This is a page of tips for those just learning to cook.

Most of what I know I learned from family...

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 for me.

 

 

Left-overs

 

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 nutrients).

  • 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 top.

  • 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 cream, etc.

  • Sandwiches- Plain or add BarbBQ sauce or other dressings.

 

Left-over Steak

  • (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 bun.

 

Left-over Chicken

  • 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, or both. 

  • 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.

 

Left-over Breakfast Sausage

  • 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.

 

 

 

Cooking Temps

 

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 heat.

  • 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 medium.

  • 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.

 

 

Cooking Meat/Methods

 

  • Chicken: Fried, 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.

  • Hamburger- I 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:

 

  • Mashed potatoes: 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.

  • Baked potatoes: 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.

  • Tuna Patties: 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).

  • Potato Pancakes: 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.

 

Quick Meals:

 

  • Homemade Soups: Some soups, like Potato, Broccoli or Cauliflower, Chili, or Cheese Soup can be quick to make. Corn muffins or other bread goes well with this.

  • Sweetened Ham: 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!

  • Broccoli Cheese 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 melted.

  • Omelet

  • Chef Salad

  • Tacos

 

 

What Goes Well Together:

 

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 good alone!

  • BarBQ Meatballs, Baked Potatoes, And Green Beans

  • Ham, Alfredo Noodles or Mac and Cheese, Broccoli

  • Mashed potatoes, Gravy, Roast Beef or Fried chicken, Corn

  • Tuna Patties, Mashed Potatoes with butter, Green Beans

  • Lasagna, Salad, Garlic Bread

  • Soup and Bread (mostly in winter)

  • Grilled Hamburgers or Hotdogs (we like the Hebrew National Hotdogs), Home Fries or Potato Salad

  • Grilled steak, baked potatoes, salad (a good summer meal)