Gooey Grilled Cheese

Most American kids grew up on grilled cheese. It may not be a part of the most balanced diet, but it is easy (and cheap) to make. Though the concept is simple, it can very easily be customized and dressed up with different breads, cheeses, or even adding extra ingredients. For now we’ll be starting with a very basic plain grilled cheese. Once you’ve mastered the art of grilled cheese, try mixing it up!

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread
  • 2-3 slices of cheese, room tempera
  • Butter or margarine, softened

You can use virtually any kind of bread. I’d recommend starting with large pieces of sandwich bread. You can also choose any kind of cheese. For this blog post, I chose Havarti, and my boyfriend chose smoked Cheddar. Most often, I use gouda.

Instructions:

1) Spread the butter or margarine onto your bread. I only did one side (because there’s less mess), but many people I’ve met prefer to butter both sides. You’ll want to thoroughly coat the bread.

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2) Heat up a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.

3) Place one piece of bread butter side down in the skillet. Place your cheese on top of the bread. Add the second piece of bread, butter-side up.

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Some people like to add extra butter to the pan, but I find that makes my grilled cheese soggy and greasy.

4) Let the one side cook for a bit (depending on how dark you like the bread). I usually wait until the cheese droops and I can smell the butter. Using a spatula, quickly slide it under the bread and flip the sandwich to the other side.

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Don’t worry! You can flip it over as many times as you need to get the right done-ness.

5) Make more and serve!

Optional: Get creative with your grilled cheese! Add a condiment like mayo or mustard on the inside of the sandwich. Use mulitple kinds of cheese. Add bacon! Or even try different kinds of bread. We bought some garlic bread and made smaller grilled cheese packed with buttery, garlic, cheesey flavor!

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Now I realize that grilled cheese is not a full meal. I’ll be making tomato soup from scratch soon, but for now open up your favorite can or carton of soup and heat it up on the stove. Or even go buy some from the local deli, grocery, or restaurant (like Panera).

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Got any favorite unique additions to your grilled cheese? Comment your suggestions below!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Every year I’ve made cooking goals for myself. There are always new recipes to try, new techniques to learn. I’ve posted a list of goals in 2016, 2016, and 2017. With my new blog, I figured I’d keep up this tradition, even if I haven’t met all of my goals in the previous years.

Before I started this blog, my repertoire was limited to pre-made foods that could be boiled, microwaved, or toasted in a toaster. I started Foodie Learns to Cook in July 2015. By the end of the year, I could make some basic breakfast foods, including eggs, bacon, smoothies, and coffee. I could also make some simple meals like grilled cheese and mac and cheese from scratch. It was also around that time that I discovered my affinity for baking. Even though I could barely fry an egg, I could bake cakes from scratch without much trouble. My crowning achievement was a completely homemade pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

Starting in 2016, I was looking forward to expanding my abilities beyond breakfast. I learned to make some classics, like hamburgers, roasted veggies, and spaghetti with meatballs (well, sauce). I tried more complicated dinners like spaghetti carbonara (one of the first notorious foodie fails) and spaghetti squash. Meanwhile, my baking continued to improve. I’m now pretty famous at work for my Nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookies.

Last year, although I made many many new dishes, there were several dishes I didn’t share with my readers. They were edible, but they weren’t the kind of food I wanted to be cooking. I got a bit ahead of myself. I was so proud of my progress that I started getting grandiose in my goals. I made a list of nineteen foods to bake and cook, mostly requiring more advanced kitchen skills. I only ended up making six.

Once I started cooking this year, I realized that I still make plenty of mistakes. I’m still learning and my goals should reflect that. For 2018, I have compiled a list of fifteen foods committed to the basics, as opposed to rushing to make as many dishes as I can. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to cook through the fifteen basics and these goals before the end of the year. Fortunately some of them overlap:

  1. Pulled Pork
  2. Roast Chicken
  3. Sourdough
  4. Quesadillas
  5. Scones
  6. Trifle
  7. Madelines
  8. Quiche
  9. Cocktail
  10. Salad with Homemade Dressed
  11. Cinnamon Rolls
  12. Steak and Mashed Potatoes
  13. Frittata
  14. A Homemade Condiment
  15. French Press Coffee
Have you made a goal list? Are you hoping to learn your favorites or challenge yourself? Comment with your own goals!

Eggs Three Ways

Enough reviews and lists! Let’s get cooking!

Many of us eat breakfast at home. We make some toast or a bowl of cereal, something low effort. Some of us may head to Starbucks for a coffee and a morning coffee, just to avoid stepping foot in the kitchen.

Breakfast is supposed to be simple, a daily ritual that most people partake in. Breakfast can also be special. On Sundays, we get brunch. We pay for the food someone else made us. On Valentine’s Day or anniversaries, people make their significant others breakfast-in-bed. Mothers make their kids big breakfasts before important tests or sports games.

