Storing Cheese:
Store cheese in your refrigerator, which approximates thetemperature of aging rooms. Keep it wrapped tightly in plastic,away from air. Air helps mold grow on cheese. If you get a littlemould on the outside, just cut it off. Bring cheese to room temperature before melting. Melt cheeseover a low heat to help prevent toughening and separation ofoils and liquids.Most ripened or aged cheese is low in moisture content andcan be frozen without drastic flavor and texture changes. Thawslowly in the refrigerator for 24 hours or more. If frozen forseveral months, the cheese may dry out somewhat and becomecrumbly when thawed.

Tricks for using Skewers:
Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes before using them so they won't burn during cooking. 

If you prefer metal skewers, which have a long life, use square or twisted types, which will hold the food betterthan round ones. 

To keep food from slipping off during cooking and turning, use two parallel skewers rather than a single skewer. 

If you're using a wooden skewer, as you thread the food move the pieces close together, with no space showing.If the skewer is metal, you can leave small spaces betweenthe pieces. 

When using foods with different cooking times (such as shrimp and beef), don't combine them on the same skewer. Instead, make skewers of just shrimp or just beef, start cooking the beef first, and then combine them on a serving platter. 

) 50% 50% no-repeat;">How to use Chopsticks: 
Place the first chopstick so that thicker part rests at the base of your thumb and the thinner part rests on the lower side of your middle fingertip. Bring your thumb forward so that it traps the stick firmly in place. At least two or three inches of chopstick should extend beyond your fingertip.  Relax. Now position the other chopstick so that it is held against the side of your index finger by the end of your thumb.  Tap the ends of both sticks on the plate, while holding them at a slight angle to the table. Allow them to slide just a little so that the ends line up. Place a little pressure on the top chopstick. It will pivot on your index finger just above the second knuckle. Remember: the bottom chopstick is stationary. The tip of the top chopstick will move towards the tip of the bottom chopstick.Encourage this. Hold those tips together firmly enough to grasp a piece of food and lift it off the plate. Place delicately into your waiting mouth. Although there's no need to stoop, you may wish to lean over your plate a bit during your first attempts. It might save you a clean-up! 

) 50% 50% no-repeat;">About Honey: 
To substitute honey for sugar in recipes, start by substituting up to half of the sugar called for. With a little experimentation, honey can replace all the sugar in some recipes. 

When baking with honey, remember the following: 
Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.  
Add l/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.  
Reduce oven temperature by 25 F to prevent over-browning. 

Because of its high fructose content, honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honeythan sugar to achieve the desired sweetness.

When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oibefore adding the honey. The honey will slide right out.

To retain honey's wonderfully luxuriant texture, always store it at room temperature; never in the refrigerator. If your honey becomes cloudy, don't worry. It's just crystallization, a natural process. Place your honey jar in warm water until the crystals disappear. If you're in a hurry, place it in a microwave-safe container and heat it in the microwave on HIGH for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Remember, never boil or scorch honey. 

) 50% 50% no-repeat;">Herbs and Spices: 
Storage Tips: 
Store spices in a cool, dark place. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor more quickly. Although the most convenient place for your spice rack may be above your stove, moving your spices to a different location may keep them fresh longer.

As a general rule, herbs and ground spices will retain their best flavors for a year. Whole spices may last for 3 to 5 years. Proper storage should result in longer freshness times.

When possible, grind whole spices in a grinder or mortar & pestle just prior to using. Toasting whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat before grinding will bring out even more flavor. Be careful not to burn.

Because the refrigerator is a rather humid environment, storing herbs and spices there is not recommended. To keep larger quantities of spices fresh, store them in the freezer in tightly sealed containers.

Usage Tips: 
Use a light hand when seasoning with spices and herbs. Your goal is to compliment your dish without crowding out the flavor of the food. Remember, it's usually impossible to "un-spice" a dish!

For long-cooking dishes, add herbs and spices an hour or less before serving. Cooking spices for too long may result in overly strong flavors.

Finely crush dried herbs before adding to your dish after measuring.

Do not use dried herbs in the same quantity as fresh. In most cases, use 1/3 the amount in dried as is called for fresh.

