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Now that Thanksgiving is over and it’s officially Christmas season, we’re still gathering menu ideas on what to make for the next holiday.  Some advice, however, is useful year-round.   For big dinner plans or just everyday cooking, I’ve compiled a few kitchen lessons I’ve learned through the years.

Kitchen Tips Q&A

Can I use fresh garlic after it has sprouted?

Yes, just remove the sprouts and the garlic can still be used!  It obviously is not the freshest garlic at that point, but it is perfectly safe to use and still flavorful.

How long can I keep cheese after expiration?

In a nutshell, soft cheeses should be thrown out after the expiration date while hard cheeses are usually okay once you remove any moldy portions.  For a more detailed explanation, see my previous post all about cheese.

What is REALLY the difference between table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt?

For cooking, the main difference is the texture.  Table salt is the finest so it dissolves easily and is therefore most often used in baking.  Kosher salt and sea salt are a bit grainier and is crunchier when sprinkled onto a completed dish.  Food Network explains, “Chemically there is little difference between kitchen salts. All are at least 97 1/2 percent sodium chloride. But there are significant differences in the provenance and processing of these salts.”  They describe in more detail here 

What grocery products are worth splurging on?

Several sources say organic meats are worth the extra money because they don’t contain the antibiotics that make the animals unnaturally meaty.  According to this article by Bon Appetit, in additional to organic meats you’ll see a difference when you splurge on butter, eggs, and olive oil (Barefoot Contessa agrees).

How do I keep my leftover guacamole green?

Spray it with cooking spray before putting it back in the fridge.  The oil helps it stay green.  For more tips on keeping groceries fresh, see this article by BuzzFeed.

Can you really die from eating expired baking mixes?

No, not really.  You may have heard the stories and rumors about someone dying because they ate dessert that was made with an expired baking mix, but the mix itself is not toxic.  Very rarely, someone can have an allergy to a mold that forms in these expired mixes.  If you do not have this rare allergy it’s completely fine to eat the products after expiration (within reason).  This is Snopes approved.

Is it really that dangerous to feed my dog raisins?

YES. Do not feed your dog raisins, grapes, certain parts of turkey, or chocolate.  We unfortunately learned this first-hand when Olive sought out dark chocolate and raisin trail mix and had to go to the doggy E.R. It’s pretty well-know that chocolate can be toxic but if your dog has had a taste (whether too much or not) the dog can later crave chocolate when smelled and also seek it out. Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan which is debated whether or not it’s safe, but for the most part avoid giving them skin, fat, or bones from turkey.  Raisins and grapes are especially deadly because they can shut down the kidneys.  Some dogs can eat several and end up being perfectly fine but others, even large dogs, can have one and end up near dead.  If your dog has ingested ANY of these items call a vet and feed him/her hydrogen peroxide in the meantime to induce vomiting (we learned it only works half the time).  There are some other foods that are controversial as well, but when it comes to pets, it’s better safe than sorry.

Olive recovering from her hospital visit, regretting eating those raisins.

Olive recovering from her hospital visit, regretting eating those raisins.

What other kitchen tips have you discovered through the years?