Cooking Tips


To flatten cutlets:   When you have a recipe that calls for flattening cutlets of meat, try this- save those plastic bags found inside cereal boxes.  So when the recipe calls for flattening the meat, place the cutlet inside the empty cereal plastic bag then pound away, the cereal bags are sturdier than plasic bags and less likely to break, plus it helps contain contamination of your counter and cutting board too.

3/30/12:  Pie Crusts.  Even though I like to make most things from scratch,  I do not like to make pie crusts and I found a cool website that uses store bought pie crust and makes it into cinnamon rolls for a pie crust..... yummm I can hardly wait to try it.  So come this Easter, I will be baking an apple pie using this crust.  For more instructions, on how to do it, click here.     And for those of you who like to make regular pie crusts, click here.

Here are the older "tips of the week" in chronological order:

12/9/11 - Ever have tin foil stick to the cheese when baking a casserole that requires it to be covered while baking?  I have the answer! This is a tried & true solution & one I used many times when I had my dinner catering business & still continue to do.  TIP - place a piece of clear plastic wrap (like Saran wrap) over the cheese - careful to only have the wrap on the inside edges of the pan, then cover the plastic wrap with heavy tin foil and crimp the edges, then bake as directed.  The oil from the cheese creates a barrier and the plastic wrap will not stick to the cheese.  When serving, simply remove the plastic wrap and foil and no cheese sticks to the tin foil.  Happy cooking!

12/16/11: Ever have a recipe that calls for lining the bottom of a cake pan? Tip:  Well besides using parchment paper or wax paper, try using a coffee filter.  Just remember to let the cake cool completely before taking off the lining.

12/23/11: To test a cake that is deep (especially the 10" tube pan cakes) Tip: I use a wooden skewer ( normally used for kabobs).  They come in a big pkg & you buy them in the dollar stores. They can be washed off and reused lots of time.  An uncooked piece of spaghetti also works, but I prefer the wooden skewer.

Bonus tip: For a moist turkey, prior to baking it, combine 1/2 cup softened butter,  1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning, 1/4 tsp dried rosemary, combine the seasonings and pipe it between the turkey and the top skin of the turkey with a pastry bag.  The membranes that hold the skin to the turkey will need to be cut, and once that is done, you can easily pipe the butter mixture in under the skin.  If you don't have a pastry bag, use a baggie and cut the tip off of the baggie and use it as a pastry bag.  As the turkey cooks, the butter will melt under the skin and into the turkey making it moist and flavoring it with the spices.  

1/13/12 - Use and Safely Store Fresh HerbsBuying fresh herbs in bulk and drying them on your own in the microwave ensures you’ll have herbs on hand for quick and easy meal prep. Tip:  Simply wrap the herbs in a paper towel, heat on high for 1-2 minutes until herbs are dry and brittle, and then crush and store them in Ziploc bags or canning jar. (per Chef Tyler Florence)

1/20/12: Always read a recipe through before cooking (even if you have already made the item) and if baking, for best results leave the eggs and butter out the night before to come to room temperature. Believe me, I have messed up more than one recipe as I thought I remembered how to make it... =)

1/27/12: For a slightly browner and crisper bread crust, brush bread after 20 minutes of baking with a whole egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk.

2/3/12:  When measuring shortening, if you rinse the measuring cup with cold water, then measure shortenng, it will come out easier.

2/9/12: •Prevent sharp edges on muffins, bar cookies or quick breads by greasing the muffin cups or pans only on the bottom and halfway up the sides so the batter is higher than the greaseline. This is one time you might not want to use a pan spray.

