20-Minute Tips

I’ve been doing 20-Minute Chef for 10 months now and I realized that I’ve learned a lot, so here’s a handy list of the top things I’ve learned that have demystified the kitchen for me.

  1. Read the recipe multiple times before doing anything.
    Before you make a single slice, or even go to the store, read the recipe a couple times so you; 1) know what you need to buy and what’s already in your kitchen, 2) know what tools you’ll need, and 3) know what settings you’re supposed to be cooking at BEFORE you burn it.
  2. Buy a cooking knife.
    You don’t need a 5-star kitchen or all the latest cooking gadgets to make a great dish. Most of what you have at home will work fine. But if you don’t have a proper cooking knife, go get one. I got a pretty simple one from SUPERSTORE and it’s made a difference. Having the right tools for the job is half the battle.
  3. Have everything out before you cook.
    Don’t burn something because you had to go into the fridge to get an ingredient rather than reach to the counter. It seems obvious, but in the time it takes to get milk out and measure it, you could burn your dish.
  4. Don’t worry about precise measurements.
    Yes, it’s important to get the amounts at least close so you have something edible. But once you’re comfortable don’t worry about using exactly half a cup of corn starch. I used to fret over getting all of my measurements exactly right and overcooked countless things in the process. Get it close, throw it in and keep going. Cooking is as much an art as it is science. Experiment with tastes and amounts.
  5. Expand your spice cabinet.
    You won’t get away with sprinkling nutmeg over every dish you make. Cumin, chiles, parsley are all great places to start and can totally change the taste of a dish.
  6. Go fresh.
    It makes a world of difference. Preparing food yourself simplifies the cooking process and reduces the ingredient list substantially. But even taste-wise, fresh-pressed garlic will always be better than garlic powder. It may take an extra step, but it’s worth it.
  7. Make the dish your own.
    Once your comfortable with cooking, you can experiment with ingredients/spices and not worry about destroying the dish. Start off simple. Try a different spice in a sauce. Maybe you like cream soups a little thicker. Add a little extra corn starch.

These are some of the top things I’ve picked up while cooking so far. Feel free to leave any of your tips in the comments.

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Cheesy Broccoli Goodness

Gloomy spring days need a cure. Not much warms me up like a good bowl of homemade soup. Until now, cheesy broccoli soup and homemade were two separate categories. No more!

What you’ll need:

Ingredients

1 small white onion
6 T non-salted butter
2 C half & half cream
3 C chicken soup broth
1 C grated Canadian Cheddar Cheese
1 C grated Cheddar Cheese
1/2 C Jalepeno Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 C Corn Starch
3 C Broccoli Florets
1 Carrot
1 Garlic clove
1/4 t Nutmeg
1/4 t Pepper

4L Soup Pot
Whisk
Emulsion Blender

First up, chop your veggies. Dice the onion and chop the broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Press/chop your garlic.

Grated Carrots
Julienned carrots are a waste of time.

The recipes I found called for ‘Julienne’ your carrots. All that means is ‘hey waste a bunch of time and try and cut your carrot into toothpicks.’ Who has time for that? Grab a grater and shred that thing.

If you’re using block cheese like I did, grate it now.

Now that prep’s done, it’s cooking time. Best advice; keep the temperature low and be patient.

Whisking
Free forearm workout if done properly.

Melt your butter in the pot you’re going to cook in over medium-low heat. Add the onions and let them cook for about 4 minutes. Once they’re soft, whisk the corn starch in and let it cook until its golden.

Stir in the half & half and then the chicken broth. Add the garlic. Keep the heat on medium-low and bring the stock to a simmer for 20 minutes. (Remember way back when I said 20 minutes of prep time? Just in case anyone wants to call me out.)

After you’ve let the sauce simmer, it should be a little thicker. Now add the broccoli and carrots. You can do this in a couple different ways, depending how involved you want to be and what you want your end product to look like.

You could add all your veggies at once, let them cook and then purée everything. When I did that, I was surprised at how little time it took to turn all the veggies into well, purée. You could also just add the veggies and let them cook for 20 minutes and then add the cheese and call it a day.

