Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Random Kitchen Tips

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! Mine has been busy with cooking, working out, reading, and teaching summer school (which will be over tomorrow). Not much time for travelling and camping (yet), but I’m not complaining. It is so hot outside that playing outdoors in this heat is out of the question. In the meantime, let me share with you some kitchen tips, food ingredient combinations, food preservation techniques, and so on. Hope you will find these tips helpful, if you are not already aware of them.

1. How to freshen up carrots that have gone soft…

If you love buying carrots at the farmers market or the organic section at your grocery store, they usually come with the greens. So you have teeny carrots hiding underneath a bush of greens poking out of your bag. This bunch then gets stuffed into the refrigerator. Apparently, carrots not separated from the greens will cause them to go soft if not used within 3 days or so, maybe less.

One thing you can do is cut the carrots off the greens before putting them away in the refrigerator. IF you forget to do that, no biggie: Just snip off the carrots and give them a nice 2-4 hour ice bath. They will firm up and become good as new. I did it and it worked!

A huge thanks to this website for the valuable information!

2. Cantaloupe and fresh mint leaves are lovely together.

Because I tend to buy too much produce during the summer, some of them get overlooked. Take for instance the baby size cantaloupe that was hidden behind a bunch of onion greens. I forgot about it and only remembered to cut it up after it has gone just a wee bit beyond its perfectly ripe stage. Even though it was a small cantaloupe, it was still too much for two people, so I planned on serving it at our dinner party anyway. Maybe with some fresh basil, my guests won’t mind the slight overripe taste?

However, DFJ suggested tossing in some mint instead. Being the good girlfriend that I am, I followed his advice. It was the best idea ever, the mint totally freshened up the cantaloupe! Even if your cantaloupe is not overripe, I recommend you try this… cantaloupe already tastes awesome by itself but the mint sure livens it up.

3. Pineapple frozen yogurt + vanilla ice cream + raspberries + few mint leaves = a very delicious ice cream shake.

I made some homemade pineapple frozen yogurt that didn’t turn out so great. But in my determination not to waste it, I threw scoops of it in the blender, along with raspberries, a big scoop of store-bought vanilla ice cream, and a few mint leaves. My oh my! It made for the best ice cream shake I have ever had.       

4. Liven up pesto based pasta dishes with some cumin, paprika, an extra dash of salt, and some fresh lemon juice.

I made the mistake of not tasting the pasta before serving it during our dinner party last Friday. The realization sunk in after my first bite… It wasn’t bad but it was bland. Somehow, I thought the salt in the basil pesto that I made was enough, but when stirred into pasta, it amounts to nothing. Fortunately, my friends still ate it and declared it good. They were just being polite. I wish I could have invited them over the next day for leftovers. The dish was so good after some add-ons of cumin, paprika, more salt, and fresh lemon juice.

5. If you want to clean your house but have zero motivation to do so, invite your friends over for an impromptu dinner party. You will then have no choice but to clean your house and it gets done pretty darn fast too. Also, dinner parties don't have to be book perfect... All you need are good friends (they have to come hungry), good food, and good wine.

6. Use your collection of old magazines.

Two years ago, my good friend, Bethany, gave me a one-year subscription of bon appétit. I love all the issues (what’s not to love about bon appétit?) and couldn’t bear to part with them or to let them gather dust.

Solution: I pulled out my copy of last year’s July issue, set it out on the counter for easy perusal access to get in-season inspirations and kitchen tips. Unlike fashion, fresh seasonal food will be the same every year. So cooking tips from July 2011 will still be useful for July 2012, 2013, and so on. This is something I will do at the beginning of each month from now on. Then, my magazines will be used over and over again!     

7. Tasteless fruit is good for baking.

We all know that overripe fruits are good for baking right? How about deceptive fruits that look and feel ripe but do not taste good? In fact, they do not taste like anything at all… just pulpy and flat. Should we consider them good for nothing except for compost or the garbage? NO! Please no! Give it a honey or sugar bath and bake it in a cake or a sweet, quick bread. The fruit will absorb the sugars and the oven heat will allow its sweetness to come out. 

8. Store your berries right and make them last longer.

First, prepare a plastic container lined with a paper towel on the bottom. Have the paper towels handy because you will need more than one.

Second, remove the berries from their container and inspect them one by one for mold (hopefully, you have time to do this as it can be tedious and will make you want to scream and pull your hair out). Place the berries on the paper towel, making sure to give them space to breathe. Put another paper towel layer and place more berries on top (if there’s more). Add more paper towel and berry layers as needed and cover with an airtight lid. Make sure there is enough space between the topmost layer of berries and the lid because you do not want to smash the berries.

Third, store in the refrigerator. Wash the berries only right before using or eating them. Washing beforehand will cause them to mush up and get moldy sooner.

9. Freeze extra summer fruits and vegetables efficiently.

It is always good to arm ourselves for the winter… especially if we have an overabundance of zucchini, tomatoes, stone fruits, and berries. The best way to do this is to freeze, freeze, and freeze. We all do this, right? I have some tips on how to freeze our bounty so we have easy access when it’s time to use them.  

Wash fruits or vegetables first and dry them well. Then cut them up (if needed) and measure them by a cup or half a cup. Put the measured produce in plastic storage bags and store in the freezer. This may be a tedious process at first. But trust me, it pays off. When you need to use these come winter, you don’t need to defrost an entire gallon bag or hack the icy stuff with a knife. That can be cold and dangerous. With your fruits or veggies already measured out in separate containers, you can just grab a bag or two of the amount you want and cook with it. Easy peasy!

10. Get a copy of A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. This is a must have in your cookbook shelf. Actually, I will have more on this in a blog post sometime this week or the next. Uh, if you’re wondering, she doesn’t know me but I am slightly obsessed with her.

Hope you guys find this helpful… if you have any tips to add on, please feel free to share! I need lots of tips!  


  1. I had no idea about the berry thing! This sounds pretty useful!
    I have never heard of this cookbook, but I will look it up!
    Sorry, I have no tips, I am still new to this cooking business, I'm still learning :)

    1. This is a cookbook/ memoir... Keep your eye out for it. You will love her!

  2. I LOVE these tips! I also pull out that months issues of my Bon Appetit's for seasonal recipe ensures I remember old recipes that I just didn't get around to. :)

    I met Molly while in Seattle for BlogHer! She was very pregnant and very cute!

    1. What? I am so jealous! Also, I saw pictures of you with Alyssa of Everyday Maven and Sarah of 20 something cupcakes, I so wish I could have met you all.

  3. Hi Margarita, I hope you find sometime to enjoy yourself too! Great tips!

    1. Don't worry Katerina... I'm dying to go camping this summer and will make sure that happens before I have to work again!


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