed to genetics alone. White feathered chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs and reddish brown feathered chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs.
So you might be asking yourself, why are brown eggs more expensive? Because the reddish feathered chickens that lay brown eggs are larger than the breed that lays white eggs and as such, require more feed. That extra cost to farmers is passed along to you resulting in a higher price for brown eggs.
Tip #387 – Begin timing your pasta as soon as you place it into the boiling water, NOT when the water comes back to a rolling boil. If you do not start timing your pasta right away it will turn out mushy and overcooked.
Tip #388 – Keep a stash of thick rubber bands in your kitchen, they are the perfect tool to help you open tightly sealed jars. Just place a rubber band around the lid, twist and VOILA! The jar will open easily thanks to having a better grip on the lid.
Tip #389 – When a recipe calls for just a small amount of liquor to be added get the small, sample size bottles instead of one large bottle. The “nip-size” bottles sold by the register are very inexpensive, take up little room in your pantry and are the perfect size when just a little amount of hard liquor is needed.
Tip #390 – Refresh dry, shriveled vanilla beans by giving them a dip in a cream bath! Cut the beans in half crosswise and place them in a bowl, cover with cream or half-n-half and microwave on medium for 1-2 minutes or until the beans soften and become supple. Remove the beans from the cream, split them lengthwise and scrape out the vanilla seeds. Save the flavored cream, it’s great in coffee!
Tip #391 – Easily clean your immersion blender with a bowl of hot, soapy water. Place the bowl of soapy water in the sink and then insert the blender and turn it in for a few seconds to help loosen any stuck on food particles. Rinse under water and dry.
Tip #392 – Blanch your raw vegetables to create a nice tender-crisp and to set their bright color. Blanching also makes it easier to peel thin skinned fruits such as peaches and tomatoes. For more information on blanching, check out the “How-To” on my blog.
Tip #393 – Create a makeshift drying rack by placing a dish towel on the counter with a cookie cooling rack on top. The cookie rack allows the air to circulate around the wet dishes and the water to drip down towards the towel.
Tip #394 – Mayo based salads and summer heat don’t go well together. When serving outside, keep you salads nice and cool by placing the bowl of salad over a bowl of ice. Bring salads back in the house as soon as possible and refrigerate. Do not allow them to sit outside in the heat.
Tip #395 – Use a bench scraper to neatly and easily cut through brownies and cookie bars. Lightly spray both sides of the scraper with cooking spray and then gently push the blade into the bars or brownies to cut. Use the wide blade to gently lift the pieces up and out.
Tip #396 – Try using flavored oil and vinegar to liven up dishes and add a nice “punch” of flavor! Check out this blog post for more information!
Tip #397 – Take advantage of pantry shelves to store your “chip clips”. Just clip them to the sire shelves and the clips will stay neat, organized and are easily accessible when you need one!
Tip #398 – Release sticky ingredients such as honey or corn syrup more easily by first running the measuring spoons or cups under hot water. The heat allows the sticky ingredients to stay runnier which makes them release with ease.
Alternatively, lightly spray the spoons or cups with cooking spray before measuring, this too will help them to release more easily.
Tip #399 – Save time when cooking dinner by meal prepping in advance. At the beginning of the week chop up vegetables, measure out spices into small resealable bags and group recipe ingredients together in the pantry or fridge.
Tip #400 – If you run out of syrup in the middle of breakfast try this quick homemade syrup hack. Microwave brown sugar to melt it down and add enough water to reach your desired consistency. Flavor with a little melted butter and vanilla extract.
Tip #401 – To prevent a buildup of batter when pouring from a liquid measuring cup, lightly spritz cooking spray around the edges and spout so that the batter slides out more cleanly.
Tip #402 – Make “grown-up” ice pops by adding some wine or liquor to your fruity mixture. Take note, if the alcohol content is too high the pops wont freeze. To avoid this, keep the alcohol content to no more than a fifth of the mixture.
