Monday, September 17, 2007

Tips to Make Your Good Cooking Better with Lots Less Work

As we step into fall, I feel like getting back into the kitchen.

My favorite time of day for trying new recipes or getting batches of old favorites together is first thing in the morning. Maybe it's because I'm hungry after the night's sleep or maybe it's because the house is quiet and I can get things together without disruption. Maybe the real reason is that I can get it over with early.

The thing is that I like to eat more than I like to cook. To eat well, a bit of effort is occassionally required so I don't mind being in the kitchen - briefly.

Here are some kitchen tips to you help eat better with less work:

1. Nuts & Edible Seeds
Once you open a can or bag of nuts or edible seeds, store unused portions in the freezer. Freezing keeps them from becoming rancid. Frozen, they'll keep indefinitely. They don't freeze hard so you can use them right out of the freezer. For temperature sensitive recipes (like candies, baking etc), let them come to room temperature - about 15 minutes on the counter.

2. Coffee
Store coffee you'll use up in a week or so in the refrigerator. For longer storage, keep beans or ground coffee in the freezer. For either refrigerator or freezer storage transfer coffee to glass freezer safe, canning jars. Never store coffee in plastic. Plastic is porous and you'll loose both flavor and freshness.

3. Rice
Cooking rice takes a long time so when you do cook it, cook some extra and pack into meal sized portions. Freeze. Reheat in the microwave with a drop of water, broth or wine or drop as is into simmer soups and stews. This works with any rice except instant.

4. Instant Oatmeal and Other Hot Instant Cereals
They're convenient and come in fun flavors to be sure but I find them way too sweet. Try this trick: mix toasted, unsweetened wheat germ (to taste) into the dry cereal. I like equal amounts of wheat germ and cereal. (This makes a more realistic size portion, too.) For better nutrition, reconstitute with heated milk (cow, soy or almond) instead of water.

5. Cheese
Most chunks of cheese should be rinsed briefly under cool running water when you open the package. It removes surface bacteria which makes cheese bitter, freshens the flavor and removes excess salt. Drain before serving or storing. Don't try to rinse shredded cheese - trust me.

6. Baking Powder
Baking powder should be used up within 3 months of purchase. After that, it doesn't work as well as it should. Buy the size can that will fit your baking needs even if the unit cost is higher. It's not a bargain if you have to throw it out.

Always buy aluminum free baking powder. Aluminum is linked to all kinds of disease including Alzheimer's. Rumsford is a readily available - national brand that has been around for decades. It's no more expensive than brands that contain aluminum and is available in grocery stores every where. Look for the bright red can. Your baking will taste better with an aluminum free baking powder, too.

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