Tag Archives: hacks

how-to-get-jar-stuck

6 Simple Ways to Open a Stubborn Stuck Jar Lid

It’s dinnertime: you’ve got a pot of spaghetti boiling on the stove and a pan of onions and ground beef simmering beside it. You grab a jar of tomato sauce from the pantry, but when you try to unscrew the lid, it feels awfully tight. Maybe it’s because your hands aren’t completely dry? You place the jar down, wipe your palms on a kitchen towel and try again. No luck. What are you supposed to do now?

Cancelling dinner plans due to a stuck jar lid might sound a little dramatic, but we’ve all had that thought after minutes of struggling to get a stubborn lid open. The truth is, jars can be hard to open for a variety of reasons and it’s not necessarily because you’re not strong enough. Here, we offer some tried and true tips on how to get that just-won’t-budge jar open, every single time.

Related: Your Ultimate Guide to Cooking and Baking Conversions

open jar pickles

Add Traction

Glass jars can be slippery, so something that could help is added traction. Try wrapping a small towel around the lid to twist it open. If the towel moves while you’re trying to open the lid, wet the towel with water and then wrap it around the lid. Rubber dish gloves and rubber bands also work well to create traction. Put on those gloves to grip the lid or try wrapping a thick rubber band around the lid before you give it a go.

Related: Here’s How to Organize Your Tupperware Drawer Once and for All

Break the Seal

New jars often have a tight vacuum seal and by breaking that seal, it takes less force to open the jar. Some people swear by the “baby bum” pat. Turn the jar on its side, then with the palm of one hand, give the bottom of the jar a few strong pats. You may hear a pop, which indicates the vacuum seal has been broken. Another method for breaking the vacuum seal is by targeting the lid. Use an object with some weight to it, such as the back of a heavy kitchen knife or a wooden rolling pin and give the sides of the lids a few taps, rotating the jar as you go. This might help break the seal, making it much easier to twist open the jar.

Run it Under Hot Water

You’ve tried adding some traction and breaking the vacuum seal, but the lid is still stuck. Now, you’ll want to try running the lid under hot water. Depending on the contents of the jar, you may want to be careful not to place the entire jar under hot water (after all, nobody likes warm pickles). Let the hot water run from the tap until it’s piping hot and then turn the jar on its side and carefully dip the lid under water. Rotate the jar so that all sides of the lid get wet. The hot water helps the metal expand, therefore loosening the lid and making it easier to unscrew.

Related: Can I Freeze This? How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

tomato sauce jar

Tap the Lid

This method is more useful for jars that have already been open before. Perhaps there’s some food trapped around the rim of the jar, or a sticky sauce causing the lid to get stuck on the jar. Tapping the lid on top and around the edges, again using a heavier object such as the back of a chef’s knife or wooden rolling pin, can help dislodge the food, eventually loosening the jar.

Break out the Tools

Believe it or not, there are tools you can buy that are made specifically for opening jars. New technology enables these tools to grip, twist and open stubborn jar lids with the simple press of a button. You can purchase them at most kitchen stores and online. You may feel silly for using one, but it will undoubtedly save you time, pain and future frustration!

Related: The Top 5 Kitchen Utensils Every Home Cook Needs

Brute Force

Sometimes, it’s really a matter of strength. It’s tough to wrap your hands around jar lids depending on the size, and jars themselves can be awkward to hold in one hand. If you have another person around, ask them to hold the jar with both hands, then use both hands to twist the lid open. If you’re alone at home, opening the jar may simply require a few tries, with breaks in between to rest your hands. As a last resort, you might want to visit a neighbour’s home for assistance.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Published April 27, 2019, Updated January 24, 2021

measured ingredients ready for baking

Your Ultimate Guide to Cooking and Baking Conversions

It is a good time to cook. Thanks to the Internet and more cookbooks than ever, there are countless recipes available to the home cook to choose from. These days you can travel the globe and get a taste of history without leaving your kitchen.

But sometimes a recipe from across the pond or from your grandmother’s recipe collection can leave you scratching your head, wondering how many tablespoons are in a cup. Some countries use imperial measurements, others use the metric system, some use weight as a unit, while others volume. Chances are you don’t often consider how many litres are in a gallon and that’s OK.

Related: What is Bread Flour and 14 Other Quarantine Baking Questions Answered

To help, we’ve created this handy converter chart with some of the most common ingredients and conversions including oz to ml and grams to cups. Bookmark it or print it and stick it on your fridge so you can cook with ease, no matter which measurement system your recipe uses.

Common Baking and Cooking Conversions

Cups Tablespoons Ounces Grams
Butter 1/4 cup 4 Tbsp 2 oz 57g
1/3 cup 5 Tbsp + 1 tsp 2.67 oz 76g
1 cup 16 Tbsp 8 oz 227g
Flour/Sifted 1/4 cup 4 Tbsp 1.06oz/0.95oz 30g/27g
1/3 cup 5 Tbsp + 1 tsp 1.41oz/1.23oz 40g/35g
1/2 cup 8 Tbsp 2.12oz/1.94oz 60g/55g
1 cup 16 Tbsp 4.24oz/3.88oz 120g/110g
Granulated Sugar 1/4 cup 4 Tbsp 1.76oz 50g
1/3 cup 5 Tbsp + 1 tsp 2.29oz 65g
1/2 cup 8 Tbsp 3.5oz 100g
1 cup 16 Tbsp 7oz 200g
Brown Sugar/ Firmly Packed 1/4 cup 4 Tbsp 1.59oz 45g
1/3 cup 5 Tbsp + 1 tsp 2.12oz 60g
1/2 cup 8 Tbsp 3.2oz 90g
1 cup 16 Tbsp 6.4oz 180g
Water 1/4 cup 4 Tbsp 2 oz 57g
1/3 cup 5 Tbsp + 1 tsp 2.67 oz 76g
1/2 cup 8 Tbsp 4 oz 114g
1 cup 16 Tbsp 8 oz 227g

 

6 Common Conversions You Need to Know

1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
1 cup = 250 mL
1 pint = 500 mL
1 quart = 0.95 L
1 gallon = 3.8 L

Common Weight Conversions

1 ounce = 28 g
4 ounces or 1/4 pound =113 g
1/3 pound=150 g
8 ounces or 1/2 pound =230 g
2/3 pound =300 g
12 ounces or 3/4 pound =340 g
1 pound or 16 ounces =450 g
2 pounds= 900 g

