5 More Tips You Should Know

A few weeks ago I posted a list of simple, yet beneficial tips that are a “must” in the kitchen.  With finals just around the corner, I haven’t been able to cook as much as I would like to, so I figured I’d share a few more things you should know to ensure efficiency every time you are working your magic in the kitchen.

1. Do NOT Rinse Your Cooked Pasta

This is something that I feel like everyone has done at some point in their life.  After boiling a big pot of pasta, I know that it is almost human nature to want to just rinse it under some water after draining it into a colander.  By doing this, you are actually rinsing off all of the starches that we LOVE, leaving your pasta with less texture and nutrients.  If you are faced with the issue of pasta sticking together when left in the colander, try tossing it in some olive oil.  This will solve your problem and still leave your pasta tasting delicious.

2. Overcooking is Most Definitely the BIGGEST Cooking Mistake

BURNT FOOD IS NOT GOOD, but overcooked, tough food is also pretty terrible.  Overcooking vegetables makes them mushy, flavorless, and dull… overcooking meats makes them tough, dry, and chalky… overcooking grains makes them soggy and flimsy… None of this sounds appetizing, so it is essential that you learn to take food off the heat slightly before it is fully done and allow it to finish cooking simply by the internal temperature.  Also, do not be afraid to utilize a thermometer.  Yes these bulky things can be slightly off, but they will help you out much more than if you were to just “guess” whether or not your food is done.

3. Season Season Season

If your food tastes simply OK… it most likely needs some sort of seasoning.  A pinch of salt can go a very long way when it comes to making an OK dish, a great dish.  Yes, over salty food is not good, but under salted is even worse in my opinion.  If you have added your salt and the dish still seems a tad bland, try a splash of vinegar or something acidic to try and liven up your flavor.  You can also use acids, such as lemon, to help counteract any unwanted sweetness you may come across while cooking.  If food feels dry or sticky, you can also add a drizzle of olive oil.

4. Avoid Regular Large Onions

These big onions have a place in recipes such as stews, soups, roasts, etc., but they are unwelcome in more delicate and flavorful meals.  Onions have an extremely prominent flavor that can easily overpower any recipe, if not utilized correctly.  This is why I recommend sticking with smaller, lighter onions, such as shallots and leeks, to help enhance the dish, while also giving the other ingredients a chance to show their flavor.  Shallots have a sweeter, more delicate flavor, which is why they are one of my favorite ingredients to cook with when I come across a recipe that requires an onion.

5. Fruit Should NOT Be Stored in the Fridge

Most fruits are not intended to be stored in a cold environment, which is why you need to KEEP THEM OUT OF THE FRIDGE.  Most people believe that by doing this, they are prolonging their shelf life, but this is not the case.  Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, should always be stored in the fridge; however, fruits like bananas, oranges, apples, uncut pineapple, and pears, should not.  Refrigerators actually dull the flavor of most produce, leaving them bland.  Extremely hot climates are an exception to this rule.

These are only a few more of the essential things one should know to ensure “optimal performance” in the kitchen.  I’ll be sure to post another 5 soon to help you all out. 🙂  Keep cooking and I have more recipes coming your way within the next week!

 

Advertisements

It’s Time to Get Grillin’

Beautiful, sunny weather calls for nothing other than a delicious dinner off the grill.  Grilling is one of my all time favorite ways to cook food and with the temperatures beginning to rise back up, I am taking full advantage of every opportunity to fire up that BBQ.  Besides a giant, thick, juicy steak of course… chicken is one of my favorite things to grill up.  Grilled chicken is an easy and affordable dinner that leaves a ton of room for creativity and is sure to make your taste buds happy.  In this particular recipe, I did a simple marinade on the chicken and paired it up with some delicious sides.  Let’s jump right in!

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breasts
  • Chiavetta’s marinade
  • Potatoes (medium-large size)
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Olive oil/Basting oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Toppings for Baked Potatoes (Butter, Sour Cream, Cheddar Cheese, Bacon Bits, Chives, etc.)

Directions:

You’re going to want to start by marinading your chicken the night before you are planning on grilling it, to ensure you get LOADS of flavor.  What I do, is put the chicken breasts in a ziplock bag and pour in the Chiavetta’s until all of the meat is covered.  Let this rest in the fridge, flipping over every once in a while.  Now, when you’re ready to start cooking dinner, you’re going to want to get your potatoes cooking before anything else because these are going to take the longest to cook.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Rinse off your potatoes, pat dry, and wrap them tightly in tin foil.  Pop these guys on a cookie sheet and throw them in the oven.  Set your timer for 20-25 minutes to check on them; however, you’re most likely going to cook them for another 10 or so.  While these are cooking, you can begin chopping up your zucchini and squash to whatever size you desire.  Place these in a casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop them in the oven after the potatoes have been cooking for about 10 minutes.  Stir the veggies often.  They should take about 20 minutes to cook through.

While everything else is in the oven cooking, its time to fire up the grill.  I like to keep my grill on about medium heat when cooking chicken so that it doesn’t cook the outside too fast without evenly cooking the inside as well.  This tends to lead to a burnt chicken with a raw middle… NO GOOD!  So cook these babies low and slow.  The time definitely depends on the thickness of your meat.  My chicken breasts were approximately 3/4 inch in thickness, which took about 20 minutes to cook through.  Once you throw them on, don’t forget to keep checking them.  Another tip would be to try and not flip them over until the one side is fully cooked.  This helps contain the juices of the meat and help prevent the meat from drying out.  Don’t forget to check up on your potatoes and veggies.  To see if your baked potatoes are done, simply take a kitchen fork and stick it.  If the fork feels as though it is sliding in easily and the potato is no longer tough, then those guys are good to go and ready to eat.  But be warned, they will most likely be extremely hot.  Everything is timed out pretty well for your potatoes to have some cooling time, while your chicken finishes up on the grill.  If you think your chicken might be done, I recommend slicing into the thickest piece just to ensure that you no longer see pink, raw chicken in the middle.  Eating raw chicken can make you extremely sick, so definitely be careful.

When everything is all set and ready to go, it is time to dive right in.  Throw some chicken, veggies, and a baked potato on a plate and get ready to be happily surprised at how delicious this easy and quick meal turns out to be.  I personally enjoy eating my baked potatoes slathered in butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and hot sauce.  This clearly isn’t the healthiest thing in the word.. but DAMN is it delicious.

Another thing I wanted to mention, is that the baked potatoes and veggies can be cooked on the grill as well.  I have a very small grill so my space was much too limited, which is why I chose to use the oven.  If you decide to grill everything together, just wrap your potatoes in foil the same as before and put them directly on the grill.  The veggies you can put in a pan (one you don’t mind burning a little on the bottom), and throw those right on the grill as well.  If you decide to do this, try and keep the cover closed as much as possible to contain as much heat as possible.  Just remember, that this method does take slightly more time!

Also, as I said before, grilling is a method that opens you up to a WORLD of possibilities.  Don’t be afraid to try different marinades, or even a simple spice, or salt and pepper.  You can also try and experiment with different vegetables, like carrots, peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc.  All of these can be roasted using the same technique as I stated before.  Feel free to get creative without me. 🙂  One of the best parts about grilling, is that everything turns out delicious… unless you burn it of course… hahaha!  I hope you enjoy this beautiful weather and feel inspired to create some amazing meals along with it!