Tricks and Tips

February 06,2009
Sweet Pea Chef
Jessica Efird( )

Jessica, aka the Sweet Pea Chef, is a former U.S. Senate staffer/weekend gourmet turned full-time mom/family gourmet. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

From time to time, when I am cooking or in the kitchen, I have an “ah-ha!” moment, when I think to myself, “I should share this…” I usually write down the thought, idea, or trick and record it to remind myself later. I realized today that my page of kitchen tricks and tips is getting full, so without further adieu, I present the first edition of random Sweet Pea Kitchen Tricks and Tips: --When you need to slice meats in thin or small pieces, place the meat in the freezer for a bit (or do it when the item isn’t fully thawed) to help ease your job. I use this trick a lot for slicing bacon, and it allows me to cut the bacon very thinly, hence reducing the amount of bacon I need to use in a dish (since bacon really flavors a dish nicely in small bits). You can also use this tip for cutting up meats for stews or stir-fries. --If you are baking something that calls for oil and something sticky like molasses, honey, or maple syrup, measure out the oil first, then measure the sticky liquid in the same measuring spoon or cup. This might require a little quick thinking. If, for example, the recipe calls for ¼ cup of honey and ½ cup of oil, use the ¼ measuring cup twice for the oil and then once for the honey. Molasses, honey, and maple syrup have a tendency to be tricky to get out of a measuring device, but if you use the oil first, it will pour out, easy peasy. --When your bananas are at the exact ripeness you like for eating, put them in the refrigerator. This will keep the insides at the ripeness you like, and will prevent them from over-ripening. The outsides of the bananas will continue to ripen and may even turn brown, but the insides will keep for a few extra days. --Rice, grits, couscous, and even small pasta can be frozen in muffin tins to ease their use once you are ready to use them. I love making extra brown rice for future use and freezing it, since cooking brown rice takes a good 40 minutes, and sometimes I am under a time crunch. So almost any time I make brown rice, I double the amount and freeze the extra. Putting the extra rice in a muffin tin to freeze for about an hour, will freeze the rice in little individual size portions, that can be popped into a freezer bag for use. This is much easier than trying to chisel off the amount I need from a frozen block of rice. Always trying to make life in the kitchen easier- SPC