cooking

How I Make Mashed Potatoes

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Many of us love mashed potatoes, whether it’s with gravy or plain. No two versions are alike—nor are two formulas.

Because I have a short attention span and a tendency to be very impatient with food (but obviously polite), I try to get my potatoes to cook more quickly. That is because I cut them into small diced cubes and boil them.

Now why do I boil them instead of microwave them, you might ask? That’s because microwaving them tends to dry them out. Boiling them adds or retains moisture. I don’t know how, though, but it’s what I notice.

Another part of the process, which is mostly due to laziness, is leaving the peel on. That’s not a big deal. In fact, some say that potato peels are good for you. I’m not sure if that’s true.

Anyway, after the potato cubes are fully cooked and softened, I put them in the blender with salt, pepper, milk, and melted butter. Then I combine them. They come out creamy this way. Just be sure not to overmix, or else you’ll have dough-like potatoes. Unless you’re making gnocchi from scratch, I would recommend avoiding the doughy texture.

The amount of other ingredients will depend on your serving size and taste preferences. That is the beauty of savory cooking—there isn’t always a fixed formula.

cooking

A Trick to Crispy French Fries

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Most of us love French fries, even though too much of them aren’t healthy. Technically, that applies to everything, including food that is good for us. But that’s a different topic.

Anyway, many recipes will tell you to soak your fries for some time before you put them in the hot oil. I supposed that’s a good trick. However, here is the technique I use. It is far quicker and maybe even better. That is…to microwave your potato strips until they are soft enough to poke something all the way through them.

You could boil them, too. But then you have to wait for the water to heat up. Anyway, what I do is cut the potatoes into strips, microwave them till they’re soft (I can’t remember the number of minutes at the top of my head now), heat the oil in a pot or deep pan, put the potatoes in them, and cook them till I like them.

Did you notice that I omitted the peeling stage? You can still peel the skin off, as that’s conventional for making fries. However, I’m too lazy to do that. So, I keep the skin on. Believe it or not, the skin is actually kind of good for you. Or it’s, at least, tolerable.

Another thing to know is that if you use steel pans or pots, you need to heat the object first before you put in the fat, like oil. Then the base has to get hotter, too. Otherwise, your food will stick and cleaning up will be a pain in the butt.

So, there you have it. Does this sound like a good way to make French fries?

cooking

Sneaking in Veggies… Still So Delicious

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Who disliked vegetables in their youth? Many of you? I didn’t. But I’ve always had a stronger craving for carbs and sweets. Sometimes, in recent years, I didn’t even eat enough fiber.

But then I discovered that you can sneak in vegetables into your favorite meals, including sweets. Yes, you read that right.

Now I chop vegetables pretty small and put them in pasta dishes, mac and cheese, eggs, and more. I have also tried putting beets in brownies, which can actually work. But that one didn’t turn out good.

Anyway, if you’re going to sneak in vegetables into your food, whether it’s savory or sweet, here are some tips.

1: If you find chunks distracting in some dishes (which I do), you can chop them fine. But not too much—otherwise, they make the texture of your meal grainy. For instance, if you put overly finely-chopped veggies in mac and cheese, your cheese sauce becomes rough instead of smooth. I’ve used a blender, but unless you don’t mind the change of texture to your food, I would not recommend this. Honestly, you are better off chopping them on a cutting board. I know—it’s old-school. Yet, it gives you more satisfying results (this varies).

2: If you are making a dessert, be aware that some veggies work and others don’t. For example, while beets are okay in brownies, I would recommend against putting spinach or broccoli in desserts. They don’t mix well. You can use sweet potatoes or carrots, though.

3: Depending on your tastes, you can microwave, steam, or sauté your vegetables before you add them to your favorite foods. Like them firmer? Skip this step.

So, there you have it. You can still enjoy your favorite carbs and sweets (in moderation, of course) and sneak in veggies, whether it is for you, your kids, or anybody else. They may not notice at times.

cooking

Cooking for Those with Dietary Restrictions

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Do you enjoy cooking? I most definitely do. However, I know a few people with dietary restrictions. One has a peanut allergy. The other has a dairy allergy.

Although I’ve never had to cook for the person with the dairy allergy, the person with the peanut allergy has come to my parties in recent years. So I had to be very, very careful with what food I served and their ingredients. I ended up doing a lot of cooking from scratch as many commercial-made products are not safe for those with peanut allergies.

Sometimes, I’ve contacted companies for a definitive answer on, whether or not, the products were safe for those with peanut allergies. The one with dairy allergies ended up not being able to come to any of my parties. But I did go to one of his. His mom had baked him a special, dairy-free cake from scratch. I ended up not having it since I wasn’t feeling well. I left early.

Although it may seem like a bummer that you can’t serve something you enjoy because a guest has a certain food allergy, you can still figure out other ways and be creative. It worked out very well that I learned to cook from scratch when I was twelve. Otherwise, I would’ve had to travel far for a peanut-free cake (the bakeries near me are not safe for those with peanut allergies) or would’ve had to have my mom bake the cake. That would’ve meant giving up control.

Aside from cake, I’ve also learned to make ice cream from scratch as well as whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and much more. I, myself, have a mild tomato allergy. So my mom has come up with alternatives for certain recipes traditionally made with tomatoes. For example, she replaced tomato sauce with canned pumpkin. It still came out delicious.

Whether you have to accommodate for those with dietary restrictions or not, there is always room for creativity, like for health reasons. It can work.

cooking

Food, Wonderful Food, & Great Dietary Accommodations

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Nearly one year ago, about a month after graduating from college, I had developed an “allergy” toward tomatoes. Now why do I put the word, allergy, into quotation marks, you might ask? Well, although anything with tomatoes would cause my face to break out or my lips to tingle, I got tested for that, and it turned out to be an intolerance. So if somebody else consumes tomatoes around me, I’m fine. However, if I ate tomato products, it would lead to a problem.

For the next few months, I was let down on how I couldn’t have all those goodies I used to be able to enjoy, like marinara sauce, ketchup, salsa, barbecue sauce, and more. I would only be able to eat pasta with pesto, alfredo, or garlic and oil.  I would also have to ask about dish ingredients in restaurants.

However, in September, I found a new solution to my tomato intolerance. That was red bell peppers, which my body could still tolerate. I would make nearly everything I’d listed above (except barbecue sauce) with peppers. I would broil them, let them sit in brown paper bags, peel them, and prepare them like tomatoes. They taste a little similar, but not really close to alike.

Bu a few months ago, or so, I mixed carrots with peppers to make marinara sauce. And guess what? It really made a difference. The carrots made the sauce taste more like tomatoes than ever. And I didn’t receive an allergic reaction.

So if you ever develop an allergy or intolerance to certain foods, you can experiment with substitutions. I actually have a couple friends with dietary restrictions. One has come to my past parties in recent years. She is allergic to peanuts, which are in so many different products. I had to make a lot of my party food from scratch. Not only that, I would have to check ingredients and research them. I have even contacted companies to confirm, whether or not, the products had nuts.

You can always substitute ingredients for cooking, whether it’s for you or someone else. You would be surprised how easy it is and how much you can learn.