Around these parts, we focus on both eating to live and living to eat. It’s all about moderation. We’re wanna-be healthy mamas. Pizza some nights and lentil soup on the other. It’s all good. We care about your mind, body & soul. Your mental health isn’t taboo here.
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Find Yourself, Mould Your Kids Discover confidence you never knew you had and challenge yourself to be your best self. Rid anxiety and overwhelm. Kick depression to the curb & PERSEVERE through anything!
Eat & Cook Well Discover how to cook tasty, satisfying, delicious meals you & your family will drool over. Oh, and without a million ingredients, bucks or hours of your time.
Get & Stay Strong Learn what fitness activities will work for you and your family. Enjoy “working out” in a way that feels good and right to you!
If you suffer from anxiety, you may blame certain triggers in your environment for bringing on anxious feelings. But what you eat and drink can have a profound effect on your body’s chemistry. Some foods and drinks may actually worsen your anxiety.
Here are some of the culprits:
As you might have expected, the caffeine in coffee can make anxiety worse. It causes constriction of blood vessels and that feeling of the “jitters.” It can also cause or worsen insomnia. In addition, coffee inhibits the absorption of Vitamin C, an important nutrient for optimal mind and body function.
Soft Drinks and Colas
Even if you choose caffeine-free, sugar-free soft drinks, you are still drinking a beverage that can worsen your anxiety. The high-acid content of dark colas produces an acidic environment in the body. In order to alleviate this acidity, calcium and magnesium are leached from your bones.
Both of these minerals are crucial to proper brain and muscle function. In fact, muscles can not relax properly without calcium and magnesium. The tense muscles associated with anxiety are therefore exacerbated.
So if you choose a clear, caffeine-free, sugar-free soft drink, it won’t worsen your anxiety, right? Wrong! The artificial sweetener in these drinks, aspartame, may have significant cognitive effects. It may indeed worsen the psychological aspect of anxiety.
At first, this seems like the opposite of caffeine, and therefore a good idea for anxiety sufferers. But actually, alcohol consumption (beyond a small glass of wine a few times a week) can worsen depression and inhibit the absorption of key nutrients.
While chocolate is often considered the “feel-good” food, it contains significant caffeine and large amounts of sugar. As discussed above, caffeine has the opposite effect that an anxious person wants and needs. The sugar is another problem and is discussed below.
By “excessive,” some nutritionists mean anything over 5 tablespoons of refined sugar daily. While you may think that would be easy, it’s not. Sugar is in everything, and 5 tablespoons is just 1 tablespoon more than 1/4 cup.
If you drink several large glasses of sweet iced tea, you have probably drunk close to 1/4 cup of sugar. And that does not take into account the sugar in your foods, either hidden (such as in frozen foods) or obvious (such as “frosted” cereals).
So why is sugar a problem? For one thing, the body uses Vitamin B6, which is crucial to mood and proper hormone function, to metabolize sugar. In other words, sugar depletes your body of this and other important nutrients. It can also create highs and lows in mood, and bring on a post-sugar “crash,” or low blood sugar.
Refined flour acts much like sugar in the body. And it has none of the essential fatty acids, fiber, and other nutrients that whole grains do.
Highly Processed Foods
Many processed foods are full of preservatives, dough “conditioners” (in the case of store-bought bread products), artificial flavors, and artificial colors. Some of these can pass through the blood-brain barrier, affecting cognitive function.
Tartrazine (FD&C yellow #5), commonly found in candy, gum, margarine, and many other processed foods can disrupt the hormone balance in the body.
For those living with depression, every day can be a challenge. For family members of depressed people, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do, and you may feel like you’re walking on eggshells. Understanding depression can go a long way in helping deal with this illness, and there are some coping tips that may help. Here are some suggestions.
Get the Best Treatment
The first step for a depressed person is to get treatment – but it’s equally important to get the best treatment, say experts. This means taking the time to get the help you need or helping your depressed family member get optimal help.
Include Family in Therapy
While the depressed individual may not want family members present in every counseling or therapy session, it may be a good idea to include family members at least some of the time. The therapist can then see a slice of the family dynamic, and the family members can gain a better understanding of the issue. Some family members are more likely to believe a therapist’s “take” on things than take the depressed person’s word for it.
