Tuesday, June 20, 2017

3 Cooking Tips for Beginners + An Easy Recipe!

Don't you hate it when you check a recipe and they neglect to tell you something important? I still consider myself a beginner home cook but I'm trying to change that now that I'm a newly-minted wife. I've collected hundreds of recipes and cook books over the years but it's only now that I get to use them every day, as opposed to when I was still single and I would only cook when I felt like it.


The problem I find with some recipes is they assume that you're already an experienced cook and they forget to tell you something important that needs to be done in between the steps. For example, this may seem like common knowledge and automatic to a lot of cooks, but when using Baguio beans or green beans, did you know that you have to remove the strings on the sides? Yes, because if you don't it's highly likely they'd end up stuck in between your teeth. Here's a video of a grandpa teaching us a fast way to string green beans!

Here are three other cooking tips you won't normally see on recipes:

1. When cooking paksiw or adobo, don't stir it immediately after adding the vinegar. Let it boil or reboil, and after that you can stir the pot. This is so the vinegar can cook properly, and it won't taste acidic or uncooked. In Filipino, it won't be "hilaw." 

2. When choosing okra for your sinigang or pinakbet, try to see if you can easily snap the tip. That's how to tell if they're still fresh aside from their bright green color. I once bought old okra and it was tough once cooked. :( Now I always remember to check my okra before I buy.

EXTRA TIP: It's better to buy in the market if there's one near you. The price is lower, and if you get there early enough, you get fresher veggies!

3. Tinola spoils easily. I don't know why since it doesn't have tomatoes or dairy in it (hit the comments if you know the reason!). Once you see bubbles, it's a bad sign. So either you cook it in small batches you can finish immediately, or always remember to store it properly in the fridge once it cools after cooking. When reheating, only reheat enough portion you can finish because the hot and cold temp also hastens its spoilage.

And now for an easy peasy recipe you can cook in 30 minutes! I just made it this Sunday. This recipe is perfect for busy nights when you worked overtime, have a deadline to beat, or still have some household chores to finish.

I got this Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry recipe from Martha Stewart's website, and I just tweaked some ingredients with what I have in our pantry. You can visit the link because there's also a step-by-step video there to really guide beginner cooks. I'm also putting the recipe here with my tweaks. Comments in parenthesis and NOTES are mine.

Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry


2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch (I used 3 tablespoons of flour)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (this is for cooking, don't mix it with the sauce)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch strips (I used chicken breast fillets)
3 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 bunch broccoli, cut into small florets, stalks peeled and thinly sliced 1
Cooked white rice, for serving


1. Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, oyster sauce, cornstarch, and sesame oil.
NOTE: If you don't have cornstarch at home, you can use flour. I used 3 tbsps. of flour to substitute for 1 tbsp. of cornstarch. You just need to cook the sauce a little longer later on.

2. In a wok or large skillet (I used a large frying pan), heat vegetable oil over high. Add chicken and cook until browned for 10 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, scallions, and broccoli and cook, stirring frequently, until broccoli is bright green, for 3 minutes. (I forgot to buy scallions but that's fine!)

3. Add 1/4 cup water, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon.
NOTE: Add more water if you'd like it to be saucier, like my husband does. It's great to mix with rice.

4. Stir in soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring until thickened, for 1 minute. Serve warm with rice.

You can always adjust the sauce according to your taste. Either add more water or oyster sauce depending on your preference.

Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables! So crunchy, filling, and nutritious. It also has few calories since it's mostly water. :)

You can also cook this in a big batch since it reheats well. Just make sure to store it in an airtight container. 

Do you have cooking tips you want to share? Do leave them in the comments below!

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