Kitchen Hints and Tips - Miscellaneous

Save dill pickle and sweet pickle juices after the jar is empty. Marinate carrot sticks in the liquid. Delicious!

Wrap wax paper around a cork before replacing it in a bottle. Allow a little of the cork to extend at the top. The cork will be easy to remove.

Aluminum Foil
To avoid the hassle of fitting aluminum foil into the corners of baking pans, just rinse the pans before lining. The foil will cling to the wet bottom and sides and will be easier to smooth into corners.

Birthday Candles
Use rolls of candy with holes in the middle for birthday candle holders on cakes. They catch the wax drips and look pretty besides.

Bread
Shoppers take note!!!! I never knew this..... When you go to buy bread in the grocery store, have you ever wondered which is the freshest, so you "squeeze" for freshness or softness? Did you know that bread is delivered fresh to the stores five days a week? Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Each day has a different color twist tie. They are:

Monday - Blue
Tuesday - Green
Thursday - Red
Friday - White
Saturday - Yellow

So if today was Thursday, you would want red twist tie - not white which is Friday's (almost a week old)! The colors go alphabetically by color Blue - Green - Red - White - Yellow, Monday thru Saturday. Very easy to remember. I thought this was interesting. I looked in the grocery store and the bread wrappers DO have different twist ties, and even the one with the plastic clips have different colors. You learn something new everyday!!! Enjoy fresh bread when you buy bread with the right color on the day you are shopping. ~ Julie Hall

Bread Crumbs
Fine dry bread crumbs make a good thickener for cream sauces in casseroles or a la king dishes. Use them whenever you want a toasted flavor in a sauce.

For seasoned bread crumbs, whirl packaged bread stuffing in blender and use to bread chops or chicken.

Brown Sugar
Add a slice of soft bread to a package of rock-hard brown sugar. Close the bag tightly, and in a few hours the sugar will be soft again.

Wrap in a plastic bag and store in refrigerator in a coffee can with a snap-on-lid.

Use two or three pieces of dried fruit, such as peaches or prunes, to keep brown sugar soft. Just place the fruit in the bottom of a plastic container or jar and pour the sugar over the fruit.

Put a lettuce leaf in the container with the lumpy brown sugar, and the lumps will be gone tomorrow.

To soften hard brown sugar, put brown sugar and a cup of water side by side in a covered pan. Place in the oven on low heat for a while.

Caramel Coating
To coat a mold evenly with caramel, keep the mold in very hot water while you prepare the caramel. Pour the melted sugar immediately into the mold and swirl it around. A 4-cup mold can be coated with 1/2 cup sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of water. The mixture must be watched and stirred gently but constantly. The more brown the mixture, the stronger the flavor. It must be watched carefully while cooking.

Catsup
To remove from the bottle, insert a drinking straw, push it to the bottom of the bottle, and then remove. Enough air will be admitted to start an even flow.

Before discarding the empty catsup bottle, pour some vinegar into the bottle and use in making French dressing.

Chocolate
Chocolate melts more easily if it is grated or chopped before melting. High temperature will cause chocolate to be dry and grainy.

Semisweet chocolate morsels and semisweet chocolate squares can be used interchangeably when a recipe calls for this type chocolate melted.

To melt chocolate smoothly and easily, wrap the solid chocolate in foil and place in an oven set to 300 degrees F for about 10 minutes. When it is melted, simply scrape into your mixture.

Melt white chocolate over very hot water, never boiling or even simmering. White chocolate will scorch at a lower temperature than bittersweet chocolate.

If chocolate you are melting overcooks and becomes hard and "dull" looking, put the pan on very low heat and beat in one tablespoon of shortening at a time until you have restored the shiny, smooth look of perfectly melted chocolate.

Always keep chocolate at room temperature to prevent it from splintering and flying around when chopped; cold chocolate is too hard to cut and the knife may slip and cut you. To chop chocolate in a food processor, chill the chocolate slightly and pulse it just until chopped.

Sometimes a grayish color develops on chocolate. This is called "bloom," and it is a sign that the cocoa butter has risen to the surface. Flavor and quality will not be lessened, and the grayish color, or bloom, will disappear when the chocolate is melted.

To shave chocolate, carefully draw a vegetable peeler across the side of a chilled bar of chocolate.

