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!

Onion Goggles

We recently bought a bunch of Vidalia onions from a kid in the neighborhood (it was a school fundraiser).  As much as I love cooked onions, I hate to cut them.  My eyes hurt horribly, and tear like crazy, when I cut or chop onions.  Which got me to wondering why this is. Turns out there is a very real reason for this reaction.  I could go into the highly scientific reason for the eye irritation caused by onions, but the dumbed down reason has to do with enzymes.  Cutting an onion damages their cellular structure, which in turn causes enzymes to change into various types of acids. These acids are released into the air, and eventually reach the eyes.  The tears caused by the air borne acids are meant to flush away the irritant. There are many suggestions on how to prevent eye irritation, including: Burning a candle while cutting onions Refrigerating onions before cutting them Freezing onions before cutting them Cutting onions under running water Cutting onions in a large bowl, while submerged under water Blowing the air away from your face while cutting onions (perhaps by using a fan?) Using a sharp knife to minimize cell damage Wearing special goggles I have tried most of the above suggestions, though I really can’t see cutting onions under running water or while submerged.  Really?  Who in their right minds is going to successfully chop onions in such conditions? For me, the only real relief from the extreme pain of cut onions is to wear onion goggles.  Apparently, some people are more sensitive to the acids that cause tearing...

Patt Miller Takes 2nd Place in Pizza Tossing

My last post was about a guy named Patt Miller.  It was about his bid to win at the World Championship of Pizza Tossing in Italy, in 2010.  I was so impressed with his tossing that I had to find another video. My one complaint about the previous video was that Patt was very small.  As impressive as his pizza tossing was, he was very hard to see.  This time, the video I found shows Patt closer up, which makes his dough tossing even more impressive. Check out all the wicked moves he has in the opening montage.  Flaming pizza dough, for crying out loud! And, did you see him roll the spinning dough across both his arms? My personal favorite move was when he juggled the dough.  Seriously, how does he do that? He certainly has his fans.  Either the person taking the video, or someone near him, was cheering quite loudly.  It is somewhat distracting.  Ignore it, though, and you are in for a treat. Patt Miller placed second in this particular competition (can you imagine what the first place performance was like?).  He has been working with pizza since he was 15 years old, and now owns his own restaurant.  Way to go,...

Pizza Tossing

This post is a little out of the blue because it does not have anything to do with cooking.  It is food related, though, so I guess I am keeping (somewhat) on topic with it. Do not ask me why, but I suddenly wanted to see a video of someone tossing a pizza.  Not like you might see in an Italian restaurant, but really good tossing.  Professional, even.  I did not know if such a thing exists, so I did a search on YouTube. You’ve just got to love that wonderful video channel!  Turns out that there are not only lots of videos of people twirling dough, but there are even pizza tossing competitions, with the most amazing tossing I have ever seen! The video below shows a guy named Patt Miller in one of the rounds at the World (!) championship in 2010.  It was held in Italy, which is so very appropriate. Check out the way he grabs blobs of dough and starts twirling them into flat pies.  He even juggles the dough, all while spinning it.  Amazing! Unfortunately for this guy, he dropped one of the pizzas, and this cost him a chance at the finals, and he ended up placing 7th.  It does not, however, lessen the “Wow!’ factor from me.  I could never do what he does, and he makes it look so gosh darn easy. I can only imagine how long it takes to learn how to toss pizza dough like this guy does.  Then, it would take years of practice to make it to the pizza tossing championship.  For me, I’m quite...

What To Do With Wilted Lettuce

Earlier this week my refrigerator broke (or so I thought – it just needed to be reset) and we had to move a lot of food from our kitchen fridge to our extra one in the garage.  While moving foods I noticed that we had some lettuce that was starting to wilt, and I wondered if there was anything we could do with it other than throw it out. Turns out, there is.  Some of you are probably laughing at me right now and know what’s coming up.  Just remember that I’m still learning how to cook, and go easy on me. I learned that you can cut up your wilted lettuce (this is lettuce that is not slimy or rotten, merely losing its water content and no longer crisp), then chop up a few garlic cloves.  Add some olive oil to a pan and heat it up, then add the lettuce and garlic.  Sprinkle some salt over the top, and saute it until cooked. I’m pretty sure this is what Asian cultures do on a regular basis, but it never occurred to me to do this before.  I shudder to think of how much lettuce I have tossed out when I could have sauteed it instead. Getting lettuce to last longer can be frustrating.  Sometimes it seems that it starts wilting after just a few days.  One thing you can do is buy lettuce by the head, instead of prepackaged, already cut.  It will last much longer if you cut it yourself when you are ready to use it, since prepackaged lettuce often ends up as wilted...

