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Kitchen Tips

Whether you're a novice in the kitchen or an experienced chef, you can always find a tip to make your cooking and baking experience more rewarding and delicious. Here are a few basic tips. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or if you have a tip that works for you.



Baking Pans - Quick Tips

Baking Pans

  • When baking in a glass pan, reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

  • Breads and pies bake best and will have the best crust when baked in a dark colored pan that absorbs heat well. Cookies, biscuits and cakes do better in a shiny pan that reflects the heat for a more delicate browning of the crust.

  • When a recipe calls for a "greased" pan, be sure to grease the pan with solid shortening, an oil, or a product such as Pam® unless otherwise specified.

  • Line baking pans such as cookie sheets, loaf pans and layer cake pans, with wax or parchment paper to prevent sticking and to simplify cleanup.

Breads & Rolls - Quick Tips

Bread and Rolls

Storage Tips

  • The original paper packaging is fine for long term cabinet storage as long as the package has not been open. Once the bag has been opened you can keep it fresh longer by placing a rib of celery in the bread bag.

  • Most types of flour keep longer in a cool, dry cabinet if stored in a sealed plastic or glass container. The refrigerator is a very good storage area for flour. To prevent the flour from absorbing moisture it's imporatant to keep your flour in a sealed plastic containers or freezer bags for optimum freshness. Flour that does not look or smell good should not be used.

Bread Crust Tips

  • For a crisp, shiny crust, bake the bread for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and brush with an egg white that has been beaten with a tablespoon of water. Return the bread to the oven to finish baking.

  • For a shiny bread crust, brush the top with a mixture of 1 beaten egg and 1 tablespoon of milk before baking.

  • For a soft, well-browned but not shiny crust, before baking brush the loaf with a tablespoon of melted butter.

  • For a slightly browner and crisper crust, brush bread after 20 minutes of baking with a whole egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk.

  • To glaze the tops of rolls, brush with a mixture of 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 cup milk before baking.

Yeast Tips

  • Yeast will last longer than the specified date printed on the packet if kept in the refrigerator, or even longer in the freezer, for up to a year. If you bake a lot, it is wise to purchase larger amounts and freeze. Place in a tightly sealed plastic or glass container and mark the date of purchase. Bring to room temperature before using.

  • If you're interrupted in the midst of bread-rising, set the dough in the refrigerator. A long, cool rise develops texture and flavor.

  • Yeast breads are more moist when made with potato water (water in which you have boiled potatoes) than when made with other liquids. The potato water keeps the bread fresh longer and gives it a slightly greater volume, but coarser texture.

  • Use nonstick cooking spray to grease the inside of the bowl you'll be using to raise yeast dough, then spritz the top of the dough itself. This is a much neater method than spreading with oil.

Misc. Tips

  • When making cornbread, substitute a can of cream style corn if you're out of milk. Not only does it work in a pinch, it also tastes delicious.

  • For quick and easy garlic breadsticks, split a hot dog bun down the middle and cut each half lengthwise. Butter each strip; sprinkle with garlic salt or garlic powder. Place on a cookie sheet and bake or broil until toasted.

  • To butter many slices of bread quickly and evenly, heat the butter until soft, then "paint" it on with a flat pastry brush.

  • To thaw frozen bread and rolls, place in a brown paper bag and put into a 325° F oven for 5 minutes to thaw completely.

  • Place aluminum foil under the napkin in your roll basket and the rolls will stay hot longer.

Brown Sugar

Brown Sugar

Place a piece of bread in with brown sugar to prevent it from becoming hard. Seal the package tight and store it in the refrigerator to keep it soft and fresh. To soften brown sugar after it has hardened, try one of the following techniques:

  • Place a fresh apple wedge in the bag of hardened sugar, seal the bag and leave it for 1 to 2 days until the sugar is soft again. Remove the apple wedge and stir sugar. Store in an airtight plastic bag.

  • Soften in the microwave by placing brown sugar in a microwavable dish, cover with two dampened paper towels and then cover with the dish cover or plastic wrap. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring with a fork after each interval. When it has softened, allow to cool and store in an airtight plastic bag. Do not overcook or sugar will begin to melt.

  • In a conventional oven, place the brown sugar in an ovenproof dish that has sides. Preheat oven to 225 ° F and place sugar in the oven for 5 or 10 minutes. Do not overcook, bake only long enough for sugar to soften. Cool and store in an airtight plastic bag.

  • Place hardened brown sugar in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature overnight or until the sugar softens. Store softened sugar in an airtight plastic bag.

  • If you run out of brown sugar unexpectedly, mix a cup of granulated sugar with two tablespoons of molasses to make your own.

Butter

Butter

  • When butter or margarine is called for in a recipe, use it in stick form. Do not use it in whipped butter or margarine. The whipped form has air whipped into it to make it softer and more spreadable. When measured tablespoon for tablespoon, the whipped form is actually less in weight than the stick form so it would not be an exact substitute.

  • When substituting margarine for butter, use only margarine made with 80% fat. Products with less than 80% fat will have a negative affect on the quality and texture of the end product.

  • To quickly soften a stick of butter with out melting it, cover it with a thoroughly heated bowl.

