A Christmas Stocking Full of Tips & Tricks

Festive Holiday Lights

Blossoms of Light Festival – Denver, CO

Christmas stockings always seemed to hold a fun bunch of little surprises. Over the years, I have found pocket-sized games and toys, unique chocolates from around the world, and even a magic trick that I use to this day. Christmas stockings often get overlooked. Gift wrapped boxes with ribbons and bows tend to be the main attraction on Christmas morning. I always keep my eyes peeled for little treasures that I know will bring big smiles.

In the kitchen I realize that I have come to rely on many little tips and tricks that I often take for granted. It seems that new recipes, specific cooking techniques, and fancy cookware tend to be the main attractions. When it comes to speeding meal preparation along, having a few chef secrets up your sleeve can be a big help.

Being a big fan of fresh garlic, the ability to quickly peel and mince it is invaluable to me. I used to struggle with trimming the ends off of each clove, making a slice down the side, and attempting to peel the garlic. Needless to say, if you have ever tried this you know how slow and frustrating it can be. It was such a nice surprise to learn a handy little trick for this task. By placing the clove on the cutting board with the curved side down and using the broadside of a knife to press gently on it, the skin is easily loosened.


Blue Fountain

Happy Holidays!

The first time I read a recipe that called for strained yogurt I did a double take. The procedure described sounded fairly involved and like a good bit of cleanup. The author proclaimed that the step produced superior results in the finished dish. I have to say that I agree. For Middle Eastern dips and creamed dishes strained yogurt works great. After using enough cheesecloth to wrap a mummy, a better way dawned on me. Today, I simply use a coffee strainer suspended over a bowl. I have found the gold toned Cuisinart cone shaped filter to be best for this task. As the yogurt sets the sour whey drains out. The flavor will mellow and the consistency will get thicker and thicker until after a day or two it will ultimately get as thick as cream cheese. Here is a word of caution. Once the yogurt reaches the consistency you are aiming for, take it out of the strainer and transfer to a container to stop the process.

For those of you who are hard-core grillers are in determined to grill all season long this next tip is for you. Lean proteins such as skinless chicken breast, fish fillets, and even frozen burgers often stick to the grill and can get torn apart. What’s going on here is basically the same as putting your tounge on a cold flagpole. The two temperature differences reacts and stick to each other. The solution I have found is to remove the grate from the grill while it is preheating. When it’s time to cook, the grate and the food will be closer to the same temperature and will reduce or eliminate sticking.

I hope you found something here that will be a useful addition to your repertoire. If you have a trick of your own to share please put it in the comment box below. I know one day you’ll take these tricks for granted. Until then be sure to smile each time you use one of them. Merry Christmas.

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