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General Food Tips

About Poaching

Poaching is used for delicate foods, such as fish fillets. The proper temperature for poaching is 160° to 180°, which is lower than simmering.

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Balsamic Vinegar

Over the years, balsamic vinegar has gone from an exotic ingredient to a pantry staple. This Italian vinegar is a dark, thick, sweet-smelling liquid. When used in cooking, it adds a rich, dark…

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Bean Substitutions

1 pound packaged dry beans (uncooked) equals 2 cups dry or 6 to 7 cooked (drained).

1 cup packaged dry beans (uncooked) equals about two 15-1/2-ounce cans of beans (drained).

One…

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Boxed Mixes & Higher Altitudes

Betty G. of Idyllwild, California says, “I live in a small town in the mountains. I keep a packaged brownie mix on hand in case I need a quick dessert. In the higher altitudes, boxed mixes need…

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Bread Crumbs Made Easy

I’ve found the easiest way to make bread cubes is to first freeze the bread, then trim and cube a stack of frozen slices. Not only is it neater, it’s easier to divide the cubes equally for layered…

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Canning with Less Mess

My stovetop used to get really messy while I was canning. Now I cover it with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making holes for the burners. When I’m done canning, I simply remove the foil and save…

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Chocolate Kiss Replacement

When a recipe calls for chocolate kisses, I use chocolate stars instead. Not only are they less expensive, they’re prettier…and you don’t have to spend time unwrapping them. —Sue B., Tiffin,…

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Chocolate on a Budget

When a recipe calls for melted semisweet chocolate chips, it’s cheaper to use semisweet baking chocolate squares in the same amount ounce-for-ounce. After the chocolate is melted, nobody knows…

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Clarified Butter

To make clarified butter, melt butter over low heat without stirring. Skim off foam. Pour off clear liquid and discard milky residue in bottom of pan. Store clear liquid in an airtight container…

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Coconut Milk

A sweet milky white liquid high in oil derived from the meat of a mature coconut. It is not the naturally-occurring liquid found inside a coconut. In the United States, coconut milk is usually…

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Cooking with Edible Flowers

When preparing recipes that call for edible fresh flowers, make sure to properly identify the flowers before picking and use only the petals or blossoms (not the stems, leaves, pistil or stamen).…

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Cool Off Spicy Foods with Milk

Does the heat got your tongue? If you need to make the burning stop, drink milk, not water. Capsaicin, the potent compound giving chilies their fiery hotness, is not soluble in water, so the best…

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Cornstarch Thickener

To use cornstarch to thicken foods, dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of a cold liquid before adding it to the hot mixture. Then, to produce a nicely thickened sauce, gravy or pudding,…

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Cream of Coconut

A very thick smooth, sweet canned liquid made from fresh coconuts. It’s commonly used in mixed alcoholic beverages and desserts. Most often found in liquor stores.

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Creme Fraiche

A French soured cream that is thicker and less sour than American sour cream. Creme fraiche is prized for cooking because it does not separate with heat like sour cream. Also used to top desserts…

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Crown Roast

A meat cut made from the rib section of the loin. The cut is tied in a circle and roasted, ribs up, resembling a crown. Often, the center of the “crown” is filled with a stuffing. Pork, lamb and…

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Deep-Fat Frying Facts

YOU'LL soon be frying foods like a pro with these timely pointers.

If you don't have a deep-fat fryer or electric fry pan with a thermostat, you can use a kettle or Dutch oven together with…

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Dutch Oven Basics

A Dutch oven is a heavy covered pan that can be used both on the stovetop and in the oven. Available in a variety of sizes, a Dutch oven is handy for browning meats before roasting—you need just…

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Edamame

A popular Asian food produced from the soybean that is harvested early, before the beans become hard. The young beans are parboiled and frozen to retain their freshness and can be found in the…

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Extra Measuring Cups

Because I bake often, I keep one set of metal measuring cups in my flour canister and a second set in my sugar canister. This saves me time searching for them, and they needn’t be washed each…

