Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Baked Potato Toppings

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

What’s great about a baked potato is that it can be eaten as a side vegetable or as a main dish. Baked potatoes are one of those meals in my house that fit the category of, “I’m really tired and I’ve gone brain dead and I really don’t feel like cooking.”
While your potato is baking in the microwave you’ll have about 7 minutes to think about what sort of topping you would like to put on it. Classic ingredients like butter, sour cream, bacon bits, and chives are always delicious. But there are tons of other choices as well!

Some of my favorite toppings include:

  • Cottage Cheese
  • Plain yogurt
  • Salsa
  • Chili
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Mushrooms fried in olive oil

Many places around the world refer to a baked potato as a “jacket potato” and use very different toppings then what people in the USA use. For example it is quite common in the UK to use baked beans or tuna salad as a topping.

What’s your favorite topping?

If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.

Cooking with Beer: Recipes and Techniques

posted in Recipes by Kathy Maister

Beer has a wealth of flavors. It is made in (and imported from) all over the world, and there are sophisticated beers from boutique or micro breweries that have developed their own unique flavors with locally-grown ingredients.

Using beer as an ingredient in cooking can add a whole new dimension of flavor to a recipe, just like adding salt or spices can. The beer flavor should not dominate, but enhance the flavors. Common usage of beer in cooking includes beer-can chicken , soups and stews, mussels and bratwurst steamed in beer, beer-battered foods that then get fried in oil, and desserts – particularly made with chocolate and Guinness. (See links below)

For the beginner cook, substitutions are very tricky and certain beers can negatively alter the appearance, as well as the flavor of the recipe. For example, using a stout for beer-battered recipes can turn the batter an unappealing shade of grey. Do be careful with substitutions. If the recipe specifically says what type of beer you should use, then do not substitute it for another beer. (For example, my recipe for Guinness Stout Beef Stew is based on using stout beer not light beer or ale.)

Guinness Stout Beef Stew

What about the alcohol?

According to our friend Kevin Wagner (a frequent contributor to this blog):

Alcohol boils at 172 degrees, so any cooking you do with any kind of alcoholic beverage won’t leave any alcohol in the food once it’s done. It all evaporates off early and fast. So, you can serve/use any of these recipes/techniques for the whole family including kids and others who may be sensitive to such things.

Plus, there’s not that much alcohol in beer to begin with; it’s mostly water. The tricks you see in some food presentations where they flambé things (French for “set on fire”) only work if they pour concentrated alcohol (usually brandy) on right at your table and light it immediately, and you’ll notice it goes out very quickly as the fuel is consumed so fast.

The truth is, beer doesn’t have enough alcohol in it to burn. But, it does taste good, so here are some useful things you can do to share the wealth.”

Beer recipes

Beer-Can Chicken is one of those odd inventions that seems to have developed a life of its own. The basic premise is to stand a chicken up on an empty beer can and cook it standing up.

For beginner cooks, I would rate the “Degree of Difficulty” on all Beer-Can Chicken recipes as “med-high,” as most involve firing up a barbecue grill in addition to preparing the chicken.

Crepes of Wrath has a great photo-tutorial on how to make Beer-Can Chicken

If you don’t have a barbecue, you can make beer can chicken in your oven.

Cooking for Engineers shows us how to make Smoked Beer-Can Turkey. This recipe would be a fabulous change of pace for Thanksgiving dinner!

Chocolate and chili sounds unusual but it’s quite a popular flavor combination. Jen has what looks like a fabulous Chocolate Stout Chili photo-tutorial that is also made with jalapenos. If you know how to brown beef, chop an onion, cut jalapenos, and mince garlic, this recipe is for you!

Sausage cooked in beer is easy, quick and delicious.

Baking with Beer

Beer breads are generally described as “quick breads” as they use baking powder or baking soda to rise instead of yeast and take a lot less time to make. I did an Irish Bread video that is also a quick bread. Have a look at that video to see if quick breads are something you are ready to tackle.

