I don’t cook.  Although I can cook, I simply don’t know what to cook, or how to put a balanced meal together.

Well, it’s time I change that.  I’ve been married for over 15 years, and it is high time I figured this whole cooking thing out.  Plus, I have two young daughters.  If I don’t teach them to cook, who will?

The funny thing is, I’m a great baker.  I love to bake.  So, why can’t I cook?  I think it’s because when I bake, I’m making just one thing (usually a dessert).  Meals usually only have one dessert.  But the main meal should consist of several options.  There can be a salad to start the meal, a main dish, and one or two side dishes that include at least one vegetable.  That’s simply overwhelming to me!

Are you in the same boat as me?  Then come along as I struggle to feed my family meals that contain more than just one dish.

Are you an experienced cook?  Then feel free to offer me advice, or to simply laugh at my efforts.  You won’t hurt my feelings, since I already know what an awful cook I am!

Why Cauliflower?

For some unknown reason, I have been craving cauliflower over the past few days. What makes this really odd is that I don’t really like cauliflower and can’t remember the last time I ate it. Perhaps there is something healthy in the pretty white vegetable that my body needs? So now I’m left wondering, “Why cauliflower?” The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t even know why the thought of eating cauliflower popped into my head, but it did and it won’t leave. We shop at Sam’s Club (a membership store) and Publix (a typical grocery store similar to Kroger’s or Safeway) and when I went shopping this past weekend at Publix I looked in the freezer section to see if they had any frozen cauliflower with cheese sauce. I couldn’t believe that they didn’t. The only thing they had was frozen cauliflower with garlic and that didn’t sound tempting to me. I have no idea how to prepare fresh cauliflower so I think I’ll browse through my many recipe books and see if I can find a recipe that looks good. If I try one I’ll be sure to share which one and how it was. Hopefully I’ll be able to satisfy my craving...

Unusual Pizza Ideas

Last night we had pizza. Two, in fact. One was sort of a Mediterranean pizza while the other was a typical mix of pepperoni and sausage. Nothing very interesting. This got me to wondering if there are unusual pizzas, so I did a bit of research. Turns out there are a ton of pizzas that don’t follow the norm of cheese, meats, and/or veggies! If you haven’t ever thought about unique pizzas, then you are in for a treat. People have put some serious thought into how to make unusual pizzas, and you may be surprised by a few of the creations. I know I was. It’s time to think outside the (pizza) box with unusual pizza toppings. This post is dedicated to bringing you unusual pizza topping ideas that you may not have considered before. Enjoy! Crab and Pineapple Pizza Talk about your unusual pizza toppings! I wouldn’t have ever thought of combining crab and pineapple, but this has gotten pretty good reviews. I suppose you need to like crab to consider making this. Click here to see the Crab and Pineapple Pizza recipe Chicken and Cranberry Pizza (with Brie and Almonds) This sounds delicious! Some people thought it was a little bland as instructed, so jazzed it up by swapping out the brie and using asiago or blue cheese instead. A sweet onion would also be a good addition. If you have leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, you could substitute the chicken with turkey. Click here to see the Chicken and Cranberry Pizza recipe Chocolate Peanut Butter Pizza Oh, I think I would die and go to Heaven...

I’m Having Fun With My New Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

Wow! I just realized that it has been a very long time since I last wrote a post. As much as I wish I could say that I have become  a fabulous cook during my absence, the truth is that I’m still struggling. The good news (for me, anyway) is that I’ve cooked more in the past few days than I typically cook in a month or two. The reason for this is because I bought a new toy, a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker is an Instant Pot brand, and is their most recent model, the IP-DUO60. As much as I would like to take credit for making this purchase, credit needs to go to my husband. He’s the one who suggested I get a pressure cooker. The funny thing is, I already have a pressure cooker, but rarely use it. I’ve had it for about seven years and have probably used it less than 10 times. It’s a really nice electric model but something about it held me back. The Instant Pot, on the other hand, is an awesome cooking machine! This has me wondering why I ignored one model and have embraced another. I’m not entirely sure yet of the reason why, but part of it is because the Instant Pot makes things super easy. If you look at the image above you will see a lot of buttons. Almost every one of those buttons is a preset function. [contextazon id=’1′] For example, last night I made steak chili and used the STEW / CHILI button to cook it. All I needed to do after that...

