Cooking (and Baking) 101
For my major project in ECMP 355, I have chosen to learn how to cook GOOD meals. You might be wondering how I have survived the last 4 years without cooking…..well, I always had a nice little “room and board” set up for university, so I have not have to cook that much! So for my project, I will be learning how to cook. When I read the options, I thought this would be such a cool project because I can learn a life skill that I need to learn how to do soon anyway, AND use it for my project! I will try to primarily get recipes and ideas from the internet and then document how they went, but occasionally I might want to try a recipe from a cookbook. In that case, I will take a picture of the recipe and include it on my blog.
I have just recently learned how to use Pinterest, and have made a board entitled Cooking & Baking Ideas, specifically for this project. The link is: My Pinterest Board for my recipes. Here you will find the recipes I have used, but I will also include them with each journal entry I make as well.
My beginning: As much as I do not want to admit this, I do not have a large background in cooking meals. It has always been something that has been on the back of my mind, but I have not made a specific point of doing it yet. I always thought, “Cooking probably is not that hard, I just have to make a point of learning how to do it”. I am very excited that now is that chance! I will be doing homework, but I will actually be enjoying it and it won’t seem like homework! At the moment, I have seen people use various kitchen appliances and tools, but I do not know the ins and outs of them all, so I hope to learn more about those during this process. My bare experience in the kitchen includes things like baking cookies, cinnamon buns, muffins, and my home economics class in junior high school.
February 3, 2013 ~PEROGY CASSEROLE~
I scanned Pinterest for ideas of what to make for supper and I came across a perogy casserole dish. The recipe can be found at Perogy Casserole. I made some alterations to the recipe based on what I had. Instead of using mushroom soup, I used cream of chicken and I could not find the cheese chives & bacon dip mix the recipe called for so I did not include that. I have never really made a casserole dish, and I thought it would be a good place to start with my adventures int he kitchen. I took a couple pictures of the process:
Before going in oven
The finished product
Review: It was good….although I am not a huge fan of onions…so I wouldn’t use as much onion next time. One other thing, I would make sure I cook the bacon thoroughly before putting it in the casserole dish to go in the oven. I like crispy bacon, and mine was not cripsy at all. I wasn’t exactly sure how much I was supposed to cook the bacon beforehand, but now I know! So there are a few things I would change if I made it again, but it was a pretty good first attempt!
February 9, 2013 ~PUFFED WHEAT CAKE~
Some of my students from my internship were coming to play a hockey game in my hometown, so I decided I wanted to bake them something they could take on the road with them after their game. I decided on puffed wheat cake, and then found a recipe on Pinterest for puffed wheat cake that sounded like it would turn out well. The recipe can be found at Puffed Wheat Cake Recipe, or also on my Pinterest board (link at the top of this page in introduction paragraph).
The recipe says bring first 4 ingredients to a boil (should take approximately 10 minutes), but to make sure I wasn’t going to burn the mixture, I pretty much just slowly stirred it the whole time. I wasn’t really sure what heat setting to put the burner on either, so I went with Medium (~6). The first batch I made, I did not pre-measure out the 12 cups of puffed wheat, so I quickly did that while the chocolate syrup mixture was cooling right after it had boiled. I made 2 batches, one after the other, following the exact same steps. By the second time, I had the process figured out and was hardly using the recipe. I also learned that constantly stirring the chocolate syrup mixture and pre-measuring the puffed wheat cake into a bowl makes the process much smoother.
The finished product!
Review: The puffed wheat cake turned out really well and was very easy to make. I was very pleased with the taste, texture, and relative softness. My students said it was very good! I would definitely use this recipe again with no alterations. Also, I have been learning a bit about nutrition along with this project, and athletes are supposed to consume carbohydrates within 30 minutes after physical activity. According to the National Coaching Certification Program handbook, an athlete’s recovery diet after physical activity should consist mainly of carbohydrates, some protein, and a little bit of fat. Salty snacks that are relatively low in fat (such as pretzels or salted nuts) are also recommended. According to FatSecret Canada, puffed wheat cake is about 78% carbohydrates, followed by 17% protein, and 5% fat. Therefore, puffed wheat cake is a good snack for athletes after a game.