Tip #403 – When bread goes on sale for “Buy One, Get One” stock up! Loaves of bread freeze great and thaw quickly! Once thawed, they taste just as fresh as if they were recently purchased.
Tip #404 – To accurately balance the amount of batter added to each cake pan, use a kitchen scale! Your cakes will turn out perfectly sized and baked every time.
Tip #405 – Keep your homemade pesto bright green by blanching the basil leaves first. Blanching deactivates the enzymes which cause browning in cut basil.
Plunge the basil into boiling water for 30 seconds and then immediately plunge into an ice cold water bath. Dry the leaves and then proceed with your recipe.
Tip #406 – When baking, take out of the ingredients that you need and place them on the counter. As you go through the recipe and use each ingredient, immediately put it away which ensures that no ingredient is forgotten or accidentally added twice. It also prevents you from getting halfway through a recipe and then realizing you are out of an ingredient that you need.
Tip #407 – Prevent leftover cake from getting stale by pressing a piece of parchment paper over the exposed edges.
Tip #408 – Use a grapefruit spoon to easily remove the seeded portion of a tomato. Simply quarter the tomato and scoop.
Tip #409 – To keep track of which sponge you use for dirty dishes and which you use for grimy countertops, snip a corner from the sponge that will be used for countertops and keep the dish washing sponge in tact.
Tip #410 – To easy clean a rasp style grater use a small toothbrush. It will easily get into all of the nooks and crannies so no food or residue is left behind.
Tip #411 – To prevent chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of your cake, lightly dust the chips with flour before adding them to the batter. This will help to suspend them nicely throughout the cake.
Tip #412 – Enjoy delicious summer fruits all year long by freezing your favorites. Fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches and nectarines all freeze beautifully and will taste just as delicious as when they were picked.
First, clean the fruit, dry thoroughly, place on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze. Once the fruit is frozen, you can transfer to resealable plastic bags.
Tip #413 – Don’t waste a whole paper plate on your kids for a small (not messy) snack. Cut the plate in half instead and you will go through the plates much less quickly.
Tip #414 – Use a “drink cozy” to protect delicate fruits such as peaches and nectarines from getting bruised in your lunch bag. Just slip the fruit into the cozy and pack your lunch as usual.
Tip #415 – To prevent breakage of delicate glassware when washing by hand, place a piece of rubber shelf liner in the bottom of the sink. Should anything slip out of your hand it will have a cushioned place to land.
Tip #416 – Save time by baking cake layers beforehand and then freezing. Wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and freeze, they will last up to one week in the freezer. Thaw the layers completely before decorating.
Tip #417 – Make lunchtime more fun for your little ones by using cookie cutters to turn their sandwiches and fruit into cute shapes!
Tip #418 – For a richer, more complex flavor in vanilla forward desserts such as cakes, custards, ice creams and milkshakes use vanilla paste instead. It’s stronger flavor and pretty flecking really makes vanilla forward desserts sing.
Tip #419 – Peel the shells off of hard boiled eggs while they are still slightly warm and they will slide off more easily. Peel them all at once and keep them covered in a bowl and you’ll have an easy and healthy “grab and go” snack.
Tip #420 – Don’t have a biscuit cutter? No problem! Just use a canning ring. While slightly duller than a traditional biscuit cutter it will still get the job done and create perfect circles every time!
Tip #421 – The best way to get good use out of treasured cookbooks is to keep them organized. Use dedicated shelving for cookbooks and group them by interest area: Cakes and Pies, Cookies, Italian Food, Healthy Eating, Celebrity Chefs, Retro Recipes, etc. Keeping cookbooks neat and organized makes you more likely to use them AND it’s much easier to locate your favorite recipes.
Tip #422 – When making batters or cookie dough, add the eggs one at a time unless otherwise noted. If they are added too quickly (or all at once) they will not properly incorporate with the fat in the batter. When this happens, the emulsion will break apart.