I’m Still Here (and I’m Still Struggling to Cook)

Wow!  It wasn’t my intention to take an extended vacation from this site, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing.  My sincere apologies for my absence.  It was caused by multiple visits from family members, and my husband was gone for 10 days this summer.  All of this resulted in me getting out of several routines, including cooking and posting on here. For those who are wondering how I did with cooking while I was quiet here on the site, well, to be honest, fairly horrid.  Yes, I am still struggling to cook. I made very few family meals.  On the plus side, while my husband was gone for 10 days, I fed our kids balanced meals each night.  Granted, I didn’t stray far from such staples as grilled cheese and spaghetti.  The good news is that I included good sides for the meals, such as yogurt, fresh fruit, and tomatoes. Since my husband’s return, he has been on a diet.  I’ve been good about making him spinach salads and cooking salmon that is pre-marinaded.  He loves the salmon (I get it at Sam’s Club – it’s the only place I can find it).  Unfortunately for me, I hate salads and salmon, so this is made just for him, and not for the family. I’ve been cooking the salmon on my George Foreman grill.  The more I use my indoor grill, the more I love it!  It’s amazing versatile.  I will probably create a video and post about my grill.  It has add-ons and isn’t a basic Foreman grill, which is why I will probably create a video....

Celery With Peanut Butter

The other night I was struggling with dinner, unable to come up with a vegetable to add to our meal. Fortunately for me, my eight-year-old came up with a solution to my dilemma. She said she wanted celery with peanut butter. At first, I thought this was a rather stupid suggestion, but since my youngest is a picky eater, I decided to humor her. As I carefully spread the peanut butter over the celery stick, I realized that I had not given this to her in many years. Nor had I tried this combination in even more years. As I stood there looking at the celery, I cut off a small piece for myself. I was careful to eat it without my daughter seeing me. And then I smiled. You know what? It was good! Something as simple as celery and peanut butter might seem like a rather childish thing to add to a meal, but give it a try. The coldness of the celery was refreshing, and the nuttiness of the peanut butter was the perfect compliment to this vegetable. And the best part is that the peanut butter is a great source of protein, which is something I know we all need.  After giving it a moment’s thought, I decided to add this simple side dish to all our plates. If you want to try cooking with kids, then this is something that you can let your children make.  Just give them a butter knife, a jar of peanut butter, and clean celery sticks.  Sure, it might be a bit messy (or a lot messy, as it is with...

Cleaning A Pizza Stone

Last night my husband, being the great cook that he is, baked a pizza on a pizza stone that we have.  We’ve had this stone for a while, but I have to admit that I’ve never been sure of the best way of cleaning a pizza stone.  Now that I am faced with having to clean ours, I decided to look up the proper method for cleaning a baking stone. After watching the above video, I realize I’ve been cleaning my stone incorrectly.  To properly clean your own baking stone, you will need the following items: Wooden spatula Soft nylon brush Hot water First, don’t wait for your stone to cool down (this is an error I’ve been making).  Use the wooden spatula to scrape any excess food off the stone while it is still warm.  The scraped off food will reveal darker colors in the stone.  Don’t worry about this.  The stains won’t be removed, and are completely normal. Next, turn on the hot water and run it over the stone.  Take your nylon brush and use it to scrub the stone while the water is running over it. Do NOT use soap or any type of cleaning product on your stone.  This is important because any cleaning products you use will be absorbed into the stone because it is very porous.  The next time you bake with your stone, it could release the soap or chemicals and your food will taste like soap or cleaners. Rinse your stone, then dry it completely with a dry towel. You can give your stone a good deep clean by placing...

