Cooking, Canning, and Food Preservation

I remember “helping” my mom in the kitchen when I was little, though most of that was standing on a chair to help do the dishes in the sink. Cooking was beyond my capabilities….until!

Until one day when I was about nine, when a wonderful new book showed up among birthday gifts or Christmas presents or some other special occasion: Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cookbook.

It was a magnificent resource for someone just learning to cook – not only were there fun recipes, but explanations of kitchen equipment, different foods, and how to do the most basic things.

Boys and Girls Cookbook
This is the classic 1965 version of the cookbook I was given. Mine looked like this until the cover fell off from heavy use!

My first specialty, one-pot spaghetti, came from this cookbook. I made it that way for several years before figuring out that making the sauce and noodles separately was almost as easy, and tasted even better. I was well on my way to developing my own “secret recipe” of special herbs to make a unique spaghetti sauce. I loved it!

This is what my famous one-pot spaghetti looked like.

Shortly after that, mom began showing me how to make fried chicken and mashed potatoes the way she did, and the hardest: gravy, made from pan drippings, milk, and flour. I later learned this was a roux, and forms the basis of all sorts of sauces – and in college, I taught myself how to use cornstarch as a thickener, instead. But as a kid and teen, I used flour.

Once I had those two recipes under my belt, I took over Sunday dinners from my mom – cooking for a family of six from the very beginning.

I learned other family favorites, also…meatloaf, salmon loaf, stroganoff, and others from my cookbook and mom’s cookbooks as well. By this time, I was a young teen, and began cooking family dinners most nights.

Later, I expanded these skills significantly on my own – everything from making cakes from scratch to ethnic main dishes.

I’d go through culinary phases, and got to the point where I didn’t follow recipes anymore. I’d just look in the cupboard and refrigerator, and decide…do I want to make something vaguely Italian, vaguely Asian, or some Midwest Comfort Food? And I’d wing it.

Made some great dishes that way, some of which became family favorites repeated again and again.

But it takes time and knowledge to get to that point.

My mom, and my cookbook, helped me get there.

Without a guide? Well, I was surprised that many people do not have basic cooking skills, until I recall the elective class at my kids’ middle school. The class was meant to teach all the skills a young person would need in order to make it on their own. My kids reported back to me, shocked at the “cooking” lessons, as they already knew far more than they were taught. The “cooking” segment featured lessons in how to microwave a commercial frozen dinner, and  how to open a canister of poppin’ fresh dough and bake the biscuits inside.

breakfast biscuits
At least these biscuits were hand-rolled instead of from a can! Probably from a mix, though, even though making them “from scratch” is just as easy!

Seriously. That was “cooking,” as taught in school. No guidance whatsoever, beyond reading the back of the box.

It’s no wonder that skills beyond heating water for ramen noodles, or making neon-orange boxed mac & cheese, is something foreign to many teens, young adults, and even some older adults.

BUT…these skills are easily learned, and I’m here to show you how.

I’ll eventually teach you some complicated dishes, things to serve when you want to impress.

But first, you and I will start at the beginning – simple homestyle cooking. Healthy, hearty dishes that are surprisingly easy to make, and filling.

Are you ready?

Are you excited?

Great! Let’s get going!


Basic Macaroni and Cheese (free!) 
Two versions, regular and simplified homestyle (coming soon!)

Easy, Fancy, Lemon Pepper Chicken (free!) 
(coming soon!)

Recommended Resources:

My classic orginal cookbook:

An update of my classic children’s cookbook!

A grown-up classic:

Learn HOW and WHY certain techniques work best…a new favorite:

The classic book on bread – I used to make two loaves a week from these recipes!