Common Metric Conversions

1 teaspoon = 5 mL
1 tablespoon or 1/2 fluid ounce =15 mL
1 fluid ounce or 1/8 cup= 30 mL
1/4 cup or 2 fluid ounces =60 mL
1/3 cup= 80 mL
1/2 cup or 4 fluid ounces=120 mL
2/3 cup=160 mL
3/4 cup or 6 fluid ounces=180 mL
1 cup or 8 fluid ounces or half a pint= 240 mL
2 cups or 1 pint or 16 fluid ounces =475 mL
4 cups or 2 pints or 1 quart = 950 mL
4 quarts or 1 gallon = 3.8 L

Looking for more handy cooking tips? Learn how to make your own butter and buttermilk, how to cook eggs perfectly every time and even five clever ways to fix over-salted food!

crockpot-freezer-meals

How to Prep Slow Cooker Freezer Meals to Get Through the Week

Slow cooker freezer meals are a must for any family and for the budget-savvy home cook. Often referred to as “dump meals” or “dump bags”, what makes it easy, is that you thaw and simply dump the contents of your freezer bag into your Crockpot. Then you let it do its thing as you go about your day. And when it’s dinnertime: your delicious home-cooked meal is ready to devour. This style of cooking awards you some precious time back, and it also happens to be kind to your wallet. Win, win.

To make perfect Crockpot freezer meals, there are a few tips and tricks to getting it just right. You don’t want to end up with a stew that’s way too soupy or vegetables that are mushy and unappetizing. Here’s what you need to know!

Related: These Budget-Friendly Microwave Recipes Are Total Time-Savers

lentil-soup-crockpot-freezer

Get the Right Meal Prep Equipment

Before you start planning which meal to make, you need the right equipment: a slow cooker, freezer bags, a permanent marker and labels (although these aren’t entirely necessary). We recommend buying name-brand freezer bags that are sturdy. The ones that have the slide lock are the easiest.

Always Label Your Freezer Bag First

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to make, it’s important you label your freezer bags. Do not attempt to label once the food is in, not only will the bags be too hard to write on, but the marker often won’t work, or the label won’t stick because of the moisture released from the ingredients inside.

This surefire labelling method will help you remember what you froze, how long it’s been in your freezer and how to cook it. First label what the meal is, for example: “Chicken Tortilla Soup” or “Turkey Chili” and write down the date you made it. Then label it with ingredients that need to be added before cooking as well as cooking instructions. For example: add 1/2 cup broth before cooking, set on high for 6 hours.

Label it with instructions on how you’re going to serve the meal once it’s ready – so you know which ingredients you need to have on hand before slow-cooking. If it’s a chili, maybe you want to serve it with avocado, fresh cilantro and some grated cheese. If it’s a curry, you might want to serve with toasted coconuts, peanuts and fresh mint. Or if you’re making chicken tortilla soup, you will certainly need to have tortillas on hand to crisp up and top your bowl.

Related: This Clever Trick Will Prevent Freezer Burn for Good (And Major Food Waste)

slow-cooker-prep

Time-Saving Tips for Freezer Meal Prep

Take your time chopping up all ingredients first and prepping the sauce or marinade before packing. It’s best if all prep work is done before for efficiency and for easy clean-up. Usually prepping for slow-cooked meals only takes 15-20 minutes.

Some savvy home-cooks like to make several different freezer meals at once, so they’ll prep four different recipes first, then pack all of the bags and freeze. This will usually take a whole day to do.

Some slow cooker recipes call for sautéing or blanching the veggies, or browning the meat beforehand. We’ve found these steps to be unnecessary. Just toss everything in, uncooked.

How to Pack Freezer Bags

To avoid big spills and messes in the kitchen, stand the bags upright to pack. You can buy special baggy rack holders online, or simply place the bag in a big bowl so it won’t fall over as you’re adding the ingredients.

No matter the meal, you can add the ingredients to the bag in any order. Some people prefer veggies and beans at the very bottom, sauces and marinades in the middle, and meat on top; but, once in the slow cooker, it will all meld together.

When closing up the bags, press them firmly to ensure all the air is released. Then lay the bag flat in the freezer (this allows for easy defrosting, and it doesn’t take up as much of your precious freezer space).

Related: Can I Freeze This? How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

crockpot-freezer-packing

Do’s and Don’ts for Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

If you’re making a meat Crockpot meal and your chicken, turkey, lamb, pork or beef is already frozen, don’t defrost it before adding it to your bag. You never want to defrost raw meat and then freeze it again.

Slow-cooked meals tend to release a lot of liquid, especially if you’re cooking lots of veggies. You don’t need to add as much broth or water as you think; otherwise, you’ll end up with a soupy texture and diluted flavour.

Most dairy products need to be added to the slow cooker the day of cooking and shouldn’t be frozen, for example: milk, cream, sour cream and cheese.

If your recipe includes pasta, add it the day-of, don’t freeze beforehand. Pasta tends to get very, very mushy, so unless you’re making a baked ziti, add the pasta 15 minutes before cooking time is up.

Be careful with veggies that get too mushy, like broccoli, asparagus or leafy greens. Add those towards the end of the cook time to preserve some texture. If you don’t mind mushy veggies, then you can add them in with the rest of the ingredients.

Related: 10 Tasty Uses for Leftover Food Scraps to Reduce Food Waste

How to Thaw and Cook Crockpot Freezer Meals

Always thaw the freezer meal first before adding it to the slow cooker… this is important for food safety. You can defrost the freezer bag by placing it in the fridge the night before. The meals tend to store well in the freezer for 3-4 months.

Depending on how much time you have, most meals need to be cooked for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

The Best Crockpot Freezer Meals to Make

The best meals to make in the slow-cooker are soups, stews, curries, chilis, daals, meatballs, ribs, brisket and roasts. We don’t recommend slow-cooked fish, seafood or pasta dishes.

There you have it: the ins and outs of making Crockpot freezer meals for any weeknight dinner!

Looking for some tasty slow cooker dishes to try? Start with our most popular slow cooker recipes.

