Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets: 128 Ingenious Tips to Survive Lumpy Gravy, Wilted Lettuce, Crumbling Cake, and Other Cooking Disasters

Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets: 128 Ingenious Tips to Survive Lumpy Gravy, Wilted Lettuce, Crumbling Cake, and Other Cooking Disasters

by Joey Green
Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets: 128 Ingenious Tips to Survive Lumpy Gravy, Wilted Lettuce, Crumbling Cake, and Other Cooking Disasters

Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets: 128 Ingenious Tips to Survive Lumpy Gravy, Wilted Lettuce, Crumbling Cake, and Other Cooking Disasters

by Joey Green


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Your guests are arriving in a half hour, and your dinner has taken a turn for the worse. The lettuce has wilted, the gravy’s lumpy, and the pie crust has burned! Time for takeout? Not if you have Joey Green’s Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets. This book contains more than a hundred helpful hacks to avoid and salvage cooking disasters, store and prepare ingredients, keep appliances running smoothly, and clean cookware. These simple, ingenious tips may sound quirky at first, but they really do work.
   The book also includes food-based folk remedies, sidebars with fascinating kitchen trivia, and unconventional recipes. Dishwasher salmon anyone?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780912777580
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/01/2018
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Joey Green is the author of more than 50 books, including Last-Minute Survival Secrets, Last-Minute Travel Secrets, Vacation on Location: Midwest, and Polish Your Furniture with Panty Hose. He has written for Rolling Stone, National Lampoon, TIME, and more.

Read an Excerpt



While getting ready to leave on a two-week vacation, I noticed an open jar of mayonnaise in the refrigerator. Afraid the mayonnaise wouldn't keep while we were gone, I placed the jar in the freezer.

When we returned home, my wife, Debbie, opened the freezer to find the mayonnaise jar filled with large white chunks floating in yellow oil. "What did you do?" she asked, holding up the jar.

"I can fix it," I promised. I placed the jar on the countertop and let it thaw to room temperature. Then I shook the jar for a good five minutes to mix the emulsion back together.

But no matter how hard I shook that jar, the mayonnaise remained chunks of white curd in yellow oil. I even ran the mixture through the blender — but to no avail. When Debbie left the house, I secretly drove to the grocery store, bought another jar of mayonnaise, and placed it in the refrigerator.

"See," I told Debbie when she got home, holding up the jar. "Good as new."

"Nice try," she said. "I saw you at the grocery store."

How to Prevent Apples from Going Bad with a Hole Puncher


• Hole puncher

1. Using a hole puncher, perforate a few holes in the resealable plastic bag.

2. Place the apples inside the plastic bag and seal the bag shut.

3. Store in the refrigerator or fruit bin.

4. If you see any apples going bad, remove the rotten apples from the bag before they contaminate the good fruit.


One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch. The excessive ethylene gas produced by the bad apple triggers the healthy apples to rot. The holes in the plastic bag permit air movement while allowing the bag to retain the ethylene that hastens ripening.


• If you don't have a plastic bag, store apples in the fruit bin in your refrigerator, but make sure they do not touch each other — to prevent bad apples from spoiling good apples.

• Apples retain their freshness for at least two weeks and sometimes up to one month.

• Rehydrate dried-out apples by cutting them into slices and soaking the pieces in a bowl of apple cider.

How to Revive Hardened Brown

Sugar with a Slice of Bread


• Airtight plastic container (or a resealable plastic bag)

• 1 or 2 slices of fresh white bread (or several marshmallows)


1. To revive a box of hardened brown sugar, empty the brown sugar into an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.

2. Place one or two slices of white bread (or several marshmallows) on top of the brown sugar.

3. Seal the lid on the container.

4. Let sit undisturbed for one or two days.

5. When the brown sugar becomes soft again, discard the bread.


Brown sugar hardens due to loss of moisture. The bread gives off water vapor, returning the moisture to the brown sugar and softening it.