It seemed like a good idea to start with breakfast. We start our days with breakfast, so maybe we should start learning to cook breakfast first.

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Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs are pretty hard to mess up. It’s the easiest way to cook eggs.

You will need:

  • A few Tablespoons of butter
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • A frying pan & spatula

1) Break the desired amount of eggs into a bowl. Whisk with a fork to break the yolks. Keep stirring until you get a fairly consistent yellow color.

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Add some salt and pepper now or after they’re cooked. It’s up to you. I tend to flavor both so I get enough flavor.

2) If you want, add a few splashes of milk. You can add 2-3 Tbsp if you’d prefer a specific measurement.

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This supposedly helps make the eggs more fluffy. It’s how I’ve always eaten them, so that’s how I’ll be cooking them. Of course, you can omit the milk. The eggs will cook the same way.

3) Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Once it’s warm, add a few Tablespoons of butter. Melt the butter in the pan.

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4) Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Let it sit for a minute. When it starts to solidify at the edges, gently push the eggs around the pan with a spatula.

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5) Continue pushing the eggs as they cook. Cook until the eggs are the desired consistency.

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The consistency depends on how much moisture is left in the eggs. If you can press down with a spatula, you should see some Eggs scrambled hard have less moisture. Master these and maybe we can try them the way Gordon Ramsey makes his scrambled eggs!

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Fried Eggs

These are “sunny side up” eggs or eggs “over easy.” You will need:

  • A few Tbsp of butter
  • Eggs
  • Skillet with a lid & spatula

1) Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 2-3 Tbsp of butter.

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Medium heat is a pretty important detail. My heat was cranked a little too high, so I ended up with burnt edges and browned butter.

2) When the butter stops foaming, crack an egg into the pan.

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It’s a habit for most people to crack an egg against a bowl or pan. Most chefs and recipes that I’ve seen recommend using a flat surface like a table or counter.

3) Cook for about 4 minutes. You can put a lid on the pan to help set the white quickly.

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Bonus: Over-Easy

Over-easy eggs are a type of fried eggs. Most recipes recommend flipping a fried egg with the yolk down. I’ve read something that makes it less dangerous and more accessible for those of us afraid to flip an egg.

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The technique is apparently called “blasting.” Use a spoon to scoop some of the hot butter from the pan onto the yolk.

Poached Eggs

This may be the most complicated technique for some people, but it is my favorite. I’ve posted a live video on my Instagram. For me, it’s easier than frying eggs, but I guess that’s up to personal preference. You will need:

  • A pot of water
  • Eggs
  • Small glass bowls

1) Crack an egg into a small bowl, preferably glass. Be careful not to break the yolk.

2) Bring a saucepan of water to a light boil. You can add a small splash of vinegar to the water if you’d like; it’s an old Julia Child trick.

3) As soon as the water boils, lower the heat to low or simmer. Stir the water gently to create a swirl.

4) Take the bowl of egg and gently lower the egg into the water while the water is swirling.

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You’ll want to get as close to the water as possible to avoid splashing or breaking the yolk. I find dipping the glass bowl into the water makes it easiest. The glass won’t break either.

The swirling will help the egg white wrap around the yolk.

5) Let the egg cook for 4-6 minutes at the low heat.

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You may need to experiment with time. Less time means a runnier yolk.

6) Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the after once they’re done.

You can put them on a towel or paper towel to help them dry. If you use a paper towel, the white may take on the shape from the texture of the paper.

7) Enjoy!

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Eggs may not be a complete breakfast, but it’s a start! Serve some eggs on top of some toast for a small meal for one. If you’re cooking for two or more, try microwaving some bacon. If you’re feeling confident, fry or bake some bacon instead. I can post instructions for cooking bacon if any one is interested.

How did your eggs turn out? Do you have any helpful tips? Post your progress, questions, and comments below!