Tip #423 – To keep your cookbook flat but readable, place a 9X13 glass Pyrex dish across the open pages.
Tip #424 – Use a bento box to pack school lunches. It allows you to easily pack a variety of foods for your little one plus, it makes eating more fun for them too!
Tip #425 – Some foods can leave an unpleasant odor in your kitchen. To eliminate the offending smell simmer 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon in 2 cups of water and instead enjoy the delicious scent of simmering spice.
Tip #426 – Don’t have a cake round handy? No problem. Just trace the outline of your cake pan onto a sturdy piece of cardboard or foam board, cut it out using an exacto knife and cover with aluminum foil. Place the cake on top to decorate and serve.
Tip #427 – Slice individual cake rounds horizontally in order to thin the layers and make more room for filling and frosting. This technique is called “torting”.
Tip #428 – Before making homemade whipped cream, chill your bowl and whip in the freezer and make sure all of the ingredients are cold as well. This will ensure that your whipped cream has the best texture and the maximum amount of volume.
Tip #429 – Some foods can leave an unpleasant odor in your kitchen. To eliminate the offending smell simmer 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon in 2 cups of water and instead enjoy the delicious scent of simmering spice.
Tip #430 – Save money by slicing and bagging your own apples for snack. Wash and slice apples, toss gently in lemon juice and place into individual snack baggies. The apples will stay fresh for days and you won’t taste the lemon juice!
Tip #431 – Save time by portioning and packaging your school snacks ahead of time. When it’s time to pack your kid’s lunch, just grab and go!
Tip #432 – Always keep your eyes open at Home Goods, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and other bargain stores. Sometimes you can really luck out and find crazy deals on expensive brand name kitchen items for cheap!
Tip #433 – The holidays are just around the corner, why not get a jump start on your holiday baking now? Whip up cookie dough and pie crusts, seal them tightly in plastic wrap or vacuum seal and freeze. When you’re ready to use just thaw and bake as usual, they will taste as delicious and as fresh as the day you made them.
Tip #434 – When cooking with enameled cast iron, use only wood, silicone or nylon utensils. Metal can scratch the porcelain coating.
Tip #435 – For a flaky pie crust, be sure that the fats are well chilled before making the dough.
Tip #436 – If your food is too salty, add an acid or a sweetener to counteract the saltiness. Good choices are vinegar, citrus juice, maple syrup, honey or sugar.
Tip #437 – Use your pizza cutter to easily cut up chicken fingers, waffles, pancakes, brownies and more!
Tip #438 – Jazz up french toast, cinnamon toast, muffins and cookies with warm fall spices such as pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice, baking spice and more! They add a nice flavor with a little more complexity than cinnamon alone.
Tip #439 – Don’t have disposable piping bags? No problem! Just fill a plastic Ziploc bag with your frosting and snip off the corner tip.
Tip #440 – Make the switch from commercially prepared syrup to pure maple syrup. Although slightly more costly, a little goes a long way in terms of flavor. Plus, it’s all natural so there is no high fructose corn syrup, additives or other yucky ingredients.
Tip #441 – Cooking with kids can be a messy endeavor. To make the cleanup a little easier, keep a stash of cheap dollar store tablecloths handy. Cover the table before getting started and after you’re done, simply roll up the dirty, messy, crumb filled tablecloth and toss. They are also great to use as “smocks” for the table when doing messy art projects involving glue, glitter, slime, paint etc.
Tip #442 – Dixie cups have so many other uses than just drinking. Sort toppings for gingerbread house decorating or ice cream sundaes, make popsicles, sort craft supplies, use as paint cups, plant starter seeds, make individual pudding cups and more!
Tip #443 – When using canned pumpkin for homemade pie, make sure to buy 100% Pure Pumpkin and not the Pumpkin Pie Mix which is already spiced.
Tip #444 – If your pudding or pastry cream has become lumpy, try this trick to smooth it out again. Use an immersion blender until the pudding/cream is smooth and then pass it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any remaining solid pieces.
