Kitchen Tips

Hints & Suggestions

by Nita Holstine



  We can get milk without any fat at all but we cannot get milk without loads and loads of sugar. Even powdered milk has almost as much sugar as whole milk but none of the fat at all. I had talked with the doctor's office nurse and she said milk was good, just stick to powdered milk. It must be limited since it is so high in sugar but to make it more palatable, try adding just a little Splenda. Randy just loves it but it makes it more difficult to limit especially when he shakes it up and it tastes like a milk shake ! Good stuff ! 



  Even with regular washing and drying to keep from rusting, that old can opener can get stiff and hard to crank. Sure it's not a big can and the chore is finished quickly but when the fingers and hands have a difficult time with the simplest of work, we need ways to make life easier.

  Run the opener under water. Cold is okay but hot is much better and will have even the oldest of openers turning like new. An electric opener is not meant be be held under water. See the manual for any suggestions. Just remember than water and electricity cannot be mixed. Always unplug appliances when near water. 



  Make sure that your celery stalk is still crisp before you buy it at the grocery store. A limp stalk will not get better. When you are ready to use the celery, remove all pieces down to the core. I always use the inner most tender stems first. Discard the core and place all the remaining stalks back into the bag. Wrap with the plastic and close with a rubber band. This will keep them crisp a lot longer.



  Next time you have a pan or casserole with burned stuck on food, let it soak overnight. Fill the pan with water and add a good squirt of grease cutting dish soap. You will not need to scrub. Dawn makes a spray on that is suppose to do this but it smells really bad and doesn't do a very good job. Tough stuff usually takes several doses and scrubbings.



This tip comes from Wanda Lynch in Washington State. I had searched for all the years we raised chickens and her tips are the best way! 

I too had problems with fresh hard boiled eggs not peeling.  Then my 90 year old birthday buddy told me to lightly tap the end of the egg until it slightly cracks.  Then put in pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat to lowest setting for 20 minutes (do not boil).  Drain hot water and fill pan with cold water.  Drain and repeat.  Drain again and then let cool.  I have never had trouble peeling fresh hard boiled eggs since I have started doing this.  Enjoy!!  I have even made hard boiled eggs from same day eggs!



  When I was a kid, my aunt Dorothy was fixing breakfast and the egg order was changed from fried to scrambled. Since the eggs were already in the pan, she only stirred the eggs after the whites were almost completely set and the yolk still nicely coated the whites. I've made many panfulls of scrambled eggs and I like this way the best. As she did, I also call them Pan Scrambled Eggs. 



  Did you ever notice that not all measuring cups are alike or measure the same? Some cups are for dry ingredients and they are made for you to fill them to the top, to take a knife and level off the top. The cups where there is a mark for the measure but the top of the cup is about 1/2 inch higher and usually has a pour spout; these are for liquid measure.



  Do you buy those condensed soups because they are cheap? The new names are fancy, full of meat and veggies but cost an outrageous amount. When you go to heat your condensed soup, do not add the can of water. Try the soup with no other water. You might need just a little. I could hardly believe the difference in taste. If you are a tomato soup lover, try mixing in about 3/4 can of milk instead of water. It is my favorite!



   Save lots of money and buy the generic store brand of sweetened, flavored gelatin. There is even a generic with artificial sweetener. The name brand dissolves faster but if you allow an extra ten minutes the generic is fine. To make a delightful change to a simple dessert, cut the water amount in half. If you make 1 box, dissolve packet in 1 cup of water. Stir until dissolved and cooled. Pour into bowl or cups and chill in refrigerator at least until set. For fast set, dissolve packet in 1/2 cup of water and put about 1/2 cup of ice cubes into bowl. Stir until melted but remove any remaining cubes.  



  Use the Splenda sweetener (sugar without the calories) and mix well with cinnamon. Spoon into the sifter and set on a plate. If you just happen to have some of those wonderful plastic stencils handy you will be able to put them to good use but make sure they are clean and dry. Chose a pattern that is just a little smaller than a slice of bread. You can also create a figure on a fried tortilla (crispas) but you need to butter the sliced bread for the sweet cinnamon topping to stick. By mixing the sweetener and cinnamon first, you will have more uniform coloring and a more distinct pattern line. Be creative. If youíve mixed up more than you need, store it in an airtight container for next time.


Cooking Substitutions can be found in the separate page Conversion Charts and Substitutions on the Kitchen Tips Main Page.


