Cooking

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A woman's hands are shown chopping a yellow squash on a white cutting board.

Know the lingo!


Knowing a few new terms can help you better understand recipes and be more comfortable cooking. Here are some of the most common words you will find.

  • Bake: cooking in the oven. Usually used to describe the way you cook breads, cakes, cookies, and similar foods.
  • Braise: a way to make tough cuts of meat more tender. First, brown the meat in a skillet on the stove. Then add a small amount of liquid, and cover the skillet with a lid or aluminum foil. Cook using low heat, in the oven, or in a slow cooker with a lid, until the meat is tender.
  • Boil: cooking a liquid on the stove, or cooking something in a liquid, until many large bubbles quickly and continuously appear all over the surface.
  • Chop: cutting into pieces.
  • Cream: stirring or mixing ingredients fast and hard, by hand or with an electric mixer, until they are soft and creamy. You may see this in a recipe for a cake or cookies, which will say to cream the butter and sugar together.
  • Dice: cutting into small cubes, about ¼ to ½ inch in size.
  • Mince: cutting into tiny pieces, even smaller than dicing.
  • Poach: gently cooking on the stove in a liquid like water, milk, wine, or stock (not oil).
  • Roast: cooking uncovered in the oven. Usually used to describe the way you cook meat and vegetables.
  • Sauté: cooking in a small amount of oil or butter on the stove on medium to high heat, stirring often.
  • Simmer: cooking in a liquid just below boiling point on the stove, usually over low or medium-low heat. Small bubbles appear in the liquid, but they don’t appear as quickly or continuously as in boiling.
  • Stir-fry: cooking ingredients in a small amount of oil on the stove over high heat. The ingredients are usually cut all the same size so they cook quickly and evenly. You stir-fry by lifting and turning them with a spoon or spatula as they cook.
  • Whip: stirring or mixing ingredients together fast and hard, until they are light and fluffy. You can do this with a fork, a whisk, or an electric mixer.

Add Healthy Flavor with Herbs and Spices!

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A different herb or spice in five bowls.

Add healthy flavor with herbs and spices!


You can keep foods flavorful and healthy, too!

Using spices and herbs to season foods can make them tasty, without adding fat, salt, and sugar.

Buying

Herbs are the leaves of a plant, and spices are made from the roots, bark, berries, and seeds of a plant.

You can buy herbs fresh or dried. Dried herbs can also be crumbled or ground. You can find fresh herbs in the produce or salad section of your grocery store. You can find dried herbs in the spice aisle. Generally, you can use either fresh or dried, whatever you have on hand.

You can buy spices ground or in a cracked, crushed, or flaked form. You can find spices in the baking needs or spice aisle in your grocery store.

Citrus juices, like lemon juice or orange juice, and vinegar also add a lot of healthy flavor. They aren’t really herbs or spices, but they are tasty!

Measuring

Generally, dried herbs have a much stronger flavor than fresh ones. Here is how to convert measurements from one form to the other.

  • 1 Tablespoon of finely cut fresh herbs equals
  • 1 teaspoon of crumbled dried herbs equals
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground dried herbs

Cooking

When you are cooking, start with ¼ teaspoon of ground spices or ground dried herbs for about four servings of food, 1 pound of meat, or 2 cups of soup or sauce.

Adjust as needed for the flavor level you want. Add just a little at a time. Remember, you can always put more in, but you can’t take it out!

If you are using crumbled dried herbs or fresh herbs, use more.

Red pepper and garlic powder

Start with 1/8 teaspoon for cayenne pepper and other hot peppers and for garlic powder. Adjust as needed for the flavor you want.

Remember that the flavor of red pepper becomes more intense as it cooks.

Doubling a recipe

If you are doubling a recipe, do not double the herbs and spices. Increase those amounts by 1 ½ times. Then adjust as needed for the flavor you want.

Using fresh herbs

If you are using fresh herbs, add them near the end of cooking or just before you serve the food. Cooking fresh herbs too long can reduce their flavor.

Add delicate fresh herbs just a minute or two before the food is done. Or sprinkle them over the cooked food before you serve it. Delicate fresh herbs are basil, chives, cilantro, and dill leaves.

Add sturdier fresh herbs about 20 minutes before the food is done. Sturdier fresh herbs are dill seeds, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme.

Here are some tasty flavors to try with your favorite foods! You can try just one, or make your own blend of spices you like.

Meat, Chicken, and Fish

Beef

Bay leaf, garlic, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, pepper, sage, thyme

Chicken

Garlic, ginger, lemon juice, marjoram, oregano, paprika, pepper, poultry seasoning, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme

Fish

Curry powder, dill, dry mustard, garlic, lemon juice, marjoram, paprika, pepper

Lamb

Curry powder, garlic, rosemary, mint

Pork

Garlic, onion, sage, paprika, pepper, oregano

Veal

Bay leaf, curry powder, ginger, marjoram, oregano

Vegetables

Carrots

Cinnamon, cloves, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, sage

Corn

Cumin, curry powder, onion, paprika, parsley

Green beans

Curry powder, dill, garlic, lemon juice, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme

Greens

Garlic, onion, pepper

Peas

Ginger, marjoram, onion, parsley, sage

Potatoes

Dill, garlic, onion, paprika, parsley, sage

Summer squash

Cloves, curry powder, garlic, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, sage

Winter squash

Cinnamon, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, onion

Tomatoes

Basil, bay leaf, dill, garlic, marjoram, onion, oregano, parsley, pepper

Slow Cooker Meals for the Family

Header Image: 
Beans in a slow oooker.

Slow Cooker Meals for the Family


Between work, school, kids, and many other things, it might seem impossible to come home at night and make a delicious family meal. But it is possible! A slow cooker is the perfect tool for busy people with busy schedules. A slow cooker allows you to prepare ingredients very quickly and leave them to cook themselves.