Emulsion Time
This thing works lightning fast. Went from a pot of veggies to a pot of purée in seconds.

But what I think would produce the best soup is adding HALF your veggies, letting it cook for 10 minutes, purée that and then add the rest of your veggies. That way, you get the thicker soup, but also have pieces of vegetable, which I think is essential to any homemade soup.

All the Cheese
How good this soup tastes directly correlates to how much cheese you use. Don’t skimp!

After you’ve got your veggies sorted out, add the cheese and give it a final stir. Best served with crusty bread, but crackers work great too. At this point, you’re probably wishing you doubled the recipe – good thing you read all the way through before cooking!

So Good
I had 3 bowls when I made this. I hope y’all enjoy it that much too.

Queso con Canada

It’s Spring Break season, and for most people that means taking a leisurely vacation in a warmer climate. For those of us that don’t have the means, a great way to feel like you’re on vacation is enjoying the food you could. So why not learn to make queso dip?

*DISCLAIMER* If you think this is going to turn out like your convenience store cheese sauce, you’ll be disappointed for a second, then impressed at how different cheese dip (cuz that’s what queso is) tastes when made with real cheese. If you want said cheese dip, go to 7-11 and indulge or buy a stick of Velveeta and nuke it. We’re cooking here.

What you’ll need:

Ingredients
What you’ll need for your Canuck Queso

1 lb. White Canadian Cheddar Cheese
1 T butter
6 strips of bacon
1/4 C of milk
1 Green Onion
1 clove  of garlic
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp ground jalepeno
1 tsp chili flakes

1 Sauce pan

First up, grate your cheese. The recipe’s I referenced for this said to cube it, but after trying it a couple times, I’m suggesting grating it so that melting doesn’t take so long. Chop/press your garlic and set it aside.

Cubed
I cubed my cheese, you should grate it to speed up your melting.

Next chop your bacon into small, manageable pieces and cook it. Chopping it up before cooking reduces your cooking time (similar concept for the cheese, think heat distribution and how it takes heat less energy to break down particles the smaller they are).

Fry the bacon
Who doesn’t love a glory shot of bacon frying? You’re welcome.

Take the butter, cheese and milk and put it in a sauce pan over LOW heat. Let everything melt and break down until it’s a semi-uniform mixture. Now add your spices.

Major Meltdown

Stir regularly so the dip doesn’t stat to stick and burn. If you’re noticing the sauce is still thick you can add a little more milk, but do so sparingly. Remember, we’re making real queso dip. This isn’t the same as canned cheese and won’t have the same consistency or texture.

First attempt
Composition aside, this tasted great, so great I cooked it again and it looked better.

The complication with serving a cheese dip is keeping it a consistency that is considered dip-able. I found a mini-crock pot to transfer mine to that worked well. But really, this is a dip meant to be served immediately after cooking, so this will probably be the last thing to come off the oven if you’re hosting. Once it’s ready to serve it won’t last long though.

Melty goodness
Remember, it’s cheese. It’s supposed to be stringy, not a full dip.

If you’ve tried this and have a tip on how to improve it, let me know. I’m always tweaking recipes.

Grown Up Mac’n’Cheese

I love Mac’n’Cheese. I ate enough KD growing up that it was a food group on its’ own. But eventually, you want something more. Sometimes it’s self-motivated, sometimes you have a date you promised dinner and know KD won’t cut it. So its time to step your game up.

**There will not be any photos in this post as we were LIVE for this one. We’ll post a link**

What you’ll need:

1 3/4 C Grated Parmesan cheese
1 3/4 C Heavy Cream (aka whipping cream that is ~35%-40%)
6 T Butter
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 tsp Pepper
1T Heavy Cream
2 tsp Flour
2 C Elbow Macaroni

Tools:
Cutting Knife & Board
Saucepan
Noodle Pot
Whisk
Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles. While that’s happening, melt the butter in a sauce pan on MED/LOW (3-4) heat. Chop/press your garlic. Mix the flour and 1T of Cream.