• Brown sugar is sugar coated with a thin coat of molasses, the thick brown syrup obtained from raw sugar during the refining process. Exposure to air causes molasses to lose moisture and harden. Rehydrating the hardened molasses softens it.

• Heating brown sugar in a microwave for 30 seconds does soften the molasses, but only temporarily. The molasses hardens again within a couple of minutes.

• Don't have any white bread? Pour the brown sugar into an airtight container, cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap, place a damp paper towel on top of the plastic wrap, and seal the lid securely. Let sit for one or two days.

• Storing brown sugar inside a sealed plastic bag or an airtight container kept in the freezer prevents the brown sugar from hardening — as does placing a few marshmallows in the bag, box, or jar of sugar.

• For another way to unclump hardened brown sugar, empty the brown sugar into a plastic airtight container, place a couple of marshmallows on top of the sugar, seal the lid securely, and let sit for two or three days.


A Spoonful of Sugar

You can also use brown sugar to:

• Add a Butterscotch Flavor to Brownies. Substitute brown sugar for the white sugar in the recipe.

• Bake a Cake in a Jell-O Mold. Grease and flour the mold thoroughly and then sprinkle the bottom of the mold well with brown sugar before pouring in the batter. The detailed design on the bottom of the mold will be transferred to the top of the cake, glazed with brown sugar.

• Make Pancake Syrup. If you're all out of maple syrup, mix 1 cup of brown sugar and ½ cup of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of imitation maple flavor or vanilla extract to suit your taste.

How to Keep Cheese Fresh with Sugar Cubes


• Block of cheese

1. To prevent mold from forming on a block of cheese, place the cheese and a few sugar cubes in a resealable plastic bag.

2. Seal the bag partially shut.

3. Suck out the excess air from the bag, and seal tightly.

4. Change the sugar cubes every few days.


The sugar cubes attract the mold spores away from the cheese.


• To prevent a block of cheese from getting mwoldy, dampen a piece of cheesecloth with apple cider vinegar, and wrap it around the block of cheese. Place the wrapped block of cheese in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container, and refrigerate. The acetic acid in the vinegar helps prevent the growth of mold and does not alter the flavor of the cheese. When necessary, add more vinegar to the cheesecloth.

• Another way to prevent cheese from growing mold in the refrigerator: Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 3 cups of water, dampen a cloth with the salt water, and wrap the block of cheese in the damp cloth. Place the wrapped cheese in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container and refrigerate.

• Natural cheese contains vital enzymes and bacteria that need air and moisture to survive. To create a healthy microenvironment for the enzymes and bacteria to thrive, rewrap a block of cheese in a sheet of waxed paper, followed by a sheet of plastic wrap, and refrigerate. After using a portion of the cheese, rewrap the remaining block in fresh waxed paper and fresh plastic wrap.

• To prevent mold from forming on grated cheese, place the grated cheese in a resealable plastic bag, seal the bag partially shut, suck out the excess air from the bag, and seal tightly. Store the bag in the freezer.

• The following cheeses can be frozen and will remain fresh when thawed: cheddar, French, Greek, Italian, Swiss, and processed cheese.


How to Choose and Store Cheese


• Check the aroma, appearance, and flavor of any cheese you wish to buy. Never buy any cheese that smells like ammonia, sour milk, or a barnyard. Avoid cheese that appears cracked, discolored, or moldy (except for blue cheese). And before buying the cheese, try to taste a sample.

• Do not buy more cheese than you will eat within a few days.


• Keep cheese in the refrigerator's vegetable or fruit bin (where the humidity is highest), with the temperature set between 35° and 45° Fahrenheit.

• Place strong, pungent cheeses in airtight containers to prevent the bouquet from suffusing other foods in your refrigerator.

• Separate different types of cheeses from each other in the refrigerator to prevent them from acquiring the others' flavor.

• Store containers of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese upside down in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf life.

• Store blue cheese and Roquefort cheese in the freezer. To prepare a salad, use a paring knife to scrape the cheese, causing it to crumble beautifully.