The Best Fire Extinguisher For Your Kitchen

This might seem like a strange post to add to a cooking site, but it actually makes sense.  I have a fire extinguisher in my kitchen, and I sincerely hope that you do, too. A very good friend of mine actually had a kitchen fire that destroyed her kitchen in a matter of minutes.  Her fire started when she was heating up grease in a pan for cooking.  She stepped away for just a moment, and returned to see flames.  She did not have a fire extinguisher to put it out (luckily, no one was hurt). Finding the right fire extinguisher for your kitchen is not easy. You need an extinguisher you can use for kitchen fires and small household fires, which is easy to use and move around.  You don’t want it too big because you need to fit it out of the way where it is easily accessible. Tests were done on fire extinguishers designed for small home fires.  These were tested in a fire practice area with cement floors and metals walls. Small extinguishers are often more effective and they are easier to handle.  Bear in mind that you only have a short period of time to stop a fire once from when it starts, after that you must call 911 and evacuate the area. Some of the common kitchen fire starters are grease and kitchen towels catching alight.  Being able to grab your extinguisher, read the instructions and get the fire under control within a short period of time is what determines the best fire extinguisher for the home. Some extinguishers that were tested made...

Cut Like a Professional Chef

You can cut like a professional chef using a knife to slice herbs, dice onions or cut meat.  The best part is that is not at all difficult. Use this new technique to make mince herbs or dice onions in front of friends when cooking, making you look like a pro. There are two main grips when using a knife.  The first is the handle grip where your thumb and forefinger are on the handle of the knife.  The second is the blade grip where the thumb and forefinger hold the top of the blade of the knife; this grip also gives more control over the tip of your blade and is easier if you have large hands. Using your non knife hand is essential to direct your knife when cutting, enabling you to make even slices.  You make this hand into a bear like claw and tuck your thumb behind your fingers and away from the blade. For this example we are going to pretend you are cutting an onion.  Cut the onion in half and then place the flat side down on a chopping board, use your bear like non knife hand to stabilize the onion on the board.  Place the flat side of the blade against your knuckles and push down and forwards, making a perfect even slice. When slicing the whole onion, use the curve of the blade to guide you, as you push the blade down and forwards in a nice fluid motion.  As you slice ensure that you keep the blade of the knife against your knuckles and slowly move your knuckles back...

Cooking Pasta

Cooking pasta is one of the easiest things you can cook, and can be eaten at any family meal or dinner with friends.  Adding exotic herbs and spices to your sauce can give a wild taste of flavors from hot chilli to traditional bolognaise whichever suits your fancy pasta always goes down a treat. If you are cooking for four to six people you will need at least a six quart sized pot, if not bigger.  Add four quarts of water to avoid the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When your delicious sauce is almost ready, bring your water to the boil.  Add your pasta along with a tablespoon of salt to add some taste.  Pasta is very bland in taste so a little salt will add that zap of flavor. Stir immediately after putting in your pasta to prevent it from sticking to the pot.  Now here is the interesting part, adding oil to your pasta water is a normal to prevent it from sticking, but did you know that oil prevents the sauce from adhering to the pasta? So whatever you do, do not add oil to your pot. Cover the pot until it is boiling again and keep stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Check it regularly for texture.  Most people prefer their pasta al dente, which means it still has a little bit of a bite to it. Once your pasta is cooked al dente, take a little bit of pasta water out of the pot and put it into a separate jug.  Pour your al dente pasta into a colander and...

Salt Storage

One of the things I do is buy food in bulk.  Yep, I love Sam’s Club!  But, this also causes problems with how to properly store excess amounts of food.  Some time ago I bought a large box of salt, but did not know about proper salt storage. Now, so much time later, I have a box of salt that has clumped together an no longer wants to pour out of the box.  When I went to use my salt last week, and it didn’t pour out, I realized it was time for me to figure out the best way to store large amounts of salt. What I learned was actually basic, common sense.  Some of you are probably going to roll your eyes at what I found, and wonder why it took me so long to figure this out.  Yep, it’s that simple. To put it bluntly, salt should be stored in an airtight container.  That’s it. The reason why makes sense, now that I have researched this matter.  Salt is a mineral that is water soluble.  Moisture in the air will cause salt to stick together.  I live in a very humid climate, which is why my salt turned into a rock and stopped pouring.  The container that the salt came in is nothing more than a cardboard box.  It has the little mettle pour spout that pulls out for use, and pushes in when done.  This is certainly not airtight. Another thing I learned has to do with salt that has been seasoned with herbs.  Exposure to air will cause the herbs to diminish in flavor,...