Buying Beef

Meat

General Beef Buying Tips

  • Price: Since the most tender cuts make up only a small proportion of a beef carcass, they are in greatest demand and usually command a higher price than other cuts.

  • Roasts and steaks should be firm, not soft or squishy feeling.

  • Be certain that the package tray doesn't contain excess moisture. This moisture could mean that the product has been above 38 to 40 degrees for a period of time, and will usually not taste as good as meat that has been well chilled.

  • Be sure that the package has not been damaged and that the meat is cold and wrapped securely.

  • Always check the "sell-by" date on the label and only purchase on or before that date.


What are Grades?

  • Regardless of their quality grade, some cuts of meat are naturally more tender than others. Cuts from the less-used muscles along the back of the animal, such as the rib and loin sections, will always be more tender than those from the more active muscles such as the shoulder, flank, and leg.

  • USDA beef grading system: Each USDA beef quality grade is a measure of a distinct level of quality, and it takes eight grades to span the range. They are USDA Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner.

  • Grade details: USDA Prime, Choice, Select, and Standard grades come from younger beef. The highest grade, USDA Prime, is used mostly by hotels and restaurants, but a small amount is sold at retail markets. The grade most widely sold at retail is USDA Choice. However, consumer preference for leaner beef has increased the popularity of the Select grade of beef. Select grade can now be found at most meat counters.

  • Standard and Commercial grade beef frequently is sold as ungraded or as "brand name" meat.

  • The three lower grades — USDA Utility, Cutter, and Canner — are seldom, if ever, sold at retail but are used instead to make ground beef and manufactured meat items such as frankfurters.


Fresh Beef Cuts

  • Brisket: Cuts of beef from the chest region; these cuts are used to make corned beef or smoked for barbecue.

  • Chuck: Cuts of beef from the shoulder region or front end; usually used in cooking roasts and commonly referred to as pot roasts or chuck roasts.

  • Flank: Cuts of beef usually found as steaks; this is the cut most often used to make London Broil.

  • Loin: Cuts of beef from the back region; cuts are very tender; most of the steak cuts like strips, t-bones and porterhouses come from this region.

  • Round: Cuts of beef from the back end region; usually used in cooking roasts and commonly referred to as rump roasts.

  • Sirloin: Cuts of beef from the small back region; sirloin cuts are very versatile and can be found as steaks and roasts.

Buying Pork

Pork

General Pork Buying Tips

  • What part of the pig is this cut from? This is known as the "primal" or "wholesale" cut and specifies which part of the animal the meat comes from. This information is a good indicator of the relative tenderness of the cut and can help the shopper decide which method of cookery to use when preparing the cut. This part of the label may read shoulder, loin, leg, etc.

  • Determine the "primal cut." This is the part of the pig the cut comes from. This information is a good indicator of the relative tenderness of the cut and can help you decide which cooking method to use when preparing it. The primal cut is listed on the package label as shoulder, loin, leg, etc.

  • Determine the "retail cut." This is the specific name of the smaller cut taken from the primal cut. The retail cut is listed on the package label as blade roast, rib chop, sirloin roast, etc.

  • What is the degree of leanness? Modern-day production has reduced pork's fat content. In fact, pork is a major contender in the lean meat category and many cuts of pork are as lean or leaner than chicken.

  • How will you cook it? If time is limited, you'll want to select a smaller cut, like pork chops that cook quickly. If you're entertaining and have several other dishes to prepare, you may want to choose a roast that can be put in the oven and requires very little attention.

  • How many people will be served? The "average" serving size for pork is 3 ounces of cooked meat. Start with 4 ounces of boneless, raw pork to yield 3 ounces of cooked pork. A 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards.spacer

  • What is the cost? To get the most for your money, take the time to figure out the cost per serving. Some boneless cuts may seem more expensive, but actually are a better buy because you are not paying for the bone.


Fresh Pork Cuts

  • Chops: Cuts of pork from the back region; these cuts can be cut thin or thick and described as rib, center cut, butterflied, loin, and sirloin.

  • Picnic Shoulder: Cut of pork from the lower region of the shoulder; usually used in cooking roasts.

  • Shoulder Butt: Cut of pork from the top of the shoulder region just behind the neck; usually used in cooking roasts.

Buying Poultry

Poultry

General Chicken Buying Tips

  • Convenience and Variety. Your supermarket meat department offers many types of brands in a wide variety of packages. For example, you can purchase mixed cut-up parts, all white meat, all dark meat, or boneless, skinless parts, as well as whole chickens. If your time is limited, you'll find that chicken parts, particularly boneless parts, cook the fastest. In fact, you can prepare many chicken dishes in 30 minutes or less! Chicken is a versatile meal choice. It can be featured as the main entrée, included in a side dish, served for lunch as a salad, substituted for other proteins in a breakfast omelet or served as a nutritious snack.

  • Low in Fat and Calories. Chicken provides the complete protein you require daily. You can reduce the fat content of chicken even further by removing the skin. To avoid adding fat to chicken, use cooking methods such as stir-frying, grilling and broiling that require little or no fat. Another option is to use low-fat liquids in place of oil for cooking.

  • Premium Protein. Our bodies require protein, and because protein can't be stored by the body, we need a new supply every day. Chicken is an ideal source of protein because it is lower in calories than most other meats.

