Kitchen Tips and Tricks

It may sound crazy, but you should empty your crumb tray under your toaster regularly.  The crumbs get dryer and dryer with each piece of toast made.  A potent ion fire hazard avoided.

Your dryer lint trap needs to be cleaned out every now and them.  No, I don't mean the lint trap after each load, I mean the screen itself.  Take the screen to the kitchen.  Run water over the screen.  If water will not go through the screen, it is clogged.  Use an old toothbrush and some dish liquid.  Scrub the screen until water will flow through it.  This buildup comes from dryer sheets.  You dryer will dry faster with the screen clean.  Be sure it is dry before you reinsert into dryer slot.

Wax paper:
I use waxed paper to top everything that goes into my microwave oven.  The waxed paper costs pennies and saves you having to clean up the splashes of food and liquid on the sides and top of your oven.  A quick wipe weekly is all you need to keep your microwave over spotless.

Bagged Salad:
Bagged salad is so convenient, but it seems that right after you open the bag, it goes bad.  I have found that it stays crisp and good by putting a paper towel into the bag after you open it.  Be sure to close the bag with a twisty tie.

Paper Towels versus napkins:
You should choose between paper napkins and paper towels or just paper towels.  My family prefers to use paper towels for napkins when we eat.  The paper napkins seem to be too thin for us.  Now, if you choose paper towels, you can save money by using paper towels of a better quality for napkins and spills.  i have not found a paper napkin at a good price that i would choose over a paper towel.  You can save major here. 

Liquid Soap:
I put liquid soap in the bathroom and the kitchen.  Easier than a messy bar of soap and saves on my dish washing liquid used as hand soap.  Dollar stores have these in many fragrances for a little over a dollar each.  If you want, you can water them down about a third and they will still clean hands.  Some people do not like the thick gel that they pump.  I have been known to water mine down, too. 

Tomato Sauce removal from stove tops:
When washing dishes after making some red sauce or anything with tomato sauce that has splattered on the top of your stove, scrape some suds from the dish pan and put them over the tomato splatter.  Finish your dishes and then wipe your dish cloth over the spot. The spill will wipe right up.

Tomato paste for recipes:
Some recipes ask for 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.  I find it really hard to open a can of tomato paste and just use 2 tablespoons of it.  I used to omit that and really mess up the recipe.  I have found that when you open a can of tomato paste, you have some wax paper handy. A 6-oz can of tomato paste will yield 6-2 tablespoon quantities. I lay out some wax paper.  I put the dollops of tomato paste about 6 inches apart on the paper.  I put this on a cookie sheet and put in my freezer.  In about an hour, I cut the strips with the paste apart and roll them up.  I put this in a zip lock baggie back into the freezer.  When you need 2 tablespoons of tomato paste or any other amount, just take the wrapped in wax paper paste out and put it on the kitchen table to get room temperature and ready for your recipe.


To speed up ripening of fruit, place in a brown paper bag.  This concentrates the ethylene gas it produces and ripens it faster.


Wrap the cut end of bananas with plastic wrap.  This keeps the ethylene gas from escaping and keeps the bananas a longer life.


Keep cut or peeled potatoes from getting brown by immersing them in water. They will be ready when you are for soups or dishes.  If you are making French fries, don't put in water first.  Just use them right after you peel and cut up.  The browning will not show when deep fried.


Plastic wrap kept in the refrigerator will be easier to use for leftovers.  Or, use the shower caps given to you in motels, after cleaning them, to cover bowls of leftovers.


My favorite and most used trick involves raw eggs.  To tell if eggs are fresh or have gone bad, place them in a bowl of cold water.  If the egg sinks to the bottom, it is fresh.  Any eggs that float are bad because the shell is no longer sealed to keep it fresh.


Slim the fat from soups, stocks or sauces by covering a paper towel with an ice cube.  Gently skim the top and the fat will become more solid and can be picked up by the paper towel.  When paper towel is full of fat, simply change the towel and reuse the ice cube.


To get the thin skin from a garlic clove, separate all cloves.  Whack each clove of garlic with the side of a knife.  The skin will fall off and  can be picked off easily.


Potatoes can be "peeled" by boiling them and putting them in ice water.  The change of temperature will cause the skin to separate from the potato and will be easy to "peel".


If your banana is hard to peel from the top, just turn it upside down, gently press on the bottom, and peel from that end.  This will save the bruise you will cause trying to peel from the top.


Put baking soda or vinegar in your water when you boil eggs.  Both of these substances will go thru the shell and separate the membrane from the egg and the shell.  you won't taste either of these on your eggs.


To pit strawberries, use a drinking straw.  Insert it in the bottom of the berry and push through to the leaves.  Blow on the straw to remove the core.  Remove any stray leaves by hand.  Or you can use a potato peeler.  The corer part on the top works well to core the pit from a strawberry.


When canning corn on the cob, or just to remove it, get out your Bundt pan.  Push the cooked ear down the middle of the pan.  The pan will collect the corn and the cob will be clean.


