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Learning to Cook (NVGR)


Cooking is my favorite hobby. It is is even more important to me than gaming, believe it or not. I love it. I've been learning to cook for most of my life. The magnificent dtoid user bong264 inadvertently gave me the idea to write a blog about this. I would just like to talk a small bit about my journey as I've learned to cook. Mostly this blog will recommend resources for you to look into as you proceed on your own cooking journey. I will also include a recipe of my own design at the bottom of this page for your pleasure. 

I've been interested in cooking as long as I can remember. The first things I learned to actually cook were Scrambled Eggs and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. These are incredibly simple to make. As a kid, I wanted to experiment more heavily with my cuisine. Eventually I created my masterpiece: Spaghettios with Chips Ahoy! in them. True story. I would take like 2 or 3 cookies and break them into small pieces, which would then be stirred into my warm bowl of microwaved "pasta." I've since tried this as an adult and it's.... not good. It's certainly not disgusting, but it's not good. I don't recommend it unless you're bored or high. 

My parents taught me a bit of what they know of cooking. My late grandmother on my mother's side was a brilliant cook and provided the family with many recipes. We actually have 3 family cookbooks. The first was the best because it was from my Grammy. But honestly, my parents are poor cooks. I didn't properly understand this growing up, but I learned as an adult. Their food is bland and usually overcooked. 

I took a couple of cooking classes in high school and one in college. These were very low-level. I didn't learn much. I was even taught some things that are blatantly incorrect. My professor in college suggested you should use ripe bananas for banana bread instead of overripe bananas. This is very incorrect. When a banana becomes overripe, the pectin breaks down into sugar. The entire banana becomes sweet, mushy, and flavorful. Which is exactly what you want as an ingredient in banana bread. Ripe banana is far too firm and its mild flavor will completely vanish in a loaf of bread. 

When I moved to college, I had a roommate from California. He loved cooking. He was a much higher level cook than I was at the time. I learned a lot from him. We cooked together all the time. My favorite thing we would make is quiche. I love a good quiche. He would make the pastry crust and I would make the filling. My favorite thing to throw in is fully-cooked cheddarwurst. Johnsonville makes a great product for this purpose. 

After I got married, cooking really became my passion. I had the time and freedom to cook whatever I wanted. More importantly, I had someone who was extremely happy to eat whatever I cooked and offer feedback. And so it has gone since. I haven't grown as much in my cooking in the last year. Adulting is hard and takes a lot of time. I don't have the time, freedom, and energy I had while still in college. But I stll cook when I can and I still love to experiment. I have a goal to start a cooking blog and share my recipes with the world. 

Here's where the blog shifts focus. I would just like to highlight a few resources you should look into as you learn to improve your cooking skills.

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How to Cook Everything

There's a good number of cookbooks out there that exist to cover everything. They teach you how to cook the basics of hundreds of foods. I own several, and have perused many more. Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens have valuable contributions to this field. The Joy of Cooking is probably the most famous. I own that one, but I hate it. The recipes are written using something called the Action Method and it just doesn't make any sense in my brain.

This book, however, is great. It is simple and straightforward. Every recipe I've cooked from it is solid. The book is criticized for not being gourmet. A few people think the recipes are bland. I don't think they are, personally. The great thing about this book is that the recipes are highly customizable. Most of the recipes come with multiple variants to adapt to your needs. And of course, you can (and should) tweak them further to meet your own needs and taste. I learned more from this book than from probably any other single resource out there. The best recipe in the book that I've tried so far are Overnight Waffles. It makes waffles that are crisp on the outside and crunchy on the inside. Absolutely perfect. You can buy the book here.

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Serious Eats

Serious Eats is an incredible website. They have been around for years and have recipes for everything under the sun. Their headlining recipe writer is J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. He is one of the leading authorities on scientific approaches to recipe writing. He is incredibly thorough and scientific in his approach to cooking. His recipe for Buffalo Wings is a prime example and it is impeccable. He has also written a famous cookbook called The Food Lab. It is extremly high on my list of cookbooks to buy. Serious Eats has a number of other awesome writers. Pretty much any recipe you find there will be gold.