2/17/12: Freezing fruit pies, especially unbaked ones, freeze beautifully, as do baked pecan pies and cheesecakes. To prevent sogginess, brush the bottom crust of fruit pies with egg white before adding the filling. Before freezing, wrap pies and cheesecakes securely in several layers of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Allow already-baked items to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving. To bake a frozen fruit pie, leave it at room temperature for 20 minutes to allow the glass plate to warm up, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar if desired, then bake as usual, adding about 20 minutes to the baking time

2/24/12: Cupcakes! I love to make cupcakes but also made a huge mess trying to get the batter into the cupcake tins. I thought I'd tried everything, but one day at the store I came across a pancake batter stainless steel dispenser. So I bought it and tried it out. It works great, all you have to do is pour your cake batter into the dispenser and dispense the amount of batter you want into the cupcake tin. Works like a charm and no mess.

Here is a bonus tip: How to make carmel sauce. I've been afraid of making this especially when the directions said to brush the pan with water to prevent sugar from crystalizing... I found a great website that has a video to show you how to make it. Yummm.. so here you go

3/9/12: Cooking Perfect Pasta: To prevent pasta from sticking together use plenty of water, cook at a constant boil, and stir occasionally. There is no need to add oil to pasta while it's cooking. Once pasta has been added to boiling water, start timing when the water returns to a boil. There is no need to rinse cooked pasta. If you do, the sauce won't cling. Rinse pasta only if it will be used for a salad or will be set aside or stored for later use.

Mixing Methods for cake or cookies: (per the Reluctant Gourmet) and he explains the creaming and mixing process so well:

In the creaming method, fats are mixed with sugar to form a mixture that is either smooth and creamy (cookie dough) or light and fluffy (cakes). Then, eggs are added one at a time, followed by adding dry ingredients (flours + salt + spices + chemical leaveners) alternately with wet ingredients (milk/water + liquid flavorings). The resultant batter can be very thick, as in cookie dough, or “spoonable,” like cake batter. Rarely does the creaming method produce a batter that is truly pourable.

So why combine ingredients this way? The initial creaming of the fat with the sugar creates lots of little air bubbles (fewer for cookies, many more for cakes). The sharp edges of the sugar actually cut into the butter and create a bunch of little air pockets. Upon heating, the air in the pockets expands, helping the dough/batter to rise.

Beating the eggs in early allows even more air to be whipped in (think of meringue) in the initial mixing stages. In the creaming method, it is very important that you do not skimp on the creaming of the fats/sugar/eggs. The more air pockets you have to begin with, the more rise you will get, regardless of how much baking powder or baking soda you add to the batter.

When adding the flour and liquid, it is important to mix as little as possible while still getting the ingredients well combined. The less you mix, the less gluten is developed, resulting in a more tender final product. Adding flour before adding the liquid helps to coat the flour with fat, further inhibiting gluten production. If you add liquid first, and then add flour, you will end up with a chewier final product since more gluten will be activated.

3/16/12: Perfect Cakes

Cakes do best if baked in the size pan recommended in the recipe, but I find that I can easily take a cake recipe that calls for (2) 8 or 9" round cake pans and use my 10" Tube pan just fine. But keep in mind that Shiny metal pans make a tender cake with a light brown crust because the pan reflects the heat. If you have dark pans, reduce oven temperature 25 degrees. Place pans in the middle of the oven for even browning. Layer pans should not touch and there should be at least one inch of space all the way around pans.

3/23/12: Brown sugar substitute: In a pinch, you can make your own brown sugar. Cream with a spoon or mix with a fork 1 cup granulated sugar and 1-2 Tablespoons molasses until the sugar can be packed in a cup and measured like brown sugar.

4/6/12: If you microwave a lemon for 15 seconds, you will get double the juice.

4/20/12: Cake Decorating: Professonal bakers have specialty tools to decorate frosted cakes. But I have found 2 cool items that I use if I want a "combed" lookiong frosting. I went to the Dollar store and bought a wide toothed comb that works great. I hand wash it and keep it in my utentil drawer. The other DIY tool, is to take a cottage cheese container lid or a Cool Whip lid, cut it into a quarter (or half ) with pinking shears and you have another tool thta makes an attractive design when dragging the comb or plastic container top along the sides of a cake.