cooking

How I Make Mashed Potatoes

Image from Pixabay

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

My Experience with Cooking Seafood

Image from Pixabay

I love seafood, both fish and shellfish. Now these days, though, I prefer shellfish more, not just because of the taste and textures, but also that they’re quicker to make.

Sometimes, you can have lobsters steamed in the grocery store. However, that varies. Sometimes, you can buy just the tail. Other times, you have to pick something else.

That’s the thing with seafood. Its availability is not always consistent, especially if it’s fresh. I suggest buying the wild-caught kinds as farm-raised seafood can have some issues about them. I’ll stop there with that.

Anyway, there are a lot of ways you can cook seafood. The sky is pretty much the limit. With certain shellfish, though, it’s best to steam them. Those include lobster and shrimp. You can boil them, but then they lose their flavor. Maybe that also removes their nutritional value.

I learned to steam them after boiling them for a while. Guess what? They tasted better—way better. I like to have butter with my lobster and garlic seasoning on my shrimp.

Regardless of all this, some people can’t eat seafood, whether they’re allergic or for other reasons. But it’s rare that I’m in situations like that.

I will admit that driving has spoiled me a bit and made me too lazy too cook at times. Instead, I’m getting takeout. However, I want to change that—at least slightly.

My family has been kind of strict with protein at every meal, certainly when I was a kid. Now they’re more laid back. Yet, because of that guideline from the past, I’ve kind of developed that rule as a routine. If I don’t want meat or poultry, I get seafood.

cooking

A Trick to Crispy French Fries

Image from Pixabay

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

Making Mac and Cheese Without Following a Recipe

Yeah, you read that right. You probably would look at me like I had four heads. But I assure you that this is correct.

It’s no easy task making a meal without a recipe. However, the reason I did that was because I couldn’t find the recipe anymore. Thankfully, though, I’ve used that one enough that I had it pretty much memorized.

That being said, I made a lot of the mac and cheese—perhaps too much. Without a recipe in hand, I couldn’t cut the measurements in half. So, I just had to estimate.

I probably used half a box and elbow pasta, a quarter cup of butter and flour, some salt and pepper, maybe a teaspoon of mustard powder, two cups of milk, and two 8-ounce packages of shredded cheddar cheese. After I cooked the macaroni, I mixed the other ingredients in a pot, blended it in with the pasta, topped remaining cheddar on the mac and cheese (so it doesn’t burn), and then baked it for 10 – 15 minutes. It still came out delicious.

I’ve been cooking since I was twelve. I’m now 25, and will be turning 26 in November, a couple months from now. Anyway, have you noticed that it’s easier to cook savory dishes without a fixed recipe than sweet dishes? That is because there are necessary precise chemical reactions that need to happen for the sweet food to successfully cook. With stovetop savory meals, you have more freedom.

cooking

Sneaking in Veggies… Still So Delicious

Image from Pixabay

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

Why I Microwave My Potatoes Before Cooking Them

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Many of us enjoy potatoes in various forms: roasted, mashed, baked, fried, and so forth. We eat them at home, in restaurants, and more.

However, when you make them at home, do they take longer to cook? Are they not as soft or crunchy as commercial potatoes?

If the answer is yes, I have a trick for you: microwave them before you cook them. Okay, this obviously depends on how you cook them. If you’re baking or boiling them, then microwaving is unnecessary. But if you’re frying or roasting them, it saves you a ton of time and impatience, especially if you’re in a bit of a hurry.

When the potatoes are already soft, they cook faster. You may have crunchier fries, hash browns, or roasted potatoes. If you like scalloped potatoes, they will be softer when you put them in the oven. Say goodbye to undercooked potatoes.

So next time you make French fries for you or anyone else, consider microwaving them as you heat the oil or oven, depending how you prefer to cook them. I hope this trick works for you as it does for me. Also, if you can, try to use not-very-old potatoes. They get crystalized after some time.

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Mmmm… Mac and Cheese Made of Brown Rice Pasta

Doesn’t that look delicious? If you say so, then you’re with me. In fact, as the title says, that is not regular macaroni in the picture. It’s made out of brown rice. It tastes pretty good, believe it or not.

And best of all, the pasta is only a few ingredients, such as brown rice and water. That is certainly a lot different from traditional boxed pasta brands, need I also say healthier too.

The cheese sauce recipe, however, was pretty typical. Shredded cheddar, milk, butter, flour, and so forth. The mustard powder, however, is the key to making the sauce taste good. I’m not kidding—this all depends on your tastes, of course. At least I prefer cheese sauce with mustard powder. In fact, I am starting to like mustard the condiment. But that’s a different topic.

Where do they sell brown rice pasta, you may ask? Specialty grocery stores, like Whole Foods. I have never seen them in typical supermarkets, such as Stop & Shop. Yup, many specialty stores sell products other mass-market places do not. You could probably also buy it off the Internet too.

Brown rice pasta may cook more quickly as well. I don’t really remember, honestly. Often times, I mix in the brown rice macaroni with the regular kind. In fact, that was what I did most recently.

However, I’m starting to consider cutting down on the white pasta. Pasta has been harder to enjoy since I’ve developed a mild tomato allergy anyway. Bell peppers can be good substitutes for marinara, vodka, or meat sauce. But it’s not the same. So aside from alfredo, pesto, and garlic and oil sauces, cheese sauce is my most preferred option.

In fact, I like my mac and cheese baked more than stove top. I’ve experimented with many different recipes. Few have become irresistible.

One thing I’ve learned to avoid were mac and cheese recipes calling for eggs. It’s only good the first time and then it’s like scrambled eggs. Flour is the winner—at least if you like to bake your mac and cheese. And the post stops here.

cooking

My Life with Making Steak

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Image above from Pixabay

Cooking steak is no piece of cake. I’ve been cooking since I was 12 and it wasn’t until recent years that I made full steaks by myself. Before, I would ask my dad or I would cut them up into strips.

If you like steak, you probably know that steaks are cooked rare, bloody, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, or well-done. I like mine medium-rare.

That can be challenging in order to avoid salmonella-poisoning. One trick I learned is to press lightly on a cooking-steak. If it bounces back immediately, it’s cooked and safe to eat. You don’t necessarily have to stick a knife into the steak and check the inside. You can, though, especially if you’re new to culinary arts. Another thing to know is that steak should sit a few minutes to let the juices out before you serve or eat it.

As soon as I knew how to cook a full steak, my method is patting it dry, seasoning it with salt and pepper, cooking on the stove in butter, and putting it in the preheated oven for as long as necessary. Recently, I’ve learned that meat cooks best if you let it sit to room-temperature. It really does make a difference by becoming more tender and cooked.

I would like to marinade my steaks, too. However, that requires a lot of time. My problem is that I decide to cook things last minute. I want to change that habit, though.