This edition of my usual Wednesday Ten Things post is a list of little cooking tips I wish I had known before I started cooking. Most of these will be fairly obvious to you experienced chefs...but for the newbies who have just started venturing out into virgin chef territory will appreciate this list.
1. When making homemade pizza with a pita or a wrap, toast the wrap BEFORE putting the toppings on. This will make it a little crispier and will hold up to the moisture from the sauce so you don't have pizza soup in the middle of your pie.
2. Buy tomatoes on the vine. This will vastly extend the life of your tomatoes. I have been known to get close to three weeks out of tomatoes that are still attached to the vine (usually sold in bunches of 3 or 4).
3. When freezing bananas, unpeel it and chop it into pieces before you freeze it. Trying to peel a thawed banana is hell and trying to blend an entire frozen banana into a smoothie (unless you have a Vita Mix) is next to impossible. So save yourself the trouble and peel and chop that sucker before freezing it.
4. White flour and wheat flour are NOT the same. You can't sub in wheat flour for the same amount of white flour that a recipe calls for and expect it to come out the same way. It won't. Wheat flour is a lot more dense and will leave your recipe dry and/or flat. Sub out half if you're are looking to make the recipe healthier, or looks for recipes that specifically cater to wheat flour.
5. You don't have to keep buttermilk on hand. This one I just recently learned and is something I definitely wish I had known years ago. To make "homemade" buttermilk for a recipe, simply add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk and let stand for ten minutes.
6. When making multiple batches of baked goods, don't reuse your cookie sheet or pan right away. Either allow it to fully cool, or run the bottom of the sheet under cold water. Otherwise your delicious creation will cook unevenly or burn on the bottom.
7. Household items that can double as kitchen appliances: Wine or liquor bottles make good rolling pins. I didn't have a rolling pin for the longest time (I do now, I'm more classy than I was I guess) but most everyone has a bottle of wine or liquor on hand. It also helps to take a few nips from the bottle when baking. It makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Also, hammers make good meat tenderizers. You work with what you've got.
8. When reheating grains like rice or pasta, add a little water to keep it moist and fresh like you just cooked it. You can also use a little broth if you are looking to add a little flavor.
9. Remove the seeds from tomatoes when making dips or using as a pizza topping. The seeds will make your dip watery and your pizza soggy. Removing the seeds and just chopping up the "shell" of the tomato will yield much better results without sacrificing the taste you're going for.
10. Freeze extra broth in an ice cube tray. I don't know about you, but I almost never use a whole box of broth, I always have a little bit leftover. Rather than throw it away, freezing it in ice cube trays allows you to just take out what you use and save the rest without having to buy a new box for every recipe. Just make sure you use seperate trays for your regular ice and your broth...you don't want beef flavored water.
What little tips do you wish someone had told you before you started cooking? What great shortcuts have you learned along the way?