Bake pork and chicken lean and crispy

  To make crispy chicken or pork chops in the oven, use your oven drip rack; the one with the cool slots where the grease can drip on to a bottom pan. Go ahead and line it with foil and cut strips open where the greasy stuff can drain on through and you can just throw away all the mess when finished. Spray with non-stick spray to help keep the meat from sticking. I put a layer of foil on the main oven rack to help dissipate the heat and keep the meat from getting too brown before thoroughly cooked.  

  Even the generic store brand of the toss-in-the-plastic-bag type of spices and coating mixes taste great now days.  I like to use a bowl to pour the coating into and turn the chicken or pork in the mix. There is a bowl to wash  but it saves clean plastic bags to use for other chores in the kitchen. Your own spices and coatings will work as well, just keep the meat from cooking in its own fat and drain it away.


Sweet smelling kitchen

   Do you enjoy the smells of the cool little potpourri warming pot? Get ready to use it but cannot find it anywhere? What to do! Even if you donít own one of those cute little pots with a candle underneath to put that pretty smelling spice into the house, you can enjoy the same without backing some cookies! Just put 2 to 4 cups of water into a small saucepan. Add spices you happen to have on hand; cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice. Any or all, they perk up the entire house and add the smell of fresh cookies anytime, without all the fuss!  

_______________________________  This page is for the Salt Institute. It will show you lots of good ways to use salt. Look all the way to the bottom for Have Fun with Salt! This is some interesting stuff!



   When the doctor said diet, he said cut way back on the salt. So, I  read all the labels. Regular salt contains 590 mg of Sodium per 1/4 teaspoon. It's the same with iodine or without but with is 45% of a daily dietary requirement. My favorite health newsletter noted that studies show that 74% of adult acne was caused by iodine. That made sense so I've tried to cut down not just salt but all iodine. I bought non-iodine salt for cooking but most prepared foods (sausage) having a high salt content does not tell you if there is iodine or not. (Some sausage has about 2 weeks worth of sodium in every serving.)

   Butter Budsģ Sprinkles is a powdered butter tasting topping that has no fat or cholesterol and its sodium content is 120 mg per teaspoon. The package says to use it on moist foods but the absolute best use is over popcorn. On a big popper full, about 2 teaspoons usually needs no other salt added.

   MSG is as much a food additive as salt is and I just couldn't eat many foods without a little bit of salt. If there is no one in your household allergic to MSG, give it a try. It's a main part of cooking in my kitchen. Another one of Dr. Edell's findings was that there are very few people allergic to MSG and sure enough, read that label. The sodium is 160 mg. per 1/4 teaspoon. It is great on eggs cooked any way, salads, meats, stews, sauces, casseroles, vegetables and popcorn. It takes little added regular salt to capture the same (and better) taste. The only brand available in this area is Accentģ Flavor Enhancer.

   Lawry's ģ makes a Garlic Salt that is excellent with meats and veggies that need that garlic touch. It contains 240 mg. per 1/4 teaspoon and goes well with a little MSG and buttery sprinkles; you will have much less sodium than by just using salt with a lot of extra flavor. Taste as you go so you don't get too much of the salty stuff. 



   When the doctor recommended a strict diet, the first rule was "NO SUGAR!!." Most diets available are no or low fat but like Slim Fast, they are extremely high in sugar! The diets depend on you becoming highly active, burning more calories than taken in. If we could do that, we wouldn't have a weight problem. Even good old milk is high in sugar. 

   There are wonderful products available; even sweeteners that can be used in cooking. Splenda is the only product I found that keeps its sweet taste through cooking. It's suppose to be sugar without the calories. Their website says that they are going to have a for sale recipe book. Seems like their products is expensive enough that they could give away the recipes for its use. They explain on their website that there is a difference of sweetener needed for different recipes. If you are making a recipe calling for flour, it will take much more sweetener than say for some baked custard that takes no flour. 

  Most store brand artificial sweeteners can handle the drinks and food that doesn't require more cooking after the sweetener is added. The Wal-Mart, Great Value Brand gives my coffee, with a little creamer, a beautiful foam that looks great and tastes better than latte. I am still hoping to get some Stevia plants growing and try using it as a sweetener. Our local Wal-Mart is not capable of keeping a continuous supply of any product on their shelves or caring. It is difficult to recommend them or their brands. 



   Long ago, I would buy flavored oatmeal in little single serving packets just to have the vanilla I liked. Sometimes I would buy vanilla flavored creamer just for that vanilla flavor! 