Published September 1, 2018, Updated April 11, 2020

Great Canadian Breakfast Sandwich

Here’s How to Cook Eggs Perfectly Every Time

Eggs are one of the most versatile foods with limitless possibilities. Whether you’re looking to master the omelette, dip toast soldiers into perfectly soft boiled eggs, make an egg salad with hard-cooked eggs or top your Benedict with a runny poached egg, we make it easy cook ’em just right. Just follow our ultimate egg cooking guide, which includes cooking methods and times, so that you always get the perfect results.

chunky-egg-salad

How to Make Perfect Hardboiled Eggs

To hard-cook your eggs, fill a pot with enough water to cover eggs by about 2 inches. Bring water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat, cover pot and leave them for 10 minutes. Remove eggs from hot water and place the eggs in an ice water bath.
Get the recipe for Egg Salad

How to Make a Soft Boiled Egg

Boil enough water to cover your eggs. Gently lower eggs into water with a spoon and boil for 6 minutes. Remove eggs from boiling water and place in an ice bath to stop cooking.
Get the recipe for Bobby Flay’s Bacon Cheddar Twists with Soft-Cooked Eggs

ina-gartens-Eggs-Benedict_

How to Poach an Egg Perfectly

Poaching eggs have a reputation of being a little intimidating to perfect. Fresh eggs poach much better than old eggs. Fill a saucepan 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 Tbsp of vinegar and lower heat to a simmer. Crack an egg into a small cup and gently tip it into the water. Cook for 4 minutes if you like a runny yolk, and 6 minutes if you like your yolk a bit firmer. Remove egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain excess water.
Get the recipe for Eggs Benedict and Easy Hollandaise Sauce

How to Make Soft, Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

Whisk your eggs in a bowl so that the whites and yolks are fully combined. Heat a pat of butter in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Add your eggs into the pan and let cook for 1 minute undisturbed. Using a rubber spatula, push eggs around the pan to scramble. Continue to do this until any uncooked, liquid eggs make contact with the pan, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and serve.
Get the recipe for French-Style Scrambled Eggs

How to Make Hard Scrambled Eggs

These eggs are a less moist than soft scramble. To make them simply add 2 more minutes to the cook time for soft scrambled eggs.
Try these Great Eggs Sandwich Recipes

How to Make a Perfect Omelette

Whisk 2-3 eggs until completely combined. Heat a pat of butter in a non-stick pan over medium. Pour the eggs into the pan and move around the pan so that the surface is completely covered with egg. Using a spatula drag and push the eggs so that the uncooked eggs make contact with the surface of the pan. Cook until bottom is set and the top is moist about 1-2 minutes. Fold omelette in half and serve.
Learn how to make an Easy No-Flip Omelette

How to Make a Sunny Side Up Egg

Lightly coat the bottom of a frying pan with oil. Heat pan over medium and gently crack an egg into the pan. Cook until whites are opaque and yolk is still runny about 3 minutes.
Get the recipe for The Great Canadian Breakfast Sandwich

The Great Canadian Breakfast Sandwich

How to Make Eggs Over Easy

Follow the same instructions for sunny-side-up, but after 3 minutes of cook time flip the egg and continue to cook for another minute.

How to Cook Eggs Over Hard

Follow the same instructions for sunny-side-up, but after 3 minutes of cook time flip the egg and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.

Ready to get cracking? Try these Tasty Ways to Eat Eggs for Dinner.

The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Skillet Lasagna

The Pioneer Woman’s Top Cooking Tips for Easier Weeknight Dinners

Let’s face it: you’ve got enough on your plate during busy weeknights. While we’d all love to be a master chef, the last thing you need at the end of a long day is to improvise an elaborate meal that sucks up your time and energy. Luckily, The Pioneer Woman has some tips and tricks for making weeknight suppers a cinch.

Get the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Skillet Chicken Lasagna

Simple Supper in a Skillet

Making a scratch-made lasagna can be a grueling day-long affair that blows through an array of pots, kitchen utensils, and cutting boards. Forget that hassle, and instead, make The Pioneer Woman’s Skillet Chicken Lasagna in a skillet! This one-pot, one-pan Italian favourite not only minimizes mess but cuts the prep time to 10 minutes. Plus, the dish reheats beautifully – just throw the leftovers in the fridge or freezer and it’s ready to go for weeknight meals. For another inspiring skillet dish that can be pulled together in 16 minutes flat, try Ree Drummond’s Pepperoni Chicken recipe.

The Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pot RoastGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast

One and Done

One-pot meals are a lifesaver! It only takes 15 minutes to prep The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast, and then just “set it and forget it” on the stovetop.  Using a large pot or Dutch oven, let beef simmer in wine, fresh thyme, and rosemary for 3-4 hours until tender. Then, serve pulled or sliced alongside a savoury side, like Grilled Taters with Onion and Garlic. Freeze the leftover meat and make The Pioneer Woman’s Hot Hawaiian Beef Sandwiches for another meal!

DIY Dinner

The Pioneer Woman’s Beef Tacos makes meals easy and fun! Put a tasty taco bar on the table, featuring ground beef sautéed with spicy seasoning and fixings like Cheddar Jack cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Then start an assembly line and let the family create their own taco masterpieces.

The Pioneer Woman's Kale Pasta Mason JarGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Kale Pasta Mason Jar Salad

Mason Jar Salad

Take 15 minutes to prep The Pioneer Woman’s Kale Pasta Mason Jar Salad and you’ve got a speedy side for weeknight dinners. It’s easy: just layer pasta, kale, tomato, pine nuts, mozzarella, and olive oil dressing in a mason jar. When it’s time to dig in, shake up the jar, pour into a bowl, and serve family-style. It also makes a fun, portable lunch that the kids will love.

Make the Slow Cooker Your BFF

Slow cookers make cooking a breeze: just plug it in, flip a switch, and watch dinner cook while you take care of other business (like relaxing!). For a  crowd-pleaser, try The Pioneer Woman’s Slow-Cooker Bolognese. While you’re at the office, let the rich, tangy meat sauce braise for 6 hours in the crockpot, and then all you have to do is serve a scoop over spaghetti and add grated Parmesan, basil, and parsley. It’ll be ready when you get home, and you can freeze the leftovers for future weeknight dinners.

Hot Hawaiian Beef SandwichesGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Hot Hawaiian Beef Sandwiches

Cook Once, Eat Twice

If you’re making a meal, why not cook once but eat twice? Turn pot roast leftovers into The Pioneer Woman’s Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches. A comfort classic, each sandwich is layered with provolone, sliced beef, and Ree Drummond’s homemade dressing. Pro tip: assemble a batch the night before and refrigerate for the next day’s dinner. Eating with your hands is a guaranteed hit!

