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10 Kitchen tips your mom (or someone) should have told you

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I love getting (and giving) good kitchen advice. Here are some tips I’ve picked up lately, plus some old favorites.

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1. Don’t wash chicken before cooking. The splashing water will contaminate far more surfaces than the benefit you’ll get from rinsing it off.

2. If you don’t have time to make and bake cookies the same day, form cookie batter into perfect rounds with a small ice cream scoop. Place on a baking sheet and open freeze them for an hour. Then pack into plastic bags or containers and you’ll have ready to bake cookie dough anytime.

3. Rinse out your tea pot or cup with boiling water before adding the loose or bagged tea. It gives the tea a nice warm place to brew. Bonus tip – get rid of tea stains by scrubbing pot and mugs with baking soda. It works amazingly well.

4. Reuse vanilla beans to flavor sugar. Rinse used vanilla beans well in warm water and leave them out to dry for a day on a paper towel. Then place them in the sugar canister, covering them completely with sugar. It takes about 2 weeks for the sugar to start tasting vanilla-flavored.

For real true vanilla sugar, scrap out the seeds from a fresh vanilla bean and process it with a cup of sugar in a food processor. Put the sugar through a sieve and stir it into the rest of the sugar in the canister. This also takes about 2 weeks to reach a good vanilla flavor. (Stir sugar every once in a while to disperse the vanilla evenly.)

5. When using recipes from magazines, books or even print-outs, make notes on the actual recipe of what you changed and/or what you liked or didn’t like. If you can’t bear to write in your book, use post-it notes. It’s so easy to forget what you added to or cut from a recipe.

6. Cheese needs to breathe when it’s stored, so forget the plastic wrap. It makes it really icky. Just cover it tightly with waxed paper, then place it in a loosely folded-over plastic bag and store in fridge. I actually wrap cut fruits and vegetables like that too.

7. Never add warm spices (including curry, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, paprika) to a pot full of ingredients without cooking them first. Many dishes require sautéed onions, so add them then after you’ve softened the onions. Cook over low heat for 2 or 3 minutes. It takes the raw taste away and really improves the overall flavor of a dish.

8. Always remove the center stalk from garlic cloves. I’m convinced that’s where its indigestibility (for many people) comes from.

9. Visitors to your kitchen may think this is strange, but store your bananas away from each other to keep your bananas from ripening too quickly. When they congregate, they turn yellow faster.

10. In the same vein, to hasten the ripening of avocados or any stone fruit, store them in a brown paper bag with an apple or two. The ethylene gas from the apple will ripen the avo or fruit faster.

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