A Few Favorite Tips and Tricks From Liz
Continuing to wade through recipes and ideas for the cookbook I often come across favorite hints, tips and ideas to share and include in the book. I love finding an easier better way of doing something and have accumulated such a collection I could do a whole book on just that!
Here are a couple of favorites. For anyone who has attended class, they may sound familiar.
Preparing to Get Ready to Cook
The very first step to take when getting ready to prepare a new recipe is to sit down and take a few minutes to read the entire recipe carefully visualizing each step and process. Pay careful attention to the modifiers. Recipes will give you important information that tell you how to prepare each ingredient, such as dice this, chop that, but the placement of modifiers can make a world of difference.
A recipe could say 1 cup of rice, cooked or 1 cup of cooked rice. This explains if you should take 1 cup of rice and cook it, versus using 1 cup of cooked rice — a difference of 2 cups! Another example would be 1 cup of nuts, chopped versus 1 cup of chopped nuts. This seems like a simple thing, but can make a real difference in the recipe success. Also, make sure before you begin you really do have all the ingredients!
Your Freezer — Put This Beast to Work!
Mine is stocked with a wide variety of “ice cubes.” Many items can be frozen in small quantities that come in so handy when you need “just-a-bit” of something. I use ice cube trays to freeze such items as lemon & lime juice, broth, tomato paste, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, coconut milk, bacon grease and egg whites (thawed whites will whip more quickly than fresh!).
A few items require just a bit of prep to freeze successfully, such as herbs like parsley, basil, tarragon and cilantro: chop, place in ice cube tray, top with water and freeze. They will be great added to soups and stews, but not in place of fresh herbs. Freeze chopped garlic in a bit of oil and grate fresh ginger before freezing as whole ginger gets spongy when frozen.
A few foods you may not think of but when stored in the freezer will stay fresh for a long time — nuts, seeds, grains, coffee (beans or ground), flours, dry yeast, breadcrumbs, granola and raw rice.
In order to have maximum space, easy access, and quick identification, my favorite way to freeze items is in freezer plastic bags — laying them flat to freeze. When frozen they can be stored on edge, like books on a bookshelf, which saves a ton of space. They will defrost quickly, either lying flat on the counter or under running water. Be sure to label each item with its content, weight and date — I use blue painters tape and a black sharpie. In a perfect world it would be great to label the sides of each package but I’ve found that because of the irregular shapes and edges its hard to keep the tape on or read the information on them.