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Kitchen Hints, Tips & Shortcuts

Add your own cooking tips at the end of this article!

I love receiving great cooking tips from other cooks, friends and relatives. So many of the little shortcuts I use every day I've borrowed from someone else, or from reading one of my cooking magazines or cookbooks.

If you have a great tip that makes your time in the kitchen faster and easier or makes your recipes come out perfect every time, we want to know about it! Please share them with our Patch readers by posting a comment at the end of this article

Kitchen Tips & Shortcuts

Buy a roll of parchment paper – it lasts a long time and really stops things from sticking or burning.  I use it almost every time I bake. Just line the bottom of your baking pan with a piece, grease it along with the rest of the pan, and everything will come out of the pan with ease.

I keep a 12” ruler in my kitchen drawer and use it for measuring pans, thickness of dough, circumference of pie dough, etc.  It’s amazing how many times I use it.

If you are lucky enough to grow fresh herbs or receive a bunch from a neighbor, when you have leftovers, chop them up and stir in a little olive oil. Freeze the mixture in a small zip lock bag and break-off what you need for recipes.

Buy a package of long, skinny wooden skewers for testing cakes, egg dishes, and so much more.  I love the way these work and they are relatively cheap.  $1.99 for 100 at Robert's in North Madison.

Keep confectioners' sugar in a container with a shake top and you have a quick, easy and non-messy way to add the finishing touches to desserts.

When your glass jar of soy sauce runs out, don't throw away or recycle the empty container. Wash it out and put olive oil in it. (I buy the big olive oil containers to save $.)  It works great for drizzling olive oil on bruschetta or salads.

Try to make your own salad dressing – it is so much better than store-bought.  I use a simple combination of oil, lemon juice (or vinegar), Dijon mustard, salt and pepper for most salads.

I have three cutting boards:  a wooden one for bread, a bright green plastic one for fruits and veggies, and a black plastic one for meats and poultry.  I run the plastic ones through the dishwasher occasionally and I don’t interchange them.

When cooking on weekends, make double the amount and freeze half.  You’ll have a dinner all set for a busy weeknight.

If your fingers pick up the smell of onions or garlic after cooking, rub your hands under cold water with something stainless steel (like a big serving spoon) and the scent will disappear.

If you are making grilled cheese sandwiches and realize you don't have any softened butter, use mayonnaise on the outside of the bread instead!  It's spreadable and browns nicely.

Remember those small red plastic bags that onions come in? They make great scouring aides.  Just wrap one around your sponge and use it on a pan or dish.

If you over-bake things such as cookies or quick breads and you believe they will be quite dry, when the item is cool, wrap it up well and freeze it for a week or so.  Freezing adds a little bit of moisture back into breads, cakes and such.

Don’t refrigerate bread – it totally dries it out.  Freeze instead.

Find a kitchen timer that you can put in a pocket, clip to your belt or wear around your neck like a necklace. This way you can move from room to room in your house doing other tasks without missing the sound of the oven timer.

If you know you will be making deviled eggs for an upcoming event, buy your eggs now.  Older eggs peel easier than fresh eggs.

Don’t bother to frost a cake or cupcakes – dust with powdered sugar.  It looks just as nice and cuts out a lot of work (and calories).

Basic pantry items to have on hand:

Olive oil, kosher salt, Dijon mustard, sun dried tomatoes, olives, canned tomatoes, dried pasta, balsamic vinegar, peppercorns, capers.

Other pantry items to have on hand for last minute get-togethers or drop-in guests:

Nuts, crackers, pretzels, parmesan cheese, salsa, tortilla chips

Other ideas for quick, no-cook appetizers:

Cheese and crackers, pesto and veggies, prosciutto or ham wrapped around melon slices, fresh figs, grapes, breads/crackers/bread sticks, crudites (cut-up fresh veggies) and dip or salad dressing disguised as dip, smoked salmon - serve it with crackers, capers and sour cream or crème freche, hard sausages and salami, pate, hummus, and my favorite deli delights: marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, stuffed cherry peppers, bruschetta, etc. from the deli counter.

This article, part of Fay Abrahamsson's "In the Kitchen with Fay" column, originally was published by Clinton Patch.

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