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We got to eat… so, we got to cook.  Gone are the days of a can of this and a jar of that. I feel at times I am cooking over an open flame just like my forefathers (or really, foremothers) did once off the Mayflower.

Some days dinner preparation can be daunting.  But over the years I have stumbled on a few tricks of the trade; either from experience or passed down to me by those more experienced.  I hope these 12 tips help you save some time and frustration in the kitchen.  

1)  Put that rice cooker to use for more than rice.  Steam vegetables, boil potatoes or steam tortillas for Moe’s style burritos.  And my favorite, cook pasta noodles.  Throw in the noodles and cover with water and cook until done.  My tropical kitchen is burning up 99% of the time so utilizing my rice cooker help me keep the temperature “cooler”.

2)  Let’s talk herbs.  Put away the knife and cutting board when chopping fresh herbs.  Wash and dry and throw into a coffee cup.  Get those kitchen scissors out, insert pointy end into the coffee cup and cut until herbs are desired size.  Also an easy drying technique: lay wet herbs on a fresh paper towel and roll up in a tight cigarette roll.  

3) Your slow-cooker is for more than just mushy chicken dinners.  I use my slow-cooker to incubate my yogurt, overnight bean cooking and chicken and beef stock making.  Next to my blender, it is my favorite cooking contraption. Ok, well there is my Kitchen Aid, too.

4) Batch cook beans and chopped tomatoes (I use my slow cooker) and freeze in 2 cup portions.  Saves time and money.  Canned anything in my host country is crazy expensive.  I have a friend who freezes portions of homemade Rotel.  Delicious!

5) A real time savor is making garlic cubes.  I cook with garlic a lot.  Put a teaspoon of pressed garlic in mini ice cube tray compartments. Pour olive oil or melted butter over the garlic ice until covered.  Freeze and store in a freezer bag until needed.  You can use this method with fresh herbs, also.

6) Do some research and go buy directly from the distributer.  Have you found expensive cheese at the small crowded back-alley import grocery store?  If you have, then there has to be a distributer some where in the area.  You will save a ton.  I get butter, cheddar cheese, mozzarella, cartons of fresh milk, olive oil, canola oil, blueberries and much more directly from the distributer.

7)  Yogurt, yogurt, yogurt: if you aren’t making it, you should be.  It is easy and cheap and yogurt can be subbed for sour cream and mayonnaise in almost every recipe.  Plus, it makes a great breakfast with your homemade granola.  It also has those good bacteria that keeps your digestion on track… which we all know, is very important.  Oh, the stories we could tell.  Feel free to buy a yogurt maker but I just use my crock pot. 

8) I have found that the key to baking cakes is a good thick pan.  If you oven is like mine it has two settings: off and hot as the sun.  Having a good set of baking pans is key to having evenly cooked cakes and breads.  I love the USA Pans; I don’t regret for a moment using luggage weight to bring them over.

9)  Use those weird chicken parts for stocks.  Do you get the wing tips, feet and other strange parts when you buy a chicken.  Make it into a yummy stock.  Also, fatty pieces of meat and bones from the butcher will work for beef stock.  I freeze portions of stock and use them weekly.  My husband has recently bought me a deep freezer and man, has that saved me time in the kitchen.

10) A good blender goes a long way.  Speaking of blender, don’t think about bringing yours over from the U.S. It won’t work.  But check the specs of local blenders.  I found one just like the Vitamix but a local brand.  I use it to mince my meat, make baby food, make smoothies, soups… too many things to list here.  Also, make your own powdered sugar out of regular sugar with a few pulses of the blender.

11) Want to know if your oil is hot enough for frying?  Drop a few un-popped kernels of popcorn and when they pop…oils hot.  Want to know what oil is best, check out this article.  

12) Use your oven to bring stale crackers back to life.  Are those gram-crackers you’ve been saving for the queen’s visit finally gone stale?  Throw them in a warmed oven and cook the life back in them.  Works for goldfish, cheezits and tortilla chips, also.

What is your favorite trick in the kitchen?  We want comments.  In fact, we beg for comments!  We all need the help!

12 Tips for Your (Overseas) Kitchen |