When the butter is melted, add the garlic and cream. Stir occasionally until it comes to a simmer. Leave the temperature alone and just let it cook. If you get impatient and raise the temperature you’ll burn your sauce and I bet you didn’t buy enough stuff to do this twice. At this point the water should be boiling so add your noodles.

Once the cream is simmering add the Parmesan cheese and pepper. Give it a good whisk and then do the same for the flour/cream paste.  Whisk the sauce until your arm’s sore and it’s a thick, consistent mix.

Strain the noodles and begin plating. This avoids wasting sauce that’ll just stick to the side of the pot, which in turn is more for you to clean up. You’re welcome.

Take a sauce spoon and drizzle over the Macaroni noodles generously. You’re now one step closer to being a grown up. Congratulations and enjoy.

Video: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fwill.bazan%2Fvideos%2F10154410710247781%2F&show_text=0&width=560

 

Beef & Broccoli

Save this recipe. If you learn one recipe I’ve posted, this is the one to learn. Beef & broccoli is one of my defaults when it comes to ordering Chinese food. This is my version of it, which is a modified from a recipe I found online. Not only is it fantastic, but it’s still under 20 minutes of prepping, minus the fridge time.

Here’s what you’ll need

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What You’ll Need

1.5 lbs skirt/flank steak
2 C broccoli florets
2/3 C low sodium soy sauce (this isn’t just for your health, it’ll salt out the recipe)
2 T honey
2 tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves
1 in. knob of ginger
1/4 T red pepper flakes
1 T cornstarch
1/4 C water
2 T EVOO

1 Bowl
1 Skillet
1 Chef Knife

First thing up is the sauce. Take the mixing bowl and add the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and pepper flakes. Peel the ginger and skin the garlic and chop them up until they’re ‘minced.’

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Chop/Press Ginger & Garlic

Throw them in the bowl and stir it until it looks like a consistent mixture.

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Cut your beef into strips like this.

Take your beef and cut it into thin strips. Totally optional but recommended, tenderize the beef before you cut it into strips. Toss the strips into the sauce and put it in the fridge for ten minutes.

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Let it soak in the sauce for 10-20 minutes.

If you bought a head of broccoli over pre-chopped florets now’s the time to chop that up. Set them aside in a bowl. Mix the cornstarch and water and have it ready to go.

Take your skillet and coat with the EVOO. Add JUST the beef strips over medium-high (8) heat, leaving the extra sauce in the bowl for now. Cook them for five minutes and then add the broccoli florets and cook for another five minutes. Stir the whole time, or you’ll be starting over.

img_6979
Don’t add all the sauce yet!

Add the remaining sauce and cornstarch/water and cover with a lid. Let the sauce come to a boil and cook for a minute after that, while stirring. When the florets are soft and the sauce is thick, it’s time to eat. Remove the skillet from the element and plate immediately.

img_6988
Cook rice to look like a real champ!

Everyone that got a bite of this wanted more. I ordered take out a couple days before cooking and this easily stood up to it. Where it obviously wins out is that you can have it right off the stove. Since this is basically a stir fry, you can also add in any other veggies to your preference.

Let me know how it turned out for you!

Grammy Guac

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What You’ll Need

Full Disclosure: I was going to post this for the Super Bowl, but lo, my birthday was last weekend and in all the chaos around it I didn’t have time to make/photograph the process. But the great thing about guac dip is that it’s great for everything.

What you’ll need:

4 Avocadoes
Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Clove of Garlic
Chile Flakes
Lime Juice
Preferred Hot Sauce

Sharp Knife
Mixing Bowl
Spoon

First thing you want to do is pit those avacadoes. Slice them around their circumference and pull one side off. To remove the pit from the second half, whack the knife into the pit and rotate it and the pit should pop out.

The most effective method to get the avocado out of its’ skin is the ‘grid’ method. Cut horizontal and vertical lines into the face of the avocado and then grab your spoon and scoop it into your mixing bowl. This method also reduces the amount of mixing you’ll have to do later.

