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Here are a few more handy tips to make your holiday season much less stressful,

and a whole lot more fun:)

1: When using lots of herbs and spices, particularly rosemary, bay


leaves, peppercorns and whole cloves, it helps to create a little bag out of
cheesecloth and place the herbs inside them tied with kitchen twine, then dropped
in your soup, sauce or gravy. This is especially useful when small children, or
the very elderly will be joining you, as they can choke very easily on some of
these items. It also creates very clear clean broths and soup stocks. Once the
broth is through cooking, simply toss the bag away.

2: Always wash your turkey thoroughly, inside and out, until the water
runs clear. Then pat it dry with paper towelling before seasoning. Trim off extra
fat and the "pope's nose" at the rear of the turkey. Make certain you remove all
giblets, neck bones or other bits from the turkey before cooking.

3: Since it's not recommended you bake your bird with dressing inside,
you can season the interior with a bit of sea salt, crushed black pepper, thyme,
and basil. I also quarter either 2 whole apples or potatoes in the cavity to
absorb extra fat.

4: Though it is recommended you roast your turkey breast side up, I


begin my cooking with it breast down. This gives the bottom of the turkey a nice
crunchy crust, avoiding the usual pale mushy wet meat on the bottom. Once it's
browned, remove it from the oven, placing it on a stable surface, and with help
lift the turkey over breast side up to continue the rest of the cooking.

5: To save calories and reduce fat, I use a bulb syringe to


periodically remove greasy drippings from the bottom of the pan. I save a cup for
gravy, letting it cool until I can easily skim off the fat. Baste the turkey with
turkey broth which adds a delicious flavor without the calories.

6: Spray your roaster with olive oil cooking spray thoroughly, covering
bottom, sides and the rack the bird rests on. If you're really on a strict
cardiac/high cholesterol regimen, you can also use this to oil the bird, rather
than using butter or olive oil. If not, use a premixed blend of softened butter
and seasonings, and tuck it under the breast skin to season the meat.

7: When buying herbs and spices, buy the best you can find. It's
worth the extra cost. The differences in taste alone are worth it.
8: Don't cook anything, especially high fat foods in the microwave,
using plastic containers. Johns Hopkins discovered that the plastics weep dioxins
which are highly carcinogenic into the foods being heated. Cover your bowls or
plates with paper towels, and only use ceramic or Pyrexware to cook or reheat your
dishes in.

9: To add an extra flavor dimension to dishes using nuts-especially


walnuts, pecans or almonds, toast them lightly first to bring out all their nutty
richness.

10: Many people think margarine is much healthier for you than
butter. Wrong. Margarines are filled with hydrogenated oils and often high in
transfats. Unless they're the new "heart smart" brands, stick with real butter.
The small amounts used in cooking can be balanced by using good olive, grape or
safflower oils, and an all round healthier diet.

11: Soften raisins for cookies and cakes by soaking them in pure
vanilla for an hour or so.

12: Use Bakers sugar for your dessert recipes. It's finer, and
blends much more smoothly then ordinary granulated sugar. This is super important
when making candies or caramels, and you get that annoying crystallization during
cooking.

13: When measuring fats such as butter or Crisco, I spray my


measuring cup with cooking spray to avoid sticking. I also spray my cheese cutters
and knives when cutting cheeses or other sticky items. It makes both slicing and
cleanup so much easier.

14: When cooking, get in the habit of cleaning up as you go. It


will save you so much time, your kitchen will be cleaner, and much more pleasant
to face after a big meal.

15: If you have sterling silver flatware, use it often. The more
it's used, the lovelier it becomes, developing a soft patina and glow. Clean it
periodically with catsup. Yup, I know I'm the Mad Housewife, but catsup really
does clean copper and silver beautifully.

Just remember, there are always going to be kitchen disasters,


failures and mistakes. But that's ok. The only way good cooks learn is by
experimenting to find out what works and what doesn't. Don't be afraid to step out
there and experiment with different herbs and spices. You might surprise yourself
by some of the truly unique dishes you create!