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Fast Prep Tip for Berry Jam

One day I was in a hurry to make strawberry jam. Instead of mashing the fruit by hand, I put the berries in the blender and gave it a couple of twirls. I had evenly crushed berries in no time.…

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Flattening Chicken Breasts

When flattening chicken breasts, place them inside a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag or between two sheets of heavy plastic wrap to prevent messy splatters. Pound with the flat side of a meat…

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Giant Ice Cube Cools Corn

Last time I put up corn, I was a bit short on time. To quickly cool 20 cups of corn, I dropped a clean plastic jug filled with frozen water into the center. It worked great—like a giant ice cube.…

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Greek Olives

Also known as kalamata olives, they are almond-shaped and range in size from 1/2 to 1 inch long. Dark eggplant in color, the kalamata olive is rich and fruity in flavor and can be found packed in…

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Half-and-Half

A mixture of cream that is half heavy cream and half milk, containing a range of 10-18% butterfat. It is mainly used in beverages, soups and sauces and cannot be whipped.

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Heat Tortillas Before Rolling

To prevent tortillas from tearing while rolling them up, simply warm them slightly in a nonstick skillet before filling. The warm tortillas are more pliable. —Connie Deck, Springfield,…

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Heavy Whipping Cream

A rich cream that ranges from 36-40% butterfat and doubles in volume when whipped. Often labeled as either heavy cream or whipping cream.

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Hoisin Sauce

A common soy-based ingredient in Chinese cuisine that is described as sweet, salty and spicy. Used to flavor sauces for stir-fry dishes or as a condiment for Moo Shoo Pork or Peking Duck, this…

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Hot Pepper Sauce

This ingredient is prepared from red chili peppers, vinegar and salt, and is often aged in wooden casks like wine and specialty vinegars. Hot pepper sauce is used in cooking or as a condiment when…

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Keep Boards & Bowls in Place

Place a damp washcloth under the bowl you’re using to mix ingredients. The cloth keeps the bowl from spinning on the countertop, and you can use it when you’re cleaning up afterward. —Jean…

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Lamb Chops

A tender bone-in cut of lamb that comes from the loin, rib and sirloin. Lamb chops are often prepared by seasoning or marinating with herbs, then by cooking with a dry-heat method of baking,…

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Lemon To The Rescue

To remove the odor of onions and garlic from your hands, try rubbing your hands with a lemon wedge. Then rinse them under cold water and wash with soap.

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Light Brown vs. Dark Brown Sugar

In the case of light brown vs. dark brown sugar, the choice is yours! But keep in mind that light brown sugar has a subtle, delicate taste. If you like a more intense molasses flavor in baked…

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Lining Baking Pans with Paper

To easily remove baked goods from pans, line the pan with parchment or waxed paper. Place the pan on a large piece of paper. Trace the shape of the pan onto the paper, then cut out. Grease the…

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Lower Temp for Glass Pans

When substituting a glass baking dish in a recipe calling for a metal baking pan, lower the oven temperature by 25° to avoid overbaking and overbrowning.

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Making Sauces With Skillet Browned Bits

Don't use a nonstick skillet when panfrying meat if you want to make a sauce with the browned bits. You want the browned bits to stick to the skillet, which in turn will flavor the sauce.

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Meal Planning Pointers

Plan well-balanced meals that contain foods from all of the basic food groups.

Begin your menu planning with the main dish. Next choose the vegetables side dish and/or salad and starch.…

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Measuring Brown Sugar

The moisture in brown sugar tends to trap air between the crystals, so it should be firmly packed when measuring. Taste of Home recipes specify packed brown sugar in the ingredients.

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Measuring Flour, Sugar

I keep a chopstick in my flour and sugar canisters and use it to quickly level off the ingredient in a measuring cup with no mess. —Tina H., Hickory, Pennsylvania

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Measuring Melted Butter

When melted butter is called for in a recipe, butter is measured first, then melted. The convenient markings on the wrappers make it easy to slice off the amount you need and melt it.

