Cooking tips, aka, How to not screw up a recipe

I was talking to my dear friend Julia today and she was telling me about making scones. She commented that it wasn’t difficult to make, she just thought it would be because she doesn’t bake often. I hear a lot of people say things like, “It seems overwhelming when I look at a recipe. I’m afraid I won’t know how to do something.” Now, there are some recipes out there that make no flipping sense, but for the most part a recipe is nothing more than assembly instructions. And we all know from putting together IKEA furniture, that there is a right and wrong way to assemble something. Here are some tips that will make your cooking experinece so much easier, and hopefully get you spending more time in the kitchen.

Read the recipe from start to finish.

I can’t tell you how many times I have screwed up a recipe because I didn’t read it through. It’s not enough to read the ingredients, sometimes important things are hidden in those awful long-winded instructions. For example, you may get half way through something and realize you need a blender and it’s 2am and you don’t have one. You’re screwed and hungry. Boo.

Rewrite the recipe in a simplified way that makes sense to you.

Recipes tend to be big on instructions. A lot of that stuff will only confuse you and make it harder to remember where you are in a recipe. If you’re brand new you may need most of the info, but as you get more confident you can change: “Now, taking the ground beef, put it in the pot at medium high temp, break up with a spoon and brown for 12-15 minutes” and shorten it to “beef, med-high, brown 15 minutes.” Easier, right?

Prep your ingredients!!

If you look at my videos, all my ingredients are in their own cute little bowls. There are so many reasons to do this. First, if you focus on each item, you’re less likely to mess up the amount. Any professional cook or baker will tell you that this is an indespenisble step. You gotta do it. Secondly, when you begin cooking you’re not going to burn the onions because you forgot to chop the garlic that needs to go in next. Nor will you discover half way through that you don’t have something necessary for the recipe. Finally, it keeps your kitchen so much cleaner! By the time I start cooking my kitchen is clean and I can focus on making the dish correctly, and I can enjoy myself more, which is really the point.

Take notes

I’ve said it before, but if you want to make something good, you need to do it a few times. I have a handful of recipes that I’ve made enough times that I know they are going to be good. It’s nice to build up a collection this way, but if you don’t take notes on what worked or didn’t, you’ll have to start from scratch every time. I like to write notes on the recipe that I rewrote from the original (see above.) Sounds a little time consuming, but you have to do something while the onions brown, so jot things down. It helps, promise.

Become friends with Google

If you get to some part in a recipe and you don’t know what they’re talking about, google that sh*t! No matter what it is, someone has made a video, written an article or has a blog that explains how to do it. You can search on the top right of my website for something, but if it’s not there look it up! (This is another reason reading the entire recipe helps.)

There’s a million more things, but I promise you that these four, simple things will make a huge difference in your next kitchen adventure. Now go have fun! xoxo

Fancy cupcakes!

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This is what I did this weekend:



Over the top “Foodie” Recipes are SO 2010…

I’m over Epicurious. There I said it. I am so tired of looking up a recipe for something simple, only to realize I would need to go spend $30 at the store to make it. Super fancy pants recipes are great if you are one of the following:

  • independently wealthy
  • bored
  • trying to impress food snobs
  • Hipster

For the rest of us, it doesn’t make sense. I can’t afford to buy obscure ingredients I’m only going to use once. Like the potato starch I went to 4 stores to find, that I never used again, and that went into a cake that no one ate because at this event I had a bunch of “I don’t like fruit desserts” jerks. (Not that I’m bitter or anything.) Nor do I have the time to go to the store every time I feel like cooking. I love the food that these recipes make, but unless I’m preparing something for a special occasion, my time is too precious to spend hours on a single meal.

So without Epicurious my choices are limited if I want to find recipes that don’t include condensed cream of mushroom soup. Because of this, I’ve been making up more of my own recipes, which as been really fun. Hopefully with my new snazzy iphone app that allows me to post on here really easily I can share some of them with you. Maybe my reward for studying all week will be to post a new recipe here. Ohhh, I like this idea….

Food Porn – Strawberry Shortcake

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This is what I do in the summer instead of working on my website:

A recipe for Curried Butternut Squash Bisque… Yum!

My wonderful cousin Lisa asked for a recipe that she can use with her butternut squash. Smart girl bought hers pre-cut, which is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of! I personally hate cutting squash because I’m sure I’m going to cut off a finger. Then after all that work of trying to preserve your digits you get, like, one cup worth.

I found a recipe that although I haven’t tried, I feel pretty confident is gonna be delicious. In fact, I’ll be making it myself soon to be sure. Either way, I know we can count on Lisa to give us an update on what she thought of it, if she makes it.


  • 3 cups roasted squash
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup apple, cored, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste (This is the brand I use. You should be able to find it at any grocery store in the Asian section.
  • 3 ½ cup chicken (or veggie) stock (if using canned, it’s 2 cans and use low sodium)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons sour cream, stirred to loosen
  • Chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush squash pieces with oil. Roast on cookie sheet until tender, about 30 minutes. Squash is done when it is “fork tender.” (Fork Tender is a fancy name for cooking something until you can easily stab through it with a fork. Now you know some useless cooking jargon!)
  2. Saute onion, carrots, apple and butter in large pot for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
    Add curry paste; stir 2 minutes. Add stock, bay leaves, and squash. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 1 hour. Discard bay leaves.
  3. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. (Or, use an immersion blender if you have one, they’re so helpful for making soup.) Return to pot. Stir in cream and honey. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Rewarm over medium-high heat. Serve with Sour cream and parsley if you’d like.

How to Cut an Onion

My first video is ages, here’s a quick one on how to cut an onion. This is how every chef and cook I’ve ever worked with cuts onions, and in my humble opinion, it’s the fastest and safest way. (I apologize in advance for my hands being partially out of the screen there for a minute, you gotta love DIY!)