  • Safety and Quality. All chicken sold in supermarkets is government-inspected for wholesomeness.


Fresh Chicken Cuts

  • Boneless, Skinless Parts: Chicken parts with the bones and skin removed.

  • Breast Halves or Splits: Chicken breasts cut in half along the breast bone; all white meat. Also available boneless and skinless.

  • Breast Quarters: Chicken breasts that include the wing, breast and back portion; all white meat.

  • Cornish Game Hens: Tender, young hens that are specially bred to be smaller-boned and meatier, with a more delicate flavor.

  • Cut-Up Chickens: Whole chickens (broilers) cut into pieces: 2 breast halves, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 wings; usually do not include giblets.

  • Drummettes: Wing portions that consist only of the meatier first section.

  • Drumsticks: The portion of the leg below the knee joint; all dark meat.

  • Halves or Splits: Whole chickens (broilers) cut into 2 pieces of approximately equal weight.

  • Leg Quarter: Whole legs that consist of the unseparated drumstick and thigh; no back portion; all dark meat.

  • Seasoned Boneless, Skinless Breasts: Seasoned breasts with the bones and skin removed. Conveniently seasoned with Lemon Herb, Oriental or Italian seasoning. Each breast is individually packaged for ease in storing and serving.

  • Sunday Best Roasters: Large, meaty chickens ranging from 5 to 8 pounds; include neck and giblets.

  • Tenders: Strips of boneless, skinless breast meat.

  • Thighs: The portion of the leg above the knee joint; no back portion unless package indicates; all dark meat. Also available boneless and skinless.

  • Wings: Whole wings with three sections attached; all white meat.

  • Whole Chickens (Broiler-Fryers): Chickens that weigh 3 to 4 1/2 pounds; packaged with or without neck and giblets.

Cooking & Serving Meat

Cooking Meat


Beef & Pork Cooking Tips

  • Leave a thin layer of fat on steaks, chops, and roasts during cooking to seal in juices. Trim fat after cooking. (Fat means flavor.)

  • For better browning, pat dry beef steaks, pork chops, cubes, and roasts with a paper towel.

  • When roasting or broiling, place beef or pork on the rack in the broiler or roasting pan to allow fat to drip off during cooking.

  • Salt beef or pork after cooking or browning. Salt draws out moisture and inhibits browning.

  • Turn steaks, roasts, or chops with tongs. Do not use a fork. This pierces the meat and allows flavorful juices to escape.

  • Turn ground beef and pork with a spatula. Do not flatten patties when cooking. This allows flavorful juices to escape.


Beef & Pork Temperature & Doneness

  • Appliances vary, and you may need to adjust your cooking times accordingly. No matter which cooking method you use, always use a kitchen meat thermometer to assure your beef or pork is cooked to the minimum temperatures listed in the chart. Color is not an accurate indicator of doneness.

  • To check the internal temperature of your beef or pork cuts, insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, not resting in fat or touching bone.

  • To check the internal temperature of ground beef or pork, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.


Chicken Cooking Tips

  • Covered food takes longer to cook in the oven.

  • Allow space between pieces in baking pans.

  • More pieces in the pan will take longer to cook.

  • Cook chicken until juices run clear and to recommended internal cooking temperature.

  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating.

  • If you're planning to use a marinade to baste while cooking, divide the marinade into two separate containers. Use half to marinate and half to baste. Do not reuse the liquid used for marinating to baste your chicken.


Chicken Temperature & Doneness

  • It is very important to cook meat, including chicken, to the proper temperature to assure wholesomeness. Uncooked chicken should be cooked until the juices run clear. Check the internal temperature of your chicken using a clean, accurate meat thermometer.

  • Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, and take the reading when the needle stops moving—about fifteen seconds. On bone-in chicken, take the temperature next to the bone. Be sure to clean the thermometer again right after using it.

  • More pieces in the pan will take longer to cook.

  • Cook chicken until juices run clear and to recommended internal cooking temperature.


Serving & Sitting Temperatures

  • Temperature is still vital. The temperature range between 40° and 140°F is considered to be the food spoilage zone. Food should rest in this temperature range for only two hours. After that, it should be promptly stored to keep it fresh for the next serving time. Foods sitting more than two hours in this temperature zone should be discarded.

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

  • If you plan on food remaining out in a serving situation for an extended period, be sure to maintain the temperature appropriate to the dish. Use warming pans or ice dishes to keep food out of the spoilage zone we talked about in the paragraph above. Check the food's temperature often to make sure it's okay.

Easy Poached Eggs

Poached Eggs

Poaching eggs is one of the easiest, quickest, and lowest calorie ways of preparing eggs, as there is no added fat. Poached eggs make great additions to salads, such as the French salad Lyonnaise, or sandwiches, or just served simply with toast and a little salt and pepper. Here are a few of our methods for how to poach an egg.

  1. First bring water in a saucepan to almost boiling. If the water is already boiling, lower the heat until it is no longer boiling. Add a couple teaspoons of vinegar to the water. Vinegar allows the egg whites to congeal more easily.

