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Basic recipes everyone should know

By on September 9, 2010

If your signature dish is spaghetti with jarred sauce, it’s time to expand your cooking repertoire to include lasagna, chili, stew, gravy, salad dressing, pancakes, waffles, bread, chocolate chip cookies, biscuits and muffins. What recipes do you think any beginner cook should master?
Here are a few more suggestions.



Use the index-finger method of measuring for stovetop rice. Add the amount of rice you want to cook, keeping in mind that 1 cup uncooked rice equals 3 cups cooked rice. Slowly add water, and place your index finger into your cooking pot so it touches the top of the rice. Continue to add water until it fills to the first joint on your finger. This is about 1/2 inch of water above the top of the rice (or 2-to-1 ratio of liquid to rice). Don’t stir. Put a lid on the pan, simmer on low, and keep the lid on until at least the last five minutes of cooking. Or buy a rice cooker. For flavored-rice combinations, visit


A whole chicken can create multiple meals, such as chicken salad, quesadillas, fajitas, chicken noodle soup (, barbecue chicken sandwiches, etc. A beef roast can be used in barbecue beef sandwiches, vegetable beef soup, beef and egg noodles or beef tortilla wraps. Pork roast can be used for barbecue pork sandwiches, or add it to noodle soup. All of them go well in stir-fry or fried rice, in a pot pie, added to spaghetti sauce or chili, or on top of salad or pizza. They can be cooked in a slow cooker with herbs and spices of your choice.

Slow-Cooker Chicken

1 whole chicken
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
pepper and salt, to taste
garlic powder, to taste

Rub your chicken with melted butter mixed with lemon juice. Sprinkle with pepper, salt and garlic powder. Make 4 loose balls of aluminum foil and place in the bottom of the slow cooker to lift chicken off the bottom. Place chicken into cooker, cavity side down. Cook on high 4 to 6 hours. — Elphie, e-mail


Have at least one dessert you can make. Cake is a good choice.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake


1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves

Streusel Topping

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, diced
1 cup chopped pecans


1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream

FILLING: Combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

STREUSEL: Combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl; mix well. Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. Add pecans and stir to combine.

CAKE: Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with the sour cream; mix well after each addition.

Pour half the cake batter into a greased 13-by-9-inch pan. Sprinkle with half the streusel. Spread all of the filling mixture over the streusel. Top with the remaining cake batter. Sprinkle the rest of the streusel over the top. Bake at 325 F for 50 minutes. — Nancy, Virginia

photo by bruxelles89


  1. JoeTaxpayer

    9/10/2010 at 12:33 am

    This may be too advanced – The making of a gravy, especially at Thanksgiving time. I’ve lost count of how many times I am a guest at Thanksgiving and there’s all the drippings but no one is going to make the gravy. Some butter, stir in flour, make a roux, then stir in the drippings. They are always amazed when they watch, like they’ve never seen this before.

  2. Saule

    9/12/2010 at 6:24 pm

    I think everyone should know how to make a fresh green salad – how to wash, dry and tear up the greens and prepare basic veggies – tomato, cucumber, scallion. Also, how to make a basic vinaigrette – yes, I know salad dressing is everywhere, but it’s loaded with salt, sugar and chemicals, and your own just tastes so much better. Add some chopped fresh herb, and you are a gourmet!

    Plus, they are much more frugal. A three-head bag of heart of romaine costs between .99 and 1.49 in my neighborhood – that makes, I don’t know, 12 or so salads – a lot more than the 3.49 bag of salad greens from the supermarket!

  3. Saule

    9/12/2010 at 6:33 pm

    And when you are done eating that slow-cooker chicken, take the carcass, any skin you did not eat, put it right back in the crockpot with a large carrot, peeled and cut into three or four pieces, a medium onion peeled and cut into chunks, a celery stalk trimmed and cut into chunks, a couple of peppercorns, a bay leaf if you have one (get some, they are great in any soup), and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and cook on low for 8 or 10 hours. When done, pour through a strainer, discard all the bones and veggies, and let cool. If you put it in the fridge, any fat will coagulate and be easy to remove. You can then package in 2 cup packages (freezer bag). So much better than any canned broth. Need some soup – add some cooked rice, orzo or broken spaghetti for a starch or some frozen mixed veggies (or fresh), check the seasoning, and you’ve got soup.

  4. Anna Robinson

    2/27/2011 at 11:04 pm

    Oatmeal. This is truly satisfying and easy to make. This makes one serving. Easily doubles. Cost of Oats varries from 30-70 cents per pound.

    1/2 cup of oats (old fashioned type)
    1 cup of water
    small pinch of salt

    Boil water in a pot, add salt. Turn down heat under pot to simmer add oats. Stir till almost all the water is soaked up by the oats (don’t walk away from the pot). Add dried fruit if you want. Turn off heat. Cover and set timer for 5 minutes. Serve with milk/butter/brown sugar.

    • Sherry

      6/26/2012 at 4:10 am

      I have used my grandma’s oatmeal recipe – it can’t get any easier:

      1/2 cup of old fashioned, not quick or instant oatmeal
      1/2 cup of boiling water (amounts can vary, but use the same ratio of oats to water)

      Pour the water over the oatmeal, place a saucer or some type of lid over the bowl, and let it sit for 3 or 4 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Add sweetener, milk, and other ingredients to taste.

      The oats stay whole and the oatmeal is not ‘slimy’ as instant or cooked oatmeal can be. Enjoy!

  5. Tina

    7/27/2011 at 9:37 am

    Omlettes: Very versitile, easy, cheap, and quick.

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