While I’ve been decking the halls a little less this year, I have found several things that have made my life simpler and would like to share them with you.
In no particular order, here they are:
• Clean up before you start a new project.
Whether it be cooking, decorating or sewing, nothing is more frustrating than working around clutter, especially when you’re in a hurry.
Getting a previous mess out of the way is priceless and now a necessity for me, not a luxury. And cleaning the kitchen between making different dishes makes life simpler.
It becomes easier with a lot of practice.
• Glue dots.
If you’re not a scrapbooker you may not be famliar with these but their uses are limitless. Glue dots are double-sided adhesives circles that stick to almost anything.
Have you ever tried to attach one Christmas ornament to another?
Are your candles not sitting straight up in their holder?
Do you have a picture that isn’t level or want to put a temporary label on something for a party (“recyclables here”), a memo on a non-magnetized refrigerator door or a label on a package where tape would be visible?
Glue dots to the rescue.
They come on a roll or in dispenser-form and can be found in scrapbooking areas of all craft retailers.
• To water poinsettias use an empty plastic soda bottle.
I use a 20-ounce empty cola bottle but if you have lots of plants you might consider the two-liter kind.
The neck of this plastic “jar” fits into the dirt past the leaves and blooms and prevents spills.
• Reynolds pan liner
This comes packaged like foil but is a roll of parchment paper with a sheet of foil stuck to the bottom.
Foods that could stick to foil will touch parchment paper instead of the metal and it is made to be used with pans that have sides (think lasagna).
I bake my bacon in the oven (it lies flat when cooked and is not as messy) and this makes doing so relatively mess-free.
It can also be used to freeze food prior to or after baking (and think of pulling brownies out of a pan).
• A Christmas notebook.
I wrote about this last year and loved it, but the real value was discovered this year.
In a three-ring, loose-leaf binder I put all things Christmas (and Thanksgiving) including photos of decorations, recipes, gift ideas, etc.
There is no substitute for having everything Christmas in one place.
• Silpat Sheet
A silpat sheet is a silicone baking mat that withstands heat up to 475 degrees while remaining cool.
Like the pan liner above it can be used to line a pan and nothing sticks to it – no oil or grease required – and it cleans up with hot soapy water.
I particularly like Silpat sheets for cooling foods at very high heat, like microwaved peanut brittle, because the sheet remains cool when the candy is at its hottest.
It’s also great for things that you would ordinarily have to pry off of anything else, like chocolate pecan turtles.
• Toasting nuts
To add depth and flavor to dishes containing nuts, toast them for more taste.
Spread nuts on a single layer on a cookie sheet in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. (or microwave them for two to three minutes).
I find that if I “smell” them they’re ready.
I particularly like this for raw Spanish nuts for peanut brittle because they can be rubbed in a clean dry towel after cooking and most of the skins come off.
'Til next week.