Cooking & Baking Tips

My day began bright and early!

I headed to the gym first thing and hopped on the tread mill for a run.  I started out walking for 5 minutes to warm up, followed by a run at speed 6.0.  Every time a new song came on (approx every 4 minutes), I increased the speed by 0.1 until I reached 7.0 and had covered 4 miles running.  I finished up walking for 5 minutes.  I finished nice and sweaty!

I’m getting back into running a lot more lately.  I recently signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago and although it isn’t until April, it stirred up some motivation to get out and run.  I forgot how great it feels after a tough run!  Runners high 🙂

Once I showered up and got ready, I had this delicious breakfast waiting for me in the car.

Plain Chobani 2% Greek Yogurt, topped with the last of my homemade cranberry sauce, and a package of cinnamon sliced almonds.  LOVED this combo!

I made the cranberry sauce for Friendsgiving but completely forgot to serve it, so I’ve been working on finishing it off by myself.  These sliced almonds were new to me and they were fantastic!

I recently signed up for Daily Dose of Green, where I receive a box each month with several samples of ‘green’ products, and this was one of them.

I especially liked the simple ingredient list.  No crazy additives or things I can’t understand or pronounce.  Just almonds, honey, cinnamon and vanilla.  Simple.

As my mom and I were baking this past weekend, we were discussing the whether allowing an egg to come to room temperature before adding it the dough was necessary.  It’s one of those “rules” that I  try to remember but it’s definitely not something I do all the time because I often forget.  This got me thinking about other random cooking and baking tips that people just “know” from experience and are not necessarily written in a recipe.  Here are a few I’ve picked up on…

Baking Tips

Measuring Flour – fill up your measuring cup with spoonfuls of flour, as opposed to scooping up the flour with your measuring cup.  Flour tends to settle so by scooping with your 1/2 cup, you are probably adding slightly more than 1/2 cup which will likely make a difference in your baked goods.

Room Temperature Egg & Butter – allow your egg(s) and butter to sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes which enables the dough to incorporate much better.  If you forget and have to soften the butter in the microwave, keep an eye on it and be careful not to let it become liquid.  Or too hot which is especially important when also adding egg as you run the risk of scrambling your egg.  Gross!

Preheat Oven Completely & Keep Closed – especially when baking, ensure your oven is completely preheated before putting your muffins/cookies/etc in.  Also, try to keep the door closed as much as possible.  I heard somewhere that every time the oven door opens, the temperature drops 10 degrees.  Not sure if it’s accurate, but still important nevertheless.

Do Not Overmix – especially when baking ‘cakey’ or ‘bready’ things (i.e. cake, bread, cupcakes, muffins, etc.), just mix the wet and dry ingredients until incorporated.  It may be a little lumpy, but it ends up cooking out and you never notice.  Otherwise, your product may become dense or develop large tunnels running through the muffins.

Chill Dough – when a recipe tells you to chill the dough before baking… CHILL THE DOUGH.  Makes a huge difference!  The cookies will be much fluffier and not spread too thin while baking.

Cool Before Frosting – let your cupcakes or cake cool completely to room temperature before frosting.  Even if it is just a tad warm to the touch, the frosting may end up melting off into a huge mess.

Storage – store cookies in an airtight container, such as a ziplock bag or tupperware.  Store other baked goods with more moisture in foil, like quickbreads and muffins.

Meat Tips

Room Temperature – allow your steak, chicken, etc. to be out of the refrigerator at room temperature for at least 20-30 minutes before cooking, which will help it cook much more evenly.

Let Rest – take your meat out of the oven, off the grill, etc. a couple minutes early and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing.  The meat continues to cook after it is removed from the heat so you risk it being a bit overdone if you take it off when it is actually done the way you want it.  Also while cooking, the juices flow to the outer layer of the piece of meat and if you cut it open to early, you will lose most of the juice and may get dried out.  Instead, allow it to rest in order to give ample time for the juices to return to the center.

There are tons more I’m sure, but that’s all I’ve got!  I’ve learned the majority of these from my parents.  And the others I’ve picked up on from magazines and cooking shows.  Just thought I’d pass them along!

-Lauren

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