Tips and Tricks

Cooking How-TosThis page is dedicated to food preparation tips and tricks – and home truths of the kitchen.  Some methods, when you learn them, make you almost want to bang your head on the wall:  “why didn’t I know this years ago?”, knowing how much time and effort the sometimes simple approaches would have saved you.  I’ll share such tips on a regular basis in the blog and archive them here.

There are already so many resources for cooking advice and tips that it almost seems superfluous to add to them.  And yet..

By day, I’m in the knowledge management (KM) field, which is all about “getting the right information to the right people at the right time”.  I’m not sure who originally coined this phrase, but it is ubiquitous now in the KM field and applies very well to cooking information.  Food tips and cooking instructions are important only when you need them and can use them right away; for example, it’s very easy to forget the best method for peeling and segmenting a mango unless you have actually done it – and recently.

Home Truths of the Kitchen

Tip 1: RAP.  (Read, Assemble, Prep)

These simple RAP steps – Read, Assemble, Prep – will save you tons of time and frustration. The recipes in this blog and in the cookbook I’m working on are all written with RAP in mind.  Read about it here.

Tip #2: Different Strokes

“One size fits all” is a phrase that never fits in the kitchen, especially with cutting and slicing various ingredients.  Using the right technique for the ingredient can save time and reduce frustration and waste.

Tip #3:  Do It Yourself When You Can

There are so many shortcuts and pre-prepared ingredients available that sometimes I wonder if I’m losing kitchen skills and the ability to truly start from scratch. It’s so convenient to buy pre-marinated meat or already-sliced mushrooms, but something I heard in a radio show about food a few years ago really stuck with me:  buy as low on the food chain as you can, which translates to buying ingredients that have been touched by the fewest hands possible.  This means less preservatives, less opportunities to introduce bacteria, lower costs and often, more fun. Not that I don’t like the speed and convenience of a good rotisserie chicken sometimes…anyway, I’ll be sharing a collection of good do-it-yourself techniques here as I find or document them.

  • Blanching almonds – I just learned how to do this – it’s fun and way cheaper than buying them already peeled
  • Roasting poblano peppers – this is something I do quite often to add depth and flavor to southwest dishes

Tip #4: Set a Pretty Table

You’ve taken the trouble to make a scrumptious meal, so why not take a few more minutes to arrange the meal’s surroundings?  Setting a nice table makes your family or guests feel like they’ve entered into a special “party zone”.

cropped-setting-a-beautiful-christmas-table-version-2.jpgIt doesn’t always take elaborate floral arrangements or crystal, china and Grandma’s silver to create a festive atmosphere (although they will most certainly do just fine).  You can decorate a table with foliage, pine cones or nuts from your yard, whimsical figures, children’s toys, ribbons, fresh fruit and all kinds of other bric-a-brac to dress up a dinner table.

Here are a few suggestions and illustrated examples:

 

 

 

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