Get the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Spanish Baked Salmon

Sheet Pan Supper

Meals that use multiple pots and pans make kitchen clean-up a hassle. Minimize mess with The Pioneer Woman’s Spanish Baked Salmon: this lightning-fast feast only requires one sheet pan to turn salmon fillets, croutons, red peppers, and green olives into a Spanish-inspired feast. It’s so easy that you’ll be tempted to use a sheet pan every night.

Breakfast For Dinner

Who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner? The Pioneer Woman’s Potato Hash makes a mouth-watering meal anytime and takes only 5 minutes to prepare. Topped with fried egg, russet and sweet potatoes are mixed with red bell peppers, yellow squash, onion, and zucchini. This tasty hash is everything!

The Pioneer Woman's Potato HashGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Potato Hash

Save the Scraps

Don’t toss the scraps – save ‘em for your next recipe! With The Pioneer Woman’s Roasted Potato Peels, turn russet potato peels into a roasted side dish, salad topper or snack. Or upcycle pie scraps into crunchy Cheese and Chipotle Scrap Crackers. A cost-saving and green-friendly kitchen hack!

Overnight Cooking

The Pioneer Woman’s Overnight Chicken Broth is so simple that you can make it in your sleep – literally. Before bedtime, put chicken bones, carrots, celery, parsnips, bay leaves, thyme, onion, salt and pepper into a large slow cooker. Cover with water by 2 inches and then cook on low for 10-12 hours overnight. The next morning, strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and refrigerate in mason jars. You’ve got ready-to-use chicken broth for soups and stews.

Make and Reheat Meal

With The Pioneer Woman’s Brie and Broccoli Quiche, no one will guess that this dish is a reheat. This rich, flavourful quiche uses thick slices of chopped Brie, giving the dish a velvety smooth texture that’ll have everyone swooning. Make it ahead of time and then store in the freezer or fridge until you’re ready to serve it.

The Pioneer Woman's Make-Ahead Thanksgiving TurkeyGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Turkey

Make-Ahead Turkey

Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving! It makes a healthy and hearty weeknight meal with Ree Drummond’s ingenious hack: cut the bird into six sections, which will expedite the roasting time, and cook the night before. The next day, just reheat the bird for an hour and you’ve got a gourmet dinner on the table. Save the leftovers for turkey sandwiches, soups,  stir-fries, or casseroles. Get the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Turkey.

For more great recipes, watch The Pioneer Woman Saturdays at 12:00 PM E/T.

How to cook rice on stove

How to Cook a Perfect Pot of Rice on the Stove

Confession time: Years ago, I received a rice cooker as a gift that I’ve used guiltily only when the gift-giver in question comes for dinner. The rest of the time — whether I’m cooking rice to accompany a hurried weekday dinner or as the base for a leisurely simmered-all-day weekend cooking project — I turn to a trusty pot and a stovetop burner. Want to learn how to cook rice with a no-fuss, no-mess method? Look no further than this recipe that will turn out a pot of fluffy, perfect rice every time.

The perfect pot of rice is easier than you think.

The perfect pot of rice is easier than you think.
Thinkstock

The Right Equipment to Cook Rice

I find up to two cups of uncooked rice will be just fine in a medium-sized saucepan, while anything more is best prepared in a larger pot. Similar to pasta, you’ll be using a boiling liquid as a cooking medium, so make sure you have enough room for bubbles to rise without boiling over. A lid with an adjustable steam vent is nice, but not crucial — you can always prop the lid open with a wooden spoon or pair of chopsticks. The flat wooden paddle found in Chinese or Japanese supermarkets is made specifically for this purpose (and the ones with a straight edge are perfect for stirring the bottom of the pot).

How to Cook Jasmine Rice: A Basic Method

There are as many methods of cooking rice as there are cultures that use it, so keep in mind this is the way that works for me, but it’s not the only one by far: pilafs and pilaus, risottos and biryanis all use different techniques for speciality dishes.

1. Pour your rice into a pot. (Up to one and a half to two small coffee mugs will adequately feed two people). Rinse the rice in cold running water, drain the excess water, then repeat this twice or until the water in the pot is clear when you agitate the rice.
2. Add enough liquid to cover the rice by about an inch. Use a ratio of 2:1.
3. Cover the pot, place it on a burner set to medium-high and bring the water to a boil.
4. Once the liquid boils, lift the lid and give the rice a thorough stir, making sure you get the areas at the bottom. Turn the heat down to low (just above minimum). Keep cooking the rice on low for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice is tender, and has lost that wet look.
5. Fluff the rice with the paddle.

This method creates light grains of rice across the top of the pot and a crisped rice crust along the bottom and sides. You can stir those crunchy bits — prized among some cultures — into the rest of the rice for textural variation, or toast and enjoy it later for a snack.

You can vary this basic method to a wide range of rice options:

How to Cook Sushi Rice

I prefer the pleasant fluffiness and slightly sticky texture of short-grain sushi rice, pairing it with everything from spicy stir-fries to a silken stew. Use the above method, reducing the water to a 1:1 ratio. When the rice is cooked, add a tablespoon of seasoned rice vinegar (add two tablespoons if you will be using the rice to make sushi) and a sprinkle of furikaki flakes (a Japanese rice seasoning mix that can consist of sesame seeds, seaweed, dried egg or bonito and other crunchy goodness) to taste.

How to Cook Basmati Rice

For those looking for a little more structure in their grains, long-grain varieties such as basmati, are delicate and slightly perfumed options that retain their slender shape when cooking. Using the method above, reduce the water to a 1:1.5 rice/liquid ratio. Some basmati rice recipes will benefit from a short soaking period for softer rice — a purely optional step.

How to Cook Brown Rice

Brown rice, which can be either short or long grain, adds fibre and whole grain goodness to your diet. Although brown rice generally takes longer than white rice to cook (typically, an additional 15 minutes or more), the simmering time can be minimized with a brief toasting in butter first, which emphasizes the grain’s natural nuttiness. Before beginning the method above, melt four tablespoons of butter or margarine in a  pot on medium-high heat, then stir in the brown rice. Toast for a couple of minutes while stirring, then add the liquid and proceed with the method above.

Rice Flavour Variations

If you’re pairing rice with other dishes, using water is fine. Add creaminess with some coconut milk, use chicken broth to give it a little pep (the concept behind recently trendy Hainanese chicken rice) or use some mushroom stock if you’d like a little umami heartiness.

