Web Cooking Classes with Chef Todd MohrWeb Cooking Classes with Chef Todd Mohr

By Chef Todd

5 Child Kitchen Wonders To Grow A Better Adult

If you were a child before the mid 1970s, your Mom probably cooked dinner just about every night of the week. In your home, the kitchen was the center of activity. That's where the ONE telephone was bolted to the wall, tangled chord dangling below the handset. That rotary dial phone was the conduit to the outside world, but not the only type of communication going on in your kitchen.

Your Mother or Grandmother was passing on more knowledge than the phone in that room. And you, as a child, witnessed all that was occurring before you. There was fresh food from the grocery store, meat from the town butcher, and even ingredients from your own backyard garden. You knew what food was because it passed before you every day and every night.

That ONE room in your home generated the excitement of dinner time together, family gatherings, visitors from the neighborhood or across the country, holiday cooking, and smells of food cooking that I'm sure you can remember to this day. You probably did your homework on the kitchen table as Mom prepared the classic "meat and two sides" every night.

But, if you were a child growing up after the mid 1970's, you most probably stayed in the living room watching "the boob tube" as Mom heated the Swanson TV Dinner or mixed some ground beef with Hamburger Helper. If you were a kid in the 1980s or 90s, you probably saw your Mother pick up the phone and call for take out or pizza delivery.

Where has all the love gone? Where has the love of cooking, the enjoyment of talking to the local butcher, the exhilaration of growing your own tomatoes disappeared to? With the decline of the household kitchen as a center of body and soul nutrition in the home, there can be none of that anymore.

I came to this realization when I tried to convince High School students they could use food as fuel and make a healthier Chicken McNugget. With all the passion and culinary knowledge I could muster up, I told them of the benefits of good wholesome foods. I demonstrated without a doubt that my method was better...and they didn't care because a chicken puck that comes from the drive through IS chicken now. A fresh chicken breast "don't look right", as they said to me.

Let's stop this trend right now! To create healthy adults, we have to be sure kids know what good food is, how to identify it, how to get it, and what to do with it. Based on what I've witnessed in food culture over these past decades, I believe there are 5 wonderful things that happen surrounding food and the kitchen that should be MANDATORY for making tomorrow's adults better people.

5 Child Kitchen Wonders To Grow A Better Adult:

1) Grow Something!

- A child of any age can be shown how seeds turn into plants and it's thrilling for them to watch something grow, it teaches many lessons. You don't need a backyard garden like Grandma had. Even if you live in the city, a few flower pots with herbs are exciting when you use them together in a meal.

2) Share The Truth About Where Meat Comes From

- Beef comes from cows. Pork comes from pigs, chicken comes from chickens, it's just a fact. Our main sources of protein don't start at the grocery store. The object is not to inflict any political agenda on your young child, but make them aware that food is a natural item and we're on the top of the food chain.

3) Fast Food Is NOT More Exciting

- Going to McDonalds should NOT be a "special night out". Don't make fast food out to be more than it is, cheap and convenient. You can take your child to the drive through but make it apparent that this is not the best way to eat.

4) Mega-mart Grocery Stores Aren't The Only People That Sell Food

- Take your child or grandchildren to the farmers market, farm or roadside stand. Show them that there are people whose lives are dedicated to providing food to the community beyond the faceless corporation.

5) Bring Them Into The Kitchen At An Early Age

- Don't tell your kids that cooking is difficult and dangerous. Don't tell them all the ways they can hurt themselves or ruin dinner. No matter what the age, they can help with cleaning string beans, stirring something, placing cooked items on the plate, or anything that gets them involved in good food and starting to learn to cook.

The pressures are great on kids today. The "exciting" food is cheap, it's readily available and comes with a LOT of marketing. Home cooked meals are not, unless you make them preferable to lesser foods by including your children in the entire cycle of good food and how it impacts their enjoyment, nutrition, health, and ultimately their entire adulthood.

Create an adult palate early on in life by sharing all the things that should be occurring in, and around, the kitchen. It should be the heart of the home where children become great adults by respecting food and learning basic cooking skills.

