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Over the many years that I've been cooking and baking for my family, I've come to appreciate nothing more than a good kitchen "hack". Whether it saves a few minutes here and there, makes a mundane chore quicker or easier, or just reduces the mess, I consider my kitchen tips to be as much a part of my culinary arsenal as my chef's knife and beloved cast iron skillet.
I'm so excited to share with you my "Top Ten" all-time favorite kitchen tips, that I know you'll want to start using right now!
1. No-Mess Measuring: Getting thick or sticky ingredients out of the measuring cup is one of the more pesky kitchen tasks — not to mention cleaning up the mess afterward. Here's how I handle it: when measuring items like mayo, tomato paste or nut butters, I line the measuring cup with a bit of plastic wrap. It gets every bit out neatly and the cup can go right back in the drawer. For liquids such as honey, molasses and corn syrup, I lightly grease the inside of the measuring cup with a non-stick cooking spray. The liquid pours right out and makes clean-up so much easier.
2. Damp Hands: Slightly dampened hands make a big difference when working with all manner of sticky foods. Just run your palms under a bit of water, and you'll see that nothing sticks to them! Try this when forming meatballs, rolling out a "log" of raw cookie dough, or shaping a meatloaf!
3. Retrieving a Rogue Eggshell: There are lots of tips for removing a bit of shell from a dish of raw eggs. But the easiest by far is this: wet your (clean) finger and place it in the bowl — it literally acts as a "magnet", attracting the shell right to your finger.
4. No More "Flying Flour": Cover your stand mixer with a barely damp dish towel, before turning it on. Any dry ingredients that fly out will be caught by the towel (instead of your hair, face and clothing).
5. One Bowl Cookies, Cakes & More: Here's a game changer — there is no need to mix your dry ingredients in a separate bowl prior to adding to the wet ones. Once you've combined the egg/butter/sugar/vanilla, simply add the dry ingredients and mix away! This works best in a stand mixer, and is not recommended for delicate or fragile batters such as angel food, sponge cakes or meringues.
6. "Frost" in a Flash: I love this quick, easy and pretty finish to a bundt or tube cake — brush the sides and bottom of the pan with three tablespoons of vegetable oil, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup granulated sugar. The cake will pop right out, with a lightly sparkly, crunchy coating. (Tip courtesy of 'Cook's Illustrated')
7. Peel a Whole Head of Garlic in 10 Seconds: Yep. Separate the head into individual cloves and sweep the cloves into a bowl. Invert a bowl of similar size on top and shake it up. All the cloves will be either completely peeled or loosened enough to slip off easily.
8. Quickly Soften a Stick of Butter: After all these years I STILL forget to take out the butter until right before I'm ready to start baking — so frustrating! But you can quickly soften the butter by grating it on the large hole side of a box grater. By the time you've assembled your remaining ingredients the butter will be ready to go!
9. An Easier Way to Roll Dough: Next time you make sugar cookies (or any "cut out" dough), roll the dough to your desired thickness BEFORE you chill it. You can then get right to cutting out the shapes, which will be firm enough to transfer neatly to your baking sheet.
10. Eat Your Leftovers: Scraps, that is! Fall's coming, and that means apple picking — and LOTS of peels. Don't toss 'em! Instead, place them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little water. Sprinkle again with some cinnamon-sugar and toss to coat. Bake in a 250 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours.These crispy-sweet treats will disappear in a flash — and no one needs to know they're eating something healthy! (Tip courtesy of 'Martha Stewart Living')