Welcome back, intrepid readers. Today’s column again shares time and money saving tips, plus a delicious recipe for parmesan peppers.
It can be almost impossible to get the last remaining teaspoons of mustard from a jar or bottle. I usually use a spatula to scrape out the left-over. If that doesn’t work for you, try making a vinaigrette by adding 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar, salt, black pepper, minced garlic and dried herbs. Close the lid and give it a shake. The resulting homemade vinaigrette is a terrific bonus, plus you’ve used the last bit of mustard that usually gets thrown away.
If you do a lot of baking and use parchment paper, precut the roll to fit the size of your baking sheets. Then roll it back up and place it inside the box. Then you can quickly grab a precut sheet, when you are baking. If the parchment paper curls away from the baking sheet, lightly crumple the sheet. Then unfold the parchment and smooth it flat. The smoothed out parchment paper should now lay flat.
To contain reusable plastic lids in one place for easy retrieval, use a magazine box to store them. Lay the box flat on its long side, if your cabinet is small.
To keep meat from sticking to the grill, use a fork to pierce half of a peeled onion at the root end. Dip the the cut side of the onion into a bowl of vegetable oil and rub the onion over the hot grill. This keeps meat from sticking, plus adds flavor.
To make your own cake-decorating comb, trim the long side of an expired credit card with a pair of pinking shears or other decorative scissors. After frosting a cake, use the serrated edge of the card to create a ridged design along the sides. The opposite uncut side of the card can be used for smoothing the frosting on top.
You can make superfine popcorn salt which clings to popcorn better than table salt. Pulse salt in a spice grinder for about 30 seconds. Pour the pulsed salt into an empty spice jar fitted with a shaker lid. Season the popcorn lightly in a very large bowl, carefully stirring to distribute the salt. Taste and, if necessary, add more salt.
Use whole spices for the freshest flavor and aroma. Toast as needed. I use a small cast iron pan to toast spices. Be sure to watch closely as spices can brown quickly, about 5-10 minutes, on medium heat. Then grind in a mortar and pestle or spice mill.
Cutting whole canned tomatoes often makes a mess and wastes a lot of the juice. Using kitchen shears (dedicated for kitchen use only) to cut the tomatoes right in the can solve both problems. Be sure to clean, disinfect and dry shears before storing.
Make instant croutons — Rub toasted or grilled bread with garlic, then chop into cubes.
Eat more greens — eat the stems of sturdy greens like Swiss chard, kale and collards. Note that the stems take longer to cook. When you’re chopping, set the stems aside so you can cook them separately. Or start by cooking the stems, then add the leaves to the same pan 3-5 minutes later.
Parmesan peppers — Stem, core and quarter 4 bell peppers (a colorful mix of yellow, red, and orange makes a colorful presentation). Place on a baking sheet. Toss with 1 clove thinly sliced garlic, 8 thyme sprigs, and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Lightly season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange skin side down in a single layer and roast at 425 degrees until softened. Top with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and broil until cheese is melted and peppers are slightly charred. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over peppers.
Enjoy the lovely fall days of October.