  2. Working with the eggs one by one, crack an egg into a small cup, then place the cup near the surface of the hot water and gently drop the egg into the water. With a spoon, nudge the eggwhites closer to their yolks. This will help the egg whites hold together. Use slotted spoon to lift any eggs up from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

  3. Turn off the heat. Cover. Let sit for 3-4 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked.

  4. Lift eggs out of pan with a slotted spoon.

One trick to make the eggs stay somewhat contained is to take a ring from a mason jar and place it in the pan. Drop the egg over the mason jar ring and let it settle in the ring, then turn off the heat and cover.

Egg Tips

Eggs

  • To keep eggs from cracking while cooking (before placing in water), pierce large end with a needle, which will also make them easier to peel.

  • Remove eggs from the refrigerator approximately 15 to 20 minutes before you are going to use them.

  • Check the shells of eggs to determine freshness. Fresh eggs have shells that are rough and chalky. Old eggs have shells that are smooth and have lost the chalky appearance. Or, place in cold salt water and if it sinks it is fresh. If it rises to the surface, it is old and should be discarded.

  • To make hard boiled eggs easier to peel, try one of these tips:
    • Use older eggs. Fresh ones won't peel properly.
    • Before boiling the eggs, poke one end with a needle.
    • Add a teaspoon of salt to the water before boiling.
    • Never boil eggs. It makes them rubbery.
    • As soon as the eggs are finished cooking, crack the shell and place them in cold water.

  • When storing egg yolks, keep them moist by pouring one tablespoon of water over them.

  • If raw eggs become mixed with hard-boiled, you can determine which are hard boiled by spinning the eggs. The hard-boiled will spin and the raw will wobble.

Food Preparation & Handling

Food Preparation & Handling

How you cook and handle your food is very important. Below are a few tips for food preparation and handling.


Keep It Clean

The first cardinal rule of safe food preparation in the home is: Keep everything clean.

The cleanliness rule applies to the areas where food is prepared and, most importantly, to the cook. Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before starting to prepare a meal and after handling raw meat or poultry. Cover long hair with a net or scarf, and be sure that any open sores or cuts on the hands are completely covered. If the sore or cut is infected, stay out of the kitchen.

Also, be sure to keep dishcloths and sponges clean because, when wet, these materials harbor bacteria and may promote their growth. Wash dishcloths and sponges weekly in hot water in the washing machine. While you're at it, sanitize the kitchen sink drain periodically by pouring down the sink a solution of 5 milliliters of bleach to 1 liter of water or a commercial kitchen cleaning agent. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal and, along with moistness, create an ideal environment for bacterial growth.

Use smooth cutting boards made of hard maple or plastic and free of cracks and crevices. Avoid boards made of soft, porous materials. Wash cutting boards with hot water, soap, and a scrub brush. Then, sanitize them in an automatic dishwasher or by rinsing with a solution of 5 milliliters of chlorine bleach to about 1 liter of water.

Always wash and sanitize cutting boards after using them for raw foods, such as seafood or chicken, and before using them for ready-to-eat foods. Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked, such as raw fish, and another only for ready-to-eat foods, such as bread, fresh fruit, and cooked fish.

Always use clean utensils and wash them between cutting different foods.

Wash the lids of canned foods before opening to keep dirt from getting into the food. Also, clean the blade of the can opener after each use. Food processors and meat grinders should be taken apart and cleaned as soon as possible after they are used.

Do not put cooked meat on an unwashed plate or platter that has held raw meat.

Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly, rinsing in warm water. Don't use soap or other detergents. If necessary, and appropriate, use a small scrub brush to remove surface dirt.


Keep The Temperature Right

The second cardinal rule of safe home food preparation is: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Use a thermometer with a small-diameter stem to ensure that meats are completely cooked. Insert the thermometer 1 to 2 inches into the center of the food and wait 30 seconds to ensure an accurate measurement.

  • Beef (including ground beef), lamb, and pork should be cooked to at least 160° F (71° C)

  • Whole poultry and thighs to 180° F (82° C); poultry breasts to 170° F (77° C)

  • Ground chicken or turkey to 165° F (74° C).

Don't eat poultry that is pink inside.

Eggs should be cooked until the white and the yolk are firm. Avoid foods containing raw eggs, such as homemade ice cream, mayonnaise, eggnog, cookie dough, and cake batter, because they carry a Salmonella risk. Their commercial counterparts usually don't because they're made with pasteurized eggs. Cooking the egg-containing product to an internal temperature of at least 160° F (71° C) will kill the bacteria.

Seafood should be thoroughly cooked. FDA's 1999 Food Code recommends cooking most seafood to an internal temperature of 145° F (63° C) for 15 seconds. If you don't have a meat thermometer, look for other signs of doneness. For example:

  • Fish is done when the thickest part becomes opaque and the fish flakes easily when poked with a fork.

  • Shrimp can be simmered three to five minutes or until the shells turn red.

  • Clams and mussels are steamed over boiling water until the shells open (five to 10 minutes). Then boil three to five minutes longer.

  • Oysters should be sauted, baked or boiled until plump, about five minutes.

Protect food from cross-contamination after cooking, and eat it promptly.

Cooked foods should not be left standing on the table or kitchen counter for more than two hours. Disease-causing bacteria grow in temperatures between 40° and 140° F (4° and 60° C). Cooked foods that have been in this temperature range for more than two hours should not be eaten.

