I can’t cook. Like really can’t cook. The last time I tried to make chicken for dinner two years ago I nearly started a grease fire and burned my arms. I’m fine, but it’s safe to say I’ve never tried that again.
You see, I got lucky. My boyfriend can cook, and he can cook really well. I’m spoiled with unique, freshly prepared meals each week. He’s the type of cook who makes pasta from scratch because “it just tastes better that way.”
But what do I do when I’m left to my own devices in the kitchen? Well, at first I panic a little bit, but then I remember that I can cook some things and bake even more, but as much as I would love cake for breakfast every day, that’s just not realistic. So, if you’re like me and waging war on the kitchen each time you enter it, here are recipes for three foods I know I can cook with some ease.
Eggs are probably the most adaptable food I know how to cook. There are so many ways to make them, and I’ve found that these are the three easiest.
Turn on one of your stove burners one that’s around the same size or a little bit bigger than your pan to medium heat. Then, slice off a little bit of butter (around ⅛ of an inch) and put it in the pan. While the butter is melting, swirl it around in the pan so it covers the entire surface and cracks however many eggs you want to make into a bowl but I usually make two. If you get some shell in there, no worries, just use your fingertips (wash your hands first, of course) or a fork to get it out. Then, using a fork, whisk the eggs until the yolks break and the eggs combine. Pour the eggs into the pan and let cook, pushing them around and cutting them up with a spatula until they become solid little chunks. Put them on a plate and add your toppings. Personally, I usually just add a few dashes of salt and pepper.
Turn on one of your stove burners. Again, one that’s around the same size or a little bit bigger than your pan to medium heat. Slice off some butter and make sure when it melts that it has coated the entire surface of the pan. Again, crack your eggs in a bowl. I usually use two or three for an omelet and whisk with a fork until they combine. Now, this is where cooking an omelet gets to be a little bit different than scrambling eggs. This time when you pour the eggs into the pan, don’t use a spatula to break them apart. Let them cook until you can see a solid base forming. This is when you can add whatever insides you want like vegetables, meats, or cheese. I typically like to do some red bell pepper, spinach, turkey sausage pre-cooked, and shredded cheese. Now, this is the tough part. Take your spatula and stick it underneath the eggs a little less than halfway across the pan and try to fold the eggs in half. It might not be pretty. I would never claim mine to be, but as long as you’re close it’ll be okay. Let it cook until the bottom is golden brown, then flip completely over and let cook until the other side is golden brown.
Hard Boiled Eggs:
Fill a pot with water until it reaches around 4 inches below the top, or as I see it when the water reaches the little metal screws that attach the handles to the sides. Using a large spoon, place each egg. I usually make a dozen at a time in the pot gently, ensuring they do not crack. Each egg should be touching the bottom of the pot, don’t stack them. Turn on one of your stove burners. A burner that’s the same size or a little bigger than your pot to high heat. Put the pot of water with the eggs on the burner and wait for the water to boil bubbles will start to form on the bottom of the pot and then rise up, when they start rising quickly and the surface of the water is jumping, then the water is boiling. Set a timer for nine minutes and keep an eye on it to make sure the water doesn’t boil over the edge of the pot. If it looks like it might, just turn the heat down a little until the water settles but is still boiling. While you are waiting, fill a bowl with cold water. At the end of nine minutes, put the pot on one of the cool burners you were not using and turn off the burner you were using. Then, using a large spoon, carefully extract one of the eggs from the hot water and place it in the cold water. Wait a moment for it to cool and then take it out and hit it against the counter a little more gently than if you were trying to crack an uncooked egg, so you just crack the shell. Peel off the shell and cut the egg in half. If the inside is a dusty yellow color, good job. If it has a green ring around the edges of the yolk, don’t eat it– it’s overcooked. If it’s dark yellow and still a little liquidy, put the pot full of the eggs back on the burner and cook again for another one to two minutes. Repeat this process until the eggs are a dusty yellow color.
I usually have to test and throw away two eggs during this process, sorry mom to know they are cooked. But just like with everything, if you make them enough, you will get better at it and have to waste less. After you cool the eggs in water, place them back in the carton don’t close the carton until they are fully cooled and into the fridge. In the shells, they stay good for five to six days after cooking.
Pasta is one of my favorite foods, so it’s really nice that almost all store-bought boxed or bagged pasta cooks the same. All you have to do is fill up a pot with water until it’s about 4 inches from the top and then put it on one of your stove burners. Add a few dashes of salt to the water. I’m not sure why, but that’s what I’ve been told to do. Turn the burner on high heat and let it boil. When it’s boiling, put whatever pasta you bought into the pot and set a timer for 9-11 minutes. Occasionally stir the noodles with a large spoon. At the end of nine minutes take one of the noodles out and taste it– if it’s squishy it’s cooked! If it is still a little tough, cook for another one to two minutes and repeat until they’re soft.
Sheet pan vegetables have saved many meals for me over my college years. First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add whatever vegetables you like. You can cut them up or leave them whole it’s totally up to you. Some vegetables do take longer to cook than others. These are the hearty ones like carrots, so you can put them in the oven first for about 10-15 minutes and then put in the rest of your vegetables if you want. But if I’m being honest, I usually just crisp the other vegetables in an effort to cook the carrots all the way through and they come out fine. In addition to carrots, I usually like to add broccoli, sweet peas, and brussel sprouts. Sometimes, I even throw some kale and spinach on top when there are five minutes left on the timer. Anyways, once you have your vegetables spread out on the baking sheet. Make sure they aren’t all clumped on top of each other, they will need room to cook through, add some spices. Sometimes I do just salt and pepper and that’s it. Other times I like to make a sauce adapted from a recipe by Megan Bernard from Flourish After Cancer that my mom sent me: mix two tablespoons of honey, two tablespoons of rice vinegar, and two tablespoons of sesame oil in a bowl and pour evenly over the vegetables. When the oven has reached 350 degrees, put the baking sheet in and let the vegetables cook for thirty minutes.
I know these recipes seem really simple, but that’s because they are to most people. And who knows, maybe someone will read this and let me know that I’m making things all wrong. But I’m okay with making simple recipes and making mistakes because that’s how I’ll learn to cook better.
Starting out simple has given me some confidence in the kitchen because it’s easier for my food to turn out okay or at least edible. And even when my food doesn’t turn out well, I know that’s okay too. I’m still learning my way around the kitchen, and if you’ve made it this far in the article, you probably are too. Just know that like everything else we learn about “adulting” in college, cooking takes practice. It doesn’t come easily to everyone, but it is a skill you can build up. So, if you overcook your hard-boiled eggs or can’t get your vegetables to cook right, just know that you are learning and you will get better with practice.