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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Helpful Tips for Measurements and Substitutes When Cooking

Here's some great tips for the kitchen!

  1. Thickening: Sprinkle instant mashed potato flakes into soups and gravies to thicken, a little goes a long way. Stir thoroughly and add more as needed.
  2. Every one knows this but sometimes we forget: Is your brown sugar a solid rock? Has your bag or box of brown sugar turned hard as a rock? Try this helpful hint: Place a slice of fresh bread in the package of sugar and close securely. Let set for a few hours and your sugar will be as good as new, well not new but pretty close.
  3. To cut calories, use applesauce in place of shortening or butter in brownies, muffins, and simple cakes. They also taste a little better.
  4. When making hamburgers, impress a thumbprint in the middle of both sides of each hamburger. This keeps them from bulging up while cooking, and they'll cook more evenly this way.
  5. Meringue: A simple soft meringue is made by whipping egg whites with a little granulated sugar, vanilla and a bit of cream of tartar. This slightly sweet topping is heaped over a cream pie and then lightly browned for a finishing touch. A perfect soft meringue will be light and airy with no signs of shrinking. A hard meringue contains more sugar and is baked at a very low temperature or allowed to dry at room temperature until it is solid (crispy). Meringue shells, fruit cups and cookies are made from hard meringue. Meringue will not tolerate even the smallest amount of fat. Since egg yolk contains fat-separating the whites from the yolks must be done carefully. The mixing bowl and the beaters must also be fat free. Wash them in hot soapy water and rinse in hot water before using to make meringue.
  6. Equivalent Measurements
    • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
    • 1/2 tablespoon = 1-1/2 teaspoons
    • 2 tablespoons = 1 fluid ounce
    • 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
    • 5-1/3 tablespoons = 1/3 cup
    • 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup
    • 10-2/3 tablespoons = 2/3 cup
    • 12 tablespoons = 3/4 cup
    • 16 tablespoons = 1 cup
    • 6 tablespoons = 8 fluid ounces
    • 1/8 cup = 2 tablespoons
    • 1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons
    • 1/4 cup = 2 fluid ounces
    • 1/3 cup = 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon
    • 1/2 cup = 8 tablespoons
    • 1 cup = 16 tablespoons
    • 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces
    • 1 cup = 1/2 pint
    • 2 cups = 1 pint
    • 2 pints= 1 quart
    • 4 quarts (liquid) = 1 gallon
    • 1 liter = approximately 4 cups or 1 quart
  7. For recipes that call for room temperature eggs, bring the eggs to room temperature quickly (without cooking it in the process) by dunking them in lukewarm water for 5 minutes.
  8. For evenly rounded tops on nut breads and muffins, grease baking pans or muffin cups on the bottom and only 1/2 inch up the sides. Do this and your batter will cling to the sides of the pan instead of sliding back down.
  9. Too much garlic in a soup or stew? Place parsley flakes in a cheesecloth bag and add to the pot until it soaks up the excess garlic.
  10. To grease pans without making a mess: Put your hand into a plastic sandwich bag, grab the grease, and rub it on the pans. Turn the bags inside out as you remove them and throw them away with the mess wrapped up inside.
  11. Beer batter will fry crisper and lighter if allowed to stand awhile before mixing. This gives the flour granules time to soften and absorb the liquid.
  12. Don't salt water until it comes to a boil! Salted water has a higher boiling point, so will take longer to boil, also in cold water salt sit's on the bottom and pit's the pan.
  13. When a box of baking soda has finished its usefulness in the refrigerator, keep it at the kitchen sink to remove stains and scour glass or steel coffee carafes. It will also brighten a stainless steel sink.
  14. The secret to perfect, tender muffins is in the lumps. Muffin batter should be gently stirred just until all the dry ingredients are moistened, resulting in a lumpy batter. Resist the temptation to vigorously stir muffin batter until it is smooth. The lumps will disappear during baking. Overstirring creates tough muffins with pointed tops.
  15. Coat raisins with flour to keep them from sinking to bottom of cake batters
  16. Tenderize pot roast or stewing meat by using two cups of hot tea as a cooking liquid.
  17. Before icing a cake, dust a little cornstarch or flour on top to prevent icing from running off
  18. Make a quick stock flavoring for soups or stews by combining onion, garlic, celery, and carrots in a blender with a small amount of water.
  19. When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey. The honey will slide right out
  20. Important points to remember
    • Marinate beef in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
    • Tender beef steaks can be marinated briefly for flavor-15 minutes to 2 hours is usually adequate.
    • If a marinade is to be used later for basting or as a sauce, reserve a portion prior to adding beef. Marinade that has been in contact with uncooked meat must be brought to a full rolling boil before it can be used as a sauce. Note: Marinating beef longer than 24 hours in a tenderizing marinade can result in a mushy texture.
  21. To soften bananas for banana bread and muffins, pierce unpeeled bananas once or twice and microwave, uncovered, at 100 percent power for 1 minute, turning over at half time. Cool, peel, mash, in that order.
  22. If you scorch a soup, don't stir or scrap the bottom. Just pour the liquid into another pan. Stirring is what distributes the burn flavor. This will work on spaghetti sauce and most other liquids.
  23. Sweet'N Low Substitution Chart
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar = 6 packets
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar=8 packets
