Always wondered whether or not you should serve your cheese at room temperature? Or the best way to cut a cake? Here are helpful hints and tips for anytime you are cooking or entertaining.

Appetizers and Beverages:

  • Add flavor to hot tea by dissolving old-fashioned lemon drops or hard mint candies in the cup.
  • To keep a punch cool, make an ice ring using some of the punch and float it in the punch bowl. This way the punch will not become diluted with melted ice cubs.
  • Place fresh or dried mint in the bottom of a cup of hot chocolate for a cool, refreshing taste.

Soup & Salad

  • If a recipe calls for chicken or beef broth, make your own by using chicken or beef bouillon cubes or granules.  The ratio is 1 cube or 1 heaping teaspoon of granules to 1 cup water.
  • A leaf of lettuce dropped in a pot of soup absorbs grease from the top.
  • Add a little vinegar to the water to cut down on odors when cooking cabbage or cauliflower.
  • The ratio for a vinaigrette is typically 3 part oil to 1 part vinegar.
  • Cook pasta al dente when using in a pasta salad. This will allow it to absorb some of the dressing and not become mushy.

Vegetables and Side Dishes

  • To keep hot oil from splattering, sprinkle a little salt or four in the pan before frying.
  • A few drops of lemon juice added to simmering rice will keep the grains separated.
  • To dress up buttered, cooked vegetables, sprinkle them with toasted sesame seeds, chopped nuts, grated cheese or slightly crushed seasoned croutons.
  • Add a little vinegar or lemon juice to potatoes before draining to make them extra white when mashed.
  • Not sure what to do with leftover hotdog or hamburger buns?  Melt half a stick of butter in the microwave.  Chop up 1 garlic clove and stir it into the butter.  Put the butter into the  refrigerator and allow to harden again.  Spread the butter over the buns and toast.  Yum!

Main Dishes

  • Marinating is a cinch if you use a plastic bag.  It is easy to turn and cleanup is a breeze – just toss the bag in the trash.
  • It is easier to thinly slice meat if it is partially frozen
  • Tomatoes added to meats naturally tenderizes the meat.
  • Enhance the flavor of fish by rubbing lemon juice on the fish before cooking.

Dessert

  • Overripe bananas can be frozen until it is time to bake. Just store them unpeeled in a plastic bag
  • Nuts, shelled or unshelled, keep best and longest when stored in the freezer.
  • Keep the cake plate clean while frosting by placing 6 inch strips of waxed paper under each side of the cake.  Once the cake is decorated, remove the waxed paper and your plate will be clean.
  • Achieve professionally decorated cakes with a silky, molten look by blow-drying the frosting with a hair dryer until the frosting melts slightly.
  • Use dental floss to perfectly cut pieces from desserts like cheesecakes.
  • For uniform cookies, bake one sheet at a time on the middle oven rack.
  • Dip cookie cutters in flour or powdered sugar before cutting.  If using chocolate dough, dip the cutters in baking cocoa.
  • Use parchment paper when baking cookies.  While one batch is cooking, get the second batch ready on a new piece of parchment paper.  Slide off the parchment paper on the baked cookies and load the next parchment paper already to go.

This and That

  • Never overcook foods that are going to be frozen.
  • To avoid teary eyes when cutting onions, cut them under cold running water or briefly place them in the freezer before cutting.
  • Fresh lemon juice will remove onion scent from hands.
  • Transfer jelly and salad dressings to small plastic squeeze bottles – no more messy, sticky jars.
  • Fill a large shaker with 6 parts salt and 1 part pepper for quick and easy seasoning.

And the answer to the cheese question … yes, you should serve it room temperature!