Why Use a Slow Cooker?

  • Making meals in a slow cooker at home is cheaper and more nutritious than going out to eat.
  • Meal prep is very fast, and clean-up is, too! Most slow cooker recipes only require ingredients to be chopped (if even that!).
  • Slow cookers are useful year-round. In the summer, they don’t heat the house like the oven does. In the winter, they are perfect for making soups and stews to chase away the chill.
  • Slow cookers are perfect for tenderizing inexpensive cuts of meat.
  • Almost anything can be made in a slow cooker, including main dishes, sides, and desserts.
  • You use less electricity cooking in a slow cooker than you do while using an oven.

About Slow Cookers

Slow cookers usually have two or three settings. A low heat setting requires a cooking time of between 6 and 8 hours. A high heat setting requires between 4 and 6 hours. One hour in the oven at 350 degrees is the same as 4 hours on high and 8 hours on low.

Slow cookers come in many sizes. Small slow cookers (about 1–3 quarts) are perfect for dips, while larger slow cookers are great for large pieces of meat.  Slow cookers that are between 3 and 5 quarts are big enough to feed four people.  If you have a family larger than four or you want leftovers, a slow cooker that is between 5 and 7 quarts is best.

Tips and Safety

If you are concerned about leaving the slow cooker on while you are not home, you can find different times to prepare the food, even overnight. After the food is done, make sure to cool down leftovers and store them in the refrigerator.

Here are some basic tips and safety guidelines:

  • To make clean-up easy, use a slow cooker liner or grease the inside of the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray or oil.
  • Allow frozen meat to thaw in the fridge before putting it in a slow cooker or it will not cook thoroughly.
  • Do not over fill or under fill a slow cooker; this will cause improper cooking. Always fill a slow cooker no less than halfway but no more than three-fourths of the way full.
  • Most vegetables take longer to cook than meats. Vegetables should be layered at the bottom of the slow cooker with meat or poultry on top of them. Top the mixture with water, broth, or sauce.
  • Liquids do not boil away in a slow cooker. If you are converting a recipe from one cooked in the oven to one cooked in a slow cooker, reduce the liquids by one-third to one-half.
  • If possible, start your slow cooker on high for about an hour, and then change it to your desired temperature.
  • No matter how tempting, do not lift the lid while cooking. Every time the lid is lifted, about 15 minutes of cooking time is lost.
  • Add pasta and grains at the very end of the cooking time. They become mushy if they are left in too long. It may be best to cook them separately and add them after the slow cooker has finished cooking the rest of the meal.
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, or cream) should be added in the last hour so they won’t curdle.
  • Soft or quick-cooking vegetables—including zucchini, mushrooms, and peas—should be added during the last 45 minutes of cooking time.

Easy, Healthy Ways to Cook Your Veggies!

Header Image: 
Cubed Irish and sweet potatoes on a baking sheet.

Easy, healthy ways to cook your veggies!


  • Wash your vegetables under cool, running water before cooking and eating them. Gently scrub off any dirt you can see. Do not use soap.
  • Keep fresh vegetables separate from raw meat or chicken.
  • After cooking your vegetables, put any leftovers in the refrigerator within 2 hours.

Baking

Baking is an easy, no-fuss, no-muss way to cook vegetables. Baking is good for cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. For potatoes and sweet potatoes, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the vegetables into the oven. Do not cover them.
  3. Cook until the vegetables are tender.

Grilling

Grilling adds crispiness and smoky flavor to vegetables. Grilling is good for asparagus, corn on the cob, eggplant, and zucchini.

  1. Put a large sheet of aluminum foil on the counter.
  2. Spread the vegetables onto the foil.
  3. Sprinkle olive oil and pepper over the vegetables. Mix them with your hands until all the vegetables are coated.
  4. Fold the aluminum foil to make a sealed packet.
  5. Cook on the grill until the vegetables are tender.

Microwaving

Microwaving cooks vegetables very quickly. Microwaving is good for beets, broccoli, and peas.

  1. Put the vegetables into a bowl that can go in the microwave, adding a little water into the bowl.
  2. Cover the bowl with its lid or a paper towel, to let steam escape.
  3. Cook the vegetables in the microwave until they are tender. Stir once or twice while they cook.
  4. Be careful when you remove the lid from the bowl. The steam can burn you!

Roasting

Roasting in the oven brings out the sweetness in the vegetables. Roasting is good for Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and zucchini.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the vegetables into cubes. Try to keep them all about the same size.
  3. Spread the vegetables onto a large baking sheet. Sprinkle olive oil and pepper over them.
  4. Mix them gently with your hands until all the vegetables are covered with the oil and salt and pepper. Alternatively, you may mix the vegetables in a large, plastic storage bag. Spread them out again into an even layer.
  5. Cook in the oven until the vegetables are tender.

Steaming

Steaming in just a little water keeps vitamins inside the vegetables. Steaming is good for corn on the cob, green beans, and spinach.

  1. Put the vegetables in a shallow pan, with 1 to 1 ½ inches of water in the bottom.
  2. Put a lid on the pan, or cover it tightly with aluminum foil.
  3. Cook on the stove over medium-low heat. Keep the water bubbling gently.
  4. Cook just until the vegetables are tender.

Stir-frying

Stir-frying cooks the vegetables quickly. Stir-frying is good for bell peppers, mushrooms, and snow peas.

  1. Cut the vegetables into thin slices.
  2. Put the vegetables into a large skillet with just 1 or 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  3. Cook them on the stove over medium-high heat. Stir them the whole time they are cooking.

Cook until the vegetables start to get tender.