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McClellan: useful kitchen tips

Aren’t you glad when you get new advice that makes life a little easier? I especially like to know things that have been helpful in the kitchen for others.

I learned a lot from books, some through trials (and tribulations), but mostly things shared with me by people who discovered some culinary tricks or ways that I didn’t know about before.

In today’s column, you’ll find a few ideas and suggestions that can make your time planning and cooking a little easier.

First, if you have a cookbook with measurements and clues in them, you’re ahead. (I have included this information in the second and third cookbooks I have written, and I must admit that sometimes I have to turn to them for things I “knew before” but slipped through the sieve of the mind.) Some of these things you known. but if anyone gets anything that helps a little, it’s worth it.

First, I suggest that you check the recipe carefully, even if you have made it countless times, to make sure you have all the ingredients needed for the recipe, as well as the size of the container or suitable container.

replace. Also, be sure to read the instructions, not just the ingredients. Sometimes the directions aren’t the same as they used to be – maybe the eggs need to be split, or room temperature, or something else that might make a difference.

I suggest that you place the ingredients on a large enough surface so that you can move each item from one side to the other, i.e. I put the unused ingredients on the left and move them to the right after I put them in the mixture. This answers the question, “Did I put the salt in yet?”

Speaking of salt, it’s a touchy subject. Some people have cravings for food that seems too salty; others, not so much. I grew up on a diet with little to no salt because my mother learned early on that salt was bad for my father’s high blood pressure. I still prefer to cook low salt and let people at the table add salt to taste. There are a few ways to tweak a meal that happens to be too salty. If it’s a soup pot, you can add more liquid, more unsalted vegetables, and one to two tablespoons (depending on the amount of food) of lemon juice or white vinegar. Some believe that if you peel a raw potato and cut it into quarters, some of the salt will be absorbed. As expensive as almost all food is now, we can hardly afford to throw anything away.

Although dried beans, peas, and other legumes have risen in price, they are still an inexpensive way to add protein to your diet. They need to be soaked (unless you have a pressure cooker) for a few hours. One way to shorten the soaking time is to rinse the beans, etc., place in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil for two to three minutes. Turn off the heat and let the beans soak in hot water for one to two hours, depending on the bean variety.

Drain the soaking water. Add fresh water, covering the beans, and cook for one hour or less until they are soft.

There is a tip I learned earlier on how to wash pots, pans and dishes. When cleaning something loose like cookies, bread, etc., cold water should be used because hot water only hardens in a pan or bowl. If the item contains sugar, such as cake icing, candy, etc., use hot water.

— Barbara Richardson McClellan is a longtime food columnist. Email her at [email protected] or Longview News-Journal, PO Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.

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