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

When it comes to comfort food, there are few foods that are better loved than chicken noodle soup.  Sure, you can buy it from a can, but making homemade chicken noodle soup is fairly easy, and tastes infinitely better. The biggest hurdle when it comes to making this in your own kitchen is the time required.  But, if you can find the time, then you and your family are sure to be pleased with the end result.        Print Recipe!     Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup Summary: It is worth taking the time to make your own chicken noodle soup from scratch. Ingredients: A whole chicken A head of celery 8-9 medium carrots 3-4 medium onions Bay leaves Basil Thyme No Yolks noodles Instructions: Combine in a large pot the chicken, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, 1/2 basil, 1/4 teaspoon cracked fresh ground pepper, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, and three bay leaves. Add enough cold water so that there is at least an inche of water above the chicken and spices. Cook for 30-40 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165° F. This is the beginning of your broth. Prep the veggies by cutting them into small pieces while the chicken is cooking. Set the cut vegetables aside. Add the scraps (NOT the cut veggies) to the broth. Scraps are anything you would normally discard, such as celery tops, onion skins, and carrot tops. Remove the chicken from the broth after it reaches 165°, and set it in a bowl to cool for about 10-15 minutes. Continue to cook the broth while the chicken cools. Set two...

Refrigerator Temperature

Two days ago my refrigerator stopped cooling.  At first, I thought someone accidentally left the freezer door ajar, and that this was the reason why the frozen blueberries I took out were partly thawed yesterday morning (which was a stupid assumption on my part, I now know).  I simply took some blueberries for my smoothie, put them back, and firmly closed the freezer door. Unfortunately for me, I went out of town for most of yesterday, and did not realize until last night that the problem was not with a door left open, but that the fridge was no longer cooling.  This became clear to me when my husband opened the refrigerator and said there was water dripping from the ice maker (our model has the ice maker in the fridge part, not the freezer).  A light bulb went on, and I realized we had a bigger problem. Fortunately for me, it was an easy fix.  After some research online, I found a possible solution that worked.  My refrigerator is now cooling again. This led me to wonder about what the best refrigerator temperature should be.  Who knows if it was cold enough prior to this problem, but I want to make sure my food stays cold enough going forward. With some research, I found that the ideal temperature range for the fridge part is between 35° and 38° F.  Any warmer and foods may spoil too fast, which can cause food poisoning when eaten.  Any colder and foods may actually freeze.  As for the freezer, the ideal temperature is about 0° F.  I will use my food thermometer...

Roasting Artichokes

Artichokes are a heavenly food for me.  Usually I eat my artichokes after steaming them.  Or, more often, I cook them in my pressure cooker. But as much as I enjoy them, I’ve been wanting to learn to cook them in the oven. Turns out, this is not hard to do (I didn’t really think it was, but I still avoided it). You will need to cut off the top of your artichoke.  You can hold on to the stem while cutting.  Remove about 1 1/2″ off the top. Next, remove the stem.  Be careful not to get hurt from the spikes on each leaf. Put the cut artichoke in a bowl, then squeeze a lemon over the top and bottom.  The juice on the top will help add flavor to the finished product, and the juice on the bottom will help keep the cut area from browning too much. Get a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.  Place the artichoke onto the foil.  It is important to use heavy duty foil, so that it doesn’t rip or tear during this process. Open the top of the artichoke a little, then use a knife to cut the middle.  Drizzle some olive oil over the top.  Stuff a garlic clove into the cut middle.  You can add more garlic if you are a garlic lover (I am!). Sprinkle kosher salt over the top.  Pour any lemon juice from the bowl over the top of the artichoke. Wrap the artichoke inside the foil, then wrap it again with a second piece.  You want to make sure it is tightly wrapped...

Chipotle Recipe for Wild Salmon

Love salmon but are unsure what to flavor it with?  Try this chipotle recipe. Make sure there are no bones in your salmon fillet.  You can do this by rubbing your fingers over the fish, against the bones.  When you find one, use a pair of pliers to pull it out.        Print Recipe!     Chipotle Salmon Recipe Summary: Chipotle gives your salmon zest that can’t be beat! Ingredients: 1 tablespoon chipotle pepper puree 1 lime 1 salmon fillet (deboned) Instructions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make the marinade by adding the chipotle pepper puree to a bowl, and juice the lime over the puree, and mix. Line a baking sheet with a sheet of aluminum foil, then place a wire cooling rack on top of the baking sheet. Place the salmon on the wire rack. This will ensure that the air flows all around the fish, not just over it. Coat the top of the salmon with about 2/3 of the marinade, then set the remaining marinade aside for now. Roast the salmon for about 15 minutes. Add the rest of the marinade to the fish, then continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Quick notes: This goes very well with French bread and a spinach salad. Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Number of servings (yield): 2 Meal type: main dish Want to make your own chipotle pepper puree, as seen in the video?  You can get the recipe for that at cookingrecipestv.com.  Maybe you have never paid attention to whether or not the salmon you buy is wild or farm raised, but you should.  Farm...

