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Wilburn: Save time and money in the kitchen with these tips
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Have you been to the farmers market?

The Hall County Farmers Market is now open on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

If you are looking for fresh, locally grown produce, plan to shop at the farmers market, open Tuesdays starting at 6 a.m. until sell out and Saturdays 7 a.m. until sellout. The earlier you get there the better the selection.

The farmer's market is located on the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewell Parkway just off 985 at exit 24 in Gainesville.

I visited the market last week, and the farmers had for sale or were anticipating the following items to be available this week (or soon): greens (turnips, mustard, collards, kale spinach), lettuce (more than a dozen varieties), broccoli, cabbage, radishes, bulb onions and bok choy. We also had cut flowers, tomato plants and organic compost. We had returning vendors selling jams and jellies (raspberry, blueberry and blushing peach); whole-grain bakery products (honey whole-wheat with flax, Ezekiel bread, whole wheat banana bread); locally harvested honey (wildflower, sourwood, Tupelo), beeswax candles and hand-poured palm wax candles.

It's 5 p.m. and your family wants to know what's for dinner.

Secretly, so do you.

The first thing that comes to mind is preparing something quick and healthy. Your family needs to like it, too. But no matter what you decide to prepare, there are short cuts to make your job easier. Give yourself a break and give one of these ideas a try.

Garlic

Use a garlic peeler to quickly peel garlic. This is a cylindrical piece of rubber you place the garlic in, then roll it on the counter with the palm of your hand. The peel will stick to the inside of the peeler and the garlic will fall out the end. If you don't have a garlic peeler, you can do the same thing with a rubber jar opener.

To mince garlic without having it stick to your knife, add a few drops of water to the garlic and then chop. The garlic sticks to the cutting board and not your knife. Even better, use a garlic press. This is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen; simply peel the garlic, press and - ta-daaa! - minced garlic.

Lemons

To get the most juice: Microwave lemons on high for 10 seconds, or roll them on the counter with the palm of your hand. This will help free the juice. I do both and get even more juice.

If you have too many lemons and don't want them to go bad, slice them into quarters and freeze in an airtight bag or container. You can take out a little or a lot of lemon, depending upon your needs. A frozen lemon wedge is also wonderful in a cold glass of tea while you are making dinner! Or go ahead and juice the lemons and limes and freeze in ice cube trays.

Broth and gravy

To remove the fat from broth before making gravy, take an ice cube and swirl it around - the ice cube will attract the fat. Then, discard the cube before it starts to melt.

Freeze extra "de-fatted" broth in ice cube trays, and then transfer to an airtight container. Take out a cube at a time to use when making stir-fry instead of using oil. The broth can also be used to make inexpensive flavored rice, instead of using water or a pre-packaged mix. I love to cook dried beans, fresh beans and peas in broth instead of plain water. I get flavor without the fat of adding bacon or other high-fat meats. I also cut down on sodium using this broth instead of bouillon cubes, which are just about pure salt.

Mincing and freezing herbs

Kitchen shears works wonders when mincing herbs. How many times have you thrown away parsley or cilantro because it "goes bad"? While still fresh, cut up the herbs and place in small squares of plastic wrap and then put them in a heavy duty freezer bag. Or place cut up herbs in the ice cube tray, pour water to fill and freeze. Remember to label the herbs in the freezer or you may forget what they are. Pop the frozen herb cubes in your soups, stews, or thaw out and drain and use in casseroles or other cooked dishes.

Miscellaneous

To peel fresh ginger quickly without the waste, scrape with a spoon. This will remove the peel and leave most of the ginger behind. Use the edge of the spoon to get to the crevices.

To keep your plastic containers from becoming discolored from tomato products, spray with a non-stick cooking spray first, then place your food inside.

Before starting a recipe, assemble all of your ingredients. It will give you a chance to read the recipe over completely and save the time of starting to prepare something, then discovering you are missing an ingredient or two.

When you try a new recipe for the first time, follow it exactly. This will give you an idea of how it is supposed to taste. You can make any changes in the recipe the second time around, and you will know if it turned out or not. Don't forget to write the changes on your recipe card or cookbook.

Adapted from: University of Nebraska Lincoln-Lancaster County

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.

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