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Tasty Tip Tuesday: The Damp Towel Trick

Today’s tip is simple: a damp towel will clean off your counters!

Kidding. I mean, a damp towel will clean counter tops half-ass, but that’s not what my damp towel trick is for. My trick comes in handy when you’re chopping away and can’t seem to make that cutting board stand still.

Well, when you’ve got a squirmy cutting board, make it stand still with a damp paper towel! Get the towel wet, wring it out, then place it on the counter with the cutting board on top. It will essentially stick the cutting board in place, leaving you with a stable cutting surface.

Found via google images

Just call me Houdini.

Tasty Tip Tuesday: Chopsticks

I wish my tip was how to properly hold and use chopsticks in the traditional way, but I’m white as white can be. Just ask my dance moves.

Instead, I’m going to tell you a secret about scrambling eggs. I often feel like people don’t know there’s an art to it. Scrambled eggs can either be delicious or highly despicable. If you use chopsticks, they’re the former.

Chopstick experts: how's my form look?

Some people add lots of milk or cream to their eggs thinking it will make them creamier. Not so, my friends. The secret to creamy eggs is low heat (fry high, scramble low) and chopsticks!

See the curds starting to form? Well, look closer then.

Stirring eggs with some chopsticks will help break those eggs up into small and creamy curds. Make sure you constantly stir with the chopsticks while you shake the pan to help break up those curds nice and small.

Stir, Baby, Stir! Chopstick Inferno.

See? Beautiful. Another tip is to take those eggs off when they still look moist. The carry-over heat will continue to cook them. So to keep those eggs from being a rubbery hot mess, take them off the heat early.

Excuse the paper plate...

And another benefit of using chopsticks? They play nice with teflon. Of course, silicone-tipped chopsticks would be even better.

No one steal that. I’m copyrighting it. In fact, I’m sending it over to be patented right…..now.

How do you use chopsticks in cooking? Ever used them to scramble your eggs?

p.s. sorry for yesterday’s dull post. I’ve got a throat infection and had yet to receive any antibiotics. Two pills have made me feel my chipper self again! My sarcasm and bad-joking making may now continue.

Nom nom nom nom nom

Tasty Tip Tuesday: Peeling Garlic

Garlic sure is tasty, but preparing it can be irritating. My mom always used prepared garlic growing up, sparing herself the hassle, but I’m a fan of all-things fresh.

The good news is, peeling garlic can be super easy. You just gotta know the tricks of the trade.

Here are some easy ways to peel the stubborn cloves:

Microwave: Pop your required cloves in the micro for 5 seconds and watch the peels slip right off. Careful though—if they spend too long in there they pop around like popcorn and get too hot and mushy to cut.

Chef’s knife: This is the classic way. Just turn your chef’s knife on its side and smash it down with your palm on top of the garlic. The peel will slide off.

Shake it up: If you’ve got lots of garlic to peel, break up the bulb, put it in a stainless steel bowl, put another bowl on top of it and shake it like a polaroid picture (OutKast-style) for 10 seconds. Your garlic will be wonderfully naked when you’re done. Like here:

Tell me, how do you guys peel your garlic?

Tasty Tip Tuesday: Against the Grain

Going “against the grain” has kind of been my life motto. It has never been pleasant for my mother, I’m sure, but I blame it all on Middle-Child Syndrome (MCS). MCS is not a joking matter, people. It’s real, and it’s real bad.

However, going against the grain when talking about food is a delicious thing. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Let me ‘splain.

Meat has a “grain.” Sewers (those who sew, not where our waste goes) will know what I’m talking about. It’s the way fibers run, both in fabric and meat. See them here?

The grain runs from left to right, so I sliced this sucker from top to bottom

Well those fibers can be tough to chew. However, when you cut them crosswise, you make them tender and juicy. This guy explains it in a wonderfully hilarious way. Take your time to read it and laugh out loud.

So next time you grill a steak, make sure to look out for the grain and cut against it. You’ll get tender, juicy slices of steak that melt in your mouth, even if your steak is a tougher cut.

Tri Tip gettin' the tender treatment

Tasty Tip Tuesday: The Wooden Spoon Trick

In college, I used to sit and watch my pasta boil and constantly blow on the hot pot to prevent a boil over.

Stef probably watched and laughed at me 50 times before she finally got out a wooden spoon and stretched it across the pot so I could be more productive while my pasta cooked. It was a trick she had learned from her mom.

As time went on, I learned to do this to any pot of boiling pasta water when I wasn’t near it. It truly works! Lay a wooden spoon over that pot and it will refuse to boil over.

Of course, I did some Googling (because researching is soo 20th century!) and found that there was a type of science to this trick. It’s not just an old wives tale! *Note: However, the old wifey adage that says if you step on a crack you break your mother’s back IS just a wive’s tale. Promise.

So we all know wood is a horrible heat conductor (we do all know that, right?). When you place a wooden utensil over a hot pot of boiling pasta water, the hot water tends to shy away from the cool object. In addition, the spoon breaks up the bubbles once they get to the top thereby preventing a boil over. Read more here.

So next time you’re boiling water and would not like to lose 12 minutes of your life, put a spoon on it!

