Been a while since one of these got started, so here we go!
I have a set of metal piping tips (for frosting, devilled egg filling, etc.) but don’t bake much. The metal tips get a LOT of use in our house, though… because we eat tacos.
Why, you may ask? Because store-bought taco shells (I know, I know - and we do have a fryer. But Taco Night is code for Tired/Lazy Night) always are stale right out of the box. A few minutes in the toaster oven restores them to their glorious crunchiness … but they often start to fold closed while being heated, making them difficult to fill.
Metal piping tips are the perfect support column!
If you like cream/half & half in your coffee, keep a couple mini cans of evaporated milk in your cupboard for those inevitable days when you run out of the real stuff and it’s early in the morning and hell if you’re going to run to the store just to get cream. It’s not exactly the same flavor, but it’s good and those cans last forever.
if you burn something onto a pan, get it hot on the stove, then throw a little water in the pan. Let it boil for a few minutes, then scrape with a spatula. Most stuff comes right up.
When you order a pizza, turn the oven on as low as it’ll go. When the pizza shows up, put it in the oven, close the door, and turn the oven off. After 5 or 10 minutes, even a cold pizza tastes like it’s just out of the oven.
That trick also works for frozen bread. If you buy one of those nice rustic loaves or baguettes and can’t eat the whole thing, throw it in the freezer. When you want to eat it, pop it in the oven at 375 or so for about 10 minutes. Tastes just like it’s fresh baked. Heck, I do this even with day-old bread, it tastes that much better. (This works because contrary to what you might think, bread goes stale because it absorbs humidity. Heating in the oven dries it out, which makes it taste fresh again.)
I use a pizza cutter on the kids pancakes. Quick, neat, and they stay stacked up how they like. It also works really well for cutting up a whole bunch of parsley or other herbs easily. It also works for celery, peppers, onions, whatever and I don’t have to deal with the food processor. That thing is one big pain in my . Not so good for tomatoes though.
The simplest and best kitchen habit I have is to wash as I cook. Any down time in the cooking is spent cleaning utensils/dishes/appliances I am done using, so by the time the food is ready the kitchen is already mostly clean. I HATE having a sink full of piled up dirty kitchen stuff.
Get a skillet red-hot and put the pizza slices directly in it. The bottom re-crisps right up right about the time the heat reaches the cheese and gets it melty again. I learned this from America’s Test Kitchen, and those guys are always right.
Pizza: use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut pre-sliced pizza (I know it’s pre-sliced, but it never pulls into neat slices, no matter what the commercials show!) If you use a knife, it’ll drag the melty cheese all over the place; a pair of scissors won’t.
Spoon-rest: use a damp, clean kitchen sponge as a spoon rest while you’re cooking; makes it easy to wipe up spills as you go, absorbs anything ucky on the spoons, and can be popped right into the dishwasher on the top rack!
Speaking of scissors, I use them to cut up cooked spaghetti. I hate having noodles dangling down my chin like Cthulu, tradition be damned. This is only in the privacy of our own home, mind you.
In case you don’t have a pizza cutter, the most versatile blade in our knife drawer is an ulu. Using that rocking blade is perfect for chopping vegetables and herbs. A few friends from work and I took a cooking class together, and I brought an ulu to the class. Each one of them bought an ulu of their own after seeing mine at work. I’d provide a link to one, but I’m posting from an iPod and I don’t know how to do that. It’s worth investigating!
Freezing a big ziptop bag of peels and ends from vegetables and herbs you use in cooking, and those “just a day off” soft ones from your fridge, in order to make homemade broth or stock is one most people probably know. I do that, and I do other bags filled with chicken carcasses, trimmings, and even the bones left from dinners (I figure the long simmer of stock making will kill any cooties.)
The clever part is that if you make stock and then keep boiling off the water, you can make condensed stock. Like, really condensed. And then you can freeze it, and it doesn’t take up nearly so much space. I recently made 40 cups of good chicken stock (out of, essentially, frozen garbage) into 40 ice cubes of condensed chicken stock. When I want a cup of stock, instead of using bullion, I grab a cube out of the freezer, plunk it in a measuring cup and fill it to the 1 cup line with hot water. The other night, my SO made a wonderful chicken/pasta dish, and used a cube of stock with only about 1/2 a cup of water, so it made a very rich “sauce” that just coated the noodles.
The trickiest part is getting the condensed stock cubes out of the ice cube trays. Just briefly dip them in hot water and then use a blunt knife to pop them out. For some reason, they won’t crack out of the trays like ice will.
I’ve read in cooking magazines that once the stock cubes are frozen solid, you should pop them out of the ice cube tray and put them in a gallon sized freezer bag and press out as much air as possible so that the bag doesn’t take up too much freezer space. Then, remove cubes as you need them.
Well, yes, except they won’t “pop”. At least, mine wouldn’t. They seem to be a bit gelatinous, even frozen. So I do the dunk in hot water, pop out with a knife thing, then put the cubes in a bag for later use.
I like my bananas kind of green. When they start getting too ripe, I peel them, cut them up, and freeze them in freezer bags to blend into protein shakes instead of a bunch of ice. Adds flavor, makes the shake less watery, and you don’t waste the bananas.
as a bachelor, I keep a spray bottle of very diluted dishwashing soap in a spray bottle at the sink. To wash the 1 or 2 breakfast or lunch dishes. some hot water, and spritz from the spray bottle, a brush, and voila, clean dishes w/o filling up the sink with a lot of hot water.
Caramelize a whole bunch of sliced onions at once and freeze them. They keep well, improve so many things - hamburgers, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta sauces and take so long to do. And when you get stupid recipes that allow a few minutes to sweat down onions, you have a head start. You can do them in a slow cooker, just chuck them in for 8 to 10 hours with a little butter.
I serve salad dressing on the side in a sauce bottle and let people dress their own mainly because I don’t like a lot of dressing but lots of people seem to like heaps.