Mexican Marinade

A great Mexican marinade will add zest to chicken, pork, and fish.  Sure, you can buy marinade at your local grocery store, but why do that when you can just as easily make your own.  The end results are so much better when you have made the marinade yourself. This recipe is a combination of chipotle and pepper that has been pureed together, with fresh lime juice added to it.  When shopping for the chipotle peppers, look for one that is made with adobo sauce. Chef Brian in the video below used two cans of the chipotle peppers.  Add your pepper mixture to your blender, then puree it.  Scoop some into a bowl, and pour fresh lime juice over it.  If limes are not in season where you live, you can use lime juice from a bottle, but it won’t be quite as fresh tasting. Be generous with your lime juice, since you want this to be liquidy (is that a word?).  Mix is with some chipotle peppers until is is nicely combined.  Then, pour it over your meat of choice and let it marinade for an hour or more.  The longer it marinades, the stronger the flavor. Wondering what adobo sauce is?  I’m not afraid to admit that I didn’t know what it was.  Turns out adobo is Spanish for marinade, so that makes perfect sense why you would want to look for chipotle peppers that have been prepared in adobo sauce.  This is one Mexican marinade that sounds...

Olive Tapenade

Don’t reach for butter to top your bread.  Reach, instead, for olive tapenade.  It is one of the best ways to top the bread you serve with your dinner. If you are new to this term, it is pronounced “tep-ah-nod”.  If you are new to eating it, and you like French bread, then you are going to love this recipe!  You can easily make an olive spread that people are going to love. This is a recipe that originated in the south of France, which is probably why it is so good with French bread.  You can also serve this with chicken or fish. Olives are the primary ingredient for this condiment.  Pitted Kalamata olives are a great choice to use.  Be sure to make sure each olive really is pitted, so you don’t grind any pits with your olives when you add them to your food processor for pureeing. Use a nice, fruity olive oil.  Usually, the deeper the color, the better the flavor, so look for one that is a nice, dark green. Italian parsley is also a great option for herbs, though you can play around until you find the combination that works for you.  You can also add some black cracked pepper if you like it with a bit of bite. The video below shows you how easy it is to make this recipe. Closing_paragraph_here   Kalamata olives come from an area in Greece that is famous for their olives.  They are wonderfully flavorful.  Unlike more commonly known black and green olives, these are purple in color, though their color can deepen to dark brown or...

Beef Tea

Ever heard of beef tea?  If not, you are not alone.  Seems this is a recipe that was popular many years ago, but has gotten lost in time. One of my really old cookbooks has a recipe for beef tea, and it made me stop my browsing.  I mean, really, who has heard of making tea with meat? This is one recipe I am unlikely to try, and I make no promises on how it tastes.  But, if you feel up to the challenge and make this yourself, I sincerely hope you will share your thoughts on it in the comments below.        Print Recipe!     Beef Tea Recipe Summary: This is a vintage recipe for a drink that was popular many years ago. Ingredients: 1 pound lean beef 1 cup cold water 1 pinch of salt Instructions: Chop the beef until it is very fine. Add to a pot. Cover the beef with the cold water, then let it stand for one hour. Place the pot on the stove, and slowly heat the mixture. Stir frequently, and continue cooking until the water begins to change color. Strain and add a pinch of salt. Preparation time: 1 hour(s) 10 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes Number of servings (yield): 1 Meal type: drink Actually, after writing the ingredients and instructions for this recipe, it sounds more like beef broth than tea.  I have changed my mind.  This might be pretty good on a chilly day.  But, I think I’d rather have beef stew than tea.  Still, just the sound of beef tea is interesting to...

