Still Faster in the Kitchen

Hello! I’m sorry it’s been so long… I’ve been knee-deep in a job search and contract work, and unfortunately Seattle Palate has taken the hit. But I have been blah-blah-blogging up a storm and have a whole list of posts just for you. (If you’re so inclined, check out my new blog post on my professional website on 10 Ways to Generate New Blog Traffic.)

Onto the matter at hand. I have the second half of those great Kitchen Tips that are going to make us all more efficient in twenty-ten. But. First I have to tell you that even though it’s only mid-January, I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel known as the Seattle winter. And it’s called tulips.

These gorgeous red tulips were exactly $4 at the Ballard Market. Can you believe that? They give me comfort that one day the gray will lift and the Emerald City will spring back to life. Perhaps that’s a bit over the top, but seriously one of the best things about living in Seattle is the amazing selection of fresh flowers that you can buy at the many farmers’ markets 10 months out of the year. The Skagit Valley (just north of Seattle) supplies the vast majority of tulip bulbs sold in the United States, and each year the valley hosts a month-long celebration. The Tulip Festival runs for the all of April, and there are dozens and dozens and dozens of acres of blooms colored so vividly your eyes can barely believe it.

As you might imagine, SUE! has a landscaped yard that would give any tulip-grower a run for his or her money. So when I first moved to Seattle, she hopped right on a plane to come visit this botanical spectacle. Unfortunately, mother nature had very different ideas. Oh, the blooms were magnificent, but it was so cold out that no one really had any interest in gazing at them. But that trooper SUE! piled on every article of clothing she (and most of what my Dad) packed, and we braved the cold. And we were wowed indeed; if you’re ever in Seattle in April, put the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival on your “must-see” list.

Then it started to snow. And the more people said “Oh, it NEVER snows in Seattle in April!” the harder it snowed. It was practically comical. No amount of hot chocolate and hand-warmers could do the trick. All in all, we got our fill of tulips, but perhaps this year the weather will be more hospitable.

One last thing about tulips before you get your kitchen tips. Tulip fun fact #42: they are the only flower that continues to grow after they are cut. Just trim the ends under water when you get home and keep the vase filled with fresh water, and your tulips will keep far longer than any other flower. You can see that they are still growing because your tight, even bouquet will start to look straggly as the stems snake and grow towards the light. Cool, huh?

At last, here are your Kitchen Tips. If you missed the first half of this list, be sure to read it here, Faster in the Kitchen in 2010! Enjoy!

  1. Peel a pomegranate under water. It keeps the juice from squirting all over the place and the pith floats to the top.
  2. To monitor a sauce as it reduces, stick the end of a wooden spoon into the sauce to measure where the sauce measures at the beginning. (The sauce will stain the spoon.) If the sauce needs to reduce in half, continue simmering until the finished sauce only measures half of the original mark.
  3. Use plastic container lids as spoon rests.
  4. When cracking an egg, sometimes shell fragments fall into the bowl. Use the egg shell half to pick them out – the shell pieces are attracted to each other.
  5. To make perfect long-grained white rice, put your index finger on the top of the rice, add water until it reached your first knuckle. Bring to boil, put heat on low, cook 20 minutes, lid still on, let sit off burner for 10 minutes.
  6. Toss your vegetable scraps into a freezer bag and when full, make a big pot of stock. Same goes for chicken bones and scraps.
  7. For chopping nuts, put them in a plastic freezer size bag and use a rolling pin; it’s easier than a knife, and the bag contains all the nuts.
  8. Use a binder clip on the side of a saucepan to hold a thermometer in place.
  9. A dash of sugar mellows out overly spicy foods – useful when you’ve added too much heat or need just one serving to be a bit milder.
  10. To heat small portions on the stove, use metal dry measuring cups as tiny sauce-pans.
  11. Wrap thick rubber bands around the ends of your rolling pin to desired thickness before rolling out dough.
  12. Score your pork chops twice across the fat to prevent curling.
  13. Rub or spray oil on measuring spoons or cups before measuring sticky stuff like molasses and peanut butter. Makes ingredient extraction and cleanup much faster.
  14. A quick way to tell whether eggs are fresh: if the shell is chalky and textured, the egg is fresher. Older eggs will be shinier.
  15. To halve grapes or cherry tomatoes, sandwich the them between two plastic container lids, and slice parallel to the work surface for a quick and easy cut.

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