Wednesday, 21 January 2015

10 Hints for Busy Cooks

When I am in the kitchen, I don't want to spend a lot of time hunting up obscure tools, or trying to fix mistakes. I need simple solutions that will work. These are a few things I have picked up along the way. 

Use a vegetable peeler when getting the zest/rind from a lime or lemon

  • Use a light touch and make sure to only get the outer coloured layer, leaving the white pith behind. Once you have the zest you can cut it into strips or tiny pieces. So much easier than trying to find a zester in the back of a drawer. Vegetable peelers are used almost daily while a zester gets hidden in the back underneath a half dozen other utensils.  

 Use the rest of the lemon to clean your microwave 

  • Just place the lemon into a cup of water, set it in the middle of the microwave and run it on high for a couple minutes. Then use a damp cloth to wipe the inside clean. 

You can also use a vegetable peeler to get shavings of cheese

  • If you're wanting thin shavings of cheese off a larger block, don't dig out a knife. Just use the vegetable peeler to shave off thin slices. I've done this with both parmesan and cheddar and it worked a treat. 

Add a capful of vinegar to soups or stews to lift the flavour

  • When tasting if you know it needs something, but aren't sure what and you don't want to chance adding more salt, try adding a small capful of vinegar. Malt, cider vinegar, or even red or white wine vinegar will work. 
  • A cap on a small bottle normally found in a cupboard holds about ½ -1 teaspoon. 

A capful of vinegar will also help cut some of the acidity of tomato in tomato-based dishes

  • If you normally add a bit of sugar to a tomato-based sauce or soup to cut the acidity, but are wanting to cut back on the amount of sugar you are giving your family, try a capful of vinegar instead.


Use vinegar in the laundry to soften clothes

  • I find that distilled white vinegar works best. Just add a quarter cup in place of fabric softener in the wash. This is especially useful for towels which you normally shouldn't use fabric softeners on, and keeps them soft without taking away any of their absorbency.
  • Added bonus: Using vinegar will help keep your washing machine clear of lime scale. 

Vinegar will also clear lime scale from your kettle

  • If you live in a hard water area and have problems with lime scale build up in your kettle, don't go out any buy an expensive chemical to deal with it. Just use vinegar. Fill the kettle ¾ full of water, and ¼ distilled white vinegar. Boil the kettle and let it sit for an hour.
  • Pour out the water, refill with plain water and boil again. Pour this out. Your kettle should now be clear of all but the most stubborn lime scale. If it isn't, use a stronger concentration of vinegar and let it sit overnight. 

Soak rice in water for about 20 minutes before cooking

  • It'll cook faster. Do this if you are cooking regular rice and not a quick-cook or instant rice which has been partially cooked already.
  • Place the rice in a bowl, cover it over with water. Leave it sit for about 20 minutes. Bring a pot of salted water up to a boil. Add the rice and stir until the water comes back up to a boil. Let it cook about 6 – 7 minutes for white or basmati rice, between 10 – 12 minutes for brown rice, and about 15 - 20 minutes for wild rice. Drain away any remaining water and fluff the rice with a fork. 

Add your frozen peas or corn to the water when boiling pasta or rice

  • Every parent in charge of cooking has a pasta or rice dish to which they add a handful of frozen peas or carrots or corn, or a mixer of these. Instead of cooking the vegetable up in a separate pan, just add it to the water before boiling (Otherwise the ice will take the water off the boil and you won't be able to add the pasta!) Cook and drain it off together. 

General rule for boiling vegetables

  • While I am sure there are a few exceptions (because there always are!), this general rule works for me.
    • If your vegetable grows above ground, add it to a pot of boiling salted water.
    • If your vegetable grows below ground, add it to a pot of cold salted water and then bring it up to boil.


What are your tips?