February 11, 2013 ~CHICKEN AND RICE~
Tonight I had to make a quick supper in between my lab and night class and I did not have time to look up and try a new recipe. Therefore, I made the only supper meal that I am familiar with: chicken and rice. I defrosted the chicken in the microwave, cut it up, then cooked it in a frying pan. While the chicken was cooking, I made minute rice in a pot on the other burner. One thing I am very leery about with cooking meat is being sure I do not use any utensil I have used with raw meat to serve the meal. Since I am new at cooking, I am also a little paranoid about thoroughly cooking the meat. I left the chicken on the burner until it just started turning golden brown to ensure it was done. As the meat was finishing cooking, I added a couple tablespoons of HP teriyaki sauce to the frying pan for flavor.
The finished product!
Review: The meal was good for not having a recipe! It was quite simple to make, and took about 25 minutes total. Minute rice is extremely easy to make and only takes about 10 minutes. If I were to make this meal again, I would add more HP teriyaki sauce or else find a recipe that actually has a different sauce you can make and put on chicken.
February 14, 2013 ~CHOCOLATE FONDUE~
For Valentine’s day, I wanted to make something simple, but unique. I came across the idea of fondue. I do not have a fondue maker, but I did some research and figured out that you do not have to have a fondue maker…you can just use a normal pot! The recipe for the fondue can be found at: Chocolate Fondue for Two or on my Pinterest board. At this point in my cooking adventure, I am getting a little more familiar with finding the ingredients in the grocery store, and these ingredients were very quick and easy to find. I did not use any Carob chips because I was not entirely sure what they were, however, I did use the chocolate suggested in the recipe. Since this was my first time making fondue, I did not try any of the ideas for varying the flavor of the fondue base. For the dippers, I used fresh strawberries (my favorite), bananas, and pink lady apples. I learned that there are over a dozen different kinds of apples! Usually a grocery store only has a few to choose from, but I had to rack my brain for which type of apple I liked.
I was very careful to stir the chocolate on LOW heat to ensure it did not burn. Lastly, I decided not to put the fondue in muffin tins like the recipe suggests, but instead, drizzle the chocolate fondue over the cut up fruit on the plate:
Review: The chocolate fondue turned out wonderfully! The drizzling style uses less chocolate than if we would have dipped each piece of fruit I think. The clean up for fondue was kind of messy. While the unused (leftover) chocolate was still in liquid form, I poured it into a container and let it cool off on the counter. Then, I put it into the freezer so it would harden and could be used again for either fondue or baking.
February 18, 2013 ~SLOW COOKER CHILI~
Since I am home for Reading week, I thought I would take advantage of the kitchen supplies my mom has, and make some meals while I am at home. One kitchen appliance I have not used before is the slow cooker. I found a recipe for chili using a slow cooker and tried it. The recipe can be found at: Slow Cooker Chili Recipe or on my Pinterest board.
The recipe calls for a table spoon of olive oil, but I decided to skip this in order to make it healthier. I also skipped the tablespoon of ground cumin because I did not have it in the kitchen. As for the toppings, I left the sour cream, cheese, green onions, and hot sauce as optional to each person who ate the chili.
The finished product!
Review: The recipe said the preparation time would only be about 15 minutes, but it took be a little bit longer as I was unfamiliar with the recipe. Once you prepare the meal, it just sits in the slow cooker all afternoon and is ready when you get home! I was able to make this at lunch time, and put it on “Hi” to cook for about 5-6 hours. As long as you have time during the day (lunch break), slow cooker meals are a great idea! This meal tasted great, I think that was due to all the spices and ingredients, and it was really easy to put together! There weren’t too many places I found that I could go wrong with this recipe, or where I was unsure of what I was doing, so that makes it user-friendly.
