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Food Preparation Tips

Useful and clever cooking tips for the preparation of various foods.

When a recipe calls for adding oil, garlic, and onions to a pan, always add garlic last. This keeps it from burning and tasting bitter.

Use a meat baster to make perfect pancakes every time.

To make the best and prettiest chocolate shavings, use white or milk chocolate; they are softer in texture and curl better.

To help gelatin hold its shape when unmolded, add a teaspoon of white vinegar to the recipe.

Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of cooked pudding or pie filling immediately after pouring to prevent a skin from forming.

Before chopping nuts in a food processor, dust them with flour. This keeps the nuts from sticking to the processor.

Cut a meringue pie cleanly by coating both sides of the knife lightly with butter.

To make mashed potatoes fluffier, add a pinch of baking soda along with the butter and milk.

Use flour tortillas for easy dumplings! Cut into strips and add to boiling broth, a few at a time so they do not stick together.

If you add a pinch of baking powder to powdered sugar when making frosting, it will stay creamy and not harden or crack.

Substituting applesauce for half of the amount of vegetable oil called for in your baking recipes will reduce the fat content. (Or use all applesauce, which produces a low-cal, moist product!)

Use a piece of plastic wrap the length of your pan for ease in pressing down those crispy rice treats, no more messy hands! (Try this with any bottom crumb layer to be pressed in a recipe.)

When cooking oatmeal, coat the pan with non-stick cooking spray. It keeps the oatmeal from boiling over and sticking to the pan.

If you're out of brown sugar, try substituting an equal amount of granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses (light or dark) for every cup of white sugar.

When shrimp curl into a semicircle they're done. When tightly coiled, they're overdone.

To slice mushrooms quickly and uniformly, use an egg slicer.

If you use a food processor or blender to chop dried fruit, freeze the fruit first. It well be less sticky and easier to chop.

Instead of salting gravy, enrich both the gravy's color and flavor by using a little soy sauce.

Bacon strips won't stick together if you roll up the package like a jelly roll before opening it.

Soup too thin? Prick a baking potato several times, wrap in a paper towel and microwave 5 minutes at 100% power until soft. Peel, mash and add the potato into soup.

To prevent boil-overs, apply a thin coat of cooking oil around the top of the inside of pots.

To keep a bowl steady while you mix or whip ingredients, place it on a dampened cloth.

For uniform pancakes, use measuring cups designed for dry ingredients (a 1/4-cup medium-size, 1/3-cup for big ones). Grease the cups inside and out so the batter will slip out easily. To keep the batter from dripping en route to the griddle, scrape the bottom of the measure on the rim of the mixing bowl.

When a sauce curdles, follow this procedure: Remove pan from heat and plunge into a pan of cold water to stop the cooking process. Beat sauce vigorously or pour into a blender and process until the sauce is smooth.

When ice cream is rock-hard, dip the scoop in hot water to make scooping easier.

To chop or grind nuts fine in a food processor without turning them into nut butter, add 2 or more tablespoons sugar from the recipe.

You can easily adjust the position of your holiday gelatin mold or fancy frozen bombe on its platter by slightly wetting the platter before you unmold.

Always cook pasta in salted water, but don't add the salt until the water boils. You'll need 2 tablespoons of coarse (kosher) salt for 1 pound of pasta. Salted water has a higher boiling point, so will take longer. Taste the pasta to determine if it is done. Perfectly cooked pasta should be "al dente," or firm to the bite, yet cooked through.

Another advantage to cooking pasta al dente, is that it preserves some of the vitamins and minerals that are lost into the cooking water with longer cooking times.

If the pasta is to be used as part of a dish that requires further cooking, undercook the pasta by 1/3 of the cooking time specified on the package.

The only time you should rinse pasta after draining is when you are going to use it in a cold dish, or when you are not going to sauce and serve it immediately. In those cases, rinse the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process, and drain well.

For perfectly clean-cut slices of cheesecake, briefly run a thin-bladed slicing knife through an open flame, then cut. Wipe the blade and reheat between cuts.

You can thicken a soup without using flour and butter or eggs — just purée a portion of the soup and stir it back into the pot.

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