If a dish is to be served hot, get it from the stove to the table as quickly as possible. Reheated foods should be brought to a temperature of at least 165° F (74° C). Keep cold foods in the refrigerator or on a bed of ice until serving. This rule is particularly important to remember in the summer months.

After the meal, leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible. (Never mind that scintillating dinner table conversation!) Meats should be cut in slices of three inches or less and all foods should be stored in small, shallow containers to hasten cooling. Be sure to remove all the stuffing from roast turkey or chicken and store it separately. Giblets should also be stored separately. Leftovers should be used within three days.

And here are just a few more parting tips to keep your favorite dishes safe. Don't thaw meat and other frozen foods at room temperature. Instead, move them from the freezer to the refrigerator for a day or two; or defrost submerged in cold water flowing fast enough to break up and float off loose particles in an overflow. You can also defrost in the microwave oven, or during the cooking process. Never taste any food that looks or smells "off," or comes out of leaking, bulging or severely damaged cans or jars with leaky lids.

Though all these do's and don'ts may seem overwhelming, remember, if you want to stay healthy, when it comes to food safety, the old saying "rules are made to be broken" does not apply!



Keep Food Safe During Power Outages

Power outages can occur at any time of the year and it often takes from a few hours to several days for electricity to be restored to residential areas. Without electricity or a cold source, foods stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40° and 140° F, and if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick.


Here are a few steps to prepare for a possible weather emergency:

  • Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.

  • Make sure the freezer is at 0° F or below and the refrigerator is at 40° F or below.

  • Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.

  • Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately, this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.

  • Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

  • Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.

  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.

  • Group food together in the freezer, this helps the food stay cold longer.


Steps to follow after the weather emergency:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.

  • Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power.

  • Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below when checked with a food thermometer.

  • Never taste a food to determine its safety!

  • Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.

  • If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe to refreeze.

  • If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.

  • Drink only bottled water if flooding has occurred.

  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.

  • Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved.

  • Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.

  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

Food Storage & Shelf Life

Food Storage & Shelf Life

Storing your food properly will extend its life to its maximum potential. Some foods can be stored at room temperature and some must be refrigerated. Freezing can be used to extend the life of many products. To get the most out of the storage areas, certain conditions must be maintained.


Shelf Storage

Shelf storage should be in a cool, dry area. Many food items should also be kept out of direct light. The temperature should be keep at 70° F or below.

  • Use Lazy Susans on shelves that hold small items or where items would be several deep. The Lazy Susan will make access to these items a lot easier.

  • Use shallow organizer shelving in tall, deep shelves to add layers for stacking small or shorter items.

  • Use wire or plastic baskets to hold odd shaped or bulky items.

  • Store opened items, such as pasta, rice and cereals, in clear plastic or glass containers with tight fitting lids to keep them fresh and easily visible. Clear self-sealing bags can also be used.

  • If you have a pantry with empty walls, add more shelving or stackable bins.

  • When organizing items, place like items together to make it easier to remember where items are store. Store baking ingredients together, canned goods in one area, and dry ingredients in another.

  • When adding items to storage, be sure to place newest products in back of what is already on the shelf so that older items get used first.


Refrigerator Storage

The refrigerator should be kept at a temperature between 33° F to 40° F. Check the temperature frequently with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.

  • Keep like items together so you know where to look for them. Have sauces in one area, keep meats in the meat drawer if you have that option available, keep vegetables in the vegetable crispers, and store beverages in the same location.

  • Be sure all packages are marked with the date and name of product. This will make it easier to know if an item is no longer good to eat.

  • Store leftovers in clear containers or bags so you can see what you are searching for without having to open several containers to find it.

  • Keep all items as orderly as possible. This will allow more storage space and easier access to the food being stored.

  • Remove and discard food that is spoiled or has been stored past the recommended storage time.


Freezer Storage

The freezer should be kept at a temperature of 0° F or below. Check the temperature frequently with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.

  • Keep food stacked as neat as possible by placing the largest flat packages on the bottom. Place other flat packages on top of them with the smallest being at the top. Fit odd size food items in where they best fit. Refrigerator freezers are small and can easily become disorganized, which makes it hard to find the stored item you are searching for.

  • Be sure all packages are marked with the date and name of product. This will make it easier to know if an item is no longer good to eat.

  • Use the freezer baskets to organize smaller items.

  • In large freezer units, organize food into groups of like items. Divide meat into types, such as all beef in one section and pork in another or keep steaks and chops separate from roasts. Food groups can be divided according to your own personal preference.

  • Plastic bags can also be used to organize smaller items. Like items, such as packages of frozen vegetables or individual packages of ground meat, can be put in a bag and placed on top of other items. When they need to be retrieved, the bag can be pulled out and the item accessed. The bag can also be easily removed to allow access to the items below it.

  • When adding food to the freezer that is the same as something already stored there, be sure to place it in the same area and under or behind what is already there. This will ensure that the oldest food is used first.


Organize Your Storage Area

Organizing your storage areas will give you more room and easier access to the stored food. Having food organized in the refrigerator and freezer will also help save energy by allowing quicker access to the food you are retrieving. The more time that the refrigerator or freezer is open, the more the temperature will drop. This causes the appliance to have to run more to get the temperature back down to what it needs to be, so quick access is important for energy saving. Shown below are some organizing suggestions.

