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Favorite Kitchen Tricks That Make Holiday Cooking Fun and Easy

Date: November 15, 2016      Publication: Bottom Line's Household Magic      Source:  Joan Wilen & Lydia Wilen      Print:

The season of big food is upon us! It’s time for baking pies and cookies…roasting family-size birds and beautiful root vegetables.  Here are a few of our favorite kitchen tips for easier holiday food prep…

Keep your apple-pie apples from turning brown (without lemon juice): You probably know about a citrus bath for keeping apple slices crisp and delicious. When good lemons are scarce or expensive, try these options…

To keep apples from turning brown, dunk the cut pieces in a mixture of one-quarter teaspoon of salt and about two cups of room-temperature water. This salt-to-water ratio should not make your apples taste salty, even if they sit in this mixture overnight.

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Or…

Cover the cut apple slices with apple juice and refrigerate them for about a half-hour. (You can do this while you make your piecrust.) They won’t turn brown, and in case your apples are not in tip-top shape, this juice bath will make them a little tastier.

Our favorite pie bakers all have different theories on the best apples to use for pie—one baker we know swears by Granny Smith…and another uses a blend of Gala and Golden Delicious. Feel free to share with us your favorite apple or apple combination for pie filling. We’d love to know!

Keep the tasty goo inside your pie: To prevent the juice from oozing out of a pie and making a mess in the oven, stand a piece of uncooked hollow pasta (such as penne or rigatoni or large elbow macaroni) in the middle of the pie while it’s baking. The trapped steam will escape, and your pie filling stays put.

Make room for more cookies: Holiday cookie-baking means big batches. If your kitchen lacks counter space and you need more surface area to cool your cookies, set up a sturdy ironing board. Put the cookies on small wire racks, and place them on the ironing board away from foot traffic. Now there’s no excuse not to keep baking!

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 Quick work with cranberries: Many holiday recipes call for fresh cranberry halves instead of whole cranberries (which can burst while cooking). To halve them quickly, use a cutting board that has a gutter, line the berries up and cut them in half with a long, sharp knife.

Sharpen a knife without a sharpener: Find a coffee mug with an unglazed rim on the bottom. Turn the mug upside down on a sturdy surface. Hold the knife blade at an angle, and run it along this rough bottom edge of the mug. You don’t need to press too hard. Do the same thing to the other side of the blade. Repeat the procedure until the knife is as sharp as you want it to be. (It usually takes only four or five runs.) Take your time and be careful! Food prep with a sharp knife makes cooking a breeze…and a lot safer.

Faster roasted veggies: Roast a combination of root vegetables for a super rustic Thanksgiving side dish that’s delicious, healthful…and easy. To cut down on roasting time, put your pan in the oven while it’s preheating. We usually roast our assortment of root veggies—parsnips, carrots, red potatoes, brussels sprouts, red onions (or beets, butternut squash, sweet potatoes…whatever’s on hand)—at 400°F for 30 to 40 minutes (stirring once). Your vegetable mix will sizzle and start to cook the minute it hits the pan. Just make sure that you handle the hot pan with care when you add your vegetables…and use a potholder at all times!

How to move The Big Bird: When you want to transfer the turkey from the roasting pan to the serving platter, insert a long-handled wooden spoon in each end of the turkey (top and tail), and it will lift out easily.

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Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are health investigators based in New York City who have spent decades collecting "cures from the cupboard." They are authors of Bottom Line's Treasury of Home Remedies & Natural Cures and contributors to the free e-letter Bottom Line Life Insider.