Health 105: How To Cook

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Health 104: Ailments

Cooking isn’t hard, it’s just a matter of trial and error

  • The experience of cooking should be enjoyed as its own part-time job
    • Generally, most men fail to see enjoyment in it, and it’s to their loss
  • Try out different ideas to see what works
    • Most of the best recipes ever known are made from a shortage of resources
    • Check out Great Depression Cooking to see an extreme example
  • You don’t need to be a professional chef to understand what you need to survive!

Most people are afraid of either under-cooking or burning their food

  • Once the food has pervasively reached the temperature of boiling water, it is sterile
  • On the other end, after you turn off the heat the food will still cook from the heat that radiates inside the food
  • Most badly made food is simply cooked at the wrong temperature or for the wrong amount of time
    • Too Hot – well-cooked outside but almost raw on the inside
    • Too Cold – flavors don’t develop and aromas don’t fully open up
    • Too Short – food isn’t thoroughly cooked, “raw” flavor
    • Too Long – dry and brittle, not enough moisture or flavor in the food
  • There are simple tricks to resolve all of this
    • Try all the burners without anything on them and watch them as you crank up the heat
      • Don’t try to save time by cranking up the heat, it will be more likely to burn
    • Use more than one burner
    • Frequently stir the food
    • Don’t walk away from the cooking area or try to multi-task
      • Once you get the hang of it and can do it without thinking about it, you can multi-task
    • Make sure there’s enough water in the pot, since burning only happens when the water has evaporated

Pay attention to your time and space limitations

  • Since you don’t have all day, separate the cooking into batches
    • Work assembly-line style to prepare the ingredients quickly
  • If you have a small kitchen
    • Cook and bake ahead of time if you’re making for several people
    • Place all the items for cooking in easily accessible locations
    • Keep a surface area open for whatever miscellaneous thing you will naturally forget to plan for
  • Observe the weather
    • A blisteringly hot summer day is the worst time to start the oven
    • Cold days allow cooking the opportunity to save on heating bills

Have good utensils to make life easier

  • Divide food into working components better
    • Graters will shred into consistent smaller pieces
      • Nutmeg grater, ginger grater
      • Box grater, zest grater, microplane grater, rotary grater
    • Presses push food through it to make it into a new form
      • Potato ricer
      • Pasta mill
      • Food mill
      • Citrus press, garlic press
      • Nutcracker
    • Grinders tear apart items into smaller pieces
      • Pepper grinder
      • Mortar and pestle
      • Wheat grinder
      • Spice mill
    • Blades cut food in different ways
      • Clam knife, fish knife
      • Bread knife
      • Santoku knife, chef’s Knife
      • Paring knife
      • Mezzaluna
      • Meat knives – cleaver, boning knife, slicing knife
      • Cheese knives – soft cheese knife, parmesan knife
      • Scissors – kitchen shears, poultry shears
      • Slicers are special knives for specific situations
        • Cheese slicer
        • Egg slicer
        • Mandoline
        • Cheese plane
        • Fruit divider
        • Wheels – pastry wheel, pizza wheel
    • Strainers separate out food from other parts of the food
      • Handheld strainer
      • Salad spinner
      • Sifters – drum sifter, sugar shaker, sifter
      • Scoop colander, colander
      • Chinoise
      • Fat separator
      • Spider
  • Manipulators allow you to change the food into other things
    • Openers – can opener, bottle opener, corkscrew
    • Spoons/spatulas
      • Spatula
      • Slotted spatula
      • Rubber spatula
      • Fish spatula
      • Turner
    • Pastry tools are specifically for bread product preparation
      • Cookie cutter
      • Rolling pin
      • Pie weights
      • Pastry blender
      • Pastry bag
    • Whisks – balloon whisk, flat whisk
    • Basting – meat baster, basting bulb
    • Mashers – meat tenderizer, potato masher
    • Tongs – salad tongs, metal tongs
  • Containers allow food to be stored, eaten and manipulated in a civilized way
    • Food Storage – canisters, plastic containers
    • Bowls – batter bowl, mixing bowl, prep bowl
    • Scoopers/servers permit transferring food without having to touch with hands
      • Ladle
      • Wooden spoon
      • Ice cream scoop
      • Slotted spoon
      • Melon baller
      • Spaghetti server
      • Serving fork
      • Serving spoon
      • Cake server
  • Measurers permit guidelines about foods when making recipes
    • Temperature measurement – candy thermometer, meat thermometer
    • Volume measurement – measuring cups, measuring spoons
    • Weight measurement – digital scale, scale
    • Time measurement – egg timer, kitchen timer
  • Protection allows safety and wellness with preparing food
    • Heat protection – pot holder, oven mitt
    • Cutting boards – prep cutting board, butcher block

