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Cooking Simple - Spectacular Meals
Secrets that I have learned about cooking.

I have been cooking for one for many years. Over time I believe that I've gotten sort of good at it. My meals are wonderful. Or at least they are to me! Better than nearly all restaurants, I believe. And tons cheaper!

I have developed ideas about foods, which I am sharing in this story.

Shopping for meats.
When I go to the store to shop for meats, my attention is to price. As I walk down the row of meats, $price/pound is what I am looking at. Prices like $1.50/lb, $2.50/lb, even perhaps $3/pound grab my attention.

Doesn't matter to me at this point whether it is fish, chicken, pork, beef. I am just looking at the price right now.

Once I find one of these low priced meats, then I think about whether I have this meat already in my freezer. Then I make the decision to buy it or not.

Butchers often have a grand idea about what they sell. So grand, that sometimes they charge much too much. Of course, they do not sell that high priced stuff to me!

Another view of meat pricing.
Sometimes I do buy meat in the high price category. Take salmon, for example. It is pretty hard to find salmon for less than about $5.50/pound. I do not look at the price/pound when shopping for salmon. I look at how many meals I am able to make from the cut offered for sale.

For example, if I am able to prepare three meals from a $5.50/pound slab of salmon that has a total price of perhaps $7, I may buy it.
Fried fish, fried potatoes and zuchini squash.
Dipping sauce is in the left bowl.

Everything goes into the freezer.
When returning from the store with meat, I cut it up in meal sized portions and freeze it. Take fish for example. I enjoy buying white fish without spines. I only buy boneless fish. Often these fillets of fish are ungainly to wrap for the freezer. Also, whole fillets do not go easily into my cast iron skillets, which are 6" diameter at the bottom.

I cut these fillets into perhaps four quarters. Easy to freezer wrap when cut up small.

Note: I recommend only Glad wrap. The rest of the brands do not have consistant quality and often fail to stick.

Breading and frying.
I cook cheap, and still look for spectacular results. When breading foods, I never use an egg. Using one egg for breading for one meat portion? Wow! Unthinkable! Wasteful!

I prepare breading in a plastic bag. Spoon in maybe a half cup flour. Add some garlic salt and coarse salt to taste. I never hardly measure anything. A little of this. A little of that. Taste and see what's up.

I always add seasoning a little strong to my taste, because after cooking, flavors get milder. Takes a little testing to find out what is right for you.

This plastic bag of breading is stored in my freezer. I never throw out breading after one use [as recommended in the books]. That is crazy. Throw away good breading just because it came in contact with meats? The meats are in the freezer. The breading is in the freezer. Seems like good healthy cooking to me!

When breading fish for frying, I first dampen the fish in water, then throw the fish into the breading bag, shake until coated, pick up the breaded fish with my fingers and place it into the hot oil for frying.

Kinds of foods that are great breaded and fried.
Of course the expected, chicken and fish. Sliced white and red potatoes are wonderful. Zuchinni squash. Brussells sprouts bread and fry well. You don't even have to pre-cook Brussels sprouts. Just cut the Brussels in half, wet the cut side, dip in breading and fry until very well done.

Dipping sauce for fried fish.
For years I have always prepared a dipping sauce for fried fish which was only maybe 1/3 cup melted butter with a little garlic salt.

I have an alternate dipping sauce now which is wonderful.

Place a few heaping teaspoons of mayonnaise in a little serving bowl. Add some spicy mustard, a little at a time. Taste the sauce each time you add a little mustard. Add a little garlic salt. A little coarse salt. That's it!

Varieties of dipping sauce.
You can go crazy with this approach to scratch sauces for fish. For examle, to the mayo, add a few drops of BBQ sauce, yellow mustard, garlic salt and coarse salt. The color of the sauce will be mysterious to your guests because it may be a different color and taste eveytime they sit at your table. They won't know what it is. But they will dip up every drop!

I tried for many years to prepare wonderful pancakes with "add only water" mixes. My pancakes were not good, and sort of fell apart. Terrible quality. I wanted pancakes that held together, not pancakes that fell apart! I'd go to a restaurant and eat wonderful pancakes. What did that restaurant know that I did not?

You cannot make wonderful pancakes with "add only water" mixes. That is what the restaurant knows. But I am just one person, and I make only two pancakes for breakfast. What a dilemma! What should I do?

Now, I only use the "add egg, milk, oil" mixes. Since I do not carry milk aboard MsTioga, here is how I do pancakes now.

2-heaping tablespoons Aunt Jemima Original [1 heaping tablespoon mix=1 pancake]
1-teaspoon oil
1-tablespoon Coffee Mate [Instead of milk]
Add water to proper consistancy.

In a mixing bowl, add the pancake mix, egg, oil and Coffee Mate. Add a little water and stir. Keep stirring in a little more water until the mix falls creamy from the spoon.

Fry the pancake in a hot skillet covered with a thin layer of oil. Continue frying until the bubbles begin to stop popping. Peek at the bottom of the pancake. If it is brown, flip it.

I use cast iron skillets with a 6" bottom. So, my pancakes are about 5" diameter. Of course they come out wonderful now!
A pancake breakfast.

Publishing this story on-the-fly.
I am sharing this story with you on sort of an as-I-go-along-the-road basis. In the coming days, I may think of more things to share with you.

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Since February 28, 2004