When Should I Cover The Pot?

Since I am a struggling cook, there are many things I do not know.  One of those things is, when should I cover the pot with a lid?  I hate to admit this, but I’m not even sure why I would want to do that, let alone when. I’ve done a bit of research on this topic, and I found out that there are times when I should, and times when I shouldn’t, use the lid on my pots.  The use of a lid seems to depend on what is being cooked, and how long it is being cooked. For example, if I am steaming green vegetables, and they will be steamed for more than five minutes, then I should not use the lid.  Why?  Because the green veggies will release volatile acids that need to be released into the air.  Using a lid traps the acids in with the veggies, and this causes the veggies to turn grey (yuck!). If I am boiling water to cook pasta, which requires a large amount of water, a lid is good to use at first.  This will help retain the heat and cause the water to boil quicker.  But, I need to remove it once the water starts to boil and I add the pasta. Also, if a recipe calls for using a lid, use it.  If not, ditch the lid.  Using a lid when one isn’t called for can cause excess moisture to collect inside the pot or pan.  This can result in soggy food, or meat that hasn’t browned properly, or gotten crispy. So, now I have a much...

Creamy Asparagus Soup Recipe

This recipe is one that I found in one of my vintage cookbooks.  I am a huge fan of asparagus, as well as soup, and this is a great combination. The recipe comes from a booklet called, “The Good Provider’s Cook Book.” The book promotes the use of evaporated milk in recipes and it was published by the Borden’s company, makers of evaporated milk. I couldn’t find a publication date on the book but during my research I found that it was published in 1948.        Print Recipe!     White Sauce Recipe Ingredients 3 TBLS butter 3 TBLS flour 1/2 tsp salt 1/8 tsp pepper 2 cups Borden’s Evaporated Milk 2 cups water 2 cups vegetable puree made from the discarded asparagus stalks* Melt the butter in a double boiler, then add flour, salt, and pepper. Stir until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the evaporated milk and water. Slowly add the combination to the double boiler, then stir until it thickens. Continue cooking mixture for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. After fifteen minutes, add the puree. Increase temperature to bring contents up to the boiling point. Use a utensil to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, but don’t let it boil. It is done just before it boils. *Vegetable puree is not commonly used anymore. It was something cooks did (and some still do) to use the outside leaves and other course parts of a vegetable. I found a website that does an excellent job of explaining how to make vegetable puree here. Or, you can substitute baby food, such as carrots, if you don’t want to be...

Knife Sharpening

Yesterday my oldest daughter made it clear to me that she wanted me to cut up a watermelon we had bought.  I figured this out after hearing her sharpen a rather large knife. Knife sharpening is not a skill I have taught my children.  I’m not sure that it is a good thing for my 11 year old to have taken this on herself.  But it made me realize that I honestly do not know the proper technique when it comes to keeping my knives sharp.  The block they came with includes a long, metal sharpener (which I just learned is called a steel), but my use of it has been haphazard at best. It is one thing to read how to properly sharpen a knife, and another to see it in action.  So for this lesson, I turned to the Internet.  As you can imagine, I found a video that showed me exactly what I need to do.  It also shows how to tell if your knives are sharp enough or have dull blades.  This was something I had never considered beyond my rubbing my finger ever-so-carefully along a knife’s edge.  I also found out that even sharp knives can act dull if not properly sharpened. After watching the above video, I realized that I have been sharpening knives wrong.  I’ve been holding the knives upside down with the blades pointed up, not down the way the man in the video showed.  Looks like I have a new project – to go sharpen all my kitchen...