February 20, 2013 ~LASAGNA~
One meal I absolutely love, but yet to learn how to make is lasagna. This time I decided to see what YouTube videos existed for showing me how to make lasagna. Since I did not want to watch a 20 minute video on how to make it, I found this edited cooking show video, which I was able to watch over and over as I was making it. I had my laptop handy in the kitchen and paused whenever necessary. As I was browsing, I noticed that cooking shows and cooking show videos on YouTube are a VERY good way to learn how to cook because you can literally see what they are doing and exactly when and how. I found this video very easy to follow and left me with no questions as I attempted my own lasagna. Click on the picture for a link to the YouTube video:
Here is the process:
Review: The lasagna was delicious! I think I could have added more mozzarella cheese on the top layer just to finish it off, but that is just a personal preference. Using the YouTube video to learn how to make the lasagna was great, because it showed me exactly how I was supposed to assemble the lasagna. I was grateful for my mom’s cheese shredder that is an addition of her Bosch mixer so that I did not have to shred cheese by hand! I also could have maybe made the meat chunks smaller as I was browning it, just so the meat was uniform throughout the entire lasagna (some pieces had a little larger chunks), but this is a minor thing. I would definitely use this recipe again because I like the fact it has ground beef. As I was searching YouTube for lasagna videos, I watched quite a few that used either Italian sausage or just tomato sauce (no meat). Overall, really good experience making this!
With all of this cooking and baking, I decided to go onto Sears Canada website and look at some appliances I will want for my kitchen in the future. In my experience this last month, I have stumbled across some appliances/gadgets that make cooking and baking a lot easier. So far, I have used my mom’s Pampered Chef onion chopper which has saved oodles of time, as well as her Bosch cheese shredder (an appliance that goes with her Bosch mixer), and her CrockPot slow cooker. Here are some pictures of the appliances I will be keeping my eye open for in the next couple of months:
February 22, 2013 ~APPLE CRISP~
I have always loved apple crisp and wanted to know how to make it, so I decided it was time! I find Pinterest really quick and easy to find good recipe ideas because I can quickly scan all the pictures, then click for the original website, and decide whether or not I want to use that recipe. Although videos are very helpful at the step-by-step instructions, I find that I spend more time searching for recipes because it takes a while to watch each to find out if they are the recipe I want to try. You can find the recipe at Martha Stewart Apple Crisp or on my Pinterest Board.
For slicing the apples, I used my mom’s apple corer which saved me tons of time. I did not have to hand peel and slice up the apples, so this is a must-have in the future! Here are pictures of the process:
Review: I found this recipe very user-friendly and gave clear instructions that were easy to follow. From my experience making lasagna, I remembered to spread the topping mixture evenly and to all the corners too. The apple crisp turned out wonderfully and was so delicious! One of my favorite desserts. I am getting more and more comfortable in the kitchen and usually after making something I think, “Hmm, that wasn’t so hard”.
February 23, 2013 ~STIR FRY~
Today, I needed to make something fairly quick after I went snowboarding all day. After thinking about stove-top meals I could make in less than an hour, I came up with stir fry. I grabbed a recipe off Pinterest and started cooking. The recipe can be found at: Simple Chicken Stir Fry or on my Pinterest board.
After many discussions with my mom about cooking this week, I am realizing it is usually the fact that many things need to cook or bake for a long period of time, and that’s why people try to make quick and easy things. I was surprised at how little the prep time for many of these recipes was. I also got thinking about how many people work until 5 every day, do not come home on their lunch break, and therefore have to whip up supper in about an hour after a long day at work. This realization led me to a great reason why stir fry is such a good supper meal: it is quick and easy, and still healthy!
