Friday, July 11, 2014

Cooking 101

My daughter is starting college in the fall.  We have been preparing and packing, getting her ready.  Today, as we were discussing buying her a microwave, I started giving her tips on some basic cooking techniques.  She said, "You know what Mom?  You should do a blog post about that.  To help those of us living on our own for the first time".  So, that's what my next few posts will be about, basic techniques and tips for beginner cooks.

My friend, Nathalie, recently suggested I show how to cut onions, peppers, celery, etc.  She said she wasn't always sure of the best way to do it.  So that will be today's post, the easiest way to chop and dice.

Before we get cooking, let me remind you of a few safety tips (Mom moment).

*Wash your hands before you start!  I know, I know, but it's worth a reminder.

*Then, make sure you wash your produce.  Give everything a good rinse.  If you will be eating the peelings, scrub them with a vegetable brush (which you can pick up at the dollar store on the cheap).

*When you are cutting, curl your fingertips under a little bit on the hand you're using to hold the produce.  This will help keep your fingers safe from cuts.

*A sharp knife is your best friend in the kitchen.  A dull knife can lead to accidents!

Also, let me say, I did not go to culinary school.  I'm not a chef, I'm a cook.  This may not be the " proper" way but it works for me, and hopefully for you too.

(Do you know the difference between a chef and a cook?  A cook has to do her own dishes.  Haha!)

OK, let's get started.


First, I cut off the ends, just a little off each side.

Then, I cut it in half and peel the skins off.

Next, lay the onion cut-side down (this keeps it from rolling around).  Carefully slice it almost all the way through the middle, like this:

Then, cut from the top down several times across, like this:

Finally, cut from the top down in the opposite direction, like this:

This should result in perfect squares of onions.

This is a chop.  When you see "chopped onion" in a recipe, this is the size you want.

If you need "diced onion", that's just smaller pieces.  All you do to make the pieces smaller is to slice through the onion twice, like this:

Then make your cuts closer together, like this:

This will yield smaller pieces, giving you diced onions.
The pile on the left is chopped, the pile on the right is diced.


Lay the stalk on your cutting board and trim off the bottom.  No need to trim the top, the leaves have a ton of flavor!  But, if you want uniform pieces, you can.

Once trimmed, cut the stalk into manageable pieces.

Then, cut into strips.

Line up the strips in a row and cut them in the opposite direction to yield the size you want.  Cuts closer together for smaller pieces, farther apart for larger pieces.

Bell Pepper

There are many ways to cut a bell pepper.  It depends on what you're going to do with it.  If you want to stuff the pepper, just cut the very top off, like this:

Then scoop out the seeds and the ribs.

This is what you use to make stuffed bell peppers.  It also makes a great "bowl" to fill with dip for a party.  I like to fill them with ranch dip and sit them in the middle of a vegetable tray.

If you want slices to use on a vegetable tray or for fajitas, carefully cut from the top down the side to the bottom.  This will take off the entire "cheek".

Do this on all sides then take each cheek, lay it down shiny side down (the inside of the pepper should face up because it's easier to cut that way).  Then, slice each cheek into strips.

If you want chopped peppers, follow the steps for slices.  Then line up the slices and cut them into squares, like this:

For diced, just cut the slices thinner and the squares smaller.  Easy.


First, let me give you a few definitions.  A clove of garlic is a single piece (shown on the right).  A head of garlic is the entire pod (on the left).  Sometimes that can be confusing.

There are all kinds of gadgets out there to peel and chop garlic.  They are cool, but you don't need them.  The easiest way to peel garlic is to whack it with a can (or a pot, or a coffee cup).  Just place the garlic on your cutting board, then gently hit it.  This will loosen the skin, making it easy to peel.

Once it's peeled, you just cut it into strips, then cut it in the opposite direction.

That's chopped garlic.  To mince it, just continue to run your knife over it, back and forth, in opposite directions until you get it as small as you want it.  (You may need to wipe it off your knife if it sticks to the blade.  Be very careful!)

So, there you go.  Easy, step by step directions you can follow until you get the hang of it.

I remember when I first started cooking.  It wasn't pretty.  I could barely follow a recipe in a cook book.  Now I have a blog where I share recipes that I've created.  It doesn't matter how you start out, it only matters where you end up.  Happy cooking!

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