Guide to Vinegars

Vinegars

Types of Vinegar

In general, wine vinegars are required to have at least 6 percent acetic acid, and other vinegars range between 4-6 percent acetic acid. Slight variations in acidity levels will be only barely perceptible on the palate; they need be of concern only when preparing pickles or other preserves. Wine, malt, and cider vinegar are strong, but distilled and spirit vinegars are even stronger. While any vinegar can be distilled, malt vinegar is most often used for this process. The distillation concentrates the acetic acid, increasing the level above 6 percent. The vinegar made in any given country tends to reflect the produce. Wine-making countries, such as France, Italy, and Spain, produce wine vinegars. Where apples are a main crop, as in parts of North America, cider vinegar represents the bulk of production. Beer-brewing countries, such as Britain, produce malt vinegar. In the Far East, where wine is made from rice, a mild variety of rice wine vinegar containing 2-4 percent acetic acid is most widely used.


Balsamic Vinegar

A wine vinegar that is gaining recognition in cuisines around the world is aceto balsa mico, or balsamic vinegar. Made in Modena in northern Italy, it is named for the Italian word for "balm" referring to the smooth, mellow character of this unique vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is made from unfermented grape juice that is aged in wooden casks. The quality of the finished product depends a great deal on the type of wood used and the skill of the vinegar maker. The finest vinegars are aged for a minimum of ten years; the maximum aging time can extend for many decades. Balsamic vinegar production demands an artistry equal to the production of a great wine. In Modena, fine aged balsamic vinegar may be served as an after-dinner drink. Traditionally made balsamic vinegar can be costly, although an industrially made version does exist and is an acceptable substitute for the traditional kind in most recipes.


Cider Vinegar

Apple pulp or cider can be made into cider vinegar following the same method used to produce wine vinegar. There are recipes that call specifically for cider vinegar, but it has a strong, sharp flavor and so should only be used where it complements the other ingredients. Commercial cider vinegars, which are filtered, are a pale brown color. Home-produced versions can become cloudy, but this does not affect their taste or indicate an inferior quality. The flavor is not smooth and refined enough for most salad dressings, but it can be used successfully in fruit pickles.

Malt Vinegar

Made from malted barley, this type is most often used as a pickling vinegar for onions and other vegetables. Malt vinegar has too strong a flavor for use in salad dressings, but is the perfect condiment for fish and chips. Powerful distilled malt vinegar, which is colorless, is for pickling watery vegetables, such as cucumber, which are likely to dilute the vinegar. It is also used in the manufacture of sauces and chutneys and is sometimes colored with caramel to produce brown malt vinegar.


Rice Vinegar

Most common in the cuisines of Asia, this type is made from soured and fermented rice wines. Japanese rice vinegars are mellow and mild, while vinegar from China is sharp and sometimes slightly sour. Depending on the rice used, Chinese vinegars are red or white in color. Like vinegars in the West, rice vinegar is often flavored. Soy sauce and mirin, or sweet rice wine, can be added, along with spices and flavorings such as gingerroot, dried bonito flakes, chilies, sesame seeds, onions, horseradish, and mustard. There is also a black Chinese vinegar, which is obtained from wheat, sorghum, and millet instead of rice.


Sherry Vinegar

Sherry vinegar, with its deep caramel color and well-rounded mellow flavor, is matured in wooden casks similar to those in which the sherry is made and can be expensive.


Wine Vinegars

Arguably, those vinegars made from wine are the greatest of all. In fact, our word vinegar comes from the French vinaigre (literally "sour wine") derived from the Latin vinum acer, which means the same thing. Like the wines they are made from, wine vinegars offer enormous range and versatility. Vinegar is the necessary, and quite natural, outcome of the life of grape juice (or any other fermentable liquid for that matter). Left to its own devices, and plenty of fresh air, grape or other fruit juice will naturally ferment. In other words, naturally occurring microflora and yeasts will begin to devour the sugars in the liquid and convert them into alcohol. If further left alone, acetic bacteria will invade and consume the alcohol, and in turn, change the alcohol into acid, or vinegar. Although the whole process will happen naturally, whether one intends for it to happen or not, today the mechanics of making commercial vinegar are highly controlled, or as controlled as one can be over Mother Nature.


Cooking with Vinegar

Vinegar is an essential ingredient in the kitchen and a highly versatile flavoring. Also used as a means of preserving foods, generally fruit, vinegar is also an excellent seasoning. High quality vinegars can be costly, so it is important that they are stored properly to ensure maximum shelf life. Keep vinegars in a cool place away from light; they do not need to be refrigerated. Most vinegars can be kept almost indefinitely if stored correctly.

Certain kinds of vinegar are used to deglaze pan juices for piquant sauces or gravies. The addition of a little vinegar can enliven many sauces, especially tomatobased ones, but remember to use a light touch. Vinegar goes surprisingly well with soft fruits, such as raspberries and strawberries, and a dash of a mellow vinegar adds distinction to fresh fruit salad.

When deciding which vinegar to use in a dish, always choose the most appropriate flavor. Malt vinegar is made from grain and is strongly flavored, so it is best with straightforward food such as fish and chips, cold meats, or when preparing relishes and chutneys. Cider vinegar is the best choice for deglazing pork chops accompanied by sautéed apples.

