This is a page of tips
for those just learning to cook.
Most of what I know I learned from
My Mom is a wonderful cook!
As she had to
help cook for her brothers and sisters on the farm, she learned to
make amazing fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
On my Dad's side, my Grandmother and
Great Aunt were bakers; for breakfast they would give me a
Butterhorn roll with jelly (along with coffee, cream, and saccharin
in a vintage tea cup!) Their Apple Pies were also wonderful.
(Both recipes are listed on these Recipe pages).
Keep in mind that there is no right
or wrong way to cook; the methods I will post here have worked best
Left-overs can save a
lot of money and time. There are some days you will be too tired to
cook meat for an hour to make a meal! Pulling out a bag of left-over
frozen meat from your freezer helps you to make a fast meal, rather
than having to buy a quick meal.
Left-over Roast Beef
Pot pies-If you have
potatoes and carrots, meat, and/or gravy left over from a roast beef meal, your work is
half done. Just mix a can of mushroom soup with a package of beef gravy mix
and water, and stir in the chopped roast beef and extra vegetables, plus any
gravy that is left. Take 2
cups of the pie crust mix (shared on the Pies page) from the freezer, add ice
water, and make a bottom and top crust. If you don't have left-over
vegetables, you could use 2 cans of Veg-all, but what I think tastes better is
to chop onion, potatoes, and carrots- barely cover with water, cook on medium
heat until done, then add the gravy seasoning and soup to the water. (Any time
you can use the cooking water from meat and vegetables, you add flavor and
Casseroles- You would either
use noodles or potatoes in your casserole with meat and other vegetables
(onion, peas, etc.), mushroom soup and/or beef gravy, etc. A layer of mashed
potatoes works well at the bottom. A layer of biscuits can be added to the
Chop fine and saute with 1
chopped banana pepper (no seeds) and onion and spoon into tortillas; add
shredded Cheddar Jack cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped lettuce, salsa, sour
Sandwiches- Plain or add
BarbBQ sauce or other dressings.
(Philly Steak Sandwiches) Any
amount of steak which is left over from grilling may be stir fried in oil with
one diced onion and one diced green pepper. When the mixture is browned, place
an 8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese in the pan and cover, cooking on low heat,
stirring once in a while until melted. Serve on a toasted hoagie or sandwich
Chicken Salad (Kelly's
Chicken Salad recipe on the Main Dishes page is extra good!)
Pot pies and casseroles
(see for roast beef, above). Use cream of chicken soup, chicken gravy mix,
Burritos: Same as for
Roast Beef (green onion works well also). You can also add a layer of cooked
refried beans mixed with salsa.
Left-over Pork Chops
We often make Fried Rice
with frozen, left-over pork chops. Just dice the meat, and stir fry with
onion, celery, etc, until everything is lightly browned. Meanwhile, make
rice. (Boil 2 cups water- add 1 cup long grained rice (Uncle Ben's), turn down to Medium Low, and
cook with a lid on until the water is absorbed). Take out vegetables and
meat from frying pan, add more oil, and stir fry rice. Make a well in the
center and add an egg- scramble with fork until done. Stir all together,
then add a packet of Chinese Stir Fry mix, then soy sauce. Add meat and
vegetables back and warm well.
Hash is an easy supper to make
if you have 3-4 sausage patties left over. Peel and dice a few potatoes (at
least 4-6), and boil until just tender. Drain. In a frying pan, heat a
little oil on Medium heat. Add diced onion, diced green pepper, chopped
left-over sausage, and potatoes. Stir fry (adding oil if needed to prevent
burning), until lightly browned.
It seems like one of
the things that is difficult for new cooks to learn are the cooking
temperatures. These are the ones that work the best for me.
Frying: I will
stir-fry in a frying pan, but because of the fire risk, will never deep
fry in them. For deep frying (a few inches of oil), I will use a
stockpot on Medium Heat (never any higher). Medium Heat is the highest I
usually go for cooking unless it is pasta, which needs to be cooked at
just one notch down from high (and stirred often, cooked al-dente- still
slightly firm- not mushy, then rinsed). I always make pancakes at medium
Boiling: I never boil
meat; if I am making chicken (with bones) in water for a soup or just to
cook chicken, I would let the water come to a boil to get rid of
bacteria, then turn down to half way between medium and low (with a lid
on). If you don't have much water in the pan, you could simmer it on the
lowest temp (covered) until it's tender. (The recipe for Beef Stew on
the Main Dish page is cooked like this). I only boil water on
high, then turn down the heat one notch to prevent the water from
bubbling over. If I am cooking vegetables with water, they cook on
Baking: 350 degrees is
my average temperature for baking cookies, breads, covered casseroles,
roasts, etc. 325 degrees is my preferred temp for Butterhorn Rolls (they
don't burn at the bottom and turn a nicer golden brown) and cheesecake.