Tip #445 – When using frozen puff pastry, always make sure it’s fully thawed before attempting to unroll it. If not fully thawed, the pastry will crack and break as you try to unroll and separate the layers.
Tip #446 – When baking with fresh pumpkin, choose sugar pie pumpkins over large field pumpkins which are stringy and meant for jack-o-lanterns. Sugar pie pumpkins however, are small and sweet with dark orange-colored flesh. They are perfect for pies, soups, muffins, and breads.
Tip #447 – Lightly spray your dough hook with cooking spray as it will prevent the dough from edging up and make cleanup much easier!
Tip #448 – For a flavorful pumpkin pie with just a hint of caramel flavor, use a combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar in your recipe.
Tip #449 – Get stubborn stains off of your cutting board by blotting them with distilled white vinegar. Once the stain disappears just scrub and rinse.
Tip #450 – Spreading cold butter on toast can be a real headache. Use your vegetable peeler to cut thin ribbons from the stick of butter. The ribbons will melt faster and spread more easily.
Tip #451 – For perfect mashed potatoes, make sure to drain them well otherwise you’ll end up with a watery, mushy mess. To get them extra dry, after draining add them to a warm pan set over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
Tip #452 – With the holidays right around the corner it’ll be time for lots of baking! Gather your supplies early while ingredients are plentiful and readily available. Also, you’ll find lots of great sales on baking ingredients in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving!
Tip #453 – To avoid soggy stuffing, be sure to fully dry out your bread. It’s a good idea to start drying out the bread a few days before preparing the stuffing but if you forgot, no worries! Just cube the bread, spread out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven on low heat.
Tip #454 – A perfect sweet potato casserole always has a nice crunch on top. Try chopped toasted nuts such as almonds or pecans, pumpkin seeds or an oat streusel. Try my recipe for Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole , you will not be disappointed!
Tip #455 – Did your cheesecake crack? No worries! Easy to make chocolate ganche will hide all sins. Just pour it over the cooled cheesecake, top with some pretty fruit if desired and your cheesecake will be both beautiful and extra yummy!
Tip #456 – When baking, always be sure to choose the right apple. You want apples that hold their structure when baked and that have a nice sweet/tart flavor. Some great choices are: Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Mutsu, Winesap, Pink Lady and of course, Granny Smith.
Tip #457 – For juicer breast meat, start by roasting your turkey breast-side down. This will help the turkey’s natural juices collect in the breast, which tends to dry out otherwise. After roasting for about an hour, flip the turkey breast-side up to finish roasting.
Tip #458 – When making stuffing, be sure to cook your aromatics before adding them to the stuffing mix. Aromatics include onions, celery, sausage and even nuts.
Tip #459 – When making apple pie be sure to mound the apples high in your pie dish. It might look like a lot of apples at first but rest assured, they will cook down when baking.
Tip #460 – When buying sweet potatoes, look for potatoes that are heavy for their size and that have no soft spots, sprouting or visible bruising. They can be stored in a cook, dark place for up to one week.
Tip #461 – Leftover mashed potatoes can taste just as yummy as when they were first made with this easy trick. Just add a little half-and-half to the potatoes along with a pat of butter and cook on low heat until warmed through. Delish!
Tip #462 – Serve your holiday guests a signature cocktail this Thanksgiving in addition to the typical beer, wine and soda. Offering just one type of cocktail will make things easier as you won’t need to be mixing up a multitude of different concoctions. Try one of these great ideas! 25 Holiday Cocktails
Tip #463 – Save room in your sink and buy a big plastic bucket from Lowe’s to use as your “turkey defrosting bucket”. If you’re defrosting your turkey in cold water, be sure to change the water every 30-40 min. Also, to keep the turkey fully submerged, weight it down with something heavy such as a lid from a cast iron pot.
