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Whatever your skill level in the kitchen, these shortcuts and tips will make every step of preparing a meal or dessert more efficient, and ultimately more rewarding.
Do you have to look up that often-used recipe in your favorite cookbook because its ribbon markers already hold the places of other tried-and-true dishes? Avoid this annoyance with a placeholder that fits onto the corner of any page.
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Clip-On Coffee Spoon
Save yourself the early morning fumble for a measuring spoon by clipping one to your bag of dark roast. This makes a lovely housewarming gift as well. Simply use multipurpose adhesive (one intended for metal-to-metal applications) to affix an inexpensive tie clip to a metal measuring spoon. Be sure to hand-wash the spoon to prevent glue from dissolving.
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Happiness, for a cook, is a freezer full of homemade stock. When it's frozen in 1-cup portions, it's all the more easy to know how much to thaw for a recipe. The next time you make a batch of stock or have some left over from a store-bought package, ladle it into 1-cup muffin tins and place them in the freezer. After the stock is frozen, pop the portions out of the tin; store them in resealable freezer bags and label them with the date.
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When you're making that quick bread, can you swap a muffin tin for a loaf pan? How many tablespoons are in a cup? Our handy kitchen charts have all the answers. We designed three: baking pan substitutions, measuring equivalents, and candy-making temperatures. Turn each one into a refrigerator magnet or a laminated card. Either way, the information will be at your fingertips.
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A kid may be more likely to eat her lunch if she helps choose the menu. When she uses this magnetic chart to map out her meals for the week, it saves time and helps make grocery shopping easier.
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When you're ready to bake, waiting for cold butter to soften can seem to take forever. Here's how to hurry the process along: Over a mixing bowl, shred the amount of butter you need on a grater. The little pieces will soften faster than a solid stick. In no time, the butter will be bake-worthy.
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Easy Breakfast Mixes
Make a special breakfast in a snap with a do-it-yourself mix. Just combine dry ingredients for pancakes or muffins, transfer to a resealable plastic bag, and write the recipe on the front with permanent marker. Store in a cool, dry place.
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Butter Corn in a Jiffy
Serve corn on the cob already buttered so guests can dig right in. Bring water to a boil in a stockpot (don't add any salt; it toughens kernels), and drop in 6 to 8 ears. Return to a boil, then cook 2 to 4 minutes for crisp-tender corn. When ears are just about done, slice 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, and drop them into the cooking water; stir to melt. The butter will float, and each ear will get an even coating as you remove it from the pot with tongs.
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Fresh mozzarella is delicious on pasta, gratins, and pizza. But it's difficult to grate -- unless you freeze it first. Wrap a block of mozzarella in plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 20 minutes; then grate. Store the grated cheese in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days.
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Seeded tomatoes often make better-tasting, thicker sauces, salads, and salsas. Make quick work of prepping them by using a melon baller. Not only is the utensil easier to handle than a knife, it eliminates the risk of nicks and cuts.
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Many drink mixes emphasize convenience over flavor. Here's a make-ahead combination of fresh ingredients that doesn't require a blender.
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Quick Peel Kiwi
Here's the easiest way to skin a kiwi: Trim both ends of the fruit; ease a tablespoon between the flesh and the peel. Turn the kiwi, pressing the back of the spoon against the peel as you go. The whole fruit should slide right out -- ready for slicing.
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Fast Fruit Slices
An egg slicer can perform more than one function in the kitchen. Use it to quickly and cleanly cut soft fruits, such as strawberries or bananas. The fruit slivers can be used to garnish waffles, pancakes, French toast, and oatmeal.
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Steamer baskets make quick work of meal preparation. While you assemble the ingredients in the baskets (try our suggestions, or improvise), bring one inch of water to a simmer in a large skillet or a wok. Place the stacked baskets in the water, and cook for about 10 minutes. If the sweet potatoes aren't done, remove the top two baskets, cover potatoes, and continue cooking. These five-inch baskets hold a single portion; double the ingredients and use larger baskets to serve two.
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Fast Fresh Fruit
How can fresh fruit compete with ready-to-eat junk food when your little one is in a hurry? Make it easy for him to find. Toss together a colorful fruit salad, and spoon into single-serving containers. Place them front and center in the fridge, where he can't miss them.