If you forget to remove the butter from the refrigerator before dinner, get out your grater.  Grate the butter and put in a dish.  This grated butter will melt quickly on your hot rolls.


To stop onions from making you weep, freeze them before you use them in cooking.  This only works if you are not using them raw.  Or you can look absolutely loony by placing a piece of white bread in your mouth as you chop onions.  The bread will absorb the irritant gas before it gets to your eyes.


Soft cheeses such as goat or brie can be cut easily by using unflavored dental floss.  Wrap a piece around your fingers and slide it down the cheese.


To make cheese easier to grate, freeze or at least chill it.  It will grate much easier.


Over soft butter can be made solid by putting it in a small bowl with some water and a few ice cubes.


To prevent pots from boiling over, place a wooden spoon over the top of the pot.  The wooden spoon is a good conductor of heat and will absorb the heat and keep the liquid away from the top of the pot.


To clean a microwave easily, place a wet sponge in the center of the glass plate.  "Cook" it for a minute.  This will loosen crusted food on the sides, making it easy to wipe with the sponge.  This will also disinfect the sponge.


Old wooden spoons that look kind of bad, boil them in a pot of hot water and hand them to dry in the sun.  This will revitalize them, sterilize them and make stains disappear.


To keep a cutting board from slipping on your counter while you work, dampen a dish towel and place under the board. 


To extinguish a kitchen fire, grease or electrical, sprinkle it with baking soda, or if you can, put a lid on the flaming skillet.

Odd coffee mugs or just plain ugly ones, can be used to sort things.  You can use chipped ones that you smooth with an emery board.  I have one on my desk with pens in it.  I have one in the medicine cabinet to hold tweezers, make up brushes, disposable razors and such.  Any room can use a small organizer like this.

If you use blue berries for muffins or pancake and have found that they always turn to mush when you bake them.  Try coating the blue berries in flour before you put them in a batter.  This will keep them whole better.

Little ones don't particularly like the hard taco shell.  Try making their taco in a leaf of lettuce.  They will find it fun and easier to eat.

Ever wonder if your cooking oil is hot enough to deep fry something?  Put a kernel of popcorn in the oil at the start.  It will pop when the oil is hot.  Just remove the kernel and you are good to go.

Plastic containers that have warped lids or missing lids are perfect for the beach. Your kids will have different shapes for their castles and the contailers are easier to tote than metal pails and keep their shape better than plastic pails.

I use a plastic fork to check to see if chicken is cooked.  A plastic form slides easily into cooked chicken.

Ever get confused about dates on products?  The "Use By" date is the last date for a product's peak quality.  After that date, taste, texture and quality may not be as good, but it is safe to eat.  The "Sell By" date indicates how long a store should display a product.  But foods are still safe to eat after this date. The "Best if used by" date means the food will be its freshest, taste and texture will be its best.  It is safe to eat foods after this date. 

Now the date you MUST pay attention to:  The EXPIRATION date.  This date is the only date related directly to the safety packaging of the product.  When this date is past, do not eat the food.  Throw it out.  You can not be sure the packaging is safe, the can has not lost its protection or the food has not been damaged by the package.  Be safe and throw these products away.  Go thru your pantry regularly and look for cans in the back and read their dates.

Write out your grocery list and your errand list and get out your phone. Take a picture of it.  Easier to pull out your phone to check progress. You know your phone is usually right in your hand, right?  (Hee. Hee)

Start seedlings for a garden in ice cream cones.  When ready to plant, plant cone and all.

Use coat hangers for skewers for barbeque.  Use wire snips to cut your lengths.

Line veggie bin in refrigerator with newspapers to keep moisture from veggies and allowing them to keep longer.

Citrus pips and seeds make lovely unusual house plants.

Glue felt to the bottom of a ceramic tile to make it a heat resistant mat.

When I use bottled spaghetti sauce, I add a few noodles to the jar, swish them around, and I get almost all of the sauce out.  I hate rinsing the jar and seeing sauce go down the drain.

When making coffee, wet your basket.  It will hold your filter firmer to the sides and will stop the folded filter mess you get when the filter slips. Store in your drawer safely.

Flies:  Use hairspray to stick their wings together.  They will fall to floor, sweep and dispose.  You can also use a spray bottle with a couple teaspoons of dish washing liquid.  Will wet their wings, they will fall.  Sweep up and dispose of.

Refrigerators should be set at 40F.  Freezer should be zero F.  

Keep cupcake liners from getting out of shape.  Put them in a glass jar with a screw lid for storage.

To keep storage containers from getting that red ring around them (from tomato sauce) , do not use them in microwave. 

Old sponges can be cut into small pieces and added to potting soil to keep roots wet.

Copywriter: Karen B. Cardwell 2012.   Email me at: cradwell.kc@Gmail.Com 

 Tweet me at: Karen Cardwell@blairie12.

 Original Artwork Images by Tom Wilson.