There it is; simple rice in about 30 minutes, without needing to pull out specialized equipment and without too much fuss. For more ideas on how to cook rice, check out our 16 Best Rice Recipes for Dinner and Dessert.

vegan-mac-and-cheese

The Best Vegan Substitutions for Eggs, Dairy and More

Eating a vegan diet shouldn’t mean letting go of your favourite foods and flavours.  Whether you are beginner vegan or cooking for a vegan friend,  making animal-friendly food is now easier than ever. Even common ingredients like cheese, eggs, milk and even meat have easy vegan alternatives and substitutions. Here, we show you how to easily make your most-loved recipes (even the meatiest ones) with a vegan twist.  These easy substitutions will help make your dreams of fluffy vegan pancakes, vegan cheese and even vegan alfredo sauce a tasty reality.

Vegan Cheese

Most major grocery stores now have a vegan food aisle, complete with vegan “cheeses” that are shredded, sliced and bursting with real-dairy appeal. There are lots of great vegan cheese brands to choose from, but you can also make it yourself. To make your own vegan “cheese” at home, you’ll want to pick up nutritional yeast, a vegan staple with a rich, Parmesan-meets-cheddar flavour. Nutritional yeast can be pulsed in a food processor or blender with soaked raw cashews or medium-firm tofu to make a ricotta-style “cheese,” or pulverized with walnuts to make pasta-perfect “parmesan.” To make tangy, vegan Greek “feta,” skip the nutritional yeast and instead crumble medium-firm tofu into a bowl, then toss with distilled white or white wine vinegar, black pepper, salt and dried oregano.

Vegan Egg Substitute

In baking recipes like cookies and muffins, if you’re replacing just one egg, you can simply use 2 Tbsp of water in its place. If a recipe calls for two to three eggs, it’s time to pull from your egg-free bag of tricks. For the same volume of eggs, use mashed banana, a pinch of baking powder mixed with applesauce, soy yogurt or ground flaxseeds mixed with water. In savoury baking, like quiche, try soft (silken) tofu blended until smooth with a bit of flour and salt.

Vegan Milk and Cream Substitute

Even meat-eating households have some form of non-dairy “milk” in the fridge. Take your pick of delicious and nutrient-rich soy, coconut, rice, almond, oat and cashew milks, and add to recipes in the exact quantity called for. Buy unsweetened varieties, for use in both savoury and sweet recipes, and try full-fat canned coconut milk as an alternative to regular heavy whipping cream. To make vegan buttermilk, add 1 Tbsp lemon juice per 1 cup of non-dairy milk.

Vegan Substitute for Meat and Poultry

While you can have your pick of prepared vegan “meats,” many plant-based cooks prefer to keep things all-natural. Cooked, mashed lentils make an amazing base for “meaty” meatless pies, while portobello and shiitake mushrooms add big, bold umami taste to any dish. For burgers, turn cooked, mashed beans and rice into patties, or roll into “meatballs” to serve with tomato sauce and pasta.

Vegan Butter

Vegan margarine and “butter” are an easy, store-bought solution to any recipe calling for the stuff, but there’s another option, too. Coconut butter or coconut oil can be mixed with water and added to your recipe as a creamy substitute. For every 1 cup of butter in a recipe, use 3/4 cup liquefied coconut butter or coconut oil and 1/4 cup of water.

Vegan Sauces and Condiments

This may surprise you, but animal products are hiding in many common condiments and sauces. Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad dressing and puttanesca sauce all contain anchovies, a good number of prepared miso pastes contain fish and mayonnaise is loaded with eggs. Check out your local health food store or your grocery store’s vegan aisle to purchase plant-based alternatives. Or, if you have the time, you may even want to try making them yourself.

You can have your cream sauce and eat it, too. Try this decadent (but healthy!) Vegan Lemon Fettuccine Alfredo, and kick dairy to curb.

4 Genius Ways to Elevate Store-Bought Desserts

So you’ve been tasked with making or bringing a dessert, have you? While it’s a nice thought to want to bake up a spiced cake with hand-crafted frosting, crumble an amazing pie with those apples you picked in the fall, or even whip up a batch of the warmest cookies the season has to offer, sometimes time just isn’t on your side.

That’s when store-bought desserts from the local bakery or grocery store are oh-so-key. You can buy them ahead of time (giving you more time for other dishes or a little more sleep), and then thanks to these ingenious tips from our very own Anna Olson, you can take them to the next level. Trust us, these simple tricks just may have people thinking you slaved in the kitchen.

Just don’t forget to put the dish on your own plate before serving!

Classic Chocolate Sauce

Six ingredients, a pan and a whisk are all you need to make an indulgent, silky-smooth chocolate sauce that you can pour over decadent vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit, or—if you feel like it—just eat it straight up with a spoon. It’s that good.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Classic Chocolate Sauce with:

Brownie Sundae Explosion

Caramel Butter Tarts

Classic Caramel Sauce

We were shocked at how easy this yummy dessert-topper is to make with just a little planning and the foresight. It’s a classic addition to any crumbly, fruit-based dessert, but we love it mixed with brownies or other chocolaty items too.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Classic Caramel Sauce with:

Anna Olson’s Caramel Apples

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Raspberry Coulis

If you’ve got a creamy dessert or something chocolaty on-hand, bring it to the next level with a fruit-based coulis—a classic pastry chef concoction that’s actually way simpler to make than it sounds. (Seriously, you don’t even need to turn on the oven.) The people you’re making it for don’t have to know that though; tell them you made a fresh coulis and then sit back and revel in their impressed looks.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Raspberry Coulis with:

Anna’s Coconut Cream Pie

Mint Chocolate Cake

Quick Toffee Sauce

Gingerbread, sticky pudding or plain old ice cream will never be the same after you’ve had those items with this simple toffee sauce that packs a huge flavour punch. Amazingly, you only need four ingredients and a few short minutes to whip it up, but it can also be assembled beforehand and quickly heated up again before serving. Now that’s what we call a (not-so) sticky solution.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Quick Toffee Sauce with:

Spiced Nut Cake

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

Looking for more easy desserts? Try Anna Olson’s Best Pie Recipes.

brine turkey

How to Brine a Turkey and Why You Should Try It

If you’ve ever had unbelievably flavourful and juicy chicken at a restaurant, chances are it was brined before it was served to you. You can get that same tender result at home by brining your Thanksgiving turkey before roasting it. Besides adding flavour through aromatics like garlic and bay leaves, brining helps meat retain moisture through the cooking process, resulting in unbelievably tender turkey, and lots of compliments to the chef.

