Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How to Mince, Dice and Chop Onions

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

The photograph below shows minced, diced and chopped onions. Minced (on the left) is the smallest cut. diced (in the middle) is a bit bigger, and chopped (on the right) which is cut, at most, into about ¼ inch chunks.

When it comes to chopping an onion or any vegetables, choose a knife that you are comfortable holding. As long as it’s sharp, it really comes down to what knife you feel you can control well.

So, let me show you how to chop an onion.

This is the root end of an onion.

Leave the root end intact. It will actually help to make cutting the onion easier.

Cut off the top of the onion (the other end.)

Peel off the outside skin (the dry, papery layer.)

Sometimes you end up removing the first layer of onion as well which is ok.

Cut the onion in half from the top end to base. Place the cut side down on the cutting board.

Always hold the onion with bent fingers while slicing and chopping. This allows you to use your knuckles as a guide against the side of the knife and not the tips of your fingers under the knife. It will feel pretty awkward at first but it’s the only safe way to hold the onion!

For chopped onions, with the knife tip pointed towards the root, slice the onion to within 1/2 inch of the base. Make about 1/4 inch parallel cuts.

Now cut perpendicular to the slices you just made.

Oh look! Chopped onions!

“Diced” onions are nothing more than onions cut into smaller pieces. For diced onions do the exact same thing, only with smaller cuts. Minced is even smaller!

If the onions need to be chopped finer you can run your knife through them in a rocking motion. Be sure to hold down the tip of the knife, otherwise the onions are going to go flying around the room.

If cutting onions makes you cry, try putting your onion in the freezer for about 20 minutes before cutting it.

Cheers!

Kathy

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How To Make Mashed Potatoes

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetables and Beans, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

I was surprised to hear one of the trainers at my gym say that he prefers instant mashed potatoes from a box rather than the real thing! I thought to myself – he needs a few tips on how to make perfect (real) mashed potatoes!

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At the grocery store, you will notice that there is an incredible variety of potatoes to choose from. There are usually signs above the potatoes that will tell you which ones are great for baking versus which ones are better for mashing. If there are no signs, just ask someone who works in the Produce section for some guidance.

To make 4-6 servings of mashed potatoes you will need approximately:

  • 2 pounds of potatoes
  • ½ to ¾ cup of milk
  • Salt and pepper (to your taste)
  • 2-6 tablespoons of butter

You can make mashed potatoes in just a few easy steps.

Step 1: Wash the potatoes

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Step 2: Peel the potatoes

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Step 3: Cut the potatoes into 1 ½ inch chunks

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Step 4: Put the potatoes in sauce pan and cover with water

(adding 1 teaspoon of salt to the water is optional)

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Step 5: Bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Simmer 20 minutes

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Step 6: Drain the potatoes

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Step 7: Add milk, butter, salt and pepper

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Step 8: Start mashing!

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Keep mashing until the potatoes are creamy and lump free.  You can garnish your mashed potatoes with some chopped parsley if you like.

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Aaahhhh! Perfection


The Equipment you’ll need:

  • Sauce pan with a cover
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Knife
  • Potato masher
  • Timer
  • Colander (optional)

Tempted as you might be to try using a blender or a food processor to mash potatoes…DON’T! Believe me, years ago I tried that. You end up with a gluey, uneatable, awful mess. If you are mashing for a crowd, an electric hand mixer will work beautifully!

Here are just a few more ways to cook potatoes from startcooking.com:

Potatoes – Baked Potato with Salsa

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Potatoes – Microwave Baked

Potatoes – Microwave Baked (video)

Potatoes – Oven Baked

Potatoes – Roasted

Potatoes – Sweet Potato Casserole

Potatoes, How to Choose and Use

Enjoy!

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Stuffed Peppers

print recipe card posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Stuffed peppers are great (and easy) to make for a family meal or casual get-together. My filling for stuffed pepper starts with two simple ingredients – cooked rice and browned ground beef.

You can use leftover cooked rice (from Chinese take-out?) or make your own. Get the rice started first as it usually takes about 20 minutes to cook. Check out my video on “How to Cook White Rice” for a quick review.

Cleaning the Peppers

While the rice is cooking, get the peppers washed and remove the stem and seeds. Any color bell pepper will do. But remember, the red ones are the sweetest!

Start by slicing off the very top of the peppers.

Then,with a small paring knife, carefully slide the knife around the stem to loosen it. You should then be able to gently pull the stem out.

With a spoon scrape out any remaining seeds and “stem ribs”.

It is important that the bell peppers are able to balance upright on their own. Slice off the tiniest bit off the bottom so that the peppers can stand without rolling over.

Set the cleaned peppers snugly in a baking dish and set this dish aside for just a moment.

Making the Filling

In a large frying pan, over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef and drain off any excess fat. For a quick review, check out my video on “How to Brown Beef”.

Add one can of Rotel tomatoes…

…which are diced tomatoes with green chilies.

Using a colander, drain one can of black beans in the sink, rinse, and drain again, and add them to the frying pan as well.

Mix everything together and simmer for about 5 minutes.

At this point you could add 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder if you wish.

Remove the pan from the heat and add 2 cups of cooked rice

…and 1 and 1/2 cups of pre-shredded Mexican four-cheese blend. (This is a great time-saving way to buy cheese for cooking. Most grocery stores always carry both a Mexican blend and an Italian blend.)

Stir everything together.

Filling the Peppers

(A note: Many recipes have you blanch the cleaned peppers in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes before adding the filling. I prefer the peppers to have a bit of a crunch to them, rather than being really soft. Consequently my recipe does not call for blanching the peppers before filling them.)

With a spoon, fill the peppers with the filling.

They should fit snugly in the baking dish!

Cover the baking dish with tin foil and put them in a 375 F. degree preheated oven.

Bake the covered peppers for about 40 minutes and then remove the tin foil…

…and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes until tops are slightly browned and pepper skin can be pierced easily with a fork.

I served these beautiful stuffed peppers with butternut squash and they were fantastic!

Enjoy!

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