Including family may also help other family members to better understand how to treat the depressed individual, and what things they can say or do to support the depressed person.
Parents of Teens
Because teenagers are a high-risk group for developing depression, sources say, the parents of teens may benefit from some tips on living with a depressed teen. Here are some suggestions.
* Develop a tough skin. Teens who are depressed may yell at you to leave them alone, to go away, or to stop talking to them. For teens, this may be a sort of test of your parenting – the teen may be testing to see if you care enough to press through the anger and continue trying to reach them. Parents who truly do care may miss this aspect and just give up after being yelled at. Instead, remember it’s not personal and your teen still needs you.
* Listen. Busy parents often forget to listen, and how important it is. Parents sometimes need to stop running and take a break to listen and talk. A parent-teen “date” or retreat can help – maybe a mother-daughter shopping trip or father-son fishing excursion.
* Encourage your depressed teen to problem solve. As parents, we just want their struggles to go away; but giving them the tools to cope is a gift that will last a lifetime. It’s okay to help, encourage, and prompt your teen; but experts say your goal as a parent is to get their brains working on solving their own problems.
As a depressed person, it may be hard to maintain friendships. But supportive friends are important for your depression management and coping. Try to make a point of nurturing these relationships; it will help you break out of yourself and focus on someone else.
How do you know when you’re just having a hard time and are stressed out, or if it’s something more serious? When is it clinical depression? While a doctor is the only one who can make a qualified diagnosis, there are some signs and symptoms of depression that can signal your need to see a doctor. Here are some of those signs and symptoms.
According to medical sources, feeling particularly depressed in the morning is a sign that you may have depression. Feeling sad all day is also part of the depression, but the morning blues – perhaps making you just want to stay in or go back to bed – are particularly likely to be connected with depression.
Many people don’t realize that recent research points to a connection between anger and depression. Blowing up and yelling at people without being able to control it may signify depression.
Slightly different from anger, irritability is more about feeling snappish or easily frustrated and/or annoyed than angry blow-ups. Irritability connected to depression may make you feel really on edge all the time.
Do you find yourself wanting to give up because things seem like they’re just too much? Do you say, “I just can’t take anymore,” often? Depression can make you feel overwhelmed and over-stressed even when your schedule is not terribly demanding. Even a simple request for you to do something may send you over the edge and make you feel super-stressed.
People with depression may constantly compare themselves to others. As noted above, a not-too-demanding schedule may seem overwhelming to a depressed person, thus making the depressed person feel inadequate that he/she can’t handle a schedule that others seem to handle fine. This sets up a cycle of feeling inadequate.
Insomnia or Excessive Sleepiness
Ironically, depression can cause some people to lose sleep, while it makes others want to sleep all the time (hypersomnia).
Lack of Interest
Are you just not interested in any outside activities? Are things you once looked forward to just burdensome things you have to trudge through and get done? This may mean you have depression.
Changes in Weight
In another irony of depression, both weight loss and weight gain may be symptoms of depression. Generally, if you gain or lose 5% or more of your body weight in a month, it may mean depression.
Depression can make you feel like you can’t make a decision, even simple ones. Your schedule just seems like gibberish when you look at it; you may not show up for things you have on your calendar or get dates wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but if this is a chronic problem or you just can’t seem to get a handle on your schedule even when you sit down and try to figure out what to do and what to skip, it may mean depression.
Inability to Concentrate
Depressed people often have trouble concentrating and focusing. Your mind may wander, even to thoughts of death or suicide, and you may feel like you just can’t get it together.
Here are Over 90+ Cooking Tips That’ll Change Everything
All-Purpose Tips You Need To Know
Add a little zest
When a recipe calls for a “zest,” it’s referring to the outer colored part of the skin. The zest contains all of the aromatic citrus oils and provides a hint of citrus tang to its recipes. The easiest way to fine zest is by rubbing the fruit against the smallest holes of a cheese grater.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Good cooks aren’t afraid to deviate from a recipe and add their own flair. Whenever you make a substitution or addition, remember to make a note on the recipe!