When you can't find lemon leaves to use as a base for making chocolate leaves, the safe substitutes are rose, magnolia, and gardenia leaves. They're all nontoxic. Allow a bit of each stem to remain uncoated with chocolate for easier peeling later.

Chopping
Before chopping sticky foods, flour the pieces in a paper bag OR dip your shears or knife in hot water while cutting.

Colander
Use plastic berry boxes to drain pasta or vegetables. This is especially useful on camping trips.

Confectioners Sugar
It takes very little liquid to thin to spreading consistency for icing. Add the liquid 1 teaspoonful at a time; otherwise you may need more sugar to thicken it again.

Coupons
Always check the price of a coupon item against the price of a generic item. Often, the "name brand" item is more expensive even with a coupon.

Crackers
To crisp soggy crackers, put them on a cookie sheet and heat in the oven for a few minutes.

Crepes
Just add extra milk to your favorite pancake recipe and spread it thinly on the griddle.

Custard
If you plan to unmold a baked custard, beat the eggs only slightly before you add them to the liquid. This will keep the custard firm when baked. Too much beating produces a light, porous custard.

A knife inserted near the center of custard will come out clean when custard is done. Remember, overcooked custards have watery textures.

If you want to unmold the custard, such as custard for a creme brulee, bake the custard in a metal container. The metal cools more quickly than glass and will release more easily.

Deep Frying
Hot fat rises several inches when you drop food into it. Choose a pan that is deep enough.

Re-use the oil by frying bread slices in off-flavor oil until bread absorbs the extraneous odors and flavors.

Dips
To make a colorful bowl for dip, hollow out red, yellow or green bell pepper, artichoke, eggplant, zucchini, squash or red cabbage. Remove a thin slice from the bottom of the vegetable so that it will stand upright.

Serve vegetable dips in round bread or black pumpernickel. Cut off the top and cut it into strips to be used with the vegetables. Scoop out the middle of the bread, making a bowl, and fill with dips such as chopped spinach whirred with grated onion, cream cheese and sour cream in the blender. Arrange on a platter.

Double Boiler
Always place a jar lid or marbles in the bottom part of your double boiler. The rattling sound will signal if the water has boiled away.

Doughnuts
After forming doughnuts, let them stand about 15 minutes before frying. They'll absorb less fat.

Drying
Spread a layer of washed and dried celery leaves on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F until leaves are dry and brittle. Let them cool. Crumble leaves, and store in an airtight container. Sprinkle them on soup, stew or casseroles as a delicate flavor enhancer.

Dumplings
Dumpling batter will drop from the spoon if you dip the spoon into the boiling liquid before scooping out the batter.

Electric Mixer
The blades of your mixer won't clog when creaming cold shortening if they are placed in hot water for a few minutes before using.

Fat
Lettuce leaves absorb fat. Place a few into the pot and watch the fat cling to them.

To remove fat from stew, soup or pot roast, wrap an ice cube or two in white paper toweling and skim the surface. Fat will cling to the toweling.

Flamb
The liquor must be warm for successful flaming of dishes. Warm the dish slightly in a 250 degree F oven for about 10 minutes, then add liquor. If you cannot pre-warm the food, the alcohol should be warmed until hot to the touch and set aflame as soon as it is placed on the dish to be served. Do not allow the liquor to boil because that will cause the alcohol to evaporate, and the dish will not flame.

To make flames last longer, sprinkle the dish with a little sugar before flaming.

To warm liqueurs quickly for flaming, place the liqueur in the microwave oven at HIGH. Allow about 15 seconds for 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup liqueur.

French Toast
For crispy French toast, add a touch of cornstarch to the egg mixture.

Frying
A good way to keep frying food from spattering is to invert a metal colander over the pan, allowing the steam to escape.

Fudge
When making candy consisting of milk or cream and sugar, add 1 teaspoon of white corn syrup for each cup of sugar used. Boil in the usual way. Your finished product will be much smoother and not so apt to become sugary.

Glasses
When one glass is stuck inside another, do not force them apart. Fill the top glass with cold water and dip the lower one in hot water. They will come apart without breaking.

To loosen stuck glasses, let a few drops of glycerine trickle down between the two glasses.

A small nick in the rim of a glass can be smoothed out by using an emery board.

Use a wet paper towel to pick up broken glass slivers. Simply blot them and they will stick to the paper.

Scratches on glassware will disappear if polished with toothpaste.

Make glasses extra shiny by adding lemon peels to the water in which they are rinsed. The lemon acid released gives glasses a clear shine.