Softening Brown Sugar

Both light and dark brown sugar are ingredients in my favorite banana bread recipe.  It is not uncommon for me to reach for my brown sugars and find that one of them has hardened. This is easily preventable, and I have changed my ways so that softening brown sugar is something I no longer need to do.  You can follow these easy tips so that your brown sugar doesn’t harden, either. Air Tight Container An air tight container is one of the best places to keep brown sugar.  This is what I do these days.  My brown sugars are each kept in a Tupperware container that keeps the air out. Ziplock Bag A bag that zips closed is also a great place to keep brown sugar.  The reason I did not go with this solution is because bags are not easily organized.  I’m anal, and want my cupboards to look neat and tidy.  Using air tight containers allows me to stack containers while maintaining a sense of organization. Refrigerator You can also store your brown sugar in the refrigerator.  I haven’t tried this, so I don’t know if you can simply use the bag or box it comes in, or if you should transfer it to a different container. Softening Brown Sugar That Has Hardened The reason brown sugar hardens is because it looses moisture.  You can try any of these methods to bring moisture back to your brown sugar: Place a slice of bread into a ziplock bag, then add your brown sugar.  It will take the duration of a day for the brown sugar to absorb the...

How To Crack An Egg

As you might already know, my refrigerator recently stopped cooling.  The contents inside were subjected to room temperature for too long, and we had to throw away a lot of food. Sadly for us, I had just bought a pack of 18 eggs (we like eggs) and the entire pack was no longer good.  At least, I wasn’t willing to use any in cooking recipes to find out if they were still good.  So, my stepdaughter gleefully tossed each and every egg down the disposal. It was only after she was done that I realized we had missed a great opportunity.  We could have used all the eggs to learn how to crack an egg properly. Although that opportunity is now gone, that doesn’t mean I can’t still learn.  Instead of using rotten eggs, I decided to find a video to teach me to break an egg the right way.  Truth be told, I’m glad I did, because I now know that I’ve been cracking eggs the wrong way for pretty much my entire life by cracking them on the side of a bowl. The video below taught me that cracking an egg on the side of a bowl or on a counter can cause small pieces of egg shell to mix in with the egg.  Not good. The proper way to crack an egg is to break it on the flat surface of your counter, and then pull the two egg pieces apart.  This will allow the egg to drop safely into the bowl without any egg shells going with it. All this time I’ve been so close...

Three Ways To Peel Garlic

Garlic is a favorite in my household.  Both my husband and I love to add it to whatever we are cooking (when appropriate to do so, of course!).  But one of our challenges with garlic is peeling it. This led me to wonder if there is an easier way than what we have been doing, which has been to cut off the top, then peel it with our fingernails.  This has led to more than one cut under the nail, and I’m tired of the pain. The answer is, yes, there is a better way to peel garlic cloves.  In fact, there are three: Use a Knife This method is great for when you want to mince garlic.  Take a large knife (aka a chef’s knife) and press down on the clove with the flat side of the blade.  Be careful not to cut yourself. Peel off the skin, then proceed to mince the garlic. Use a Roller This works best when you need to use a whole garlic clove.  Use the E-Z-Rol Garlic Peeler and place the clove inside the roller.   Using the palm of your hand, press down on the roller and roll the clove back and forth several times. Remove the clove from the roller, and peel away the skin. Use the Microwave Place a garlic clove on a microwave-safe plate, and cook it on High for 10-20 seconds to loosen the skin from the clove. Allow the clove to cool, then peel away the skin. I am so glad I took the time to research this!  Peeling garlic will never again be painful for...

Behind The Scenes of America’s Test Kitchen

One of the cookbooks that I find myself returning to time and time again is my “The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.”  It is full of recipes, as well as great kitchen tips and advice.  What I did not know when I bought the book was that it is based on a TV show called “America’s Test Kitchen.” They are devoted to trying out both recipes and gadgets so they can recommend only methods or items that work.  In other words, they do all the hard work, or buy all the kitchen gadgets, so we don’t have to.  We get to benefit from their hard work. The video below shows their Gadget Guru, Lisa McManus, talking about this very thing. It is pretty awesome having a group of people testing out gadgets, and then sharing their results.   As someone who loves, and has many, kitchen tools, this is very helpful. America’s Test Kitchen is a 30 minute cooking show that has been on the air since  January of 2001.  It is still being produced, with no end in site.  It was created by Cook’s Illustrated, which is a very popular magazine for cooks. I have not yet seen the show, since I only recently learned about it.  But, I look forward to finding it on my local cable lineup and watching.  No doubt this show will help me on my quest to learn how to...

