A Kid in the Kitchen?

You would think that being nearly 40 years old I would know my way around food and the kitchen. Not so.

In my teenage years, I started avoiding food because, for the most part, it made me feel ill and, because of that, I hated to eat. I learned later, when I had surgery for endometriosis, that one of the side effects of that disease (depending on where it grows inside of a person) can be nausea and lack of appetite. So it was for me.

As an example of my food gauche, it wasn’t until 2004 or 2005 that I learned you could cut a banana in half and it would self-seal, and you could eat the other half the next day. I was so excited about that discovery! Another example: It wasn’t until this past year that I learned you could push those little tabs in on the side of the box for aluminum foil, saran wrap, wax paper, etc. and the roll wouldn’t fall out when you were pulling some out.

I know enough to get by, but I often feel as if I’m like a kid in the kitchen and I envy and feel a little insecure around you people who have kitchen savvy and think cooking is no big deal. Those of you who think up substitute ingredients at the drop of the hat and can whip up dinners in no time flat just off the top of your head boggle my mind. I want to watch you cook, you’re like a celebrity to me, but I feel like you’ll notice how lost I am in the kitchen. I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing in there! Me, I’m like, “What’s for dinner… salad? Sure! I’ll just make it a REALLY big one and THAT can be my dinner! And DON’T WATCH ME MAKE IT!”

The other day I read an article in the October 2009 Men’s Journal, entitled How to cook like a Man. A little misleading in that there are a lot of men who are chefs but, hey, I didn’t write the article’s title — and, oh my, what a large title it is, eh?

It was followed by an article entitled, Kitchen Tool Commandments and in that article, it said you should have two knives — a 10″ chef’s knife and a paring (or boning) knife. Do I even want to know what a “boning” knife is?? *clears throat*.

I have a chef’s knife and a paring knife, and I’ve learned over the years that I also need a mixing spoon that can stand up to heat and thick ingredients, a metal pancake turner and a couple of spatulas. That little spatula in the picture is one of my favorites, it can get inside jars like nobody’s business!

Essential ingredients that I always try to have on hand include onions (you always need onions), rice (it’s a food staple), kidney beans (I love them), fresh veggies for salads and, since I’m not vegetarian, chicken or hamburger. To make it challenging, I don’t cook with dairy products, unless they’re raw (unpasteurized) — so that eliminates most “cream of…” soups and I don’t like spending more than 15-20 minutes prepping food, so the recipes I make have to be simple and quick.

My question to you is two-fold. What ingredients or spices are essential in your house and why? And what cooking utensil is essential for you? And a bonus question: What food or kitchen tip (like the banana cut in half thing) would you pass onto your child if you were teaching them how to cook?

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20 Comments

Filed under I'm Never too Old to Learn, Who I am

20 responses to “A Kid in the Kitchen?

  1. Caryl

    Good questions. My favorite kitchen utensil is the mixing spoon I got from my mother. I’ve never seen another one made just like it. A Kitchen tip is to put a part of a paper towel in with stored cut onion or garlicpieces to collect moisture. I use a cleaned jelly jar or cleaned plastic peanut butter jar to store them in.
    Yeah, the spices I like? Hard to impossible to find here. Since moving to the city this year, I’ve found Basil and love it with tomatoes. I have found maybe four others, but don’t know exactly what to use them for. I’ve been researching them.
    Love you,

    • Interestingly, that mixing spoon in the picture is from you. It’s one of my favorites! Is that the one you got from your mother (grandma)?

      Good tip re: the paper towel and jar. Do you refrigerate them (the onion and garlic)?

      Tell me what spices you like and I can include them in the next package I send you.

      Love you, too.

  2. grrrace

    I wish I was better in the kitchen, too. I usually end up just making the same stuff over and over again.

    I like to have ground turkey in the freezer for emergencies. I always have rice and pasta just in case, too. Tofu for when I don’t feel like meat, but everyone else seems to need some kind of protein. We buy fresh veggies weekly so we usually have some of those… broccoli, squash, or whatever looks interesting. Hrm… What else… Oh, I love having tomato sauce and diced tomatoes on hand. They can go in pretty much anything. I also like to have random Trader Joe’s sauces in jars. Just add veggies and/or meat and you’re ready to go. I like to use dehydrated onions in things.

