Tips and How-To

Here we go!

1.  As old as time.  How to reheat pizza?  Heat a frying pan with a bit of olive oil.  At the same time put the pizza slice on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds to heat the cheese.  Slide into hot frying pan to heat the crust.  Back into the plate, and almost like new!  Yum!

2. Another biggie.  What to do with the leftover tomato paste? Can't leave the can in the fridge.  Even if you put it in another container, it turns black and ugly.  The fix?  Scoop out the leftover tomato paste onto a plate, or make it into one spoonful and place in a piece of saran wrap (or other plastic wrap).  Fold up the plastic wrap and put into a baggie....  in the freezer.  When you need a bit of tomato paste take it out of the freezer, let it sit for a couple of minutes and it will have defrosted just enough to slice off what you need.  Wrap it back up, and back into the freezer until next time!

3. Never use glass cutting boards.  They dull knives really quickly.  Use wood or plastic.  I prefer acrylic plastic.

4. Cleaning acrylic cutting boards is easy.  Put it in the sink.  Spray with a cleaning solution containing clorox.  Let it sit for a few minutes and wash off.

5. Transferring food from a cutting board to a pot or pan or bowl can be a mess.  Most people use their knife as a scoop, but it dulls the knife.  Better to turn the knife around and use the back, or even easier, use an inexpensive pastry scraper.

6. Got splatters in your microwave?  Using paper towels to cover plates is expensive and wastes SO much paper.  Coffee filters are inexpensive and come in packs of 100 or 200!

7. Do you use bagged salad mixes?  And, when there's some left over it sits in the bag and gets wet and gunky and eventually you throw it out?  This trick helps a lot.  Lay the bag down flat and put a piece of paper towel on top of the remaining salad.  Flip the bag over so the salad is on top of the paper towel and put another piece on top of the salad, again, so the salad is between two sheets of towel.  It will keep the salad in good condition for a day or two because it absorbs the dampness.  When you finish the salad, let the paper towels dry, and use them again.  (All they touched was clean lettuce!)

8. When sauteeing do you find you need to keep adding more oil to the pan, and you really don't want to?  Depending on what you're cooking, rather than adding oil (glug, glug...), spritz the food with a cooking spray.  They come in a variety of flavors, plain, butter, olive oil.  Use it sparingly, but its usually just enough to keep the food from sticking, without needing to pour in additional oil.

9. If you'd like to add just a bit more oil to your pan but don't want to take the chance of "glugging" too much?  Use an oil "spritzer," such as a Misto or other brand.  Add your own oil to the container, pressurize by pumping, and spritz away!

10. When sauteeing veggie "meats," the trick is to brown the "meat" a bit more than suggested in the directions on the package.  It helps keep the "meat" from falling apart once it comes in contact with liquids.  Using a spatula rather than a spoon to move it around the pan helps keep the pieces from breaking up.

11. Using ginger for stomach upset or nausea (from any source) is not an old wives tale.  Keep crystallized ginger on hand.  Its easy to nibble, or chop up to steep in hot water for tea.  I also use it in Asian dishes instead of fresh ginger.  Asian dishes usually call for a bit of sugar, crystallized ginger doesn't go bad if its packed securely, and its much easier to chop than fresh ginger.

12. Easy way to thicken gravy- Cream together butter (or substitute) and flour, and drop pieces, bit by bit, into simmering broth.  It will continue to thicken a bit after each piece, so give it a minute or so.  Make sure and cook for a couple of minutes to incorporate the flour and not be left with a raw flour taste.

13. How often do you use celery?  Not often, right?  It sits in the fridge and eventually gets.....  pretty yukky, doesn't it?  Next time, wrap a wet paper towel around the bottom of the celery and tightly wrap the whole thing in tin foil.  Keep it in the vegetable drawer and it stays fresh much longer.

14. All sorts of talk about vinegar.  Different types, different flavors, some even alcoholic, using it to clean windows, etc.  Did you know vinegar kills weeds?  Inexpensive and safe around kids and pets, put some in a spray bottle, spray those weeds really, really well, and bye-bye weeds!

