Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tips, Hints and More!

The following are my favorite Tips. I'll update them as needed.
These are my Best of the Best ideas that can simplify your cooking needs and provide you with shortcuts.
For example you'll learn how to cook the perfect hard boiled egg, the easiest and tastiest pastry cream, how to shuck the perfect ear of corn, thicken sauces , Pumpkin Pie Spice and Apple Pie Spice from scratch. and ....... More!

As I post recipes that are baked and require coating the pan.
Here's what I always use.
I believe this came from a Wilton Cake Decorating class that I took, sometime in the early 90's.

Pan Release:

Equal parts of:
Vegetable Oil

Mix together well and store in a Mason jar.
Make as much as you want. 1C of each, 2C of each, 3C of each, you get the idea!
It keeps "forever" in the refrigerator!
It never has enough time to last forever in our refrigerator!

Pastry Cream:
This is truly one of my Best of the Best Recipes.
This is the only Pastry Cream I ever use.
Here are a few of the ways that I use it:

Cream Puffs
Frost the center of a layered cake
Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberries and Pastry Cream
A filling for Aebleskivers

It's simple and decadent

Equal parts of Vanilla Ice Cream, softened and Heavy Cream
I usually start out with a pint of each (2 cups)
Whip the Ice Cream and the Heavy Cream together in a Stand Mixer with a whisk attachment
Add 1 TBS of Vanilla and 1TBS of Almond Extract
Add 1 1/2 boxes of French Vanilla Pudding and continue to mix well.
If you need a good Pastry Cream to fill something or layer something , I highly recommend my recipe.
It's simple and delicious!

The Perfect Hard Boiled and Peeled Eggs:

As many eggs as you want to hard boil, cover the entire bottom of a saucepan.
Add enough water to just cover the eggs.
Some recommend adding a tsp of Baking Soda. I have never done this.
Over medium hight heat, bring the water to a boil.
Cover the pan, remove it from the heat and let it sit for 10 -12 minutes.
Transfer the eggs to a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking.
Or, drain the water from the pan, cover with cold water and some ice cubes. ( this is what I do)

Here are my Personal Tips about Peeling:

This is  recommended for Commercial Eggs as well as Fresh Eggs, if you have your own Chickens.
Eggs are easier to peel if they have been around for at least a week and even two before hard boiling them. New eggs are virtually impossible to peel.
The longer the egg sits, the more the membrane beneath the shell separates from the shell, making peeling easier.
Think about Commercial Eggs that are labeled with a "use by" date that the use by date is 45 days from when the eggs were first packages.
Test the amount of time you let them rest (refrigerated)  It may take two weeks.
When the Eggs are Hard Boiled:
Tap the Egg on the Large end first to make some cracks in the shell, then the small end.
Continue making a million cracks in the entire shell before attempting to peel it.

Under cold running water:
Remove the large end first by peeling away from you with your thumb rather that toward you.
The large end tends to be where the membrane connects the closest.
Once you've gotten under that membrane, continue peeling under cold running water.
Sometimes the entire bottom half of the shell will release.
This is just my personal method after years of frustration.

Do you need to separate a lot of Egg Yolks and Whites?

Use a Plastic Water Bottle.
Crack all of the Eggs into a bowl. Remove the Cap on the Bottle. Hold it directly over an Egg Yolk.
Gently squeeze it and suck the Yolk into the Bottle. It will only remove the Yolk.  Release it into another Bowl.
Continue until you've removed all of the Yolks.
It works!

Keep your Guacamole from turning Brown.

Mix it in a bowl.
Smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
Drizzle the top with about 1/2" of Warm Water, to cover the entire surface.
Cover and Refrigerate until ready to serve.
It will keep up to 3 days.
Drain the water, stir the Guacamole and Serve.

Get Rid of Ants, Naturally!

When the Spring rain started, the ants came with it. They were by the kitchen window. I had read about many remedies to get rid of them without chemical spray or toxic powder. Cinnamon was one of the recommendations. We sprinkled it at the site where they were coming into the kitchen. It worked, no more ants!

Perfectly Shucked Corn on the Cob:

Begin with fresh ears of corn.
2 ears microwaved together 8 minutes
individual ears, 4 minutes
Microwave the corn
Remove from the microwave and cut about 2" from the bottom of the ear ( where it was connected to the stalk)
hold the ear at the top where the silk is and shake it until the ear falls out of the husk, perfectly clean!

Easiest way to peel Potatoes:

Score the skin of the potato around the center with a sharp paring knife.
Boil the potatoes as usual.
Hold the potato at one end and pull off the skin.
Do the same with the other half.

Homemade Creme Fraiche:

Heavy Cream and Sour Cream
Begin with any amount of Heavy Cream
Heat on low until warm
Add enough sour cream to make a thick and creamy consistency
Pour it into a jar and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours
Refrigerate for another 12 hours before using.

Regular Popcorn in the Microwave:
No Butter
No Oil
No Microwave bags of Popcorn
Simply Popcorn Kernels
Place 1/4 C of kernels in a glass microwave safe bowl topped with a microwave safe plate to cover the entire top of the bowl.
microwave for 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Check often.
That's it.......... ! All of the kernels should pop.

Black Pepper Sauce:
This came from our friend in Provence.

1 tsp of butter
1 shot of Cognac
2 Beef or Vegetable Bouillon cubes
1 C Creme Fraiche ( recipe above)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a saucepan:
mix Bouillon with a small amount of water and a good pinch of pepper.
Heat until incorporated.
Add Cognac and heat until it flambes.
Add the butter and continue to stir until fully incorporated.
Remove from heat and add the Creme Fraiche.

Pumpkin Pie Spice:

1/4 C Cinnamon
2 TBS Ground Ginger
1 TBS Ground Nutmeg
1 TBS Ground Clove
Mix all together and store in a jar.

Apple Pie Spice:
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/8 tsp All Spice
1/8 tsp Cardamom

Thicken Sauces and Gravy:

Equal parts of flour and butter cooked over medium heat, stirring constantly to blend well.
Types are White, Blond and Brown , depending on how long you cook it.

Cook a White Roux for a few minutes to cook out the raw flour taste, but not too long to change the color.
White is good for thickening Cream Sauces.

The darker the roux, the more it loses it's thickening properties.

A Blond Roux  thickens a Light Stock based sauce and a Brown Roux is better for Dark Sauces and Brown Gravies.

Beurre Manié:

Unlike a Roux, it's not cooked.
Start with 1 TBS Flour and 1 TBS Softened Butter.
Work well with your hands until a mass is formed.
Once incorporated it's ready to use.
Start with a small amount and add more as needed.
The more you use, the longer you need to cook the sauce to cook out the flour taste.

Classic Vinaigrette:

The classic proportion is 3 to 1, 3 parts Vegetable Oil to 1 part White Wine Vinegar.

3/4 C Vegetable Oil
1/4 C White Vinegar
1 TBS Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Whisk Mustard and Vinegar together in a 2 cup glass measuring cup.
Slowly whisk in the Oil
Season to taste with Salt and Pepper

It can also be placed in a jar and shaken.

Peace in the Kitchen!

Mocha Frosting:

This is my favorite Mocha Frosting for Cakes, Tortes, Brownies, etc.

1 pound of Confectioner's Sugar ( 4 2/3 C)
1 pound of Butter ( 4 Sticks)
1/4 C Cocoa Powder ( I use Van Houten Dutch)
1 TBS Chocolate Syrup
1 C Coffee Concentrate ( Medaglia D'Oro Instant Espresso is perfect)
3 TBS Vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

In a stand mixer or with an electric hand mixer, cream together until smooth and fluffy:

cocoa powder
chocolate syrup

Continue mixing until creamy smooth.

Peace in the Kitchen!

Cinnamon Roll Waffles?

Simply buy pre - packaged cinnamon rolls and bake them in your waffle iron.

Rock Hard Ice Cream?

Does your Ice Cream get so frozen that you can't scoop it?
Simply place the carton in a Zip Lock Bag when you freeze it.

Is that Avocado Ripe and ready to eat?

Pick off the little stem...... if it's brown underneath, it's not ready!
If it's yellow, it's ripe and ready to eat.
If someone has already done that.... just move on to another one.