Keep things clean and in working order

  • Test bowls before microwaving them
    1. Place the bowl in the microwave with a mug of cold water and heat on high for 1 min
    2. It’s safe if the water is hot and the container is cold, but unsafe if the container is hot
  • Try to use the two-bowl method to manage waste and washing dishes
    • One bowl for scraps and garbage to throw out all at once
    • One bowl for dishes to soak to washe all at once
  • As you are finished using items, clean them to avoid an end-of-cooking massive pile of dishes to do
  • Don’t mistreat pots and pans
    • Do research to find out what is best to clean each cookware surface
    • If you’re using cast-iron pans, do not clean them with soap and water, since the built-on “seasoning” is what makes cast-iron taste great
      • To clean cast-iron, pour in some oil and a handful of kosher salt, then scrub the salt into the pan with an old rag or paper towels
  • Always have a few staple items on hand that work for almost everything
    • Pasta is a common base for most dishes
    • Rice is also very common, and also very cheap
    • Canned vegetables are useful when you don’t have access to fresh vegetables and need them for a recipe
    • Canned chicken and tuna is useful for a quick meal when hungry
    • Ground beef is a necessary staple for many simple meals
    • Salsa is a great condiment for most meals
    • Chicken and beef bouillon are useful to make gravy or broth when you need it
    • Flour is useful for thickening gravy, breading and for baking bread
    • Butter is a great addition to any meal
    • Plenty of herbs, spices and extracts for all occasions

Stay safe as you cook

  • Be careful around heat
    • Keep the containers of oil far from the heat source
    • Try to tie down or not wear loose clothing that could get caught on the heat source
  • Use knives properly
    • Grip the handle with the 3 back fingers and pinch the neck of the knife with the pointer finger and thumb
    • Keep it sharp
      • Dull knives are the cause of most kitchen injuries, get a sharpening steel or stone (or just use the bottom of a coffee mug)
      • if you don’t want to keep sharpening it, research buying a good-quality knife
    • watch a video to see a proper forward slice, back slice, tip-down rocking and chopping
  • Don’t thaw meat at room temperature, instead use a cold-water bath changed out every half hour to avoid excess bacteria growth

Start with extremely easy recipes to improve your confidence

  • Breakfast
    • Make bacon in the microwave by wrapping inside paper towels and cooking for 3-5 mins
    • Eggs are a very versatile breakfast item
      • Get everything out of the egg by scraping the inside of it with a spatula or your finger
      • Scrambled eggs are the easiest and are simply swirled around in a frying pan with preferred ingredients
        • Make them in the microwave instead
          1. Beat them in a mug and mix in salt, cheese and herbs
          2. Microwave for 3 mins
      • Omelettes are like scrambled eggs with more steps
        1. Whisk together eggs and other ingredients
        2. Pour into a frying pan that has butter in it
        3. Add cheese on top of it and fold over, if desired
      • Fried eggs are cracked over a greased frying pan and then cooked on both sides
        • Sunny side up is the same as a fried egg, but only cooked on one side
      • Over easy keeps a hard form from being fried in a pan inside butter or oil
      • Poached eggs keep a hard form from being cracked into boiling water
        • Make them in the microwave
          • Crack eggs and place in a microwave-safe bowl filled with water and a pinch of vinegar
          • Stick toothpicks in the egg yolks, then wrap the bowl with plastic wrap
          • Cook for 30 seconds, turn and cook for 20 more seconds
      • Hard-boiled eggs are boiled in water inside the shell, and are also used for many other recipes
    • Make pancakes by mixing batter and pouring over a flat hot surface, then flipping when it shows holes
      • Dunk bacon in pancakes to make bacon pancakes
      • Cut and dip apple rings into pancakes to make apple pancakes
      • Dip pineapple slices into pancakes to make pineapple pancakes
  • Lunch
    • Microwave corn on the cob by putting the husked corn for 2-4 mins, cutting on one side and sliding the cob out of the husk

