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.

Sunday Brunch at the Biltmore

Last Sunday, after waiting about 3 weeks for the Boston Brunchers’ event, I finally made my way down to Newton to where my friend and fellow blogger, Megan, lives (in an adorable apartment I might add.)  Megan and I went to college together and when she found out I too write a food blog, she was more than supportive.  I mentioned to her that I wanted to get more involved in the food blogging world and when she won two tickets to this event, she didn’t hesitate to ask me.  If that isn’t blogger love, I don’t know what is.

When we arrived at the Biltmore Bar & Grill, the host took us through the front bar to the back part of the restaurant.  There were vintage signs and old-fashion art plastered on the walls and our long table was set with flowers and a white tablecloth.  I must admit, I was pretty jittery all morning in anticipation of the brunch.  Since it was my first time meeting all the other guests (minus Megan), I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with the seasoned bloggers.

My anxiety quickly diminished as I sat down at the table.  The others immediately introduced themselves and I recognized a few of them from their blogs.  I could feel my face turn a not-so-subtle shade of fuschia as I told them who I was and I what the title of my blog is.  They welcomed me with open arms and I knew it was going to be a good morning.  My fellow bloggers included Megan, of course, Corey, Krista, Kimmy, Justin, Amanda, Carolyn, Josie, Katy, Michelle, and our wonderful host, Renee.

–Oh! And by the way… since my camera doesn’t want to cooperate and upload my photos into my computer for actual use, all of the photos in this blog post are courtesy of Renee. (Thank you!!)

When the restaurant host came out with paddles of sample cocktails, I was instantly intrigued.  The first was a homemade Bloody Mary, the second, a Mimosa, made with the restaurant’s freshly squeezed OJ.  I’m not really a huge fan of tomato juice so I only had one small sip of the Bloody Mary but the Mimosa blew me away.  I had to restrain myself from draining the glass in one gulp.  Someone sign me up to juice oranges in that place if it means I can drink those everyday.

The first course consisted of a lobster frittatta.  Now – I rarely eat lobster.  I don’t love it when it’s merely dipped in butter but throw it in a soup or on the top of fluffy egg and cheese and call me SOLD.  The egg itself was crispy on top and along the edges and creamy (yet light) in the center.  I immediately ate the green tendrils off the top.  As tempted as I was, I knew I couldn’t eat the full amount of every course so I dug into about half the frittatta, picked off and ate all the lobster, and prepared for the next course.

Before I go any further, I have a confession to make.  It’s no surprise now (although it was to my fellow brunchers) that I gave up carbs for Lent.  Now, I don’t really believe in the whole “You can have what you gave up for Lent on Sundays” and I haven’t used it as an excuse at all this Lent with the exception of this past Sunday.  I could not justify being at this beautiful brunch with complimentary food from an obviously very talented chef and at least not TRY it.  I think you’ll forgive me when you see what’s coming up.

When the second course came out, so did my Lenten secret.  Nevertheless, my new friends were not judgemental, just awestruck.  The plate in front of me held a (very large) chive biscuit topped with a poached egg (perfectly runny, just how I like it) and a jalepeno cheese sauce.  I carefully broke the yoke, letting it ooze down the sides of the biscuit.  I sloshed the mixture onto a piece of egg white and a bit of chive biscuit and let the whole thing melt into my tastebuds.  Now normally, I don’t eat eggs (only egg beaters) or just avoid the yokes, but I couldn’t resist the golden hue of the egg mixed with the cheese sauce.  It was all-around heavenly.  This time, I ate the whole egg and all of the sauce with a few bites of the biscuit, but sadly had to leave most of it behind.

Course three was a play on a popular dish: Pigs in a Blanket.  Instead of the mini hotdogs wrapped in crescent dough we all remember from childhood, this piggy was a maple breakfast sausage wrapped in a warm buttermilk pancake.  It was served with apple-maple syrup.  Okay, I know this might be a stretch but the syrup just might have been my favorite thing about the ENTIRE brunch; I kid you not.  It was thinner than regular maple syrup and infused with an apple-cider taste that was uncomparable to any syrup I have ever had.  As I said multiple times during the brunch, I could drink a vat of the stuff.  Sure I’d be on a sugar overload after and probably feel sick, but hey, this syrup was WORTH it.  The actual pancake/sausage combo was delicious as well.  Sweet syrup, savory meat and fluffy pancakes are always a good combo in my book.

Next up: Chicken & Waffles.  I won’t lie – I was nervous about this one.  I don’t never eat fried chicken or waffles.  Although I am aware of the Southern significance of the dish and despite the fact I have been to the South more times than I can remember, I had not yet had it.  But when the waitress set the plate down in front of me, I was pleasantly surprised.  The fried chicken was crisp not not oily at all.  The waffles were sweet and both were accompanied by the same apple-maple syrup I swooned over in the previous course.  The host told us that normally, our plate of 1 piece of chicken and 1 waffle was just one-third of the normal sized meal.  Granted, I was already filled with 3 courses prior to trying the chicken and waffles but the thought of eating triple the amount dumbfounded me.

Finally, the last course, our “dessert” was served.  A simple parfait of homemade granola, fresh berries and a dollop of fresh whipped cream garnished with a strawberry finished the tasting menu.  The granola was crunchy and slightly sweet and was the perfect accompaniment to the tart berries and thick whipped cream.  It might just have been my favorite course at the brunch.
Overall, the Biltmore Bar & Grille provided delicious food, excellent, friendly service, an ecclectic atmosphere and an experience that I will not soon forget.  I plan on attending many more Boston Bruncher events in the future and hope to see my new friends there as well!