Tip #464 – Prep your potatoes up to 24 hrs before the “big day”. Cube them and place in a large pot covered with cold water. Also, be sure to salt the cooking water. As the potatoes cook they absorb water so if add salt you will be seasoning them from the inside out.
Tip #465 – Keep gingerbread dough from sticking to your work surface by rolling it out on parchment paper instead of right on a counter or table.
Tip #466 – Prep your Christmas Day breakfast the night before so in the morning you can just relax and open gifts while a delicious, warm breakfast bakes away in the oven. Try my recipe for French Toast Casserole by clicking here
Tip #477 – When making homemade fudge, line the dish with parchment paper so that you can easily remove the block of fudge and cut into pieces.
Tip #478 – Prepare holiday pasta dishes (without sauce) in advance and freeze. On Christmas, just cover in sauce and bake right out of the freezer. My favorites are stuffed shells and manicotti, they are easy to prepare and bake up beautifully.
Tip #479 – Make things easier on yourself at the holidays by making your Christmas cookie doughs now. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. Bake them right before the holiday and you’ll have the freshest, most delicious cookies to serve at Christmas.
Tip #480 – Easily clean staining and residue from the bottom of your enameled cast iron pots with a little baking soda and a soft sponge. Sprinkle baking soda into the bottom of the pot and clean with a wet sponge.
For stubborn stains and residue – Boil water in the pot, add baking soda, allow it to simmer for a few minutes, remove from the heat and drain and follow directions above.
Tip #481 – Avoid burnt cookie bottoms by following these simple steps:
- Carefully measure your sugar. Using too much sugar in your dough will cause the sugar to caramelize in the oven resulting in burnt bottoms.
- Use a light colored UNGREASED cookie sheet.
- Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Bake your cookies on the center rack to allow for optional heat circulation.
- Watch your baking time, even a minute or two over the appropriate baking time could cause your cookies to burn.
Tip #482 – Try making your spiral ham in the slow cooker. It’s easy, delicious and frees up valuable oven space at the holidays. For more information, click here.
Tip #483 – Store your flour in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Also, do not combine new and old packages of flour as this will shorten the shelf life of the new flour.
Tip #484 – For baked pasta dishes such as ziti, stuffed shells, manicotti and lasagna, always slightly undercook the pasta to avoid it becoming mushy during baking. Even if the pasta is slightly more than “al dente”, it will soften to perfection in the sauce as it bakes.
Tip #485 – When baking, “creaming” is a crucial step as it gives baked goods their structure. When you cream butter and sugar, you’re beating air into the butter while the sugar helps to hold that air. When creaming, always start with room temperature butter.
Tip #486 – Throw a styrofoam cooler in the car on your food shopping day. It will keep your refrigerator items cold, your frozen foods from melting and it will prevent fragile food items such as eggs and fruit from rolling around the trunk.
Tip #487 – Don’t let leftover broth or stock go to waste. Pour into ice cube trays, freeze and then pop the broth cubes into a resealable plastic bag. The next time you need a small amount of broth/stock in a recipe just grab a frozen cube instead of opening a new can or box.
Tip #488 – Light and dark brown sugar can be used interchangeably in recipes. Both types are a mixture of white sugar blended with molasses, dark brown sugar just contains more molasses which gives it a slightly more pronounced flavor.
Tip #489 – Make double batches of homemade soup so that you have dinner plus more to freeze. The next time you’re feeling under the weather, don’t have time to cook or need to warm up on a chilly day just pull a batch out of the freezer and warm up.
Tip #490 – Quickly bring cream cheese to room temperature by submerging the foil wrapped package in warm water. The cream cheese should soften in about 10 minutes.
Tip #491 – When making a meatloaf, choose meat with a higher fat content. The leaner the meat, the more dry and grainy the finished meatloaf will be.
Tip #492 – Often times ice cream is too hard to scoop easily so instead, turn the container on its side and using a serrated knife, make ice cream slices. Remove the cardboard after slicing and serve on plates.
