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The Basics

I’m going to assume that the concept of cooking is reasonably well-established. I won’t insult anyone by describing boiling or freezing or mixing. I will rarely use specialized terms for the gadgets used in the kitchen.

By the way, although I happen to have a gas range, I use the microwave a lot. I also use the gas barbeque whenever possible.


Main Dishes

Although I am now gluten-free, I used to love pasta, and most of my comments will apply to rice pasta as well as wheat.
Pasta – if you hate waiting for pasta to cook, make sure you buy the fresh stuff (actually fresh, or packaged). Fresh takes 3-5 mintues to cook while the dry pasta takes about 20 min (including time to get the water to boil).
then – you can put lots of different stuff on the pasta. I try to limit my use of dairy, but if you like cheese, then anything is good (however, some cheeses just don’t melt well – like Swiss – but mozzarella, muenster, cream and any of the softer cheeses are great).
A simple sauce, perhaps the simplest, is just olive oil and chopped green onion. I just mix it in to the pasta after it’s been drained. If you want to spend more time, mix the olive oil and green onion in a pot over a low heat for a while; you can also add in some chopped mushrooms.
Another simple sauce for pasta revolves around tomato paste. You could use ketchup, but tomato paste is cheaper and less complicated. Mix a small can of the paste with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil, chopped onions, and some oregano, and you’re good to go.
If you want meat in your sauce, just cook up some ground beef in a pan first, then add it to your sauce. Better yet, take some steak and cut it into really thin strips, cook it with a bit of soy sauce, and mix it into your sauce.
Another word about pasta: as I say later regarding meat, cooking time is proportional to the ratio of volume to surface area. The greater the surface area, the quicker it takes to cook. So, pasta that is thinner or in smaller pieces will cook in less time. In some cases, this is very significant (e.g. compare cooking time for dry fettucine with dry angel’s hair or linguini).

Cumin Chicken (Salad)

Two parts to this: the chicken, and the salad. First, the chicken. When you’re cooking chicken, you really have to think about the end product, because this will determine the cooking time. The important rule to remember is that cooking time is proportional to the ratio of volume to surface area. Basically, the bigger (the thicker, fatter) the piece of meat, the longer it will take to cook. If you want to save time, cut the meat into thin pieces. They can be long and thin, but the thinner, the faster to cook. Too thin, and they lose their “juicyness.” So, unless I’m going for a slab of meat, like a steak or a whole chicken breast, I cut the meat into fairly small pieces (I hate to wait). The other aspect to remember about meat surface area is that the impact of the sauce or spices is directly related to the amount of surface area of meat with which it makes contact. Thus, smaller pieces bathed in a marinade will absorb more of the flavor.
For the cumin chicken, I take a chicken breast, still cold but not frozen and cut it into bite-sized chunks. Not too thin and long because I will be putting it into a salad. In a bowl, pour some olive oil onto the chicken, just enough to glaze the pieces. Then take my favorite spice, cumin, and put a healthy amount into the bowl (again, we’re just using it to cover the chicken pieces, not as a stand-alone sauce). With your hand, mix the cumin, oil, and chicken until everything is covered. Then take the mixture and put it into a frying pan on a relatively high heat. We’re not deep-frying the chicken, but we are cooking it in oil. Cook until the chicken is fully cooked  – i.e. no pink inside.
For the salad, mix a tomato – cut into small pieces, with a combination of field greens and hearts of romaine. Of course, you could just use some iceberg lettuce, but let me explain. First, everyone knows that iceberg lettuce has only one redeeming quality: it’s crunchy. It has virtually no nutrition and no flavor. Dark greens,  like kale, spinach, arugula, have both flavor and nutrients, so why not mix them? They even sell mixed greens with all the healthy stuff. Take some of that and add some crunchy lettuce. However, don’t use iceberg lettuce. Aside from being devoid of value, you end up using only half the head – the middle is inedible, and the outside leaves you end up throwing away. Instead, use the (mini) hearts of romaine. You can eat almost all of it, the leaves are a perfect size, it has more flavor than iceberg, and it is just as crunchy.
In addition to the lettuces and tomato, add the stuff that will make this taste good but decrease its healthyness: onion bits, chow mein noodles (more crunch), and mayonnaise. The mayonnaise combines with the oil and cumin to form a wonderful salad dressing.
When the chicken is done, mix everything together.
A word about cumin: for those of you who like the taste of chili, it is generally nothing more than red pepper + cumin. You can adjust the spicyness by buying them separately and making your own chili powder. Cheaper, too.
Avocado and Tomato Salad
When I have this dish with rice, I often make an avocado and tomato salad with it. Avocados are wonderful fruits, but they are high in calories, if you care. The difficult thing about avocados is to eat them at exactly the right time. When they are not ripe, they are hard and the meat is dark green and wet. When they are too ripe, the meat is very mushy, sometimes stringy, and has a smoky flavor. The combination of avocado and tomato is beautiful – scoop out the meat of an avocado and cut it into small chunks. Cut up a tomato into small pieces and add to the avocado. Now you have lots of choices: 1) add some olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a simple salad 2) add onions (green or otherwise) to the salad 3) add onions, mayo, cumin, and jalapeño for a guacamole 4) add mayo and currie for an interesting variation on the guacamole concept.