Hot Cocoa

Hot cocoa is one of those scrumptious drinks that brings us back to happy childhood memories.  Most recipes for this hot drink combine milk with sugar and cocoa powder, with a few additional items added here and there.  Or, you can buy premade cocoa mixes. Forget cocoa mixes.  Make your own!  While browsing through one of my old cookbooks, I found a recipe for cocoa that looks different than other cocoa recipe that I have seen before.  I hope you enjoy this.        Print Recipe!     Hot Cocoa Recipe Summary: This cocoa recipe is perfect for a chilly or snowy day. Ingredients: 1 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder 2 teaspoons sugar 2 teaspoons cold water 1 cup milk 1 pinch salt 2-3 drops vanilla extract Instructions: Combine the cocoa, sugar, and water in a pot. Cook mixture on medium-high heat. Add salt after it heats up. Scald the milk in a separate pot, then add to the first mixture. Add vanilla and mix well. Enjoy! Quick notes: You can add a dollop of whipped cream or marshmallows to your cocoa. Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: Number of servings (yield): 1 Meal type: drink Cocoa is something we take for granted today, but cocoa seeds (commonly known today as cocoa beans) were once used as a form of currency by the ancient Aztecs.  That speaks highly to the value that was placed on these chocolatey beans.  I am very grateful that today all I have to do is run to the store and pick up a container of cocoa powder, and that I can enjoy hot cocoa whenever the urge...

Baked Pear

This is a delicious and easy baked pear dessert recipe that bakes while you are enjoying dinner. Watch the video to see how easy it is to make.

Vanilla Wafers Recipe

As a child I loved eating Nilla Wafers, but it never occurred to me that I could make my own using a vanilla wafers recipe.  This morning I was pleasantly surprised when I found just such a recipe in one of my vintage cookbooks  😀 Of course, I just knew I had to share the recipe with anyone else who wants to make and enjoy these small, delicious cookies, so here goes:        Print Recipe!      Vanilla Wafers Recipe Summary: You can make your own vanilla wafers that you and your family are sure to love. Ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup butter 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift and measure the flour, then add the salt and resift it. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Beat the egg, then add the egg and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix together. Slowly add the flour mixture, and mix thoroughly. Grease a cookie sheet. Using a spoon, drop spoonfuls on a the cookie sheet, spacing the cookies several inches apart, so they won’t touch while baking. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the sheet and cool them on a wire rack. Preparation time: 10 minute(s) Cooking time: 10 minute(s) The classic Nilla Wafer was introduced in the late 1960s.  These crispy cookies are a favorite ingredient in pie crusts, vanilla pudding, and other desserts.  But for freshness, you can’t beat this vanilla wafers...

Clown Cookies Recipe

While going through one of my vintage cookbooks I found the following recipe taped inside.  It comes from a newspaper and I have no idea how old it is.  It is old enough, though, that the tape has dried and turned brown. The reason these are called clown cookies is because you can make clown faces onto them.  It sounds pretty good, though I admit I have not yet tried them.  I wonder if I can interest my children in trying this?  (Said with deep sarcasm, as I am sure they would give me a hearty “YES!” if I suggest this recipe.)        Print Recipe!     Clown Cookies Recipe Summary: These fun cookies can be decorated with the faces of clowns. Please rate this recipe in the comments below. Ingredients: 1/3 cup shortening 2/3 cup granulated sugar 1 egg 3 tablespoons milk 1/2 ready-to-eat-bran 1 3/4 cups sifted flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon cloves 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon mace 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/3 cup chopped seeded raisins Instructions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use a mixer to thoroughly blend the the shortening and sugar. Add egg and beat well. Stir in the milk and bran. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add to the first mixture, then slowly mix in the raisins. Mix well. Chill the mixture. Grease a baking sheet. Roll the dough to about 1/8″ thickness, then cut or use cookie cutters and place cookies on baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes. Remove cookies and let them cool on a wire cooling rack. When cooled,...

The Meaning of Simmer

Have you ever seen recipes in cookbooks that say you need to simmer water or something else?  Ever wonder what that means exactly? If you haven’t thought about it before, are you wondering now?  I am! Simmering in relation to cooking is when liquids are cooked to temperatures at or just below the point of boiling.  The purpose of simmering is gentler cooking than boiling.  This helps prevent foods from breaking up or getting too tough. If you need to keep food simmering, you can achieve this by bringing your food to a boil, then reduce the heat so that there are no more steam bubbles.  The video below provides a very short example of what simmering water looks like: fsfa  Water that simmers is kept at a temperature of about 200 ° F.  It is a popular way to cook stews and sauces.  And now you know the meaning of simmer and what it looks...

