Saturday, July 28, 2018

It's All About Baby Steps

© Can Stock Photo / roxanabalint
If you've ever seen the TV show, Worst Cooks in America, on The Food Network, then you probably feel for the contestants. I know I do. It's so obvious that they lack the skills and self-confidence to prepare the dishes they're being challenged to make. I've been cooking for most of my life, and some of the dishes I've seen on that show would be challenging for me as well. What's even worse is they take away their recipes and their notes from the chef's demos. I know, it's just a TV show produced for entertainment purposes, but this isn't how you teach people to cook.

Cooking and baking, like any other skill, takes time to master, so if you're teaching someone how to cook you start them out with the basics. When I first started learning how to cook no one expected me to prepare chicken cordon bleu. They expected me to make french toast.

I started out learning how to cook bacon, scrambled eggs and the aforementioned french toast. Then I learned how to make hash browns. Yes, there is a pattern here. Traditional American breakfast foods are some of the easiest dishes to prepare, making them the perfect starting place for teaching a novice how to cook. And because it's hard to mess up scrambled eggs, their confidence grows. Beginners can start learning basic knife skills by learning how to prepare salads. I'm no Hamburger Helper fan, but it's a good place to teach a beginner how to follow a recipe and it's pretty much goof-proof. As the novice's self-confidence grows they can learn more complex recipes, such as beef stew, chili con carne, beef stroganoff, and so on.

The same approach applies when teaching someone how to bake. My mother started me with cake mixes and canned icing. From there I worked my way up to the cookie recipes on the back of the chocolate chip packages. Then I learned how to make casseroles. It's all about baby steps. 

Cooking is a life skill. We all have to eat, which means we all need to learn basic food preparation. Not everyone will become a chef, or even a great cook, but anyone can learn how to make simple dishes, such scrambled eggs, french toast, or a grilled cheese sandwich.


Monday, July 23, 2018

White Chicken Chili

© Can Stock Photo / roxanabalint

I love making chili con carne. It's one of my favorite comfort but sometimes it’s nice to take a break and try a different variation. This dish takes about the same prep time as regular chili, and it’s delicious.

White Chicken Chili

1 to 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1 small can chopped green chilies (4 oz)
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cans cannellini beans
2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup water
1 cup Monterey jack cheese
1 chopped jalapeno (optional)

Place olive oil in a 4-quart stockpot and cook the chicken, onions, and garlic. Once chicken is cooked all the way through add chicken broth, green chilies, beans and seasonings. Place cornstarch in a small bowl, mix thoroughly with water. Pour into the chili and bring it to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Top each serving with cheese and add chopped jalapeno, if desired. Goes nicely with cornbread on the side.

Variations: For a hotter chili, add the cayenne pepper. For a sweeter chili, substitute 1 can of corn for 1 can of cannellini beans.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Rosie's Recipe -- Fruit Honey Cobblers

My mother used to make yummy fruit cobblers, which she served for breakfast as well as dessert. Somehow I misplaced her recipe, but, luckily, while I was testing recipes Rosie's Riveting Recipes, I came across this gem. Originally published in my first historic cookbook, Anna's Kitchen, this recipe easy to prepare and it works with either canned or fresh peaches. It also leaves your kitchen smelling absolutely divine.



1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1 No. 2 1/2 can peaches, drained, or 6 fresh peaches, pared and sliced

Combine honey, cinnamon, and butter. Add peaches. Place individual baking dishes or custard cups. Use the following crust for topping:

1 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, (or 3/4 teaspoon double-acting)*
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
2/3 cup milk

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder, salt, and sugar; sift together twice. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk; stir until all flour is dampened. Drop dough on prepared fruit; spread evenly to edge. Bake in hot oven (425 F) for about 20 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned. Serve warm, with cream or hard sauce.

Note: Pitted cherries, apricot halves, or plums may be substituted for peaches.

Modern adaptation: A number 2 1/2 can equals approximately 3 1/2 cups. If using canned peaches two 15-ounce cans would be suitable for this recipe. Leftover peaches, if any, can be saved and used as a garnish. If custard cups are not available this recipe can also be prepared in an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.

*Most modern baking powders are double-acting.