Try to learn better ways to prepare food

  • General tricks
    • Cut herbs, thin vegetables, pizzas, bread and wraps with scissors instead of a knife
  • Produce
    • Peel fruits like tomatoes and peaches by microwaving for 30 seconds, then letting cool 2 mins
    • Clean vegetables and fruits with baking soda by sprinkling in water, then soaking and rinsing the produce
    • Vegetables
      • Peel potatoes easily
        • Boil until a fork can be stuck into them easily
        • Drain the hot water
        • Run them under cold water, the skin should slide off
      • Cut cherry tomatoes by sandwiching between storage container lids, then cutting through with a serrated knife
      • Cut mushrooms with an egg slicer
      • Microwave heads of garlic for 15-20 seconds for the cloves to slip right out of their skins
      • Cut onions easier
        • Cut off both ends of the onion and then cook in the microwave for 30 seconds
        • Chew gum while cutting onions to avoid tearing up
      • Prepare root vegetables like carrots and potatoes beforehand by partly boiling them, then finishing them off in the oven with a drizzle of oil
    • Fruits
      • Get more lemon and lime juice out by microwaving for 10-20 seconds before slicing
      • Roll fruits on the counter before cutting to get more juice out of them
      • To cut a watermelon without a knife, make a small incision with a quarter and then karate chop it in half
      • Clean large amounts of fruit all at once in the sink
        • Fill the sink with water
        • Add 1 cup of vinegar and stir
        • Add all your fruit and let soak for 10 mins, including berries
        • The water will be dirty and the fruits will sparkle without any wax and will stay longer
  • Dairy
    • Grate refrigerated butter to make it easier to work with
    • Melt margarine or butter for 1 min in the microwave instead of risking burning it in the stove or waiting on the counter
  • Meats
    • Slow cookers are simple to cook anything that needs long-term breaking down, such as tougher meats
    • When scalding a chicken, add 1 tsp baking soda to the boiling water for the feathers to come off more easily
    • Add baking soda to the water for cooking wild game to remove the “gamey” taste from the meat
    • Cook fish fillets in the microwave
      1. Dry the fish, then overlap the tails when plating
      2. Remove the fish while it’s still opaque
      3. Though it appears opaque, it’s still cooking, so let it cool
  • Beans/nuts
    • Soak lentils and beans faster
      1. Add a pinch of baking soda with enough water to submerge
      2. microwave for 10 mins
      3. Let sit for 30-40 mins
    • Nuts can be toasted in the microwave in 4-5 mins by stirring every min

Try out new spices and unconventional seasonings to invent your own cooking style

  • Generally, the more fat and sugar in the food, the easier it is for the food to taste acceptable
  • Learn what herbs and spices work with what flavors and oils
  • Cook with the correct oils for the recipe
    • Each oil has its own purpose
    • Some are very flavorful and some are bland
  • Make your own seasonings
    • Italian seasoning
      1. Grind 3 tbsp each of dried sage, dried marjoram, dried basil, dried oregano and dried parsley in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle
      2. Grind in 1 tbsp garlic powder
      3. Grind in 1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, dried rosemary, black pepper and white pepper
      4. The mixture will keep for 6 months
    • Curry powder
      1. Add 10 tbsp coriander seeds, 8 tbsp cumin seeds and 2 tbsp mustard seeds to a pan
      2. Let them brown completely, then thoroughly mix in 5 tbsp ground cinnamon, 10 tbsp pepper, 2 tbsp ground nutmeg, 2 tbsp cloves, 1 tbsp ground cardamom seeds, 3 tbsp turmeric, 2 tbsp ground ginger and 2 tbsp chili powder
      3. Let it cool, then grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder
    • Dry your own herbs by microwaving them in a cup 2-4 mins, then crumpling onto paper towels strewn around the cup

