Good Things to Know
Letís Get Started!
Washing Fresh veggies and fruits should always be rinsed well under cold running water and then patted dry with paper towels before using. Some veggies, such as potatoes, need to be scrubbed well with a vegetable brush. Meat, poultry, and seafood should be washed before using, too. Simply rinse under cold water and then pat dry with paper towels before continuing.
Peeling Some fruits and veggies peel easily with a vegetable peeler. Place the food (such as a carrot, cucumber, potato, apple, or pear) on a cutting board and hold firmly with one hand. Using the other hand, scrape the peeler down the length of the food. Keep turning as you go, so that you remove all of the peel.
Other foods, such as onions and garlic, are peeled differently. Use a sharp knife to cut a little off of both ends. Then use your fingers to peel away the dry, tough outer layers. For garlic, press down on it with the palm of your hand to loosen the skin. It will then peel off very easily.
Chopping When chopping round foods like potatoes or carrots, the first thing you should do is cut off a small piece from one side so that it doesnít roll away while youíre cutting it. Place this flat part down on the cutting board. Then, hold one side of the food firmly with one hand and cut the food to the shape or size desired. The more you chop, the smaller the pieces will get.
When it comes to chopping, onions are in a league all their own! Once theyíre peeled, cut them in half lengthwise and place them flat side down on the cutting board. Then, while holding the root end with your fingers, make many lengthwise cuts all the way down to the cutting board. Then turn your knife and cut across the lengthwise cuts. Pieces of onion will fall away on the cutting board. The closer your cuts are to one another, the smaller the pieces of onion will be!
Mincing garlic is easy! Separate the head of garlic into cloves. Peel as described on page 18, then use your chefís knife or a paring knife to cut the cloves lengthwise and then crosswise into small pieces. (Another way to do this is with a garlic press, which is really easy and safe-and fun! Just put the garlic into the press, close it, and press real hard. Little pieces of garlic-just the right size-will come out of the holes!)
Grating When grating hard foods, like carrots or potatoes, hold the grater with one hand and the piece of food firmly in the other. Rub the end of the veggie downward over the holes, back and forth over a large mixing bowl or piece of waxed paper, and the grated pieces will fall through the holes. Be very careful not to grate your fingers-that hurts! Soft foods, such as cheese, are really easy to grate!
With an apple corer: Hold the apple firmly on your cutting board. Center the apple corer over the core and press down firmly until you feel the corer hit the cutting board. Twist and pull corer out of the apple, and the core should come right out.
With a paring knife: Cut the apple in half. Cut each half in half again. Place the apple on the cutting board and cut the core away from the apple.
With a melon baller: This is the easiest way to core an apple! Cut an apple in half. Place the apple half on the cutting board, core side up. Hold the melon baller in your other hand and center it over the core of the apple. Press down into the apple and twist. A round piece of apple core should come right out.
Hulling strawberries Place the strawberry on the cutting board and hold the pointed side with one hand. Using a paring knife, cut across the top to remove the stem.
Fruits with pits (such as peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums) To remove the pit, simply cut the fruit in half along the indentation, then twist the two halves apart.
Zesting You can "zest" any citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, or grapefruits). Using a "zester," itís really easy. Simply pull the zester down the side of a piece of fruit, pressing at the same time so that the zester removes tiny strips of the outermost layer of peel. If you donít have a zester, a fine grater works too. Over a bowl or a piece of waxed paper, rub the side of the fruit along the grater while lightly pressing down. The small pieces of zest will fall through the grater. Be sure you get only the colored part of the peel: The white part is bitter!
Trimming meat Itís a good idea to trim the excess fat off of meat before cooking. Simply use a very sharp knife and follow the line between the meat and the fat. If a little fat is left, thatís okay.