By Chef Todd

Making Pierogi is no Polish Joke

The taste of pierogi is still on my mind as I’ve returned from the Polish Festival in Riverhead, New York. That thought brings me back to my Grandfather who made the stuffed dumplings by the hundreds when I was a child.

I had a Polish Grandfather, so we made Pierogi. But if he were Italian, the method for making Ravioli would be the same. If he were Latin, I might be making Empanadas. If he were Indian, they’d be Samosas. If he were Greek, I’d be preparing Spanakopita. Just the filling changes for an item in which every world culture stuffs meat, potatoes, cheeses or vegetables into an unleavened dough.

In fact, I consider Pierogi “Slavic Ravioli”, because instead of ricotta cheese, pierogi are stuffed with mashed potatoes, onions, sour cream and cheeses. It’s a traditional Polish dish that’s served with sour cream or apple sauce on the side. I prefer the sour cream, but the apple sauce does give a very nice sweet/savory contrast in your mouth.

The process is quite simple and fun. Once you’ve made a basic dough, the act of filling them can be a family project. Kids love to stuff the dumplings and seal them around the edges.

Dough Formula:

Pinch of Salt
2 cups of All Purpose Flour
1 Egg
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup softened butter

1) Mix these ingredients together with the dough hook on your electric mixer to a smooth dough. The dough must rest for an hour in the refrigerator afterward.

Filling Formula:

2 Pounds of potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 ounces diced onion
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup shredded Cheddar and Jack Cheese
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1) Simmer the potatoes until they are crushable under a fork.
2) Whip all the ingredients together and chill for later filling.
3) Roll out the dough into thin sheets and cut rounds with a cookie or biscuit cutter.
4) Wash each round of dough with egg to that they seal correctly.
5) Portion filling onto each round and pinch to seal all edges.

Now that we’ve created pierogi with just a few simple ingredients, it makes me think of the same procedure my Grandfather would complete to make the very same potato pillows. It’s the simplicity of this Polish treat that makes them so appealing. It’s the world-wide appeal of a stuffed dough that makes them so versatile.

How do you cook pierogi? I’d like you to tell me. Please leave a comment below with how you’d complete the final preparation step. Would you simmer them like pasta? Would you steam them like dumplings? Would you bake them like enchiladas? Would you sauté them like tortellini?

Pierogi are so much fun to make, are wonderfully delicious, and give you a wide variety of ways to prepare them for any meal of the day.

By Chef Todd

5 Simple Steps to Cook Healthy Nutritious Food

Every night when you go home, you have to make a decision about what to have for dinner. For the most part, we would like to eat nutritious food, but many of us didn't grow up learning how to cook healthy meals. If you're watching your health, eating out is not the best option, so most people look in their cookbooks for recipes. This isn't always the best solution, because recipes lie. But, if you know the right way, it’s very easy to cook nutritious food every night of the week.


This is the process that many people go through:

  1. You come home from work, and have to start planning dinner.
  2. You’ve already cooked the 5 things you know how to cook this week.
  3. You need more ideas,
  4. You look through the pantry, consider calling for pizza…

 

It’s not only exhausting, but you have to re-educate yourself every single night. It's not going to get you the results you want or deserve for yourself and your family. If you’re looking to cook more nutritious food at home, save time and have endless cooking ideas, you’re in the right place.

There are 5 simple steps to cooking with fresh ingredients.

Step 1: Get Fresh Ingredients

  • The first step for using fresh, seasonal ingredients is to actually GET some.
  • This could be the most difficult step for many of you that are used to the huge mega-mart grocery store.

 

There are alternatives. My eyes were opened to more alternatives during my trip to Paris, France. The food culture in Paris is so much different from where I live in the US. There were very few corporate “chain” restaurants there.

Many of the restaurants were small, 10 table places where there were three people on staff, the chef, the maitre d’ and the dish washer. They had their service each night and went home. Each time I asked why their food tasted so good, they all had the same answer. And, not a single person bragged about their recipes.

Instead, I was told that I needed fresh, simple ingredients. I discovered that I needed to examine where my food is coming from. This doesn't mean simply the store where you shop, but what is the country of origin for your food. Think about how you feel about your money going to another country when there are farmers in your community that need your help. Now think about how long ago that vegetable was harvested in the far away country, and what happened to it during its travels.