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Gut the Avocado

Now its time to spice this guac up. Press your garlic and add it. Sprinkle 3-4 good shakes of chile flakes and throw in a three-finger pinch of Parmesan cheese.

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Add Parm, garlic and spices

The amount of hot sauce is totally up to you. I’ve found that no matter how much you add, someone isn’t happy. So you do you.

Now for the forearm workout. Stir that guac until it’s got a nice thick consistency. When you think it’s good, test it out and add more spice/parm if you think it’s needed.

img_7003
Mix to desired consistency.

Just before you serve it give it a squeeze of lime juice and one last stir and get ready to make another bowl because my money’s on you finishing the first batch before anyone makes it over.

Be productive while hungover!

Fighting off a bad one from last night? Know you’ll be down for a while but you’ll eventually want amazing hot food? Grab your slow cooker, we’re making sweet and sour ribs.

What you’ll need:

Ingredients
3 lbs. trimmed Pork Ribs

Sweet & Sour Sauce
2 C Brown Sugar1/4 C All-Purpose Flour
1/3 C Water
1/3 C Vinegar
2 T Soya Sauce
2 T Ketchup
1/4 T Ginger
1/4 T Garlic

What you’ll need:
Slow Cooker
Sauce Pan
Cutting Board

Take your ribs and chop them into bite sized morsels. *If you really want to plan ahead, do this the night before and have it sitting in the fridge, ready to go.*

Pork Chopped

Put them in the crock pot and set them aside. Sauce time.

Mix the brown sugar and flour in your sauce pan dry to get all the clumps. If you don’t do this you’ll have random flour balls in your sauce (learn from my errors).

Dry Mix

Add the water and stir until it’s an even mixture. The more your stir now, the less likely you are to have a lumpy sauce.

Set the element to high and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Continue to stir while the sauce comes to a boil.

Stir It

Let the sauce boil for 2-3 minutes until it’s nice and thick, stirring the whole time (seriously, if you stop stirring your sauce will burn and clean up will be one of your all-time worst kitchen experiences).

Stir it the whole time

Pour the sauce over the ribs and put the lid on it. Now, time for the toughest decision of your lazy day; will you be hungry in 4 or 8 hours? If you want ribs in 4, set the crock pot to high and timer for 4 hours. If you’re feeling more sloth-like, set the crock pot to low and timer for 8 hours.

Now, grab a Gatorade and go back to your dark abyss.

4 – 8 hours later:

Hopefully in this time span, someone noticed your ribs and made a side dish. It doesn’t really matter though, because ribs.

These are a go-to for me. Feel free to make them a part of your hangover routine.

Chicken Parm without Leaving your House

Chicken Parmesan is one of my favourite dishes when I go to an Italian restaurant. I’ve always loved it, but it seemed too intimidating to make on my own. That’s no longer true and it’s easier than you think.

What you’ll need for 2-4 servings:

What You'll Need

2 Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1 1/2 Cups Panko Breading1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
1 1/2 C Marinara Sauce
12 Grape Tomatoes (~3 per piece)
3-4 Leaves Fresh Basil
2 Eggs
2 T Canola Oil
2 T EVOO
Salt & Pepper

Cookie Sheet
Parchment Paper
Large Frying Pan
1 Bowl
1 Shallow Container (for breading)
Cutting Board
Knife
Meat Tenderizer

Mix the grated Parmesan and Panko breading in your shallow container. Add about 1/2 T of salt & pepper each (totally eyeballed this). Crack the eggs and whip them up.

Cover the cookie sheet in parchment paper and set it aside.

Split & Tenderize
I thoroughly enjoyed this step.

Split the chicken breasts so they are about 1/2″ thick. Take the tenderizer and go to town (such an underrated prep step).

This is where things start happening fast, so read first and set it up.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Egg, Bread, Fry
Avoid dishes and go right from prep to fry.

Have the egg and breading dishes close enough to the oven that you can assembly-line this (if your’re cooking for larger portions it really helps). Set the element to medium heat and at the canola oil and EVOO.

