Written by Kacee Eddinger
Success in the kitchen is not always guaranteed. If this is your first time cooking, or if you avoid it as much as possible because of past failures, here are some tips to improve your experience:
An ever important thing to remember while cooking is that it requires your attention. I’m not saying you can’t jam out to Pandora while you cook, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the food so that it doesn’t over cook or make a mess. If you have kids, spouses or friends who want to talk while you’re cooking, just ask them to help you keep an eye on the food. If a recipe does tell you to let something simmer, or that you can leave a meal alone for a while, remember to check back periodically.
When I was first cooking for myself, I realized the absolute necessity of timing my food. The more you cook, the less you need a timer, but if you live in a distracting environment and need to step away from the food (it needs to cook unattended for a few minutes, something else needs your immediate attention but will only take a minute, etc) just set a timer so that you remember to come back and check on the food.
Read a recipe twice (and then follow along as you go)
This is a trick my mom taught me when I was first learning how to cook, and it’s something I tell all of my friends. When first learning a new recipe, reading it multiple times gives you the general order of how to add ingredients, and what to do next. I find it also relaxes me, because since I have a better idea of what to do, less will go wrong. Make sure to have a copy of the recipe readily available to check occasionally.
Cooking is an art, baking is a science
As you begin to grow more confident with your abilities around the stove and oven, you might want to try new things with old recipes. Just remember: cooking is an art, baking is a science. You can vary recipes, but things that you bake, especially with sweets, are often best left less varied. When you put something into the oven to bake, you often don’t know how it’s going to turn out until it has finished, because you can’t see what it’s doing. Whereas, when you cook something on your stovetop, it becomes much easier to notice when the food is cooked. You can even do a taste check to see if a recipe needs something else.
Have Fun and Practice
It may be a touch cliché, but here’s the fact of the matter: you probably aren’t going to burn down your kitchen. Even if you’re a nervous cook, you will probably come out of a cooking experience with something edible and notes for next time. Don’t stress over cooking. Grab a friend, your spouse, or even your kids and have a fun experience together. Also, the more you cook, the better you’ll get. You’ll learn from the recipe books, but also from experience. So keep trying, and you’ll do great.
To get started, try these simple recipes:
I’ve been making Salmon patties since I was kid. They’re also one of my favorite foods, and since I’ve started living on my own, I’ve made them a lot. I don’t have a particular reference for this, except for my mom. Thanks, mom.
Oil or Crisco for frying
1 can of pink Alaskan salmon
1-1 ½ cup bread crumbs
Lemon powder or zest
I. Heat skillet on the stove at medium heat. Add oil or Crisco to pan while it is still cool. You need at least enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but you can go up to an inch high of oil or Crisco (the oil is better for you than Crisco, but the Crisco gives the patties an nicer golden brown finish).
II. Open and drain canned salmon. You can either dump it into the bowl how it is, or clean out the bones and skin. Mom always said the bones and the skin were good for me, and you really cannot tell the difference. The bones are also soft enough to mash up, or chew through.
III. Once salmon is in the bowl, add eggs and mix together with a wooden spoon or your clean hands. If you have kids they might enjoy squishing the egg together with the salmon.
IV. Gradually add bread crumbs. Every batch of salmon patties is different, so you’ll always need a different amount. Start with about a half cup and add gradually from there, mixing well each time.
V. After about a cup of bread crumbs stop and make patty. If you’ve never made one, scoop up some salmon mix with your hands, and roll it into a ball. Then press it between your hands—the patty should be about the size of your palm. If a lot of the mix sticks to your hands, then it’s still too wet, but if there are a lot of cracks around the edge of the patty or it doesn’t hold its shape, then it’s too dry. Add a little mayo to break it up. A patty that will hold its shape, doesn’t have too many cracks or isn’t too sticky will be just right for frying.
VI. At this time, you can add any extras that you like. I typically put in a little mustard, lemon powder, pepper and garlic just to give the patty a little extra flavor. You can put a little slice of cheese in the middle of patty, and it will melt as it fries. But they’re your patties so use whatever you want! Just remember not to add salt to the patties—the packaged fish is salted to keep it fresh, and you’ll want to throw a little salt on it after it’s done frying to help drain off the oil.
VII. Test oil with a small bit of salmon to see if it fries. If the oil is hot enough, slide the patties on to the pan. You can usually cook two to three at a time without much trouble. Fry until brown on one side and then flip. If it’s not brown enough, you can always flip them over again. When both sides are brown, lay patties out on a double layer of paper towels. Salt lightly, or you can use powered parmesan cheese in place of the salt.
I’ve made so many batches of chocolate chip cookies in my life, I’ve lost count. This dough is based on a recipe you’ll find on the back of every bag of Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chips, but I’ve made adjustments over the years for a perfect dough.
1 cup / 2 sticks of butter, soft but not melted
1 cup of brown sugar
½ cup of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
2 ½ cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
I. In a medium to large bowl, mix together softened butter, brown sugar, sugar and vanilla. Make sure the butter is soft, but not runny or melty. If the butter is runny your cookies will be too.
II. Add in one egg and beat until incorporated. Add second egg and beat until incorporated.
III. In a separate bowl, add together flour, salt and baking soda. You may sift if you like, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t.
IV. Slowly add flower mixture to the butter mixture. The dough should start to thicken.
V. When flour mix is fully incorporated with the butter mix, you should have your dough! Add in chocolate chips, nuts, fruit or anything else you would like. Almost anything tastes great with this dough.
VI. From here you can bake them at 375°F for 8-12 minutes, until the cookies are brown, chill for a day to make the dough easier to work with, or freeze to bake another time. Dough will last 6-12 months in the freezer.