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Fun kitchen tips to share? - moved from Home Cooking board

I thought it would be nice for home cooks to exchange some of their ideas - cost cutters, or ones that just make things easier in the kitchen.

Here are some of mine:

I used to always throw away half used jars of pasta or pizza sauce. I just couldn't get through them before they turned moldy. Until I started keeping the jars in the freezer. Now I just thaw and freeze, thaw and freeze. It doesn't seem to affect the taste or texture at all, and I am saving money by not throwing so much away!

I buy a lot of ground meat because it is easier on my little ones to eat than bigger hunks. I will often get a lot (size discounts or sales), and freeze in freezer bags. But, my freezer was always disorganized and the meat would thaw forever. My light bulb moment came when I was flattening out the bag to get rid of the air. I kept flattening the meat until it was a think meat square that filled up the entire bag. This made my freezer so much easier to organize, and the meat thaws in about an hour now, on the counter.

You don't always know how your grocery fruit will taste. I've been disappointed countless times by flavorless melons, stone fruit, grapes, citrus. And threw it out when no one would eat it. But I've had a lot of luck taking the same fruit, pureeing or juicing it, adding some sugar and lemon juice, and putting it in the ice cream maker. It really makes mediocre fruit shine.

Do you have kitchen tips to share?

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  1. We used to waste a lot of coffee using a drip coffee maker (the coffee didn't taste that good, so no great loss. It didn't brew long enough or hot enough). We discovered the french press. Now we never have to pour coffee down the drain. If there is any left over, we save it in the fridge and drink it later as iced coffee.

    1. I find that mixing ground meats for meatloaf, or meatballs, is easier done with your KA mixer on low/medium speed is better than using your hands. Ingredients are evenly distributed without over handling or mixing (hate the feel of raw meat on my hands). Your end-product will be lighter and tastier. Don't pack down too firmly when forming into balls, or a loaf, or packing into a form. Use a light touch !

      1 Reply
      1. re: Lisbet

        I do the same thing using the dough hook, and prebeaten eggs perfect meat mix every time. Oh and I use the small (melon ball size) ice cream type scooper for the meat balls, scooped not packed they turn out tender every time.

      2. That's an excellent tip for storing the ground meat, sasha. I'm going to adapt that. Wish I had a worthwhile tip, but I'm afraid I'm the sort of person who needs to READ the thread :-). So thank you very much for starting it and thanks to others who are posting.

        1 Reply
        1. When I have leftr over fresh herbs I either put them in olive oil and refrigerate (basil and parsley) or I put them in baggies and freeze for later use.

          7 Replies
          1. re: JEN10

            (sorry not actually replying to JEN10 but I get an error message when trying to respond to the OP)

            Whenever we go on vacation we invariably have some milk in the fridge that will spoil by the time we return. I freeze the milk in ice cube trays. Makes a great addition to the kids' hot chocolate - much nicer to use a cube of milk to cool it down than a regular ice cube. :)

            1. re: maplesugar

              I'm psyched this thread finally got some responses! And this milk idea is brilliant.

              We just plugged in our garage fridge to store all the summer fruit I've been slicing and freezing, so now of course I need ideas for food to fill it up... Not that I'm going to freeze milk gratuitously, but a good idea for vacations.

            2. re: JEN10

              Refrigerating raw vegetable matter in olive oil over a prolonged period risks botulism.

              1. re: greygarious

                I go through it pretty quickly, I am Italian and use alot of basil. Thanks for the reminder GG!!!

                1. re: greygarious

                  Can you just freeze fresh herbs straight up w/o the oil?

                  1. re: JerryMe

                    I do, things like sage, thyme, oregano have done well. I got the idea from Trader Joe's; they have frozen basil, cilantro, and parsley in little cubes. I just use a freezer bag and label it and reuse it.

                    1. re: JerryMe

                      Jerryme - you can freeze herbs without the oil. I put them in quart size zipper bags, label each and press out as much air as possible before completely sealing. The assortment of bagged herbs are stored in one gallon size bag - eliminates digging around the freezer for the right little bag.

                2. I'm proud to say, great minds think alike! I have adopted to freezing leftover pasta sauce and making frozen ground meat squares, out of necessity. For me, the meat square idea was actually what I learned when I worked at a bakery, where the master baker asked me to freeze my pastry dough in thin square slabs, to help with freezing and thawing.

                  Thanks too for starting the thread. I wish I could recall more useful tips I can contribute!

