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* The Half-Baked Gourmet

Updated on March 15, 2013

But I can't cook... not really...

When we were asked to share our favorite recipes recently, my heart stopped in my chest.


Women are supposed to be good cooks, they are supposed to instinctively know what goes where and when. They are supposed to open up a recipe book, flip to the page they want, already have all of the ingredients, and have it become something edible.


For me it is more of a hit or miss endeavor. Like many things in life, I just sort of do my own thing and hope for the best. That doesn't always work well when it comes to cooking.


Here I am on RocketMoms, a place for "the smartest women on the web" with a confession to make.


Dingbats and cooking do not mix.


I don't mean to be a dingbat, I really and truly don't, but there is something in my nature that means I must stay busy at all times, and stirring a pot or timing a meal doesn't cut it. Most people use a kitchen timer to tell them when their food is done, I use the smoke alarm.


It is always an adventure full of questions and mystery. Will my pecan pie actually turn out properly this time or will it become a horrible science experiment? Will I pull the pork chops out of the oven in time or will I end up with charcoal pork and third degree burns again?


What could I possibly offer a group of women who seem to do EVERYTHING and do it well?


PS if you happen to be a famous Squidoo Chef-type person (not naming any names) please for the love of God... RUN!!!

Redneck Chow Mein

1 Lb hamburger

4 pkgs oriental flavored Top Ramen Noodles

1 large glass water

1 pkg frozen Asian mix vegetables

Ginger to taste

Brown and drain one pound hamburger, break up Ramen squares into pieces and add to hamburger, add veggies. Add contents of flavor packets to one glass of water and mix well. Pour over noodle mixture, add more water as needed and cover.

I have to reserve the ginger for serving because not everyone in my family likes ginger, but add to taste.

Kitchen Secrets

To remove burnt on crust from pots and pans, fill with water and drop in a fabric softner dryer sheet. Leave overnight, most of the burnt mess will wipe right off.

A little of my cooking history.

My mother used to say of herself that the only thing domestic about her was the wine she drank.

That isn't exactly true, she is great at many things that are traditionally feminine in nature, but she can also swing a hammer, run a chop saw, and use a drill. She is a woman of many talents, cooking was just more of an experimental art.

As a child my mother often put a plate in front of me with some sort of unknown substance, when I'd ask her what it was she would inform me that it was a "Spearment," meaning it was another on of her (in)famous experiments.

"I cooked it" she would say, "You want me to name it too?"

To her credit, some of her "Spearments" were really good! Take for example the curry soup that was the most unappetizing shade of green ever seen near a dinner table, it looked horrid, but between the four of us we ate the whole pot in one sitting.

Nobody makes camping a gourmet experience like my mother either, full breakfasts better than home complete with fire cooked biscuits.

My grandmother is an excellent cook, but she has those magical, mystical powers that all grandmothers seem to have for making food that nobody can duplicate.

Part of that comes from her use of the term "to taste", she adds "dashes," "dabs," and "smidges" of ingredients that are beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

You can follow the recipe to the letter, double check all measurements, even use the exact same brands and yours never tastes quite like hers.

Neither of them really taught me how to cook anything, so when I first got married it was sort of a trial by fire, lots of fire.

I happened to marry into a ranch family and my ex-mother-in-law was horrified to learn in my late 20's that I had no idea how to make gravy. She was quite rude about it too... Gravy is still a huge hit or miss for me.

I'm actually not a bad cook at all, I haven't killed anyone to my knowledge and there are some things I do cook well, there are even certain things I make that the family actually asks me to cook again and again, *gasps*

I have also learned many tricks to save time and energy since I don't have much to spare.

So I hope you enjoy my one and only cooking lens, these must be foolproof recipes, because I'm a fool in the kitchen (and elsewhere!)

Kitchen Secrets

Peeling hardboiled eggs is easier if you crack the shell then roll the egg on the counter gently until the shell is covered in fine cracks. It loosens up the shell and makes peeling so much easier.

Fried Asparagus

Okay, most people would use the term sauteed asparagus, but I'm not exactly most people. Asparagus grows wild in our part of Colorado, but only in the late spring. All the asparagus we could eat, but I only knew one way to fix it! Boiled to a mushy pulp. Yuck!

So I started experimenting with new ways of cooking it and stumbled on my method of sauteing it. Is it proper? Probably not, but it works and is one of my most requested dishes.

Large bunch fresh asparagus

Olive oil

Steak seasoning

One hot skillet

Okay I lied, for my family I need at least two skillets.

Add the oil and warm, spread the asparagus in a single layer in the pan and season.

Keep them moving frequently during the process.

Check often with a fork, when the fork pierces without resistance and slides right through remove from heat.

(Asparagus in the wild is not as uniform as it is when you buy it in the store, sometimes they are pencil thin and others they are the size of a chubby crayola marker. So done times vary.)

