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Kathy's Illustrated Recipes
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Kathy's Cooking Tips

Here are some tricks I've learned over the years

The No. 1 rule is to try, whenever possible, to have the right tools for the job.  You can adapt things you have on hand if need be (like using a wine bottle or drinking glass as a rolling pin) but nothing will work as well as the right tools.

One of my favorite things to bring to family get-togethers is deviled eggs.  To make them in a hurry (under an hour), make sure that first, you have at least one tray of ice on hand (a couple trays would even be better).  Boil up your eggs and when they're done boiling, remove from the hot water and place them in ICE WATER.  Remove the eggs, one at a time, peel and then immediately return to the ice water.  As the ice cubes melt, replace them with more ice.  Thus, as you are peeling, your eggs are cooling.  By the time you get a dozen eggs (or more) peeled, your eggs will all be cool.  THEN you can take them out, slice them in half and proceed to make filling and fill them.
 
To make them fancy, I use my icing decorator (Wilton's(c) bags and coupler with a STAR TIP works better than anything else I've found) to pipe the egg filling back in.
 
There are great containers to travel with deviled eggs now in bargain stores for as little as $2.29 and I recommend them.  Check the plastic containers section and I believe you'll find just what you need without spending a lot.  Now I do have a Tupperware(c) cake carrying container with two-tiered deviled egg insert which I must say, I really love.  I also have the "shelf" insert.  Now I can carry a layer cake, 26 deviled eggs or 2 layers or cookies, brownies or cupcakes.  The shelf insert also makes it easy to take TWO pies in the same container which comes in SUPER handy for Thanksgiving!
 
You can stretch the amount of meat in meatsauce or lasagna by chopping fresh mushrooms very fine in a food processor or blender and adding them in.  This is also a good way to get some vegetables into your non-veggie eater children.  My son, who thought he HATED mushrooms, ate quite a few in his day completely unaware!
 
If you are using dried herbs (and most of us do) don't just add them to your recipe: place them in the palm of one hand and rub them between your palms a bit before adding.  This will release more of their flavors while crushing them finer at the same time.
 
To keep your stainless steel sink shiny, spritz a tiny bit of oil (I use olive oil in an oil spritzer) and rub off.  It will cause water to bead up and form a light, protective surface.
 
To easily get the hamburger grease out of a skillet when you're making things like chili or meat sauce, use your turkey baster.  I use mine all year round!
 
In a pinch, you can darken beef gravy with a few tablespoons of left over black coffee (I often have some in the pot from the morning's coffee).  I recommend Kitchen Bouquet(c) if you can find it for this but if you don't have it on hand, the coffee trick does work and the taste won't be adversely affected.
 
You got this far using the internet, so remember, if there's something you're looking for a recipe for, TRY THE INTERNET.  I have had good luck with Google's search engine on this.  I found recipes I didn't think I would ever find this way.

Some tools you should consider acquiring:

I recommend that you acquire the following:
 
A food processor if you can possibly afford it.  I wouldn't trade my Cuisinart(c) for a million dollars (well I might, since I could buy a new one...) because it mixes, chops, grates, slices and  kneads and comes in SUPER handy.
 
A mixer, preferably electric.
 
A wire whisk.
 
A colander, preferably a plastic one (yes I said plastic because a plastic one will work in the microwave.  You can place it in a larger bowl, fill it with crumbled ground beef and zap it.  Then simply lift the beef out and drain the grease off easily for quick taco meat and chili).
 
A plastic sheet to roll pie crust and noodles out on (these are an inexpensive item from Tupperware(c) and I'm sure other brands also off such an item.
 
A turkey baster (great for removing hamburger grease from your skillets).
 
A pastry cutter for pie crust (but without it, you can use two table knives).
 
Decent measuring cups.  Again, you can sometimes wing this.  I used to date someone who didn't have a measuring cup and had saved a peanut butter jar that had measuring markings on the sides.  He used it for measuring and it worked fine.  I noticed just the other day that a fruit jar I had emptied and washed had markings on it, so if you don't have a measuring cup, watch for jars like this and adapt.  Generally, you can get measuring cups fairly cheaply.
 
A set of measuring spoons.
 
Sharp knives.
 
Wooden spoons (ideal for use with foods in the microwave, as you can leave them in a bowl of sauce when microwaving and they can cook right along with the food).
 
At least one rubber spatula.