                  Okay, here is what I have so far:

                  I have a burner stove top at home, and that's where I leave things that I want to defrost quickly, be it milk bags or frozen meat. The conductivity of the metal seems to help speed up the thawing process. Of course you need to make sure the stove is off :)

                  I also tend to travel a lot on a whim, and the freezer is my friend for avoiding wasted food. I have been experimenting with what kinds of fresh produce can go in with minimum preparation, and be thawed and reused reasonably (many can't). The latest discovery is that, I can freeze whole oranges and other citrus, and then thaw them to be used, within a day, for juicing, with no compromise in flavour. Having been frozen, the skin turns mushy but it still works pretty well.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tarteaucitron

                    Also found from a last minute kitchen sweep before travel I dumped a basket of citrus and avocado into a freezer bag and stuck in the freezer. The avocado when defrosted was still bright green, the texture was only good for a spread or guacamole but the taste was the same. I also found that zesting the citrus is easier when frozen (less pith), zest into a baggie or foil and put zest back in freezer before defrosting or juicing. Actually I now pop any citrus in the freezer that I'm not going to use in time, I'm usually on top of the avocados:-)

                  2. My family loves the flavored unsweetened teas like Republic of Tea or Teas Tea, but they are so danged expensive. Instead I spend 99 cents on a gallon of drinking water and a bunch of different flavors of regular and herbal teas. I fill my 4-cup pyrex measuring cup with a portion of the water, put in 10-12 various tea bags, and microwave it for 4 minutes. I let it steep until cooled, remove the tea bags ending up with 4 cups or so of very strong tea concentrate. It then goes back into the jug (because that's where the water came from in the first place), and I have a gallon of really tasty tea for about $2.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: cycloneillini

                      I used to steep my teas for iced tea. Now I just fill a pitcher with filtered tap water, toss in a bunch of herbal tea bags, and let it sit on the counter for a few hours. It does the trick, without ever turning on the stove.

                      This other trick of mine - it's not rocket science, but maybe someone could use it. My family loves bakery-baked artisanal bread, pretty much to the exclusion of any plastic-bagged bread at the grocery store. But it goes stale within 2-3 days, especially the baguettes. Before it gets hard as a rock, but when it's fairly stale, I cut it in slices and put in a plastic bag in the fridge or freezer. This way, I'm always ready to whip up a batch of french toast, stuffing, bread pudding, panzanella, etc. If I forget to slice it until it's rock solid, I use a heavy duty knife to pry chunks off and toss it in the cuisinart for bread crumbs. No more wasted bread!

                      1. re: sasha1

                        I find that most bread freezes really well. Just don't try to thaw it with a microwave. it doesn't take too long to thaw on a countertop. My roommate and I get sandwich bread from a small bakery, and we just toss what we won't use right away in the freezer and it thaws out just fine!

                        1. re: spellweaver16

                          I don't remember where I picked up this tip, but when we used to buy really big loaves from the bakery, I would cut it in half, wrap one half in plastic, then tin foil, then freeze it. Later in the week, I'd thaw it in the fridge overnight, then dampen it slightly and reheat it in a 425 oven for 10 minutes. It tasted almost like the day I bought it - a little crunchier.

                          But it's nice to have stale bread around too, you know? So many good uses for it...

                      2. re: cycloneillini

                        I learned to make iced tea by filling a pitcher with water, tossing in 4 tea bags (without the paper tags!) and putting the pitcher in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours (2-3 days is OK) before removing the tea bags. Super easy and works great!

                      3. I've mentioned this tip before - think I originally got it on the home cooking board...I freeze leftover wine in zip lock bags. Then, I can add it to stews, spaghetti sauce, etc. If the bag is flat, I can just break off a piece of wine, and add to a recipe as needed. Someone suggested putting it in ice cube trays, but I find the bag much simpler, and it takes up less room in the freezer.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: critter101

                          Leftover wine? What's that? Never heard of it at my house :-)

                        2. Large black&silver binder clips from the office supply store have multiple household uses: rolling up the ends of food and toothpaste tubes, on the edge of a pot or lid to keep the lid ajar or hold a spoon, holding parchment paper in place on a baking sheet (they are ovensafe to at least 375 - I never baked them higher than that), holding a cookbook open or a recipe card to the stove hood, and of course to seal plastic bags.

                          1. I keep a couple of sheets of 1" x 2-1/2" white labels on the fridge along with a pen. All leftovers, whether they go into the fridge or freezer, get labeled with contents and date. I find things get used up much more quickly when they're easily identified. Plus it gives my wife's collection of refrigerator magnets something to do!

