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Friday, March 6, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 1.0° F  Fair
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18 favorite kitchen hacks
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While certain gadgets are useful, sometimes you need to make do in a pinch, or just get more benefits from the gadgets you do have. Here are some of our shortcuts. Your mileage may vary.

Reheat leftover pizza in a frying pan. It keeps the crust firm.

Cut big pastries in half with kitchen shears rather than a knife. It's more precise and less messy.

An easy way to get "sticky" stuff out of a can (refried beans, cranberry sauce): After opening one end with a can-opener, use the pointy end of a church-key-style bottle opener to poke a hole in the other end, thus breaking the vacuum.

Fake a pizza oven by using two baking stones - one to put the pizza on, and one placed on the rack above the pizza to simulate a brick oven. Then rev up the heat to 500 and cook the pizza quickly.

You can further fake the baking stones by buying large unglazed quarry or ceramic tiles at a home or garden supply store. Tiles do need to be unglazed and should be one inch thick.

Use an ordinary potato masher to crush garbanzo beans into hummus and enjoy the coarser, rustic texture.

To steam tamales, place a metal colander in a big stockpot with a flat metal cheese grater laid across the top of the colander to create the "shelf." Boil a little water in the bottom, place the lid on the stockpot, and the tamales steam very nicely.

Make a tube pan by taking a round cake pan and placing a ramekin or Pyrex custard cup in the middle.

Get the smell off your hands after chopping an onion by holding a regular stainless steel butter knife under cold water and rubbing your fingers along the metal.

To cut hard winter squash in half, bake the squash in the oven for a short period of time - just long enough to soften the skin - then halve and scoop out the seeds before continuing with the roasting.

When making or especially baking anything sticky, use parchment paper; grease the pan and grease the parchment as you would the pan. It is worth the price of the parchment paper to get the goods out of the pan in one piece.

Keep the cutting board from sliding on the counter by cutting a piece of that thin, waffly-look rubber shelf liner to size. Alternatively, you can wet a washcloth and place it under the cutting board (not quite as effective).

Use a hardboiled egg slicer to also slice mushrooms or olives.

Freeze food in leftover glass jars instead of plastic. But if food is liquid, be sure to leave an inch of head room for expansion.

When facing the need to pit cherries, a large paper clip can sub for a cherry pitter.

Use paper or gold cone coffee filters to drain yogurt when thickening it to use as a healthy base for dip. It subs for sour cream.

Use large flour tortillas as a quick pizza crust: "Glue" a couple layers together with a little bit of shredded cheese, brush the edges with olive oil, and add your toppings.

Keep a can of compressed air in your kitchen for cleaning nooks and crannies. It's great for getting stubborn crumbs out of the corners of your toaster, for instance.

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