Ten-Second Tips for the Kitchen | freezer
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bananas
Bananas

Overripe Bananas: The next time one or more of your bananas turns black, peel them and put them in a zippered freezer bag.  Once you have a sufficient amount frozen, thaw and make your favorite banana bread or muffins, or drop into the blender frozen when making your next smoothie.

Peeling: Peel a banana from the bottom and you won’t have to pick off the fibrous “strings.”

Storage: Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

Ripen Faster: Store the green bananas in a brown paper bag.

Ginger

To store:  Grate or chop fresh peeled ginger, then store in the freezer in a zippered bag.  It freezes beautifully!  You can also peel your fresh ginger and keep in the freezer whole; when needed grating is much easier.

Cheese

To Grate: If you freeze the cheese slightly before grating, it will be easier to grate and take less time.

To make cleaning easier coat your grater with spray oil; this will prevent the cheese from sticking to your grater.

To store:  Store cheese in a sealed container with two lumps of sugar to prevent mold.

Baguette

Put leftover French baguettes through the food processor, put the crumbs in a zippered freezer bag, and place in the freezer for the next time you need bread crumbs.

Alternatively, if you know an entire baguette will not be consumed the day you bring it home, put the portion you know will not be eaten into the freezer in a zippered freezer bag.  When you are ready to use it, leave it out on the counter for about half an hour.

Bacon

To cut easily: freeze for thirty minutes.

To reduce shrinkage: Run bacon under cold water before frying,  This can reduce shrinkage and curling by up to 50%.

To separate slices: Before you open a package of bacon, roll it. This will help separate the slices for easy removal.

To fry ahead of time: Cook and drain, then wrap in wax paper. Freeze them in a plastic zippered bag or other freezer container. Reheat briefly in a skillet.

Freezer

Here’s an easy way to prevent freezer burn zippered freezer bag.  Zip it up leaving a small opening to allow air to escape.  Fill a bowl of water and dip the item in the bag.  The pressure from the water will seal the item and the air will escape leaving a vacuum around your item.  Carefully press the bag to allow as much air to escape as possible, then seal.  This will give your food item longer life and prevent the development of freezer crystals on your food.

You can also use another method if you have a drinking straw on hand.  Put the food item or liquid in a zip top freezer bag.  Insert a drinking straw into one end of the bag, close the zipper up to the straw and pinch it closed.  Then suck out as much air as possible.

Wine

If you have leftover wine, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and add to sauces when needed.

When cork expands: When you want to re-cork your bottle of wine and your cork no longer fits, immerse it in boiling water for several minutes.

To open without an opener: Peel the lead wrapper off the neck of the bottle so the cork is exposed; then tap, tap the bottom of the bottle until the cork starts to pop out.  When it’s out almost all the way, simply pull it out with your hand.

Pasta

To prevent boil over: When cooking pasta, rub or spray the sides of your pot with oil; this will prevent boiling over.

To store: When you have extra cooked pasta, store individual portions in zippered bags and put in the freezer.  In a pinch, throw the frozen pasta in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until heated. The frozen crystals melt and steam the pasta to perfection!

Parsley

To clean: The best way to clean fresh parsley is to cut off the long stems and wash in your salad spinner until there are no traces of sand.

To store: Fresh parsley can be dried or frozen for later use. For either method, wash and dry parsley then chop. To freeze, place in a plastic zipper bag and freeze. To dry, spread chopped parsley evenly on a baking sheet and place in a 200 degree oven and remove from oven when completely dry. Store dried parsley in an airtight container.

Onions

To reduce tears: To reduce the amount of onion oils that make you tear, put your peeled onion in the freezer for about 5 minutes prior to cutting.

To dice: While many of you know how to dice an onion, this tip is safer and easier.  Cut an onion in half and peel the outer layers from each half almost to the root.  Do not take the outer layers off as this will be your handle.  Hold onto the layers in a bunch to hold the onion half then slice vertically and horizontally for perfect dice.

To reduce cooking time:  Making caramelized onions takes forever, but you can speed up the process by placing the sliced onions in your microwave.