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar=12 packets
    • 1 cup granulated sugar=24 packets
  24. If you plan to beat egg whites, separate the whites from the yolks about a half hour before you plan to use them. Bringing the whites to room temperature will help them whip up to greater volume.
  25. Mash leftover dried beans with minced garlic and enough vinaigrette or yogurt for a good dipping consistency. Season to taste with dill or marjoram and hot red pepper sauce, and serve as a cocktail dip.
  26. To make frosted fruit, use a pastry brush to brush strawberries, grapes or other fruit with light corn syrup. Roll the fruit in granulated sugar to coat. Place sugar-coated fruit on wax paper-lined cookie sheet and keep in refrigerator until ready to use as a garnish.
  27. For high rising, rounded tops on muffins like you see in the bakeries, preheat your oven to 500 F. As soon as you put the muffins into the oven, decrease the temperature to whatever the recipe calls for. Remember to decrease the baking time. This may take a bit of watching and practice but the result will be worth it. The increased temperature causes the muffins to rise quickly giving them that nice dome-shaped top.
  28. Flouring sausage patties on both sides before cooking gives them a crunchy crust and helps keep them from splattering.
  29. For a juicier barbecued hamburger, rub both sides of the meat with cold water before grilling.
  30. More conversions:
    • 1 pound bananas equals 3 medium or 4 small bananas equals 2 cups sliced bananas equals 1 cup mashed bananas.
    • 1 pound apples equals 4 small apples, 3 medium apples, or 2 large apples equals 2 3/4 cups sliced apples equals 2 cups chopped apples.
    • 1 pound apricots equals 8 to 12 whole apricots equals 2 1/2 cups sliced apricots.
    • 1 pound pears equals 3 medium pears equals 3 1/2 cups sliced pears equals 3 cups chopped pears.
    • 1 medium lemon equals 3 tablespoons lemon juice equals 2 teaspoons shredded peel.
  31. Pancakes are lighter and fluffier when you substitute club soda for milk in the batter recipe.
  32. To make lighter and fluffier mashed potatoes, add a pinch or two of baking powder to the potatoes before whipping.
  33. Microwave fresh asparagus by placing one pound in a microwavable baking dish or serving bowl. If cooking whole spears, arrange with tips in center. Add about 1/4 cup water and cover tightly. Microwave at 100% power for 4 to 7 minutes for spears, 3 to 5 minutes for cuts and tips. Stir or turn halfway through cooking time.
  34. A few drops of lemon juice added to simmering rice will keep the grains seperate.
  35. When you add eggs to cake batter, separate the yolks from the whites and mix the yolks in first. After the batter has been mixed and all the other ingredients incorporated, beat the whites until stiff peaks form and then fold them in. This will give you a lighter, softer cake.
  36. Sprinkle your cake plate with granulated sugar before you put the cake on it. When cut, the slices will not stick to the plate (you can also use breadcrumbs).
  37. Food Substitutes in a Pinch:
    • For bread crumbs: Use any unsweetened dry cereal like crushed corn flakes or wheat flakes. Or try potato flakes.
    • For 1 pound butter:Use 7/8 Cup solid shortening plus 1/2 tsp. salt.
    • For 1 cup melted shortening:Use 1 cup salad oil. However, 1 cup oil cannot be substituted for 1 cup solid shortening.
    • For 1 cup fresh milk: Use 1/2 Cup each evaporated milk and water. Or, one liquid cup of nonfat dry milk and 21/2 tsp. of butter or margarine.
    • For 1 cup buttermilk:Use 1 tbs. of lemon juice or vinegar added to enough fresh milk to make 1 cup. Let stand for about 5 minutes before using.
    • For 1 cup heavy cream: Use 2/3 Cup milk and 1/3 Cup butter.
    • For 1 cup heavy cream, whipped:Use 2/3 cup well-chilled evaporated milk, whipped.
    • For sweetened condensed milk:No substitution.
    • For eggs: If you're one egg short in a recipe that calls for several, just add 1 tsp. cornstarch, or add 3 to 4 extra tbs. of the liquid used in the recipe.
    • For flour: Use 1 tbs. cornstarch instead of 2 tbs. of flour. Also try instant potatoes or cornmeal.
    • For 1 cup cake flour: Use 1 cup less 2 tbs. all-purpose flour.
    • For 1 cup all-purpose flour: Use 1 cup plus 2 tbs. sifted cake flour.
    • For white sugar:Use brown sugar.
    • For superfine sugar: Blend regular granulated sugar in the blender.
    • For corn syrup: Use 1/4 Cup water plus 1 cup of sugar.
    • For honey: Use 11/4 Cups of sugar plus 1/4 Cup water (or other liquid used in recipe) to equal 1 cup of honey.
    • For vanilla extract: Use grated lemon rind, orange rind, cinnamon or nutmeg for flavoring.
    • For unsweetened chocolate: Use 1 tbs. of shortening plus 3 tbs. of unsweetened cocoa for 1 square of unsweetened chocolate.
    • For 1 tbs. cornstarch: Use 2 tbs. flour or 4 tsp. quick cooking tapioca.
    • For 1 tsp. baking powder: Use 1 tsp. baking soda plus 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar. Or, 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 Cup sour milk, buttermilk or molasses. Reduce other liquid by 1/2 Cup.
    • For fresh herbs and spices: Use 1/3 the amount in the dried form. Dried herbs are more concentrated.
    • For 1 tsp. allspice: Use 1 tsp. cinnamon plus 1/8 tsp. ground cloves.
    • For 1 tsp. oregano: Use 1 tsp. marjoram.
    • For 1 clove garlic: Use 1/8 tsp. instant minced or garlic powder or 1/2 tsp. garlic salt.
    • For 1 small onion: Use 1 tbs. instant minced or 1 tsp. onion powder.
    • For 1 medium lemon: Use 1 tsp. grated rind plus 2 tbs. lemon juice.
    • For 1/2 pound mushrooms: Use 4 ounces canned mushroom caps.
    • For 1 pound mushrooms: Use 21/2 - 3 ounces dried mushrooms.
    • For ketchup: Add 1 cup of tomato sauce to 1-1/4 Cups of brown sugar, 2 tbs. of vinegar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch of ground cloves and allspice.

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