Launch the New Year with Better Food Skills
You know the old saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” The coming New Year is the perfect time to ponder this wisdom and apply it to how we operate in the kitchen.
Following are some tips that when used, will result in better food skills. They solve some very common and pesky problems so you don’t get what you’ve always gotten!
For instance, does your artisan or homemade bread go stale and hard too soon? These breads lack the stabilizers present in commercial pre-sliced loaves, and so they go from rocking your world to rock-hard ridiculously fast. The simple solution? Freeze your bread, but freeze it correctly:
Within 24 hours (maximum) of cutting into a loaf, slice up the remaining bread. (Don't wait until it's already turned the corner; at that point, your best bet is giving leftovers a second life as croutons, breadcrumbs, or bread pudding.) But DON’T just stick the bread in the freezer unsliced. Unless your kitchen is equipped with a buzz saw, there's no chance you're going to be able to slice it without thawing the entire loaf first (trust me, I’ve tried).
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper, arrange the slices in one layer on top of that, and put it in the freezer, uncovered, until frozen solid. (The parchment will prevent the gorgeous, moist crumb of the bread from sticking to the pan, and the single layer will prevent the slices from freezing stuck to each other.)
Once the bread slices are frozen, transfer them to a re-sealable freezer bag, removing as much air from the bag as possible.
When a bread craving hits, take out just as many slices of bread as you'll eat then, and either let them thaw at room temperature, or put them directly in the toaster (they'll take about one extra minute to toast). The texture of the bread will be about 95 percent as good as fresh bread and far better than second-day, already-starting-to-go-stale bread. Stored frozen (in a re-sealable freezer bag), sliced bread will stay fresh and delicious for at least six months, if not longer.
Here’s another annoying kitchen issue: Finding moldy lemons in your fridge. Well no more. Here’s what to do differently so that you can keep them fresh for up to three months. According to food researchers at www.food.com, if you refrigerate lemons in a bowl of water, you’ll never have another moldy lemon.
Still on the citrus theme: Get more juice from your fresh lime! Cutting a lime in half barely gives you any juice . . . and that's because that's not the proper way to cut it. Rather than just cutting it in half, stand the lime up vertically on a cutting board. You might want to carefully cut off the bottom tip to make this easier (and safer!). In a similar way that you would slice around the core of an apple, use a sharp knife to cut all four sides (or cheeks) of the lime, coming close to the stem. You'll be able to squeeze out all the juice from the cheeks with little effort, and you can even get a few more drops from the core.
And here’s another thing to start doing differently: From now on, add a sprinkling of good-quality flake salt to the tops of your freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. This completely transforms their flavor and immediately elevates them. If you're not adding salt to the top of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, you're doing it wrong. (Hey, I’m just reporting the news; but this is one tip I’m trying for sure!)
Finally, and still on a sweets theme: One last thing to do differently that’s perfect for this winter season. Stop making your homemade cocoa with cocoa powder. There’s a better-tasting and easier way. Use this recipe instead and I promise, you’ll be dubbed the Hot Chocolate Guru of 2018!
LAURA VITALE’S BEST HOT CHOCOLATE
5 cups whole milk
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 (12 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add all your ingredients in a crock pot, turn it on low and let is gently simmer for 2 hours. Serve right away or switch on the warm setting to keep it nice and warm.
Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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