Onion Leftovers: If you need only 1/2 of an onion, save the root half.  It will last longer.

Leftovers

Make a complete dinner by putting leftovers in a reusable plastic container with dividers and store in the freezer.  When you want a meal in a pinch, put it in the microwave.  Alternatively, you may put leftovers in a foil pie plate and heat in the oven.

Groceries

When shopping for anything that is perishable, always take the item from the back.  Food stores always display the older expiration dates out front, so you can usually get something with a longer shelf  life.

Freezing

When freezing individual pork chops, chicken breasts steaks or patties, insert a piece of parchment or wax paper between the portions for easier separation when thawing.

Fish

To remove pin bones: Some fish, like salmon, have pesky bones that are hard to remove and unpleasant to bite into.  To resolve this problem, drape your filet over an upside-down bowl.  The curve of the bowl makes the little bones stick up for easy removal with tweezers.

To thaw quickly: Put frozen fish in a zippered freezer bag and submerge in a bowl filled with water.

To remove freezer burn taste: Try thawing frozen fish in milk. The milk draws out the freezer taste and provides a fresh-caught flavor.

Coffee

To save for iced coffee, put any leftover coffee in an ice cube tray and freeze. The next time you have iced coffee, use your “coffee” cubes instead of ice and your beverage won’t water down.  This also works well for iced tea if you have any leftover tea.

To clean the coffee pot: Put soiled pot on the bottom rack of your dishwasher and run.

Cookies

Shipping: freeze first, wrap and ship in a box packed with popcorn.

Storing:  Freshly baked cookies will stay soft in a cookie jar when you add a fresh piece of bread.

Clams

To make the opening of clams easier, put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will relax them so that you can insert the clam knife more easily. Note that larger clams may take a little longer.  If the juice has turned icy, just let them sit for a few minutes before serving.

When serving clams casino or clams or oysters on the half shell, present them on a platter of rock salt.  This will not only look pretty, it will prevent them from slipping.

To ensure that your fresh clams are free of sand, try soaking them in fresh water, sprinkle some pepper flakes on top and wait an hour or two for them to spit out those pesky grains of sand.

Another option: try soaking them in fresh water and add a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper.

Cilantro

To store: It seems like I only ever need a little and cilantro is sold by the bunch.  So try this:  Clean and dry the fresh cilantro.  Put in a zippered freezer bag and store in the freezer.  You will find that this is just about as good as fresh when you need it.

Chicken

Thaw a frozen whole chicken faster: Immerse frozen chicken in room temperature water in a large pot. (Do be careful that  the temperature always stays cold to the touch to avoid harmful bacteria.)

Anchovies

Many people store anchovies in the refrigerator but I prefer this: When you just need a few anchovies from a can, store the rest in a zippered plastic bag in the freezer.  They freeze beautifully and thaw out quickly.  No more waste!

Tomato Paste

To store extra: Even though tomato paste comes in tiny cans, we often just need a little bit for our dishes and have most of the can left over.  The next time you need a small amount of your canned tomato paste, don’t throw it out. First, put the can in the freezer.  When mostly frozen, remove both ends of the can.  Use one of the lids to push out the paste.  On a cutting board slice the rings into the desired amount and freeze the disks for use later.  Brilliant!

Another option is to fill a few ice cube portions with your leftover paste and freeze for use at another time.  When needed, the paste will pop right out for your next dish.

Thawing food

To thaw more quickly: Put the meat, chicken or fish on a metal surface such as a tray or a frying pan.  Metal conducts room temperature better than formica, wood, glass, granite or tile.

Pancakes

Store extra batter: To keep pancakes on hand anytime, make extra batter on the weekend and store in the freezer in a zippered bag.  When needed, microwave the bag for a minute or two and viola!  Weekend pancakes during the week. Another way to prepare pancakes if you expect a time crunch on a working day is to make batter the night before and put in a squeeze container for instant use the next morning. To make fun shapes (especially for kids), place cookie cutters on a griddle, fill with pancake batter and see your favorite fun shapes come to life!