Baked Sweet Potato Recipe

Sweet potatoes are one of my absolute favorite vegetables to eat, so it just seemed natural that I would find a baked sweet potato recipe.  This is one that my family enjoys as much as I do. Well, not my youngest daughter, but she’s the poster child of a finicky eater… It is important that you wash the sweet potatoes before you cook them.  This will remove any dirt or bacteria that may be on the surface of them.        Print Recipe!     Baked Sweet Potato Recipe Summary: These baked sweet potato sticks or rounds are a wonderful side dish for steak or pork.   Ingredients: 8 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4″ rounds or wedges 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 teaspoon paprika (see alternatives in Notes below) Instructions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet (you can also use a pizza stone, but do not grease it). Combine the olive oil and paprika in a large bowl. Add sweet potato rounds or wedges, then use your hands to coat each piece with the oil/spice mixture. Transfer the potato pieces onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until done. Variations: Alternatives to paprika: A mixture of garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper (omit the chili powder if you don’t like spicy food) A mixture of basil, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese Preparation time: 15 minute(s) Cooking time: 40 minute(s) Number of servings (yield): 8 Sweet potatoes are nutritious and delicious.  I hope your family enjoys this baked sweet potato recipe as much as mine...

Fresh Egg Test

This morning I performed a fresh egg test on three eggs that have been in my fridge for a while.  I wanted to make sure they were still safe to eat before I used them. You can do this simple egg test yourself to make sure your egg is safe for eating and has not turned into a bad egg.  This is an important thing to do, especially if you are unsure how long an egg has been in your refrigerator, or they are past their expiration date, before you use it in a cooking recipe or eat it. To begin, get a wide glass, mug, or pitcher and fill it with cold water.  Clear containers work best so you can see the egg from all angles, not just from the top.  Cold water is a must for this test.  If you are worried that your water is not cold enough, add ice cubes. Place your egg in the water and let go.  A fresh egg will quickly drop to the bottom, as if it is a rock.  If your egg drops a bit slowly but bounces a lot at the bottom, then it is starting to get old, but is still okay to be eaten. If, however, your egg floats at the top of the container, it is an expired egg and should be thrown away.  Do not use an egg that floats or you risk getting seriously ill. It is important that you follow egg safety.  Store your eggs in the cartons they are packaged on the lower or middle shelfs.  Do not store them in the...

How To Peel Garlic

Now that I know the proper way to crush garlic, I figure I should back up a bit and learn how to peel garlic.  You can’t crush it before the cloves have been peeled, right?  Well, I suppose you could, but the end result would be a bit less pasty than I’d want… If you have a beautiful garlic clove, set it on your counter or cutting board and apply pressure on it with the palm of your hand.  You don’t have to press very hard, since you are not trying to crush it.  The purpose of this is to loosen the individual cloves. Now that the cloves are free of the, um, whatever it is called (yeah, that was pitiful, I know…), throw away the papery covering.  Now you will need to get a large knife and place it sideways onto an individual clove. You will carefully hit the blade of the knife with the palm of your hand, but be very careful!  If you don’t have it just right on the clove, the knife can roll off the garlic clove and cut your hand. If you have done this correctly, the skin of the clove will come off very easily, and your hand is intact. Although there is a slight element of danger in peeling garlic, it looks a lot easier than the method I have been using. Up until now, I was removing the garlic skin with my fingers, and would occasionally get paper cuts underneath my fingernail.  This method of how to peel garlic will be much more user friendly on my...

How To Crush Garlic

I don’t know how to crush garlic.  This was not something I had ever thought about until earlier tonight.  This realization happened while I was looking through one of my cookbooks, and I found a recipe that required crushed garlic.  After some consideration, I came to the conclusion that it was probably an easy thing to do, but I this was something I needed to know. Fortunately, I found a video that shows that it is, as I suspected, easy to do.  This learning how to cook thing isn’t as hard as I thought! First, you need garlic cloves that have been peeled and chopped up a bit.  Then, sprinkle some salt onto them.  Apparently, this is to act as an abrasive so the knife won’t slip around. Use a large knife and hold it at a 45 degree angle over the garlic.  The woman in the video says to push through the garlic, but it looks more like she is pressing scraping at the same time.  This will be repeated several times until the garlic turns into a paste. I am ever-so-grateful that recipes don’t require crushed onions.  Garlic cloves don’t make my eyes sting and cry the way onions do.  Through the wonder of video I now know how to crush...

Cooking Gadgets

FTC and Affiliate Disclosure

TheStrugglingCook.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

FTC Required Website Disclosure: You should assume that the Owner of this Website has an affiliate relationship and/or another material connection to the providers of goods and services mentioned in this website and may be compensated when you purchase from a provider. You should always perform due diligence before buying goods or services online. The Owner does not accept payment or merchandise in exchange for the articles themselves. They are written objectively and with honesty.

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This