Review: The chicken stir fry was such a tasty meal and took about 30 minutes from start to finish with very minimal clean up involved! I learned (from searching for stir fry recipes) that I could have sliced up all the vegetables, which would have taken more time, instead of using a ready-to-go-package. If I had the time, I might have tried cutting up all the fresh vegetables, but for making a quick “after work” meal, I will probably use a bag of mixed vegetables. For the rice, I used Minute Rice instead of the Long Grain White Rice the recipe suggests. I also found that you have to ensure that you have enough sauce to cover all meat and vegetables…it doesn’t hurt to add a little extra if it is looking scarce. I would definitely use this recipe to make chicken stir fry again..it was a success!
February 24, 2013 ~CREAMY SCALLOPED POTATOES~
Another favorite “supper” item of mine is scalloped potatoes. I know that I like creamy scalloped potatoes, so I searched those exact words in Pinterest for a recipe. The recipe for the scalloped potatoes can be found at: Savory Scalloped Potatoes or on my Pinterest board.
Review: For chopping up the onion, I again used my mom’s onion chopper and was so thankful I did not have to chop the onion by hand. However, I did not have a potato slicer, so I had to slice those by hand! The recipe calls for dry mustard and nutmeg but I do not overly like mustard, so I skipped that and I did not have nutmeg on hand, so I did not use that either. The recipe was great and very user-friendly. The scalloped potatoes turned out good, however, I think it had too much of an onion taste for my liking. Next time I will not use a whole onion I don’t think. I found out that making scalloped potatoes is quite time consuming, as you have to slice all the potatoes and bring the mixture of milk, butter, onion, flour almost to a boil. Bringing the mixture almost to a boil took longer than I anticipated. Also, you have to be home for a while before the meal is to be served in order to prepare the potatoes and then allow them to cook for about an hour. One thing I liked about this recipe is it included the nutrition facts!
March 1, 2013 ~CHICKEN QUESADILLAS~
I needed to make a fairly quick meal that I could prepare all at once (not like chili or lasagna which needs a long time to cook), so searched “Chicken suppers” in Pinterest and came up with Chicken Quesadillas! I have had chicken quesadillas at restaurants, but have never made them. After scanning the recipe (can be found on my Pinterest board), I figured this would be a fairly simple meal and I could do it quite quickly. I had all the ingredients beforehand, so that was handy! Not having to cook the chicken ahead of time is great because it speeds things up. I skipped the scallions because I don’t overly like them.
Review: I realized when I was making the quesadilla that I had to be careful to overfill it. I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough to catch that it said “put shredded cheese on one HALF of the tortilla”, so I learned the hard way that I had too much inside when I tried to fold it over. That was a quick fix. I made two, so on the second one I did it properly 🙂 The quesadilla turned out so good! The second side cooked faster so I had to be careful and watch for that. It tasted just like at the restaurant! I will definitely make these again because they are great for a weeknight meal.
March 1, 2013 ~CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP~
I have always wanted to know how to make chicken noodle soup. So instead of looking at a Pinterest recipe, I decided to use another resource: my mom’s recipe! By now, I can usually find what I need in the grocery store quite quickly.
Chicken Noodle Soup:
– 1 Chicken broth (900 mL)
– bag of fine egg noodles
– 1 “pillow pack” of precooked chicken
– OXO powder
On high heat, heat broth on stove. Add a cup of water. Put a tablespoon of OXO powder and bring to boil. Put quarter of package of noodles in. Keep it boiling. 15 mins to cook. Add chicken in the last 2 minutes. Serve hot.
Review: It was nice to have someone face-to-face to run by any questions I had. Although, this recipe was very straight forward and easy to follow. Everything went very well with this recipe, and it was very tasty soup! The amount this recipe makes is about 3 large bowls of soup, so I had leftovers to freeze. Using the OXO CHICKEN-flavored powder probably enhanced the taste, so I would recommend using that. Something I learned today because I cooked two things at the same time (chicken quesadillas and chicken noodle soup) is that cooking requires some organization and it’s pretty busy when you have 2 things on the go. Also, I was planning out what to make tonight and tomorrow and realizing that cooking also requires thoughtful planning. I am a little frightful of the day where I have to cook full meals (maybe even desserts too) every day forever!