Find out what substitutions you can use to make the food healthier or cheaper

  • Many substitutions will change the cooking times
    • Generally, adding moisture to the mixture increases the cooking time and removing moisture decreases it
  • Breads & Flours
    • Bread crumbs (1 cup dry)
      • 1 cup rolled oats
      • 1 cup crushed bran cereal
      • 1 cup cracker crumbs
    • Cake flour (1 cup)
      • 1 cup flour minus 2 tbsp
    • Cracker crumbs (1 cup)
      • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
    • Flour (1 cup)
      • 1 cup whole wheat flour (anywhere)
      • 1 1/4 oats ground in a blender
      • 1 heaping cup quinoa ground in a blender
      • 1/4 cup nut flour mixed with 3/4 cup wheat flour (cookies, sweet breads and cakes)
      • 1 cup nut flour mixed with 1/2 tsp of rising agent like yeast (cookies, sweet breads and cakes)
      • 1 cup pureed black beans (brownies)
      • 1/3 cup coconut flour, 1 extra egg per oz of coconut flour and a dash extra water (pancakes, cookies, cakes)
        • Using more than 1/2 cup at a time could bring out its bitterness
        • May need to reduce baking time
    • Self-rising flour (1 cup)
      • 1 cup flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Dairy & Fats
    • Butter (1 cup)
      • 1 cup mashed bananas (brownies and cookies)
      • 1 cup pureed avocados (brownies and chocolate cookies)
      • 1/2 cup apple sauce mixed with 1/2 cup butter, but more if you can’t tell the taste difference (any sweet bread or muffins)
      • 3/4 cup prunes blended with 1/4 cup boiling water (dark baked goods like brownies, chocolate cookies and cakes)
      • 3 tbsp flax meal mixed with 1 tbsp water and left to sit for 5-10 mins (anything with a strong nutty flavor)
      • 2-3 tbsp chia seeds mixed with 1 cup water and left to sit for ~15 mins (muffins, cakes and breads)
    • Buttermilk (1 cup)
      • 1 cup yogurt
      • 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp vinegar
      • 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • Cream/half & half (1 cup)
      • 1 tbsp melted butter mixed with 1 cup whole milk
    • Heavy cream (1 cup)
      • 1 cup evaporated skim milk (anywhere)
    • Margarine (1 cup)
      • 1/2 cup apple sauce
      • 1/2 cup pureed prunes
    • Milk (1 cup whole)
      • 1/2 cup evaporated milk mixed with 1/2 cup water
      • 1 cup water mixed with 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
    • Oil (1 cup)
      • 1/2 cup apple sauce mixed with 1/2 cup oil, but more if you can’t tell the taste difference (any sweet bread or muffins)
      • 1 cup mashed bananas (brownies and cookies)
    • Shortening (1 cup)
      • 1 cup butter
      • 1 cup vegetable oil
      • 1 cup coconut oil
    • Sour cream (1 cup)
      • Plain yogurt (1 cup)
  • Condiments & Seasonings
    • Cajun seasoning (1 tsp)
      • Mix 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/4 tsp dried basil and 1 clove minced garlic
    • Marinades (oil-based)
      • Wine, as needed
      • Balsamic vinaigrette, as needed
      • Fruit juice, as needed
      • Fat free broth, as needed
    • Mustard (1 tbsp)
      • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
      • 2 tsp vinegar
    • Poultry seasoning (1 tsp)
      • 3/4 tsp rubbed sage
      • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • Chocolate & Sweets
    • Chocolate, semi-sweet (1 oz square)
      • 3 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
      • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate and 1 tbsp sugar
    • Chocolate (1 oz square)
      • 3 tbsp baking cocoa and 1 tbsp shortening
      • 3 tbsp baking cocoa and 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • Chocolate chips (1 cup)
      • 1 cup coco nibs
    • Frosting (1 cup)
      • 1 cup marshmallow whip
      • 1 cup meringue
    • Honey (1 cup)
      • 1 1/4 cup sugar mixed into 1/4 cup water
    • Molasses (1 cup)
      • 1 cup honey
    • Oreo cookie (1 cup crushed)
      • 1 cup graham crackers crushed (any pie)
    • Rice Krispies (1 cup)
      • 1 cup brown rice cereal mixed with 2 tbsp flax meal (Rice Krispies Treats, baked chicken coating)
    • Sugar (1 cup)
      • 1 cup packed brown sugar
      • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
      • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
        • Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup per cup of apple sauce
      • 4 tsp pure vanilla extract (cookies, cakes, sweet breads, brownies)
      • 1 tsp liquid Stevia
      • 2 tbsp Stevia powder
  • Baking powder (1 tsp)
    • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar mixed with 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp corn starch
  • Corn starch (1 tbsp)
    • 2 tbsp flour (as a thickening agent)
  • Corn syrup, dark (1 cup)
    • 3/4 cup light corn syrup mixed with 1/4 cup molasses)
  • Corn syrup, light (1 cup)
    • 1 cup sugar mixed in 1/4 cup water
  • Eggs (1 egg)
    • 1/4 cup egg substitute
    • 2 egg whites
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
    • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
    • 1/4 cup canned squash
    • 1/4 cup pureed prunes
    • 2 tbsp potato starch
    • 1 tbsp chia seeds mixed with 1 cup water left to sit for ~15 mins
    • 1 tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 tbsp water and left to sit for 5-10 mins (muffins, cakes and cookies)
  • Lemon juice (1 tsp)
    • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Lemon peel (1 tsp)
    • 1/2 lemon extract
  • Soups (as thickening agent)
    • Mashed potato flakes, as needed
    • Potatoes, as needed
    • Tofu, as needed
  • Tomato sauce (2 cups)
    • 3/4 cup tomato paste mixed with 1 cup water