400 degrees is my usual temp for pizza. (I never go over 400 degrees-
but that is a matter of personal preference). Sometimes I'll turn the
broiler on to brown something on top but it needs to be watched very
carefully (don't leave the room). Meats should always have some kind of
liquid at the bottom; adding water to meatballs, roasts, or pork chops
can help them stay tender and not burn.
baked, or simmered on the stove. Don't overcook.
Fish: Fried or
baked, not too long.
Pork Chops: I wish I
have had better luck with frying them, but they always shrivel up on
me. I usually fry them on both sides with a little oil to get them
browned, and then bake them for one hour. (If you don't fry first,
they will be a grey color).
Flat Sausage- Fry
until light brown on both sides.
Link Sausage- Fry
with a little oil until all sides are browned. Be sure to pierce with
a fork while cooking.
Kielbasi- I slice
this into small slices, then stir fry it until browned. Then we eat
this with horseradish and red cabbage, mixed. (Good with fried
potatoes or pierogies).
Roast Beef- I
usually wait for rump roasts (which are most tender) to go on sale,
then buy a few and freeze them. I spray the stockpot with cooking
spray, then place the meat fat side up. Usually I cut onion into
fourths and add this. A packet of beef-onion soup mix really helps.
Beef cubes or base may also be used. Add water to bottom of pan,
cover, and let cook on 350 about 4-5 hours, until tender. You could
also add chopped potatoes and carrots before cooking- try to baste
these once in a while so they don't get dried out. Check on the roast
to be sure it always has water. (In a crockpot, you would add about 1
cup of water to meats that you cook). Roast beef goes very well with
mashed potatoes and gravy.
probably cook my hamburger differently from anyone else. I use the
leanest meat (93 or 95%), and cook on medium with a cup full of water
to prevent burning. (I will break it up but not try to chop it with a
pancake turner until it is near the end). Then, I will add water maybe
2 more times before it's done. The reason I do this is because without
water, it can brown but still be raw (pink) inside. Near the end I try
to chop very fine with a metal pancake turner.
Remember with meats
that they must look appetizing (golden brown color) to eat! Anything
overdone will be too tough/chewy, and anything underdone is
dangerous to eat.
Fish usually flakes
with a fork when done. Sausage is usually well browned but not
shriveled. Hamburger should be browned throughout (no pink). Chicken
and pork chops are tender but not tough.
Be sure to change your
fork or spatula, even when grilling! You don't want to have bacteria
from the raw meat transferred to the finished meat. Always lay your
utensil on a plate- not the stove or counter! Don't use the same
chopping board to cut raw meat, then vegetables. After cutting raw
meat, wash your sink, utensils, cutting board, and counter very well
with liquid soap and water before putting it into the dishwasher or
adding it to your dishes to be washed.
How To Make:
Peel dry potatoes (wet potatoes are slippery) and put in saucepan or
stockpot until you think you have enough. With a knife, cut through
all until they are in chunks. Rinse, cover with water; salt water. Turn
stove heat on medium and let cook until a fork will split them
easily. Drain into colander. Place potatoes back into pan and add a
chunk of margarine or butter (1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, depending on how
many you have), and a small amount of milk. Salt well. Mix with
mixers, adding more milk if needed. (Don't add too much milk or you
will have soupy potatoes). You want them to be smooth and thick.
Gravy: A pan which
has the grease left over from cooking roast beef or chicken is
always the best to use. Use water or stock, not milk. Gravy mix
helps the flavor a lot. I have made gravy many different ways. My
Mom's way is to put flour or cornstarch into a jar or tub with a
lid, add water, shake very well, and pour it into the pan, adding a
package of the same flavor gravy mix (and browning liquid if it is
beef gravy). Adding the juices from the meat always helps the
flavor! Salt and pepper to taste. Keep stirring this on medium heat
until it is gravy. I usually have more success with flour than
cornstarch. Another way to make it is to add a few TBSP. of grease
back to the pan, add enough flour to make a paste, and cook until it
is browned. Then add stock and juices. I have also done this with
the roast beef pan, putting the contents back into the oven, and
stirring once in a while.
