Tis the season for peppermint. Need it crushed? Skip the round hockey puck peppermints and go for regular, or better yet, mini candy canes. They are easier to crush. Place in a freezer bag, fold over, and pound with a meat tenderizer.

To keep dirty dishes to a minimum when making pasta, I skip the colander. A chef’s knife held at the lip of the pot drains the water perfectly, especially when you’re making smaller quantities. I always reserve a bit of the starchy water as well to help the sauce adhere better to the noodles.

Where do you store your (natural) peanut butter? The back of the package says to store it in the fridge, but mine always ends up rock solid. Store in the pantry, stirring every so often to evenly incorporate the oils. Still need to soften it? Add a little heat (if the container is glass), whether in the microwave or set in a warm bowl of water.

A couple weeks ago as I was doing my pumpkin pie recipe research, I stumbled across a genius tip from Aimee of Simple Bites. Before pouring your pumpkin pie filling into the pan (or any other filling of that matter), place the prepared tart (or pie) pan in the oven. Carefully pull out the rack, making sure it’s still secured, and pour filling into the pan, being careful not to spill. Slowly push the rack back into the oven. Also, don’t forget to add a baking sheet underneath.

Although this may be counterintuitive, allow your baked goods to rest. Flavor develops as it cools. More than once I’ve nearly thrown out a baked treat after trying it straight out of the oven only to fall in love with it hours after the cool.

When baking, use your nose. Without fail, my baked treats are almost always done or near done once I can smell their aroma seeping from the oven. As always, test doneness with a toothpick.