15. Lots of talk about sugar, too.  Use it?  Don't use it?  White?  Brown?  Have you heard of Demerara sugar?  Very granular and slightly brown, because it is the least processed of the sugars, and it even has some nutritional value...  because it is so unprocessed.  So good you'll be tempted to eat it by the spoonfull!

16. Do you warm your tea pot before making a pot of tea?  Maybe you don't make pots of tea very often, but that's the "proper" way to do it.  (I went to school in the UK.)  However, this is about a cup of coffee.... or tea.  If you pour boiling water into your coffee cup and warm the cup prior to filling it with coffee, the coffee won't start to cool when it hits the cold cup, and it will keep the coffee warm longer.  (Yes, get rid of the water before pouring in the coffee.  lol)

17. Freezing leftover herbs in ice cube trays?  Not necessary.  Wrap the bunch (parsley, dill, etc.) very well in plastic and put it into a plastic freezer bag.  Press out as much air as you can, and put it in the freezer.  When you need fresh herbs, pull out the bunch, chop some herbs off of the end, rewrap, and put it back in the freezer.  The texture won't be exactly the same as fresh, but the flavor is the same.

18. Greek yogurt is all the rage, and its expensive to buy, especially if you eat a lot of it, but its really easy to make yourself.  Pour a quart or two of plain yogurt into a lined colander (line it with cheesecloth or coffee filters) and let it drain in the sink until its the consistency you prefer.  Transfer it into a container, add a bit of salt, mix well, cover, and put it in the fridge.  It will be ready overnight.  (Just a matter of letting the salt permeate throughout the yogurt.)  If you have a hot kitchen you might want to put it in the fridge while it drains, but I usually let it drain in the sink, or let the colander sit in a bowl on the counter.  Money saver!  Update- Silk makes unflavored non-dairy yogurt.  I'll have to try that out!

19.  I love eggplant and zucchini, and cook with them often.  In the U.S., "bigger is better," but with eggplant and zucchini, smaller is better.  Sweeter, fewer seeds (which are bitter), and easier to cut!

20. The weather has been hot and I've been making smoothies.  Unbelievably easy, and really delicious, especially if you're looking for something filling and sweet.  Don't bother with freezing bananas to keep in the freezer for smoothies.  I'd rather have them fresh.  (Buy a few that are just about ripe, and a few that are still green, and you're set for the week.)  Keep frozen fruit, berries, strawberries, whatever you like, in the freezer, for the frozen element.  MUCH easier, and gives you more options.  I also LOVE a dab of almond butter in the smoothie, but it does add a lot of calories, so I've been using cocoa powder and a bit of sweetener, along with almond milk, the frozen berries, and a nice fresh banana....  all of which are in the smoothie sitting right in front of me.  Experiment....  and enjoy!  YUMMY!

21. Just decided to bake something and need buttermilk?  And, you don't have buttermilk in the house, right?  AND, you only need a cup and if you run out to buy some it always comes in a quart size right?  Just saw a foodie writer in the newspaper touting a buttermilk powder that you can mix with water.  Ick!  Anytime you need buttermilk just take a cup of any kind of milk, dairy, almond, soy, pour in a little vinegar, stir it up, let it sit for a little while, and you have buttermilk.   So much better to start with MILK than with some kind of powder and water mix!

22. If you're into "healthy" peanut butter, almond butter, and the like, you'll very often find the "butter" separates in the jar and when you open it the top layer is a layer of oil.  There's an easy solution.  Stir it up really well, which you'll have to do when you use it the first time anyway, and then store the jar upside down.  No more mess, or fuss.  Just make sure the top is on securely!

23. Can’t keep the water in your water bottle cold?  I’ve been doing this for ages.  Put a half-full bottle of water in the freezer so the water turns into a BIG ice cube.  Add cold water to the bottle when you’re ready to take it with you.  The water stays cold much longer, and as the ice cube melts…..  more water!  Two mini-tips.  When you put the bottle in the freezer, leave the top very loose.  The water expands as it freezes.  Also, I wrap the bottle in a couple of folded paper towels and a rubber band when I take it with me.  Not beautiful, but it insulates the bottle, and keeps the condensation from dripping!

