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Chefs’ Pro-Tips to Make Your Homemade Meals Stand Out

With the onset of the fresh food movement, home cooks have been motivated to create and eat meals with healthy ingredients. But even though you’ve cut down on processed foods and purchase from local farmers, you may be missing a key component-a sense of style. The recipes in this blog post will help you achieve a new level of sophistication with your cooking by focusing not just on how to make something but also how to present it.

The first step is having the right tools. Be sure to include a few of the following basics in your kitchen:

Mirror-Polished Spoon – Always keep it near the stove for last minute pan sauce.

Woven Bowl – Never serve from a mixing bowl or plate.

Extra Large Knife – Double as serving shell for desserts and sandwiches. Notch on blade helps wick grease and sauce away from food.

Silicone Baby Bib – Keep the chest and neck area clean while cutting meat or fish at table side.

Cotton Gloves – Protect hand when sautéing grapes in butter, squeezing juice out of lemons, or using your hands to squeeze tomatoes over and into salad bowl.

Silicone Apron – Tenderize vegetables and get a good grip on meat while cooking.

Scrubbie – Keep a cloth with you at all times to wipe up barbecue spills, remove stickers from cans, brush off sticky pans, or rinse out baking dishes.

Plastic Containers – Food that’s been stored in plastic containers for weeks tastes just as fresh as if it was prepared the same day. It also keeps leftovers stored moist and bacteria-free.

Step Stool – Keep a stool nearby when making pasta dishes or cutting fruits and vegetables into small sizes to fit around steaks and roasts.

Bamboo Spoons – For stirring sticky sauce or removing boiled eggs from hot water.

Cork Screws – For sealing bottles of wine or products like jams and jellies.

Hinged Lid – Keep food from drying out, so store it in the refrigerator.

Handheld Blender – For creating unique sauces and dips, as well as for blending last minute items together.

Step Ladder – Use to reach high cabinets for spices or bowls in the cupboard. Also great to stand on when you need a boost to get on a chair or table.

A few more tips:

Always keep extra vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper on hand. Those are the 4 basics for adding flavor.

Whenever possible, cook with fresh ingredients that have been locally grown and harvested.

What’s in season is always tastier! Avoid water-logged foods such as limp lettuce leaves and soggy french fries.

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Be sure to mix and match ingredients during prep work and cooking. For instance, diced fruit mixed with shredded carrot makes a great salad.

Look for personal touches that will make your food look and taste great! Sprinkle herbs on top of a dish or use a non-traditional cooking utensil-it makes preparing meals much more fun!

Enjoy these recipes from the Chefs’ Pro-Tips collection:

Tomato & Swiss Cheese Toasted Sandwich – Spread butter over bread slices, place one slice on plate, then layer thinly sliced tomatoes, grated cheese (if desired), then another slice of bread. Put sandwich in toaster oven for about 5 minutes. Serve with side of pickles.

We know that putting delicious, high-quality meals on the table takes time and effort, and we applaud your attempts to go the extra mile. To support your culinary endeavors, we have rounded up some vanilla and flavor pro-tips from seasoned chefs that you can use when you cook and bake at home. Give yourself a pat on the back – by using Nielsen-Massey products, a favorite of the pros, you’re already halfway to kitchen success!

Tip #1 – Add Vanilla at the End of the Baking or Cooking Process

Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extracts infuse your dishes with a creamy, mellow flavor that award-winning pastry chef Josh Johnson values. We use a proprietary, cold-press extraction process that does not expose the beans to high heat, allowing the more than 300 unique flavor compounds found naturally in the bean to shine through.

In order to let those same flavors stand out when you are in the kitchen at home, Chef Johnson suggests adding vanilla at the end of the cooking or baking process. This exposes the vanilla to less heat and helps it retain its full-bodied flavor.

Tip #2 – Add Flavor Extracts to Butter, Margarine, Heavy Cream or Oil

Whereas you should add vanilla as late as possible to avoid heat, the opposite is true with flavor extracts. Chef Scott Green advises you to add flavors to the fat (ingredients like butter, margarine, heavy cream and oil) early in the recipe. According to Chef Green, “fat creates strong bonds to flavor, but it can take a while to happen.” He likes to add his flavor extracts into recipes as soon as possible to let them infuse into the fat to get a richer, bolder flavor. Try it out with these Lemon-Almond Cream Scones.