                            1. Recently discovered tubes of tomato paste. I've come across several recipes that just call for a tablespoon of tomato paste and was wasting cans of it at a time. The tubes seem to last a year for me.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: Rick

                                Alternative to this that I use is to take my toaster oven tray, cover it with wax paper, dollop on tablespoons of tomato paste, and freeze into "single serve" bits. Slip into a freezer bag and label, and they're ready to go in soups, stews, etc.

                                  1. re: 4Snisl

                                    This is a great idea, and a lot cheaper than a tube of tomato paste.

                                    Mushrooms go bad so quickly, but if you store the mushrooms in a brown lunch bag in the fridge, they keep fresh longer.

                                    1. re: mcel215

                                      I buy tubes of tomato paste for under $2, and it's double concentrate.

                                      1. re: Rick

                                        Really? Double concentrate, thanks.

                                        1. re: Rick

                                          I have also converted to the tubes! Much more economical and they last forever!

                                          1. re: FoodChic

                                            With 6-oz cans of tomato paste routinely on sale for 50 cents, and costing even less per ounce in larger sizes, I disagree that the tubes are more economical, even if they are more concentrated. I do keep one in the refrigerator for the rare occasions when I need only a spoonful and don't have any frozen dollops. Does anyone else find that the tube stuff tastes better than the canned? The latter sometimes tastes of metal but although the tubes are metallic, I don't think it carries into the paste. IF the tubes were as economical as the cans, I'd use them exclusively.

                                            1. re: greygarious

                                              As infrequently as I use tomato paste, i don't mind spending two bucks a year on a tube of it. I also actually like the tubed paste on top of already made pizza sometimes!

                                    2. re: Rick

                                      I have powdered tomato , which I can reconstitute into tomato paste as needed.

                                      1. re: Rick

                                        Tubes of tomato sauce are wonderful, and sadly rare in North America. No tube of tomato sauce or harissa would last a year in my house, though!

                                        1. re: Rick

                                          I've posted this on CH before... I spread the contents of a can of tomato paste onto a piece of plastic wrap, then roll it into a tube (think slice-and-bake cookie dough) about 1" in diameter. Twist the ends, pop it into a ziploc bag, and throw in the freezer. When you need some tomato paste, just remove from the freezer and slice it off with a sharp knife - a 1/2" slice is about 1 T.

                                        2. I always freeze leftover rice - it makes a recipe requiring cooked rice *so* much easier.
                                          The larger bags make getting a quick dinner easier, too. I soak two pounds of dried beans, than drain and freeze - they're ready to go. Anything that takes a long time to cook, I batch, then freeze for later dinners. I make breadcrumbs out of stale bread, or croutons.
                                          I buy colored sweet peppers on sale, slice and freeze. I buy the making for eggs benedict (except the eggs of course) and pizza and place them in freezer bag kits (canadian bacon or ham and English muffins, various meats and veggies for pizza - all wrapped seperately then frozen in one bag).

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: bayoucook

                                            I always freeze leftover rice

                                            I usually make extra when making rice just so can freeze some. Real handy for those "I really don't feel like cooking" nights.

                                          2. I use spent citrus rinds to scrub stainless pans in which whatever I've cooked--meat, veggies, eggs--has stuck to the bottom. They work wonders (a sort of deglazing effect), making the pans shiny. An added bonus is my hands smell great afterwards. Then I toss them into the disposal to give it a good freshening. If I have rinds w/out pans to scrub, I save them in a zip-lock bag in the fridge until I need them.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                              So do you do this to a hot pan, or under water in the sink?

                                              1. re: Rick

                                                I let the pan cool, squirt a little detergent into the pan, scrubbing w/the rinds and whatever pulp is attached, as I would with a sponge or nylon scrubber, and rinse w/warm water.

                                              2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                Orange peels are good for garbage disposals, too. Just run some through and it helps clean the blades and deodorize.

                                                1. re: spellweaver16

                                                  Another garbage disposal tip - run a handful of ice cubes throught the disposal to sharpen the blades.

                                                  1. re: spellweaver16

                                                    Actually, I find any citrus peels work fine.

                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                      You know...I hadn't really thought of that. I feel silly!

                                                      1. re: spellweaver16

                                                        No need. My friend won't put any citrus peels in her garbage disposal, on the theory that the GD won't be able to handle them. Now, that I find silly.