   As you put your water (or milk) and oatmeal into the pan or bowl (for microwaving,) add one teaspoon of vanilla and cook as usual. Enjoy that vanilla flavor for very little cost. Buy the bulk size, non processed rolled oats and save lots of money. You can add Splenda as your sweetener before you cook as it will hold its sweetness.



   If you don't mind the milk fats, buy the whipping cream and add a sweetener like Splenda and a little vanilla for a delicious topping. You can whip any milk that has some fat, even powdered milk, and it will make a good topping but the more fat, the longer it will hold its stiffness. Any milk will whip faster and last longer if you will plan ahead and put the bowl (preferably glass,) beaters and spoon into the freezer at least an hour ahead. Whip until soft peaks appear adding sweetener gradually. Whip until still peaks are held.



   Sometimes you must use whatever cucumbers you can find at the grocery store and the farmers grow them big! Those cukes do need to have those giant seeds removed. If you grow your own, you've already checked out the seedless varieties but even those will make seeds if they are left on the vine to grow big and pollinate with a seeded variety. If one escapes harvest, I can be sure it will have some big, tough seeds. These seeds are easier to scoop out if you cut the cucumber into quarters down the length of the fruit; then cut down the center to take out all the seeds.  



   The best tips are often found when you read something another person has written and realize that you know a better way! Sure, you can peel tomatoes by dropping them in boiling water but that is the method used when you are fixing to can them and will be processing them. If you are only doing a few and want to keep your tomato nice and cold, just rub over the entire tomato with the backside of the knife you are going to use to dice or slice. A serrated knife works best on a tomato if you are cutting the skin or the flesh. You may have to go over a thinner skin several times to see a difference but you will be able to see and feel the skin pucker and change to a deeper shade of red color.

   Store bought tomatoes are thin skinned and never need peeling but most varieties of homegrown have a thick skin. Sure we know thatís where all the good vitamins are but some people just donít like all that thick skin! To best peel the fruit, do the rubbing with the knife and then prick the skin at the blossom end (not the stem end.) Most homegrown have an area around the stem that is not usable (the core) and if you start by peeling at the other end, you will be cutting the good part away from the core instead of cutting the core out. You should end up with much more useable tomato.  



   If your garbage disposal unit is clogged with grease, try grinding up a few ice cubes. The ice will harden the fat so that it can be ground up and disposed of.



   Ever go to use brown sugar and all you have is a hard, dry clump? Keep the bag (donít leave it in a box) in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh and moist. I also keep my flour sacks and any muffin mixes in the veggie drawer at the bottom to keep them safe from those little flour critters. Iíd found the bottom trays too cold for spinach greens so it has become protective storage for the flours and brown sugar. 



   Iíd read where someone advised not putting any oil in the water for cooking pasta. Yeah, sure. So, I tried it and yeah sure enough, there is no difference. The trick is to have the water boiling hard and use a fork to separate the spaghetti, often and until it has finished cooking. Once the water has come back to a hard boil, then turn the heat down to medium and stir often to keep it from sticking. Donít rinse any pasta unless you will use it cold in a salad or such.



   If you regularly purchase potatoes, you know what you have to look for before you decide which spuds you want to take home. Some stores put out 5 pound bags with one variety on the outside and then hide the rotten and odd ones in the middle. They are usually old and if you remember where you bought them, you'll go elsewhere at least for your potatoes.

   If your potatoes come in a plastic sack, it is most likely that they are wet. This accelerates the decaying and if not dried out, the potatoes will soon be unusable. I keep a shallow cardboard box where I can pour them out to one layer and check for rotten ones as soon as possible. Don't forget that big white potatoes might made super french fries or potato salad but are too dry to make good baked potatoes. The red ones are best for baking and have a wonderful potato flavor.



   No matter how hard your water is, you can keep your cooked white rice light and fluffy by adding a teaspoon of vinegar to the water. 

   When needing to remove stale or smoky odors from clothing, run a bathtub of hot water.  Add one cup of white vinegar and hang the items on hangers above the steaming water for half an hour or so. Close the door to the bathroom to keep in all that steam.

   To keep your drain lines fresh and clean smelling, pour a cup of vinegar down the line when you will not be running any more water for at least 4 hours.  For dishwasher drains, add Ĺ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle and the same goes for the laundry washing machine.

   You know if you have mineral build up in your water lines. You will also have mineral build up in your drains and septic tank. Regularly pour several cups of vinegar down the kitchen drain and the bathtub drain to help break down all those minerals.