Whether it’s a wet or dry brine, it’s an incredibly easy technique that is good to have in your repertoire. Here’s how to make both wet and dry turkey brines, along with some pros and cons for the two methods.

Turkey brine

Wet Brining

Pro: Soaking your bird in a saltwater solution allows you to easily infusing it with different flavours, such as bay leaves, citrus peels, whole peppercorns or onions. Just, strain them after the brining is complete.

Con: Wet brining can be a bulky process. Because there is a lot of liquid involved, this method requires a large container to hold the turkey and the brine, which can mean rearranging your refrigerator ahead of the big day.
Con: For extra crispy skin, you need to remove the turkey from the brine and return to the fridge uncovered for several more hours to dry. With the dry brine, you can just roast straight away for golden, crispy results.

Simple Wet Brine for Turkey
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 12 hours

Ingredients:
1 L water
1 cup sea salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Peel of 1 lemon
3 L cold water
1 tall, large pot or container
1 large turkey, gizzards and neck removed from cavity

Directions
1. Place 1 litre of water and all aromatics in a medium pot. Turn the stove to medium heat and stir until the salt has completely dissolved.
2. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes while aromatics infuse. Combine with remaining water.
3. Place turkey in the pot and add saltwater mixture. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for approximately 12 hours or overnight.
4. >When ready to roast, strain saltwater from the pot and discard any remaining aromatics.
5. Rinse turkey in cold water, including inside the cavity, to remove excess brine.
6. Place turkey on a clean towel or sheets of paper towel and pat dry.
7. Roast as desired.

Dry Brine
Pro: With no added liquid and just a medley of salt and spices rubbed directly on the bird you give the salt an opportunity to draw moisture from the bird. Once the salt dissolves,  the moisture is reabsorbed, salt in tow, tenderizing the meat and maintaining its flavour without watering it down.
Pro: Since there is no extra liquid used, roasting will yield a beautifully brown and crispy skin.

Con: The dry rub isn’t for those who hate getting hands-on with meat. You need to make sure this salt rub is rubbed in evenly for it to fully work its magic.

Simple Dry Brine for Turkey
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 8 to 12 hours

Ingredients:
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp black peppercorns
½ cup sea salt
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1 large turkey, gizzards and neck removed from cavity

Directions:
1. Place the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until a chunky paste forms.
2. Add salt and sugar and continue to pulse until a grainy paste forms.
3. Pat turkey dry with paper towel and then liberally rub the salt mixture all over the skin and inside of the cavity.
4. Place in refrigerator and let sit for 8 to 12 hours.
5. Remove from refrigerator and rinse in cold water to remove the rub.
6. Place turkey on a clean towel or sheets of paper towel and pat dry.
7. Roast as desired.

Looking for more Thanksgiving recipes? Try these 20 Make-Ahead Recipes for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Feast.

Strawberry Frozen

5 Tips to Prevent Freezer Burn

So you hit a great sale and stock your freezer up. But a few weeks or months later, you pull out your edibles and they’re covered in ice crystals. The sad phenomenon that causes unappealing, dried-out, discoloured food happens to the best of us. 

We have five useful tips to make sure you never feel the (freezer) burn again.

Frozen Strawberries

1. Wrap your freezer-bound fare twice, with as little air as possible. First wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as you can.

2. Keep your cold storage well organized. That way, you don’t have to keep the door open for five minutes every time you look for something, avoiding temperature fluctuations as much as possible. If you’re shopping for a new unit, keep in mind that self-defrosting models are worse for freezer burn.

3. Don’t put hot foods directly in the freezer; let them cool first. 

4. Keep your freezer full, but not too full. At about three-quarters capacity, the freezer is most efficient at maintaining its cool.  Pack it more, and the air won’t circulate properly.

5. Invest in a vacuum-sealer.  It sucks out all the air around the food before freezing, which makes a big difference in longevity.

Although colour, texture and taste all suffer when freezer burn strikes, it does not render the food inedible — it’s still perfectly safe. To rescue freezer-burnt provisions, try concealing it in flavourful mixed dishes with lots of liquid, like stews, a bolognese, or barbecue sauces.

Looking for more kitchen tips? Learn our top 20 Life-Changing Freezer Hacks.

S'more Cookie Pizza Featured Image

5 Genius Ways to Hack Store-Bought Cookie Dough

Chocolate chip cookies deserve praise for their modesty and simplicity, but sometimes you want to shake up your dessert game. We’ve got five recipes that use store-bought chocolate chip cookie dough and surpass the humble beginnings of just a plain ol’ cookie. So grab a log of that dough and get ready to give your chocolate chip cookies a new groove.

Cookie smore tart pie

Chocolate Chip Cookie S’more Tart
Press a log of cookie dough into a 9-inch pie plate and up the sides in an even layer. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes. Bake in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes. Let cool. Set oven to broil. Place marshmallows over cookie base to fill the pie. Place under the broiler for 10 seconds. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chucks over top of marshmallows to melt.

Oreo Cookies

Oreo-Centered Cookie
Wrap 3 Tbsp of cookie dough around an Oreo cookie. Bake in a 350°F oven on greased cookie sheet until edges are golden, about 10 minutes.

banana cookie muffins

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins
Let a log of cookie dough come to room temperature. Line a 24 cup mini muffin tin with paper liners. Mash 2 ripe bananas into dough and stir to combine. Divide mixture into liners and bake in a 350°F oven  for 15 minutes or until golden and baked through.

Cookie brownies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies
Prepare the batter of boxed brownie mix as per package directions. Pour into a 9×9 inch baking pan. Break up log of cookie dough into 2 inch pieces. Disperse throughout brownie dough. Bake as per brownie directions, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

cookie dough pizza

Milk and Cookies Pizza
Roll out cookie dough into a large circle 1/2-inch thick and bake in a 350°F oven until cookie is cooked through and edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Beat 1 stick of butter with 1/4 cup malted milk powder and 1 1/3 cup icing sugar. Smear over cooled cookie leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Top with chocolate, or toppings of choice.