Educate yourself on how long food can hold

  • Store any open snacks more easily
    • Use a pants hanger or a bobby pin as an improvised chip clip
  • Pay attention to the shelf life of the food
    • Cool it quickly and store it properly to guarantee the longest shelf life
      • Use containers that transfer heat quickly such as metal
      • Place the food on shallow portion-sized dishes
      • Add ice cubes to soups or stews
      • Once cooled enough, put it in the refrigerator immediately in sealed containers and make sure it’s below 41°F
      • Avoid overfilling to allow air to circulate properly
    • Store whatever you can in the freezer, freezing flat for quicker defrosting
      • Wrap thoroughly or store in sealed containers
      • Label it as cooked or uncooked and the date it was frozen
      • Never refreeze defrosted food, it can cause massive bacterial growth
      • Watch for things you can’t freeze like eggs and soft herbs
      • Make large amounts of food to cut down on how much cooking you need to do
      • Fill an ice cube tray with chopped herbs, minced garlic and olive oil, then store in the freezer to make easy-add herb flavorings
      • Pre-cook rice, sauces, legumes and mashed potatoes, then freeze them for recipes later
      • Seal raw meat in a plastic bag and press flat, press down a thin utensil in a grid pattern and break off the pieces you need later
      • Make large batches of oatmeal or porridge and freeze in a cupcake tin for portions later
      • Pack ingredients for smoothies in individual bags and freeze to be blended later
    • Listen to what your common sense tells you
      • If it smells odd or tastes odd throw it away, since it’s not worth your health to eat it
      • Generally, a cold and dry environment will give a longer shelf life and a warm and wet environment makes food go bad faster
      • Most food’s expiration date will indicate a “sell by” date, not when it is best by
        • Generally food that is past code is still good for recipes as a secondary part of it
      • Don’t bother refrigerating foods that don’t require refrigeration
  • Most food can be restored to its original quality
    • Reheat the food thoroughly to stop any decomposition
      • Thaw frozen foods in the fridge, which should defrost within 24 hours for food 5 lbs or less
      • Reheat all leftovers to at least 165°F
      • Cover foods to ensure they retain moisture and stay hot throughout the food
    • Breads & Starches
      • Bread staleness can be removed by adding moisture when microwaving
        • Wrap the slices with a damp kitchen towel and microwave for 10 seconds at a time
        • Put a small amount of water in a glass with the bread
      • Dry bread items like crackers, cereals and chips staleness can be removed by microwaving for ~30 seconds
      • Frozen sandwiches and baked goods won’t get soggy when microwaved by wrapping in a dry paper towel
      • Muffins are best reheated in the oven at 350°F covered for 15 mins and then uncovered for 3 mins
      • Pasta is best reheated on a hot plate with a little oil and water added
      • Pizza is best reheated in a skillet for 3-4 mins
      • Potato chips can be crispy again by placing on paper towels and microwaving for a few seconds
    • Condiments
      • Microwave crystallized honey with the top off for 2 mins
      • Spices can have their aroma restored by microwaving for 15 seconds
    • Meat
      • Casseroles are best reheated in a microwave covered with wax paper that has vents cut in it
      • Seafood is best reheated in an oven on a low temperature for a long while
      • Steak and chicken is best reheated when sliced to small pieces and placed in a skillet
      • Stir fries are best reheated in a microwave, stirring regularly and letting stand afterward
    • Vegetables & Nuts
      • Boiled vegetables are best reheated in a microwave spread out and covered with a damp paper towel
      • Nuts and seeds can have their flavor restored by microwaving for 15 seconds
      • Roasted vegetables are best reheated in an oven drizzled with a little oil for flavor
      • Soups are best reheated on the stove with 1/4 cup water added to prevent scorching
    • Dairy
      • If you drop a live frog into milk, the secretion from its skin will keep it from spoiling

Make cooking a memorable experience

  • After about 30 consistent meals, you will know your way around the kitchen
  • Find new ways to improve your cooking experience
    • Reach out to friends and family for ideas
    • Read recipe books for new things to try cooking
  • You will eventually find food items that you had for a recipe that you didn’t end up making
    • Create new recipes with new substitutions, or enter it into MyFridgeFood to find a new recipe
Next: Health 106: Weight Management