Salted butter vs. unsalted butter
Butter is available both with and without salt. Salt is typically added for extra flavor and to help preserve and extend the shelf life. The problem is that sometimes the salt in butter can be more than a recipe needs. Choosing unsalted butter gives YOU more control over how much salt your dish contains. If you only have salted butter, the best thing to do is omit approximately ¼ teaspoon of salt per ½ cup (one stick) of butter used in the recipe.
Use your kitchen scissors
Did you know you could use kitchen scissors for cutting meat? It’s not just for opening packages or the like. The next time you’re trimming the fat from a roast, opening pitas, or cutting a chicken into strips, consider using your scissors! Chefs use them all the time for cutting meats and other food items. But, make sure you have one for FOOD ONLY. Don’t go and use your scissors to cut through chicken one day and paper the next. Always clean them thoroughly after each use to avoid bacteria buildup.
Keep your recipes organized
Nothing is more frustrating when you’re ready to start cooking and you can’t find your recipe. Keep things organized by finding a system for filing the recipes that you can keep close at hand in the kitchen. A plain standard binder or even a photo album will work well for this!
Stop foods from sticking to the pan
To keep food from sticking to the bottom of your pans, try to avoid putting cold foods into a hot pan. Also, don’t put food into a pan that is not perfectly clean. Otherwise, the resulting build-up could lead to burned food.
Stop water from boiling over
To keep pans from boiling over when cooking, add a thin layer of butter around the pan’s rim. This works well for rice, pasta, and potatoes. Another trick that always works is to place a wooden ladle/spoon etc directly across the top!
Cut breads and cakes perfectly every time
As strange as this will sound- dental floss can be used to slice bread and cakes perfectly every time. This is also the easiest way to cut a layer cake in half so you can add a filling. For perfect results, freeze the cake before cutting it.
Juice ’em dry
When a recipe calls for the juice of lemons, limes, or oranges, roll the fruit under your palm against a hard surface to make sure you get every drop! Press down as hard as you can as you roll. Then simply slice and squeeze as normal. You’ll get much more juice this way.
Peel garlic the easy way
Peeling garlic can be frustrating unless you know this little tip that the pros use. Lay the clove flat down on a hard surface and then with the FLAT SIDE of a LARGE knife,- press down hard. Once you’ve pressed hard enough, you’ll hear a “pop” that tells you the peel has separated. But even with this trick, your fingers will undoubtedly smell like garlic. You can rid the odor by washing them well with salt.
Repair cracked eggs
If you have an egg that cracks while boiling, just add a capful of vinegar to the water and watch as the eggshell seals itself. However, if the whites have begun to ooze out, this trick won’t work.
The right way to fry foods
Although not the healthiest option, fried foods taste amazing. The key to perfect frying is to get the oil hot before you put the food in. (Not so hot that it is smoking though– so be careful!) If you don’t get the oil hot, your food will absorb too much oil and taste greasy. To test whether the oil is hot enough for frying, throw in a small piece of what you’re cooking. If it bubbles immediately, then you know it’s ready.
The correct temperature for deep frying
Does your oil always seem to be the wrong temperature? A simple way to find out if your oil is hot enough is to use a bread cube. If the bread browns in a minute, the oil is between 350 and 365 degrees, 40 seconds – 365 and 382 degrees, 20 seconds – 382 and 390 degrees. Or, if you have one, you can use a thermometer. Just be sure that it is a metal thermometer designed for deep fryers!
A substitution for eggs
Need an egg for a recipe, but you’re all out? You can substitute two tablespoons of real mayonnaise for a large egg in any recipe. Be sure not to use whipped salad dressing unless you want the extra salt that it contains.
Remove the fat from homemade soups by tossing in four ice cubes. The fat will solidify around the ice, which can then be removed. This will cool the soup, so you may need to reheat after completing the process.
Serve the perfect punch
When serving punch or any drink for that matter, it is usually left on the table for everyone to help themselves. So, it’s essential to keep it cold. However, instead of ice, which will dilute your drinks, opt to freeze some of the drink itself beforehand, and replace ice for your “punch cubes”!
Most marinades contain an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice, vinegar, or wine that can react with metal and cause off-flavors in your food. Always marinate foods in a glass or ceramic dish! To save on clean up time, marinate your dish in a large plastic bag with a zip closure. Set the bag on a plate or in a shallow bowl and refrigerate, turning the bowl occasionally to distribute the marinade.
