Sifting Dry Ingredients
Many recipes call for sifted flour or for dry ingredients to be sifted together. Flour and other dry ingredients -- especially powdered sugar -- settle and become compacted during shipping, which can cause lumps. Sifting the ingredients adds air to them, resulting in fluffier and lump-free final results. If you don't have a sifter, you can add your dry ingredients to a fine mesh sieve and then shake it gently in tiny side-to-side movements over your mixing bowl, just as if you are panning for gold. Another method is to hold the sieve in one hand and tap it gently on the side with a wooden spoon to loosen ingredients and encourage them through the sieve.
Rinsing and Draining
Many very small foods, such as quinoa and some types of rice, need to be rinsed before you cook them, but doing so in a colander with large holes can lead to disaster. Place your grains or seeds in the fine mesh sieve and hold it under a gentle stream of water. Don't turn on the faucet full blast, or you might wash the food out of the sieve before the water can drain. Smaller holes mean that the water drains more slowly, so shake the sieve gently to help speed the process.