I can personally attest that if my family had lived in the olden days, we probably would have starved to death or been reluctant vegetarians. You see, I am not a fan of cutting raw meat and while I do it, there is no way I would have been able to pluck feathers from a dead chicken, clean out a fish or skin and de-bone a dead animal. No way. We would have lived off herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and chicken eggs because that is all I know how to grow or handle. Maybe some onions and peppers if I remembered to water the crops. Maybe.... So, yea, we would have been dead.
"Cooking, at best, is both an expression of self and a gift of love."
My father was also a great cook. I believe my mother was a pretty good cook too. My step mother was an actual trained chef and my parents owned their own catering business for a few years. I also worked in many restaurants with great chefs. I was surrounded by incredible, made from scratch food everywhere I turned yet as a teenager, all I knew how to make were eggs and sandwiches. That was about as from scratch as I got. ( I feel so bad too because I loved cooking eggs and my poor father would be stuck eating a carton of eggs a few times a week cuz no one else in the house would eat them including me. I didn't start eating eggs until I was pregnant with my son.)
When I found myself with my own family, we started out like many other young families do. On Cor meals, TV Dinners, Banquet pot pies, Hamburger Helper, Ramen Noodles, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Tyson chicken nuggets and Pepperidge Farm cakes were on my revolving menu. I found myself hoarding all sorts of leftovers from my parent's and grandparent's houses just because I was so tired of the constant taste of processed foods. Don't get me wrong, from time to time I still make processed foods but not often. We just aren't meant to digest all those artificial chemicals and preservatives.
I decided it was my duty, my birthright, to learn to cook from scratch just like my ancestors did. ( my parents and grandparents) I started off slow. So....Toast can be tricky if it is not toasted to the perfect degree of toastiness. Too little toasting and the bread becomes a weird textured cross between soft and crisp and too much toasting kind of reminds you of chewing on a charcoal briquette.... not that I have ever done that but I'm guessing that is what a charcoal briquette would taste like.
Nah, I'm just fucking with yas. I made toast before. I needed something to go with all the eggs I used to make. However, I do not remember for sure what my first endeavor was in the world of "from scratch" cooking. I do remember attempting my grandmother's halupkis early on. I used to grill the hell out of my grandmother for her recipes. She would just smile and say if she gave me all her recipes, I would never come down and see her. I told her that was not possible. She was stuck with me.
I noted everything I screwed up. Add salt, pepper and garlic to the meat. Put the cabbage in the pot then add water, then boil. If using instant rice, do not parboil. Eggs are great for binding the meat and so are panko bread crumbs. It took me a few tries but now my halupkis taste just like my grandmother's. Some other recipes were not so easy to master. Some took years of fine tuning. I learned I am not good with dough. I do not have the patience to roll it out the right way.
|Chili With All The Fixins including Homemade Tortilla Strips and Homemade Pico De Gallo.|
I am also leary about just pan frying chicken. When making my franchaise, parmesean or panko chicken, I fry it on each side for two minutes then bake it all in a pan for another 30 minutes. I am not the best cake decorator in the world. It took me 13 years to master my chili. It took me 19 years to master my red tomato sauce. I suck at making fudge. I burn most things I try to grill because I like a big fire and lack the patience to wait until the fire has died before throwing my meat on the grill. I banned myself from ever owning a toaster over after setting three of them on fire. I recently learned I cannot bake a cheesecake. I can only make the no bake type but those always come out excellent.
|Pancakes with Bacon.|
"There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves."
Rather than go on about everything I can cook from scratch I am going to share some knowledge and tips from the trials and tribulations I have experienced on my journey from my novice days to the present day as a expert cook. (At least I like to think so.)
What Every Cook Needs To Know
1. There is a difference between baking soda and baking powder. One cannot be interchanged for the other. I once made a batch of chocolate chip cookies that would have been declared illegal in 13 states due to their capacity to be used as assault weapons.
2. Putting taco shells in a toaster oven then forgetting about them for 20 minutes can sometimes cause big flames to shoot out of the toaster oven.
3. Sometimes when making homemade whipped cream with your Kitchen Aid mixer you end up with a liquidy homemade butter instead. It happens when you become distracted with things like Facebook, texting, a Mark Wahlberg movie or the little bunnies nibbling grass in your yard. Once the peaks are stiff, cease and desist all blending. And for god sakes pay attention. Heavy cream is expensive....unless Mark Wahlberg is on TV then fuck it. I'll suck up the $5.00.
4. If you think no one will ever notice that little sliver of eggshell that got in your batter or pan think again. Chipping a tooth is not a sign of affection unless you are into BDSM. Always crack your eggs in a separate bowl then add to the pan or mixing bowl.
5. You can burn water. Well...not really but putting a pot of water on to boil for pasta then taking a three hour nap is a sure way to destroy a pot. In fact putting anything on the stove to boil then taking a nap should be frowned upon.
7. If you are a pyromaniac who enjoys gradually squirting an entire bottle of lighter fluid on your charcoal grill just to see the flames go wild, don't fret when you burn your Rib Eyes. They can be saved. Slice them up and place in a baking dish with two cups of beef broth, a packet of onion soup mix and a couple of dabs of Worcestershire sauce. Bake on 300 for an hour or two. They make great drippy sandwiches and also taste great on a heaping mound of mashed potatoes.