P.S. I recently learned a much faster way of cooking asparagus that tastes the same, but is far less time intensive. Place asparagus in a plastic bag and coat lightly with olive oil, the spread on a cookie sheet. Cook at 350 for 10 - 20 minutes. Remove the smaller pieces as you go or you will end up with asparagus chips!

Kitchen Secrets

Use a plastic grocery bag to cook your baked potatoes in the microwave. (No it doesn't melt) Just pierce the potatoes generously, spray with cooking oil and place in bag. Tie closed and set on a plate. It takes about 20 minutes for 5 potatoes, they are done when a knife slides through.

The dangers of cooking

I am proud to say I have yet to require major surgery, (well at least at the time of this writing, I've since had two!) break a bone, or require stitches. *Knocking on wood here* I tend to be a klutz on my best days, sprained ankles are a fact of life for me.

However, most of the injuries I have suffered have been related to cooking!

In the realm of stranger than fiction was my awesome toe injury. While getting ice from the ice maker - one cube got away from me and landed on my toe just right and busted a blood vessel. The whole toe turned black almost immediately. It didn't hurt much, but my black toe from an ice cube has to be the strangest injury ever.

When making a batch of ten can chili, I learned it is best to remove the lid from a tin can entirely. My hand turned one way, the can turned the other and I felt the sickening grind of metal on bone. It was a small cut right on the knuckle, but it was deep. I thought my stitch free run was over, but a little bit of glue fixed me up in no time.

One Christmas I grew very brave and offered to cook all of the pies. I did fine with the pecan pie (the secret is Captain Morgan) and the pumpkin was passable, the cherry was even pretty good except for the third degree burn I got on the back of my hand when removing the pie from the oven.

While it wasn't an injury per say, the one cooking disaster I will never live down was the time we opened the door and smoke poured out, my husband yelled at me that the house was on fire. The neighbor saw all of the smoke and asked if we wanted her to call the fire department.

As it turns out, cooking corned beef on the stove and running to the store is a really bad idea. Since I tend to get distracted, there was plenty of time for the water to boil out, a nice stock pot to be totally destroyed, and the smell... horrifying... truly horrifying.

The smoke detector is not a kitchen timer, but it helps!

Kitchen Secrets

No fuss deviled eggs. Place the yolk mixture in a sandwich baggie, snip off the corner and squeeze to fill the shells like you are frosting a cake. You even get to throw away the bag! No fuss, no muss.

Tortillas and Fry Bread

I grew up in the Southwest, and we don't seem to cook Mexican food like the rest of the world.

We don't use black beans in the real deal. It's fresh pinto beans or nothing at all.

If it doesn't have green chili it isn't really southwestern.

And while most people are content to buy their tortillas off the shelf, it just isn't the same, once you have had fresh made tortillas you'll never trust the packaged kind again.

The good news is that homemade tortillas are as easy as... apple pie!

Tortillas really aren't that hard to make, especially if you have a tortilla press.

2 C flour

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp lard or shortening

3/4 C warm milk

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt then cut in shortening or lard. Slowly add in the milk, mixing thoroughly with your hands. You are looking for a slightly sticky consistency, but firm.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and kneed until no longer sticky. Break off small balls of dough (somewhere between the size of a golf ball and baseball) press into a flat disc with your hands.

Traditionally tortillas are patted out by hand, and it is amazing to watch but I'm not that coordinated. They can be rolled out with a rolling pin, or you can use a tortilla press to save time.

Cooking is simple. Heat a cast iron skillet to a medium heat, place the pressed tortilla in the center. When the top begins to blister turn. Serve immediately with butter, or whatever dish your heart desires.

****************************************************

Tortillas and fry bread are very similar in preparation and only a slight variation in the recipe.

3 C Flour

1 tsp Salt

1 Tbs Baking Powder

1 1/2 C water

1 Tbs shortening or lard

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt then cut in shortening or lard. Slowly add in the water, mixing thoroughly with your hands. You are looking for a slightly sticky consistency, but firm.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and kneed until no longer sticky. Break off small balls of dough (somewhere between the size of a golf ball and baseball) press into a flat disc with your hands.

Place 1 1/2 inches of oil in a skillet and heat.

You oil temperature is very important, and takes some practice. Experiment with small pieces of dough. You are looking for a golden brown, if it cooks too fast it will be soggy, too slow it will burn.

Fry bread can be eaten plain, with salt, or honey.

For Navajo Tacos top with cooked pinto beans, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. For a special addition try my green chili gravy.

Fry one pound of hamburger

Add fresh roasted green chili (canned only if you really must)

Use water and corn starch to thicken into a gravy. Spoon over cooked pinto beans.

Make a tortilla press

Even if you only have basic carpentry skills making your own tortilla press is fast and simple. You can find instructions at the link below.