Tip #3 – Use High Quality Ingredients

Cooking or baking from scratch is a labor of love. When you put that kind of effort into crafting something delicious, it is worth using high-quality ingredients. Chef Eric Lanlard says “It’s no secret, both for cooking and baking, always use the best ingredients. What’s the point of investing time to create something and use average ingredients?” The sweet payoff comes in the form of a dish that your family appreciates, your friends love and you are proud of.

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Tip #4 – Try Different Types of Vanilla Products

Vanilla extract is an ingredient most people are familiar with but some of our other vanilla products are a bit more mysterious. To help you get started branching out with your vanilla flavors, Chef Maura Metheny has some tips.

Try adding Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder to hot chocolate and substitute Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste in place of vanilla extract for dishes like Crème Brulee or Vanilla Ice Cream. Both can be used as a one-to-one equivalent – if you normally use one tablespoon of vanilla extract, just swap in one tablespoon vanilla powder or bean paste.

How do you measure liquid vanilla at the beginning of a recipe?

We use a kitchen scale to measure it very accurately in grams. This will ensure that both the quantity and quality are consistent for all recipes.

How do you use vanilla bean paste when a recipe calls for whole seeds?

Most recipes that call for whole vanilla beans actually call for the scraped seeds, but there may be times when you want to use a whole bean, so here is a general guideline:

X whole vanilla beans= X teaspoons of vanilla bean paste. It’s not an exact science, but it will give you a close approximation. For example: 1/2 vanilla bean = 3 teaspoons of paste. Or if you split the bean down the middle or cut it in half, each piece will equal 1 teaspoon of paste.

What is Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract?

Pure Vanilla Extracts infuse your dishes with a creamy, mellow flavor that award-winning pastry chef Josh Johnson values. We use a proprietary, cold-press extraction process that does not expose the beans to high heat, allowing the more than 300 unique flavor compounds found naturally in the bean to shine through.

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Is pure vanilla extract safe to eat?

Yes! Pure Vanilla Extracts are made with high quality natural vanilla flavorings and pure vanilla extracts are safe (and delicious) to consume in moderate amounts. For example: 1/8 teaspoon contains approximately 1/2 gram of natural vanilla flavoring, which is equal to approximately one tablespoon of pure extract. One shot glass is approximately 9.5 grams of pure extract. A full cup of mashed potatoes contains approximately 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla flavoring that should be enough for the average adult to enjoy their bowl.

Is pure vanilla extract good for you?

Pure Vanilla Extracts do not contain any added sugar or fat so, in that sense, it is good for you. However, using unlimited amounts of vanilla can add extra calories and sugar to your diet. But again, you should use in moderation. Here are just some of the ways you can enjoy this lovely ingredient.

How do you measure ingredients?

For measuring liquid ingredients, we use a kitchen scale. We know that it’s no fun to lose your vanilla bean or scrape vanilla seeds off of your whisk, so we’ve chosen a kitchen scale with a digital display and an easy-to-read tare feature. In addition to working in our kitchens for many years, we worked with product design experts to create this kitchen scale that works consistently and accurately every time!

How do you measure liquid ingredients properly?

Regardless of which products you are using, the same cooking methods apply. For baking, we recommend that you measure ingredients by weight OR volume. To properly measure ingredients by weight, add the ingredient to a scale and tare it first before adding the next ingredient. If you’re unsure of how much to add, we recommend using a recipe calculator or using our conversion chart below as a guide. We recommend using your scale in grams (grams are metric measurements).

Why does pure vanilla taste better than artificial vanilla?

Possibly because it’s natural! Food scientists have created artificial flavors that mimic the tastes and smells of nature to create synthetic flavors. These products can sometimes be tasty but the difference between artificial and natural flavorings can be night and day.

Vanilla is a luxurious ingredient that adds an incredible amount of flavor to any dish. Its versatility, versatility, and wide variety of uses make it a must-have for every home cook. Vanilla is so much more than an ingredient, it’s a flavor enhancer and an experience in itself.

When used properly, vanilla can be a big part of your recipe’s success. Read on to find out more about our favorite method of using vanilla. The final stage of any dish – the presentation! Your work deserves to be recognized and admired, so it’s important to make your presentation shine. Using live flowers or herbs as decoration is easy and they add a special boldness that sets the tone for your efforts.