• If blue-green mold develops on the skin of hard cheeses (excluding fresh cheese or blue cheese), use a paring knife to cut it off approximately ½ inch below the surface of the mold. The remaining cheese is safe to eat.

• If any cheese becomes excessively dry, develops a slimy texture, or smells like a hint of ammonia or any other strange odor, throw it away.

• Grate hard cheeses like cheddar, Parmesan, and Romano before melting them for better results.

How to Store Egg Yolks with Salt


• Measuring spoons

1. To store unbroken egg yolks intact for up to one week, dissolve ? teaspoon of salt into ½ cup of cool water.

2. Pour the salty solution into a jar.

3. Carefully slide the yolk into the jar without breaking the membrane, making certain the salt water covers the yolk completely.

4. Seal the lid and refrigerate.

5. Before using the yolk, simply drain the salt water.


The salt water prevents the egg yolks from congealing.


• To freeze beaten egg yolks, blend in a pinch of sugar, pour the mixture into an airtight container, cover, and freeze. The sugar prevents the yolks from coagulating.

• To make an eggbeater easy to clean, spray the beaters with cooking spray before beating eggs so sticky foods wash off effortlessly.

• If you run out of eggs while baking a cake, substitute 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar for each egg.

• If you run out of eggs when cooking anything other than cake, substitute 1 teaspoon of cornstarch for each egg.

How to Detect Fresh Eggs with a Glass of Water


• A glass of water


1. To determine whether an egg is fresh, gently lower the egg into a glass of water.

2. If the egg sinks to the bottom of the glass and lies on its side, the egg is fresh. If the egg sinks the bottom but stands upright, use the egg as soon as possible. If the egg floats, it has gone bad.


Eggshells are porous, meaning air passes through tiny holes in the shell. Over time, as more air passes into the egg, the liquid inside the egg begins to evaporate. The whites thin out, and the yolks flatten. The older the egg, the more air inside the shell and the more buoyant the egg.


• If you can't place the egg in a glass of water, crack open the egg into a bowl and smell it. A fresh egg will have no odor. A bad egg smells like sulfur.

• Fresh eggs can be stored in their original carton for up to five weeks in the refrigerator.

• Hard-boiled eggs can be stored in their shell in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 days.

• Don't buy cracked eggs. While in the store, open the carton and make sure no eggs have cracked. Bacteria can enter the egg through cracks in the shell. If purchased eggs crack on the way home from the grocery store, break them into a clean, airtight container, cover it securely, place it in the refrigerator, and use the eggs within two days. Cook the broken eggs thoroughly (until the whites and yolks coagulate) to kill any bacteria.

How to Keep Herbs with an Ice Cube Tray


• Fresh herbs

1. Rinse the herbs with water.

2. Using a sharp kitchen knife and a cutting board, carefully slice the herbs into small pieces.

3. Fill each compartment in an ice cube tray with 1 teaspoon of cut fresh herbs.

4. Fill the rest of each compartment with wine.

5. Place the ice cube tray in the freezer.

6. After the herb-filled ice cubes freeze solid, pop the cubes from the tray, and place them in a resealable freezer bag.

7. Using an indelible marker, label the bag with name of the herb.

8. Store the herb cubes in the freezer.

9. Whenever a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of that herb, place one ice cube in the mixing bowl or saucepan.


Freezing the herbs inside a block of frozen wine keeps the herbs fresh. The alcohol in the wine helps preserve the herb and evaporates when heated in a saucepan.


• Prevent ice cube trays from sticking to the floor of the freezer by placing a sheet of waxed paper under the trays (or any container you store in the freezer).

• To dry fresh herbs, place the herbs on a paper towel and heat them in the microwave oven for approximately 1 minute. Repeat for 30-second intervals if needed. Pour the dried herbs into resealable plastic bags (being sure to suck out the air), label the bags with an indelible marker, and store in the pantry for up to one year.

• Stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, whole spices retain their potency for up to four years, ground spices last two to three years, and leafy herbs keep their flavor for one to three years.