Stay Golden
They’re not quite perfectly breaded, but it’s my first go and they still tasted great.

Dip the chicken breast in the egg and then the Panko/Parm mix. Make sure the breading is spread even and thick. Pan fry each side for 3-4 minutes, until the breading is golden-brown. Place the pieces on the cookie sheet and put the mozzarella slices on top.

Put the chicken in the oven and let it cook for 12 minutes.

Set & Forget
With the sliced mozzarella on put them into the oven and let them finish cooking.

While the chicken is cooking in the oven, dice up the basil and half the grape tomatoes. Without realizing it, I bought basil marinara sauce so I didn’t add more to it. If you bought regular marinara sauce then most of it now. Save some to garnish.

Microwave the marinara sauce for 45 seconds (if you want to make more dishes to seem like a big shot, heat it on the stove. Otherwise don’t judge).

Ready for plating
Breaded chicken. Melted cheese. What more do you need?

Take the chicken out and check that it’s done. If it isn’t, put it back in for 2 minutes.

Sauce & Garnish
A nice marinara and some fresh chopped basil. That’s what you need.

Plate the chicken and place the halved tomatoes. Spoon the marinara sauce over and then garnish with basil.

I lucked out and my family took the initiative to make the side dishes when they saw me making the entree, so you’re on your own there.

This turned out better than I thought it would. Everyone enjoyed it. I asked my Oma how she liked it and she said it was wonderful. I asked her if she was just saying that because her grandson made it to which she replied, ‘Why on Earth would I do that? If I didn’t like it I would throw it in your face,’ and continued to finish her plate. So that’s a compliment?

Comfort food > Diet Fad

I know the majority of people seeing this will probably be mad because it’s still another 2-3 weeks before you toss your diet, so bookmark this. We’re making homemade Mozza Sticks.

What you’ll need:

Mozza Stick Ingredients

1 Block of Mozzarella Cheese
2/3 Cups of Panko Breading
1 Egg (I used just the white, wasn’t thick enough)
1 Jar Marinara Sauce (Whatever your preference. If anyone has a recipe, please share.)

Cooking Spray
Cookie Sheet
Frying Pan
Knife
2 Shallow Bowls/Dishes

Preheat oven to 425F and give your cookie sheet a spray.

To make your life easy, do this with a cheese block you can easily cut into sticks. I cut mine about 1/2″ thick and it seemed to work. Set them aside while we get the Panko ready.

Brown the Panko
Stir the Panko. If you let it sit too long you’ll burn it.

Set your element to medium heat and add the Panko once the pan is heated up. Keep an eye on it and stir it regularly. Once the Panko is golden brown, place it in a shallow dish.

Crack the egg, and whip it up in another dish. Take your sliced mozzarella, dip it in the egg and then coat it in the Panko.

The Breading Process
I lucked out and found the perfect dishes to bread these in the kitchen. The smaller they are, the less you’ll waste.

Place the breaded sticks on the cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 3 minutes. Watch them and wait. Seriously. I didn’t and almost had a sheet of cheese goo.

On the sheet, in the oven.
Keep an eye on them in the oven. It’s breaded cheese.

Pull those glorious sticks out and let them cool off, at least long enough that they sustain their shape. Heat the marinara sauce up if that’s what you’re into.

Done in a Flash
Don’t go far because these are done as quick as popcorn in the microwave.

Time to chow. These are great for sharing, but I won’t judge if you champ this yourself.

Glory Shot
As glorious as they look, I wish I got them out of the oven a little quicker so I didn’t have to let them cool as long.

Guess who’s back?

I took a break from posting over my work placement and Christmas break, but I did not stop cooking. I’ve been trying new recipes, my own take on old ones and eating it all along the way.

Starting next week I’ll be posting a new recipe and giving you step-by-step instructions how to cook it yourself. The best part is that since I have no professional training you know it will be idiot proof. Simplifying cooking removes a barrier between you and better quality meals.

Will every recipe I post meet the standards of the latest fad diet? Probably not. But it will be a meal you can be proud of making from scratch and will taste fantastic.

Cheers till next week!