Butter hack
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A little while ago, I was at a friend's house while she was making cookies that required a stick of butter at room temperature.

Sue took a stick of butter out the refrigerator and placed it on a plate. She filled a bowl — big enough to cover the plate and butter — with water and put it in the microwave for a few minutes. When it was boiling, she took it out, dumped out the water and inverted the bowl over the butter on the dish. A few minutes later, the butter was perfectly soft. Who knew?

That got me thinking about the many kitchen tricks I've learned over the years; some from my mom, some from my mother-in-law, some from who-knows-who.

Mom never measured shortening by packing it into a measuring cup. Instead, she would use a liquid measuring cup and water. For example, when 1/2 cup shortening is called for, fill a measuring cup with cold water to the 1/2 cup mark. Add shortening until the water reaches the 1 cup level. Pour off the water.

Another of my mom's tricks in the kitchen was to hull a strawberry by inserting a plastic — paper bends too easily — drinking straw (I use a stainless steel reusable one these days) into the tip of the berry and push it through to the other end to quickly remove the stem.

When I need an onion chopped, I rely on my mother-in-law's method: Peel an onion (leaving the stem on)  and cut it in half vertically. Place a half cut-side down on a cutting board and carefully — watch your fingers! — make four horizontal cuts, parallel to the cutting board and almost to the stem end. Then make six or seven vertical cuts, also almost to the stem and cut the onion as if cutting it in slices. Perfectly chopped onion every time.

To peel hard-boiled eggs, I cool them in cold water in the pot they were cooked in. Once they're cool, I drain the water off, put the lid back on, hold it in place and shake the pot for a minute. The shells fall off completely, all you need to do is rinse the shell shards off the eggs before using.

I recently found a new use for my apple corer/slicer — making steak fries. Cut off one end of the potato for stability, then push an apple slicer through. And after running across this recipe for Parmesan potato wedges, I'm using my corer on a regular basis!

PARMESAN POTATO WEDGES

(Courtesy of tasteofhome.com)

Prep: 10 min. Bake: 30 min.

Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

4 medium baking potatoes (about 8 ounces each)

Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix first five ingredients.

Cut each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges; place in a parchment-lined 15-by-10-by-1-inch pan. Spritz with cooking spray; sprinkle with cheese mixture. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes.

***

If any of my readers have kitchen tips/tricks, I'd love to hear from you! Email me at mbutton@berkshireeagle.com and I'll share any new tricks I learn.

Margaret Button can be reached at mbutton@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6298. 


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