How to Read a Recipe

When I was young, my mother attempted to force my sibling and I to learn how to cook. We selected a recipe from Kraft magazine, checked the ingredients, made a grocery list, and cooked the dish.
I was quite a picky eater as a child. I avoided fruit, vegetables, and most foods that weren’t pre-made. My favorite foods included hot dogs, Kraft mac & cheese, apple juice, and corn dogs. At one point, I even persuaded my mother to start buying TV dinners.
You can’t build a table without the instructions. Many famous chefs encourage amateurs to pursue their passions in the kitchen without recipes. I’ve begun to embrace this philosophy now that I have more experience. However, most of us must start with the basics.
Mistakes I Used to Make When Reading a Recipe:
1. Ignoring Adjectives
Ex: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.
Ex: Beat 1/4 of the white thoroughly into pumpkin mixture; gently fold in the rest.
Why This is a Problem:
In the specific examples, the size of the skillet may affect you as you add more ingredients. Using a skillet that’s too small crowds the pan (which affects the cooking) and/or won’t fit everything. The level of heat is important too. If it’s too high it can curdle or burn ingredients; if it’s too low it can take longer to cook or not heat ingredients properly (for safety). In the second example, gently folding in egg whites affects the consistency of the dessert.
In short, ignoring the details of the recipe can affect how your food turns out. It’s important to follow the instructions fairly closely. Cooking, unlike baking, does allow for some leeway, but experimentation comes after experience.
2. Taking Out Ingredients “I Don’t Like”
Ex: I remember once trying to cook a recipe for taco bowls. I took out all the foods I didn’t like, including the peppers, onions, and tomatoes. This was nearly all the vegetables (and ingredients) in the recipe.
Why This is a Problem:
You might be able to take out a few things (especially if you’re allergic). Still, you should recognize that by removing ingredients, you change the flavor profile of the dish. If you remove too much, the result will be bland and flavorless. It’s best to choose recipes without too many things you dislike in the first place. Even better, you can find ways to eat things you dislike. This was the best way for me to counteract my picky tendencies. Once I found a way to eat my least favorite foods, I welcomed new flavors and textures.
3. Not Reading Through the Recipe
Have you ever started making a recipe, then realized halfway through that you’re missing an important ingredient? Or you’re missing the fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth you need for your recipe? The issue with this is pretty obvious. You can’t make the recipe if you’re missing vital ingredients or equipment!
I’m sure many of my readers have made similar mistakes.
1. Choose a suitable recipe.
Search for a recipe online or on Pinterest. Consider your source. Don’t pick the first recipe you see. Two recipes for macaroni and cheese may have different kinds of cheeses. A recipe for one dish can be more or less complex. A recipe for pumpkin pie can use canned pumpkin or made from pumpkin that you roast first. Carefully think about your personal preferences, the equipment you own (or can get), and the level of difficulty. All recipes are not created equal.
2. Read the recipe through once.
Familiarize yourself with the recipe. Make sure you understand the instructions.
3. Compare the ingredients and equipment to what you have.
Run down the list of ingredients and make sure they’re in your pantry or fridge. If it helps, pull out everything you’ll need. It’s important to note the amount of each ingredient you need. For example, if you’re going to make onion soup, you may need four onions. If you check your fridge and there are only three onions, you’ll need to buy another.
Some equipment may be difficult to buy, while others you may be able to pick up at the grocery store. A strainer or whisk is easy to find for cheap, if your budget allows. Large machines like a food processor or a Kitchenaid may take some time. Be realistic about what you can afford.
4. Go Grocery Shopping
I always walk through my kitchen to check for ingredients listed in a recipe. As I tend to by in bulk, I usually have leftover ingredients or spices I can use for multiple recipes. Write everything you need in a list or put it in your phone. If you have the list in front of you, you’re less likely to forget something.
5. Before you start cooking, read the recipe again.
I usually write it down, but you have to make sure everything is the same as the original! Make sure you haven’t missed anything. Reading it again may seem annoying, but it will ensure you remember every step.
I hope this helps! Paying attention to your recipes will prevent a lot of problems as you learn to cook. Don’t be afraid to try different recipes until you find the best ones.

Where Do I Start?

Walking into a kitchen can seem pretty daunting. People use fancy words like saute, blanch, and braise. Chefs use machines and tools that look like medieval torture device. A recipe may seem simple, but then you run into new problems, like whether you should use a shallot or a leek. And what is an inch of ginger?
For some people, even getting started seems impossible. I’m talking about the kind of people who joke that they can “burn cereal.” Supposedly, the secret to cooking is getting in the kitchen and throwing something together. Well that doesn’t feed me an edible meal. Plus, it doesn’t seem to work for my brain. I end up overthinking and panicking about whether I’m doing everything right.

First thing’s first: Learn to read a recipe. (Don’t worry I’ll update this with a link once I pull the article over.)

Next, you should decide on a recipe or two to try. If you’re not sure what to choose, I’ve gone through several posts about what millennials “should” be able to cook by the time we turn 30. I’ve cherry-picked some simple classics to get started. I have already made some of these, so I’ll redo some of my old blog posts. Others are goals even for me!

  1. Eggs Three Ways
  2. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
  3. Roast Chicken
  4. Roasted Vegetables
  5. Brownies
  6. Macaroni & Cheese (Not from a box)
  7. Steak
  8. Spaghetti & Meatballs with Homemade Sauce
  9. Hamburgers
  10. Chocolate Chip Cookies
  11. Pancakes
  12. Pulled Pork
  13. Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes
  14. Salad and Homemade Salad Dressing
  15. Cake with Homemade Frosting

Are these good options? Are there foods you would like to change or add? Should I cook them in this order or are there recipes you would rather start with first? Comment below and let me know!