Dips and Sauces

Thank God for mayonnaise. I know that the cholesterol and salt may be a problem, but it provides a creaminess without dairy.
Combine mayonaisse with Grey Poupon mustard and Blackstrap molasses for a “honey mustard dip.” You can put in a little sour cream if you like it to be creamier.
Combine mayonaisse with Amy’s lentil soup and a bit of cumin for a Mexican dip. You can add some fresh tomatoe and green onion if you think it should be “fresh.”
Combine mayonaisse with an avocado, tomato, green onion, cumin for guacamole. Add in jalapeno or red pepper if you like it spicy. I can’t tolerate that anymore, so I go for the plain stuff. Don’t bother with chili powder – it’s nothing more than cumin + red pepper.
Combine blackstrap molasses with soy sauce and ketchup for a great barbecue sauce. Another one is just soy sauce, mustard powder, olive oil, and honey (or sugar) (or molasses).

Rice and Potato and Corn



I should probably spend more time on this entry than any other. I love my carbohydrates, and they love me. In fact, they never want to leave.  For me, going dairy-free and gluten-free is only possible because of the availability of other great carbs.


Rice is one of my key carb sources. It seems to provide body to any meal. I have grown to like sushi, so it fits well. Here are some things to know about cooking rice:

There are many forms of rice – white, brown, basmati, long grain, short grain, minute, … It is easy to ruin rice, even if you have a rice cooker, but the basic idea is this: too little water and/or too little time to cook and the rice is inedible. Too high heat,  and the rice is burnt. So, to cook rice generally twice as much water as rice, boil, lower flame, and let simmer (really low flame, or even none) for a long time. 20 min is a long time, 30 is longer. If you think it will be done in 10 min, you’re dreaming.  I like my rice sticky, so the longer it absorbs the water, the better. If you don’t like sticky rice, then you might have to actually read the directions.

By the way, if you’re worried about nutrition, long grain, brown rice does have more nutrients than white. Brown rice takes even longer to cook. You decide.


Corn is a starchy vegetable and comes in a variety of forms. If you want to eat it as a vegetable, it cooks quickly and combines with lots of other vegetables. If you want to eat it as a starch, it’s usually in the form of corn flour, which is then cooked into biscuits, bread, or tortillas. Be aware that because it is very coarse, biscuits and bread made with corn flour generally (not always) have wheat flour in them as well. I prefer my corn in tortillas.

Corn tortillas are one of the best foods for a lazy cook. First, you can buy them pre-made (as opposed to making the flour and rolling them out) and pre-cooked (to some degree). Then, they last forever in your refrigerator. You can use them as part of main dishes, or you can use them for sandwich-like things, e.g. roll-ups or spring rolls. To cook them, you could put them in a pan with some oil (olive oil) and kind of fry them, but I just put a few in the microwave for about a minute.


The best and the worst carbohydrate. A lot has been written about the potato recently regarding the “glycemic index” and the fact that potatoes are too easy to metabolize. So be it. However, a potato in its many forms in combination with protein instantly makes a meal for me.






Still working on this…