It might be inconvenient to drive past dozens of mega-marts to find a farmers market. But you may find that there’s a local produce roadside stand near you that you’ve avoided. In my case, I signed up for “The Produce Box” which delivers fresh community supported agriculture to my doorstep. Fresh is important because fruits and vegetables degrade as soon as they’re picked.

  • Nutrients are lost
  • They become visually unappealing
  • Harder to cook successfully
  • Loss of flavor!

 

Step 2: Select the freshest ingredients when you shop

Be aware of what you're choosing, even if you shop at the local produce stand or farmers market. Some items may still be fresher than others and the most nutritious, healthy food is the freshest. You have to be even more aware if you shop at the local mega grocery.

In understanding how to cook healthy, you need to be able to understand the difference between fresh food and food that has been ripened artificially or is not ripe at all. Do you know how to tell a fresh orange or grapefruit? Did you know that color is NOT an indicator of freshness in peaches?

Step 3: Storing Fresh Ingredients

 

For maximum shelf life, nutritional preservation and budget savings, there are three issues in storing fresh ingredients:

  1. Moisture
  2. Air circulation
  3. Temperature

 

Not everything can be thrown in to the drawer in the refrigerator and preserve their freshness. In fact, some things will suffocate in a plastic bag. Other produce will need to be wrapped tightly to retain moisture. Other items will need to be kept cold, while others will degrade under the cold.

Step 4: Master a few basic cooking techniques

At the very least, master the following techniques:

  1. Understanding the transfer of heat
  2. Saute method
  3. Know how to make sassy sauces

 

But there are so many more. All of the basic methods in cooking are covered in my live cooking classes. Giving you the tools to understand these basic methods is what makes my approach to teaching cooking so unique and why people rave about my Web Cooking Classes. Web Cooking Classes empowers you with a thorough understanding of basic methods which allows you to cook and create without a reliance on recipes. Pure freedom!

Step 5: Finishing the Process with Fresh Herbs

This is the number one question I get during my live cooking classes:
Q: "Which herbs to use and how much to use?"
A: "Use the ones you like."

Seriously! Use your nose to see what it reminds you of, use the ones that you like and use as much as you like.

You want to know my number one herb secret? Herbs go last! Fresh herbs should not be cooked. In fact, just the heat of the finished dish is enough to release the aromas of fresh herbs.

These are the secrets that chefs know about how to cook healthy which are so easy to incorporate into your every day cooking. You can cook nutritious food that you want to eat for your health and for how wonderful it tastes.

You can do it!

Starting TODAY, you can cook healthier, better tasting food and STILL save money.

"Discover my simple 5 step process for getting fresh, nutritious and cost-effective meals on the table every night of the week!"

Related Posts:
The Incredibly Simple Secret to Eating Healthy Food
Easy Healthy Recipes Left on My Doorstep!
Are You Committing Crimes Against Your Stomach?

By Chef Todd

Easy Cooking Ideas a Recipe Book Will Never Tell You

If you’re looking for easy cooking ideas, stop searching in recipe books! Instead, look at your cooking basics. One of the best basic cooking methods to employ for quick dishes is stove-top sauté. Sauté is a direct source, conductive cooking method that uses intense heat to cook and brown products quickly and easily. It’s the best way to get dinner done quickly, regardless of the ingredients you choose.

The most important part of the sauté method is getting the pan hot first. This is one of the biggest mistakes home cooks make that gets in the way of easy cooking. Putting your protein product into the pan and then heating the pan and the product together actually makes cooking more difficult. If you don’t hear a distinct “sizzle” when you add something to the pan, it’s not hot enough. The first thing your protein product will do is release moisture and if you are heating the product at the same time as the pan, you will end up with a dried finished product.

After you’re sure your pan is ready, you’ll need a small amount of fat to transfer the heat from the bottom of the pan to the item you’re cooking. This is one of the cooking basics you can’t ignore. Keep in mind that the use of fat in sauté is meant only to help with heat transfer. This is different from pan frying, where you fill the pan with oil in a moist, convective fashion. So, use only a small amount of fat for sauté.

Once your item is cooked under the direct heat of the stove top, then you can add any type aromatics that you would like, such as onion, garlic, or ginger. Quickly cook them in the leftover pan-drippings or “fond” to combine the flavors.