    That enough random stuff for you? hehe.

    Oh, and spices. I like to add chili powder to things. hehe. Basil and oregano are favorites, too. Oh, and garlic powder. NUM NUM NUM. hehe.

    Oooh… as far as kitchen tip… I don’t know. I don’t think I have any!!! If I think of one, I’ll let you know. hehe.

    • I just make what’s easy and usually that means I make Tony cook. hehehe

      Ummm, anyway, so I’ve come up with some fairly decent recipes this past week. Maybe I’ll do with dinner what I did in high school with my clothes. I kept a calendar of what I’d worn so I wouldn’t wear it again too soon. hehe Lord knows, I have a couple extra calendars (brought home from work).

      I love your random tips, thank you! πŸ™‚ Good spice tips, too.

      xo

  3. Well, I cook so rarely now that I hardly ever use all the Kitchen Tool Essesntials that I have. Besides knives and a few other absolute neccesities…A long Wooden Spoon. If you are makunbg scrambled eggs or an omelet and you are using a non-stock pan, you must have a long wooden spoon….! A Whisk is also a really good thing to have on hand, too….And a Spoon with holes in it—Very Very Handy when you don’t want the liquid that something was cooked in and need what was cooked to be fairly liquid free–it’s the size of a big serving spoon. A double boiler is a great cooking tool and a “steamer” is really wonderful, too. I mean that thing that folds up sort of and has holes in it that you put in the bottom of a pot which you are using for steaming, like for veggies Gee, I guess I actually use quite a lot of stuff…lol! ALSO: A Waring Blender or Osterizer. a GREAT Kitchen Tool! These are all things I would say are Kitchen Tool Essentials.

    • For cooking so rarely, you sure do seem to know your way around the kitchen!

      I must go look up a double boiler… I have never heard of that before. Hmmmm.

      I would agree with you on the the rest of your essentials… I never really thought of those as essentials, but you’re right. Fortunately, I do have most of them (except for the double boiler). πŸ™‚

  4. I love spices. We add oregano to just about everything. I’m also a big fan of cumin, so I tend to make a lot of foods that include it.

    Not a spice, but we go through olive oil pretty fast. I’d say it’s a staple in our kitchen. We also keep a lot of cans of tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, etc., on hand. Also chicken broth and beef broth–those are ingredients that a lot of recipes seem to call for.

    I have a big chef’s knife and use it for just about everything. Another one of my favorite “tools”–my apple corer. It’s one of those “gadgets” that a lot of people probably buy and never use, but I use mine all the time. Oh, and I keep several different sizes of cutting boards, some plastic (for meats) and some wood (for everything else).

    I’m trying to think of neat tricks … I was never much good in the kitchen either. I never was interested in cooking as a child/teenager, and when I was single and in my 20s, I pretty much lived on pasta and salad. I essentially learned to cook by reading Cooking Light magazine and watching the random cooking show on the food network. πŸ™‚

    Oh, one “tip” … if a recipe calls for water, I rarely use water. I generally substitute it with chicken broth, beef broth, or red or white wine, whichever seems more appropriate. (Do not try this if baking sweets!!) πŸ™‚ If I’m going to dilute something, I want to use something more tasty than water!

    • Ohhh, one of the recipes I made last week included cumin and I didn’t have any!! I used something called “cajun seasoning” instead because it started with a “c”.

      Olive oil is expensive, isn’t it? Where do you buy it for cheap, I wonder? And don’t say you squeeze your own!

      Oh goodness, I have a drawer full of gadgets, including a pineapple corer that makes the drawer stick every time we open or close it. Maybe I should ditch all of those things and just get the apple corer! πŸ™‚

      Good tip re: substituting broth for water. I really laughed when you said not to when baking sweets! πŸ˜†

    • Let’s see if I can figure out this “reply” thing …

      A better substitute for cumin would be chili powder, since cumin is generally an ingredient in the chili powder you buy at the store. It’s like chili powder, only better. It’s what gives food that wonderful Mexican/southwestern flavor.

