Here are a few quick and easy solutions to correct some culinary mistakes, from Mary Risley (Tante Marie‘s Cooking School, San Francisco, CA):
If the crackers are a bit soft (or sagging)-Bake them quickly in the oven. Simply arrange the crackers in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet, then set in a 250 (degrees) F oven for 15 min. Cool and serve.
Is the food too overdone or brown on top? Hide it with minced parsley (you can hide a multitude of things, from a charred part of casserole to a slightly blackened fish fillet, with a good sprinkling of chopped parsley).
To remedy a cracked cheesecake, hide it with a sweet topping; spread some fresh fruit, pie filling or a sour cream topping (made with 1 cup of sour cream and 1 Tbs sugar) on the cheesecake surface to conceal the crack.
Are the veggies soggy? Crisp them up again using bread crumbs. Spread them in a casserole dish, top with bread crumbs, dash with butter (optional), and broil until the crumbs are crisp and brown (the extra time in the oven dry-roasts the veggies to restore texture; the bread crumbs absorb excess moisture.
For quick and fresh bread crumbs-Put pieces of leftover bread in a processor or blender. After a few minutes, if there’s any extra crumbs left, you can store the results in the freezer for cooking emergencies.
Is the side dish a bit on the soggy side? Spoon those scalloped green beans-or other veggies-into tortillas or crepes, then roll them enchilada-style.
Post-party Cleanup Tips-from caterer Gwynne Marshall (New York City)
Got pots that need scrubbing? If you sprinkle them with baking soda after cooking, then let them stand until you’re ready to wash up, all the grime and dirt will come off easily (it’s due to the alkaline in the baking soda which helps break down the fatty acids in the food residue and grease).
Or you can use Dawn Power Dissolver; just spray directly on the pots and pans before washing (the dissolver will penetrate and soften baked-on food in just 15 minutes; all you have to do is wipe with a sponge and rinse).
Line chip or bread bowls with napkins and platters with lettuce leaves. These “coverings” protect your dishes and reduce cleanup time; when dinner’s done, any dirt, grime and food residue on the napkins or leaves will life right off.
Tupperware’s Stuffables Storage Containers are great for large-portion and odd-shaped leftovers. The microwave-safe bowls are fitted with flexible lids that expand (to hold extra food) or stay flat for easy fridge stacking. They come in 4, 6 and 8-cup sizes.
Here’s a quick and easy appetizer recipe:
Ham and Cheese Ball
1 cup (4 oz.) Cheddar cheese, grated
One 3-ounce pkg. cream cheese, softened
On1 4 ½ -ounce can deviled ham
2 Tbs finely chopped scallions
3 Tbs chopped green chilies
½ cup chopped walnuts
Combine the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, deviled ham, scallions and chilies; mix well. Shape into a ball, roll in chopped nuts, cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Serve with crackers.
And here’s a quick beverage one:
One 10-ounce box of frozen strawberries, thawed
One 12-ounce can of frozen lemonade
Puree strawberries in a blender or food processor.
Prepare the lemonade according to can directions.
Add pureed strawberries.
Serve over ice.