KITCHEN AND LIFESTYLE TIPS

  1. Don’t you just hate it when you go to make something and you find out that one of the vital ingredients is missing. I find this mostly happens with plain flour, I always think I have an extra bag somewhere and then I remember I used it the previous week. So here is my solution if you are in this  predicament. If you have self-raising flour but the recipe calls for plain that’s fine just use the self-raising but omit the baking powder mentioned in the recipe; the baking powder is the raising agent however if you are using self-raising flour you don’t need it, as this in itself is a raising agent and will help your cake(s) rise. I have also had the opposite problem of needing self-raising flour and only having plain flour. To solve this issue all you need to do is add 2-3 tsp of baking powder to every 200g of plain flour, however be careful to not add too much baking powder as this can result in your cake tasting like soap powder. NEW!!!
  2. Vanilla pods are an amazing thing in baking, the enhancement in flavor it can give your food is nothing short of delicious and comforting; from scraping out the seeds inside the pod to add to cakes or placing the whole pod in to milk to help add some flavor to custard. However there is one main downside to using vanilla pods, and that is the price. Vanilla pods are the second most expensive spice after saffron, so this is a pricey ingredient to use in baking especially since vanilla pods tend to only get used once and then throwing in the bin. However I have an idea on how to make the most out of your used vanilla pod and the best thing is it’s really easy. All you need to do is get a jar of sugar (caster sugar is best) and place your vanilla pod inside the jar and your done, I told you it was easy. If you leave the vanilla pod flavor to seep in to the sugar for a few days you will end up with delicious vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar can be used to sprinkle over cookies or biscuits to add extra flavor, sprinkled over creme brulee, added to your cake mix (use the vanilla sugar instead of plain caster sugar and omit the vanilla extract if the recipe calls for it) these are just some of the ideas for the use of your vanilla sugar.  You can leave the vanilla pod in the jar for as long as you want you don’t really need to take it out however please note that DO NOT use a vanilla pod that has been soaked in liquid as all the flavor will have left the pod and it will be of no use anymore. NEW!!!
  3. I love to use brown sugar when I am baking, I love the subtle caramel/toffee taste it gives my bakes however I do not love when it clumps together in to hard rocks in the jar due to moisture. I have a tried and tested method to fix this problem and prevent it from happening again. If you have opened your sugar jar or the sugar bag and you see clumps of hard sugar all you need to do to fix this is; weigh out the quantity of sugar you need for your recipe and place the sugar in the microwave with a damp kitchen paper placed on top and microwave for 30secs, if there are still some hard pieces put it back in for 10 sec bursts until there is no sugar clumps. To prevent this happening more permanently place a piece of bread or a slice of apple in with the sugar, this will take in the moisture  and in case you are worried the bread or apple will go mouldy then fear not cause this won’t happen.
  4. Recently I posted a recipe for  Choco Chip cookies and in the post I advised that instead of baking the whole cookie dough mixture in one go it may be best to freeze some for later on in case of an emergency cookie fix. Although this is only a tip, if you don’t feel you can resist the temptation to bake all the cookies then just stick them all in the oven and indulge away :
  5.  Have any of you asked the question, how do I check the freshness of an egg before it’s to late and its potentially ruined my cake mix? Well I have the answer for you and it’s really simple. All you have to do is fill a bowl full of cold water and place your eggs in the bowl, if they sink then that’s good it means they are fresh, however if they float to the top it means they have spoiled and it is time to throw them out.
  6. Recently I made a curry and I accidentally opened a large can of tomato puree thinking it was a tin of chopped tomatoes, I didn’t want to throw it away so I decided to freeze what was left. I know this may seem strange but trust me it works, I like to put the tomato puree in an ice cube tray which is the equivalent to 1 tbsp per ice cube mould. This makes it easy to quickly pop them in to the next thing your making and it’s already measured out for you.
  7.  Who doesn’t love the guilty pleasure that is bread? I know I do, however I find that it is one of the most commonly wasted food. Well this tip is going to sort that out. If you find yourself with stale leftover bread then instead of chucking it in the bin chuck it in your food processor and turn it in to breadcrumbs. These can either be frozen or I love to dunk chicken strips in egg and then coat them in breadcrumbs and bake them in the oven for some delicious breaded chicken strippers. You can even use breadcrumbs when making meatballs or sprinkled on top of macaroni cheese for a nice crispy topping. The possibilities really are endless, so next time you go to throw out bread, stop!!!
  8. The more seasoned shopper may have already sussed this tip out, however for those who haven’t I am here to rescue you from the chaos of food shopping and to make your food shop a little more bearable. I was once a novice when it came to food shopping, I would waste so much time going from one end of the supermarket and back again continuously trying to locate items on my shopping list, it was the complete opposite of efficient. Therefore I decided to list all my items in order of location in the supermarket; i.e fruit and veg. at the top, dairy next and so on. This made my life so much easier and it meant I didn’t need to go all the way back to the beginning of the supermarket to get something. I hope this little tips helps you out.
  9.  I LOVE popcorn as much as the next person, but one thing that does annoy me is the stubborn buttery smell it leaves in my microwave, it seems to stick around for weeks. This tip helps put an end to those stubborn smells whether it’s popcorn or a spicy curry. All you have to do is slice a lemon in half, place one half in the microwave and switch it on for 30-40 seconds (depending on how strong the smell is) and your microwave should smell clean and citrusy.
  10. Don’t you just hate it when you’re using sticky ingredients such as; honey, maple syrup, black treacle etc. and you can’t get it off the spoon? Well if you follow this trick your sticky problem will be a thing of the past. Just get a glass of hot to boiling water, put your spoon in the water and wait a few seconds till it heats up. Once you use the spoon, your sticky ingredient should just slide right off instead of sticking.

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