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Fruit and Vegetable Tips

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  • Save those thin white plastic bags you brought ice cream home in!
    Once the bananas have reached the "perfect" ripeness, place them in one of those white plastic bags and store in the refrigerator. They will remain "firm textured" and retain their bright yellow color for up to a week.

  • Banana's past their prime? Then peel, slice or leave whole and freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, place bananas in a plastic freezer zipper bag. Use thawed in any recipe calling for mashed bananas. 

  • You'll get superb flavor as well as protection from discoloration if you sprinkle avocado with fresh lime juice instead of lemon juice. 
    To ripen green pears, place 2 or 3 in a brown bag, loosely closed, and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight. 

  • To ripen a tomato fast, put it with an apple in a perforated bag or a covered bowl. The apple gives off ethylene gas that speeds the ripening process. 

  • To keep cut apple slices from turning brown, sprinkle them with alittle lemon juice or lemon-lime soda. Great for kid's brown bag lunches! 

  • Don't refrigerate those tomatoes you just purchased at the local market! Instead, store them stem-side down in a basket or bowl on your kitchen counter or table and they will continue to ripen, improving their flavor and texture. Refrigerate after desired ripeness is reached. 
    Don't squeeze fresh tomatoes to remove the seeds because it makes them mushy. Instead, scoop the seeds out with a teaspoon or very clean fingers! 

  • To keep cauliflower snowy as it cooks, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar to the cooking water. 

  • As a rule, flat-leafed parsley is best for cooking. Curly-leaf parsley is best for garnishing. 

  • When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to help bring out the corn's natural sweetness! (Remember not to overcook, which can toughen the kernels. About 3 minutes is all it takes.) 

  • To quickly and easily remove the core from iceburg lettuce, firmly smack lettuce core-side down on the kitchen counter top and simply twist the core out! 

  • Find a good buy on sweet or bell peppers, then find you don't have the time to prepare them before they go "bad"? Don't let them go to waste. Seed and chop those peppers and toss them in a freezer bag.
    Next time a recipe calls for chopped bell pepper, just grab what youneed out of the bag. 

  • When purchasing fresh mushrooms, always use a brown paper bag to hold them instead of a plastic bag. Store unwashed mushrooms in the paper bag in your refrigerator's vegetable drawer. They will retain freshness twice as long than if stored in a plastic bag. 

  • To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes. 

  • Try this little trick the next time you serve onions raw either as a garnish or in a recipe. After chopping or slicing the onion, place prepared onion in a bowl and fill with water to cover the onions. Toss in a few ice cubes and allow to soak for about 15 to 20 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Drain well before serving. You will have the crispiest, sweetest, best tasting onion ever. 

  • There's more than one way to get the most juice from a lemon or lime. Roll them under the palm of your hand on the counter, heat for a few seconds in the microwave are two. The best way I have found is to simply cut the fruit in half and using the tines of a dinner fork, ream the inside while squeezing. You will be amazed at the amount of juice you get with very little work. 

  • To peel garlic easily, you have several choices. One is to place a large butcher-type knife (flat side of blade down) on top of the clove and then whack the flat surface of blade as hard as you can. Not only does the peel release but you have partially crushed the clove. You can microwave the cloves for a few seconds until the peel is loose.
    Another method is the rubber tube product that can be purchased almost anywhere and is very inexpensive. You can put several cloves of similar size in at one time, roll with the palm of your hand, and the peels are off. A garlic crusher will remove the peel, but is messy and you will always lose a bit of the garlic that becomes trapped in the contraption! 

  • Store lemon, orange and grapefruit rinds in the freezer; grate as needed for pies, cakes and cookies. 

  • Corn, beans, peas and other vegetables will lose sweetness as sugar in their tissues turns to starch. Store dry and unwashed in plastic bags in the refrigerator. 

  • Winter squash is mature when you cannot pierce the skin with your thumbnail. If the squash has a soft skin, it means the squash is old and past its peak. 

  • Cutting salad greens with a knife may cause discoloration and bruising. Gently tearing the leaves is better and makes a more attractive salad. 

  • To retain the white color of fresh mushrooms, slice just before using or dip in lemon juice. 

  • You can add garlic flavor to salads by rubbing halved garlic cloves around the inside of the salad bowl(s). 

  • To easily remove the white membrane when peeling an orange, soak the unpeeled orange in boiling water for 5 minutes. Superb for salads! 
    Next time you serve sliced cucumber in a recipe, pull the tines of a sharp fork down the length of an unpeeled cucumber before slicing it to give the slices a fancy look. 

  • You should use canned, not fresh, pineapple in gelatin salads. A natural enzyme in the fresh fruit will prevent the gelatin from setting.  You can simmer asparagus peelings into a stock that can be used as a base for soup. 

  • Keep bottled lemon or lime juice in a spray mister in the refrigerator and spray on cut apples, avocados, peaches, pears, ecetera, to prevent these types of foods from turning brown. 

  • You won't waste any grated citrus zest if you use a kitchen brush to coax every last bit off the grater. 

  • To always have fresh ginger on hand for a recipe, you can freeze it either peeled or unpeeled. An added plus -- freezing releases the juices and makes it easier to crush. 

  • You should not cook mushrooms in aluminum pans because the mushrooms will darken. 

  • You can revive wilted celery sticks by placing them in a bowl of ice water for an hour. 

  • For juicier citrus fruits, microwave at 100% power, for about 45 seconds per fruit. 

  • To keep fresh herbs fresh, remember that they like carbon dioxide. So put them in a plastic bag, blow air into the bag as if it were a balloon, and seal it tight. 

  • Vitamin C is water-soluble and heat-sensitive. Cooking vegetables for a short a time as possible is nutritionally wise. When cooking in water, have the water boiling before you add the vegetables.  Use a wooden spoon to seed melons like cantaloupe and honeydew rather than a metal one that might gouge the flesh. 

  • To get the most flavor from fresh parsley, stem it, leaving only the leaves. Put the leaves in a deep bowl and snip them with sharp scissors. This way they won't turn to mush as they do when chopped with a knife or in a food processor. 

  • Vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage often give off unpleasant odors during cooking. A large piece of stale bread added to the pot as the water begins to boil will counteract both. 

  • When selecting onions, consider all the possibilities. The Spanish or Bermuda onion and the white onion are usually mild in flavor; on the other hand, Globe types, such as red, brown and yellow onions are stronger flavored. 

  • To prevent wilting and flavor change, rinse green, leafy vegetables under cool water, and drain thoroughly. Wrap in paper towels, place in plastic bags, and store the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. 

  • Before chopping onions in the food processor, peel and quarter them and freeze for 30 minutes. This will minimize both mushiness and tears. 

  • If you add a little vinegar to the water when boiling peeled potatoes, it causes them to form a light crust that helps hold their shape when combined with other foods - an added plus when making potato salad.

  • Tomatoes shouldn't be cooked at a rolling boil because they can turn acidic. For sweet and mellow tomatoes or sauce, simmer additional sugar is needed. 

  • Always use canned, not fresh, pineapple in gelatin salads. A natural enzyme in the fresh fruit will prevent the gelatin from setting. 

  • You can easily remove the white membrane when peeling an orange by soaking the unpeeled orange in boiling water for 5 minutes. Great for fruit salads. 

  • Sharon Valentino of Indio, California, shares this great tip: A teaspoon or so of baking powder will make your mashed potatoes light and fluffy.

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September 24, 2017

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