Since I love cooking and baking, I always discover (through trial and error!) what works for me. And being OCD that I am, if something doesn’t work for me, I try to figure out a way until it does! My husband says I go 100 miles an hour when I’m locked on something….he’s right =D ……. Of course I tell him that now having my blog, I can share these tips with the rest of you in hopes that some of these will make life easier…..don’t you feel the same way? Sure you do!  Some of these you may already know, while others may be new…….so on to the tips and tricks!

-Cooking with less sodium: Use more wine, garlic, onions and herbs when cooking….that way, you won’t even notice there is less salt. Be sure to sauté garlic and onions in a bit of olive oil to maximize flavor. I have a strict low sodium diet that I need to follow and I’ve found that flavor doesn’t have to be compromised!

-Butter substitution: Use olive oil…’s been long used here in the Mediterranean for good reason….olive oil is one of the healthiest oils in the world. Butter should be used sparingly.

-Baking and need an egg? Use a banana (I use 1 small banana in substitution for a medium egg) It’s healthier and more flavorful, not to mention makes breads\cookies moist.

-Roast nuts rather than adding them raw whenever using in dishes\desserts….the oils expelled provide an aroma and flavor that is absolutely delicious (…….see my post on how to roast nuts easily!)

Smashing garlic is much more aromatic and intense that slicing garlic because the juices release better. When making sauces and dishes that require a more profound garlic flavor, smash them! I do this whenever I make tomato sauce or fish dishes.

Use a large bay leaf when boiling pasta water. An old trick from my mother. The leaves prevents the starchy smell and  produce a wonderful aroma in the kitchen which doesn’t alter the taste of the pasta.

When marinating food with wine or vinegar, do not use plastic containers. It’s been known to all who use or drink wine here in the Mediterranean that plastic alters the taste, which is no different in cooking. Use glass. Same concept applies to storing any oil or wine in plastic, glass is better.

To keep veggies fresher and long lasting, wrap in cotton kitchen towels before placing in the fridge (….see my other post “How to Keep Vegetables Lasting Long in the Refrigerator”)

-Have a juicer? We just recently bought one. Keep the pulp from the juicer for making bread, using in both, or soups.

When preparing bread dough to rise, place the bowl of dough inside a clean garbage bag and close tightly, it will make your bread rise faster and higher (….see my post “7 Bread making Tips and Tricks”)

-Storing cheese: Hate sweaty moldy cheese? DON’T STORE IT IN A PLASTIC BAG. Cheese, like us, hates to sweat =) When you buy the cheese, save the poor soul by taking it out of it’s packaging, line a plastic container with oven\baking paper (not the waxy kind) and place the cheese on top. Close the lid and store in the fridge. My cheese stays fresh and dry for the longest time!

-Have a bumper crop of zucchini, eggplant or squash? Turn them into “pesto” and freeze in portions. I do this and it’s perfect for a lazy day. Just defrost and toss with some freshly prepared pasta! To make pesto: Chop and sauté/cook the veggies in a bit of olive oil until done. When cool, transfer them into a blender or food processor, adding salt, garlic and olive oil to your liking. Blend and portion into containers. Freeze.  That’s it….. Pesto isn’t just for basil! =)

Recycle the glass jars you get from the supermarket (….mayonnaise, pickle, etc)  as they are great for canning (post coming soon!…..yes, I am aware the proper procedures of canning, trust me =)  or storing herbs (see my post on “Air Drying Fresh Herbs”). To remove their gunky stickers, fill the sink with soapy hot water and immerse them all in. After a couple of hours, most of the stickers will fall right off with no scrubbing. Why pay for empty jars?

-Don’t throw away your lemon peels….. use them in vinegar to clean the house! (….see my post “DIY Citrus Infused Vinegar….and what can I do with it?”) It’s a great all natural way to scent vinegar and clean naturally! I just throw the peels into a bag that I keep in the freezer until I collect enough to seep in vinegar =)  While we are still on the topic of lemons, you can also dry the peels of organic lemons for desserts. BEFORE using the lemon, peel of the rind off. THEN cut and squeeze the lemons, using the juice for cooking or for drinks. That way, you just toss the white part. I store the dried peels in glass jars and use them for sweet breads…..delicious! =)

-Store onions and garlic in pasta strainers…..the air circulates really well and if you need to move them, it’s easy.

Line refrigerator drawers with cotton kitchen towels for easy clean up. First, they help absorb moisture. Second, when dirty simply toss them in the washing machine!

Need clips to close pasta bags, chips, etc? Use clothe pegs…..a trick most women here in Sicily use =) I also use rubber bands…..

Well, these are just a few that came to mind…I’m sure I’ll have more later and will write up a “part 2″ post. If you have any tips for the kitchen that you would like to share, just let us know!

Happy tip and trick trying!

Wanita =)