Now comes the fun of sauté method and the best of all easy cooking ideas, how to make a quick pan sauce. Any type of cold liquid will quickly drop the temperature of the pan and lift the fond from the bottom, allowing you to combine flavors and leave a flavorful liquid that you can thicken or reduce for a sauce.

Quick dishes and easy cooking ideas always come from cooking basics. Once you have an understanding of these basic methods, you can use them over and over again to create dinner ideas from the ingredients you have on hand.

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!


The Complete cooking DVD collection for cooking without recipes.

By Chef Todd

What Everybody Should Know About Preparing Your Kitchen for Daylight Savings Time

If you have a love of cooking like I do, you’re excited about the days getting longer. Honestly, with the exception of cooking for the holidays, cooking in the winter seems more like a chore to me. However, cooking in the spring and summer is cooking for fun. In fact, I can't wait to start grilling outside! But, before we all explore our love of cooking in the spring and summer, we need to address the art of cooking and prepare the kitchen.

Daylight savings time is the perfect opportunity to review all of the items in your kitchen, especially the herbs and spices. Of course, you have herbs and spices because you hope that they will give you flavor for all the wonderful fresh ingredients coming your way. However, as we will see, that isn't necessarily the case.

So, let's get started.

First, you should review all your spices. Go to your spice rack, chances are there are spices that have been in your cabinet for years! If you can't recollect buying the spice within the last year, the potency of that spice has degenerated, so I would recommend that you throw it away. All of the spices that are left in your cabinet after this review, open them up and take a sniff. Does it still have some pungency or does it smell musty? Again, no point in putting stale spices on fresh ingredients! Get rid of it.

For the spices that are left in your cabinet after this review, place a sticker on each one with the letters: DST. When you return to standard time, you can review the spice and know for certain when it was inspected last.

Some of the spices that are left in your cabinet can be combined into new flavor combinations. And why not? It's YOUR cabinet and your spices. Who said you can't combine them? You do when you cook! Be daring and have fun. you never know, you may just come up with your own secret spice! Once you're done, make a list of the spices that you need to purchase to refill your stock.

What else should you do?

  • Clean your oven
  • Remove the crumbs and brillo the racks
  • Review your plastic, Tupperware and utensils
  • Review serving wares for cracks and cleanliness
  • Have knives sharpened or sharpen them yourself
  • Clean pots and pans with brillo if needed
  • Clean cookie sheets for better reflection of materials
  • Clean out freezer of old items
  • Organize your pantry, throw away Christmas gifts

Beside turning your clock back, daylight savings time is a reminder of the art of cooking. Cooking should be fun, and if you are prepared for the season by turning your kitchen forward too, you will love and enjoy the fresh ingredients that the coming season will bring for your cooking pleasure!

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!


The Complete cooking DVDcollection for cooking without recipes.

By Chef Todd

Get rid of Mageirocophobia once and for all!

Mageirocophobia, fear of cooking, is not going to be cured with avoidance therapy. If your phobia is severe or life-threatening, you should seek professional help like cognitive-behavorial therapy, which focuses on replacing the reflexive negative thoughts about your fears with more rational thoughts instead. With severe Mageirocophobia, this is a definite first step if you are to overcome your fear and learn how to cook with confidence.

For those of you with less sever versions of Mageirocophobia, there are ways for you to reduce the effects that it has upon your life. We all have fears that we have immediate negative reactions to, but if you can do some positive self talk to replace those thoughts, it can get you through the fear and eventually past the fear.

For example, if you're thinking, "This is never going to taste right." Replace it with, "this is going to be a great meal," or "everything will come out alright!" This may sound a little hokey, but hang with me. This works!

Many years ago, I went to a Brian Tracy seminar and he taught me something that I have carried throughout my life. If you're feeling a little down in the dumps, stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye and repeat, "I'm the best. I'm the best. I'm the best. I'm the best." This really works. If you tell yourself, "It's alright, it will come out alright," it will, in fact, come out great in the end.

So, if you're thinking, "I haven't cooked this meat enough, someone might get sick," instead, remind yourself, "I've used a thermometer so I know it’s safe." If you're thinking, "No one is going to like this meal," replace it with, "It doesn’t have to be perfect, just cooking a nice meal is great and my family will appreciate it." You could also tell yourself, "I've tasted everything, so I know the seasonings are correct," or, "I’ve chosen a simple recipe that’s not too hard."

Reassuring yourself is a wonderful way for you to begin to eliminate the fear of cooking and embrace learning how to cook in a way that brings joy into your life and others. You should also be aware of the difference between "of poor quality" and "not to my liking". Sometimes your taste may be different than someone else's. You may put additional red pepper flakes on a dish which makes it not to someone else's liking, but does not mean that it's poor quality. I came across this situation several times in the catering business. Don't let this impede you from learning how to cook.

If your phobia isn’t overwhelming, there is a direct approach to getting over your fear of cooking forever. However, keep in mind that you need to make sure that you’re ready for each step or you could make your phobia worse.

3 Steps to Conquering Mageirocophobia

1) Pick One Method - choose one cooking method that you can repeat with confidence (for example, if you know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, you know a saute method, add some tomato or ham. If you can make soup, you know a moist cooking method, you can add some shrimp and expand from there and build your confidence.)

2) Pick 3 Confident Spices - Find 3 spices that you like together and feel a little more confident in their flavor profiles. It might be basil, garlic and oregano (Italian seasonings), it might be cumin, coriander and red pepper (Mexican seasonings). Get these three spices and begin using them in different dishes to practice with quantities of the seasonings and the flavors that they produce with different foods.

3) Get a Thermometer - Getting an instant read thermometer will allow you to quantify when things are done rather than guessing.

Guessing is something that you are going to try to eliminate from your cooking method. Guessing is the biggest point of stress in cooking. Guessing puts great mystery and inconsistency in your cooking and inconsistency will increase your fear of cooking whether you're cooking with a recipe or not.

Then, once you're psychologically ready, invite a friend or relative over for a cooked meal. You’ll be facing your fears directly when you cook for someone else. And, by repeating this process over and over again, your confidence will increase, your enjoyment of cooking will increase, you'll want to learn more about cooking and completely eliminate your fear of cooking.

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!


The Complete cooking DVDcollection for cooking without recipes.

By Chef Todd

Worst Cooks in America Finale

The Blackboard is Gone

The final two contestants on Worst Cooks in America have learned to cook like a chef! They’ve done it in only ten days!

How do I know that Jenni and Rachael have absorbed a few tricks about the science of cooking? It’s because there’s no blackboard in the final episode of the Food Network reality mini-series. Once the written recipes were removed and they had to concentrate on basic cooking methods, even the worst cooks in America were cooking gourmet to fool top critics.

While early weeks concentrated on creating controversy and tension for the cameras, the last two episodes have shown that it takes very little actual education to gain cooking confidence.

If you don’t know how to boil water, it’s okay. It’s not your fault that you don’t know how to cook. Cooking like a chef is not an innate skill. You weren’t born having taken cooking classes in-utero. So, it’s okay to start now.

We’ve witnessed on Worst Cooks in America that just a few cooking method tidbits can create a curiosity in anyone. This passion then seeks out cooking lessons, online cooking classes, or even a school of cooking.

I’ve heard from two of the contestants on this show, and they mention a sudden passion for cooking videos, cooking websites and a desire to learn to cook.

This isn’t because they enjoy following a recipe on a blackboard.
It’s not because they like the cooking method of being yelled at by a chef under tight time constraints. They love what they create from their hearts and minds.

Every contestant on this show has experienced what I teach people all over the globe on a daily basis.
Any school of cooking, even online cooking classes, or cooking videos that ignore written recipes to focus on basic cooking methods will empower you with confidence. Confidence leads to risk-taking and curiosity. Curiosity needs to be fed information.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but “Thank you Food Network, for finally teaching someone to cook.” And thank you for proving the point I’ve been making for years. Learn to cook by basic cooking methods and forget the written recipe, especially if it’s written on a blackboard.

Previous Posts about Worst Cooks in America:
Finally! Cook-fidence!
The Flavors in Jennifer Cross' Head Saved her Butt
Cooking is About Crying and Salt
Worst Cooking Instructors in America
Are You the Worst Cook in America?