Wine vinegars are ideal for mayonnaise and all kinds of salad dressings. They are also used in many classic butter sauces, such as béarnaise, often made with whitewine vinegar and served with fish. A dash of fine wine vinegar adds distinction to rich meat or game stews.

Guide to Olive Oils

Olive Oils

A bottle labeled "extra virgin" means that the oil has been made from the first cold pressing of the olives and has less than 1 percent acidity. It is the most labor intensive to produce and considered to be the best. As a result, it's usually the most expensive. Save extra-virgin oil for raw dishes, like salads, or drizzled over meats and vegetables after cooking, where you'll really be able to appreciate the flavor.

"Light" olive oil is a good choice for cooking and baking because it has a higher smoking point than regular olive oil and can therefore be used for frying. But the "light" only refers to color, fragrance and taste. It has the same amount of fat and calories as regular olive oil.

Color is an indicator of the type of olives used and the flavor. It is not an indicator of quality.

Italian olives have a deep robust flavor and color with a peppery finish and are intended to stand up well when drizzled over tomatoes, meat and pasta dishes. Spanish olives tend to be more subtle with a buttery finish, which makes them great for sauces. California olive oils have a green-grass flavor with a mild finish, which is handy for sauteing.

Olive oil's natural enemies are air, light, heat and age. So keep in a cool dark place. Don't store it above the stove, and remember that olive oil should be consumed within 12 to 18 months of purchase, and within three months of opening.

How To Cut A Mango

The mango has a flat-ish oblong pit in the center of it. Your objective is to cut along the sides of the pit, separating the flesh from the pit.

Mango

  1. Holding the mango with one hand, stand it on its end, stem side down. Standing up the mango up like this you should be able to imagine the alignment of the flat, oval pit inside of it. With a sharp knife in your other hand, cut from the top of the mango, down one side of the pit. Then repeat with the other side. You should end up with three pieces - two halves, and a middle section that includes the pit.
  2. Mango
  3. Take a mango half and use a knife to make lengthwise and crosswise cuts in it, but try not to cut through the peel. At this point you may be able to peel the segments right off of the peel with your fingers. Or, you can use a small paring knife to cut away the pieces from the peel.



  4. Mango
  5. Take the mango piece with the pit, lay it flat on the cutting board. Use a paring knife to cut out the pit and remove the peel.

How To Make Gravy

Here is a basic way of making gravy from roast drippings using flour. Start with the roast drippings. You may have much more drippings than you need for the amount of gravy you want to make. You can follow this guideline, for each cup of gravy you would like to make, start with a tablespoon of drippings.

So, if you want to make 2 cups of gravy, drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat and drippings from the roasting pan (set aside for future use). These instructions will be for the end result of 2 cups of gravy, but you can easily divide or multiply to adjust for how much gravy you want to make.


  1. Remove the roast from the pan. Place pan on stove on medium high heat. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the drippings in the pan.

  2. Into the 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pan stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir with a wire whisk until the flour has thickened and the gravy is smooth. Continue to cook slowly to brown the flour, and stir constantly.

  3. Slowly add back some of the previously removed drippings (remove some of the fat beforehand if there is a lot of fat). In addition, add either water, milk, stock, or cream to the gravy, enough to make 2 cups. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and herbs.
Step 2


Step 3

How to Make Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard Boiled Eggs

Directions

  1. Place eggs in single layer in saucepan.

  2. Cover with at least one inch of cold water over tops of shells.

  3. Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil over medium heat.

  4. As soon as the water comes to a full boil, remove from heat and let stand.

  5. Large soft-cooked eggs: let stand in hot water 1 to 4 minutes, depending on your tastes.

  6. Large hard-cooked eggs: let stand in hot water 15 to 17 minutes.

  7. When cooked to desired level, drain off hot water.

  8. Immediately cover with cold water and add a few ice cubes.

  9. Soft-cooked eggs: let stand in cold water until cool enough to handle. Serve.

  10. Hard-cooked eggs: let stand in cold water until completely cooled. Use as needed.

Pasta Cooking Tips

Cooking Pasta

  • When cooking fresh pasta, watch it very closely and test often for doneness because it cooks quickly.

  • To prevent the pasta from sticking together, be sure to use plenty of water and stir the pasta when first adding it to the boiling water.

  • To prevent soft, mushy pasta, do not allow the pasta to be in the water any longer than necessary by adding it only when the water is at a full boil and by keeping it at a steady boil throughout the cooking time.

  • Adding salt to the water when cooking pasta will help firm the pasta and bring out its flavor.

  • Add a tablespoon of oil to the water when cooking lasagne. Because lasagne noodles are long, wide and thick, they have a tendency to stick together when they cool. The oil in the cooking water will help to prevent them from sticking together.

  • Pasta should be cooked as close to serving time as possible because it cools down quite rapidly. Serve the pasta on a heated plate or in a heated bowl to help keep it warm.

  • To warm a large bowl for serving pasta, put the serving bowl in the sink and place the colander in it. When the pasta is done, pour it into the colander, allowing the hot water to drain into the bowl. Pull the colander out of the serving bowl and let the pasta drain. Empty the hot water from the serving bowl and pour the pasta into the warm bowl.