P.S. This video goes out to Rob, the insanely funny and sadistic former boss of one of my best friends. (You know who you are, and I expect you to pull some strings to get me on the Food Network dammit.)

Easy blackberry cobbler

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Today it hit 70 degrees for the first time in months. I felt like crying with relief that my teeth didn’t chatter as I walked to my car from work. I wanted to bust out into synchronized dance, but my hands were full so I contained myself. Anyway, in honor of this pre-warm weather spell I wanted to make a quick cobbler. I had never had cobbler until I moved to the south, but now it is synonymous with summer in my mind. Cobbler goes along with sweet tea, lightning bugs, kudsu and watermelon. I know I sound like some feel good southern movie, but it’s true.

You may have noticed that my recipes have been getting simpler as time goes on. I think its because I’m cooking in a restaurant all day, and when I get home I really don’t feel like spending hours on dinner. So this recipe reflects that. Here goes…


  • 6 cups frozen blackberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk baking mix (like a Bisquick mix)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • Vanilla ice cream


Preheat oven to 375°F.

  1. Toss berries, 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice in big bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring every so often.
  2. Pour into a 9-inch deep-dish glass pie plate or any glass dish about that size. Bake until berries soften, about 15 minutes.
  3. While thats cooking, combine baking mix and lemon peel in bowl. Add cream, tossing until soft dough forms.
  4. Scoop dough a tablespoon at a time on top of filling.
  5. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons sugar over it all and cook for about 25 minutes. You’ll know its done when a toothpick inserted into the biscuit part comes out clean and the mix is all bubbly.
  6. Scoop into to bowls, smother it with vanilla ice cream and serve it to someone you love.

Super easy, right? Don’t forget, fresh is best so grab fresh berries in the summer. It’s even better!


Best way to cook bacon. Mmmm…. Bacon.

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Bacon rules. But, burned up bacon with raw fat sucks. So does a stove covered in grease. So, what can you do, because you gotta eat bacon! Well, the answer is this: you cook it in the stove! Simple.

All you need is a cookie pan, and if you don’t have one of these, well, maybe you’re not ready to cook bacon. If you have a cooling rack that helps, but you don’t have to have it.

Here you go:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Put bacon on rack or straight on cookie sheet.
  3. Cook in oven 8-15 minutes depending on how thick the bacon is.
  4. When it’s done, set on paper towels if you don’t have a rack or let cool on rack.

See, pretty simple. Don’t worry if there’s some smoke when you open the door, it’s normal. Also, don’t dump grease in sink!! Pour it in a soda can if don’t want to keep it to cook with it later. But really, why the hell would you not keep bacon fat!? It’s a gift from god, really.

So that’s it. If you’re in east Tennessee I strongly encourage you to try out Bentons bacon lt costs almost as much as illegal substances, but will make you feel better without the risk of jail time.


Busy Bee….

So, if I were going to make an analogy regarding how I’ve been feeling since August, it would be this: I feel like one of those miniature marshmallows in hot chocolate. Fighting really hard to keep bobbing at the top, but you can see that they’re slowing dissolving into the big cup o’ chocolate they’re immersed in. As I said, I am the marshmallow and life is the hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is yummy and wonderful and great to be surrounded in. But, it’s kinda taking a whole lot out of me. I didn’t realize that working a full time job, falling madly in love and going to school (for the first time in 16 years) would be so time consuming!

I love The Hedonist Cook, and it is a creative outlet that makes me super happy and inspired. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a lot of time to work on it right now. And I feel so bummed and guilty and embarrassed that I get a little bit of a stomach ache every time I think about it. All of this came spilling out of me tonight while I ate (delicious) pumpkin pie with my Mom. And as usual, she gave me the best advice ever. Which was to sit down, suck it up and write what I’m writing.

My hope is that if I stop feeling so weird about the website all the time, maybe I’ll work on it when I stumble on free time. Or, maybe life will continue to get super great and busy and I won’t be able to post anything until I get a break in school. Who knows. The one thing I do know is that The Hedonist Cook is not dead or even in a coma. It’s taking a nap, or is on vacation. Something nice like that. And I still love emails and comments or suggestions. Really, feedback from ya’ll is one of the biggest things that inspires me. Love you more than homemade cheesecake, for reals.


Mel aka The Hedonist Cook

Video – Easy Lemon Cake

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  • lemon (or yellow) box cake
  • 3 oz regular lemon jello
  • 3/4 Cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 1/4 Cup lemon juice

Tools needed:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cup
  • 9″x13″ pan
  • Flour
  • Crisco or something like it
  • Hand mixer


  1. Grease and flour a 9″x13″ pan, set aside
  2. Preheat oven to whatever temp it says on the box cake.
  3. In large mixing bowl combine cake mix and jello
  4. Add all wet ingredients and stir until all mix is wet (batter will be all lumpy)
  5. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. (Stop half way through to scrape bottom and sides of bowl)
  6. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. (Stop half way through to scrape bottom and sides of bowl)
  7. Pour into greased pan, make sure batter is even and toss in the oven. Set time for the time listed on the box
  8. While it cooks, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. When cake comes out of oven, poke it all over with a fork and pour glaze all over cake.
  9. Let cool until it’s cool enough to cut a huge piece out of and eat it like a greedy little kid. :)

This is not a recipe I would normally post, being that it involves jello and a box cake. In fact, I can’t bake a regular box cake without it falling. From scratch I have down, but those damn boxes always screw me up. But I digress…. So I’m posting this video and recipe because it’s super easy, light and summery and I love it. It could be a nostalgia thing, but I think it’s just a super good cake. I give all the credit to my Mom, as this is her recipe that I tweaked a little to make it more lemony.