Secrets from the Cooking Light Test Kitchen

Secrets, Tips & Recipes from America’s Healthy-Cooking Experts

Cooking Tips from the Experts

Photo: Randy Mayor

Cooking Tips from the Experts

Here at Cooking Light, we live and breathe delicious healthy food. Our Test Kitchen experts develop recipes that are light and healthy but still delectably tasty. From keeping the garlic smell off your hands, to getting more juice out of your produce, here are tips and tricks from our experts.

Get Rid of Garlic Hands

Photo: Randy Mayor

Get Rid of Garlic Hands

Keep the smell of garlic off your hands by chopping it in a plastic bag. If you've ever tried one of those stainless steel gadgets that's supposed to remove garlic oils (and fragrance) from your hands, you've probably been let down. To prevent the bouquet, try this nifty trick involving a zip-top freezer bag. Place peeled cloves in the bag, and seal; smash with the flat side of a chef's knife, as shown. Then use the dull side of the blade to "chop" the garlic into small bits, or continue to smash for larger chunks. Open the bag, turn it inside out, and voilà: chopped garlic that has never touched your skin. This works for anywhere from 2 to 40 cloves.

Try Mini Pineapples

Photo: Caleb Chancey

Try Mini Pineapples

On a recent visit to our Test Kitchen, Cooking Light's Produce Guru, Robert Schueller of Melissa's Produce, raved about South African baby pineapples. They come in a single-serving size, are very sweet, and are so tender that even the core is edible. Just slice off the skin, hold by the top, and munch away, Bugs Bunny—style. They're not cheap, but they are a very healthy, easy-to-prepare treat.

Jelly-Roll Pan VS. Baking Sheet

Photo: Randy Mayor

Jelly-Roll Pan VS. Baking Sheet

A baking sheet (bottom) is flat, usually with a raised lip on one side; it allows even heat distribution for baking cookies. The sides of a jelly-roll pan corral juices from foods that let off liquid, and they help keep things like oven fries from flying off the pan when you stir them.

—Ann Taylor Pittman, Executive Editor, Food

Store and Reuse Coconut Milk

Photo: Randy Mayor

Store and Reuse Coconut Milk

If you have leftover coconut milk after making such a curry, transfer it to a glass jar, seal, and keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. I've found that it's a good substitute for yogurt or cream—great if you're cooking for someone who is lactose intolerant or vegan. It works beautifully in creamy soups such as the one here. I also add some to lean ground beef when making sliders (along with toasted ground cumin and coriander seeds). Similarly, my go-to skillet cake recipe calls for 1 cup yogurt, but I find that an equal volume of coconut milk plus a tablespoon or two of lime juice gives equally good results.

—Naomi Duguid, Award Winning Cookbook Author

Get More Juice from Produce

Photo: Caleb Chancey

Get More Juice from Produce

Cut citrus lengthwise (end to end) to get 10% to 15% more juice.

—Cooking Light's Produce Guru, Robert Schueller

Quick-Pickled Vegetables

Photo: Brian Woodcock

Quick-Pickled Vegetables

Brighten the flavor of fresh spring veggies with a quick pickle method. Pickling usually takes days or even weeks as the vegetables soak up the brine, but with our fast method, there's no waiting for the vinegar to imbue them with flavor. Briefly cook the veggies in the vinegar mixture until they soak it up and become crisp-tender and mildly pickle-y. Toss with pasta, and enjoy!

View Recipe: Pasta Giardiniera

Offset Serrated Knife

Photo: Randy Mayor

Offset Serrated Knife

I love this odd-shaped offset serrated knife. It cuts even tough veggies easily and is well balanced in the hand, saving your knuckles from hitting the board as you cut.

Classic 8" Serrated Offset Handle Deli Knife by Wusthof ($100, Swiss Knife Shop)

—Deb Wise, Recipe Tester and Developer

Use a Cherry Pitter on Olives

Photo: Brian Woodcock

Use a Cherry Pitter on Olives

We're loving all the new varieties of olives. Lately we've been obsessed with the fruity flavor of vibrant green Castelvetranos, olives so shapely that it's a pity to smash them when you need to remove the pits.

