Cooking Basics

One thing I love to do is cook. I love cooking indoors and outdoors. Around my house I am called ‘The King of Sling’. You know why because I can work with anything we have in the cabinets and refrigerator and make a tasty meal out of it. I very rarely work with a recipe. I guess I just have a feel for what it takes to make something tasty. And it rarely doesn’t come out right. So, I’m going to reveal some of my EPIC ‘secrets’.


First of all always keep around some basics like

Self Rising Flour
Self Rising Corn Meal
Vegetable Oil
Olive Oil
No Stick Spray
Cheese (Get the block kind and grate it yourself. It isn’t that hard and it is so much tastier. Besides I hear that grated stuff you buy is coated with wax and sometimes wood shavings to keep it from sticking together in the bag, yuck!)
Spices (salt, black pepper, lemon pepper, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, thyme, basil, oregano. There are some great healthy blends I love also that I get from Crave Super.)
Frozen Mixed Vegetables
Sweet Potatoes
White Potatoes
Bell Pepper
Broth (Vegetable, chicken, beef. And anytime you cook down a chicken strain and keep that broth. I also keep bacon fat when I cook bacon.)
Noodles (Buy a variety of shapes.)
Garlic (Dry or fresh has its merits but keep a jar of that minced garlic around, the kind that comes in a jar.)
BBQ sauce
Marinade (Several bottled varieties. One of my favorite homemade is Teriyaki sauce and pineapple juice.)
Balsamic Vinegar
Hot Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
Teriyaki and/or Soy Sauce
Stuffing Mix
Rice (Anything over rice is good. Rice, noodles and potatoes will stretch a meal and make a lot out of a little.)


Crock Pot
Stir Fry


CASSEROLES: You can make a casserole with just about anything if you know the basics. Your base is stuffing mix or large bread crumbs, some kind of broth, cheese. To this mix you can use vegetables, meats or any combination of the two. Just mix it all together. Sprinkle extra cheese on top and bake at 375-400 degrees F. Instead of bread crumbs/stuffing mix you can use grated potatoes or tater tots. Instead of broth you can use a cream sauce. Tater Tot Casserole: Kids love this one. Brown some ground beef. Layer bottom of a casserole dish with tater tots. Spread ground beef around on top. Spread some finely chopped onions on top of that. Pour cream sauce on top of that. Sprinkle grated cheese on top of that. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees F around 1/2 hour. You might even want to put oven on high broil last few minutes to get the cheese nice and brown.

CREAM SAUCE: Don’t ever buy cream of whatever soup from the store. It is unhealthy and it is so easy to make on your own and so much tastier. Just melt a whole stick of butter on medium heat. Sprinkle around flour to a pasty consistency. Let it cook a couple of minutes. Add equal amounts of broth and milk a little at a time. It will thicken up. Add mushrooms or celery chopped up real fine if you want cream of mushroom or cream of celery. Keep stirring and splashing in a little broth and a little milk till you get the consistency you want. Season as needed.

POKE IT/TASTE IT: I am always sampling a small amount of whatever I am cooking and savoring it on my tongue. That is how I tell if it needs more seasoning. How do you tell if meat is done? Poke raw meat with a fork. Notice how it feels, usually kind of rubbery. Poke it when it looks done. Fork should go into it and be noticeably tender. Chicken should not be pink. Don’t cook fish or shrimp long at all. If you are adding shrimp to a dish wait till last usually to ad it. When shrimp is done it will be pink. Store bought ground beef is safest to cook well done due to possibility of bacteria ground up into meat. Steak and roasts rare or well as you like. Pork should be cooked well done. If you bread something and fry it you may just want to get crust brown if you are adding it to another pot to cook longer with rest of ingredients. Don’t overcook cabbage or broccoli. Potatoes and carrots take longer to cook than most other vegetables so put them in the pot first then add things like cabbage and broccoli at the last.