• To make fresh onion salt, cut off the top of an onion, sprinkle salt over the open slice, and let sit for a few minutes. The salt absorbs the onion juice. Scrape off the salt with a knife, and place in a small spice bowl.

• Make flavored vinegar by pouring a bottle of wine vinegar into a saucepan, adding herbs like celery, dill seeds, rosemary, or tarragon, and simmering. Let cool, pour back into the bottle, and store.

• Avoid spills when pouring spices into a shaker or a measuring spoon by working over a sheet of waxed paper. If the spices spill, fold the sheet of waxed paper in half, and pour the spice back into its bottle.


Walking on Thin Ice

You can also use an ice cube tray to:

Freeze Egg Whites. If you have leftover egg whites when baking, pour them into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freeze for your next project. Each compartment holds exactly 1 egg white. Once they freeze, pop out the cubes, and store in a plastic freezer bag until needed.

Make Better Iced Coffee. Rather than diluting iced coffee with the melted water from typical ice cubes, brew a pot of coffee, pour the coffee into an ice cube tray, and freeze. Store the frozen coffee cubes in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer and use to ice iced coffee.

Preserve Single Servings of Pesto. Preserve a heaping tablespoon of pesto sauce inside a single compartment of an ice cube tray, and freeze for later. Once frozen, store the pesto cube in a plastic freezer bag, and thaw when needed.

How to Prevent Jars from Dripping with Margarine Lids


• Clean plastic lids from margarine tubs (or coffee cans)


1. To avoid cleaning oil drips from pantry shelves and countertops, use clean plastic lids from used margarine tubs or coffee cans as coasters for storing bottles of oil, honey, and salad dressing in the pantry.

2. Plastic lids can also be used as coasters to place bottles of oil or other ingredients on the countertop when cooking.

3. When the plastic lid becomes too sticky, wash the used plastic lid with soapy water made with dishwashing liquid and reuse.


When placed upside down on a flat surface, the plastic lid from a margarine tub or coffee can, with its raised edge, serves as a small saucer.


Used as coasters for cans in the pantry, plastic lids also prevent cans of food from leaving rust rings on shelves.


Flip Your Lid

You can also use a plastic lid to:

Rest a Cooking Spoon. A plastic lid makes an excellent spoon rest when cooking.

Catch Popsicle Drips. Using a knife or a pair of sharp scissors, carefully cut an X or two in a plastic lid and insert the sticks of a Popsicle to catch any drips. Afterward, wash for reuse.

Separate Homemade Hamburger Patties. Place a clean plastic lid between each patty before freezing to make separating the patties later a snap.

How to Store Plastic Grocery Bags in a Tissue Box


• Clean, empty tissue box (or plastic box)


1. Insert the bottom of a plastic grocery into the slot in the top of the tissue box and continue stuffing the bag into the box, leaving the handle exposed through the slot.

2. Insert the bottom of a second plastic grocery bag through the handle of the first bag, and continue stuffing the two bags into the box, leaving the handle of the second bag exposed through the slot.

3. Continue the process with all the plastic grocery bags you have, leaving the handle of the last bag sticking up from the slot in the tissue box.

4. When you need a plastic bag, simply pull the exposed handle like a tissue, removing one bag from the box. The handle of the next bag will automatically pop up through the slot.


When you tug the exposed handle, removing one plastic bag from the box, the tail end of the bag pulls the handle of the next bag through the slot in the box, the same way tissues replenish themselves in a tissue box.


