Here are some tips that have saved me in the kitchen.
Proofing or reactivating dry yeast
This has been a godsend in ANY recipe calling for yeast. It gets the yeast started and the most important thing….it lets you know if the yeast is dead. Better to find out in a cup of water than in an entire loaf of bread. Here’s all you do:
If your recipe does not call for proofing the yeast just take about 1/2 cup of the liquid your recipe calls for and warm it to 105 t0 110 degrees. Add your recipe called for amount of yeast to the warm liquid,stir, and let it set for about five minutes. By the time you have rounded up and measured your other ingredients, the five minutes will be up. The mixture will be creamy and will have a creamy foam head. If it doesn’t do this, toss it and try again with the proper temperature of liquid. If it still doesn’t do it, your yeast is dead. Go buy more yeast.
This is what the dead yeast will look like after proofing or reactivating:
This is what good yeast looks like after proofing or reactivating. It’s alive!!!!!!!!
Any time I make a recipe that calls for raisins, I plump them. Raisins are very hard and chewy. I don’t want that hard stuff in my cookies, breads, and cakes. So, here’s what you do. Put the raisins in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Add just enough water to top the raisins. Microwave on high for three minutes. Let set on the counter until cooled off. Drain and then use the raisins. If my recipe calls for water, I use the drained water from the plumped raisins.
When using citrus zest in a dessert recipe, I usually take the amount of granulated sugar the recipe calls for and put it in a little bowl, I then add the zest and rub it into the granulated sugar with my fingers. It incorporates the zest evenly and the sharp sugar crystals help to release more of the oils. It smells so good!
My best helper in the kitchen is evaporated milk. It is a pantry staple. Some people call it canned milk. It is double strength in the can. So, if you want to replace whole milk, then dilute it half water and half evaporated milk. Works great in gravy, baked goods, soups, and sauces. Try it sometime.
Plastic Sheet Protectors
Office supplies in the kitchen. Oh yes, especially if you are as messy as I am. I have a big three ring binder notebook full of recipes in sheet protectors. If I print recipes, cut them out of my cooking magazines, get them hand written from friends, or find a recipe in the Sunday paper, I always slip them into the sheet protector. I can also use white paper as a background and add notes. When the notebook is open, it lays flat and any dustings of sugar and drips of eggs can be wiped off.
Now, don’t get this tip confused with me being entirely organized in my kitchen. Not the case. I am behind in my organization of recipes. I even lost my keys the other day…..Mr. Wii found them IN MY COOKBOOK. It’s scary how well he knows me.
Okay, when you say apron, it has the connotation of a blue haired grandmother with pink cheeks bending over the opened oven and pulling out a huge roast flanked by potatoes and carrots. Am I right or am I right? That would not be me. I’m the one with my hair up in a clippy, down on the floor looking for that last Tic Tac the granddaughter dropped and wants right now, elbow deep in whatever mass quantity of food I am currently preparing, apron on, and wearing flip flops. Kind of a combination of Barefoot Contessa(Ina Garten) meets Stevie Nicks.
Cooking without an apron is like…..well, it’s like cooking naked. It’s just wrong. I keep aprons on a hook in the pantry. Actually, it’s just a cup hook screwed into the wall. If it had been up to Mr. Wii, the hanging device would have been a screw thingy that expands behind the drywall and can withstand the weight of a ten year old hanging on it. I needed a quick fix, so, I dug around in the junk drawer until I found a cup hook. Screwed it into the drywall and badda bing, badda boom…a place for my aprons. Don’t tell him I did that.
I wear chef style aprons because they are cheap, one size fits all, easily washed, they have a pocket, and they come in fun designs as well as white. Don’t know what to get that cooking/baking fiend of a friend for a gift? Get them an apron.
An apron has saved many outfits from splatters of hot oil. I don’t have to change my black top when making bread. And, the best reason, I use it as a fashion accessory. I wear one each week to cooking class and never even give my wardrobe choice for that day a second thought. Hey, I have more important things to think about. Like knives and spices and cutting boards and recipe ingredients. You get the picture.
Have fun in the kitchen
I love my kitchen. It is where everything happens. Decorate your kitchen with things you use. Bread baskets you can get on a moments notice, canisters and jars for storing pasta and sugar and flour and cookies and Twizzlers. I keep my Kitchen Aid mixer out on the counter all the time. Some people have bowling trophies (and you know who you are), fishing trophies, baseball trophies, and golf trophies. I have a Kitchen Trophy…my mixer.
Invite friends and family into your kitchen. If your kitchen is anything like mine, there is always a dish to wash, an onion to chop, or a little one needing a cookie and a hug. Nella