Ten Tips from my Kitchen to Yours
1. Bake with rum. Or bourbon. They both add a very nice fragrance to baked cakes and such. Just pour a splash into your favorite recipe (cakes, pie fillings, bread pudding, banana bread)
2. Add salt. Seriously. Even to the sweet stuff. Add a pinch to hot chocolate, a dash to a fruit smoothie. Remember salt especially when baking. But also remember to taste. A little bit goes a long way.
3. Cook with a bit of sugar. This is especially true with meat and spicy food. Making ribs or chicken? Add a teaspoon of sugar to the rub/marinade. Sprinkle a bit into your beef stew. You'll be amazed at how sugar can round out your flavors. This is especially true with homemade tomato sauce. A little bit of brown sugar works wonders.
4. Don't have brown sugar on hand? Use molasses and white sugar. Depending on whether you want to make dark or light brown sugar, combine one cup of granulated white sugar which either 1 or 2 tablespoons or unsulfured molasses.
5. Don't have buttermilk on hand? Use milk and lemon/lime juice. To make one cup, use a scant milk (whole fat is best, but skim work as well) plus the juice from one-quarter of a lime or lemon. Let this sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Presto! Instant buttermilk.
7. Using vegetables for soup? Caramelize them first in a pan with some butter; it really brings out their flavors.
8. The easiest way to add flavor to something you're baking when you don't have vanilla on hand or you want something to have a little kick of caramel flavor but you don't want to make caramel? Brown the butter. Does the recipe not have butter? Toast the flour. All it takes is a hot pan and some attentive eyes.
9. My absolute favorite baking trick that's also good for your electric bill and the environment? I turn my oven off about 5 minutes early. That's right, when my baking is just about done, I turn off the oven and leave the pan in the oven. Normally I let my baked goods (or even meat, like ribs or chicken) sit in the oven, which is still hot, for about 10 minutes.