Keep it simple. Unless the recipe specifically calls for it, don't use more than 3 herbs and spices in any one dish. The exception to this rule is Indian cooking, which often calls for 10 or more different spices in one curry dish!

Black pepper, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper are excellent "after cooking" seasonings. Allow guests to season dishes with these spices at the table.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice have a special affinity for sweet dishes.

If you're feeling adventuresome, try replacing herbs and spices called for in recipes with something different! Marjoram instead of oregano, savory instead of thyme, cilantro instead of parsley, anise seed instead of fennel, etc. 

Formal Table Setting: 

Generally, the more formal the occasion, the more courses are served,which of course means more flatware. There should be a different set ofutensils for each course: salad fork, dinner fork; dinner knife, bread knife; and so on. Some special dishes such as oysters have special utensils. These canbe served at the presentation of the food, but generally are placedon the table in order of course. When oysters are served as an appetizerfor example, set the oyster fork to the right of the spoon. 

Building from the basic set-up (dinner fork on the left of the plate; knife to the right of the plate, dinner spoon to the right of the knife):

On the left side of the plate put the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. On the right add a soup spoon to the outside of the dinner spoon if soup will be served. Place the soup bowl above the soup spoon and to the right. The bread plate goes to the left, about two inches above the fork. Place the butter knife across the bread plate at a diagonal, upper left to lower right. Small salad plates go to the left and a little below the bread plate. Dessert spoons, or in some cases knife and fork, are placed about an inch above the top of the plate with the handle(s) on the right side. 

The largest glass on the table is the water glass which goes on the right side above the dinner knife. It may be filled and iced when guests arrive or left empty to be filled at each diner's request. If wine or some other beverage is served, set the appropriate glass to the right and a little down from the water glass. 

Icings: 

* Use the icing as soon as it is made. All icing sets up quicklyand either forms a crust or becomes very stiff.

* Buy a icing spatula to apply icing. A good icing spatula will enable you to work faster and the results will look great.

* Thin buttercream icing with evaporated milk or warm water. Use only a little liquid and use a icing spatula to mix in.

* Thin cold chocolate buttercream icing with a little hot water or hot coffee. Use only a small amount and mix in with a icing spatula.

* Always sprinkle toppings on while the icing is fresh, wet and sticky. When the icing is too dry for topping to stick, thin it with a little water or milk.

* Store buttercream icing in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Fresh is best, so don't make buttercream icing in advance if possible.

* Always let the buttercream warm to room temperature before thinning it down for use. 

General Shelf Lives For Common Items: 

Flour unopened: up to 12 months. Opened: 6-8 months.
Sugar unopened: 2 years. Sugars do not spoil but eventuallymay change flavor.
Brown sugar unopened: 4 months.
Confectioners sugar unopened: 18 months.
Solid shortening unopened: 8 months. Opened: 3 months.
Cocoa unopened: indefinitely. opened: 1 year.
Whole spices: 2-4 years. Whether or not opened.
Ground spices: 2-3 years. Whether or not opened.
Paprika, red pepper and chili powder: 2 years
Baking soda unopened: 18 months. Opened: 6 months.
Baking powder unopened: 6 months. Opened: 3 months.
Cornstarch: 18 months. Whether or not opened.
Dry pasta made without eggs unopened: 2 years.Opened: 1 year.
Dry egg noodles unopened: 2 years. Opened: 1-2 months.
Salad dressing unopened: 10-12 months.Opened: 3 months if refrigerated.
Honey: 1 year. Whether or not opened.
Ground, canned coffee unopened: 2 years.Opened: 2 weeks, if refrigerated.
Jams, jellies and preserves unopened: 1 year.Opened: 6 months if refrigerated.
Peanut butter unopened: 6-9 months.Opened: 2-3 months.