24. Don't you hate cutting an apple, if you only want half, knowing no matter what you do the other half is going to turn brown?  Yes, you can squirt some lemon or lime on it, but do you always have fresh lemon or lime in the house? EUREKA, what I DO always have in the house is "sour salt," basically citric acid.  I use it every time I make UN-Stuffed Cabbage, and the rest of the time it just sits in the closet.  Sprinkle THAT on the cut apple before you wrap it up and stick it in the fridge, and the apple won't turn brown.  Just remember to rinse off the apple before eating it, otherwise it will taste "sour salt-y." OR- try the "update" below re avocados. Bet it will work for apples, too!  (#30)

25. Lovely avocado.  So delicious.  So good for you.  And SUCH a pain to get the pit out!  But, I have found a way.  Easy!  Cut the avocado in half and pull apart, as usual.  Cut the side with the pit in half again, or thirds, and its easy to pull the pit out!  Just be careful not to cut yourself!

26. Herbs and spices seem to be getting more expensive, and its crazy to spend $6 or $7 for a bottle of something you may only need for a particular recipe.  My favorite place to buy really good spices (online) is Penzey's.  I read the catalogue from cover to cover whenever it arrives in the mail, although I don't think they need the "stories" they've been adding in the last couple of years.  And, no, in case you are wondering, they are not paying me.  I just love the spices.  But, back to the point of this "tip."  Check out the Hispanic section of the supermarket the next time you need something that seems expensive on baking (usually) row.  The herbs and spices are usually less expensive in that section and you can often find them in small packets, not just jars!

27.  Mmmm..... strawberries. 'Tis the season, but they sit in the plastic container in the fridge and get moldy.  Its much less likely to occur if you turn the package over a couple of times a day, or at least, every day.  That will help the air circulate, and keeps the mold away!

28.  Summertime...  and the lemons are expensive!  Actually, lemons are expensive year 'round, and its just crazy.  In the summer, though, when your're using more lemon its SO annoying to have the seeds falling all over the place, including into your food!  Easy solution, put a fine mesh strainer over the food, squeeze the lemons into the strainer, and VOILA!, juice in your food, seeds in the strainer!

29.  Just when I needed to "doctor up" a pot of spaghetti sauce, I didn't even have an extra can of plain tomato sauce in the house! We all use bottled spaghetti sauce on occasion (or most of the time), but I do "doctor it up" when I use it.  I add extra tomato sauce, or chopped tomatoes, or a bit of sugar, or wine, or just want to "extend" it a bit, and this time I had nothing extra in the house.  I never thought canned, condensed tomato soup would come in handy.  I never have it around, so I never thought about it.  (Actually, I can't stand the stuff.)  But for some strange reason I happened to have a can, and that can of condensed tomato soup.....  it worked just fine!  Nice and thick, already slightly "spiced," eureka!  An actual use for condensed tomato soup!

30.  Avocado is so delicious and healthy!  But what to do when you only eat half and put the other half in the fridge for next time?  Its turns that awful brown, even if you carefully cover it in plastic wrap!  Well, there's always a squirt of lemon to keep it green, but what if you don't have a lemon, or a lime? Try a splash of "lemon-lime" soda, and carefully placed plastic wrap.  It has citric acid in it, and it will help keep the sliced side of the avocado green!  Update- Another way to keep guacamole and cut avocado from turning brown.  Best way to keep the air out?  Water!  Unfinished bowl of guacamole?  Level the surface of the guacamole so that its even and "seal" with a layer of water.  Next day, pour off the water, and you have nearly perfect guacamole!  Half of an avocado left over?  Turn it over into a bowl of water so the cut side is sealed from the air.  Next day, pull it out, dry it off, and its nearly perfect!


  1. CK says:

    Great tips! thanks!