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Measuring Seldom-Used Flour

If you've suddenly been inspired to bake, your flour has likely been left alone awhile. When seldom used, flour can settle and compact, so it's easy to measure more than you need. To keep it…

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Measuring Shortening, Sugar

After using a measuring cup for shortening, use it to measure sugar, too. Once the sugar is poured out, use a spatula to easily scoop out the remaining sugar and shortening at the same time.…

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Mess-Free Peeling

Peel your vegetables and fruit over a paper towel. When you’re finished, just fold up the towel and toss it and the peelings away. No more mess on the counter! —Priscilla S., Rochester, New…

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Microwave Cooking Times

A higher-wattage microwave cooks faster than a lower-wattage one, so adjust the time that’s needed to prepare dishes in your microwave. As a general guide, start with a time about two-thirds of…

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Mixing Bread or Pie Crust

Use a plastic bowl rather than a glass one when mixing bread dough or pie crust. The dough won’t stick to the bowl and is much easier to handle.—Gill M., Methuen, Massachusetts

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More Cabbage Grater Uses

Whenever I need fresh minced onion in a recipe, I use my cabbage grater. It also works great on hard-boiled eggs for egg salad or potato salad. —Jane Y., Toledo, Ohio

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More Uses for Kitchen Shears

I use kitchen shears to make quick work of many projects. They are great for easily cutting foods like canned fruit and cooked meat for our young children, and they also work well for cutting…

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No-Mess Way to Melt Chocolate Chips

When melting chocolate chips for decorating, seal them in a zipper sandwich bag and put it in a pan of hot water. After a few minutes, knead the bag to smooth the chocolate, then cut a small hole…

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Nutella

Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread. Look for it in the peanut butter section.

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Phyllo Facts

PHYLLO (pronounced FEE-lo) is a tissue-thin pastry that's made by gently stretching the dough into thin fragile sheets. It can be layered, shaped and baked in a variety of sweet and savory ways.…

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Plastic Wrap for Bars

Cut a roll of clear plastic wrap in half to use for individually wrapping homemade granola bars, brownies and cookies. Instead of one wide roll, you end up with two narrower rolls of the perfect…

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Preheating the Oven

It is important to preheat your oven before baking and roasting. Baked items depend on the correct oven temperature to help them rise and cook properly. All Taste of Home recipes are tested in…

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Produce Low in Pesticides

The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) lists the "clean 15" fruits and vegetables that are low in pesticides, so you can skip the high prices of organic produce: onions, sweet corn, pineapples,…

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Quick-Rise Yeast Or Regular Active Dry Yeast?

The two different types of yeast can be substituted for each other in recipes, but remember: Quick-rise yeast does not need to be dissolved in water before mixing, and it requires only one rise.…

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Quickly Chop Olives

If I need chopped olives, I open a can of whole olives and drain the liquid. Then I move a knife up and down and back and forth in the can to chop the olives quickly, easily and neatly. This also…

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Reduce Veggie Odors

To reduce the odor of cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower as it cooks, add a slice of lemon to the water.—Elizabeth E., Belleville, Ontario

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Remoulade

A flavorful mayonnaise-based sauce similar to tartar sauce that can be seasoned with mustard, capers, chopped gherkins or relish, herbs and often anchovies. It is served as an accompaniment to…

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Sauces for Prime Rib

The term "au jus" (French for "with juice") is often used to describe the serving of meat (like prime rib) with the natural juices that were produced as drippings while the meat was roasting. For…

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Save Foil

The recipes for many baked dishes say to cover with aluminum foil while baking. To save foil, I simply invert a cookie sheet over the dish. —Charlsie M., Glenwood, Arkansas

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Slow Cooker Tips

Choose the correct size slow cooker for your recipe. A slow cooker should be from half to two-thirds full.