Graham Cracker Crumbs
Put graham crackers into a blender, a small amount at a time. Turn the blender on and off (pulse) and the pieces will move down into the blades. If you don't use a blender, put the crackers in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. You can use the plastic bag as a container to add the butter and sugar to make crumbs for a graham cracker crust, then toss the bag out when you are finished.

Grains
To prevent bugs in dried beans, mix together cinnamon sticks, whole black peppercorns, ground black mustard, and green garlic, then tie in individual cheesecloth bags. Place one bag into each gallon container with beans.

Granulated White Sugar
To soften granulated white sugar that has hardened in the paper bag in which it was packaged, heat your oven to about 250 degrees F, then turn it off and put the bag of sugar in on a cookie sheet. Check after a few minutes. As soon as the bag begins to get warm, the sugar should start softening.

To prevent sugar from hardening, store it in a sealed plastic bag with a slice of bread.

Grease
Save margarine and butter wrappers and store them in the freezer. Use them to grease cookie sheets and baking pans.

Drain excess grease from fried food on brown paper bags. Bags work better than paper towels. Cut bags into handy-sized sheets for easy access.

Slip your hand inside a sandwich-size plastic bag. Dip into shortening and evenly coat the pan with it. You can leave the bag in the shortening can for later use.

To keep frying pan grease from splattering, add a little salt to the cold oil or grease before you place the pan over the heat.

Herbs

Store freshly cut basil on your counter in a glass of water so that the water covers the stems and not the leaves. It will keep for weeks and even might grow some roots.

Honey
Store in small plastic freezer containers to prevent sugaring. It also thaws out in a short time.

Jars and Bottles
Deodorize them by pouring a solution of water and dry mustard into them. Then let them stand for several hours before rinsing.

To open a tightly sealed jar, turn the jar upside down in a pan of water and pour in hot water to just cover the lid. Heat the water to boiling, take the bottle out and twist the lid off with a towel. The heat causes the metal to expand enough to make it come off easily.

Kitchen Towels
When they are clean, but still look dirty - fill the washer with water, put in the usual amount of detergent, then add 1/2 cup automatic dishwashing detergent. This is a magic formula that works wonders on most stains!

Leftovers
Store leftover corn, peas, green beans, carrots, celery, potatoes and onions in a container in the freezer. Add to other ingredients when making stew.

Marshmallow Creme
Melt marshmallow creme in the microwave. Half of a 7 ounce jar will melt in 35 to 40 seconds on HIGH. Stir to blend.

Marshmallows
They will not dry out if stored in the freezer. Cut with scissors when ready to use.

Mayonnaise
When the mayonnaise jar is almost empty, add vinegar (starting with a teaspoon, and adding more as needed) and spices to taste; shake well. Toss with your salad.

Measuring
To remove shortening from a measuring cup quickly, run hot water over it and pour off immediately.

Mustard
To keep an opened jar of mustard fresh tasting longer, place a thin slice of lemon on top before closing the jar tightly.

Oil
Fill a small plastic dispenser with cooking oil and keep it near your stove. It allows you to squirt just the right amount of oil into your pan, and there's no mess or waste.

Olive Oil
You can lengthen the life of olive oil by adding a cube of sugar to the bottle.

Pancakes
Freeze leftover pancakes between pieces of wax paper in a plastic bag. Heat them in the toaster or microwave as needed.

Improve the taste of pancakes by mashing a soft, ripe banana into the batter.

For the very lightest pancakes, replace liquid with club soda. Use up all the batter as it will go flat if stored.

When cooking pancakes, you'll know the griddle is ready when a drop of water dances on the heated surface and then quickly evaporates.

Pasta
Add a lump of butter or a few teaspoons cooking oil or olive oil to the water. Noodles or spaghetti will not boil over or stick together.

To prevent the pot from bubbling over when cooking pasta, apply a thin coat of oil around the inside top of the pot.

If drained pasta is stuck together, boil it for one minute.

Toss leftover spaghetti and sauce together in a casserole. Add cubes of sharp cheese and chopped onion, then toss together. This freezes well. When you're ready to serve it, top with grated Parmesan and bake in a 325 degree F oven until bubbly.

When pasta is cooked to al dente, drain immediately. If you are not going to use it right away, put it into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. You can reheat either in the oven, a steamer or a microwave.