Excerpted from "Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Joey Green.
Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

1 Shopping and Storage 1

How to Prevent Apples from Going Bad with a Hole Puncher 2

How to Revive Hardened Brown Sugar with a Slice of Bread 3

How to Keep Cheese Fresh with Sugar Cubes 5

How to Store Egg Yolks with Salt 7

How to Detect Fresh Eggs with a Glass of Water 8

How to Keep Herbs with an Ice Cube Tray 9

How to Prevent Jars from Dripping with Margarine Lids 11

How to Store Plastic Grocery Bags in a Tissue Box 12

How to Keep Strawberries Fresh with a Coffee Filter 13

How to Prevent Moisture in Sugar with a Saltine Cracker 15

How to Store Potatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Panty Hose 16

How to Ripen Tomatoes with Newspaper 18

How to Preserve Diced Ginger with Vodka 20

How to Dry Mushrooms with Dental Floss 21

How to Vacuum Seal Food with a Bowl of Water 22

2 Cookware and Tableware 23

How to Make an Apron from a Trash Bag 24

How to Season Cast-iron Cookware with Vegetable Shortening 26

How to Preserve a Wooden Cutting Board with Cooking Oil 28

How to Deodorize a Garbage Pail with Kitty Litter 29

How to Sharpen a Knife with Sandpaper 30

How to Improvise a Meat Mallet with a Frying Pan 32

How to Stack China and Nonstick Cookware with Paper Plates 34

How to Protect Plastic Containers from Tomato Stains with Cooking Spray 35

How to Protect Oven Mitts and Pot Holders with Spray Starch 37

How to Improvise a Rolling Pin with a Wine Bottle and Panty Hose 39

How to Remove Contact Paper with a Blow-Dryer 41

How to Improvise a Food Strainer with Panty Hose 43

How to Protect a Teapot Spout with a Rubber Glove 45

3 Appliances and Gadgets 47

How to Ignite a Charcoal Barbecue with a Coffee Can 48

How to Clean a Coffee Grinder or Food Processor with Rice 50

How to Clean a Coffeemaker or Teakettle with Vinegar 51

How to Clean a Dishwasher with Kool-Aid 53

How to Improvise a Salad Spinner with a Pillowcase 56

How to Deodorize a Refrigerator or Freezer with Kitty Litter 57

How to Deodorize a Garbage Disposal with a Lemon 59

How to Deodorize a Microwave Oven with Coffee 60

How to Clean Oven Racks with Ammonia 62

How to Kill Mold in a Refrigerator Drip Tray with Mouthwash 63

4 Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains 65

How to Prevent Sliced Apples from Browning with Salt 66

How to Rescue Mushy Beans with Sour Cream 68

How to Cook Asparagus with Panty Hose 71

How to Rescue Overcooked Vegetables with Chicken or Beef Broth 73

How to Pit Cherries with a Chopstick 75

How to Shuck an Ear of Corn with a Paper Towel 77

How to Revitalize Wilted Lettuce with Lemon Juice 78

How to Avoid Crying When Cutting Onions with a Swimming Mask 80

How to Speed Up a Baked Potato with a Carpenter's Nail 83

How to Fix Soggy Mashed Potatoes with Powdered Milk 85

How to Turn Soggy Rice into Fried Rice with an Egg 87

How to Turn Soggy Rice into Rice Pudding with Milk 89

How to Reheat Leftover Rice with an Ice Cube 92

How to Remove Stems from Strawberries with a Drinking Straw 93

How to Peel Tomatoes with Panty Hose 94

5 Dairy and Eggs 95

How to Make a Cream Cheese Substitute with Yogurt 96

How to Make Homemade Cheese with Panty Hose 99

How to Sour Milk with Vinegar 102

How to Separate Egg Whites with a Water Bottle 104

How to Poach an Egg with a Pineapple Can 106

How to Make Fluffy Scrambled Eggs with Cream of Tartar 108

How to Identify Hard-Boiled Eggs with Food Coloring 110

How to Give a Soufflé a Tasty Crust with Potato Chips 112

How to Make Whipped Cream with a Jar 113

6 Meat and Seafood 115

How to Bulk Up Bacon with Flour 116

