Simple recipes can help inexperienced cooks

A friend recently asked if I would give his daughter a couple of cooking classes before she went off to university. I wish it were that simple.

Ideally she would have been helping with the family meals since she was old enough to pull up a chair to the kitchen sink. She would have taken home economics classes at school. Often this is not the case and reality arrives too soon.

Here are a few tips to give young adults leaving home.

  • Teach them how to select produce, fresh meat and fish, and to read labels. Show them how to read nutrition labels and best before dates, and the shelf label that shows the cost per unit of each item regardless of container size.
  • Educate beginner cooks on the dangers of being distracted, like when there is a pot of oil on the stovetop. Advise using a timer to indicate when things are done.
  • Show students how to measure using wet and dry ingredient measuring cups. See through glass cups with a pouring lip are for liquids and cups without pouring lips are for dry ingredients.
  • Don’t shake the flour or it will compact and give a false reading. Use the flat side of a knife to trim off excess ingredient.
  • Keep knives sharp. Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones.
  • Don’t grab hot pots with bare hands. It sounds obvious but who has not done this in a hurry?
  • Turn off the stove burner immediately after using .
  • Never leave a tea towel or utensil on the stovetop even when it is not in use.
  • Carefully read instructions before using new appliances.
  • Finally, it is better to clean as you prepare so there isn’t a huge 
kitchen cleanup later.

Choose a cookbook that has a list of equivalents for easy substitutions, a glossary describing ingredients, a good index and uses inexpensive ingredients.

Two excellent old-time basics are back in print. Throughout the books there are step-by-step instructions and traditional Canadian favourite recipes. These are The All New Purity Cookbook and Five Roses A Guide to Good Cooking.

Check for food and cooking clubs at school. At the University of Alberta in Edmonton there is a student-led kitchen program called Health Nuts. At the University of Calgary and the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon there is a private program called Start from Scratch. All are free.

Dan Clapson, founder of Start from Scratch, said the program aims to create awareness of cooking real food, to help improve the stereotypical student lifestyle and to demystify cooking and have some fun.

Lentil chili is ideal for vegans and vegetarians. | Sarah Galvin photo.

Lentil chili is ideal for vegans and vegetarians. | Sarah Galvin photo.

High Temperature 
Eye of Round

    This is a fail-proof dinner fit for guests. Leftovers make great sandwiches. Eye of round is a less expensive cut and can be substituted for any cut in this recipe.

Generously season meat with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Preheat oven to 500 F (260C). Roast seven minutes per pound (500 g).

Turn off oven and let it sit in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Do not open the oven even once. Slice and serve with your favourite vegetables and potatoes.

Pizza Dough

This makes for quick meals. They thaw and cook quickly. After taking pizza out of the oven scatter with fresh arugula.

      • 3 1/4 c. all purpose flour, 830 mL
      • plus extra for dusting
      • 2 tsp. instant yeast 10 mL
      • 1 tbsp. salt 15 mL
      • 1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
      • 1 1/4 c. warm water 340 mL
      • 2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. extra 30 mL, 5 mL
      • virgin olive oil
      • In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar and mix well. Make a well in the centre of dry ingredients and add warm water and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir wet ingredients into dry until the mixture is too stiff to stir, then mix with your hands in the bowl until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
      • Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out. Knead gently, dusting work surface lightly with more flour as necessary, for 5 minutes, or until dough is smooth, elastic, and only slightly sticky.
      • Oil a large clean bowl, add dough, and turn the dough around to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, set in a warm part of the kitchen, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
      • Punch down dough and shape. Make into individual thin crust pizzas. Should make about 4 crusts. Separate each crust with parchment paper. Place all into a large resealable freezer bag and place in freezer.
      • Take out as needed and bake the crust with your desired toppings in preheated 475F (250C) oven until done.
High temperature eye of round is fail proof and can be made on a student’s budget. | Sarah Galvin photo.

High temperature eye of round is fail proof and can be made on a student’s budget. | Sarah Galvin photo.

Lentil Chili

    • Meatless Monday can’t taste better than this. This recipe suits both vegetarian and vegan friends. Freeze leftovers in individual meal size containers and microwave to reheat.
    • 2 tbsp. cooking oil 30 mL
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 c. green lentils 50 mL
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder 22 mL
    • 1 tbsp. cumin, ground 15 mL
    • 1 1/2 tsp sugar 8 mL
    • 2 c. diced fresh 50 mL
    • tomatoes
    • 1 19 oz. can diced tomatoes 625 mL
    • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste 185 mL
    • 6 c. water 1.5 L
    • 3 c. cooked black 750 mL
    • beans
    • Sauté onions and jalapeno in oil until translucent. Add garlic, lentils, chili powder, cumin and sugar. Stir well. Add fresh and canned tomatoes, tomato paste and water.
    • Simmer until done, about 2 hours. Add more water if necessary. Add salt to taste. When the lentils are tender, add cooked or drained canned black beans. Heat until warm.
    • Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado and chopped green onions. Makes eight to 10 servings.

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