Tip #493 – When making dressings that call for an “emulsion”, it’s important to add the oil very slowly otherwise the ingredients won’t come together properly. Whisk constantly as you add the oil, constant whisking breaks down the oil into tiny droplets that become suspended in the vinegar creating the perfect emulsion.
Tip #494 – Make double batches of homemade soup so that you have dinner plus more to freeze. The next time you’re feeling under the weather, don’t have time to cook or need to warm up on a chilly day just pull a batch out of the freezer and warm up.
Tip #495 -Make your French Toast more flavorful by using French Vanilla ice cream for all or part of your custard base. Melt ice cream in the microwave for a few seconds then combine with an egg, cinnamon, vanilla extract and any other flavorings or spices. Dip thick slices of Challah bread into the custard and cook on a griddle until golden.
Tip #496 – Make an inexpensive knife block for your countertop using inexpensive items from around the house. Choose a pretty container or jar, fill with either rice or dried beans and insert knives of all sizes.
Tip #497 – To make removing brownies easier, line the pan with parchment paper. To make clean cuts, allow the brownies to cool completely, use a serrated knife and slice on a cutting board, not in the pan.
Tip #498 – Kick up the flavor of your chicken cutlets (or meatballs) by adding a few cloves of crushed garlic or fresh herbs to your cooking oil as it warms up. Remove the garlic/herbs once they begin to bubble and brown and then fry your meat as usual.
Tip #499 – Buying in bulk is a great way to save money on commonly used household food items. To prolong freshness, transfer dry goods to airtight, plastic storage containers. To keep track of preparation instructions for things like rice and pancake mix simply use plain labels to write out the instructions and adhere it to the container. Alternatively, cut out the instruction portion of the original box and tape it to the storage container.
Tip #500 – When stacking glass measuring cups they can easily get chipped or broken along the edges. To protect them while nesting, place a piece of wax paper in between the measuring cups. This also makes it easier to separate them when needed.
Tip #501 – Unopened olive oil will keep for about a year. Once opened, it only has a shelf life of about 3 months. To test for freshness, pour a little oil into a dish and give it a sniff. If the smell reminds you of crayons or stale walnuts, toss it.
Tip #502 -Jazz up an ordinary boxed cake mix with this simple ideas:
- Add in a splash of pure vanilla extract for a more flavorful vanilla cake
- A small amount of strong brewed coffee added to a chocolate cake mix will enhance the chocolate flavor
- Use butter instead of oil for a richer cake
- Replace the water with milk for a denser cake
- Try adding “mix-ins” into the batter such as sprinkles, chocolate chips, broken candy pieces, etc.
Tip #503 – The key to a good, flavorful soup is to build up flavors as you go starting with the “aromatics” which are typically garlic, celery, carrots and onion. Sauté the vegetables in oil or butter and cook them down until they are soft and translucent before moving on to the next step. Properly “sweating” the vegetables will allow them to release all of their delicious flavor.
Tip #504 – Onions got you crying? Protect your eyes with a pair of “onion goggles”! They protect your eyes from irritating onion vapors and have anti-fog lenses so you can see clearly as you chop and dice. You can find them online or at retailers such as Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma.
Tip #505 – Keep plastic containers from flipping in the dishwasher and filling with water by placing them in the top rack and covering them with a wire rack. The wire rack will keep everything in place while allowing the soapy water to flow through.
Tip #506 – Right before serving, whisk a pat or two of cold butter into sauces to add richness and body.
Tip #507 -To easily clean in the nooks and crannies of a waffle maker, use a clean toothbrush. It is soft enough to not damage the nonstick coating and small enough to get into the difficult to reach areas.
Tip #508 – When making homemade whipped cream always use “heavy cream” or “heavy whipping cream” which will hold nice, firm peaks when whipped. Light cream or half-n-half does not have enough fat content to be used for whipping. Click here to learn more about the different types of cream that are available.
Tip #509 – Use brown butter in both savory and sweet dishes to add a complex, nutty flavor to your food. Click here to learn how to make brown butter.