Oh, and the next time you want to call something art, put a bird on it:

Tasty Tip Tuesday: Mise en Place

I like to use French whenever I can because it makes me sound all sophisticated and stuff.

So today’s tip is simple: make a mise en place. (pronounced: meece on plahs). It basically means “putting in place,” or having a place for everything.

When I cook, I get all my ingredients out and measured and put away in bowls so when it comes time to execute the recipe, I’m prepared.

I grate all my cheeses and have them ready in a bowl:

I get my spices ready with the measuring spoons:

I cut up all my herbs or vegetables and set them aside:

I pour my broth or milk in a measuring cup and have it ready to go:

You get the idea. Having a mise en place REALLY makes a difference in cooking. You’re not running around trying to find ingredients or trying to chop that onion before your butter melts and clarifies.

Read through the recipe, prep all ingredients and set them aside. It will make your cooking more enjoyable and run more smoothly.

Also, mise en place really speeds up the clean time. As you use each ingredient, rinse out the bowl or dish it was sitting in and load it in the dishwasher or drop it in the sink of hot, sudsy water. By the time your dish is done, your dishes will be done, too! ;)

Tasty Tip Tuesday: When to Rinse Pasta

For the most part, rinsing pasta is a sin in the kitchen.

So is trying to clean up after me while I’m still cooking (coughMaxcough).

The starchy water that pasta cooks in actually helps sauce stick to the pasta. That’s why you should always save the pasta water—you can actually make a base for a sauce with that starchy water.

However, there are times when your pasta should get a good rinse.

If you’re making a cold pasta salad, like yesterday’s Greek Orzo Salad, you should rinse the pasta with cold water. It gets rid of all the starchiness and makes for a tastier cold-pasta salad. Also, when you rinse it in cold water, it helps significantly cool down the pasta so you can make your cold-pasta salad faster.

Tasty Tip Tuesday: Crisp Greens

Is there anything worse than a warm salad or limp greens? Me thinks not.

Speaking of warm salads…

The way I like to prepare my salads is a way I learned while nannying. I rinse off the leaves of the lettuce, rip it up into a glass or steel bowl and make sure to dry well (use a salad spinner if you have one. Those things are a must with salads.)

Then get a paper damp damp with water, lay it over the salad and set it in the fridge or the crisper for a couple hours.

White Trash...literally!

If I know I’m having salad for dinner, I throw everything in the salad bowl (save for the dressing, of course), put the paper towel on top and let it sit in the fridge like that all day. The salad is nice and cold and crispy for dinner. Just take it out, remove the paper towel, toss and dress!

You’ll have icy cold, crisp greens. Ah, thank you!

Tasty Tip Tuesday: Garlic Germs

Is your garlic sprouting some green shoots? That’s called a “germ” and it’s pretty harmless.

If you’re chopping up some garlic for a marinade or to use for some cooked spinach, remove the germ. If you leave it in there, the garlic can retain a bitter taste.

Germy

Simply cut the garlic clove in half, and lift the germ out of both sides with a pairing knife.

Less Germy

If you’re roasting the garlic or throwing it in a crockpot, don’t bother. The germ will lose all bitterness when slow-roasted.

Look out for a roasted garlic tutorial, coming your way in a Free For All Friday.

The Vampire Orange

Citrus. Say it out loud. Really…do it. Doesn’t the word itself just sound light and fresh, not to mention delicious? Citrus…ah!

Over here in SoCal we’re lucky because we have some of the best local citrus. Not the gross stuff at the grocery store chains, I’m talking about the fresh, locally-grown-with-love stuff. I’m completely spoiled, now that I get to buy, taste, and write about the Coronado Farmers Market.

I always buy a huge bag of Valencia oranges from a farm called Polito Family Farms (read all about them and their yummy citrus offerings here!). They’re the best oranges you will EVER TASTE IN YOUR LIFE–even if you’re in Florida and think that YOU have the best oranges. You’re wrong  ;) (shoutout to Julia P. who really is way over in Florida!)

This past week, the Polito farm had some blood oranges (one of my faves!) so I bought a couple of those to take home. They’re small, about the size of a tangerine, and pack some serious punch when it comes to flavor. They’re awesome.

Ever tried blood oranges? While their name may not be appetizing, their flavor is one to relish. They get their red pigment from a genetic mutation and contain a flavor that’s something like a mix between an orange and a raspberry (also two of my favorite flavored liqueurs).

Blood Orange Wedge

And yes. They taste as good as they look. Go to your local farmers market and snatch some up, as these ruby fruits are only available in the winter! Then try out some of these ways to utilize the rare fruit.

Ways to use blood oranges:

  • Juice and drink
  • Zest on top of chicken or rice
  • Segment into a best-dressed salad of arugula and avocado
  • Substitute your regular orange juice in your mimosa with blood orange juice
  • Make frozen fruit pops with the juice for a healthy after-school snack
  • Dice the fruit with some cilantro, onion, jalapeno peppers, and some salt and pepper. Toss well and serve on top of tilapia
  • Add some blood orange juice to your favorite margarita recipe

Got any good ideas to use blood oranges for? Tell me in the comments!

Blood Orange

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