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What do you do when in a Pinch? Cooking Shortcuts

Want to share somehow you cut corners cooking or in the kitchen? Perhaps you have a great idea to share that will save hassles and/or messes? Really, anything provided would be great. Please share, we'd love to hear! O=:)

A couple came to mind today while I was making a simple soup...here they are:

Cheescloth Stretch Wraps (approx. 2 doz.) -
I use these when I am squeezing lemons, key limes or any citrus that fits. It keeps the seeds from falling into whatever I am making. I can clean & reuse them several times. I find these are better than regular cheesecloth, plus they're very sturdy & have elastic on them so they fit snugly. They sell in a little bag for a few dollars. (I found mine at Cost Plus World Market)

Frozen Herbs (in a cube) -
If I have no fresh herbs on hand, in a pinch, I use these. They're really quite convenient and have come in handy several times when I forgot to buy a certain herb. They are these neat little frozen cubes, all ready to use. You just pop in the amount you want and "presto! all done!" So far, I've only tried the basil and parsley-but I like the simplicity of them-how they are proportioned and easy to use. ** I know I can make some like these in ice cube trays, but we don't have a lot of room in our freezer and these are so compact! IMO, they're reasonably priced too. (I discovered these at Trader Joe's)

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  1. I have 6 sets of measuring spoons and 3 sets of dry measuring cups. Two sets of the measuring spoons are odd sizes and 1 set of the dry measuring cups. These are time and step savers. When I doing the cookie marathon at the holidays or am just cooking a lot not having to dip twice when a recipe specifies 2/3 C. I have a 2/3 C measure. So it is one motion not two I also have a 3/4 C. measure. I in the spoons I have a 1/8 tsp. 2/3 tsp, 1 1/2 tsp. which is a half Tbs and a couple of 2 tsp. measures. I take them off of the rings and while I am cooking or baking I do not have to stop and wash a spoon or cup either. They just get used and go into the pan of hot soapy water I always have ready and that helps get clean up go very quickly.

    1. Sometimes I keep the dry ingredients for muffins already mixed up and put in a plastic container in the cubbord. So I can go directly to adding the wet ingredients. Then I mix up the dry ingredients for the next batch while the muffins are baking. Hey saving 5 minutes in the morning can be worth it.

      1. Here is one that will either be scoffed at as a Philistine practice or thought to be somehow unhealthy: I often put the microwave to work for cooking, not re-heating, when preparing a number of things for a number of people and have the stoves and ovens maxed out. Poached fish, crispy fish skin, rice, omellete as an ingredient in other dishes, small amounts of boiling water, heating plates--all in the MW. Then there is pre-heating stock where there is no longer room for the stock pot on-heat on the stove, careful (note, careful) thawing, ...The MW is just another partner in a clanging & banging kitchen at full bore.

        4 Replies
          1. re: Aromatherapy

            Well, there appears to be group that thinks plastic containers, use of plastic wrap, and the MW itself are somehow toxic.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I agree, I take advantage of the MW, especially when I need to defrost or reheat certain things. As far as plastic, I've read a lot of negativity on Web MD and Quality Health. Have you considered using ceramic or glassware for the MW? I've also been told that wax paper, parchment paper or paper towels are safer to use as a "cover". I must admit once in a while I still use plastic containers, but not wrap. Plastic wrap has received too much bad rap (sorry for the pun! ;-) for me to continue to use it in the MW.

              1. re: Mermazon

                Thank you for the thoughtful and balanced reply. Sincerely, and as an ag and food scientist who started out in biochemistry, I just don't see any grounds what so ever to fear the use of plastic wrap. And I'm (hopefully) not some old nazi jackass scientist with my head up my ...

        1. I've recently discovered citrus presses. I'm amazed at the amount of juice I can get from a lemon or lime using these presses.

          Garlic press is a huge time saver for me. I hate peeling and chopping garlic but, love cooking with it. I now have this great garlic press, I just throw in a clove, unpeeled, press and the only thing left in the chamber is the peel. Yeah! I don't have to get my hands smelly or sticky with garlic.

          The citrus press and garlic press I got from a Pampered Chef party and I swear by them!

          1 Reply
          1. re: calla0413

            I love my garlic press, but I have also done what 'thejulia' suggests below. I typically use the garlic press when I don't want to smell really garlicky and desire minced instead of smooshed. O=:)

          2. my garlic press seems to leave so much of the actual clove still inside the press which seems like a waste. is this not the case for others?

            on the garlic shortcut- this may be very basic, but i use a heavy knife and cut off the root end of the clove, then smash it with the broad side of my knife. peel slips off and it's basically minced already.

            1 Reply
            1. re: thejulia

              I don't have the problem with my garlic press. The only thing is when I first press it, because it is fiberous, it tends to still be attached to the remains inside the chamber. A plastic garlic scraping thingy comes with mine and it works great for plopping out the leftover skin out of the chamber.

              I used to smash my garlic with a knife as well...but, I'm a bit of a clutz and managed to really hurt myself once so, since then I've used all kinds of alternatives. I even resorted to using the stuff out the jar but, nothing can replace fresh pressed garlic.

              Wow, I had no idea I was this passionate about garlic!

              :)