Looking for more delicious ideas? Learn 5 Ways to Hack a Can of Cinnamon Rolls.

banana stuffed cinnamon buns

6 Ways to Hack a Can of Cinnamon Rolls

There’s no doubt that the smell freshly baked cinnamon buns is one of the most intoxicating aromas. Not only do they smell amazing, they also deliver in yumminess, gooeyness, and fluffiness all at once. But if you could keep all that tasty flavour and give your cinnamon bun a whole new look?

Get ready to surpass all your expectations of deliciousness with these six recipes that start with a can of store-bought cinnamon roll dough. The best part is they’re all super quick and easy.

Banana Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls

Banana Stuffed Cinnamon Buns
If you dream of banana split ice cream sundaes, this recipe is for you. Serve this recipe warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you’ll forget about banana splits for good. To make it, unravel cinnamon roll dough to form long strips. Peel bananas and carefully wrap one strip of dough around each banana. Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Drizzle with honey or caramel and serve with ice cream.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles
You can skip out on making the batter for these amazing waffles. All you have to do is heat your waffle iron and place one cinnamon roll in the centre, cooking for 3-4 minutes. To make the almond butter glaze, stir 2 Tbsp of milk with 2 Tbsp of almond butter, then whisk in 3/4 cup of icing sugar until smooth. Remove waffles from press and drizzle with almond butter.

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake
This deliciously moist coffee cake is super easy to prepare. Peel and dice 2 granny smith apples. In a medium skillet heated over medium, melt 2 Tbsp of butter with 1 cup of brown sugar. Place diced apples and cook until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, dice 2 cans worth of cinnamon rolls into 1-inch pieces. Place them in a 9×9-inch cake pan. Whisk 4 large eggs with 1/2 cup of milk and pour over cinnamon roll pieces. Pour the caramelized apples over mixture. Bake in a 350°F oven for 35 minutes. Drizzle with icing if desired.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
This tasty cake feels elegant and festive, but the recipe is so easy, you can basically make it in your sleep. Then, of course, you’ll be waking up to this sweet and tart, moist upside-down cake. To make it, combine 1/4 butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan heated over medium. Once melted add 1 cup of cranberries (fresh or frozen) and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in another 1/2 cup of cranberries. Transfer mixture into a well-greased 8-inch cake pan. Cut cinnamon rolls into 2-inch pieces and place over top of the cranberry mixture. Bake in a 350°F oven until buns are cooked and browned on top, about 40 minutes. Let cool in cake pan for 15 minutes, then flip onto a plate so cranberries are on top.

Peanut Butter Cinnamon Bun Pretzels
It’s a mouthful to say, but it’s also something you’ll want to stuff your face with! Unroll each cinnamon roll into long strips. Smear 1 Tbsp of peanut butter (I like crunchy) on each one. Fold the strips over onto each other to half the length. Twist each roll several times while stretching slightly. Form into a circle, then cross the ends to form into a pretzel shape. Bake in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and drizzle each with icing.

Cinnamon Nutella Babka
This babka is beyond decadent and will have your guests fooled that it took less than 5 minutes to prep this recipe. To make it, unravel cinnamon buns into long strips of dough. Arrange strips side by side to form a long dough surface. Smear 1/4 cup of Nutella along surface. Twist dough several times to form a long twisted rope. Spiral the rope into 1 big circle. Place on a lined cookie sheet, and bake in a 350°F oven until browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Looking for more delicious hacks? Up your baking game with out 15 Baking Hacks for the Best Cookies Ever.

Chicken pie

5 Easy Ways to Make Freezer Foods Gourmet

Growing up, frozen foods were more of an exotic novelty rather than the norm in our household. Nonetheless, when the occasional packaged or boxed item made it on to the table, my mother would never have dreamed of heating and serving it without an added flourish. Canned tomato soup would get extra grindings of black pepper, a dollop of Worcestershire sauce and a poached egg, and even humble packaged ramen noodles were always garnished with roasted pork goodness in the form of char siu (sometimes home made), steamed greens and eggs, and the noodles were cooked separately to avoid added starchiness in the broth.

Now, in my own kitchen, I follow the same principles on those nights when even takeout seems too complicated. Here are five tips to get the best out of your freezer forays to turn those frosty treats into gourmet goodies.

Chicken Pot Pie

1. Think fresh
Add fresh ingredients, whether a sprinkling of garden herbs, some chopped tomatoes or even a squeeze of citrus to take away that freezer aroma from your frozen lasagna or cannelloni. A quick perusal of your crisper and a couple of minutes with a knife will give you a myriad of choices: think hot or sweet peppers, green onions or zucchini for crunch.

2. Texture contrasts
It’s a sad, but true; the freezer can bring out the worst in foods in terms of texture, making things soggy, mushy or, in the worst case, slightly freezer burned. A crunchy topping such as chopped nuts, coconut, bacon or panko crumbs sauteed with garlic and butter can make a huge difference to that creamy casserole or tikka masala chicken. If your entrée of choice is crispy, such as a freezer pizza, think of adding a creamy element before tossing it in the oven, whether it’s fresh mozzarella or even an egg cracked (gently!) on top.

3. Sweet and sour
A little splash of acid can brighten up a frozen stew or hearty pasta main: red wine or sherry vinegar will add a piquant touch. If a marinara or tomato-based sauce is too acidic, a basil purée or even a tiny bit of sugar will help balance it out. For a final flourish, pour on a touch of luxury with a good olive oil or some truffle oil.

4. Get saucy
Lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, shrimp or fish, or frozen vegetables such as edamame or peas can be eaten by themselves, but why not give them the benefit of a simple sauce? For a go-to favourite, try Laura Calder’s Basic Béchamel Sauce, which can be the foundation for herbs, cheese, Dijon mustard or other flavourings. Or, layer your proteins or vegetables over rice and make your own topping with ponzu or soy sauce, sesame oil, hot sauce, rice wine vinegar or whatever you pull out of your fridge door. For bite-sized morsels such as chicken nuggets, those items can be combined in different proportions or added to mayonnaise to make your own dip creation.

5. Add starch
Need to make a meal? Add pasta, rice or noodles — or why not whip up a batch of biscuits to drop onto your frozen stew or casserole to add some starch? Alternatively, you can combine freezer foods such as frozen pie crust and creamy chicken a la king with fresh chopped vegetables, to make a “homemade” pot pie. For starchy side dishes such as macaroni and cheese or cheese pierogies, make them into an entrée by adding fresh or frozen vegetables and flavour-packed toppings such as fried bacon, shallots or onions.