HEALTHY PIE CRUST: Do you want to make a quiche or some kind of pie. Instead of using dough cook a few sweet potatoes. Peel them. Line your pie pan with the mashed sweet potato. Bake at 375 degrees F until baked kind of solid (I occasionally mash down with my fingers to smooth it out.). Let cool a little. Put your favorite filling in and bake some more till your pie is done. Sweet potatoes are so versatile and useful and very healthy. Want an easy quiche? Just gently stir fry a few raw vegetables of your choice in a little olive oil. Dump into the pie crust. Crack a couple of eggs on top. Stir it around a little. Top with some grated cheese. Bake in the oven till it solidifies.

GRAVY: Heat up a little oil on medium heat or use drippings from some meat you just cooked. Sprinkle flour around and stir till you get an oily paste consistency. Let it cook as dark as you want your gravy to be. Stir occasionally. Add hot water a little at a time. It will thicken up fast just keep adding water til it is consistency you want. Variations on this is use milk or broth instead of water.

STIR FRY: It doesn’t take much oil to stir fry. I usually use a little olive oil and a little butter. Just chop up your vegetables of choice. I almost always add onion to stir fry. If you want it to steam a little add soy or teriyaki sauce or broth, even water if you want and put a lid on it and let it steam and cook till done as you want. Keep in mind some vegetables take longer to cook than others. Potatoes and carrots take longer to cook than most other vegetables so put them in the pot first then add things like cabbage and broccoli at the last. Don’t over cook vegetables. I like them a little al dente.

CROCK POT: Think ahead and cook things like a whole chicken apart. Remove meat and strain through cheese cloth and save the broth or add it back into the pot and make a stew. Flour and sear a roast on all sides then add to crock pot with some gravy and broth and add vegetables like potatoes, onions and carrots. You can make a beef broth by cooking some beef and beef bones overnight and straining broth through cheese cloth. You can make a vegetable broth using all those parts of vegetable that you usually throw away like the stems, leaves, stalks. Just add water and let cook overnight and then strain through cheese cloth. There are a million crock pot recipes on line. Just think ahead, be creative and versatile and crock pot can save a lot of time.

STEW AND CHILI: So many stew and chili recipes. Stew can be any combination of meat and vegetables. Keep in mind cooking times of vegetables. Use broths. You can thicken a stew by making a small mount of cream sauce with broth you are using and stir it into the pot. It doesn’t take much, like 1/2 cup to a big pot of stew. It won’t look thick right away but it will thicken up when it cooks a little and if if sits overnight in the fridge the next day it will be much thicker. For chili be creative. Use a variety of beans. Experiment with fowl, beef and venison. Chop everything as fine as you like it (Brunswick Stew style). Add chili powder, stir and taste frequently till you get flavor you are going for. If you want spicy chili add cayenne or crushed red pepper, chopped jalapenos or hot sauce. I generally keep chili mild and have those hot additives on he side for people to add to their individual bowls. Stews and chili generally freeze well if you need to. Spaghetti and chili taste better once they sit overnight in fridge.

BAKED MIX: Something I like to do also is layer my meat and vegetables in a baking pan and just let all those flavors cook together and have a meal cooked in one pan. Season as you desire. Poke and taste to see if they are done. Sometimes I cut baking cycle off and put on broil at end if I want everything to have a nice brown on top.

BISCUITS: Biscuits are so easy to make. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix 2 parts milk to 1 part oil. Stir well. Pour into a bowl that has self rising flour in it. Stir in a little at a time. Stir with wooden spoon at first. Then get them fingers in there and knead it well. When you get a good ball of dough sprinkle a little flour out on the counter top and flatten it out, fold it over and flatten it out again several times. You can use a rolling pin or your palms. Flatten out one last time. Punch out round biscuits with a can that both ends have been cut out of. position on a baking sheet and put in oven till they rise and are brown. Variations: Squish a whole stick of butter up in the dough. Mix shredded cheese in with dough. For a sweet treat sprinkle sugar and cinnamon into dough, even add raisins. Use shortening instead of oil and milk. Use buttermilk instead of regular milk.