Cooking and cleaning at the same time!

To prevent cracks in your cakes and muffins, do not bake too long or have your oven temperature set higher than needed. If the mixture calls for whisking, do so thoroughly to get fluffy cakes. Do not fold the flour in too vigorously or you will end up removing the air that you have tried so hard to incorporate.

To ensure cakes dont sink in the centre, do not use more liquid than needed for the recipe. Do not remove cakeprematurely from the oven and refrain from opening the oven door to check on the cake, this would cause heat to escape and bring down the overall temperature of the cooking environment.

Butter should be cold when making short crust pastry. Rub the butter with flour using your finger tips to avoid the transference of body heat, or the butter will melt too quickly. Though granulated sugar and brown sugar can be used in baking recipes, castor sugar gives the best results as it is finer and dissolves more readily.

To test cakes or muffins for doneness, use a toothpick and insert it in the centre. The toothpick should come out clean and dry, or have only a few crumbs clinging to it. Eggs at room temperature are best to work with. If you keep eggs in the fridge, leave them out to thaw before use. Eggs make cakes light and fluffy as air is trapped in the egg mixture when it is beaten.

Cooking tips

Marinate tougher cuts of meats in vinegar, tomatoes, soy sauce, yoghurt or wine to tenderise.

Soak mussels and clams in salt water for at least an hour. This will remove the impurities inside the shell. After cooking, discard any shell that is not opened. When peeling onions, soak in cold water for half an hour before peeling to prevent irritation to the eyes. Alternatively, refrigerate the onion before peeling.

The easiest and quickest way to peel garlic is to crush a clove with the flat side of a large knife. Once it is crushed, the skin can be removed fairly easily. Since the clove is flattened, it also makes for easier dicing. Plunge cooked broccoli (or other green vegetables) into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. This also leaves the vegetable at just the right temperature to eat.

The easiest way to remove the skin from a tomato is to dip it in boiling water for a few seconds before placing it in cold water. Gently pinch and the skin will slip right off. If a soup or stew is too salty, add pieces of raw potatoes, which would absorb the salt. Discard them after they are cooked. To remove excess oil, refrigerate soup, stew or stock to solidify the fat. The gel-like oilglobules can be removed before re-heating. Fat will also cling to ice-cubes stirred into a cooled soup, stew or stock. Remove the cubes before they melt.

Unpleasant odours

To rid your cutting board of the smell of onions, fish or garlic, cut a lime or lemon in two and rub the surface with the cut side of the fruit. Rinse with water and dry.

Put a container of baking soda and water mixture in the corner of your fridge to reduce odours. Just remember to change the mixture every month or two.

For the kitchen, place a bunch of pandan leaves in a cool and dry area (like at a corner on the counter top) to perfume the air. It keeps cockroaches away too!

Spills

Sprinkle a generous layer of salt over gravy, red wine, soda, coffee or tea spills. This will keep the cloth from staining and give you enough time to grab paper towels and cleaning liquids. Club soda is also a saviour in removing stains. Carefully remove any solid food before pouring club soda over tablecloth or carpet. Dab with a dry cloth and blot, repeat till stain is removed.

Burnt food in pots and pans

Sprinkle pans liberally with baking soda, adding just enough water to moisten, then let stand for several hours. You can generally lift the burnt food right out of the pan. For really stubborn residue, make a paste of water and baking soda and rub it into the burnt area. Leave the paste on for about an hour. Alternatively, add enough water to cover the burnt areas and bring water to boil for 10-15 minutes. Leave overnight to cool completely, then wash with dish washing liquid as usual.

Teflon-coated pans

Do not use scouring pads to clean your non-stick cookware and do not put them in the dishwasher. Clean it with hot water, liquid detergent and a soft sponge instead.

Sinks

Once a month, pour a cup of baking soda, followed by a cup of white vinegar down the drain (this will foam). Pour half a kettle of hot water down the sink, aiming the water at the drain. Leave it for 30 minutes and flush with cool water. That should dissolve most build-ups.

Crayon marks

Have your kids been drawing on the walls with crayons again? Try using toothpaste and scrubbing it onto the painted walls. Wipe off with wet cloth or water and dry.

Soiled shirts collars

Brush shampoo into soiled shirt collars with a small paintbrush or toothbrush before washing. The shampoo helps dissolve body oils.

Glass table tops

Rub a little lemon juice onto glass surfaces and dry with paper towels before polishing it with newspaper for a shiny finish. Toothpaste might also remove small scratches from glass surfaces.

Telephone handset and keypad

Leftover scented paper towels from eateries are perfect for cleaning your telephone handset and keypad. Just wipe and throw away.

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