Make Your Own Spice Mixes:

  FIVE SPICE POWDER 
    1 tsp. Ground cinnamon 
    1 tsp. Ground cloves 
    1 tsp. Fennel seed 
    1 tsp. Star anise 
    1 tsp. Szechwan peppercorns 

  ITALIAN HERB SEASONING 
    1 tsp. Oregano 
    1 tsp. Marjoram 
    1 tsp. Thyme 
    1 tsp. Basil 
    1 tsp. Rosemary 
    1 tsp. Sage 

  CINNAMON SUGAR 
    7/8 cup Granulated sugar 
    2 Tbsp. Ground cinnamon 

  TAMARIND PASTE 
    1 tsp. Dates 
    1 tsp. Prunes 
    1 tsp. Dried apricots 
    1 tsp. Lemon juice 

  CHILI POWDER 
    3 Tbsp. paprika 
    1 Tbsp. ground cumin 
    2 Tbsp. oregano 
    1 tsp. red or cayenne pepper 
    1/2 tsp. garlic powder 

Miscellaneous Tips: 

* To slice meat into thin strips, as for Chinese dishes -partially freeze and it will slice easily.

* A roast with the bone in will cook faster than a boneless roast - the bone carries the heat to the inside of the roast quicker.

* For a juicer hamburger add cold water to the beef before grilling (1/2 cup to 1 pound of meat).

* To keep cauliflower white while cooking - add a little milk to the water.

* Let raw potatoes stand in cold water for at least half an hour before frying to improve the crispness of french-fried potatoes.

* Buy mushrooms before they "open." When stems and caps are attached snugly, mushrooms are truly fresh.

* Lettuce keeps better if you store in refrigerator without washing first so that the leaves are dry. Wash the day you are going to use.

* Do not use metal bowls when mixing salads. Use wooden, glass or china. 

* A Perfect Pastry Crust?  In your favorite recipe, substitute a  4:1 ratio of lard:butter.

* To make your own corn meal mix: combine 1 cup corn meal, 1 cupall-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 4 teaspoons bakingpowder. You can store it in a tightly covered container forup to 6 months.

* It's important to let a roast -- beef, pork, lamb or poultry -- sit a little while before carving. That allows the juices to retreat back into the meat. If you carve a roast too soon, much of its goodness will spill out onto the carving board.

* Microwave a lemon for 15 seconds and double the juice you get before squeezing.

* Microwave garlic cloves for 15 seconds and the skins slip right off. 

* When slicing a hard boiled egg, try wetting the knife just beforecutting. If that doesn't do the trick, try applying a bit ofcooking spray to the edge.

* Rescue stale or soggy chips and crackers: Preheat the oven to 300F. Spread the chips or crackers in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then seal in a plastic bag or container.

* The best way to store fresh celery is to wrap it in aluminum foil and put it in the refrigerator--it will keep for weeks.

* Store freshly cut basil on your kitchen counter in a glass with the water level covering only the stems. Change the water occasionally. It will keep for weeks this way, even develop roots! Basil hates to be cold, so NEVER put it in the refrigerator. Also, regular cutting encourages new growth and healthier plants. 

* A dampened paper towel or terry cloth brushed downward on a cob of corn will remove every strand of corn silk. 

* No "curly" bacon for breakfast when you dip it into cold water before frying. 

* When working with dough, don't flour your hands; coat them with olive oil to prevent sticking.

* If your cake recipe calls for nuts, heat them first in the oven,then dust with flour before adding to the batter to keep them fromsettling to the bottom of the pan. 

* Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice cream drips.

* Don't throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.

* Two drops of yellow food coloring added to boiling noodles will make them look homemade.

* When separating eggs, break them into a funnel. The whites will go through leaving the yolk intact in the funnel.

* Egg whites should always be at room temperature before whipping. Be certain there is no yolk in the whites and that the bowl and beaters are perfectly clean. Cream, on the other hand, should be well-chilled. For the largest volume, chill the bowl and beaters before whipping. 

* Ultimate Disposable Pastry Bag: Take a heavy-duty zipper-seal plastic bag and snip off one corner, making a slightly curved cut. Using a standard two-piece plastic coupler (available wherever cake decorating supplies are sold), insert the larger piece into the hole. Choose a tip and secure it with the coupler's ring. Fill the bag and zip the top closed. Decorate away, then remove the coupler/tip assembly and toss the bag. No messy cleanup! 

* Don't just keep dental floss in your medicine cabinet. Keep some in the kitchen. It's a great tool. Unflavored dental floss isoften better than a& knife to cleanly cut all kinds of soft foods,soft cheese, rolled dough, layered cake and cheesecake.

(Useful Tips taken from e-Cook Books)
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