Cooking Tips

Since I can remember, I have been honing my skills in the kitchen.  It started even before I entered The Balsams Culinary Apprenticeship Program.  When you love food and food preparation the way I do, you find it hard NOT to share what you might have learned the hard way.  

Following are a few tips that I thought I’d share with you.  They might even save you a flop or two in the kitchen...

- Kendra

Veno's Tip #1

Perfect rice baked in an oven uses all the same measurements in an oven safe container with a lid and baked alongside your meal/protein 350 degrees for 45 minutes - 1 ½ hours depending on the rice type. Water is great but any liquid would work, such as broth, tea, vegetable juice, fruit juice, coconut milk with water or beer, or wine with water. Spices, small-dice vegetables, or spaghetti broken into small pieces can all be added to offer a new fun twist or texture. Add butter after cooked.

Veno's Tip #2

If you want to add a new twist on a sauce, dip or salsa, you can cut the vegetables in half and grill them first.

Veno's Tip #3

If you are making pasta, add salt to make it boil faster, add flavor to the pasta as it cooks, and it helps the pasta to absorb liquid. A good ratio is 1 gallon of water to 2T kosher salt or any salt you have on hand.

Veno's Tip #4

Instead of wasting time leaving butter out overnight or melting it in the microwave, use a grater to help it soften faster. Grating frozen or cold butter makes it easier to spread and incorporate into recipes, saving you time along the way.

Veno's Tip #5

Instead of using plain butter in your recipes, make your own herb-infused compound butter and save time in the process. Compound butter has already taken on the flavor of the herbs and spices you've added to it by the time you're ready to start cooking, meaning you won't have to cook your herbs separately first to get the rich flavor you're trying to achieve.

Veno's Tip #6

Creating big batches of a single food and seasoning later can be a great way to shave off time in the kitchen. For instance, if you're browning ground beef, create a large batch and spice it after it's been divided up into single-use portions. Later, you can add some rosemary to one batch for sauce; toss cumin into another batch for stuffed peppers; and freeze the remainder with some salsa for burritos for later.

Veno's Tip #7

The most important three words in the kitchen, aside from "don't catch fire," are "mise en place." This French phrase, meaning to put things in their place, refers to the chef-approved technique of measuring, cutting, and otherwise prepping ingredients and laying them out before attempting a recipe. Doing adequate prep before you start cooking will make the cooking process a whole lot faster. Better yet, it's easy to avoid overcooking your food when you're not frantically trying to find ingredients.

Veno's Tip #8

Want to speed up your cooking times? Ask us to pre cut, pound or slice your protein items to save time on the extra prepping at home.

Veno's Tip #9

Hot Pan/ Hot Fat/ Cold Product—the only way to saute. It can be hard to wait, but let the pan get hot; add whatever fat you are using; give it few seconds to get hot; then add whatever you are sauteing. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan, and keep it moving. Saute means to jump in the pan!

Veno's Tip #10

Did you know that you can temp meat using your hand? Make a fist between your pointer and thumb. In the fleshy piece of your hand, loose fist means it’s rare; tighter fist means it’s medium; and, tightest fist means it’s well done.

Veno's Tip #11

Always use sharp knives. Yes, there is always the possibility that you can cut yourself, but a clean cut will heal. Dull knives are dangerous and the reason why people often cut themselves.

Veno's Tip #12

If you want an amazing meal, always start with quality products. Finding a deal is nice, but if you want great results, you have to start with great product.

Veno's Tip #13

Brining pork and poultry infuses flavor and insures moist meat. Come into the retail store, and ask me how to do it.  I am happy to answer you questions and give you step-by-step instructions!

Veno's Tip #14

Low and slow cooking scrambled eggs will produce the best eggs ever. Make sure your pan is hot, then turn down the heat to low; add butter and let it melt; add shelled scrambled eggs; and using a rubber spatula, gently stir until fully cooked; serve immediately.

Veno's Tip #15

Top all cooked meats with a finishing salt, like a himalayan pink salt. Just use a sprinkle, especially on carved or sliced meats.

Veno's Tip #16

Add customized flavors to your food with flavored butters (yes, we carry them in our store). Great to melt over a cooked meat, cooked vegetables, roasted potatoes, cooked rice, with bread or add dimension to a sauce.

Veno's Tip #17

Fresh garlic, ginger and fresh herbs are my favorites to cook with. Since I don't always have time to prep them, I prepare them ahead. I blend each item separately with a little oil in a food processor and press flat into a freezer bag.  Label and freeze the bag; then, just break off a piece, and put it into the dish that you are cooking.

Veno's Tip #18

Make rice in the oven. Put recommended liquid and rice quantities in an oven-safe dish, covered.  Let cook alongside the rest of your meal. Time varies depending on grain, but most rice takes 35-45 minutes to cook. Instead of using plain water, try steeped tea water (make ahead and remove tea bag), or add herbs, sauteed onions, or minced ginger, to any wholesome liquid to make your rice.