                                                2. Forgot to add I like to buy a large Costco size bag of lemons or limes when they're at a good price, juice them, then pour the juice into ice cube trays. Each cube is 1 tablespoon of juice. Just put into a freezer bag and they keep a long time.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. I have one of those hanging cloth sleeves for dispensing recycled plastic grocery bags. But I also like to re-use bags of varying size. Iused to roll them up and hold them that way with an elastic band - but often they'd dry out and snap, and I couldn't always tell what size the bag was until I unrolled it. Now I use the cardboard tubes from paper towels or toilet paper. I cut them into half-inch rings to put around rolled bags. I can write the size of the bag on the ring.

                                                    1. I have a smallish burlap bag that I store used ziploc bags in ( the ones that had a sandwich or something that didn't really dirty the bag, yet the bag could not be considered "new"). Then, when I'm cleaning out the fridge and/or come across some old casserole or something odious that needs to be thrown out, I dump it into a used ziploc, then throw that in the trash. Not only does it keep the garbage can neater, it helps with any odor when garbage pickup is days away.

                                                      1. I drink a lot of soda water and when there is some in the bottle at the end of the night I will freeze it ...makes super cool ice cubes

                                                        I also freeze chopped Jalapeano in ice cube trays and a bit of water ( I had 4 trees produce a record amount this year) - great to add to salsa, corn muffins, eggs, you name it
                                                        I have a nice bottle that I put dishwahing liquid in, fill half way, the fill the remaining of the way with water. (Saves $$$)

                                                        When deboning chicken or making wings and you have that little "wing flap" place bone and flap in a zip lock and save to make your own stock ...also save end cuts of your onion and celery for the stock also

                                                        We recently had a big amount of cod fish cake mix and even thought it is made with potatoes we were worried about freezing to save, well we did and when we defrosted all we had to do was drain the mix for about 20 minutes and it was good to go.

                                                        Use coffee grounds for your garden (acid loving plants)

                                                        Left over coffee I pour into a pitcher and place in the fridge for Cold Coffee Coolers!

                                                        You can also use a ice tray for your frozen herbs and just pop a cube out as needed (just mix the herb with a small amount of water)

                                                        1. Though I have pretty much given up on the Dr. Oz show, since there's too much repetition and hype, I paused mid-surf today to watch some viewer tips.

                                                          One was for keeping recipe print-outs or open magazines splash-free and out of the way when cooking. Clip the recipe/magazine into a pants hanger, and hang it from the knob of an upper cabinet.

                                                          Another applied to cooling and freezing containers of solid food. When their consistency allows, make a well in the center of the food, which accelerates cooling even if you don't put a container of ice into the well. Make a well in the food after you place it into a freezer container, too. It will thaw faster and more evenly; ditto for reheating it in the container in the microwave.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                            That second tip was still rattling around in my brainpan today as I cooked a large amount of leeks and mixed dark greens in my saucier. I wanted to cream them, so it was necessary to cook off most of the exuded liquid. Instead of the usual frequent stirring, I pushed the cooked greens to the perimeter of the saucier, so the liquid all pooled in the middle, in the area of greatest heat, with maximum exposure to the air. The evaporation went considerably faster. Self-administered, metaphorical dope-slap for not having thought of that ages ago.

                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                              I might have just drained in a colander/strainer, and frozen the liquid for soup, later.

                                                          2. When I buy a bunch of celery, I wrap it in aluminum foil before storing it in the refrigerator. It lasts much longer this way, for weeks!

                                                            1. My old chain got revived :) !
                                                              Here's another tip for folks with tastes similar to mine anyway. I find bread and butter pickle chips too sweet, but sometimes dill pickles are too sour and I want a hint of sweetness. I end up keeping the dill juice from used up pickle jars and dumping all my hamburger chips into the dill juice after draining them from the liquid they're sold in. A week or so of sitting in their new juice and they have a great sweet-sour taste to them.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: sasha1

                                                                Although I love dill pickles as-is, those sound delicious. I've always thought bread and butter were far too sweet, but I'd love to try a hybrid. Someone should market those!

                                                              2. We live in an apartment, and do not have a compost for food waste. But we do have a weekly neighborhood food waste drop. So, at our home, we put food scraps into a reusable container or heavy zip bag, and then, flattened, into the freezer. No smell,no mess; and best of all, less smell for the drop stop attendants, too!

                                                                1. To easily make pulled pork, without a mess, use your Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle attachment. Place chunks of cooked pork shoulder in the mixer and run on low with the paddle attachment. The mixer will knock the pork apart making pulled pork. If the pulled pork is a little dry, add a little broth or water and mix for a few seconds.