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 Vegetables

The two keys to cooking good vegetables are freshness and constant size. Vegetables should be used within a week after they are purchased from the market. The flavor and consistency just isn't the same after they sit in the refrigerator for a long time. One story goes, that for people who want the best tasting vegetables, they grow their own, then dip the vegetable into boiling water while it's still on the plant. For vegetables to cook evenly, they should be sliced so that all pieces are roughly the same size. Therefore, all vegetables will be finished cooking at the same time. It's also a good idea to be selective about what you buy. Select what is in season and wait until a particular vegetable is best-there are plenty to chose from.

Steamed Vegetables

Follow the directions for steaming. Steamed vegetables are both delicious and good for your diet. Peel and/or wash vegetables well before slicing. Remember to cut vegetables in a constant size. If steaming different vegetables together, put fastest cooking types the furthest from the water. Most vegetables can be served with salt, pepper, butter or even sour cream. Some good steaming vegetables and their approximate cooking times (time after water starts boiling):

3-5 min 5-7 min 10 min.
zucchini thick carrots Brussels sprouts
spinach broccoli cauliflower
peas asparagus  
thin carrots string beans  

Corn-on-the-Cob

Buy husked or unhusked corn with full kernels (pull back some of the husk to see what you're actually buying). Husk corn, if necessary, then fully immerse corn in a pot of boiling water. If corn is too long for the pot, break corn in half (or buy a larger pot). Cook until kernels are just turning soft (test by poking a fork into the corn). Serve with salt, pepper, and butter to spread on corn.

Baked Potatoes

Large russet potatoes are the best to use. Thoroughly wash and clean potatoes (especially if you plan to eat the skin). Poke a few holes in the potatoes with a fork to let steam escape. Bake in oven ate 375o for 1 hour. Test for doneness by poking potato with a fork-potato is done when it is soft. Serve with a variety of toppings.

Boiled Potatoes

Russet, white or red potatoes can all be used. The tough part is peeling the potatoes, but is can be done without cutting your fingers or losing half the potato. After peeling, the potatoes should be cut into 3-4 smaller pieces. Cook potatoes in boiling water until they are soft (again, you can test them with a fork). Serve with a few toppings.

Smashed (Mashed) Potatoes

Follow directions for boiled potatoes. After potatoes are cooked, drain water from the pot. Add about 1/8 cup milk, but add it slowly. Depending on how much potato you have, you may need more or less milk. Mix potato and milk mixture with a forkover a very low heat (watch out for burning!) Add more milk for desired consistency. Serve with the usual potato accompaniments.

Baked Squash

The best baking squash is the medium to large size gourd squash of which there are many types. Divide squash into 4 or 5 equal parts. Place in shallow baking pan. Add butter and spices to squash. Add a small amount of water to the baking pan to prevent the squash from drying out. Bake at 350F for 45 min. to 1 hour. Cooking time is very dependent on the type of squash you use, so test for doneness with a fork.

Sauteed Mushrooms

A great appetizer or side dish. Wash and slice about 1 cup of mushrooms per person. In a frying pan over medium heat, add enough butter to coat the bottom. When the butter has melted, add mushrooms and spices. Continually stir mushrooms on medium heat until they are cooked thoroughly (about 5 min.). A little wine in the butter can add an extra touch.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Another appetizer/side dish. Use large firm tomatoes. Cut the top off the tomato and scoop out the insides (pulp) with a spoon. Be careful not to puncture the sides or the bottom and leave enough pulp on the insides to support the empty tomato shell. Save the tomato pulp in a mixing bowl. Add spices and diced or shredded cheese to the tomato pulp and mix. Place pulp/cheese mixture into the tomato shell. Bake in dish at 350F for 10 to 20 min.

Spiced Carrots

Boil or steam carrot slices. Add brown sugar and butter; stir.

Green Beans Almondine

Get the freshest, crispiest green beans you can find. Steam beans for about 5-7 min. Mix beans with a little butter and then sprinkle some almonds on top.

Pasta Parmesan

This pasta dish is one that comes in handy all the time. Use it to serve with chicken and fish dishes. Cook pasta (spaghetti, noodles, shells or any other type) in boiling water until it's ready. Place pasta in a mixing bowl and add some Parmesans cheese and butter, then mix it all up.

Rice

Almost as easy as boiling water....maybe even easier. USE THE ELECTRIC RICE COOKER!!! Add rice and water, then push the button. Rice comes out great every time.

Fried Noodles (Yakisoba)

No matter how you spell it, this recipe is good for experimenting. Cook 2 packages of ramen, but do not add the spice packages. Drain the water from the noodles. With onion and garlic, saute beither/b shrimp OR sliced pork OR sliced steak OR cook some bacon. After the meat is cooked, add the noodles, vegetables and spiced to the meat in a pan. Sprinkle on some sesame oil and a little vegetable oil. At this pint, you can give the dish a personal touch - add some peanuts, sesame seeds, raisens, more cayenne pepper, a dash of soy sauce. Fry up the entire dish until the vegetables and meat are done. By careful not to burn the pan (that would cause additional clean up time!).

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