Garlic Bread: Buy
or make 1 loaf of French bread. Melt 1/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
in microwave. Slice bread and spoon over each slice. Salt with
Garlic Salt. Place slices on a long piece of foil and wrap up well.
Place in the oven on 350 for 10-15 minutes or so.
Wash large potatoes. Piece with fork. Place in oven 375 degrees for
1 hour or until they are tender when pierced with a fork. When cool
enough to handle, "smash" on to a plate a few times. Then these open
up easily with your hands and are soft inside. Add butter or
margarine, salt, and pepper.
Drain 2 or 3 cans of Albacore White Tuna. Flake well with 2 forks
(giving any strange looking pieces to the cat or dog). Add 1 beaten
egg (2 if using 3 cans). Add enough crushed saltines to hold
together in a small ball. Melt margarine in frying pan and place
small balls in it. Let cook a while before trying to turn. Brown on
both sides. Salt and pepper if desired.
Home Fries: Wash 2
large potatoes (do not peel). Cut into slices on cutting board. Pour
1-2 inches of oil in stockpot- turn heat to Medium (no higher). Wait
until oil sizzles a little, then add potato slices. Let cook until
golden brown, turning once. Take out carefully with a slotted spoon
and place on a plate that has been lined with paper towels. Salt
well. Serve with ketchup. Repeat for more batches (don't cut up
potatoes until they are ready to fry or they will turn grey).
Whenever you have left-over mashed potatoes, save in refrigerator,
covered. (I usually make extra mashed potatoes just for this, as my
kids love these). To use, heat enough oil (on medium) in a skillet
to cover the bottom of the pan. Add about 2 cups of flour to a bowl-
sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix in. Use your hands to make
small potato patties- dip in both sides of flour mixture. Place in
pan. Let cook until these are golden brown, then turn. Drain onto a
plate lined with paper towels.
Omelet: Stir fry
1/2 cup or less chopped onion or green onion, green pepper (I keep
these cut up in the freezer and rinse in hot water before dicing),
and diced ham in a small amount of oil. After browning, take out and
spray frying pan with oil spray. Beat at least 6 eggs in a bowl with
a splash of milk. Add veg. and ham mixture. Heat pan to medium- pour
mixture into pan and cover. Let cook until top is no longer runny.
(I don't turn these). Slice pieces of Velveeta cheese and lay on
top. Add lid again and let sit until melted. I add pepper to mine at
the end but the Velveeta has salt in it so that's usually enough.
Some soups, like Potato, Broccoli or Cauliflower, Chili, or Cheese
Soup can be quick to make. Corn muffins or other bread goes well
When the Hillshire Farms Baked Hams come out at Thanksgiving, we
usually buy 1 or 2, then slice them, and freeze them in small
bags. It makes a very fast meal to take a bag out of the freezer,
place it in a frying pan with butter or margarine and brown sugar
(about 1/2 cup), and simmer on low until the ham is nicely
browned. This would go well with a homemade mac and cheese,
potatoes, or other quick side. It's nice to have a meat done
within 10 minutes!
Potatoes: Bake or microwave potatoes. Cook broccoli in water on
medium until tender; drain. Butter, salt, and pepper the potatoes,
then add broccoli, then Velveeta cheese. Microwave until cheese is
What Goes Well
It's usually wise to
do a meat, one starch, and a vegetable per meal. The starches are
potatoes, rice, and noodles. We don't always do the 3 together, but
it is an option. Usually 1 "fried" food per meal is enough. Pizza is
Meatballs, Baked Potatoes, And Green Beans
Noodles or Mac and Cheese, Broccoli
potatoes, Gravy, Roast Beef or Fried chicken, Corn
Mashed Potatoes with butter, Green Beans
Salad, Garlic Bread
Soup and Bread
(mostly in winter)
Hamburgers or Hotdogs (we like the Hebrew National Hotdogs),
Home Fries or Potato Salad
baked potatoes, salad (a good summer meal)