Mischievous Kitchen Tips, Vol. 1

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It’s been a frustrating week over here at Mischief Central. I’ve cooked every night this week, and not one thing has been blog-worthy. Seriously—my food has been about as attractive as your sixth-grade yearbook picture.  Out of respect for your eyes, I decided to forgo the usual recipe today. Check out this palmful of advice that will make your kitchen experiences more  mischievous…in a good way. 😉

Zest is the Best

Just call me Chester the Zester

One rule I try to live by in the kitchen is to never cut a piece of citrus without zesting it first. Primarily, this is for flavor reasons, but secretly, I am obsessed with zesting. I’ll run just about anything over my microplane: garlic, ginger, cheese, nutmeg, chocolate, the cat—anything. But seriously…there’s no reason to waste citrus zest. If a recipe calls for juice, zest it first, then go ahead and add it. Why not? It doesn’t add acidity or liquid, so your proportions stay intact. It’s simply a flavor boost. From marinades, dressings, and vinaigrettes to chicken, tuna, or any kind of salad, you can’t go wrong with zest. It’s the best.

OMG I LUV TURKEY SAUSAGE!

Simple grilled turkey sausage with leftovers. The Lazy Gourmet!

I hope scientists don’t find some hidden carcinogenic chemical in turkey sausage, cause if they do, I’m DEAD. We eat this ALL THE TIME. What could possibly drive me to such fanaticism? It’s cheap! (you can often find them BOGO) It’s healthy! (like, 60% less fat than pig sausage) It’s already cooked! (sear it or grill it to add flavor and you’re done!) Seriously—it goes in anything: Black-Eyed Pea Stew, Jambalaya, Chili, Lentil Soup, etc. It’s also great when you’re in a hurry and all you have is leftover veggies. Just grill some turkey sausage while you microwave your leftover peas and BOOM—dinner’s done. I’m all about effort, but I do love a shortcut!

Vanilla Beans—Yes, You Can!

Words can't describe my love for these little beans.

When I’m at the grocery store in the spice aisle, I always feel bad for the vanilla beans. There they sit, two lonely beans in a little glass jar, like the pretty girl at the party who everyone’s afraid to talk to. But really, $8.99 for two shriveled little beans? We’re in a recession, dammit! That’s why I’m so excited to share this awesome link with you, given to me by my friend James Schend who used to work in the Southern Living Test Kitchen. It’s a website that sells vanilla beans BY THE POUND. Click here to check it out: www.saffron.com. I got ¼ pound for $9.50, which was like 25-30 beans. It’s insane! I don’t know if it’s legal and I don’t care. All I know is now I can put vanilla beans in anything I want—cookies, cakes, whipped cream, sugar—it’s like I’m Marie Antoinette over here. “Let them eat vanilla cake!” I LOVE IT. And the best part…I have tons of leftover husks for making vanilla sugar (read about how here).

Seriously: Read the Directions
Let’s be honest—I never do this. Not really. I mean, I skim the directions. And I do a lot of “assuming” that I know what I’m doing. Case in point—that nasty gravel jambalaya that I made last week that I ranted about? I just now read the directions on the bag of brown rice that I used. “Cook 45-50 minutes” it says…not the normal 20 for regular rice, like I’d assumed. Oh. Hmm. Well. Solves that.

That’s all the kitchen wisdom I have for today. I’m working on a Tuscan Chicken and White Bean Stew for next week…if it works out, I’ll tell you all about it on Thursday. Or if it blows up—you’ll hear about that, too. Have a good weekend! 😉

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11 Responses to “Mischievous Kitchen Tips, Vol. 1”

  1. Matthew Says:

    Love it! I have to admit that I DON’T zest all the time before juicing (I just heard you gasp). I will change my ways because this is a good idea. If I don’t use the zest, I can put it in a little tupperware bowl and in the freezer. I am so using that website…recession or not, I am not paying $8.99 for two beans.

    Questions: Can you use the microplane on cat and dog claws? Or use it as a Pedegg for rough spots on your feet? BARF!

  2. David Says:

    Though the turkey sausage is tasty, wow it is so not photogenic!! That plate of food does not look nearly as good as it tasted. And my waistline thanks you for the “lighter” fare this week, even though my grumpy attitude has not shown it.

    On a side note…Matthew just made me throw up in my mouth.

  3. Jamie Says:

    I’m with you on the turkey sausage – it is slowly becoming its own food group, just like Bacon, Fruits & Vegetables, and all those other ones that we had to learn in 10th-grade Health Class.

    Maybe some of that vanilla can be used to start fermenting mixes for Drunk Week II.

  4. James Says:

    Hey Josh, I’m glad you ordered some vanilla from them. They are amazing and I can’t understand how they can sell the vanilla so cheaply but, like you said, I don’t care. I just love walking by their store front because you can smell it a half a block away.

    • josh Says:

      thanks so much for sending me that link. i have enjoyed my vanilla bean freedom. i made a SL cream cheese pound cake the other day and used three in it. it just makes me smile. many, many thanks!

  5. steve oh boy Says:

    While your in Canada try to pick up some recipes for Canadian Bacon or possibly a Canadian Goose recipe for next Christmas. They are numerous around the reservoir.
    We could capture the in a big pillow case and then fatten them up.

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