Tip #510 – When cooking with wine, always choose one that you enjoy sipping. If you don’t like the way it tastes when drinking, you won’t like the way it tastes in your food either. In fact, sometimes during the cooking process a bad wine can end up tasting even worse so choose your wines wisely.
Tip #511 – When frying it is important to keep the oil at the proper temperature. To secure your thermometer in the pot, take a binder clip and clip it to the side of the pot. Then, slide the thermometer through the loop at the end so that it is safely secured while inserted into the pot of oil.
Tip #512 – To soften hardened brown sugar simply place the sugar in a bowl, cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 20-25 seconds.
Tip #513 – Use your potato masher to easily break up clumps of white granulated sugar restoring it to nice, fine granules.
Tip #514 – Stock up on sticks of butter when they are on sale, they freeze beautifully and defrost easily.
Tip #515 – To easily clean in the nooks and crannies of a waffle maker, use a clean toothbrush. It is soft enough to not damage the nonstick coating and small enough to get into the difficult to reach areas.
Tip #516 – Store cheese properly to ensure a longer shelf life.
- Hard, aged cheeses (Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Gouda): First wrap in wax or parchment paper, then add a layer of plastic wrap.
- Blue cheeses (Gorgonzola, Roquefort): Wrap in plastic wrap.
- Semi-hard and hard cheeses (Cheddar, Swiss, Gruyere): Wrap in plastic wrap.
- Soft, semi-soft, and stinky cheeses (goat, Camembert, Brie, Limburger): Place in a resealable plastic container.
- Fresh cheeses in water (mozzarella or Feta): Leave the cheese in the original packaging, changing the water every couple of days.
Tip #517 – When preparing baked pasta dishes such as stuffed shells or baked ziti, always boil the pasta VERY al dente as it will soften in the sauce during baking. Overcooking the pasta initially will result in a mushy baked pasta dish.
Tip #518 – Clean icky, sticky cookie sheets with this simple method. Make a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and spread it across the pan. Allow to sit for about 2-3 hours and then clean surface with water and paper towels. If needed, scrub any stubborn areas with a sponge and then clean with soap and water to remove any residual residue.
Tip #519 – Clean your hands more easily after kneading sticky dough with this easy trick. “Wash” your hands with a handful of cornmeal or flour instead of soap and rinse them under cold water. Then, wash as usual.
Tip #520 – For a chewy, crispy pizza crust that can hold up to all of your toppings be sure to prebake your crust.
Tip #521 – Don’t let your leftover heavy cream go to waste, freeze it! Due to the high fat content it’ll freeze nicely and work just as well in recipes as if it were fresh.
Pour the leftovers into an ice cube tray, freeze and then place the frozen cubes into a Ziploc bag. When ready to use, thaw the cube(s) in the fridge and give the thawed heavy cream a good shake before using to redistribute the fat. Use as normal.
Tip #522 – Make your slotted spoon work double duty! It also makes a great egg separator.
Tip #523 – Mark the date you opened your half-n-half as well as other dairy products such as cream cheese or sour cream so you know when it’s time to toss them.
Tip #524 – When making homemade whipped cream, beat the heavy cream until it’s just forming soft peaks and it’s nice and smooth. Overbeating can result in the cream separating into butter and buttermilk.
Tip #525 – Enhance the flavor of your tomato sauce by adding some rich, full bodied wine to the cooking process. Also, cook down the tomatoes to develop a greater depth of flavor. Try out this delicious sauce recipe, you won’t be disappointed! Classic Marinara Sauce
Tip #526 – When making pasta salad, do not rinse the cooked pasta under cold water. Instead, toss it with a little olive oil so it doesn’t clump together, spread it in a single layer on a baking sheet and then allow it to cool completely. Once the pasta is cooled, assemble your salad according to the recipe instructions.
Tip #527 – Certain “people foods” can make your pet very ill, if not kill them. Avoid feeding your dog: garlic, onions, chocolate, grapes, raisins, raw yeast dough, macadamia nuts and anything containing Xylitol.