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At first glance, Chowhound is a cooking site like any other. It has many recipes and many will be valuable. But that isn't the reason you go to this website. It is actually a forum. An ancient one, at that. You can find threads going back 18 years. The people who frequent this site are very serious cooks. They know their stuff. The average commenter on this site is at a much higher level of cooking than I am. If you have a question about anything cooking related, go here. Search for it. You will find countless threads about the topic. If you want an example, go type in "stuffing" on the search bar. If you somehow can't find a thread that meets your needs, make an account and post a question. You will receive incredibly useful help from the commenters.

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Cooking Comically

This guy started with a recipe that went viral on Reddit years ago. He writes his recipes in Webcomic form, which is brilliant. His recipes are all simple and straightforward. They are also highly customizable. His approach to cooking is just perfectly in line with my own. I can't recommend his stuff enough. He even has a fun cookbook (which I own). His best recipe that I've tried is his Biscuit Breakdown. It is a fool-proof method for making incredible biscuits (which is among the highest of art forms, in my opinion). Every Christmas I want to wake up to his Gingerbread Pancakes. They are simply divine. Tyler Capps (the author/artist) puts up a new recipe every thursday and I am always eager to see what he puts out. He's also a serious gamer, so props for that!

So there's a bunch of resources to help you get started. I will also mention a few food-related youtube channels that I love, in case you are interested:

Binging with Babish is so good. The man is a genius, and super entertaining to watch. He makes foods you see in movies and television shows. He did a Zelda special that destructoid wrote an article about recently. 

Kent Rollins is a minor celebrity chef. He's won Chopped a few times. If you want to hear a good-hearted, friendly person talk about food, this is the guy. I own his cookbook as well, and I love it.

How to BBQ Right is run by a guy named Malcom Reed. He is just a cool guy who loves to barbecue. I don't own a smoker (or even a grill) yet, but I will one day. And this will be my primary resource for recipes. He puts a new one out every week and they all make me salivate.

Matt Stonie is hilarious. He is a competitive eater. I can't stop watching his videos. He is also a gamer and goes by Megatoad, so he gets points for that. 

Silently Cooking provides recipes, but I've only made a couple (they were good). The real reason to watch is the soothing sounds. It's like that ASMR thing that everyone is obsessed with. Just watch this and listen to the sound of cooking. It will relax you, I promise. 


So there you have my cooking journey. Let's end with my recipe for Macaroni and Cheese! 

Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 pound pasta

1/2 pound cheese (cheddar, pepperjack, gouda, and colby jack are all great)

12 fluid oz. evaporated milk

1 Tablespoon starch (corn starch works great, potato starch is way better if you can find it, tapioca starch should work but I've never tried it)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Grate the cheese and put in a bowl. Sprinkle in the starch. Toss the cheese with your hands so it all gets coated with the starch. Put it in a saucepan and pour the evaporated milk over it. Turn the heat on medium low. Stir very frequently with a fork. The cheese will slowly melt into a sauce. Once it starts to really melt you can bump up the heat a bit towards medium to speed it along. Just be careful. Cheese can burn fast if you don't keep a close eye on it and stir it. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the pasta is ready, drain it. Dump the cheese sauce over the pasta (or vice versa) and stir to coat.

Voila! The best mac and cheese you can make at home and it is literally as fast as kraft (I still make Kraft regularly, so I would know). This will even reheat decently. If you want it creamier, use more milk. If you want it thicker, use less milk to start or just reduce it more over the heat (being careful not to burn). My favorite cheese for this is colby jack. Feel free to try others. It's really fun to mix. Half cheddar and half pepperjack is a perfect combination. If you want a bit of a kick, splash some hot sauce in there. If you want a crispy topping, throw in a baking dish and top with crushed corn flakes, baking at 400 F for maybe 10 minutes. This recipe doubles very well, so feel free to scale to your party size. This will comfortably feed 2 people as an entree.

- Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto

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About Boxman214one of us since 11:17 AM on 01.02.2016