"Party and cooking quick tips" are small, semi-precious gems of practical, wish-I-had-known-that-before information about cooking and entertaining.
Check back once in a while for the latest food preparation tips and party planning ideas at a glance, like this frustration-saver:
Hook a bottle cap or can opener under the lid of the jar and lift just enough to break the seal. The jar then opens easily.
Let's twist again like we did last summer:
For an artful little paper napkin display, hold a stack of napkins between your palms tightly and twist one hand one way and the other hand the other way. Reposition your hands as necessary and twist until the napkins are splayed to your liking. Remove any top and bottom napkins that get rumpled in the process.
Green Onions or Scallions?:
The difference between green onions and scallions is a matter of maturity. Scallions are merely mature green onions and, like mature humans, they are stronger and wider at the base.
Fond of Gravy:
Roasting meat or caramelizing onions and other vegetables creates flavor-packed browned bits at the bottom of the skillet or roasting pan called the fond. That fond is the secret ingredient of outstanding gravy.
Freshen and fill your home with wonderful scents. Dab a bit of vanilla extract or essential oils of orange or lemon on your light bulbs; turn on the lights and the aromas. Likewise, never throw away those lemon peels; partially grind them up in the garbage disposal to make your kitchen smell clean and lemony and great.
Cumin 'round the mountain:
Cumin, originally from the Mediterranean, is now produced around the world and its detoxifying, antiseptic, and anti-carcinogenic properties are being rediscovered. A frequent ingredient in chili, cumin also has strong anti-flatulence properties. Poetic, huh?
Cumin in beef tacos
Salt of the earth or salt of the sea?:
Bottom line, sea salt, right out of the package, is tastier than table salt but once diluted or cooked, which it almost always is, there's no difference in taste. Is sea salt healthier? Nope, there are minimal differences between the two forms of salt.
Stop onion breath in your refrigerator:
What!? You don't like a hint of onion in your fresh fruit? Once cut, even plastic-wrapped onion has a way of seeping into everything in your refrigerator. Instead, store cut onions in a glass jar with a sealed (screw-on) lid. Such non-breathable containers mean no onion breath in the fridge.
Easy on the starch:
Get back to real baked potatoes; rather than wrapping the potatoes in foil, essentially steaming them in the oven, coat them with oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at about 450° for 45 to 60 minutes. Works on the grill, too.
Easy rice-cooking quick tip: Pour the desired amount of rice into
a pot. Place the tip of your index finger on top of the rice and fill
with water up to the first knuckle. Simmer until the liquid is almost
gone, cover and remove from heat. When the remaining liquid is
evaporated it's done.
A beautiful apple glows, doesn't it? But not so much as when it becomes a candle holder. Here's how: Core the apples fairly deeply. If need be, shave the bottom of the apples so that they sit flat and steady. Insert taper candles. Prepare for complements.
Sometimes you just can't do it all. Purchase, rather than prepare, things like dinner rolls, salad dressing and butter chips. For dessert place bowls of candy, dried fruit and/or chocolate nuts round the room. (No guest argues with Bridge Mix.)
Keep all your Mise En Place:
"Mise en place" is a French term meaning to have everything in place for cooking. It's a time-honored cooking quick tip. Preheat the oven, and have all your recipe ingredients, measuring cups and mixing bowls out and ready to go, in place.
First, though, read the recipe directions; there's nothing as disruptive as starting a recipe and finding that your dough must chill in the refrigerator overnight.
The no-surprise party:
Take your new recipes out for a spin before you serve them to your unsuspecting guests.
How do you keep from serving the same appetizers or "delightful new wine" to guests twice? Telling a joke to the person who first told it to you? Keep a log, a party diary, of each party you host. Log guests, dates, menus, themes, decorations, and any other pertinent information into your book. You'll be legendary. Hmmm... I think I've said that before.
No egg rolls:
A sprinkling of salt on the countertop keeps eggs from rolling off.
Avocado on your sandwich?:
Avocado, "the good fat," is great sliced on a sandwich, but slippery. One solution is to make a spread of the avocados (just mash and season with salt and pepper, perhaps a little garlic) and spread it on your sandwich bread as you would mayo. Mmmm... all the avocado taste without the messiness.
Party Sandwich Recipes
Slightly frozen meats are much easier to cut up for stir-fry dishes. Cold, but easier.
Keep fondue cheese from clumping by stirring it into the recipe ingredients in a figure-8 motion. Cheese Fondue Recipes
Picnic food containers:
Pack your picnic food in Chinese take-out containers. You can often buy them from your local Chinese restaurant or deli, or find them online.
You can use salted butter in any recipe that calls for "unsalted" by using less added salt than the recipe specifies.
Red wine's 45-minute rule:
Red wine should be served at cool room temperature, not normal room temp. So, unless your wine lives in a cave or cellar, follow this solution: Place red wine in the refrigerator 45 minutes before serving it or store the wine in the refrigerator and take it out 45 minutes before serving. Perfect temperature.
One of life's universal cooking quick tips: All recipes call for large eggs unless otherwise specified. So if the recipe just says "eggs" use large eggs.
How to blanch vegetables:
Place cleaned, trimmed veggies into salted boiling water for several seconds, until their color turns bright. Remove immediately and immerse them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. They're ready for dipping or freezing.
Pink pork: How dry I am not:
Most U.S. experts agree that it is not a necessary health precaution to cook pork to that oh-so-dry 170° inner temperature any more; 140° and a little pink is okay, they say, but I still prefer something between those two temps.
Juicing lemons and limes:
To get the most juice out of citrus fruits, for Sangria, for instance, soften them up to the idea by firmly rolling them between your palm and countertop. Then cut and juice them; they'll give you their all.
More Party and Cooking Quick Tips: