If you are new to cooking, and you haven’t been paying attention to those in your life that cook regularly (if you have any), you may be lost in the jargon used in recipes. We have tried to keep the instructions in our recipes basic. But there may be a term, or an ingredient we have used in a recipe, that you are not familiar with. We are using this page to try to answer some questions you may have. We are not experts in any of these terms. I am certain there are more accurate explanations than the ones we are offering you here. We are just home cooks trying to provide less experienced people some basic, practical cooking knowledge. We want to make cooking dinner easier. We hope we can help bring people back to a dinner table with real food being served. I am sure most have heard about studies done, looking at the psychological benefits of a family sitting down at a table together for dinner. Results have shown that families that eat together, even a couple of times a week, are happier and more successful. And there are a couple of more logical reasons to cook dinner at home; saving a ton of money and knowing what is in the meal you are serving your family.

SAUTE: Ricky uses this method of cooking quite a bit. It is one of the reasons why his recipes cook up so quickly. And another benefit to sauteing is retaining a good amount of the nutrients in vegetables. You saute in a skillet. Sauteing uses a small amount of oil, and the sauteed ingredients are uniformly cooked, but not browned or seared. When you are frying, you are using a hot pan and hot oil to sear and brown, as well as fully cook. Frying gives a crust/sear on the outside. Like a french fry! It is browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Sauteing is usually done on medium high heat. You may need to turn the temperature down if the ingredients are getting hot enough to start to brown. Rather than take our heat recommendations as a rule, just use it as a guide. You will get a feel for where to set your temperature, and when the skillet is getting too hot, after a few tries. Anytime you are sauteing, you should plan on staying pretty close by, to watch what is happening in the pan. For even cooking, you need to move the ingredients around in the skillet. Saute to the consistency you prefer when you are using vegetables. The “doneness” of a vegetable depends on your personal preference. I like my vegetables on the softer side. Many like them a bit on the crunchy side. That’s one of the rewards of doing your own cooking; you get it your way.

BOIL and SIMMER: You are boiling when the liquid in your pan is hot enough to produce consistent big bubbles, which cover the entire surface of the liquid. When boiling, large bubbles swell up quickly, and splash open like a volcano, followed by another bubble forming there, almost immediately. That is called a “full” boil. When the liquid is climbing up the sides of the pan with big rolling bubbles, that is called a “rolling” boil. When simmering, your bubbles are smaller and they don’t cover the whole surface of the liquid at once. The bubbles are smaller orbs of air that splat not splash open, here and there, several at a time, consistently. This is all regulated by the heat you are cooking on. Lower temperatures mean smaller bubbles. When you are going to simmer something, it is helpful to bring the liquid to a boil first, and then turn down the heat to simmer. It’s a lot quicker. Hence the saying used when time is dragging on, ” it was like waiting for water to boil”, or “a watched pot never boils”. Then turn the heat down to simmer. The temperature setting for simmering will be different when cooking with, or without a cover. Adjust the temperature accordingly. While simmering, check from time to time to make sure you still have bubbles popping. If you don’t, your liquid is not hot enough. Temperature is important, because you are simmering to cook something, not keep it warm. The temperature needs to be at the boiling point to reliably cook the food to doneness. And when simmering meat, it is particularly important.

DREDGE: In cooking this term is used when you are going to “drag” an ingredient though another ingredient. Most commonly in everyday cooking, you are dredging meat or vegetables in flour, bread crumbs, or egg before frying it. And in some cases you dredge in all three before cooking. It is as easy as it gets. Put some flour, bread crumbs or egg in a plate, wide bowl or shallow baking dish, and drag your meat through it, until it is coated on all sides.

TOSS vs STIR: When you are stirring something, your are vigorously mixing your ingredients to fully integrate them. When you are tossing ingredients in a pan or bowl, you are gently “turning”(another term used for this) your ingredients to disperse them into a uniform mix. The difference is, whether or not you want to break down your ingredients in the process you are using. You stir a cake batter to blend all the ingredients into a uniform mix. You stir cream into coffee, or honey into tea. You toss salad ingredients together. When tossing you sweep your spatula or large spoon (or hands if your ingredients are not hot) down to the bottom of the pan or bowl, and bring what’s on the bottom, up to the top, and repeat until all the ingredients, still in tact, are evenly distributed. In baking this technique is called folding. When we are using the term tossing, it is usually when we want you to incorporate an ingredient into a pan or skillet without breaking up the ingredients already there. In practical terms, we don’t want you smashing up the cooked potatoes, when you are adding cooked meat, so we would say toss the meat in the pan. Or, we will say that you should add olive oil to your pasta and “toss” it in. If you were stirring, you would be making your pasta into paste with the olive oil.

RENDERING: When you put bacon in a skillet and fry it to get the fat to a liquid form, a recipe will refer to that as rendering the fat from the bacon. Rendering basically means the ingredient is going to “weep” out it’s juices, fat etc. In Ricky’s tomato salad, the tomato juices render as they sit in the bowl in the refrigerator. I don’t know which word was established first, but render and surrender both mean, in general, to give up. That might be an easy association for you if you are not familiar with the term render already. Everyone knows what surrender means.


We plan to use this section for things not specifically stated in a recipe, but that are common to most. The Terms section also covers things common to Ricky’s recipes. As we build our recipe library we are adding tips along the way. We will be building this terms section from those posts that have practical tips to help you with our recipes and others.

