I think toasted coconut is one of my favorite garnishes, so good on ice cream. Best on coffee ice cream with coffee liquor.

But toasting just enough for one has always been a pain. So imagine how thrilled I was to find out that you can toast coconut in the microwave oven. Just put some on a plate or pyrex dish and set on high. Every 30 seconds, stir and check for color.

You can toast it in the oven or toaster oven too, but this seems so much faster.

On the subject of faster, I am always looking for shortcuts in the kitchen. Here is one that I like: when a recipe calls for eggs at room temperature, just put eggs (in the shell) in a bowl of hot water. In about five to ten minutes your eggs will be room temperature.

This may not seem like a shortcut but it is: when baking, put all the ingredients on the counter and as you add each thing, put it away. This way you won’t wonder if you added the baking soda or the salt.

And speaking of salt, there are many kinds. For baking plain old Morton is fine, but for everything else I prefer the coarse ground sea salt in a grinder from Costco. They also have black peppercorns in a grinder (and fresh ground pepper is 1000% better than that stuff in a can).

Kosher salt is good for rubbing on meat, chicken and fish. It is also good in cookies and fillings and is important to have if you use the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

Nutmeg: a most underused spice. You absolutely must grind or grate a whole nutmeg, rather than use the ground nutmeg that comes in a jar. It doesn’t even taste at all the same. It is a must in creamed spinach and of course as a topping for baked custard. I have a nifty little nutmeg grinder, but it was $30 ten years ago. You can use a little metal grater just as well.

Fresh ginger root. You should always have this on hand. Best way to peel it is with the edge of a spoon. Then cut it into little chunks and freeze in a baggie. When ready to use, mince it, smash it or put it in a garlic press. It adds a lot to salad dressing, teriaki sauce and is an essential ingredient in all island and oriental cooking.

I usually use name brands for all my food products. Some things you can get away with, such as sugar is sugar, but for mayonaise it has to be Best Foods and for cream cheese it has to be Philadelphia. For butter, the best deal is four pounds at Costco. Don’t worry, it freezes very well. It works out to about $2.50 a pound. And you absolutely must use unsalted for baking. I use it for everything. Once you use it, you will never go back to salted butter. (And never use margarine for anything)

Sugar may be sugar, but flour is not flour. Unbleached flour is much better than all purpose for baking pie crusts. Cake flour is a must for cakes and muffins. And bread flour really is better for bread.

I think that is enough for today. When I think of some more things, I will put them in another time.