Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tips and Tricks

I NEVER have tips and tricks on here.  At least, not terribly useful ones.  There's not a lot of people in the market to transform their water heater into a turkey fryer or something.  But the times, they are a-changin'!  I've figured out a couple things that I HAVEN'T yet read on some helpful blog, and I'm feeling all proud of myself, so I'm going to post about it here.

1 - Yogurt can't really go bad.  Of course, I'm talking about new yogurt that hasn't been opened or exposed to any alien bacteria or mold spore, and I'm talking about REAL yogurt, the kind that doesn't come with dyes and corn syrup.  To illustrate:  About a month ago (that would be February) I went out to the garage fridge to grab some yogurt for a recipe (I mostly use it that way), probably soaked-waffles or something.  Now, I keep watch on the weird-food cooler at the grocery store, and when they put the organic/natural stuff on clearance with a bright orange tag, then I often consider buying it.  I keep in decent yogurt this way.  Well, in the back of the fridge I found a rather larger tub of yogurt, with a December expiration date.  I brought it in the house, opened it up, and used some, putting the remainder in the fridge indoors.  Now, some people might freak out at the whole December date being used in February.  It's routine around here, however, and I've never had a problem with it (I am careful to keep the lid untouched, etc, especially if I don't use the entire thing in a few days).  It gets better though.  Or worse, depending on your perspective.  As I thought about it, I knew it had been a long time since I'd bought yogurt in that large a container.  That yogurt was NOT from December 2009.  Wow.  It had lived quite happily (and safely) in my garage fridge (which is obviously used less and stays at a more consistent temperature) for fourteen months.  And we're still here to tell the tale. :)

2 - Olives are expensive.  Ha ha, I know that's  not much of a tip.  But I'm saving the tip for the appropriate moment.  Olives are about $1 can (6oz dry weight), for whole olives, even at Costco.  We like olives in a lot of things; tacos, chef salad, pasta salads, nachos, pizza...  Open up a can each time (spend a dollar), and even if there are a few more than you need, they'll be eaten.  Even if that's once or twice a week, it really adds to your grocery bill, and it's not like you can grow your own (around here)!  I decided the big giant can of sliced olives at Costco was a better buy (about $7 for 55 oz dry weight, saving over $2 for the same in smaller cans).  When I opened it, I'd use it to make (and freeze) a few pizzas, use it the next day for taco salad, whatever.  Still, the jar I put into the fridge would sometimes start to go bad before I'd used them all up, undoing the savings.  So I did an experiment.  After using a bunch, I put a smaller jar of leftovers in the fridge (swimming in brine, if possible), and put another jar into the freezer (make sure these have enough brine to cover).  I waited a couple weeks, and then removed the jar, letting it defrost about a day on the counter.  You know what?  They were fine.  We used them in salads, on pizzas, as usual, with little, if any, noticeable difference in taste or texture.  Hooray!  AND now I don't have to spend time slicing olives (since that's how I used them mostly anyway).  Now, I don't know how this would work with whole olives, or green, or other fancy kinds.  These were standard Black Pearls.

3 - Don't use cookie cutters.  Ok, this definitely needs some clarification.  Do you ever make biscuits or shortcake or other baked goods that require a round cut-out?  I'm sure you've all heard of (and used) a drinking glass for the job, but I'm even lazier than that.  Circles are not very efficient, you know, and you end up with all the little triangles from in-between.  Then what?  You pack them together and make another biscuit or two that's all crazy and dense and tough.  Unless I'm wrong, there's no state law or local ordinance requiring round biscuits.  And in fact, homeschoolers always enjoy the added learning opportunity with different shapes on the dinner table.  I use a pizza cutter, or dough cutter and after rolling out the dough, I just cut across it several times in each direction, and end up with squares, rectangles, trapezoids, triangles...  Toss them on  the baking pan, and you're good to go!  As long as they're uniform thickness they'll cook evenly... And you can even let your littlest kids have their own "whole" biscuit.

I had some more, but have forgotten them.  As it is, this post sat on my computer in an open tab for several days.  It's like yogurt, I hope, and will still work. ;)

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