Cracking and separating eggs To crack an egg, hold it firmly in one hand while you hit the middle part (not too hard!) against the rim of a bowl. Then take both hands and grasp the cracked edges and pull apart. Itís always a good idea to crack an egg into a separate bowl before adding it to a recipe so that you can see if any bits of shell fell into the egg. (If so, remove them before adding the egg to the recipe!) Sometimes a recipe will call for just egg yolks or egg whites. To separate eggs and use either the yolk or white only, crack the egg lightly and pull the halves apart, carefully letting the white drip into a cup. Keep the yolk in the eggshell. Gently move the yolk from one eggshell half to the other, letting the white drip into the cup until only the yolk is left in the shell. Be careful not to break the yolk so that it bleeds into the egg white.
Cutting chickens If a recipe calls for a whole chicken cut into pieces, please donít try to cut one up yourself. This is really hard and very dangerous. Either have your parents do it for you or buy a cut-up chicken at the grocery store.
Removing sausage from casing Sometimes sausage comes stuffed in "casing," which keeps it together. To remove the sausage from the casing, simply use the point of a sharp knife to cut the tip off of one end of the sausage link and squeeze from the bottom up to force the meat mixture out.
How to Know When Enough is Enough
Measuring Itís best to use individual 1/4-, 1/3-, 1/2-, and 1-cup measuring cups when you can - itís the easiest and most accurate way to measure things. When measuring dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, or rice, use a metal or plastic measuring cup like that shown above. Dip the appropriate size measuring cup into the ingredient that is to be measured, then use a knife or your hand to level off the top.
When measuring liquids, use glass or plastic measuring cups that you can see through. Fill until the liquid comes to the appropriate line on the cup, checking at eye level to make sure youíve measured the correct amount.
Measuring spoons are easy to use. For dry foods, just dip the spoons into whatever youíre measuring, then level off the top. For liquids, such as oil or vanilla extract, hold the spoon in one hand and pour with the other. Make sure to hold the spoon level, and always fill it all the way to the top!
Determining container capacity: If youíre not sure of the size of a saucepan, baking dish, or other container, simply use a measuring cup to fill it with water. Count the number of cups it takes to fill the container and then figure out its size by referring to the equivalents chart on page 28.
Now We're Cooking!
Mixing Just another term for combining things, usually with a "mixer," which has beaters instead of spoons. Lock the beaters into the mixer, lower the beaters into the mixing bowl, then turn the power on slowly. As the mixture becomes more blended, you can increase the speed.
Beating This means mixing things together quickly so that air is added to the mixture and it becomes smooth and creamy. Usually done with a mixer, you can also beat things with a spoon-it just takes a little elbow grease!
Stirring Use a spoon to stir in a circular motion until the ingredients are all blended.
Folding This is a way of mixing things together very gently so that they stay fluffy. Use a large plastic or rubber spatula and, instead of stirring, place it into the bowl and combine the ingredients with two or three up-and-over, or "folding," motions. Donít overmix!
Sifting This is done to make sure there are no lumps in dry foods like flour or sugar. Just hold the sifter over a bowl and shake from side to side (some sifters have knobs to turn or handles to squeeze).
Creaming This refers to beating butter and sugar together very well until it becomes light and "creamy."
Soft peaks This term is used when beating things like heavy cream or egg whites. After you turn the mixer off and lift the beaters out of the bowl, if a little of the mixture comes up where the beaters were, forming a soft mound that stays up, thatís a soft peak.
Scraping down bowl This is done to make sure everything gets mixed evenly. Just hold the edge of the mixing bowl in one hand, then run a plastic or rubber spatula all the way around the inside of the bowl to ďscrape downĒ the sides.
Eggs Eggs come in different sizes. When using eggs for the recipes in this book, always use the ones labeled large.
Working butter into flour You can do this with a pastry blender, two forks or butter knives, or your fingers. The main thing is that the butter is rubbed into the flour so that only small pieces of butter are visible and the rest has been combined with the flour. When itís done, it will look like small crumbs.
Softening butter If a recipe calls for butter to be softened, it means at room temperature-not straight from the refrigerator. If you forget to take the butter out to soften, try placing it in a microwave-proof bowl and microwave on high for 5 to 10 seconds. This works great.