Reduce grease splatters
When hot grease gets on your skin, it can be painful. Reduce grease splatters by sprinkling hot oil with salt before adding the food to be fried. If this doesn’t solve the issue, consider buying grease splatter shields.
The proper way to grate cheese
Make grating cheese a snap by tossing your cheese into the freezer for an hour before shredding. This will make the cheese hard enough to grate without compromising the taste or texture.
Mind-Blowing Sauces and Seasonings Cooking Hacks
Perfect homemade gravy
Looking for the perfect gravy to have with your holiday dinner? A great tip is to use tea! Boil a large pot of water, and when you put the turkey in the oven, add two orange pekoe tea bags. Let the tea steep on top of the stove until the turkey is done then add it to the juices in the pan. Thicken with a mixture of flour and water or cornstarch.
Keep chicken broth handy
Not only is chicken broth an easy way to add flavor to sauces, but it can also be used to add moisture to dry stuffing. And the unsalted variety can be used to tame over-salty gravy without diluting the flavor. Win!
A flavorful alternative to sour cream
Ran out of sour cream, or looking for something different? You can substitute a quick “crème fraiche”, which can be made from one cup of buttermilk and three cups of heavy cream. Mix and then allow them to sit on your counter for about three days. Then store it in the refrigerator for as long as two weeks.
Reduce the power of garlic and onions
Sometimes you don’t want an overbearing garlic or onion taste. You can get a milder flavor by sautéing them in butter or olive oil for a few minutes BEFORE adding them to other foods. This will release their natural sweetness and give a delicate delicious flavor.
The easy way to peel ginger root
To easily peel ginger root- place it in the freezer for an hour before use and then remove the skin with a sharp knife. Or, use the edge of a spoon when peeling at room temperature.
Caramelized onions to the rescue
Caramelized onions are a delicious way to add flavor to mashed potatoes, soups, vegetables, and sauces. Luckily, they can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator or frozen, so they’re available when you need them. Dice the onions fine and add them to melted butter. Then, cook them at a shallow temperature until the onions are brown. Be sure there is always lots of butter, or the onions will become crispy. Once caramelized, transfer them to a plastic container while the butter is still liquid and store them in the refrigerator. Once solidified, it’s easy to take a spoonful whenever you need it!
Goodbye lumpy sauces
Is your sauce too lumpy? Remove it from the heat immediately, and then toss it in your food processor to smooth out the lumps and blend them. Add some hot water if necessary to assist with the removal of the lumps. Then reheat as needed and serve!
Pre-made tomato sauce
Store-bought tomato sauce is an easy alternative to making your own. But sometimes it’s too acidic or too salty. You can cut the acidity of tomato sauce by adding about one-eighth of a cup of sugar. To reduce the saltiness, add a little cream. If it lacks flavor, add fresh or dried herbs to spice it up.
Use wine to add unique flavor to dishes
Just like herbs and spices, wine is another way of flavoring your dishes. Typically, the kind of wine to use in a dish is the kind you would most enjoy drinking with it. White wines are typically served with fish and white meats and red wines with dark meats. Don’t worry about the finished dish containing alcohol; wine loses its alcohol content when simmered long enough, so no trace of alcohol remains. An easy way to create a sauce is to deglaze your pan using wine. If needed, thicken with a little cornstarch or flour.
Make your own salad dressings
Store-bought salad dressings are loaded with extra calories and preservatives. Yuck. And once opened, they often go bad long before you even get to finish them. A great alternative is to make your own dressings. For a tasty vinaigrette, mix ¾ cup of oil with ¼ cup of vinegar and season with salt, pepper and some Dijon mustard for a nice kick. For other variations try adding honey, balsamic vinegar, orange juice, maple syrup, garlic or lime juice. With a little experimentation, you’ll be surprised how many great tastes you can create!
