So, my best friend Holly can't cook. And she loves Hamburger Helper Beef Macaroni and Cheese. Fun story--when we were freshmen in High School we had to eat in the Cafeteria for lunch (past that you could go out for lunch--I mean Junior year, but we started a little early). So eating in the Cafeteria was the equivalent of eating from a really big dumpster--if said dumpster had really nice old ladies in it who served food (or what they called "food"). Anyway, I digress--On Monday the menu would be hamburgers, Tuesday Hamburgers, and by Wednesday Hamburger Macaroni. See, dear Holly did not catch on that the meat in that Hamburger Macaroni was made with hamburger meat which was now 3 days (or more) old. She savored every delicious drop like that meat was 1. fresh and 2. wrapped in gold. When we first graduated college Holly had to cook every once in awhile at home to pay her rent. Her mom actually sat me down and begged me to ask her to stop making Cheeseburger Macaroni. See, they didn't have the heart to tell her. Whereas me, we've known each other since Juicy Juice Boxes and the sandbox Soul mates since the day we met. I don't know what I'd do without her silly ass. She made these for me on my birthday:
Even today she will tell you I used to eat glue----regardless, I never ate Hamburger Macaroni at Paulsboro High School. Whose the dummy now?
This is for all of the Holly's of the WORLD!
1. Cooking is Easy
If you are making cooking hard, you are doing it wrong. Recipes, for a beginner, should be easy. If on your first cooking adventure your trying to make something with french ingredients in it I am calling it already that it will not turn out well for you. Go on pinterest and search "easy dinner ideas". There are 4 million easy ideas. Cooking is really chopping shit up, adding spice, and praying for the best. Once you know what you like, you're golden. If all else fails---cook chicken, dice it, mix it with ranch cheddar cheese and hot sauce, put a spoonful inside an uncooked Pillsbury Crescent Roll and bake each roll at 350 for 25 minutes--BAM RANCH PILLOWS. Your welcome. Give me the awards and accolades later--when I write the book.
2. Stock Up On the Essentials
A common misconception is that people think cooking is expensive. Wrong. If you have the necessary ingredients, then cooking is cheap. In your house you should always have:
1. Some sort of cooking oil (extra virgin, vegetable, sesame)
2. Spices (thyme, ginger, garlic salt, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, etc)
3. Canned Stock of any Sort (I make my own and freeze it, but for a beginer just buy a bunch like beef, chicken, vegetable) Resealable containers work best because you can stretch each stock over several recipes.
4. Onions and Garlic (these take the longest to go bad)
5. Canned large cans of diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, plum peeled tomatoes, etc.
6. Seasoning packets--like Mrs. Dash Taco or Fajita Seasoning
3. Measuring is for baking, not necessarily cooking
Don't get all crazy with the measuring spoons and cups. Cooking is about tasting and adding as you go. For instance, a tablespoon is also roughly a palm full--unless you have palms the size of the incredible hulk. People are fearful of salting their food. Those people can't cook. If you season each layer of each meal with an appropriate amount of salt and pepper then you shouldn't need to salt your food after cooking. I am a big fan of salting each layer as I cook with a pinch and a dab. If you don't it will appear you are serving something boiled. Salt during cooking is not the enemy to your health, salt after its prepared is.
4. Improvise and be Creative
Get a little sassy with your cooking, guys like that. Don't be so fearful to substitute and experiment. It won't hurt anything if you sub in oregano for thyme--it will just change the flavor. Hey, if it doesn't work out--this always does:
It's really unsalvageable and you need to impress someone--order Chinese food. Everyone likes Chinese Food. There is only one thing ungodly enough to not like Chinese Food---the devil himself. If I ever heard someone say they didn't like Chinese food I'd call them a Nazi or a Communist. Everyone also likes Fortune Cookies. See me, I dare to be a dreamer. I open that little gross cookie with the hope that what's inside is right. It's like a 10 cent palm reading. I believe every single fortune I have ever read. I believe them until they prove to be false. I have one hanging on my cork board AS WE SPEAK that says "This year will be the best yet". In January I was like NO SHIT I CAN'T WAIT. Now it's November, and it hasn't proven itself true yet. Alas, I am a dreamer. What do the people who don't wish and dream do all day anyway? Negative Nancie's (no offense you you Nancy's of the world).
5. Don't reinvent the wheel
There is a good reason that certain ethnicity's lay claim to certain deliciously tasty foods--because they are DOING IT SO GOD DAMN GOOD. They are doing it right, and you have no right to f with that. For instance, I love soup. We all know that. No judgie. I in particular love Wonton Soup. It's so damn good. But, there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON for me to try and make my own Wonton Soup. Why? It's dirt cheap to buy it. I can get a gallon of Wonton Soup for $3.49. I can also get a bottle of wine for $5.99. When I am feeling really poor I grab both and make a night of it. I feel you judging me.
I also don't make Pad Thai. There is a place in Woodbury who does it just fine. There is no reason for me to step on their toes. Who knows, maybe I am really good at making Pad Thai? Then, I start selling it out of my house. Which, pisses off said Thai Place. Does that then start a turf war? I can't commit to all that. So I buy it from them to keep the peace.
My point is---stick to the basics. There is no reason to try and recreate something spectacular that is out of your league. Wonton Soup, Thai Food, French Pastries, Indian Food, and Sushi are all of out your league my friend. Leave it up to the experts. Me and Talia tried to make sushi once with this dumb ass sushi kit she got at Barnes and Nobels I think. It fell apart. I'd like to refer to it as "Big Ass Mess of raw fish sitting on white rice".