Rolling dough Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the top with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll while pressing down on the dough. Begin by rolling front to back, then switch directions and roll side to side. If the rolling pin sticks, sprinkle a little more flour. Continue rolling until the dough is the desired size and thickness.
Greasing a pan Greasing helps keep baked goods from sticking to the pan. Itís easy to do this with your hands, but if you donít want to get stuff all over them, then try using a paper towel to spread the shortening or oil. Just make sure you donít miss any spots!
Measuring thickness of dough Until you have a lot of practice with this, itís a good idea to keep a ruler handy. This is an easy way to see if youíve rolled your dough out to the correct thickness.
Kneading dough Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Use one hand to firmly press into one side of the dough. Pick up the other side of the dough with your other hand and fold it over, again pressing into the dough. Pick up the opposite edge of the dough and do the same. Repeat this process for as long as instructed in the individual recipe directions. The dough should become smooth and elastic. If the dough gets sticky, sprinkle with a bit more flour.
Proofing yeast This is a way of making sure the yeast is working! Let it sit for about 5 minutes in a warm liquid. If itís working, you will see lots of foam and little bubbles rise to the surface.
Melting chocolate in a double boiler Fill the bottom of a double boiler with about 2 inches of water. Insert the top of the double boiler and place the chocolate in it. Set on the stovetop and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted. If you donít have a double boiler, you can use a medium saucepan for the bottom part and a metal bowl large enough to sit on top of the saucepan without touching the water at the bottom.
Is It Done Yet?
Testing the heat of a pan You can test the heat of a pan by dropping a teaspoon of water in it. The pan is hot enough to cook in when the water "dances" into drops across the bottom.
Testing with toothpicks This is an easy trick! Insert a toothpick into the center of a cake-if it comes out clean when you pull it out, the cake is done. If you can see gooey stuff or bits of crumbs sticking to it, then it needs a bit more cooking time.
Thermometer usage Some recipes in this book suggest using an instant-read thermometer when things need to be at a certain temperature. Though this is not always necessary, a thermometer does help you make sure that things are cooked enough. Thermometers also help when cooking with yeast, because you usually need to add warm water or other liquid to it in order for it to start working. A thermometer will tell you if the liquid is too hot or too cold. (If you use a thermometer, make sure that it is inserted far enough into whatever youíre testing so that you get a true temperature.)
Fork-tender When you insert a fork into something and it goes in easily, then it is said to be fork-tender.
Meat doneness Because some meat may contain germs that can make you sick, itís a good idea to cook your meat until itís no longer pink inside. This is called being "cooked through." Even better, if you have an instant-read thermometer, simply insert the tip into the meat (there is usually a mark on the thermometer that shows how far it should be inserted), wait a few seconds until the temperature stops rising, and then read the number. For beef, medium well to well done is 150į to 165įF. For chicken, turkey, or pork, always cook to at least 160įF.
Kick Up The Flavor!
Dried vs. fresh herbs Most of the recipes in this book call for dried herbs, since this is what most folks have at home. Itís really easy to kick them up a notch by rubbing them between your fingers before adding them to the recipe. They will release more flavor this way! And hey, if your mom or dad has an herb garden and you have access to fresh herbs, feel free to use them in recipes. Just take the leaves off of the stems and chop into small pieces with a knife. Remember, though, that to get the same amount of flavor from fresh herbs, youíll have to use about 3 times the amount of dried herbs called for in the recipe.
Pepper When a recipe calls for ground black pepper, the kind you buy in spice jars or tins is just fine. However, if you have a pepper mill at home, thereís nothing like the flavor of fresh-ground pepper.
3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
1 cup = 1/2 pint = 8 ounces
2 cups = 1 pint = 16 ounces
2 pints = 1 quart = 32 ounces
4 quarts = 1 gallon = 128 ounces
1 stick butter = 8 tablespoons = 1/4 pound = 1/2 cup
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