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Five Kitchen Hacks to Get You Through the Holidays

If you like to cook you know that something as simple as forgetting to take the butter out of the fridge to soften can throw you off your game. Or maybe you made it back from the store with everything but one essential ingredient. Thanks to experience, a grandmother who taught me how to make do and Google search I’ve discovered some tricks to get me through these uh-oh moments.

Make Sour Milk When You Are Out of Buttermilk

One of the great culinary partnerships is buttermilk and baking soda. The two combine to produce decadently light texture and buttermilk’s acid helps smooth out baking soda’s sharp taste. If you are doing some baking that calls for buttermilk and you find yourself out, whip up some sour milk to use as a substitute. To make the equivalent of one cup buttermilk add one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Fill with milk to the one cup mark. Stir and let sit for five minutes.

Sour milk is not the right substitute for all situations. If you are making something like a salad dressing or fried chicken that needs the consistency and flavor of buttermilk, you can use three parts yogurt and one part milk.

How To Make Caramel Sauce from Sweetened Condensed Milk

You can turn just about anything into a dessert with a topping of homemade caramel sauce. If you have a can of sweetened condensed milk it’s simple to make. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch pie pan and cover with aluminum foil. Place the pie pan in a larger, shallow dish filled with enough water to surround the pie pan. Bake for two hours in a pre-heated 425 degree F oven. Be careful not to burn yourself when you remove the dish from the oven. Remove the pie pan from the water filled dish, pull back the foil and whisk the caramel sauce until smooth. Cool before serving.

Homemade Baking Powder

I am notorious for putting near empty spice jars and what nots back into the pantry. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled the lid off of a can of baking powder only to find less than 1/8 of a teaspoon. Fortunately there is a homemade substitution. Combine two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda. You’ll also find that homemade baking powder doesn’t have the metallic taste that you find with store-bought brands.

What To Do with Hard Brown Sugar

Another cooking complication that happens in my kitchen is rock hard brown sugar. Brown sugar is unrefined or partially refined sucrose that still contains some molasses (molasses is a by-product of sugar production). When the molasses is exposed to air it dries, the sugar crystals bind together and the brown sugar hardens. When confronted with a boulder of brown sugar you have a few options. You can use a grater to shave off the amount of brown sugar you need or you can make your own. To make brown sugar combine one tablespoon – 1/4 cup molasses to one cup of sugar. How much molasses you add depends on how dark you want the brown sugar.

How To Soften Cold Butter

Another ingredient that frequently trips me up is softened butter. I can’t ever seem to remember to take the butter out of the refrigerator in time to bring it to room temperature. Here is a quick remedy. Cut the butter into chunks and place on a saucer. Heat a saucepan. Invert the saucepan over butter and saucer. By the time the saucepan cools you’ll have softened butter.