Keep celery longer in the refrigerator, wrap it it foil!

Peel an entire head of Garlic in less than ten seconds:

Smash an entire head of Garlic with the palm of your hand to release the individual cloves.
Using two equal sized stainless steel bowls, toss all of the cloves in the bowl.
Top the bowl with the other one.
Shake vigorously.
Within a few shakes, the cloves will all be peeled!

You can also trim both ends of an entire head of Garlic. Put it in a jar, cover tightly with the lid and Shake, Shake Shake. All of the Cloves will separate and be peeled!

The Perfect Whipped Cream:
1 C heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBS confectioner's sugar.
Whip in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer.

Revive a scorched steel pan:

This is after I used the method below to revive it.
What a difference. 

Put the pan on a burner with enough water to cover the scorched area.
Add 1 cup of vinegar and bring to a full boil.

Remove the pan from the heat.
Add 2 TBS of baking soda.
It will foam immediately ( If cleaning a skillet, I place it on a layer of tea towels because it will fizz and spill over.

Drain the pan, rinse with hot water, pat dry with a towel. Return to medium heat to dry completely. Remove from heat and using a paper towel, rub the interior with a small amount of vegetable oil. Never use olive oil. Never wash the pan with soap.

I did the same process that I did with the Steel Omelette Pan, with these vintage
 Lady Finger / Financiers pans that I bought at an Antique Market.
The final finish is non stick and ready to bake Financiers.

Don't use ice cubes with water to make iced coffee! It just dilutes your coffee.  Instead, put some crushed Oreos in an ice cube tray, cover with milk or cream, freeze and use in your coffee!

Homemade taco shells are easier than you think. Preheat oven to 375F and warm the tortillas until they’re pliable. Spray with  cooking spray then drape over the oven racks with a sheet pan underneath them.

Want your bananas to last as long as possible? Separate each banana individually. Wrap each stem tightly with foil.

Use a Drywall knife to cut sheet cakes and fudge. Get them at the hardware store. They're dishwasher safe too!

Need to clean a large quantity of potatoes? Put them on the top rack of your dishwasher and run it on the quick rinse cycle!
I also wrap vegetables tightly in foil and steam them in the dishwasher. Add a bit of lemon juice, salt and pepper before wrapping in foil!

Put 2 large marshmallows in your bag of brown sugar to keep it from hardening!

Use an egg shell to remove egg shells from the bowl when cracking eggs!

Use a paint can opener to break the seal on difficult to open jars. Just slip it under the lid in a few places and gently press down.  The lid will twist off with ease!

Use a nut cracker for those hard to open tops on 2 liter plastic bottles and water bottles that are difficult to twist off!

Butter large amounts of corn on the cob by melting butter in disposable aluminum pans. Fill with a single layer of ears of corn, use tongs to swirl them in the butter. Salt and Pepper them and serve! When grilling, keep the pan on the top rack of the grill !

Use a Muffin Tin Pan to create perfectly sized holes to plant seedlings in your garden. Simply press the bottom of the pan into the soil to make the indentations. Create multiple rows at one time!

Easy Peeled Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes or Potato Salad, when you have a lot of potatoes to peel:
Boil potatoes as usual, until tender. ( Russets are best for mashed potatoes and potato salad)
As soon as they're cooked, drop them into a bowl of Ice Water ( with ice cubes) let them sit a minute and when you take them out, you can easily rub off the skin. No potato peeler necessary!

Store your opened chunks of cheese in foil. Cheese will stay fresher , longer.

Add a tsp of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

Expand Frosting:
When you buy canned frosting, whip it with a hand mixer. It will double in size. You will get more and you end up eating less sugar per serving.

Put a dryer sheet in your pocket.

Put a small pile of cornmeal wherever you see them.

Measuring Cups:
Before measuring a sticky substance such as peanut butter or molasses, fill the cup with warm water, discard the water, don't dry the cup. Or you can spray the cup with a vegetable cooking spray.

How to easily peel an entire head of Garlic:
Trim a bit off the top and the bottom of an entire head of Garlic.
Put it in a small jar.
Put the cover on and shake it rigorously.
All of the peeling will come off and the cloves will separate!

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