There’s just something satisfying about knowing how to make perfectly uniform meatballs, chocolate mousse, or baked potatoes in half the time. Today I have a plethora of fun and easy kitchen tips that are sure to raise your Kitchen IQ, and make you smile at the same time.


PERFECT MEATBALLS. When making a large batch of meatballs, the fast and simple way is to shape the meat mixture into a log and cut off slices. The slices roll easily into balls. Another option is to pat the meat into a large square and cut it into cubes which again easily roll into meatballs of uniform size.

YOGURT SUBSTITUTE. Have a craving for yogurt? Cottage cheese blended until smooth makes an excellent cup-for-cup substitute for plain yogurt. 

WINE COOK-ALIKES. To substitute for white cooking wine use 1/3 cup white grape juice plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar. For red cooking wine: 1 cup grape juice, 1 tablespoon strong tea and 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar.

GRATE THE BUTTER. When a recipe says to “dot with butter,” instead of cutting a stick of butter into small pieces, grab the cheese grater and “grate” the cold butter over the large holes right into the casserole, fruit pie or other baked dessert. This will make your butter last longer. 

QUICK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE. So that you are always prepared for an unscheduled chocolate fix, learn this fabulous recipe: Stir sifted cocoa powder into any tub of any variety Cool Whip. Now taste. Unbelievable, huh?

MEAT TENDERIZER. Use the acidity of vinegar to tenderize meat. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons to pot roast, soups and stews. If you have balsamic vinegar, it will add a wonderful flavor, however white vinegar tenderizes just as well. Your guests will think you are serving them filet mignon.

SWEET MILK. To make the equivalent of a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, pour 1/2 cup boiling water into a blender; add 1 cup nonfat dry milk, 2/3 cup white sugar, 3 tablespoons melted butter and a few drops of vanilla extract. Cover and blend on high speed for 30 seconds or until smooth. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to one week

REPURPOSED PEELS. When peeling potatoes for mashed potatoes, save the peelings. Toss them in a bowl, season with salt, pepper and a little Italian dressing and bake at 400 F for 20 minutes, or until they are crispy. Enjoy a quick and healthy snack.

SHORTCUT SPUDS. Potatoes are best when baked in the oven, but that can take up to an hour, heats up the kitchen and uses lots of energy. To get the speed of the microwave but the wonderful crisp skin of oven-baked, microwave the potatoes until almost done (about 10 minutes in an 1100-watt microwave oven), then transfer them to the regular oven set at 400 F for 7 to 10 minutes to finish.

SUPER FAST, SUPER FINE. Instead of paying higher prices for the superfine sugar called for in many fancy recipes or for iced tea, grind regular white sugar in a blender until super-fine in texture. Keep an eye on it or you will end up with powdered sugar. And that’s a tip for making your own powdered sugar.

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