When we are calling for medium sized potato in a list of ingredients, we are basing that on russet potatoes as pictured below, unless stated otherwise. You can use one really big russet, or several smaller ones. You can use any kind of potato on hand, or your preference, but adjust size accordingly. You won’t mess up the recipe if you use too many or too few potatoes. If you add a lot more, you may need more room in the pan. Russets hold together pretty well when cooked, that is why Ricky uses them.

A medium sized russet potato

COOKING TEMPERATURES ON THE STOVETOP: I have tested making these recipes on a gas stove, an electric stove with old fashioned coil burners, and an electric flat top stove. They all cooked differently. Not only do cooking temperatures change from stove to stove, but from burner to burner. My current flat top electric stove has a burner for quick cooking which is much hotter than the other burners. That burner is really not good for slower cooking. It is meant for quick, hot cooking, like boiling water. If you are using a smaller burner then the pan you are using, the heat may need to be higher to carry the heat to the outsides of the pan. Therefore, when we suggest a certain heat, it may be very different from how your stove will perform. That is why we try to describe, and picture, what a recipe looks like when you are cooking it. These recipes are meant to be easy. No matter what heat the recipe is suggesting, the prime goal is to cook your meal without burning it. It is that simple. If it looks like ingredients are starting to brown when they shouldn’t, or stick to the pan, turn the heat down.

CHOP SIZE: It sounds so obvious when it is put in writing, but this is a very important tip. The larger the chop size, the longer it is going to take to cook. As basic as it sounds, keep this principal in mind when you are chopping. I was finding some of these recipes were taking me a lot longer than expected according to Ricky’s instructions. As time went on, I saw that when Ricky was making the same recipes, he was using a smaller size chop. Hence the difference in the time it took to be done. The pictures we show can look like the chop sizes are bigger than they actually are in real life, or visa versa. If you want it to be done faster, make the chop on your vegetables smaller. Aside from chop size, the more dense vegetables are, the longer they take to cook. The denseness of the ingredients determines what will go in to cook first, and when others should be added, in order for everything to be done at the same time. We have tried to be specific about what order to add ingredients, but if you are experimenting with meats or vegetables you have chosen, just remember to think about the denseness and size of chop of the ingredients. Stay uniform in chop size and add in the order of how long it takes the meat or vegetable to cook.

We have a dedicated discussion on the subject of WASHING YOUR VEGETABLES before adding them to a recipe or eating them raw. The few extra minutes it will take to wash and dry your vegetables, will prevent you from feeding the people you care about any number of yucky things that became part of your dinner when you added an unwashed vegetable.

In our recipes we suggest using 85% GROUND BEEF. The percentage on a package of ground beef is reporting what the ratio of lean meat to fat there is in the ground beef. The most common lean/fat ratios are 75%, 80%, 85% and 90%. When one of our recipes calls for ground beef, we are going to be using that fat content to flavor the dish. Therefore, you can have too much or too little fat. The 85% ground beef is usually a little more expensive than those with higher fat content. We suggest you cut down on the amount you are using rather than get that extra fat in the recipe. I am a sale shopper. And sometimes 85% ground beef is even less expensive than the others. That is when I buy more and freeze it in 1 or 1 ½ pound packages.

Here are some tips on the subject of GARLIC. You will find in some of these recipes whole garlic cloves are called for. In others it will say chop the garlic cloves or mince them. There is a difference in the way garlic flavors the recipe depending on what you do with it before cooking it. A whole garlic clove is much more subtle in taste than a chopped one. Likewise, mincing gives you an even stronger taste of garlic. Follow the recipe in regard to what you are doing to your clove of garlic before you add it. What is a clove of garlic? Not the whole head! When you separate the sections of garlic that have individual skins on them, that is what is referred to as the clove. In all our recipes, you should remove the skin before you use them, even if you are using the clove whole. You can buy garlic cloves already peeled. If your store has them, they will be in the refrigerated produce section. Garlic purchased peeled is perishable. If you don’t use a lot of garlic it will be far more economical to buy a head of garlic, which is very inexpensive. To get the skin off the clove, without actually trying to peel it, which can be time consuming, put the clove on a cutting board and use the side of a knife blade. Put the flat, wide part of the blade on top of the garlic clove and press down hard to squish it. The skin will peel off easily. The squishing does not prevent you from using it as a whole clove when the recipe calls for one. Some say to whack the blade with the heel of your hand to squish it. I find holding the heel of my hand to the side of the blade and leaning into it is an easier way for me. When we call for garlic in our recipes, use them as instructed as far as whole, chopped or minced, but you can decrease or increase the number of cloves you use, depending on your family’s taste for garlic. We think we have called for an amount of garlic that most people will like. These recipes have been served to many, many people over the years without complaint about the amount of garlic. But if your family does not like it (we can’t even imagine that) leave it out.

ONIONS The picture below shows many types of the onions. The ones you will see used in these recipes, for the most part, are yellow onions and and scallions, otherwise called green onions. The picture has a head of garlic too. The type of onion used will determine how much flavor the onion will add to the dish. Scallions and shallots have a very mild taste. Yellow onions are a bit stronger then red onions and sweet white onions. Cooking does mellow the flavor of an onion. The picture below is viewed in this order: left side is scallions also known as green onions, top row left to right is white onion, red onion and yellow onion, bottom row is a head of garlic in the middle of two shallots.

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