Stock, Broth, Bouillon and Consommé
In recipes calling for chicken or beef stock, you can use homemade or canned stock prepared from purchased cubes or powdered bases. (Be sure to watch the amount of salt you later add to your recipe though because some cubes and powdered bases are very VERY salty). Stock, broth, and bouillon are nearly the same. Broth is the clear liquid produced when meat, bones, and vegetables are simmered in water to extract flavor and then strained. Stock is made from meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables. Consommé is stronger than bouillon; it’s stock enriched with more meat and vegetables and then concentrated and clarified. There’s that, phew.
Thicken gravy fast
Thicken your gravy by adding a tablespoon of instant mashed potatoes. Start there, and add more if needed until it’s the right consistency. (Or follow some of the suggestions listed earlier)
Dried herbs versus fresh herbs
Fresh herbs are best for flavor, but if you don’t have any unavailable, use about one-third as much as dried. If a recipe doesn’t specify fresh or dried, you can assume it means dried, since dried herbs are much more commonly used. Whichever herbs you choose, if you’re unsure of the amount, start with just a little, taste often, and add more during cooking, to your preference. Side note: it’s recommended to replace them dried herbs every three months.
Add garlic to oils and vinegars
Oils and vinegars that are flavored with garlic provide a quick and easy way to add some punch to salad dressings, stir-fries, and meats. Once prepared, they can keep indefinitely and can be grabbed whenever you want to add a little flavor. To make your own simply peel garlic cloves and cut them in thirds. Put them in the bottom of the vinegar or oil shaker and leave for a few weeks before using. Side note: proceed with caution. I read countless articles negating the safety of this practice. I’m still unsure.
Use marinades to add flavor
A good marinade will add lots of extra flavor and juices to meats and vegetables. But be careful not to marinade longer than the recipe calls for. Some foods, seafood in particular, break down when marinated in acidic ingredients such as vinegar, wine or citrus fruit juices. The result can be a mushy mess that no one will want to eat!
Meat and Poultry Tips
If a recipe calls for coating meat with breadcrumbs, refrigerate the breaded portions for an hour or even overnight before cooking. This will help the breading cling when you cook the meat instead of sticking to the bottom of the pan! Breaded meats can also be frozen and pan-fried without defrosting. Be sure to adjust your cooking time accordingly, though.
When freezing red meat or poultry, wrap it very tightly or seal it in a plastic bag to prevent air spoilage or freezer burn. Be sure not to pile pieces on top of each other but do pack meat as flat as possible so it freezes quickly, which will ensure its texture is not spoiled. Meat should be completely thawed in the refrigerator before cooking. Never thaw poultry at room temperature, or you risk contamination.
Stop meatloaf from sticking to the pan
Tired of meatloaf that sticks to the pan? Toss in a slice of raw bacon before adding meat to the pan, and say goodbye to the sticking. It’s not the healthiest alternative, but it does work (and tastes great)!
To keep all of the natural juices inside your roast, sear it on all sides in a hot skillet with a little vegetable oil before putting it in the roasting pan. A few seconds per side is all it takes since the point is not to cook the meat but rather to toughen up the outside so that the juices don’t flow out while cooking. Then be sure to use a shallow roaster to retain more of the moisture. Uncover the meat halfway through roasting to avoid a steamed appearance and to get the top of your roast browned.
Make tastier hamburgers
Homemade hamburgers are easy to make and taste so much better than the store-bought variety. Make them with medium (or any type of) ground beef (or meat, doesn’t have to be beef! I always use ground chicken or turkey!), an egg, and bread crumbs or crushed crackers. Season with your favorite seasonings or add barbecue sauce for a smoky flavor. For juicier burgers, add a one-eighth cup of ice water to your beef or turkey before forming patties.
Choose perfect poultry
When choosing poultry, the skin should be a light creamy color, and it should be moist. It should also be unbroken with no dark patches. Fresh poultry should be stored loosely covered on a plate in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or frozen immediately.
Proper crispy fried chicken
For crispier fried chicken, add a teaspoon of baking powder to your coating mix, then coat and cook as you normally would. Remember to make sure that the oil is very hot before adding the chicken to avoid an overpowering greasy taste.
Don’t salt meat before cooking
One of the biggest faux pas when it comes to cooking meat is to salt it before cooking. What the salt actually does is draws the juices out and impedes the browning of the meat. Instead, add salt once the meat is already half cooked. Then taste it when it’s done, and if more salt is needed, you can add it later. (Remember, if you put too much, you can’t take away salt!) The result is juicy, tasty meat that doesn’t contain more salt then it needs!
