Tips and Shortcuts for the Kitchen

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There are little things that can make a day of baking go more smoothly, small shortcuts that can make your ingredients go farther, tips that can help you know when things are at the right temperature, going slowly or perfectly done. Here I have recorded some information gleaned from my family over the years, and I pass it on to you.

If your brown sugar has gone hard in its container, put a slice of fresh bread in with it and leave for a few days. The moisture from the bread will transfer to and loosen the sugar. An apple with its skin slashed will also do the trick.

To sprinkle powdered mixtures easily, such as sugar, spices, or cinnamon and cocoa on your hot chocolate, put them ready mixed into a salt shaker.

To avoid unpleasant odours when cooking fish, cover the fish with browned butter or lemon juice; this also enhances the flavour. To remove fish odour from your utensils afterwards, add a bit of ammonia to the dishwater (but make sure to use dish gloves!).

To peel grapefruit and oranges easily, boil them in hot water for about 8 minutes first. This also works for skinning carrots. To skin tomatoes easily, skewer them on a fork and run under very hot water for a minute or so, and then plunge them into ice water. The skin will loosen and easily peel off the flesh.

To keep lemons fresh, keep them in a large glass jar filled with water, with a lid on tightly. To get the most juice out of your lemons heat them gently in the oven before squeezing. If you only need a small amount of juice from your lemon, say a squirt for a glass of water or tea, simply puncture the skin with a fork tine, and squeeze.

To keep fresh cut fruit, particularly apples, in your fruit salad from discolouring, sprinkle lemon or pineapple juice over them.

To cut a loaf of fresh bread easily, use a HOT knife (heat by running under hot water for a minute or so, then dry.)

To freshen bread rolls which are starting to stale, place them in a brown paper bag, tied the end with a twist tie, and heat them in the oven at about 400 C for 15 mins.

To dress up your cheese and crackers for a party try using a soft or paste cheese and running it through an icing tube to make designs on the crackers.

When its time to peel the onions, doing so under running water will prevent your eyes from tearing up.

To remove vegetable stains from your hands or clothes, rub them with a slice of lemon.

A great way to prepare celery is to let it stand in cold water, with one teaspoon of salt added, for about a half hour before serving. This will actually work for any crisp vegetable including asparagus, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and lettuce.

To add some flair to your celery, cut stalks lengthwise into small strips and place in ice water. The stalks will curl delightfully.

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