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Stop Wasting Money on Kitchen Tools That Do Only One Thing

Celebrity chef Alton Brown contends that a kitchen tool that does only one job is mostly useless. He calls anything like a pickle fork, garlic press, strawberry stem remover, or hot dog steamer a “unitasker.”

His advice? Don’t waste your time and money on any kitchen tool if it is only good for one thing. It will just take up valuable space, eventually becoming clutter.

 

Kitchen tools and gadgets hanging on a wall

 

It sounds a bit like Alton spent time with my grandma who was big on buying a sack of flour to bake bread, then sewing the sack into a dress, and when the dress wore out she would cut it into rags for a rug. Or pieces for a quilt.

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4 Absolutely Brilliant Ways to Cook Corn on the Cob

There’s just nothing that screams late summer like sweet corn when it’s fresh, hot, and slathered with butter and salt. Today, I want to share with you four brilliantly delicious ways to cook corn on the cob that are sure to thrill and delight you, your family, and guests, too.

Corn on the cob is a summer staple that should be part of every summer celebration and backyard cookout because not only is fresh corn cheap when it’s in season, it’s quick and easy to prepare, too! But first, let’s talk about how to start with the best ears of corn.

 

Ways to cook corn on the cob

How to choose

There you are in front of a pile of freshly-picked, in-the-husks, sweet corn. You want to select ears with these characteristics:

  • Bright green husks that are tightly wrapped and mostly intact.
  • The stem area where it was cut from the stalk should be sticky and moist. If this is really dry, it’s old corn.
  • Check the tassels. They, too, should be slightly sticky, moist, and silky.
  • Peel back a small area of the husk to check for wormholes and brown spots. Avoid.

4 ways to prepare

There must be as many ways to prepare fresh corn on the cob as there are people who love to eat it. Here are my favorites:

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Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue

If you are time-starved but too stubborn to give up home-cooked meals just because life can be chaotic—I invite you to embrace these two words: Rotisserie chickens.

 

Supermarket rotisserie chicken on serving plate

 

Not exactly take-out, not completely home-cooked, think of a well seasoned, perfectly cooked rotisserie chicken as your ace in the hole; a kitchen assistant with an extra pair of hands to help you get delicious, home-cooked meals on the table in a flash.

These days, nearly every grocery store or supermarket—even warehouse clubs—offer fully roasted, hot, and ready-to-go rotisserie chickens for around $5. In fact, rotisserie chickens are so readily available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued safety guidelines for selecting and storing* them.

Today, I want to give you basic guidelines for what to do with a rotisserie chicken as soon as you get home. 

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How to Make Taco Seasoning Mix and What to Do With It

Seasoning packets from the supermarket may be convenient, but they have drawbacks—not the least of which is they’re relatively expensive! I just checked Lawry’s Taco Spices and Seasonings Mix—! I just hate to pay that much for so little. And I don’t have to because I’ve got a great recipe to make taco seasoning mix myself, using ordinary spices I have already. As a bonus know exactly what’s in it, and how old the ingredients are.

 

Plate of two soft shell beef tacos

 

The recipes that follow call for the amount of seasoning you would find in the typical supermarket seasoning packet—about 4 1/2 tablespoons of mix.

While you could make the amount you need as you need it, a better idea is to make a bunch while you’re at it, then keep it tightly sealed in your spice rack. It’ll come in handy more times than you can imagine. The recipe multiplies well.

Enjoy this simple mix and the two family-friendly recipes that follow for both beef and chicken tacos. Yum!  Read more

Best Inexpensive Cast Iron Skillet and How to Love It

The venerable cast iron skillet is making a big comeback among home cooks. Our grandmothers would be so proud! And why not? The best quality cast iron skillet is super cheap compared to its pricey stainless and non-stick competitors, cast iron lasts forever and face it—it’s cool to cook in cast iron.

 

Perfectly prepared steak in cast iron skillet

 

I must have been all of 8-years old the day I decided to surprise my mother by cleaning her old black cast iron skillet. It embarrassed me that over the years it had become so gross. Naively, I assumed that she’d burned too many Sunday roasts in it and that’s why it was never shiny with a copper bottom—like the rest of our pots and pans.

I started with household cleanser and steel wool. I scrubbed on a single spot for what seemed like hours. I couldn’t break through that burned on “crust” to save my soul. Finally, I just gave up.