The lid on your slow cooker seals in steam that cooks the food. So unless the…

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Slow Cooking Roasts

Cut roasts over 3 pounds in half to ensure proper and even cooking. Trim as much fat from meat before placing in the slow cooker to avoid greasy gravy. Add more flavor to gravy by first…

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Soft and Stiff Peaks Secrets

Recipes often call for beating whipping cream or egg whites until soft or stiff peaks form. To ensure the cream or egg whites reach full volume, make sure the bowl and beaters are free from oil…

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Soften Butter Quickly

To soften butter quickly, microwave the sticks at 70 percent power in 10-second intervals from two to four times. The butter should be ready to use. —Patricia Winn, Freeville, New York

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Soften Shredded Coconut

To soften shredded coconut that’s turned hard, soak it in milk 30 minutes to soften it. Drain it and pat it dry on paper towels before using. The leftover coconut-flavored milk can be used within…

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Sour Cream Snowflake

For a special touch, garnish individual servings of Cold Plum Soup with a sour cream snowflake.
Spoon sour cream into a resealable plastic bag; cut off a small piece of one corner. Gently…

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Spreading Softened Butter

To spread softened butter evenly in a jiffy, I put the butter in a resealable sandwich-size plastic bag. I seal it shut and cut off one corner to create a pastry-style bag. This way, I can squeeze…

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Stirring Pudding or Grits

A pancake turner works great for stirring puddings or grits because it fits the sides and bottom of the pot well. —Philamena P., Gainesville, Florida

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Stuffing Secrets

To save time on Thanksgiving morning, begin some stuffing preparation the night before. For example, chop and saute vegetables. Cut bread into cubes or measure out store-bought stuffing croutons.…

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Stuffing Tips

How much stuffing will fit into a bird? Prepare about 3/4 cup stuffing for every 1 pound of poultry.

You can prepare stuffing ahead of time and refrigerate it. But never stuff the poultry…

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Sweetened Condensed Milk

Made with cow’s milk from which water has been removed and to which sugar has been added yielding a very thick, sweet canned product. Sweetened condensed milk is used most often in candy-making…

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The History of Worcestershire Sauce

Worcester sauce was originally considered a mistake. In 1835, English Lord Sandys commissioned two chemists from Worcestershire, John Lea and William Perrins, to duplicate a sauce he had acquired…

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Tips for Storing and Cooking Grains

You can store white and wild rice in an airtight container indefinitely. Brown rice has an oily bran layer that can turn rancid at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6…

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Toasting Sesame Seeds

Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Or bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly…

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Tofu

Tofu is made from soybeans and does not contain animal products, yet it is high in protein. This makes it popular in vegetarian recipes, but it’s nutritious and tasty in conventional recipes,…

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Using Fat-Free or Skim Milk

Fat-free or skim milk works fine in baking and making sauces, soups and the like. The final products will not be as rich as they might have been using whole milk.

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Using Oats in Baked Goods

Quick-cooking oats and old-fashioned oats can be interchanged in baked goods, but old-fashioned oats add more texture, so you may notice a difference without them.

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Using Shortening as Directed

When a recipe calls for shortening, you should use solid shortening. Using oil or butter in place of shortening will cause unexpected results.

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Using Soy Milk

Soy milk can be swapped for dairy milk in equal parts and is an excellent alternative for anyone with a milk allergy.

Soy milk has a tendency to curdle when mixed with an acidic ingredient,…

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Vanilla Bean Basics

Vanilla beans can be found at specialty grocery stores. Look for those that are labeled "premium" and that are 6 to 8 inches long. The beans should have a rich, full aroma and should be supple,…

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Wasabi

This Japanese version of horseradish is bright green in color and has a sharp, pungent and fiery-hot flavor. It is traditionally used as a condiment with sushi and sashimi. Today, many Western…

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Ways to Use Sorghum

Sorghum is a dark, sugary and pungent syrup made by boiling the sweet juice from the stalks of the sorghum plant. It is often substituted in equal amounts for molasses in baked goods or used as a…

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What Are Kalamata Olives?

Kalamata olives are purple-black, almond-shaped olives native to Greece. They're usually packed in either olive oil or vinegar, giving them a stronger flavor than most other olives. Kalamata…

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Wonderful Whisk Uses

I use a small wire whisk to quickly mix up a dip for chips or vegetables. Also, I also use my whisk to mix dry cake ingredients instead of sifting. —Effie P., Missouri Valley, Iowa

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Worcestershire Sauce

A commercially produced thin, dark brown sauce used to season meats, gravies, sauces, salad dressing, or to use as a condiment. It’s generally made of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, onions, tamarind,…

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