March 2,2013 ~CHICKEN ALFREDO~
One of my favorites to order at a restaurant is Chicken Alfredo, so I thought I would try making it! I came across a lot of recipes that I could use where they made their own sauce or they blackened the chicken…but since I am a “beginner” cook, I figured I better stick with a simple recipe! Here is the recipe or else you can find it on my Pinterest board. The recipe did not call for garlic bread, but I added it as a side. I have never made garlic toast before, but I knew you could buy the “ready to serve” stuff, so that is what I bought! I chose to use whole wheat linguine noodles, “Our Finest” Alfredo pasta sauce, and 3 medium sized chicken breasts. The recipe calls for 3-4 cups of chicken, but the chicken breasts were frozen (thus I could not measure them until after cooked), so I just used all 3 chicken breasts.
Review: It turned out very good! I was very pleased with the result. I will use this recipe again, and maybe even next time I will attempt making my own Alfredo sauce to add a challenge. I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to mix chicken in with the Alfredo sauce and noodles or just lay it on top of the noodles. I decided the chicken would be pretty plain and dry if I just laid it on top afterward. I mixed the chicken in with the sauce and noodles and then the chicken took up the sauce and was very tasty. Because I had so much chicken, I had to use two different frying pans, so I felt like I had a lot on the go at once: two pans with chicken, noodles boiling in pot, and garlic toast in toaster oven. I was trying to time everything just right, and I did manage to do quite well but the garlic toast was done about 5 minutes after everything else. The whole meal took me about 40 minutes to make and serve. I kind of guessed on the amount of noodles to use (I was cooking for two) and I ended up with one serving of leftovers, so it was perfect! I think with more experience I will better at estimating food portions. Since I am not cooking for more than 2, I find it relatively easy to estimate.
On Saturday, March 2, 2013 I did my wedding gift registry where I had to pick out a whole bunch of kitchen appliances! I found this process to be stressful because I wanted to make sure I scanned everything I wanted as well as found matching sets of kitchenware I liked. The positive is that I can always return and exchange after the wedding if I get doubles or things I decide I want to trade in. I was very grateful that I had this small cooking background when I was scanning kitchenware because I at least knew most of the things I will need. If I did not do this project, I would probably not have known what kitchen tools I will need for cooking and baking in the near future. I realized how much work it is to set up a house/kitchen from scratch! There are so many tools I need and I learned that some of them I will only use on occasion but they are necessary. I am still feeling a little unsure if I have completed my list, but I can always add to the list or buy the things I forgot to scan.
March 14, 2013 ~Chocolate Yogurt Granola Bars~
I have always wanted to try to make homemade granola bars because they always look so good! There are tons of recipes out there for these, so it was hard to know which one would be the best! I went to Pinterest and searched for homemade granola bar recipes. One of them had chocolate drizzled on top and included yogurt. I thought this was quite original, so I chose this one to make! The recipe can be found on my Pinterest board. I was intrigued by this recipe because it used Greek yogurt. Here is the process:
Review: I decided to use 2 cups of quick oats instead of 1 cup of quick oats and 1 cup of rolled oats because after talking to some reliable “cooks”, they told me that quick oats are what are used for baking. So I altered the recipe in that way. I was also running low on honey unfortunately 😦 For the chocolate chips, I decided to use a mixture of milk chocolate and dark chocolate. I also added some almond shavings on the top to finish it off! They were very good and I would make them again, however they did not stay together overly well. I think maybe this is because I ran out of honey…or else the recipe needs to call for more honey or peanut butter. Something that will make them stick together! I would make them again though!
March 29, 2013
Chewy S’mores Granola Bars I made for the class!
I have documented my concluding thoughts with my connections to student learning in the form of an Audacity file which I am unable to upload to Word Press unfortunately.