So if you don’t know already, cooking, baking and entertaining are def in my top five things I LOVE. Having such an invested hobby, I have learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I want to share so they may help you at one time or another.
My top ten cooking tips
Freezing herbs: I love to cook with fresh herbs, but when the recipe calls for only 1 TBSP, I’m left with a lot leftover and feel guilty having these go to waste. A few ways to go about saving, but all tie back to freezing into ice cube trays. First, de-stem and chop the herbs with a sharp knife. Then you can combine multiple herbs together, or keep them separate. You can freeze alone - literally nothing else required to have them form together and keep their freshness, or you can add a little olive oil and chopped garlic. After they freeze to form, remove from the tray (so it doesn’t take up your ice cube space :)) and put into a freezer zip lock bag or plastic tupperware. Ready whenever you are - and saves on waste and your wallet!
Room temperature baking ingredients fast! When you’re baking and the recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, it is important that you follow the directions. However, you may not have enough time to sit and wait for them to warm up on their own - so here are some quick remedies. For eggs, place into a mug and run warm to hot water over them for about 20 seconds then let sit for two minutes. For butter, place into the microwave, and cook for 4 to 5 seconds then stopping and flipping over. Cook on all sides for the same amount of time. This makes the butter evenly soft and room temperature, without a pool of liquid in the middle - has literally changed my life :)
Keeping bread and baked goods in the freezer. I don’t eat bread on the regular, so when I purchase a loaf, I put it in the freezer as it lasts for up to 3 months. Whenever I want a slice, toasting it literally takes the same amount of time as if it was fresh, and I don’t notice a slight of difference. Also, for baked goods that are already cooked like cookies, cake, anything you have leftover from dessert, you can save into individual portions and just pull out to thaw for 45 minutes. I even do this for my dough - freeze into serving sizes on a baking sheet and then store in a freezer bag. I can pull out and bake a few at a time when I know I have guests coming over.
Cool down wine or beer asap. In ten minutes or less, bring that room temperature beverage down to ice cold, with this super simple trick. Take enough paper towels to cover the bottle completely - will vary depending on wine or beer. Then dampen the towel and cover the bottle. Place in the freezer and in ten minutes, you’ll have a cold refreshing drink!
Freeze fruit instead of ice cubes. Cut oranges, lemons and limes into slices about 1/4” thick and place in the freezer on baking trays. Once frozen, store in a zip lock freezer bag and use for drinks in lieu of ice cubes. This will reduce dilution in your beverage and also looks beautiful and feels special.
DIY pink Himalayan sea salt. Not that I don’t want to support those who source this very luxurious type of sea salt, but it can be so expensive and I don’t notice too much a difference in taste. I have purchased in the past because it is so beautiful, and then one night I was entertaining and realized I ran out. I quickly grabbed some regular sea salt into a bowl and put one to two drops of red food coloring in it. After stirring around to distribute, it looks just like pink sea salt at a fraction of the price.
Making raw onions less harsh in recipes. I recently discovered this quick tip and it has changed my life! I LOVE onions in a very weird way, for example; I enjoy taking a bite out of a raw green onion. I do know though that I am not the majority since the taste can have a harsh flavor and often leave an over the top bad breathe takeover. To reduce this, cut the onions into rings and soak in room temperature water for 5 to 10 minutes, then blot with paper towel. This creates a smooth, more enjoyable taste, without taking away the flavor.
Using sharp scissors to cut meat. A great way to dice meat into even cubes quickly is using a scissors. I cut the meat right over the pan, so I don’t have to put raw meat on any of my cutting boards either. So quick and easy - I highly recommend.
Use a vegetable peeler for cheese. When I want to have cheese more visually present in a dish or on a board, I’ll use a vegetable peeler to create thin, long, even slices. It looks really professional, and allows me to use fresh block cheese vs. purchasing pre-cut.
Default go-to side dish. Any vegetable (root variety works great!) cut up evenly in any way, some olive oil, salt and pepper, baked on a sheet pan with parchment paper for 20 minutes (time may vary depending on vegetable type) in a 450 degree oven. It cooks the vegetables at such a high heat that they caramelize, creating sweetness, and with the savory salt and olive oil, I am totally obsessed! BONUS: It takes about 5 minutes of prep time, and leaves no clean up.