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You’ve probably cooked thousands of meals in your lifetime. Did you enjoy it? If not, why not? Cooking can be a great way to de-stress and a fun way to express your creativity. Here are a few cooking tips to spark excitement so that every time you step in the kitchen, you’ve got something new to try.

Leftover vegetable pieces shouldn’t go to waste. Broccoli tops, carrot pieces and onion peelings can be added to your vegetable, beef or chicken stock, to fill it with extra flavor. Don’t forget to add the stock to your favorite meals to enhance their flavor and appear as a great cook in front of your friends and family.

Use a heavy duty, zip-lock plastic bag to separate pan drippings. After roasting meat, pour the pan drippings into a zip-lock plastic bag. Let the fat rise to the top. Carefully snip off one of the bottom corners on the bag, and pour out the fat-free broth. The fat will stay in the plastic bag, and you will have a tasty broth as a base for gravy or a sauce.

If you feel that a piece of food you are about to cook does not look right or may be rotten, always error on the side of caution and throw it away. It is better to lose a few dollars than to cost yourself the next couple of weeks from food poisoning.

Saute tired salad greens. If your salad greens have seen better days, don’t discard them – saute them! Salad greens such as radicchio, arugula and endive make a tasty side dish when sauteed. Cook them quickly in olive oil, chopped garlic and sea salt. Sprinkle with a little bacon and goat cheese, and you will be happy that you didn’t throw away those unused salad greens!

Keep a potato masher in your kitchen at all times. This useful device can be used to mash more than just your typical potatoes. Try mashing carrots, cauliflower, and other root vegetables. You can mix any of these in to your usual mashed potatoes to make them more vibrant, nutritious, and interesting.

Take care when storing chocolate for use in cooking. As a rule, only buy as much chocolate as you can use within a few months. Chocolate contains fat, and under the wrong conditions it can turn rancid. Store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. A kitchen cupboard away from any heat sources is ideal. Keep the chocolate wrapped in foil or plastic and store it away from anything with a strong smell, as it absorbs odors easily.

When your pasta is done and you are finished draining, pour some Parmesan cheese on top, which will give your sauce something to latch on to. This will make things much easier for you when you are creating your meal and allow you to layer the levels of your pasta.

Cooking doesn’t have to be humdrum and boring. It’s a chance to shape your family’s nutrition, as well as to relax and create. Cooking can be much more than mixing ingredients together. Since you have to cook anyway, why not learn to enjoy it? Follow these tips and start having fun in the kitchen.

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