COOKING TIPS:

BEEF, ground; COOKING – to easily break up ground beef when browning, use a large wire whisk to stir & cook.  Eliminates lumps of ground beef.

CAKE, BATTER,bubbles  - 1. sift all dry ingredients together to blend. 2. if using butter or margarine, allow to naturally soften to room temp.; do not microwave, or melt unless so instructed.  3. if preheating is needed, do so before beginning to make the batter.  4. after the batter is in the cooking pan, hold the pan several inches above the floor or counter top, & drop it to burst bubbles inside the  batter: repeat 2 more times.  Then, stir the batter inside the pan & allow it to rise up the pan sides to prevent the cake top from splitting while baking. 5. immediately place cake in oven; the ingredient chemistry is already working & at this point, cooking delays are not good (don't answer the phone or bathe the baby; wait until the cake is in the oven cooking to do that!). 6. unless otherwise instructed, open the oven door at the halfway point of cooking & quickly but, firmly tap each side of the pan with a heavy wooden spoon to burst bubbles.

CANDY, CRUMBLING hard-candy -  leave candy in the un-opened package & pound with a rolling pen.  There is no mess when the package is opened to use.

CHICKEN BREAST, CUTTING – easiest cut or sliced with a sharp knife when meat is partially frozen

CHICKEN BREAST, TENDERS - buy a large package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts; then partially freeze the breasts.  When partially frozen, use a sharp knife to cut the chicken breasts into chicken tenders.  Wash the tenders and wrap individually in plastic wrap.  Place all wrapped tenders into a large zipper-top plastic bag and freeze.  When ready to cook chicken tenders, a few can be removed from the bag and the other tenders can remain frozen for cooking later.

CHOCOLATE, DESSERTS – chocolate dessert recipes almost always need a little salt included as an ingredient.  It subtly keeps the dessert from being overly sweet.

CRABS, CLEANING & PICKING OUT MEAT - My friend, Romie Perez, recently received a "tip" on crab meat picking. A veteran "crab-picker" told him to pull out the legs first, since that action releases the cartilage from the meat bed.  Then, locate the division plate on the underside of the crab body & break the crab in half at the division plate.   At that point, the meat should be sitting there without any cartilage or shell.

CRACKER CRUMBS, MAKING - place the number of crackers to be used into a large zipper-topped plastic bag.  Carefully seal the zipper-top, while squeezing the air out of the bag.  The bag should then be flat.  Roll the crackers in the bag with a rolling pen to crush the crackers to the desired size of crumbs wanted.

CREAM, WHIPPING - to get the most volume when whipping cream, have the cream stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator and keep it refrigerated until just before using.    Briefly chill the electric mixer bowl and the beaters in the freezer just prior to beating the heavy cream.

FLOUR, MEASURING - measure flour & sift; then, re-measure flour by lightly spooning into cups;  return the left over flour to its container

GARLIC, PEELING - place a whole, fresh, un-peeled clove of garlic in the microwave for 15 seconds.  Remove the hot garlic clove with a fork to a cutting board.  The peel will fall-off when touched with the fork, trim the end of the clove, and mash with the fork. Easy!

GARLIC, AROMA – eating a sprig of fresh parsley takes away the aroma of having eaten garlic flavored food.

EGGS, SEPARATING – easiest to do when eggs are cold

EGGS, WHITES – produce more volume when allowed to come to room temperature

FREEZING, SAUCES & MIXTURES for ECONOMICAL SPACE STORAGE – place sauce in heavy zip-lock bag & carefully press out air while sealing.  Place the filled bag in a large flat pan or dish so it can freeze as flat as possible for stacking.  After item is hard frozen, remove pan or dish. This works particularly well when freezing for traveling using a cooler.   

HARD-BOILED EGGS, LIFTING – lift hard boiled eggs from hot water with a spaghetti lifter.

KABOBS, METAL & WOODEN SKEWERS- use a pair of skewers per kabob.  The pair makes turning easier and grills more evenly

KABOBS, WOODEN SKEWERS - soak wooden skewers in a container of water for 2 hours to prevent burning skewers.  After soaking, wipe with paper towel; then rub with cooking oil before threading food on skewers.

LEMONS, BUYING - select round, not oval shapes.  Test firmness of lemons; soft lemons produce more juice.

LEMON, JUICING - to get the most juice from a whole lemon, first roll it several times using downward pressure from the heel of the hand while rolling it against a kitchen counter. Next, pierce the skin of lemon in 3 random places with the tip of a knife.  Place the lemon in microwave for 15 seconds.  

LEMON, RIND or ZEST - finely grate the thin yellow skin of lemon; grating too deep gives a bitter taste

MERINGUE - best made on a sunny day, moisture in air or on bowls, utensils, etc. are the enemy!  Use an electric mixer and a tall stainless steel, glass, or ceramic bowl; not plastic.  Do not get even a trace of egg yolk in egg whites. The fat in yolks is an enemy. Bowls and utensils must be washed and very dry.

MUSHROOMS, CLEANING – supposedly mushrooms are to be wiped clean with a damp cloth, but I can’t go for that!  My method: put mushrooms in small batches into a bowl of cold water to wash very quickly. Drain quickly; then place the mushrooms on paper towels to continue draining. Toss the mushrooms around on the paper towel to drain any water lingering in the mushroom caps.  Repeat this process until all mushrooms are washed.

MUSHROOMS, SLICING – slice mushrooms from the top side of the mushroom cap, not from the stem side.

PECANS, CHOPPING – pecans can be chopped by using a pastry cutter.

PIE, BOTTOM BROWN & CRISP -  for one crust pies: bake on a preheated pizza stone or baking pan placed on the lowest oven rack.  After cooking, place on wire rack to cool.

SAUSAGE, BULK; COOKING - to easily break up bulk sausage when browning, use a large wire whisk to stir & cook.  Eliminates lumps of sausage.

TACO SHELLS, HEATING -to heat already-cooked corn taco shells, vertically hang individual shells on an oven rack; then put oven temperature on the lowest setting – about 150 to 175 degrees.  The shells will warm quickly, but will not burn.

TRAVELING w/ FROZEN FOOD in COOLER-  see “Freezing, sauces” , etc. above

TOMATOES, PEELING - fill a medium saucepan ½ full of water and bring it to a boil.  Using a long-handle, 2 tine cooking fork, securely place the stem-end of a tomato onto the 2 tines of the fork; then place the tomato and the fork into the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Remove the tomato from the fork to a cutting board.  Using a small paring knife, lightly pierce the tip of the paring knife into the tomato skin and gently peel the tomato skin off in long pieces

VEGETABLES, SWEATING – evenly dice veggies into ¼ inch pieces.  Small veggies like garlic cloves should be minced.  In a skillet, heat about 2 T. extra virgin olive oil (more may be needed for a large amount of veggies) for 15 seconds; then stir in the veggies & coat with oil.  Sprinkle veggies with salt to draw out the moisture.  Cook, uncovered, on a low simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes.  Do not brown.  Veggies should be translucent and soft only; not browned.

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THE MAGNOLIA COLLECTION COOKBOOK

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weaves a tapestry of recipes for gracious entertaining.  Original dishes intertwine with bits of art, “old master” recipes, the bare no-time-to-cook essentials, and selected cuisine from other regions – all lightly spiced with the distinct flavors of the South.

DINING on the VICTORIAN VERANDAH COOKBOOK

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presents an intriguing blend of the author’s original recipes with those of the famous Priester’s Pecan Company – offering an around-the-world sampling of superb cuisine.