Watergate Salad

When I think of Watergate, I think of political misbehaving, or a famous hotel.  Salad would never have come to mind.  So, imagine my surprise when I found out there is a salad called the watergate salad.  I was even more surprised to find out it is more of a dessert than a salad (which I associate with leafy greens). This is one of the best recipes I have found for those who enjoy cooking with kids.  There is no cooking involved, nothing being heated on the stove.  It is just a matter of combining ingredients, mixing, and chilling.  Easy!        Print Recipe!     Watergate Salad Recipe Summary: This is the same thing as a Pistachio Pineapple Delight. No matter what you call it, it is yummy! Ingredients: 9 oz frozen whipped cream, thawed 1 3.4 oz package of instant pistachio pudding mix 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple 1 cup mini marshmallows 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) Instructions: Combine all ingredients, except walnuts, together in a bowl, and blend until creamy. Place bowl in the refrigerator to chill and set, at least 10 minutes. Add nuts (if you are using them) and stir into mixture. Spoon into bowls and serve. Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes Number of servings (yield): 8 Meal type: dessert My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s) The history of the watergate salad is shrouded in mystery.  From what I could find, it was a dessert salad created by Kraft.  It seems they named their newly-created salad Pistachio Pineapple Delight.  Somewhere along the line, someone changed the name, though when, where, or...

Scotcharoo Recipe

One of the silliest names for a treat is the scotcharoo recipe.  I think that might be why it is so popular among kids.  “Hey, Mom.  Can we make scotcharoos?”  It’s kind of catchy, isn’t? Scotcharoos are a variation on the more traditional Rice Krispie Treats.  They are a bit more involved, but worth it because they are scrumptious! This is a great recipe for kids to make, with a limited amount of adult assistance.        Print Recipe!     Scotcharoo Recipe Ingredients: 1 cup light corn syrup 1 cup sugar 1 cup peanut butter 6 cups Rice Krispie cereal 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips 12 oz butterscotch chips Instructions: Grease a 9×13 baking dish. Pour the Rice Krispie cereal in a very large bowl. Mix the corn syrup and sugar in a sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until it almost boils. Add the peanut butter to the sauce pan once it reaches the point of almost boiling. Stir well to combine. Pour the mixture into the large bowl with the Rice Krispie cereal. Mix well. Pour the hot mixture into the greased baking dish, and pat it down with a spatula. Pour the chocolate chips into a microwavable bowl and cook until they are melted. Once melted, add the butterscotch chips. Place back in the microwave until they are melted. Pour chocolate and butterscotch mixture over the baking dish, and smooth over the Rice Krispie mixture with your spatula. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap, and let everything cool. You can eat them once they are done cooling. Variations: You can also add miniature marshmallows to the...

Organize Your Refrigerator

My husband loves salad dressing.  Seriously.  At any given time we have about 10 different types of dressings in the fridge.  Imagine how much fun it is sorting through all those bottles to find what you want.  It drives me nuts! Well, I have come up with a way to organize your refrigerator.  My solution?  To use plastic storage totes.  That might seem like a strange thing to put in your fridge, but it actually works really well. The reason the totes work well is because I can remove one tote and have easy access to all the dressings, or whatever else is in them, without having to rummage through the refrigerator itself. If this doesn’t make sense, then watch the video below.  I show you exactly what I have done to our refrigerator, and what the storage totes look like. The totes that I am using are called shoe box storage containers.  The are made of plastic and are approximately the size of shoe boxes.  I use them in just about every room of my house, and have found that they are incredibly versatile when it comes to storing and stacking.  They are pretty inexpensive, and will help you organize your refrigerator, just as I have...

Cooking Gadgets

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