1 One Sunday In Perry
2 What the Army Taught Me
3 Not My Mother's Shopping List
4 Brain Calisthenics
5 The Pono Nano Diet
6 Oatmeal Jim-Jams
7 A Walk in the Park
8 Escape to California
10 Printer's Devil
11 Pono - The Addict
13 Love in the Woods
14 It's a Small World
15 Culinary Crutches
16 We Want Sandin
17 Better With Age
18 Parallel Universes
19 Mårten Nilsson Finne
20 Hawaii Is A State
21 Shake-em-up Flashlight
22 The Use of E-mail
23 Normal American Schoolboy
24 Lake Gogebic Early Days
I’ve been married more times than the average bear (certain nephews notwithstanding), but I’ve still managed to spend lots of years living alone (and loving it). During those years I’ve compiled some tips that could be helpful to others like me who lack culinary expertise. Tape this to your refrigerator (that’s the tall appliance in the kitchen where you store beer until the gang comes over).
If you have known me for more than a month, you’ve heard me say “Onions do not get clear”. Recipe after recipe says “Sauté the onions until they are clear”, but “Onions do NOT get clear”. Onions get milky, onions get limp and stringy, onions get brown, and eventually onions get black and start smoking, but at no time in that continuum do onions ever get clear. So, my friend, settle for something between the milky and the limp and stringy and FORGET the CLEAR!
While we’re on the subject of onions, know that you can NEVER add too many onions or too much black pepper to a dish. If the recipe calls for one of these, pay no attention to the recommended quantity - just use all of the available onions and ½ of the available black pepper and you will probably be about right.
When you cook pasta, the instructions carefully indicate the amount of water to boil. I’m not sure why they feel the need to do this – it really doesn’t matter how much water you boil – just boil enough. And if you only want to cook half a package, don’t worry about measuring only half of the designated water – just boil enough!
Most recipes that call for canned goods are careful to say drain before using. This is OK as a rule but there are certain exceptions. Drain green beans, drain lima beans, drain asparagus, drain tuna fish, but don’t drain creamed corn (at least not very long), and never drain broth!
Note that eggs are back! Research has shown that the cholesterol in eggs metabolizes and does not cause increase of bad cholesterol in humans! (Believe at your own risk.)
Sour cream is a wonder to me. Although it’s already sour, there is still a sell-by and/or a use-by date on the package – and amazingly – it is valid. Turns out that sour is not the final act for cream and you will see that final act if you fail to observe the -by dates.
After eating you’ll be faced with the problem of what to do with the pot or pan you used. Of course if you just boiled pasta, you can let the pot cool and put it away. However for a casserole dish or frying pan, the choice is clean it now or later. Since later is always preferable, I recommend dry storage. Scrape or rinse the item and store it dry. If you leave water in a dish, it will chemically react with the residual food and rot, but the cleaning of pans stored dry can be postponed for weeks (not that I would do that). If you should need one of these dry-stored pots or pans, clean it up and you have a fresh-cleaned tool rather than one that has been sitting in the cabinet gathering dust. Rinsing and wiping the plate, fork, and glass and leaving them on the counter make them easily accessible for the next meal.
The success of your dry storing and other kitchen touch-up will be easy to measure. At my house I have these tiny inspectors that come out at night and find every last bit of moist food around. They don’t seem interested in the dry storage and so we get along fine.
Visual similarity is a principle that I’ve found to be very useful in cooking, but not 100% reliable. Cottage cheese will often serve the same purpose as sour cream. You can make a cup of “milk” with Coffeemate and water. However, baking soda for some reason is not the functional equivalent for baking powder, even though they look alike and the latter contains the former. And chili powder is not a good replacement for either cinnamon or nutmeg.
I don’t quite understand the cheese mystery but will include it so you can beware. Bleu cheese is riddled with mold, but considered by most to be delicious. Store a chunk of cheddar for a while and it too forms a green mold, causing cries of “E-e-e-e-u-u-h!” or “Y-u-k-k-k!” from anyone you offer it to, even those who LOVE bleu cheese. However, cutting off about an eighth inch strip to include the offending green will leave you with a perfectly good slab of cheddar.
WD-40. No, not for cooking (although it is certainly a visual equivalent for Pam – hmmm), but at some point if you are living single, you will have to clean something (or hire it done). I am amazed at the power of WD-40. One day when I blew out a candle, several drops of wax landed on my ceramic tile floor. I scraped it up right away. In a few days I noticed dirt gathering in the same spots. Upon close examination I saw that the tile was somewhat porous and a bit of the wax was still there snatching every mote of dust that came by. I went over it with 409, but a few days later the dirt was back. I finally hit it with WD-40 and it was gone!
WD-40 is also great for removal of soap scum, in addition to all the more typical uses. And you know that sticky residual from the price tags and so forth that they put on everything? Just spritz with the wonderful stuff and away it goes. (Full disclosure – I don’t work for the company that makes this product, and I don’t knowingly own stock in it.)
On the topic of cleaning, here is a recipe for cheap and very effective glass cleaner. “Mix together ½ cup sudsy ammonia, one pint rubbing alcohol, and one teaspoon dishwashing liquid with enough water to make a gallon” – from Consumer Reports. If you are really into conservation, you can use the drainage from canned goods for part of the water. And vodka works fine as a substitute for the rubbing alcohol.
This isn’t a very long list, but I try to limit my time in the kitchen and therefore my repertoire is also quite limited. Any recipe that includes more than four ingredients is probably out of my range. My brother used to say he would never attempt a recipe that began with “In a pan…” or “Take a pan…”.
Broccoli, bananas and beer – nature’s most perfect foods! When the grocery shortages start I’d like to be in a field of broccoli, surrounded by banana trees, with a beer well in one corner. As a bonus, the place could be in a hidden valley with a ranch dressing factory just next door. I could live forever in such a place and never, ever have to worry about cooking onions until they are clear!
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