I figured I would make a list of any tips or hints to make cooking easier and just add to it as I think of them or as I use them in a recipe. They may be common sense but they were things that made my cooking easier that I had to learn and/or they were thought to be by my friends and family.

1) General

  • Keeping Fresh Herbs: Keep your freshly cut herbs longer in the fridge by treating them like cut flowers. Place them in a tall glass with water. (I have my old POM tea containers that are the perfect tall cylinder for it. The ones in the produce section.) They will last at least twice as long (if not more) than just keeping them in the hydrator.
  • Tomato Paste: I almost never had a recipe that called for the entire can of paste. It is usually just a tablespoon or two. I portion out tablespoons worth on to a plate and freeze them, then, once they are hard, pop them into a ziploc bag. Now whenever you need some, they are already portioned and ready to go.
  • When cutting any hot pepper, USE A GLOVE. Even if you are sure you aren't going to accidentally rub your eyes, if you have kids, please do so. You never know if they are going to need to be attended to, picked up, etc... You want the insurance, trust me!

  • 2) Prepping
    • If you are chopping something that is in many recipes (i.e. an onion), and it calls for only half, go ahead and chop the whole thing. It will keep you from having to chop onions tomorrow night. Do this only if it is something you use a lot; otherwise, you run the risk of shortening its shelf life.
    3) Leftovers:
    • I have a magnetic white board on the fridge. I write down anything in the fridge that needs to be used or eaten. For example I write the leftovers I an storing in there, and the order they are listed lets us know which are oldest. (you could even date them if you like) Also I list ingredients that I have extra left after they have been used for their initial recipe. Tonight I am making the Lime Chicken Tacos because I have leftover sour cream I can substitute for the crema. This is particularly useful if you have some more "recipe specific" ingredients such as fresh ginger or miso paste.
    • Many of all our most loved dishes started out as a way not to waste. Today we cook everything from scratch for a lasagna (for example) when it is a way to turn Sunday night's roast into something different. Another added bonus to this is that it will cut down on your cook time. I had my husband roast a chicken for me. The chicken will be in tonight's dish as well as one in a day or two. This is better on your time and your pocketbook. The whole chicken, which was called for in the recipe, is more meat than the four of us will need for dinner. I now have a quick meal on deck for a busy day of the week later on. If you are a larger family, (or have larger appetites) you can cook two.
    4) Economical:
    • See leftovers;)
    • Leftover Bread: Any bread you have, can be put into a food processor and made into fresh bread crumbs. They store great in the freezer. I always have a large chunk of baguette that doesn't get eaten, but the next day it is too hard to be edible. It will save you on the waste and on buying the package bread crumbs which are inferior in quality to these. You can season them when you use them. The one exception to this is Panko. These are Japanese breadcrumbs and cannot be made at home. They offer a texture that no other breadcrumb can emulate.
    • Meat Drippings:  Save your fat drippings. (stay with me here, don't freak out over the calories) For example, your bacon fat, I cook home fries in the bacon drippings from previous meals. You can get the flavor of bacon without actually having the bacon. You are using something you were going to throw out, and you are feeling like you are having something you didn't buy. Any time I have accumulated fat that I am removing, I put into a little freezer safe container and keep it for a future saute. My favorite use for the bacon fat it to saute scallops. I always hate the flabby bacon that comes around the scallop but like the flavor combination. If you are using a little of the fat rather than a lot of the ingredient, I don't think you are getting an obscene amount of calories, and you aren't wasting.
    • Balsamic Reduction: Make your own  by taking a bottle of inexpensive balsamic, add a heaping table spoon of brown sugar and reduce to one third it's original volume.
    • Fresh ginger can be peeled and stored in the freezer wrapped in in plastic wrap. When you need it, just grate it frozen. It makes it easier to grate and keeps for a long time.
    5) Good Ideas
    • I love my accuchef program for sorting and planning my meals. I have a friend that loves her paprika program. (I only know about mine, but it is an AMAZING tool!) I'm sure there are many out there. Look around and find what works best for you. I got the program originally to print cookbooks for my friends and family, bu it has become something I use every day. I have cookbook folders for: the recipes I want to try, recipes we have made and liked, each family member's favorite meals, and the meals I will be making this week. It can filter your recipes by ingredient, main ingredient, or course/type. It will make grocery lists. I © it. It makes getting recipes off the web a simple cut and paste that takes seconds. (no I don't work for them, I just really like it:)
    • Compound butters: Compound butters are a great way to make an ordinary piece of meat new and different. They are easy to make and store easily in the freezer, so they can always be on hand The ingredients in the butter can change, but the way you make them are the same. Start with softened butter. Add the ingredients you are using. Then place the butter on a piece of wax paper, fold over the wax paper, use something with a flat edge to push, firmly, the butter into a tube shape, wrap in the wax paper and return to the fridge.

    6) Time Savers

    • We use those stainless steel water bottles. I have always thought that they were a pain in the butt to store and fill with ice. I have started (after washing them) filling them about 1/3 with water and storing them in the freezer. They have ice and are ready to be filled and they are stored somewhere out of sight!

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