"The Food Lover's Tiptionary"
Copyright 1994 The Chicago Tribune
Knight-Ridder Newspapers/Tribune Information Services
By Pat Dailey
Move over, Heloise. There's competition in the kitchen. The befuddled, the
inquisitive, the inept and even the competent can turn their troubles over to the ``The
Food Lover's Tiptionary'' by Sharon Tyler Herbst (Hearst Books, $15).
This master of clever kitchen hints has assembled 4,500 things you never knew you
needed to know: Use a strand of raw spaghetti to light all the candles on a birthday cake
without singeing your fingers. A hunk of bread sitting in the bottom of the broiler pan
will soak up grease and prevent flare-ups from scorching a steak or chop.
Kitchens are fraught with disasters waiting to happen. Herbst says her A-to-Z
assemblage allows cooks to sidestep the disasters and ``cook smarter, not harder.'' It may
not be the stuff to turn a fumbler into a pro, but the snippets are practical and easy.
The compendium touches on just about every aspect of cooking, starting with
abalone and going right through to zucchini. In between, she's unearthed 19 things to
know about doughnuts (!), 68 tidbits on cookies and 32 notables about garlic.
Here are 50 to whet your appetite.
To substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour, measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour,
then remove 2 tablespoons.
Don't think only milk should be used to moisten confectioners' sugar frostings.
Alternatives include strong coffee, peanut butter (with a little milk), fruit juice, jam
or jelly (melted slightly), honey or maple syrup.
Substitution for 1 cup light corn syrup: 1&1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1/4 cup
For 1 cup dark corn syrup: 3/4 cup light corn syrup plus 1/4 cup light molasses, or
1&1/4 cups packed brown sugar plus 1/4 cup water.
If you don't have a biscuit (or round cookie) cutter, use a thin-lipped glass or an
empty, clean 14- to 16-ounce can.
Old-fashioned oats and quick-cooking oats can usually be interchanged in recipes.
For a last-minute coffee filter replacement, cut a piece of extra-strength paper towel to
fit your coffeemaker basket.
Before heating milk, rinse the pan with cold water to keep it from scorching and
Spray a grater with non-stick vegetable spray before grating foods like cheese and
citrus rind and cleanup will be a snap.
If you don't like getting your hands messy when mixing meatloaf, put the
ingredients in a large, zip-closure plastic bag, seal, then squish the contents together
until well mixed.
It's easier to perfectly center a gelatin-based mold if you first rinse the plate it's to be
turned out on with cold water.
Ham will slip out of its can more easily if you immerse it in hot water 1 to 2 minutes
Dried fruit will be easier to chop if you place it in the freezer an hour before
Lightly spray non-stick vegetable spray in whatever container you use to melt
chocolate and the melted chocolate will slip right out.
Before measuring syrupy sweeteners such as honey and corn syrup, lightly coat a
measuring spoon or liquid measuring cup with vegetable oil.
Don't put papery onion skins in the garbage disposal or you could clog the works.
To keep meringue from ``weeping'' (exuding moisture), blend 1 teaspoon cornstarch
with the sugar before beating it into the egg whites.
To peel an orange or grapefruit to use the sections in a salad, immerse the whole fruit
in a pot of boiling-hot water and let stand 4 minutes. Remove fruit from the water
cool until it's easy to handle. When you peel away the skin, the pith should come
with it. Any remnants can be pulled off with a grapefruit knife.
One or 2 teaspoons instant coffee or unsweetened cocoa adds color and a rich flavor
to sauces and gravies.
For extra-crisp sausage patties, dip them in flour before frying.
When blending hot mixtures in an electric blender, always begin at low speed and
gradually increase to high. Starting at high speed can force the hot liquid up and scald
your hands or face.
Meat will brown better if you blot any moisture off the surface with a paper towel.
Dusting the meat with flour also will contribute to browning.
Toasting nuts before using in recipes intensifies their flavor and adds crunch.
Another bonus -- toasted nuts aren't as likely to sink in cakes, breads and other
Toast nuts or seeds in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently,
until golden brown. Or toast in a 350-degree oven, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15
When cooking dried beans, if you want a firm texture, cook them uncovered.
