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5 Cooking Tips and Tricks Using Lemon Juice

Lemon transforms this asparagus dish. See more pictures of vegetables.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It's so easy to mess up the simplest dishes: rice, chicken, even boxed macaroni and cheese can turn out wrong. But adding just one extra ingredient -- in this case lemon juice -- can transform a dull dish or save dinner from being dumped down the garbage disposal.

Our list of five cooking tips and tricks using lemon juice could potentially save your cooking reputation. Get crazy in the kitchen and embrace your inner Martha. No one at the dinner table has to know that the sour cream in their chili was actually whipped cream 30 minutes ago. Easy substitutions can save grocery money too.

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Rice is a grain that has become a food staple throughout much of the world. It can be grown in practically any flat environment and eaten in many different forms, but is usually boiled or steamed to a soft consistency.

You can keep rice from becoming sticky by cooking it in water with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Cooks in India have used this secret for years since lemons are a common ingredient in curries and other traditional dishes. Lemons also give the rice a brilliant white color.

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Vegetables have the greatest health benefits and the least calories of any food group. Unfortunately, many of us don't eat as many vegetables as the food pyramid says we should. This may be because we are used to mushy and dull cooked vegetables that can have additional flavor, but less aesthetic appeal.

Lots of vegetables lose their luster while cooking in boiling water. Broccoli and green peppers turn almost gray and onions become transparent. You can save the red veggies by adding a small amount of lemon juice to the cooking water; beets and cabbage will retain their color.

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Sour cream has lived out its existence on the junk food list because about 90 percent of its calories are from fat. Oh, and half of that is saturated fat. We live in a world where everything over 40 percent is an abomination. But who wants to eat a dry baked potato?

Here's an easy sour cream substitute: Add a little lemon juice to whipped cream. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then serve. This way you save extra calories and you won't have to run to the store if you're out of sour cream.

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Did you know that there's no butter in buttermilk? There's no turtle in a turtleneck either. But, buttermilk has a sour flavor similar to yogurt, which makes it an important ingredient in many baking recipes like sweet breads and cakes.

The recipe calls for buttermilk but there's none in the fridge? No need to change your plans. To make 1 cup buttermilk, put 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a glass measuring cup. Add enough low-fat milk (1 or 2 percent) to equal 1 cup. Let sit 15 minutes. The acid in the juice adds a tang to the milk, mimicking the flavor of authentic buttermilk.

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Vegetarians should stop reading here. Chicken is the most commonly consumed animal protein throughout the world. One serving provides high levels of vitamin B and protein while staying well below 250 calories. Chicken breasts are the leanest cut of the meat and are a great substitute for red meat for people trying to reduce their fat intake.

Chicken may be one of the easiest meats to prepare and cook, but don't get too cocky because it can just as easily turn out dry and bland. Before you cook chicken, rub a wedge of lemon over it. The result will be a juicier, tenderer dish.

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Adapted from "Lemon Juice: Lighten Your Hair and Solve Household Problems," © 2009 Publications International, Ltd.

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