Despite what you may have heard, poultry does not need to be washed before cooking. Wipe it with a damp cloth if needed. If it has been frozen, wipe it with absorbent paper to remove any excess moisture. Always be sure that poultry is cooked through. To test for readiness, pierce the flesh at the thickest part with a fork. If the juices run clear, then it’s cooked (to be extra sure, always use a thermometer).
To minimize moisture loss when grilling, baking, or sautéing fish, it’s essential to use relatively high heat and cook the fish for a short time. When you cook fish longer than necessary, the juices and flavors are lost, leaving the fish dry and chewy. Plus, overcooked fish is prone to falling apart.
Roast meats perfectly
For tender, juicier roasted meats, substitute wine, tea, or beer for water in your favorite recipes. These liquids help to tenderize the meat more than plain water does, and they add a rich flavor to whatever you are cooking.
Make perfect meatloaf
If you don’t want your meatloaf soaking in drippings of fat and water while it cooks, invests in a meatloaf pan with a built-in rack. The holes in the bottom of the rack allow the juices to drain away from the meat. The result is a perfect meatloaf every time!
The different fat contents in ground beef
In most cases, regular ground beef is more economical to buy than medium or lean. Some foods – such as hamburgers – are more tender and tastier when made with regular ground beef because of the extra fat content (You can drain away the extra fat in most cases.) However, always note what a recipe requires as different cuts will yield different tastes in dishes and different calorie counts.
Quickly cook chicken for recipes requiring pre-cooked chicken
An easy method of preparing chicken for recipes that call for pre-cooked chicken is to “poach” it. This involves simmering it slowly in liquid. This can be water, broth, fruit juice, wine, or a combination of these. Feel free to add in herbs at this point as well. Poach the chicken until tender, about 15-20 minutes, then use as specified in the recipe.
Nail Barbecuing Every Time
The perfect barbecue
Ever have a hard time knowing whether a steak is cooked properly? Instead of poking it with a fork or cutting it open (which will allow the juices run out), learn how to tell by touching the outside. For an example of how a steak feels at the different stages of cooking, look no further than your own hand. Touch your pointer finger to your thumb and then feel the fleshy part of your hand underneath your thumb. That is how a steak that is medium rare will feel. Your middle finger touched to your thumb shows you medium. Your ring finger to your thumb is medium-well. And lastly, your pinky finger to your thumb is well done.
Prepare the barbecue grill properly
For a better barbeque, brush your hot grill with a thin layer of oil before cooking or line your grill with a layer of aluminum foil covered with cooking spray. This will ensure that the meat does not stick and need to be torn away from the grill.
Never use a fork when grilling
When you poke your meat with a fork you allow the natural juices to flow out. As a result, your meat ends up dry and tough. Instead, use tongs to turn and flip the meat while keeping the juices locked in.
Place food in the right place on the grill
Barbecues give off heat in a very different way than your stove or oven. To ensure your food is properly cooked and not burned, be sure to grill meats and vegetables approximately 4″ from the heat source. With chicken, which is more likely to burn, 6″-8″ away is best.
Tips to Keep Your Fruits and Vegetables In Tip Top Shape
Blanching vegetables means to boil them for five or six minutes before using them in a recipe. This is particularly helpful for harder vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower that take longer to cook. Otherwise, you end up with vegetables that are too crunchy.
Plump up limp vegetables
Plump your limp veggies by soaking them in ice water to make them crisp after prolonged refrigeration. This is a great technique for lettuce and celery, which seem to go limp fastest. This trick also works for soft herbs. To avoid this completely- you can store celery for example in water while refrigerated. Just be sure to change the water daily.
Stir-fried vegetables are my favorite because they’re quick, tasty, and easy. Serve them over noodles or rice for a delicious meal or as a standard size option. The secret to stir-frying is to have your pan (preferably wok) very hot, and the vegetables cut into similar sized pieces, so they cook evenly. Great choices are peppers, mushrooms, onions, carrots, snow peas and string beans. Avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes and yams.