Never boil lasagna or spaghetti. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the pasta, stir a little until it comes back to a boil, then clamp the lid on and remove from the heat. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes — no peeking! Drain into a colander. You'll never have sticky pasta. It's great!

Pimentos
Save unused pimentos for later use by pouring off the liquid in which they were packed and replace it with a mild cooking oil.

Plastic
Spray the inside of a plastic container or bowl with nonstick vegetable spray before adding any tomato-based sauce. This will prevents stains.

Use baking soda to remove coffee or tea stains from plastic cups and saucers.

Plastic Wrap
Keep it in the refrigerator to prevent it from ever sticking together.

If plastic wrap gets stuck to your toaster or other metal surface, rub petroleum jelly on the spot, then rub clean with a soft cloth.

If you can't find the end of a roll of plastic wrap, wind a piece of tape around your finger, sticky-side out. Tap around the roll until the tape catches onto the edge of the wrap and you can unroll it.

To make it cling to bowls better, moisten the rim of the bowl or container. The plastic wrap will stick like it should.

Plates
Insert paper plates or paper napkins between fine china plates as you stack to prevent scratching.

To fill in darkened cracks, boil pieces in a pan of milk for about 45 minutes.

Before serving, put dinner plates in the dishwasher and turn the dial to the drying cycle. The plates will be piping hot.

Popcorn
Popcorn will pop better if you store it in the freezer and pop while frozen.

Buy the inexpensive brand and keep the kernels in the refrigerator. Put them into hot oil to pop.

 Make sure all your popcorn kernels pop by rinsing them in cold water before cooking.

 Make gourmet popcorn by melting 1 tablespoon each of peanut butter, grape jelly and butter and pour over 6 cups of popped corn.

 "Old maids" can be eliminated by running ice cold water over the kernels before throwing into the popper.

Form popcorn balls around lollipops.

Before you serve it, put fresh popcorn in a large plastic bag with a small hole cut in a bottom corner, then shake. The unpopped kernels will spill out from the hole.

Popcorn should always be kept in the freezer. Not only will it stay fresh, but freezing helps eliminate "old maids."

Potato Chips
If potato chips lose their freshness, place under the broiler for a few moments. Take care not to brown them.

For garlic-flavored potato chips, put a peeled garlic clove in a container with chips for several hours. Discard garlic clove before serving chips.

Freshen soggy potato chips quickly by placing in a 375 degree F oven and baking for a few minutes. Watch them carefully and remove before they brown.

Potato Pancakes
Add a little sour cream to prevent potatoes from discoloring.

Pudding
Pour pudding right into foil cups placed in a muffin tin. You'll have pre-measured servings and, best of all, no cleanup.

Make instant pudding in the blender. It's easier to pour into serving dishes.

Spray the bottom and sides of your pan with vegetable spray or coat with margarine beforehand. It will keep the pudding from sticking and save lots of elbow grease at clean-up time.

To keep a soft surface on puddings thickened with cornstarch, such as packaged pudding mixes, simply press a piece of plastic wrap down on the top of the cooked pudding before it cools. This prevents the "skin" from forming on top.

Ramekins
Anchor ramekins in a hot water bath (bain-marie) by placing them on a folded dish towel. That way they won't skitter around when you lift the hot water bath in and out of the oven.

Recipes
To adapt a conventional recipe to microwave, decrease the liquid called for in the conventional recipe by one-third. Check during cooking to see if more liquid is needed.

A recipe book is easier to read if you hold it open with a wooden pants hanger that clamps shut. You can then hang it from a knob on the cupboard door.

Reducing Liquids
Put liquid to be reduced into pan in which it will be cooked. Place handle of a wooden spoon on bottom of pan; use a small knife to mark a notch at level of liquid. Remove spoon; make a second notch at level of desired reduction, such as one-half or one-fourth. As liquid is reducing, use spoon handle as your measuring stick. If a recipe instructs you to reduce a liquid to one cup, or other measure, simply place one cup of water in pan in which you will reduce liquid; mark the one-cup level on your wooden spoon. Discard water. Add liquid; use spoon as your guide!

Refrigerator
To test the fit of your refrigerator door seal, close the door on a sheet of paper. If you can pull the paper out without effort, you could save money by repairs.

Rice
Reheat leftover rice by putting it in a sieve over simmering water, and fluff it with a fork when piping hot.

Add a lump of butter or a few teaspoons cooking oil or olive oil to the water. Rice will not boil over or stick together.