  • When cooking fresh or homemade pasta, be sure to have everything ready that you will need to prepare the pasta for serving, such as the colander in the sink, the sauce made and warmed bowls or plates ready to be filled. Fresh and homemade pasta cooks rapidly and having everything ready ahead of time will assist in serving warm pasta.

  • To bring pasta water to a boil more quickly, cover the pot with a lid while you are heating the water. Do not cover the pot while cooking the pasta.

  • When making lasagne, use the "no need to cook" lasagne noodles to save time.

  • To prevent pasta from boiling over, place a wooden spoon or fork across the top of the pot while the pasta is boiling.

  • Don't worry about cooking too much pasta, the leftover pasta can be refrigerated and used later in other dishes, such as salads, casseroles or soups. It can also be reheated and eaten plain or with a sauce.

  • If combining different pastas, be sure to select shapes and sizes that are similar so that they will cook in the same amount of time.

Vegetable Tips

Vegetable Tips

Carrots

  • When selecting, choose carrots that are firm and not oversized. They should be bright orange to deep orange in color. Avoid any that have soft spots or other blemishes.

  • When storing carrots, remove the tops because they will draw water from the carrots and cause them to wilt.

  • If carrots wilt, cut one end off and stand them up in a glass of cold water to crisp them up again.

  • Peeled carrots are sweeter because they have the slightly bitter tasting skins removed.


Cauliflower

  • When selecting, choose cauliflower heads that are firm and compact. They should have green leaves surrounding the head. Avoid heads that seem loose or have yellowing leaves. Also avoid cauliflower heads that have florets that are starting to brown or have other blemishes.

  • Once the florets are cut off the cauliflower, the stems can be chopped into pieces and then added to a fresh salad to provide a crunchy texture.


Celery

  • When selecting, choose celery with firm, crisp stalks. Avoid celery that has leaves that have begun to yellow or turn brown.

  • Revive wilted celery by placing it in cold water and refrigerating it for several hours or to speed up the process, place it in ice water for one hour.


Cucumbers

  • When selecting, choose cucumbers that are firm and have tight, shiny skins. Avoid any that are not firm or have shriveled or blemished skin.

  • If you don't like the large seeds in cucumbers, be sure to select smaller cucumbers, which will have smaller seeds. The smaller cucumbers generally have better flavor also.


Garlic

  • When selecting, choose garlic that is plump and firm with paper-like skins that are tight and intact. Avoid any that are soft or that have begun to shrivel.

  • Place garlic cloves in the microwave for 15 seconds and the skins should peel off easily.

  • Keep peeled and mince garlic fresh by placing it in a small jar and pouring just enough olive oil over it to cover the garlic and then place it in the refrigerator. It will keep its fresh flavor for about a week.

  • Don't throw out sprouting garlic. Instead, plant the cloves fairly close together in a pot or in the garden (if your climate is suitable at the time). The new shoots that appear will have a mild garlic flavor and can be used in the same manner as regular chives.


Greens

  • When selecting, choose greens that smell fresh, have good color, and do not show sign of wilting. Avoid greens with thick or tough stems.

  • Wash greens gently but thoroughly and then dry completely. Use a salad spinner (do not over pack) or gently pat dry with a tea towel to avoid breaking or bruising the greens.

  • To store, loosely wrap small bunches in paper towels, place in plastic bags, and gently press excess air out of the bag before sealing. Do not over pack. Store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.


Lettuce

  • When selecting, choose heads that are firm and have nice green leaves. Avoid heads that have leaves showing any discoloration.

  • To remove the core from a head of lettuce, hit the core solidly on the top of the counter. This will separate the core from the head. The core can then be removed by giving it a slight twist and pulling it out.


Mushrooms

  • Store mushrooms, uncleaned, in a paper bag or their original container. Do not store in plastic or airtight plastic containers because they cause the mushrooms to retain moisture and decay faster.

  • When cleaning mushrooms, avoid using water because it will reduce their flavor. Use a brush to clean sand, grit and other debris from the pits and ridges.


Peppers

  • Keep chili peppers fresh longer by storing them with the stems removed.

  • If you are using chili peppers, be sure to keep exposed hands away from the eye area and other sensitive areas of the body, such as nose and lips. The chili oil that your hands are exposed to can cause severe irritation. Wash hands immediately after exposure or wear rubber gloves to protect against exposure.


Potatoes

  • When selecting, choose potatoes that are nicely shaped and have smooth skins. Avoid any that have bruises or other blemishes, and any that have eyes that have begun to sprout.

  • Do not store potatoes close to onions. The onions will cause the potatoes to rot faster.

  • Place an apple in the bag with the potatoes to keep them from sprouting.


Tomatoes

  • When selecting, choose tomatoes that have shiny skins that are light red in color. They should be firm and have an aroma similar to the tomato plant. Avoid any with blemishes and dull, dark red skins, which indicates that the tomato is overripe. If the tomato lacks aroma, it generally lacks flavor.

  • If tomatoes are under-ripe, place them in a brown paper bag and store them overnight in a dark area, or try placing them in a covered bowl with an apple. The apple gives off ethylene gas, which hastens ripening.

  • Firm up overripe tomatoes by placing them in a bowl of cold salt water and leaving them sit overnight.

 

 

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