To preserve the shape without mangling, use a cherry pitter. It works fantastically, leaving these green jewels pretty and whole.

More Than a Rice Cooker

Photo: Randy Mayor

More Than a Rice Cooker

A good rice cooker also makes perfect steel-cut oats or other whole grains. Look for one with "fuzzy logic" technology. They can be pricey, but the Panasonic SR-DF181 is only $90.

Infused Water

Photo: Randy Mayor

Infused Water

Hydration for a hot summer nation: Water infused with fruit, herbs, and even veggies goes down nicely.

Tossing sliced fruit and herbs into water perks up the flavor and makes it more thirst-quenching and replenishing—virtually no sugar added. If you have the time, an hour or two of soaking will impart more flavor to your water. Make large batches to keep your July Fourth party nice and cool. Use these suggested combos: 1. Lime, Mango, Cilantro (pictured, top); 2. Peach & Lemongrass (middle); 3. Mint, Basil, Melon, Cucumber (bottom); or create your own—maybe toss in a sliced jalapeño for a surprise kick.

Two-Stage Skewer

Photo: Randy Mayor

Two-Stage Skewer

No worries about timing or safety issues when you use these skewers. Meat can go on its own prongs; quicker-cooking veggies slide on later (NexTrend Stainless Steel New Skewer, $15, amazon.com).

—Ann Taylor Pittman, Executive Editor, Food

Amp Up Salad Greens by Grilling

Photo: Randy Mayor

Amp Up Salad Greens by Grilling

We've already talked about getting big flavor in grilled meat, but laying on a little smoke and char makes greens seriously delicious, too. Use crisp heads such as romaine (pictured), endive, or radicchio; more delicate greens can't take the heat. Halve the heads, brush with olive oil, and grill a couple of minutes per side. Add a squeeze of lemon, or drizzle on your favorite dressing.

Baked Potato Meets Oven Fries

Photo: Randy Mayor

Baked Potato Meets Oven Fries

Once you eat a Hasselback potato, you'll wonder why you waited so long to try it. The increased surface area exposed to the oven's heat means you get lots of crispy edges, while the base of each slice still holds soft, tender flesh. It's a delicious effect that's easy to create: Cut most of the way through a potato at 1/8-inch intervals so that it looks like an accordion. A handy trick: Line up chopsticks or butter knives on both sides at the base of the tater; they'll stop the knife from going all the way through. Combine some olive oil, sea salt, pepper, herbs, and garlic, and brush over the potato, making sure the oil seeps between slices. Bake, uncovered, at 450° for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and type of potato. Sprinkle with more fresh herbs.

Soft-Cooked Eggs

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Soft-Cooked Eggs

You probably know hard-cooked eggs, but give soft-cooked eggs a try. With their rich, creamy interior, they're great over salads, pastas, and whole grains, as the runny, nutrient-rich yolk doubles as a silky dressing.

—Sidney Fry, Nutrition Editor

How to Make Soft-Cooked Eggs: Add water to a large saucepan to a depth of 3 inches; bring to a boil. Add eggs; boil 5 minutes and 30 seconds. Drain. Plunge eggs into ice water; let stand 5 minutes. Drain and peel. Cut in half for a pretty presentation.

Spike Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Photo: Randy Mayor

Spike Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Have extra cranberry sauce? Here's a nifty way to make a zingy seasonal cocktail.

Homemade or store-bought, wholeberry cranberry sauce usually yields leftovers. Swirl into oatmeal or yogurt, combine with horseradish for 'wiches, spoon over pancakes, or try a PB&C sandwich. But definitely make this holiday drink, our Cran-Bourbon Cocktail: Place 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce, 2 tablespoons bourbon, 1 tablespoon Cointreau, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a shaker with ice; shake 15 seconds. Strain into a glass.

View Recipe: Cran-Bourbon Cocktail

Entertaining Must-Have: Multi Timer

Photo: Randy Mayor

Entertaining Must-Have: Multi Timer

When you're cooking several dishes at one time—like on Turkey Day—the Taylor Quad Kitchen Timer with Whiteboard is a lifesaver. You can track up to four dishes at once and label which timer goes with what dish.

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