Tip #528 – If you lose power, don’t panic! Food will stay fresh and frozen for a few hours after the power goes out. Keep the doors of the fridge and freezer tightly closed and try not to open them. Food in the refrigerator will last around 4 hours, food in the freezer will last 48 hours. The more densely packed the freezer is the colder it will stay.
Tip #529 – When using a stand mixer, always start on the lowest speed to avoid splatter. Gradually increase the mixing speed as needed.
Tip #530 – Store bought cookie dough is full of chemicals and preservatives. Instead, make your own cookie dough and freeze for later use. Plus, homemade cookies taste so much better! When ready to use, you do not need to the thaw the dough ahead of time. Just place the frozen scoops of dough right onto the cookie sheet and bake 1-2 minutes longer.
Tip #531 – Many ingredients in baking, such as butter and chocolate, are prone to absorbing other aromas from savory cooking. Therefore, it’s a good idea to designate a set of kitchen tools as “baking only”. This would include items like wooden cutting boards, wooden spoons, plastic measuring cups and rubber spatulas.
Tip #532 – Room temperature butter is essential in baking as it helps to make your baked goods light and fluffy. When butter is at room temperature it should be able to hold its shape yet be soft enough that your finger will make an imprint. If the butter looks too greasy or shiny, it’s too warm and it won’t aerate properly when beaten with sugar.
Tip #533 – After kneading dough it can be tricky to get all of that sticky dough off your hands as hot water makes the starches in the dough gelatinize. Instead of soap and water, “wash” your hands with a handful of flour or cornmeal and then rinse under cold water.
Tip #534 – Use the wide end of a piping bag tip to hollow out cupcakes. Fill with candy, fruit or other fun fillings.
Tip #535 – For best results when baking, always use the appropriate flour that is called for in the recipe. For more information on the different types of flour, click here
Tip #536 – Buy the best pots and pans you can afford because the better the tools the better the finished product. Look for heavy gauge materials with a nice thick bottom so your food cooks evenly without scorching. Also, don’t feel obligated to buy “sets” of pots and pans. Buy individual pieces so that you have exactly what you’ll need and use.
Tip #537 – The more you cook with your stoneware the more seasoned and nonstick it will become. Stoneware starts of with a rough, beige surface but over time will develop a smooth, browned surface which almost looks “dirty” but that is when you know it’s been nicely seasoned. To season it quickly, cook higher fat food items on it such as crescent rolls, French fries or bacon. Or, coat with vegetable oil and bake at 425°F for about 20 minutes.
Tip #538 – Crock Pots cook best with a tightly fitting lid. To ensure a tight seal, especially when cooking larger items such as a ham, use a bungee cord to better secure the lid to the pot.
Tip #539 – For the juiciest burger, use 80/20 ground chuck. Anything leaner will result in a dry burger.
Tip #540 – Roasted vegetables are a quick and easy side to make and they go well with virtually every meal. Toss your favorite veggies (potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onions, etc.) with a good amount of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. On a baking sheet lined with parchment, spread out the vegetables in a single layer being sure to not crowd the pan or the veggies will steam instead of roast. Bake at 425°F for 45 min to an hour, tossing once while baking.
Tip #541 –Should you accidentally use a metal utensil on your enamel coated cast iron and end up with what looks like scratches, grab a can of Bon Ami® or Bar Keeper’s Friend®. While they are gentle enough to be used on the enamel they are also abrasive enough to remove the metal residue left behind from a metal utensil. Sprinkle a little Bon Ami® or Bar Keeper’s Friend® onto the surface and gently rub until the reside is mostly or all gone.
Realize that although your pot may look scratched, in general most metal utensils aren’t penetrating deep enough to actually damage the enamel and leave a scratch. What you’re usually seeing is the metal residue left behind from the utensil which means often times, you can restore your pot’s surface to like new.