How to Turn Overcooked Chicken into Chicken Salad with Mayonnaise 118

How to Cook Bratwurst with a Coffee Can and Beer 119

How to Revive Overcooked Meat with Beef Broth 121

How to Bread Chicken Croquettes with Potato Chips 123

How to Roast Chicken with Mayonnaise, Bread, and Beer 125

How to Cook Hamburgers for a Crowd with Aluminum Foil 127

How to Stretch Meatloaf with Rolled Oats 129

How to Marinate and Tenderize Meat with Coca-Cola 131

How to Truss a Turkey or Chicken with Dental Floss 134

How to Poach a Fish with Panty Hose 136

How to Defrost Frozen Fish with Milk 138

How to Clean Clams with Cornmeal 140

7 Pasta, Sauces, and Soups 143

How to Fix Lumpy Gravy or Sauce with a Strainer 144

How to Rescue Burned Gravy with Peanut Butter 146

How to Thicken Thin Sauce with Cornstarch 147

How to Save Mushy Pasta with Olive Oil 150

How to Fix Broken or Curdled Hollandaise Sauce with an Egg 152

How to Make Salad Dressing with Mayonnaise and Yogurt 153

How to Make Cheese Sauce with Skim Milk 154

How to Make Fresh Tomato Sauce with a Grater 155

How to Spice Up Spaghetti Sauce with Coffee 157

How to Strain Fat from Soup with Lettuce 159

8 Breads and Desserts 161

How to Save a Crumbling Cake with Icing 162

How to Remove a Cake Stuck in a Pan with Plastic Wrap 165

How to Repurpose Broken Cakes or Cookies as a Parfait with Whipped Cream 167

How to Make Light and Fluffy Pancakes with Club Soda 169

How to Bake Bread in a Coffee Can 171

How to Make Dough Rise with a Heating Pad 173

How to Slice Cake with Dental Floss 175

How to Grease a Cake Pan with Flour 176

How to Prevent the Top of a Cake from Browning with a Pan of Water 178

How to Stop Nuts and Raisins from Sinking in a Cake with Flour 179

How to Rescue Burned Piecrust with Whipped Cream 181

How to Cover Up a Cracked Cheesecake with Sour Cream 182

How to Create a Cream-Filled Cupcake with a Soda Can 183

How to Give Rolls Amber Crust with Beef Bouillon 185

How to Prevent Ice Cream Cone Drips with Peanut Butter 186

How to Stop a Baking Pie from Boiling Over with Pasta 188

9 Kitchen and Folk Remedies 189

How to Soothe Arthritis with Oatmeal 190

How to Eliminate Athlete's Foot with Salt 191

How to Soothe a Backache with Rice 192

How to Relieve a Burn with Mustard 194

How to Make Lip Balm with Vegetable Shortening and Kool-Aid 196

How to Make Cough Syrup with Honey and Olive Oil 198

How to Disinfect a Wound with Honey 199

How to Give Yourself a Facial with Applesauce 200

How to Relieve Food Poisoning with Sugar, Lemon, and Salt 202

How to Cure Hiccups with a Paper Cup 203

How to Soothe a Bee or Wasp Sting with Meat Tenderizer 204

How to Soothe itchy Skin with Oatmeal and Panty Hose 205

How to Relieve an Ulcer with Cranberry Juice 206

10 Cleaning Tricks 207

How to Clean a Barbecue Grill with Aluminum Foil 208

How to Remove Candle Wax from a Tablecloth with a Clothes Iron 209

How to Clean Baked-On Food from a Casserole Dish with Denture Cleanser 211

How to Scrub a Cast-Iron Pan with Salt 213

How to Clean a Glass Cooktop with a Credit Card and Toothpaste 214

How to Clean a Copper Pot with Ketchup 215

How to Sanitize a Countertop with Shaving Cream 216

How to Wash Pots and Pans with Panty Hose 217

How to Unclog a Drain with Jell-O 218

How to Wipe Up a Dropped Egg with Salt 220

How to Deodorize a Lunch Box with a Slice of Bread 221

How to Neutralize Kitchen Odors with Vinegar 223

How to Clean Silverware with Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil 224

How to Sanitize a Kitchen Sponge with Bleach 226

Acknowledgments 227

Bibliography 228

About the Author 230

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