Inspired to see your freezer in a new light? Try 12 Make-Ahead Meals You Can Freeze, stock your freezer according to our 11 Delicious Ways to Use Freezer-Friendly Foods, and make the most of your space with 20 Life-Changing Freezer Hacks.

Need-to-Know Tips for Freezing Cookies and Bars

During the holiday season, that overworked oven has a lot to do, like churning out batch-after-batch of Christmas cookies. Instead of freezing dough and stressing on the big day, get the hard work out of the way now and enjoy the baked fruits of your labour all season long. Follow these simple steps for bars and cookies and you’ll never get (freezer) burned again.

Get ready for the holidays by baking and freezing cookies and bars ahead of time.

Get ready for the holidays by baking and freezing cookies and bars ahead of time.
Anna Olson

Choose wisely
To set yourself up for success, it’s best to stick to sturdy cookies and bars — no architectural spun sugar flights of fancy here. A big batch of classic chocolate chip, shortbread or even gluten-free cookies will keep you stocked for future cookie exchanges. Bars, on the other hand, are generally pretty low maintenance to begin with, and often feature a solid shortbread crust, so you’ve got more options to let your imagination run wild.

Contain your excitement
Whether using a serviceable plastic container or a sparkly snowflake cookie tin, the key to storing cookies and bars is keeping them air tight. Even a plain resealable freezer bag (or two, to double-bag) is fine, as long as you get the air out first — oxygen is your enemy when trying to avoid freezer burn or staleness. Fill containers to the top, and use a straw to suck out the air from bagged cookies to avoid crushing your creations.

Give yourself space
On bake day, make sure you have enough room on your counters or tables to cool your baked goods properly — before the first batch even hits the oven. Ensuring cookies and bars are sufficiently cool avoids taxing your freezer, and prevents soggy, broken pieces.

Flat out
If your freezer is packed, a little shuffling before bake day to give yourself a nice, flat surface for freeze your cookies will make your life much easier. If you’re using freezer bags or soft-sided containers, don’t just toss your creations carelessly into the freezer. Try chilling the cookies or bars first on a baking sheet in the freezer, then transfer them to their final packaging.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Shortbread

Pretty portions
Think about how you’ll be bestowing your baked goods on friends and family, and portion accordingly. Have a friend who can’t stand pecans but is nuts about shortbread? Assemble their package before it goes into the freezer, rather than trying to sort cookies and find a gift tin on the day you see them. Thinking of having guest-ready assortments handy for your open house? A little planning means you’ll have a perfect plate ready to pull out of the freezer when guests arrive.

Line ‘em up
Parchment paper, wax paper or aluminum foil are all good choices to layer in between cookies or bars to prevent them from sticking when storing. Give yourself a two-inch overhang on each side of the container it easier when lifting cookies or bars out.

Thawing out
All the hard work is done — now, all that’s left is the taste test. If you can’t wait to thaw your creations, slip them frozen into a preheated 300°F oven for a few minutes to reheat. Otherwise, you can thaw them out easily: although, depending on the ingredients, cookies and bars may have varying thaw points, a general rule of thumb is six to eight hours, to overnight on the counter, covered lightly. Watch out for cookie thieves, though…you may come down in the morning to an empty plate and an innocent looking, crumb-covered family.

Want to get started on this year’s cookie and bar stockpile? Try our  Top 101 Holiday Cookies and Squares.

Stick of Butter

4 Ways to Soften Butter Quickly for Baking

We’ve all been there. You plan to make your famous banana bread and you’re faced with rock-hard butter. The best way to soften butter is to set it out on the counter an hour before baking, allowing it to come to room temperature. But if you’re aching to get baking, you likely don’t have an hour to spare.

Many of our favourite baked goods start with warm, soft butter. It’s the key to perfectly moist cookies and cakes, making them light and fluffy. Starting with soft butter makes it easier to cream, which beats air into it thus giving it structure. Creaming it with sugar helps to hold air into the mixture, meaning maximum fluffiness for your cakes and cookies.

If you’re faced with the dreaded cold butter and are in a rush to begin baking, here are some easy ways to soften it while avoiding a melty mess.

Stick of Butter

Chop, Chop!
Run a knife under hot water for a few minutes and slice up your butter for faster warming time. The smaller pieces will warm faster than one big block. Arrange on a warm plate to speed up the process even more.

Just Beat It
Place your block-o-butter between two pieces of parchment paper or inside a freezer bag, and beat it with a rolling pin. This technique takes some muscle, but it will soften much faster flat, rather than as a solid stick.

Got You Covered
Warm up a bowl or cup and place it over top of your butter block. The gentle heat will speed-up warming time, without melting your block into a puddle.

Grate Expectations
Another way to get your butter to room temperature fast is to pop it in the freezer for a few minutes — bear with us — then use your trusty box grater to turn it into fine pieces, allowing them to warm up even faster.

Not sure what to bake? Anna Olson’s 50 Best Cookie Recipes is a delicious place to start.

Sticky Rice

Easy Fixes for Sticky Pasta and Rice

Cooking pasta should be as easy as, well, boiling water. But alas, it’s more complicated than that. The quantity of cooking water, timing and amount of stirring all play important roles in how things turn out. So what do you do when you get yourself into a sticky situation? Here’s how to unglue sticky pasta and rice, without becoming unglued yourself.

How to Stop Sticky Rice

For Pasta

If your noodles are clumping, your best bet is to dump them into a colander and run cold water over top. They’ll loosen up and then you can rewarm them gently in the sauce. Your other choice is to toss or sauté the pasta with a bit of oil or fat to coat it — slippery noodles will slide apart from one another.

For Rice

If a pot of basmati rice is a sticky mess, it’s usually because, like pasta, it was cooked with too little water. To unstick it, dump the rice into a larger saucepan, add about a 1/2 of water and heat on low. Gently break up the clumps with a fork. Simmer, covered, for a few minutes and the clumps should start to relax. At this point, remove the saucepan from heat and let it stand with the lid on for at least 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Drain, if any water remains in the bottom.

If this doesn’t work, the rice might have either been too far gone, or sticky for a different reason — either because it over-stirred or overcooked. At this point, you can rinse it in cold water, like with pasta, to remove as much excess starch as possible and break up the clumps, but it won’t be perfect. To rewarm, gently sauté in a bit of oil. Better yet, repurpose it into creamy Cinnamon Raisin Rice Pudding.

Looking for recipes? Try these 14 Delicious Pasta Dishes from Giada De Laurentiis.