Guest Post: Cooking for Beginners

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a lovely woman named Barbara.  A frequent reader of my blog and experienced writer herself, she asked if I would consider letting her write a guest post for Chocolate & Wine.  I happily agreed and after reading some of her work, decided that she would be the perfect person to write a “How-To” post for beginner cooks.  It is insightful, includes recipes and helpful videos, and can help any cook no matter what your skill level is.

Thanks for posting Barbara!!

Cooking 101: The Basics for Beginners

This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes for online classes.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

Cooking—while some have a natural gift for it, others simply improve with trial and error. If your first attempt at cooking was an utter disaster and you’re hoping to be part of the latter group, a good place to start improving your culinary skills is to do some light studying. No worries— quizzes and exams will not be administered, but brushing up on your culinary vocabulary is great way to make sure that you follow your recipe-of-choice correctly. After all, what good is reading a recipe if you don’t know what you need to do to make sure the meal comes out right? With that said, below are some explanations of common phrases and key words that pop up in most basic recipes and a list of supplies every kitchen should have to execute. Make sure to check out some simple semi-home made recipes found at the bottom of the article as well and put your freshly new knowledge to the test.

Must-Know Phrases/Key Terms

Sauté: This French term can be used when referring to both meats and vegetables. All it means is to cook the item of choice in a small sautéing pan (a skillet can be used in its place) until the meat is no longer pink or

Cook Vegetables Until Tender: This phrase is used to describe the state where a fork can easily insert into the once-raw vegetable with ease.

Cook Until Translucent: This phrase is typically used whenever onions are involved. All this simply means is to cook the onions until they become more transparent and are no longer a deep white or deep yellow—they should look more “see through.”  Other words associated with onions and other vegetables include “chopped,” which are large cut square pieces of onion; “minced“, which are tiny miniscule cut pieces of onion; or “sliced” which are cut pieces that will appear like rings.

Brown Meat: This phrase is typically used when referring to ground meats such as hamburger or turkey. This means to cook the meat until it is no longer pink and bloody. To make sure that your ground meat gets cooked and “browns” properly, break apart the meat with a wooden spoon so that is distributes into small round pieces as it cooks.

Beat Eggs: This phrase is simply asking you to briskly stir the egg yolk and white together using a fork or whisk until the two components are thoroughly incorporated into one runny yellow mixture. Eggs must be mixed in a separate bowl by themselves to be considered “beaten.” To get a better idea of how it’s done, check out this video.

Stir Frequently: This means to repeatedly use a spoon to make sure all of the ingredients in the pan/pot are well-mixed, “Frequently” is typically about every 3 minutes or so. This instruction is usually given so that ingredients don’t stick to the bottom or sides of the pan.  

Must-Have Kitchen Utensils/ Equipment: 

Ovenproof Frying Skillet

Medium-Sized Sauce Pan

Large Pot

Baking Dish; 8 inch square and 12-inch square

Mixing Bowl

Cutting Board


Measuring Cup and Measuring Spoons

Wooden Spoon, Spatula, Large Knife, Whisk

Semi-Homemade Easy Recipes for Beginners

Potato, Bacon and Green Onion Frittata
Prefect for breakfast or brunch, this easy-to-make dish is a great meal to test your elementary cooking skills.  Omit the bacon for a vegetarian version. (Serves 4)

6 slices of bacon
1 cup of Shredded Potatoes (can be purchased in the frozen isle)
1/2 cup of chopped green onion
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup of finely shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook bacon in an ovenproof nonstick skillet until it is crispy (add no oil, bacon will make its own). Take the bacon out and place on a plate. Dab with a paper towel to remove excess oil. Drain excess oil from skillet. Chop cooked bacon into chunky pieces. Add chopped bacon back into skillet and add potatoes and green onion. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until potatoes are crisp, stirring frequently. Stir in eggs. Sprinkle one layer of shredded cheese on top of egg mixture. Cover the skillet with appropriate lid and place in heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the center is thoroughly cooked. To check this, insert a fork directly in the middle of the frittata; if no uncooked egg remains on the fork when you take it out, it is cooked.

Creative license for image here.

Saucy Lemon Pepper Chicken 
Prefect for lunch or dinner, this great dish only takes about 15 minutes to make and requires no complicated marinating yet still has a burst of flavor. And if it doesn’t ( or you accidently burn the meat) the special sauce will disguise it. (Serves 4)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 ¼ of lemon pepper seasoning
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
¾ chicken broth
1 tablespoon of flour
¼ cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon of minced parsley

Directions: Sprinkle chicken with lemon pepper seasoning, making sure that all areas are covered. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Place the chicken in the skillet and sauté for about 10 minutes on each side, or until the inside is not longer pink.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside on a different plate.  Add remaining butter to skillet and sauté mushrooms for about 2 to 3 minutes. While cooking, whisk broth and flour in a mixing bowl until all of the lumps are gone. Pour liquid over cooked mushrooms. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add sour cream and stir. Add chicken back into skillet, making sure to spoon sauce over chicken. Sprinkle parsley on top of chicken and serve immediately.

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