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Kitchen hacks help cooks

It’s Friday

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

Okay people, it’s time to get cooking! Thanksgiving is less than one week away, though it seemed long in getting here.

Whether you’re cooking the entire holiday meal, making and taking a few dishes, or just needing to show up with a dessert hopefully these tricks, hints, and helps will take the stress out of holiday kitchen duty.

The right stuff:  Keep a pair of scissors handy in the kitchen for cutting open food packages; and sharpen knives to make quick work of chopping and cutting.

Use ice cream scoops for shaping uniform meatballs and cookies and a pastry brush to grease pans or brush on glazes. Snip fresh herbs and cut up candied fruits with kitchen shears.

Measure once: You’ll need 4 ounces of cheddar cheese to make one cup, so 1-pound equals 4 cups. One pound of shelled pecans or walnuts yields 4 cups. One pound of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar is about 4 cups; 1 pound of brown sugar is 2 ¼ cups, firmly packed; and 1 pound of granulated sugar equals 2 ¼ cups.

Who’s counting?  When the recipe calls for 1 cup: you’ll need 22 vanilla wafers, or 28 saltine crackers, or 14 square graham crackers.  One slice of bread makes ¼ cup dry bread crumbs. And, oh yeah, it takes 11 large or 110 mini-marshmallows for one cup. And FYI: one large marshmallow equals 10 miniature.

Good to the last drop: One lemon yields 2 -3 tablespoons of juice and 1 ½ to 3 teaspoons zest.  Warm lemons release even more so microwave each medium lemon about 12 seconds on high and roll between your hands a few seconds before squeezing.

Double duty: Three small eggs can be used for 2 large eggs. 1 cup plain yogurt subs for 1 cup buttermilk; and ½ cup butter plus about ¾ cup milk fills in for 1 cup heavy cream (to blend into a recipe but not to whip into whipped cream).

No buttermilk? Add 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus enough whole or low- fat milk to make one cup.  Let stand 5 minutes before using and use equal portions to substitute.  One half cup evaporated milk plus ½ cup water equals 1 cup fresh milk.  And know that one cup whipping cream makes 2 cups whipped cream.

Flour power: One cup all-purpose flour equals 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour. One cup self-rising flour can be made with 1 cup all purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt whisked in.  And 1 cup cake flour (which is twice sifted) equals 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Always whisk flour before measuring to make it more accurate.

Size matters: When the recipe calls for a 6-cup baking dish you can use an 8 – 9-inch cake pan, a 10-inch pie plate or an 8.5 x 3 ⅝-inch loaf pan.  For an 8-cup baking dish use an 8 x 8-inch square pan, an 11 x 7-inch baking pan or a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.  For a 10-cup baking dish: a 9 x 9-inch square pan, an 11 ¾ x 7 ½-inch baking pan or a 15 x 10 – inch jelly roll pan. And one more: for a 12-cup baking dish use a 13 ½ x 8 ½ -inch glass baking pan; for 15 cups use a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan; and for 19 cups a 14 x 10 ½-inch roasting pan. And it’s good to know that an 8-inch springform pan holds 12 cups and a 9-inch pan holds 16 cups for those lovely cheesecakes.

For chocolate cakes that need greased and floured pans, use cocoa instead of flour for extra flavor and to eliminate the white residue left on the cake.   Honey, corn syrup, molasses and other sticky ingredients will slide right off the measuring spoon if you dip it in cooking oil first.

So there…this week’s article done…check! On to cooking!

Enjoy, eat and take it easy everybody! Here’s to a very happy Thanksgiving from DW and me up here in Tennessee counting our blessings! And that’s counting you!

Recipe of the Week

Mandarin Orange Salad

A rich, hearty meal needs a tart and refreshing salad like this one!

⅓ cup sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 large head Boston lettuce

1 large head romaine lettuce

1 cup salted peanuts

15-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

Combine sugar through vinegar in food processor or blender. Mix well on low speed, slowly add oil until it is all incorporated, making a very thick dressing. Put in airtight container and refrigerate overnight up to 2 weeks. Tear lettuces in bite-sized pieces; toss in large salad bowl with peanuts and orange slices. Beat dressing, then add to salad and toss well.  Serves 8 – 10.