Materials and Tools needed:

1" x 10" x 3' Select Grade Pine Board

1" wood dowel

1/4" Carriage Bolt, 1 3/4" length

1/4" Wingnut

1 1/2" Pin Hinge (x2) and accompanying screws

Saw (Miter Saw, Circular Saw, Large Miter Box, Hacksaw, or traditional cross-cut saw)

Electric Drill and 1/4" drill bit

Wood Clamps

Mineral Oil

Kitchen Secrets

Peel your potatoes directly into an opened plastic grocery bag, clean up is simple. Make sure you keep a few peelers on hand, kids love to help peel potatoes!

Ten Can Chili

This chili is easy to make, and comes out tasting a lot like Stagg canned chili.

2 cans pinto beans

2 cans red kidney beans

2 can stewed tomatoes

2 cans tomato sauce

1 can green chili

1 can Ro*Tel

1 lb. lean ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

You can make this on the stove, but it tastes better coming from a crockpot.

Brown and drain hamburger, add to crockpot. Open the cans CAREFULLY (drain juices from beans and stewed tomatoes) and dump in crockpot. Add onion.

Perfect served with fry bread!

Lost in the Kitchen? LAUGH!

Thankfully I'm not the only person who finds themselves lost when it comes to the kitchen. But if you can't cook, at least learn how to laugh about it!

This is one of my favorite bits from the late great Richard Jeni, "Bill the Belching Gourmet!"

This clip has some adult language and content, but the sentiment is real!

And his most important advice? Never fry bacon when you're naked!

Kitchen Secrets

For burns keep vanilla handy, it has to be real vanilla not imitation. When you are burned apply liberally and it will usually keep a blister from forming.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my one and only cooking lens, hopefully you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Thanks for reading!

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    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I think a meal at your house would be very satisfactory. :) I've never tried fried asparagus. As for gravy making, my own mom taught my hubby to make skillet gravy and his gravy has always been better than mine. :)

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      Cute, funny, and thanks!

    • ayngel boshemia profile image
      Author

      Ayngel Overson 6 years ago from Crestone, Co

      @Grandma-Marilyn: I usually just add it in cold... it warms up fast enough and sort of steams the noodles. I like them a little bit firm.... but lol I'm on a gluten free diet now. Guess what the first recipe I looked up was? Gluten free tortillas!!!!!

    • Grandma-Marilyn profile image

      Grandma-Marilyn 6 years ago

      Wow! I learned so much from your lens. I really would like to try that fried bread. Talking tortillas, my FIL taught me to make them and would laugh at me because I could never get them to be round. I love your recipes. On the Redneck Chow Mein, is the water hot that you put in it? Do you cook it any?

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      an interesting page. i enjoyed it. 5*

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 7 years ago from Canada

      I know that not everyone can or likes to cook but I have to tell you that I am extremely busy when I am in the kitchen LOL...cooking, emptying the dishwasher, talking to a teenager, reading the newspaper, writing a Squidoo lens, answering the phone....well, maybe I exaggerate a bit but most of the time when I am in the kitchen I am FLYING except maybe when I'm cooking for a Squidoo lens and taking pictures, too!

      A great lens!

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      BW Duerr 7 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      Funny and fabulous food. So glad I stopped it. 5 stars. :D

    • profile image

      Nickiejo 7 years ago

      Ahhh yes... Love it Boshemia... however you should give yourself a little more credit... I have had some of you special dishes :).... Someday we will all learn what Sugar's dashs and dabs equal won't we? Love ya

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 7 years ago

      This is so funny and yummy all at the same time. Gotta get me some fry bread!

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This is hilarious...I was also challenged by the cooking lens assignment...yet your creativity here works great!

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 7 years ago

      Green Chili ??? Chili - yes (but it's usually served Hot) .. but Green Chili ???

      How about Tomato Mush ...see Recipes 4 Fun under Zut Moon.

      Where's the recipe for Possum Pie or Possum Stew - I thought that was the main meal down there ...

      Oh, and you mention a microwave - what the hell is that? We know about electric stoves but most of us can only afford to cook on open fires.

    • NAIZA LM profile image

      NAIZA LM 8 years ago

      Congratulations on your PURPLE star! Truly deserve it! :-)

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      Love this one!

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      Love this one!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      Nice work!

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 8 years ago

      Had me laughing so hard I spilled my coffee! I seem to fall into the same category...but I CAN make coffee, and usually without breaking anything :) This is a wonderful lens and I enjoyed every syllable!

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 8 years ago

      Had me laughing so hard I spilled my coffee! I seem to fall into the same category...but I CAN make coffee, and usually without breaking anything :) This is a wonderful lens and I enjoyed every syllable!

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 8 years ago from Austin, Texas

      I can't wait to try the Redneck Chow Mein with fried asparagus. Really, I love this kind of cooking! Thanks for the tip about the fabric softener pot cleaning. Blessed by a SquidAngel, Ayngel... :-)