8. Spaghetti sauce can travel at a rate of 186,000 miles per second. Always use a lid when simmering unless you enjoy pulling out the ladder to clean the ceiling, the walls, the light fixtures, the door frames, the dog etc. Also, stir occasionally because if you burn the sauce you are SOL. It tastes like burnt spaghetti sauce.
9. When making a made from scratch cake or cookies, gradually add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients. Dumping the entire bowl of dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients then firing up the mixer will only make you look like a coke whore on a Saturday night. You will be blowing that stuff out your nose for days. Trust me.
10. Always cover unbreaded chicken before baking it unless you enjoy eating really chewy string or have a choking fetish. If you want to brown it, remove the foil the last 10 minutes of baking.
11. Wear gloves when dicing jalapenos or other hot peppers. You already know you are going to rub your eyes because sometimes our brain likes to fuck with us just because it can. Make sure you remove the gloves before rubbing your eyes unless you enjoy severe pain....the whole BDSM thing again.
|Sauteed Spinach and Lazy Chicken Scampi|
13. Always store white pepper and garlic powder on opposite sides of the room. Once, my father almost wiped out the entire family on Thanksgiving by adding two heaping teaspoons of "garlic powder" to the mashed potatoes.
14. If your dog won't eat it, don't serve it.
15. While we are on the subject of dogs, a dog can eat a stick of butter or a sandwich in 2.5 seconds thus causing the inevitable "Where the eff is the sandwich I just made?" syndrome. Don't worry, you are not crazy. If your dog spends the next ten minutes licking their chops it is because they are guilty as charged. Never under estimate the reach of a dog.
16. Never, ever over cook pasta unless you were that kid that enjoyed eating glue in elementary school. Al dente is always the way to go. If you are not sure, during the cooking process spoon a noodle out of the water. (Wait for it to cool slightly because that shit is hot!) Taste it. If it is slightly chewy but not mushy then you are at al dente stage which is perfect.
17. If your 2 year old wants a Cookie Monster cake for his birthday, leave it to the professionals. I think I scarred my kid for life with the deformed Cookie Monster cake I made him because he has not mentioned the cookie monster since. Thankfully my mother got a professional cake made.
18. Texture is the difference between eating a great dish and eating something that could have been rolled around on the Jersey shore then put in a bowl or on a platter. If a recipe calls for something at room temperature, be sure it is at room temp. If a recipe calls for something to be mixed for ten minutes, mix it for ten minutes. This is where a Kitchen Aid mixer becomes a great investment. Not only are they work horses but your triceps will thank you as well.
19. When using a rolling pin, be sure to grip it at the handles and not the actual rolling part. Accidentally rolling over your middle finger f$%^$#ing hurts.
20. Make sure your pot holders are intact and free of holes. There a very few things as painful as grabbing a tray out of the oven and burning your finger because your favorite potholder has a huge hole in it. In fact the only thing more painful is the stubbornness in refusing to let go of the tray so you don't drop your food. (It would make more sense to put the tray back in the oven and get a new, hole-less pot holder but.....why make sense?)
21. Chicken can catch on fire while baking in the oven. Sometimes that can frighten the children.
|Breakfast of Champions!|
23. All the advice out there about preventing the fumes from stinging your eyes while chopping onions is bullshit. I've tried burning candles, wearing sunglasses, not chopping off the root, rubbing the knife with lemon, placing a plastic bag over my head, and offering the onion some of my secret stash of chocolate. None of it works. The only thing that works somewhat is chilling the onion first. Let's just say it has taken years of practice and several deep cuts but I can now cut an onion pretty freakin fast.
24. Turkeys are like pinatas. They are full of surprises. Always check the cavities before baking. I say this because the first time I cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving, I also proceeded to cook the bag with the gizzards and the bag with the neck in it. I also baked the free bag of stuffing and free bag of broth that were included with the turkey that I had no clue about. Surprise! Happy Turkey Day....not!
25. All "Made for TV" kitchen gadgets suck. Do not waste your money. I managed to destroy a Slap Chop in 30 seconds the first time I used it. Plastic pieces and springs became lethal projectiles flying through my kitchen the second I slapped down on that onion. Both my son and I dove to the floor to take cover. Needless to say, there was no chop after my slap.
26. You can burn food in a slow cooker. It once took me two days to chisel off the pork tenderloin stuck to the bottom of my crock pot because I thought cooking it overnight on high with very little juice was an okay idea. Who knew I was going to sleep 13 hours that night.
27. I can cook an amazing breakfast drunk off my ass at 2:00 AM and not injure myself once, nor burn anything. Ask my friends or my kids. Steak, scrambled eggs and pancakes anyone? Just don't ask me to fry potatoes. I suck at them drunk or sober.
28. Be gentle with salt. You can always add more but you cannot remove it once the damage is done. Always make sure the lids are secure on all your shakers as well. I accidentally poured have a shaker of salt into the beef stew I was making once upon a time. I tried serving it to my family anyway. They noticed. Their blood pressure was also 190/110
|Meatballs Al Forno|
30. Patience is a virtue in any home cooked meal. I have learned that the hard way. Over the years I have become very disciplined in the cooking arena. Well except when I attempt any Martha Stewart recipe. I may be guilty of opening the swear word vault on those days. Where the fuck does she come up with some of her ideas? (I will say, the few recipes of her's I have succeeded at were fantastic and I do love her. Just think she rides the crazy train.....a lot.)
To all novice cooks out there just beginning.....have fun with it. Laugh at the failures and take pride in your successes. Trust me, it will get easier. Happy Cooking!!
|Potato Leek Soup|