Rice will be fluffier and whiter if you add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to a quart of water when cooking.

For fluffy rice, cook the rice completely. When it is done, remove it from the heat source and put a crumpled paper towel on top of the rice, then replace the lid. Let the rice rest while you assemble the rest of the meal. The paper towel will absorb all of the extra moisture and the rice will not be sticky or dry.

Cook rice in liquid saved from cooking vegetables to add flavor and nutrition. A nutty taste can be achieved by adding wheat germ to the rice.

After rice has been cooked, place a slice of dry bread on top of the rice and cover. The bread will absorb the moisture and the rice will be dry and fluffy.

The secret for fluffy rice: When the rice is done, remove the lid and cover the pot with two layers of paper toweling. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and let stand from 5 to 30 minutes until you are ready to serve it. Fluff with a fork to separate grains of rice.

To make whiter rice, add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the water before you cook the rice. The grains won't stick together either.

To cook a day ahead, undercook very slightly, drain and rinse in cold water. Cover with fresh cold water and let stand in the refrigerator until serving time. Then drain it again and cover with boiling salted water. Let stand until hot, drain and serve.

Rolling Pin
If you don't have a rolling pin, use a cold bottle of soda pop or a wine bottle filled with ice water.

Put the dough in the freezer or refrigerator until chilled. This way the pastry dough will not stick to the rolling pin.

Saut ing
To keep the butter from burning when saut ing at high heat, add one tablespoon of peanut oil for every two tablespoons of butter.

Add the food after you've brought the butter to a foam, and the foam has begun to subside.

Skewers
Use uncooked pasta. By the time the roulade, etc. is cooked, the spaghetti has virtually disappeared.

Soda Crackers
Wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator.

Souffl s
Get a professional high hat look by running your thumb around the inside of the dish below the rim before putting it in the oven. A high hat will rise in the center.

The trick to producing a wonderful souffl is to cool the white sauce mixture before adding it to the beaten egg whites. Cook the sauce then remove it from the heat and add the egg yolks. Mix all together well and then let it cool well. Then add it to the beaten egg whites.

To ensure the highest souffl , do not overdo folding the egg whites into the sauce mixture. Too much mixing will break down the protein molecules of the egg whites and allow the captured air to escape.

Splattering
To prevent hot fat from splattering, sprinkle a little salt or flour in the pan before frying.

Sponges
A sponge may be renewed by soaking in salt or baking soda water overnight.

To clean a kitchen sponge, rinse with water, then squeeze as dry as possible. Place in microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds.

Stir-Frying
The secret to successful stir-frying is to fry quickly over high heat. The wok should be only lightly oiled and stirring should be continuous.

To cut meat (julienne) for stir-frying, place in freezer for 1/2 hour, then cut into thin strips.

Sugar
If a recipe calls for "superfine" sugar, put regular granulated sugar in the blender and pulse several times until the sugar granules have reduced in size slightly.

TV Dinners
Save metal frozen food trays and make up your own TV dinners from leftovers. Cover with foil, then label and date. Put in the freezer for emergency service when you don't have time to start from scratch.

Tomato Paste
Store leftover tomato paste by spooning level tablespoonsful onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze. Remove the spoonsful from the sheet, place in a plastic bag, and return to the freezer. Use the cubes as needed.

Tortillas
Because tortillas warmed in the microwave have a tendency to dry out, warm them in a hot cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook about 6 to 8 seconds on one side, turn with tongs. Cook about 6 or 7 more seconds until hot, but still supple. Keep tortillas warm in a clean tea towel or tortilla warmer until all are reheated.

Waffles
When you finish baking waffles, put a square of wax paper between the grids before closing the iron; let it cool. Leave paper in place until the next time you use the iron, and the waffles won't stick.

Wax Paper
The wax paper lining from cereal boxes is heavier than regular wax paper. Use it to cover a casserole in the microwave, line baking pans, or to wrap potatoes for microwave baking (they'll bake faster and had a better texture).

Wine
Use wine that has turned in place of vinegar, especially in marinades.

Wooden Utensils
"Season" wooden kitchen utensils by washing and drying them well (several hours). Dip them in very warm vegetable or olive oil, making sure the entire utensil, including handle, is covered. Allow this to set for a few minutes, then wipe off and dry with paper towels. This will prevent the wood from absorbing moisture.