Cooking Tips

Making self-rising flour…

Several of the recipes I use call for self-rising flour. It’s not something I always stock in my pantry so in a pinch I make it myself.

Here’s the basic formula: take 1 cup of flour and 1 -1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk/mix to combine well. Do this for each cup of self-rising flour called for in your recipe.



Things I’ve learned along the way….       

  1. Juice fresh lemons and freeze them in spare ice cube trays. Once frozen, place them in  ziplock bags and store in the freezer. Each cube is about 2 Tbsp. and is better than the bottled version, if you don’t have a fresh lemon handy.
  2. Date your herbs/seasonings when you open them. I also include the name of the place where they were purchased so I can easily replace them as needed. Remember, after a year, they should be replaced anyway.
  3. Always read all the way through a recipe so there are no surprises along the way.
  4. I find it saves me a lot of time to prep the ingredients – either set them out or measure them ahead of time. I use those small glass dishes from Crate/Barrel or Target for that purpose. It’s a necessity when preparing Asian foods, but is also a good habit to develop.
  5. Unless I know I’m using all of the crackers at one time, I place them in a ziplock bag and put the bag back in the box. It keeps them fresh much longer.
  6. Never refrigerate tomatoes – it makes them mushy.
  7. It is ok to refrigerate an avocado.
  8. Use a long, narrow iced tea spoon for getting spices from narrow jars.
  9. I sometimes cook with alcohol so I collect mini-bottles of brandy and other liquors. You don’t need much – even ½ tsp adds something special and the majority of the alcohol cooks out.
  10. I keep on hand Madera, Sherry, a hearty red, and a nice bottle of white wine. They don’t need to be expensive, but they should be good ones.
  11. I also keep at least one sweet/dessert wine handy. A splash can add a nice complexity to salad dressings or sauces.
  12. Keep nuts in the refrigerator. It keeps them fresh longer – but not forever.
  13. For salads, drain and rinse a can of garbanzo beans.  Place them in an airtight container with some Wishbone Italian dressing – or one of your own vinaigrette’s. I usually throw in some minced or dehydrated onion. Then refrigerate the jar and add them to green salads.
  14. Always in my pantry: garlic (dehydrated, fresh or in a jar), lemon juice (see#1 above), extra-virgin olive oil, garlic infused olive oil, lemon infused vinegar, Gravenstein cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, ponzu and soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Mirin wine, and Asian fish sauce.
  15. I also use a lot of kosher salt, smoked pepper, chipotle flakes, Mexican oregano, basil and cumin.
  16. Invest in some good quality knives and keep them sharp – and safely away from little hands.
  17. Invest in some good quality pots and pans. They make cooking so much easier and will serve you well for years. Change your kitchen a pot at a time…
  18. Also buy a good iron skillet and season it according to the mfg. directions. They are not very expensive and I understand some of the new ones are already seasoned. I have one that belonged to my grandmother and it probably gets more use than any skillet in my kitchen.
  19. Keep a tube of tomato paste in your refrigerator for recipes that only require a tablespoon or so. (I like the sun dried tomato version.) There is also a very convenient tomato paste powder available from the Savory Spice Shop in Corona del Mar (