When I talked with Chef Dave Heide from Liliana’s, I asked him for some cooking tips for the everyday chef. He had some great ideas! Not only did he justify some of my pantry obsessions (canned tomatoes, spices, etc), but he taught me a new use for my metal skewer, for which I will be eternally grateful.

  1. Don’t thumb your nose up at canned tomatoes. The tomato was canned at its peak. If they are not in season, by all means, buy canned.Badger Girl side note: This makes me feel so much better about the sheer abundance of canned tomatoes I have in my pantry. Granted, I bought many of those cans unknowingly after a dental procedure which leads to one my tips: don’t go grocery shopping after being injected with any kind of numbing or pain-killing solution, but at least I know my purchases were backed by a local chef. Now if only I could justify the dozen cans of tuna I bought….
  2. Stock up on spices. When Chef Heide was in college, he was (like most college students) broke. He found spices for a buck each at the dollar store and subsisted on white rice and various combinations of spices.Badger girl side note: Again, my 80+ collection of spices is justified. Sweet!  And savory!
  3. Four key ingredients to improve any soup: salt & pepper, rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. The salt & pepper enhances the flavor of the soup. The rice vinegar adds sweetness and the Worcestershire sauce adds a savory, meaty taste (this is NOT added for soups at the restaurants, so those with food allergies or restrictions, don’t worry) and the hot sauce enhances the flavor. Heide is adamant that hot sauce does not necessarily mean spicy. It’s a great way to kick up the flavor in any dish.
  4. Chef Heide stressed the importance of mis en place or mess in place. Get everything prepped before you start cooking or you will have a mess all over the place.Badger Girl side note: Target has these great little plastic bowls that were recently on clearance for 4 for $1. I fill them up with pre-measured spices and other ingredients so I can just dump things in when I’m cooking. This also works great when you are entertaining. I always start my parties with a glass of wine and it’s much easier to jump dump in pre-measured stuff than trying to drink, make small talk and measure.
  5. Ditch your meat thermometer and grab a metal skewer.
    Chef Heide pointed out that many meat thermometers are not calibrated correctly so you are better off with this simple trick. Stick the metal skewer into the thickest part of the meat and then place the tip right under the middle of your lower lip. That is the most heat-sensitive spot on your body. For chicken, if it is so warm you can only let the tip stay on your skin for a few seconds, it’s done.
    If it is red meat, if it’s cold to room temperature, it’s rare. If it’s warm but you can keep it on your lip, it’s medium rare to medium and if it’s warm and you can’t keep it on your skin long, it’s well done. 

    Badger Girl side note: When he told me this tip, I immediately had a vision of me with a blistered lower lip. I expressed my concerns and he said it’s important to tap the skewer lightly before pressing it under your lip.





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