Measure vegetables and fruits accurately
When using a recipe that asks you to include a specified amount of a fruit or vegetable- here’s the general rule of thumb. If it reads- “1 cup of diced peppers”, then you dice them first and then measure out 1 cup. If it calls for “1 pepper, diced,” it wants you to dice one pepper. Most recipes are pretty forgiving, so please don’t stress over getting the perfect amount, especially with vegetables!
For the best results, coat the vegetables evenly in oil and add seasonings before putting them in a non-stick roasting pan. A great way to ensure they don’t stick (and to make cleanup easy) is to line your pan with parchment/baking paper. Make sure the vegetables are evenly distributed and not touching one another.
Ripen tomatoes overnight
Putting green tomatoes in a brown paper bag with an overripe banana can quickly ripen them. By the morning, your green tomatoes will be red and ready to eat! (This trick works with quite a few things!)
Steam vegetables perfectly every time
Steaming is an easy way to cook vegetables and a great way to retain their vitamins. Almost all vegetables can be steamed except for starchy ones like potatoes. When steaming, make sure that vegetables are cut into equal-sized pieces, so they cook evenly. To steam them, place them in a bamboo or metal steams, place the lid on the steamer, and put it over a saucepan of boiling water. Always steam your vegetables with the highest possible heat to avoid sogginess and cook them faster.
Steam vegetables without a steamer
Don’t have a steamer? Here’s a hack. Make enough small aluminum foil balls to cover the bottom of your pan and fill with water to half the foil balls. Boil the water, and once it is boiling, add whatever you are cooking. Expect it to be finished in about 10-15 minutes.
Easily peel tomatoes
Whenever you have to peel tomatoes, the easiest way is to immerse them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Then, use a sharp paring knife to remove the peel. Easy peasy!
Make delicious salads
If you’ve accustomed to using iceberg lettuce to make salads, now’s the time to branch out and try something new! Side note: you know iceberg has no real nutritional value right? Red and green leaf lettuces make a tastier and healthier alternative.
Use pureed vegetables
Pureed vegetables make an excellent thickener for sauces and stews. Consider pureeing your leftovers and freezing them in small plastic bags. Just be sure to heat thoroughly before adding to any sauces.
Wash and place whole peppers on the grill. Grill them on HIGH to char the skin all around. This takes 15-20 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when their skin is black and lifting away from the flesh in places. Then cool them in a paper bag to loosen the blackened skin. Simply peel them and remove the seeds. Roasted peppers taste great on top of pizzas, hamburgers, and quesadillas or are delicious on their own!
The Carb Trio: Pasta, Rice, and Potatoes
Cooking fresh pasta
Fresh pasta needs less water than dried pasta. To cook fresh pasta, have a large saucepan of rapidly boiling water ready. Make sure you have enough boiling water for the pasta to cook in. Add pasta to the pan, ensure the water stays boiling, and stir slowly for 10 seconds to separate the pasta. Boil pasta for 2-4 minutes, depending on the type you’re using.
Untangle spaghetti before serving
If you have allowed your spaghetti to cool for too long and it becomes tangled. You can toss it back into the hot water, and stir with a large spoon. Then, drain and rinse immediately. To avoid it sticking entirely, the best thing is to immediately lightly coat your pasta with olive oil after cooking & draining.
Al dente pasta
Al dente translates as “to the tooth.” When it’s cooked, pasta should be soft but still firm when you bite it. The easiest way to tell whether pasta is al dente is to remove a piece from the saucepan and test it between your teeth. The pasta should have some texture when you bite into it, but it should not be dry and hard in the middle.
Make fluffier rice
For fluffier rice, add one teaspoon of lemon juice to the water before adding rice. It won’t change the flavor, but it will plump up the grains to give you perfect rice.
Add flavor to rice
Instead of using plain water when boiling rice, try chicken stock, beef stock, or even tomato juice. Add more flavor by sautéing vegetables & herbs in olive oil and garlic and adding them for a delicious dish.
Make rice less sticky
The starch in pasta and rice often causes them to stick together. Avoid this by adding a splash of rice vinegar when boiling them.
