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Cooking for Dummies

Cooking Around the World All-In-One for Dummies

30-Minute Meals for Dummies

Appetizers for Dummies

Cooking Soups For Dummies


These tips and more are included in my new cookbook!
Click here to get your copy!


Alcohol Substitutes: Substitute chicken stock for wine in entrees. Substitute 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. almond extract for each 1/4 cup of Amaretto or almond liqueur requested. Substitute frozen orange juice concentrate and a little orange zest for orange liqueurs. Substitute quadruple-strength coffee for coffee liqueurs.
Brown Sugar: To keep brown sugar moist, store in an airtight container with a whole orange, lemon, or lime. To soften brown sugar, place in a microwave-proof dish, add a slice of soft white bread or an apple wedge, cover tightly and microwave at 100% power for 30 seconds. Discard the bread or apple and stir. If you're out of brown sugar, try substituting an equal amount of granulated (white) sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses (light or dark) for every cup of white sugar.
Butter: To soften butter, let it stand at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes (depending on the room's temperature). No time for that? Either slice it or place it between sheets of wax paper and pound with a rolling pin; the larger surface area will allow for faster softening.
Cheese: To easily shred cheese, let sit in freezer for 30 minutes. The firmer cheese is less likely to make a melted mess on your grater. To prevent hard edges from forming on older cheese, lightly oil the outsides OR rub with butter before storing.
Cottage Cheese, Sour Cream & Yogurt: Keep them fresher longer by storing carton in the refrigerator upside down.
Curry Powder: When you use commercial curry powder, combine two or more brands - each has a different mix of spices.
Dry Beans: Soak beans before cooking to soften them, which reduces cooking time, and to allow some of the gas-generating substances to dissolve into the water, making them easier to digest.
Eggs: The simplest way to tell is an egg is fresh it to observe it's shell. If it's rough and chalky, it's fresh. If it's smooth and shiny, it's old. You can also place an egg in cold salted water. If it sinks, it's fresh. If it floats, it's old. To tell if an egg is hard boiled or raw, spin it. A hard-boiled egg will spin smoothly. A raw egg will wobble. It is easier to separate eggs when they are cold.
Measuring Corn Syrup, Molasses, and Honey: Dip measuring cup or spoon either in hot water or brush with oil before pouring in the syrup. This way, you get all that's in the cup to come out.
Milk: Rinse the pan with cold water before scalding milk to prevent sticking.
Nuts: To chop or grind nuts fine in a food processor without turning them into nut butter, add 2 or more tablespoons sugar from the recipe. Toasting nuts intensifies their flavor. Fire up a skillet (high temperature) and spread pecans, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, etc. over its surface. Stir constantly. When the nuts start to turn brown, remove from the heat and reserve for use in salads, pasta, baked goods and more. Keep a constant eye on them during the process - nuts can turn from brown to black in seconds. Nuts can also be toasted in the oven (or a toaster oven). Spread on a cookie sheet, then bake at 400 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure to stir the nuts occasionally while roasting. Broken pieces will toast faster than whole nuts.
Oil For Frying: To effectively strain debris from used cooking oil, use a coffee filter placed in a funnel. (Submitted by NIKEITA)
Rice: Does your rice dry out when you reheat it? Next time, add 2 tablespoons of liquid for each cup of cooked rice. Cover and heat for a few minutes on the stove or in the oven. In the microwave, cook on high about 1 minute per cup. Fluff it with a fork and enjoy! Perk up white rice by adding chicken broth with a pinch of crumbled dried thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or basil in the cooking water.
Salt: Kosher salt and sea salt are the only salts used in my kitchen. Kosher salt is best for cooking, while sea salt is best for the table The taste of sea salt is more potent and the rigid shapes of the grains don't roll off your food as easily. Now that it has become more popular and more widely available, sea salt can be purchased iodized, which I recommend getting. When salting a dish, less is always best. As we know, you can always add more, but never take away. Less salt allows for your guests to season to their own taste, not yours.
Soy Sauce: Use light (slightly sweeter) soy sauce for marinades and dressings; use dark (slightly heavier) soy sauce for cooking and sauces.
Sugar: A sack of lumpy sugar won't be if you place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Tortillas: Tough and chewy tortillas? Try spraying tortillas with water (or running them quickly under the faucet), then sautéing them briefly in a lightly greased skillet over medium high heat.
Vanilla: Make your own vanilla by placing 2 split and chopped vanilla beans in 1 liter of vodka or bourbon. Shaking the bottle once a day, let sit for 2-3 months, or until desired color. This also makes great holiday gifts when poured into glass bottles.
Wine: Don't throw out all that leftover wine. Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.

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