Refrigerate leftovers quickly
photo by babyparentingguide
DEAR SARA: Is it safe to put warm chicken in the fridge? — Linda S., e-mail
DEAR LINDA: Often, you’ll hear advice to let food cool on the counter before placing it in the refrigerator. This can be helpful so your refrigerator doesn’t work harder to keep its temperature. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you should chill foods as quickly as possible to keep them out of the danger-zone temperatures (between 40 F and 140 F) at which bacteria grows most rapidly. So refrigerate your food within two hours of preparation, or one hour if the room is hot. Hot food can go directly into your refrigerator. Place it into a shallow dish for the quickest cooling.
DEAR SARA: I can’t afford to update my kitchen. I hate it. I dread cooking in it. Any suggestions for cheap ways to decorate? Please don’t say paint. Everyone keeps telling me to paint. — Cherie, Indiana
DEAR CHERIE: OK, I won’t suggest paint. But I’m thinking it. It’s often small changes that can make you feel better about your living space. But I understand that sometimes freshly painted walls can make an old floor look worse. A couple of throw rugs can make an old floor tolerable. Declutter and organize as much as possible, too. Try to clear your counters. If you have appliances out that you don’t use regularly, find a place for them. I store mine in a wooden cabinet that has glass doors. Change out your cabinet hardware or add a new faucet to your sink. Grow a kitchen herb garden, and bring in new dish towels, potholders and a window valance. Look into bringing in more light. I recommend either under-the-cabinet lighting or a nice pendant light. Consider aluminum wall panels to update your backsplash or even tile decals or painting tiles. Remove a cabinet door, and have open shelves for display. Give yourself a kitchen-tool makeover, and break out your cookbooks. You’ll enjoy cooking more with tools that make it easier.
DEAR SARA: I need tips for making meatballs. Mine are always too dry. — Julie, Ohio
DEAR JULIE: I make mine with one egg per pound of ground meat(s). I don’t use measurements for the seasoned breadcrumbs, but it’s typically just shy of a cup. You might add too much breadcrumbs and then overmix or overcook the meatballs. Your meatballs might be too small, too. Try using a 1-ounce scoop. I bake mine instead frying (350 F for 20 minutes and then tossed into my sauce as it simmers). Some people use oatmeal, rice or crackers instead of breadcrumbs. My secret ingredients are a bit of brown sugar and a smidgen of cinnamon. I add herbs and seasoning and onions or a dry onion-soup mix or Worcestershire sauce; garlic; grated Parmesan or Romano; and a splash of milk. Try soaking stale bread slices in enough milk to cover them (about three slices and 1/2 cup milk, and let it soak for an hour). Mix this into your regular meatball, replacing your standard breadcrumbs. You can add a little water or milk when mixing if it feels dry, or reserve a bit of your meat beforehand so if it’s too moist, you have more meat to add. I make mine with my hands and judge it by the texture of the meat.