Make the fluffiest baked potatoes
Start by choosing a potato with high starch content. Russets and Idahos are great choices. Before placing your potatoes in the oven, pierce them several times with a knife to let the steam escape during baking. Then, coat them lightly with olive oil and any seasonings you want (like garlic/ black pepper or onion granules, etc) Never wrap your potatoes tightly, as it will cause them to steam rather than to bake. When serving-cut a slit in the top and squeeze the sides of the potato before adding toppings.
Make perfect mashed potatoes
Whether you like them on their own, smothered in butter, or drowned in gravy, mashed potatoes are a tasty side for any meal. To make them like the pros, put several whole garlic cloves in the water with the boiling potatoes. The garlic will cook, and once the potatoes are mashed, it will give them a fantastic flavor. While mashing, add buttermilk, cream cheese, sour cream, mascarpone, butter, or a combination of these. Experiment to find the taste that you like best!
Best Baking Techniques
Stop cheesecake from cracking
Cheesecakes often crack on the top because they lose moisture while they cook. If you’re adding a topping, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re serving the cake without anything on top, it’s nice to have it looking perfect. Avoid cracking by putting a small dish of water on the rack beside your cake while it is cooking. This will keep it moist and crack-free!
Make sure your yeast is fresh
Yeast is a living organism. And for it to work properly, it needs to be alive when you use it. To test whether yeast is active or not- combine it with the amount of warm water asked for in the recipe. Then add a small amount of sugar (1/8 of a teaspoon is all that’s needed). The sugar acts as food for the yeast, and if it’s alive, it will begin to bubble within approximately 10 minutes. If there is no bubbling, then the yeast isn’t good.
The key to great pastry
The key to great pastries is to make sure ALL of the ingredients are cold before mixing them – including the flour! Once you’ve formed the dough, refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes to make it easier to roll.
Add a little something extra to your pies
Most pie recipes call for plain piecrust. This gets repetitive and boring to our palates! Instead, create your own variation by adding spices to your dough such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or even ginger. Another great idea is to add ground nuts or even cookies crumbs on top of the bottom crust before adding your filling. Be sure to press them down a little, so they stay as part of the crust!
Make pie crust flakier
Add a teaspoon of VERY cold vinegar in place of a teaspoon of ice water for flakier pie crusts. This helps the fat chill and prevents it from releasing its water content and moistening the flour. You’ll also need to let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight before using it.
Toast nuts to intensify their flavor
Toasting nuts before using them in recipes intensifies their flavor. To toast nuts, place them in a dry skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan often and roast for four or five minutes until fragrant. Cool before using. Because nuts have a high-fat content, they go rancid quickly. The best way to store shelled nuts is in an airtight container in the refrigerator where they’ll keep for about four months.
Use frozen berries in baked goods
Frozen berries can taste just as good as fresh when used in baked goods. Look for whole berries without syrup. You don’t even have to bother thawing them before adding them to your batter!
You may need to add a few minutes to your cooking time only because they’ll make the batter cold.
Melt chocolate without burning it
Melt chocolate with no risk of burning it! Just break the chocolate into small pieces, place in a sealed bag, and drop into a bowl of hot water. Squeeze the bag every five minutes until the chocolate reaches the right consistency.
Roll out dough without a sticky mess
Professionals use a slab of marble to roll the dough out on so that cleanup is easy. If you don’t have this, instead use a large sheet of waxed paper that’s anchored to your countertop. To do this, just moisten the back of the paper with water before laying it down. This will hold it in place while you work. When you’re done, toss it out! No sticky mess to clean up!
Get fluffier egg whites
Fluffy egg whites are a great way to add lightness to your baking. The fluffier they are, the more air they contain, which makes for a better result. For the fluffiest egg whites, never tap the whisk on the bowl containing the egg whites. The vibration will cause them to lose their fluffy consistency.
Don’t throw away your brown bananas
Remove the peel and place the overripe bananas into a large freezer-safe Ziploc bag. Freeze until you have enough for some banana bread, banana muffins, or a fruit smoothie. Since the bananas are already peeled, you can easily measure exactly how much you need and simply leave the rest in the freezer for next time.
These are some of my best tips for cooking like a pro! Implement some or all and you’ll see a significant improvement in no time!