Cooking: Tips and Tricks to Make Life Easy

As you may have noticed, I love to cook. I like trying new recipies, eating new foods, and getting to play with kitchen gadgets. Most importantly I like that cooking from scratch alows me the flexibility of eating healthy on a modest budget.

Coming from a large family, I grew up helping in the kitchen, but it wasn't until I was on my own that I had to committ cooking shortcuts to memory. Along the way, I have had many friends get married only to face their kitchen with a bit of uncertainty. I realized that not everyone loves the challenge of making dinner when there appears to be nothing in the fridge! Along the way I have developed a mental list of things that make my life easier and here they are:

I am convinced this milk frother would make my coffee taste better in the morning!

The basics...

Homemade Buttermilk: Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to regular milk.

Peeling Garlic: press down on garlic with the flat side of a knife or spoon and it will crack the peel right off.

Peeling Bananas: If you peel it from the bottom (like Apes) then you don't have to pick out the stringy bits.

More Bananas: Separate them from eachother as soon as you get home from the market, they will stay fresh longer!

Going Bananas: If your bananas do happen to go brown on you, peel them into a zip lock bag to freeze until you are ready to make banana bread!
Chopping Onions: If you pop the onion in the freezer for a few minutes before you chop it, you won't have to cry so much.

Strawberries: use drinking straws to core or hull a strawberry. Just push the straw through the bottom of the berry!

Storing Cheese: If you wrap an opened package of cheese in aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap, it stays fresh longer...but then you have to remember what that ball of aluminum foil is!

Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweet and better for eating.
Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firm and better for cooking.
If I am going to take the time to make a cake, I am going to make it pretty, therefore it should be able to be on display until it has been eaten!

On to cooking...

Roast a Chicken - (this recipe came from Simple Mom - and I love it!)
A roasted chicken is one of the most versitile items to make meals for a week easier! A roasted chicken could feed 2 people 4 meals for a week! (Speaking of...I should write more about this later...)

Saute Ground Beef - if you do this on the weekend, and then season and store portions separately, you have cut your after work meal making in half! While you are cooking the ground beef, add a teaspoon of water to help pull the grease away from the meat.

See Double - whenever I make soups, stews and cassaroles, I try to double the recipe. These dishes are typically easy to double, and they store well for reheating later. This makes lunches for the week a no brainer, or sometimes I freeze half for nights when there is too much going on to plan a meal!

Avoid the Garbage - keep a scraps bowl on the counter while you are cooking to keep your working area clean and prevent you from walking around the kitchen with peels and scraps that need to be tossed. BONUS: Use these scraps to start a compost! Here are two articles that provide background info to get you started: The Greenest Dollar and Simple Mom.

Part of my love to cook is cooking for a large group...and this would be perfect! We actually got one for our wedding, but needed to exchange it to get plates. Plates were higher on the priority list.

Going through this list was a lot of fun...I will have to run another edition soon! In the mean time, be sure to comment if you have a tip or trick you use that is not on this list!

PS The pictures throughout this post are all items that are on my kitchen gadget wish list, but they all require me to have a larger kitchen...someday...

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