Covering the pot produces softer beans.
Unsalted water will reach a boil faster than salted water, so add salt to rapidly boiling
water just before adding pasta (or other foods).
When cooking corn on the cob, adding salt to the boiling water will toughen the
corn. Add it after cooking.
When whipping cream with an electric mixer, minimize splattering by starting out at
medium speed, gradually increasing the speed as the cream thickens.
Saltwater fish (such as cod and flounder) have thicker bones than freshwater fish
(such as catfish and trout), which have hundreds of filament-thin bones. If you don't
like fighting those tiny bones, choose saltwater species when buying whole fish.
If you're sensitive to monosodium glutamate, you should know that MSG is hidden
in many foods under other names. The FDA doesn't require a separate MSG listing
when any of the following MSG-laden ingredients are present: hydrolyzed vegetable
protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, Kombu extract, and natural flavoring or seasoning.
The entire green onion is edible. The white portion has a slightly stronger flavor
than the green stems.
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
Confused by the term ``dash''? For all intents and purposes, a dash is about 1/16th of
a teaspoon. Many measuring spoon sets have an 1/8-teaspoon measure, so fill it
about half full.
The coffee measure that often comes with ground coffee equals 2 tablespoons (1/8
Use the following amounts to make 1 cup finely crushed crumbs: 14 graham cracker
squares, 14 Oreos (including the middle), 15 gingersnaps, 16 Famous chocolate wafer
cookies, 22 vanilla wafers, 24 Ritz crackers, 28 saltine crackers or 3 cups corn, wheat or
A 10-inch bundt pan holds about 12 cups; a 10-inch tube pan holds 16 cups.
If you don't have a flour sifter, spoon the flour into a fine sieve, then shake or tap it
over a measuring cup set on a piece of waxed paper. This also works with
confectioners' sugar. If necessary, use a wooden spoon to stir the flour or sugar so it
goes through easier.
One pound of fresh mushrooms equals 6 cups sliced, which equals 2 cups sliced and
cooked. It will serve about three people.
One pound of fresh spinach equals 10 to 12 cups of torn pieces or 1 cup of cooked
STOREHOUSE OF KNOWLEDGE
Expiration dates on milk are purposefully conservative -- properly stored, most milk
will be fine to use a week after the carton's date.
Mustard can be stored at least 2 years; refrigerate after opening.
Beer can lose flavor with temperature fluctuations so don't move it in and out of the
Unpopped popcorn can be stored at room temperature for about a year, but it retains
its natural moisture better in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Popcorn that keeps its moisture produces larger popped kernels.
If you buy oil in large jugs, fill a screw-top pint bottle with it. Store the pint at room
temperature for ready use and refrigerate the large container.
Storing plastic wrap in the freezer will keep it from sticking to itself.
If marshmallows have gotten hard, seal them in a plastic bag with 2 to 3 slices fresh
white bread (not French or Italian) and let stand three days.
Always check the date on the carton of eggs to be sure you're getting the freshest
available eggs. Some eggs have a Julian date (1 through 365) displayed on their carton
to indicate the day they were packed. With the Julian system, Jan. 1 is No. 1 and Dec.
31 is No. 365. Some producers stamp their cartons with a date 30 days past the pack
According to the American Egg Board, fresh eggs in the shell can be stored in their
carton in the refrigerator 4 to 5 weeks beyond the pack date without significant quality
To keep ripened cheese longer, dampen a sheet of paper towel with cider vinegar and
wrap it around the cheese, then put inside a plastic bag and seal. Recheck the towel
every couple of days and remoisten, if necessary. The vinegar will inhibit the growth
ODDS AND ENDS
Want to give your house that homey smell? Combine 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon,
or one cinnamon stick (broken into several pieces), with 6 cups water and heat to a
boil. Then reduce to a simmer, and let it fill your house with the scent of nostalgia.
Rub coffee or tea stains on china with a paste of baking soda and water.
If your kitchen sponge is getting smelly, soak it overnight in a mixture of 2 cups
warm water and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Rinse thoroughly before using.
If you love fruit juice but are counting calories, dilute it with sparkling water.