      Yes, olive oil is expensive. We use it quite a bit, so we generally buy a big bottle. Still not cheap, but overall a better buy than buying the little bottles.

    • But I had already put chili powder in the pot! So I had to do something different. I guess you’re saying that all “c” spices are not alike. And, hey, you’re right re: the southwestern flavor part… the recipe was for Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie! πŸ™‚

  5. Essential spices for me are, of course, oregano, basil, and parsley. Duh! however, beyond that just the basics, salt, pepper, etc. I like using Mrs. Dash as well.

    The only essential cooking utensils I need are a very sharp paring knife, a wooden spoon, my new love, a cast iron frying pan, and my Kitchen Aid professional stand mixer (I LOVE that thing!). Basically, with the kids being so busy all the time, we do easy dinners. You need to be able to prepare and have done in under 30 min. I could toss you some of my fave recipes that are quick and tasty.

    The other thing I LOVE to do (when I have time) is make my own sauce and go nuts with lasagne. Any time you like you can come visit and I’ll whip some up for you!

    • I just went and bought a thing of dried parsley. Never used it before in stuff. So thanks!

      Oh YES! I totally love, love, love my KitchenAid stand mixer. I got one of those in 2001 or 2002 for Christmas and I just adore it. πŸ™‚

      Sure, I’d love to have a looksie at some of your fav recipes. I’m all about idea gathering right now. πŸ™‚

      Hehe… lasagne, I’ll bring the raw cheese (unless you have a cow?)!

  6. noonie

    My wooden flat spatula with or without drainage slits… I have a bunch of them, as they are hard to find in the shops so when I spot them I buy a few. Stirs saucepans right to the bottom, nothing sticking in a corner, two together great for tossing stir fry in the pan, I can even dish up with them

    Favourite spice, fresh ground black pepper, favourite herb, English Mixed Herbs, favourite ingredient Worcestershire sauce and Marmite all of these will make minced beef (hamburger) taste like food.

    Favourite tip, teach the kids to cook savoury dishes. Cakes are great but they won’t leave home and live well if they can’t cook dinner.

    • Wooden spatulas? Yeah, I’ve never seen those around. I looked EVERYWHERE for a rice paddle and finally found a wooden one it in an Asian store (duh). I should have looked there in the first place!!

      Marmite? I’ve heard about marmite from a former blog reader of mine… what exactly is that?

      You are so right re: teaching kids to cook real dishes vs. cakes. So very right.

  7. My blogger friend xup always says that if you think your comment will be crazy long to just do your own post about it and link back to the blogger’s post that inspired you. I’m going to have to go that way with this one. And thanks for the idea.

  8. daydreambetty

    Pepper’s a spice, isn’t it? Do you have that? Shows you how much I know! But I have been experimenting with basil and oregano a lot lately, so have fun with that! Oh and garlic! Make sure you have lots of garlic!

    Like you, I don’t have the knack for cooking but I do love to watch other people cook. If you really want to learn, I think you should try a class. I’d go with you if I lived close by, but if I did live close by I’m sure we’d be doing other things than cooking. πŸ˜€

    • Pepper, oh my, yes, I have pepper! πŸ™‚

      I shall start immediately using more basil and oregano. Garlic, love the stuff. Powder and the real stuff. Delicious!

      That’s what I need, a friend to go to cooking class with me. hehe We’d have tons of fun if we lived near each other, I think. πŸ™‚

  9. grrrace

    LOL. I never did that with clothes… Probably because I didn’t have that many so I always knew what I wore and didn’t wore. hehehe…

    Luckily, Steve doesn’t care if we eat the same thing for days on end. Phew. hehehe. Good thing, otherwise, he’d be doing all the cooking. hehe.

    I took a cooking class once… just through the city of Irvine. It was fun… but I think I need a more practical class… One that is more for every day cooking.