What I wouldn’t realize until years later was that I was working on a fine piece of cast iron—a skillet I’m sure I managed to un-do years of coveted “seasoning” that makes a cast iron skillet virtually nonstick.

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In a Pinch You Can Use This for That

Have you ever discovered you’re all out of a certain ingredient just when you’re in the middle of preparing a recipe? I hate when that happens. And I know myself well enough that I don’t want to run to the store.

For me, an unscheduled trip like that could easily cost $40, maybe more. That’s just how impulsive I can be. I’ve learned that when I’m in a pinch— I need a pinch-hitter!

 

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Here is my list of cooking and baking substitutes that I refer to often:

Need an egg

Combine two tablespoons of water, two tablespoons of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

Thicken gravy

If you’re out of flour, you can substitute pancake mix up to three tablespoons. It works well, just don’t go over three tablespoons or your guests will be looking for the maple syrup.

Breadcrumbs

Crumble 1/2 slice of bread and mix 1/4 cup broken crackers to substitute.

Baking powder

For each teaspoon of baking powder, substitute: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Baking soda

You need to use 2 to 3 times more double-acting baking powder than baking soda. Replace acidic liquid ingredient in the recipe with non-acidic liquid, i.e. water instead of vinegar or lemon juice, etc.

Buttermilk

Combine one cup of fresh milk and one tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. Read more

9 Cooking Mistakes We All Make and How to Fix Them

Just the other night I suffered a kitchen disaster. I hate when that happens. I ruined an entire pot of pasta because I got busy and was not paying attention. By the time I realized, the pasta had cooked way beyond al dente, all the way to total mush.

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It killed me to dump the whole thing down the disposal, but there was no way to undo that disaster.

Thankfully, that’s not true for every cooking mistake. This is a list you’re going to want to keep handy just in case.

Too much salt

It’s a common cooking mistake. If you’ve added far too much salt to a sauce or soup and you have enough ingredients, double the recipe or make more by half, then mix it in with the salty batch a bit at a time until you’ve reached your desired flavor.

Another trick is to add a bit more unsalted water to the mix, provided this will not also dilute the flavor.

Burnt toast

Don’t toss it until you’ve tried this neat trick: Use your cheese grater to quickly scrape off the burned layer. Works like magic!

Undercooked cake

The first sign of a cake that’s not done is that sinkhole in the middle. Once cooled you cannot re-bake it. But don’t worry. This is not a hopeless kitchen disaster.

Break the cake into pieces (even those parts that are undercooked) and combine them with whipped cream and fresh fruit to make dessert parfaits or one large trifle

ENJOY: 25 Items Under $25 to Help Organize Your Life

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These Brilliant Tips Make Cooking More Fun and Rewarding

I remember my grandmother saying, “If we didn’t need food, we’d all be rich!” This may be true. But then, a life without food would be a little less pleasurable.

Still, there are so many ways to make great food cheap, make perishable food last, and the grocery budget stretch like nobody’s business.

Enjoy today’s tips, filled with practiced wisdom for practical solutions to make cooking and brewing coffee fun and rewarding for you and your family. Bon appétit!

One lovely cuppa

If you love coffee as much as I do and have never tried a gadget called AeroPress you are in for a delicious surprise.

Aerobie is manual and the cheapest, easiest, fastest way to make a really great cup of coffee. And yes, I do mean just one cup of perfectly brewed coffee at a time—or up to three cups.

Aerobie is small enough to store in your desk drawer at the office and another at home. Can’t break the $4-a-day Starbucks habit? This could do it.

Heat the mug

Tired of that first morning cup of steaming hot coffee cooling off too quickly? Do this:

As your coffee is brewing, fill your coffee mug with water and heat it to boiling in the microwave. Pour out the water into a dirty dish or pan that needs to be soaked, and replace with hot coffee. You’ll be amazed by how much longer the coffee stays hot.  Read more

Revisions

These 6 Kitchen Tools are a Complete Waste of Time and Money

Celebrity chef Alton Brown contends that a kitchen tool that does only one job is mostly useless. He calls anything like a garlic press, strawberry stem remover or hot dog steamer a “unitasker.”  His advice? Don’t waste your time and money on any kitchen tool if it is only good for one thing.

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It sounds a bit like Alton spent time with my grandma who was big on buying a sack of flour to bake bread, then sewing the sack into a dress, and when the dress wore out she would cut it into rags for a rug. Or pieces for a quilt. Read more