Savvy cooks will love these tricks for rescuing leftover pumpkins, storing fall cheese, using skewers and lots more!
Jack-o-lantern: When Halloween has come and gone, you can make delicious treats out of jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in two down the middle, lengthwise. Sprinkle water on two baking sheets large enough to hold the pumpkin half. Place the pumpkin halves face down on the sheets and bake at 350 degrees F. Depending on size, the pumpkin will take between 30 and 60 minutes to cook. Once the skin turns a darker color, and the pumpkin softens and collapses, insert a fork into it to make sure it is done. Take out of the oven, cool down completely, scoop out the pumpkin flesh with a spoon or knife, discard the skin, and puree in a food processor. You can use this pumpkin puree as pie filling, to make soup or a variety of other dishes.
Skewer Tricks: Some cooks prefer wood skewers, while others insist on metal versions. If you are using wooden skewers, to keep them from burning, soak them in water for half an hour first. This also helps preserve moisture in the food. Also be sure to align food pieces right next to each other on wooden skewers for proper heating. With metal skewers, choose twisted or squared versions so food won't fall off. Since metal holds heat better, a little space between food items on metal skewers is okay. If making foods with different cooking times, cook them on separate skewers and then combine them on the serving plate.
Cheese Storage and Use: Cheese should be stored, tightly wrapped, in a cool place such as the refrigerator. Wrapping the cheese is important because you don't want it exposed to air, which would lead to mold growth. Although a piece of cheese that is moldy all the way through should be thrown out, if you notice a just little bit of mold growth on the tip of a piece of cheese, simply cut off that part of the cheese and keep the rest. You may freeze cheese that is aged or ripened. However, the longer it remains in your freezer, the more chance there is that it will dry out and crumble. Before cooking with cheese, make sure it is at room temperature. If you are thawing cheese that's been stored in the freezer, do so slowly. Let it sit in your refrigerator for a couple of days. Thawing cheese in the open air promotes the formation of mold.
Honey Help: Honey is a wonderful substance created by bees that can substitute for sugar in many recipes. It's especially good in many succulent harvest-seasons recipes such as squash, pumpkins and baking. Because it's sweeter than sugar, less honey can be used to achieve the same sweetness as sugar. Start by replacing half the sugar in any recipe with honey and see how it tastes. Keep experimenting with other recipes until you find a balance that pleases your palate.
When using honey in place of sugar, remember the following:
* For each cup of honey added to a recipe, reduce liquid by one-quarter cup.
* If you are using honey in a baked dessert, add baking soda so it will rise properly (1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey).
* Lower baking temperature by 25 degrees F to avoid excessive browning.
* It's not easy to measure honey because it sticks to your measuring cup or spoon. You can overcome this by coating the spoon or cup with a little vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray. Any vegetable oil will do (corn, canola, safflower ...), except olive oil because of its strong taste.
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