The ingredients for beer bread are simple; flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and beer are the basics. You can then add all sorts of herbs/cheese to fit your taste.

Farmgirl Fare has a really good basic recipe called Beyond Easy Beer Bread Recipe: A Warm Crusty Loaf In Under An Hour. She also gives all sorts of variations including adding shredded cheddar cheese and dill, or garlic and herbs, or rosemary and feta cheese, etc.

Epicurious has a really simple recipe using just the basic ingredients as well. They use 3 Tablespoons of sugar whereas Farmgirl uses only 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Neither recipe specifies what kind of beer to use, which is a pity.

As with all baking, measuring must be precise!

My Chocolate Cake For Beginners is made with Guinness.


This moist, rich, dense, chocolate cake is one that you will want to make again and again. (Here is the Metric Recipe.)

Serving Beer

We all know that pairing certain foods with certain wines makes perfect sense. The same is true with beer. The right pairing of beer and food can make a huge difference to the taste of the meal. For example, as the NBWA says; “light ales and lagers go well with spicy Mexican, Indian, and Caribbean cuisine while brown ale beers go well with steak or roast beef. Just as nuts like walnuts and hazelnuts and potatoes roasted with garlic and rosemary go well with stout, dark ale.”

If you have used beer as an ingredient in the meal, you may want to serve that beer at your dinner party as well.

I would like to stress that I am not a beer drinker. I do hope that some of my readers that have had experience cooking with beer will jump in and help with any questions or comments.

**I would also like to thank Kevin Wagner for inspiring this post and Jessica Howard for her input!

If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.

Fried Goat Cheese Salad

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister

Sometimes, when you are eating a salad, you just need to throw caution to the wind and add a bit of Fried Goat Cheese to make it a real splurge!

Chevre (which is French for goat’s cheese) is made either from all goat’s milk or a combination of goat’s and cow’s milk. Brands of goat cheese differ by their taste and texture. Some are more tart than others, and the texture can go from moist and creamy to dry and semi-firm. The shape can vary as well. You can buy it in a cylinder, pyramid, cone or disk shape. For today’s recipe, buy the cylinder.

Step one is to cut the cheese into even disks. I am going to cut this 4-ounce cylinder into six disks. Amazingly enough, dental floss works much better than a knife to cut this cheese.

Rip off a piece of floss about 12 inches long.

Slide the dental floss under the cylinder at the half way point.

Criss-cross the strand of floss over the cheese.

Now gently pull the two sides together.

You get a perfect slice every time!

To make cutting it with a knife a bit easier, you could freeze the cylinder of goat cheese for about 15 minutes.

Once the cheese is evenly sliced, it needs to get breaded. (You may recall this process was done in my Chicken Cutlet video as well as my posts on Eggplant Parmesan and Fish Fingers.)

Set out three dishes; one for the flour, one for the egg and one for the bread crumbs.

Add about 1 Tablespoon of water to the egg and – with a fork or a mini whisk – blend together the egg and water.

Dredge the cheese disk in the flour first, being sure to shake off any excess flour.

Now, dunk it in the egg and water mixture.

Then roll the cheese disk in the bread crumbs so that it is totally encased in the breading.


These will take about 4 minutes in total to fry, so get your salad prepared first.

I’m making my salad with some salad greens, cherry tomatoes, and some oil and vinegar dressing. You can use any washed greens you like for this salad.

Preheat a fry pan on medium-high heat. (I’m only making six rounds so I’m using a small frying pan. If you are making this full recipe you will need a 9 inch pan to fit all of the cheese disks in comfortably.)

Let the oil heat up until is looks shimmery and then add the cheese rounds – carefully!

Fry them for about 2 minutes or until they are golden brown. Then gently turn them over either with a pair of tongs or a spatula. Be careful not to burst the breading or the cheese may well ooze out!

Once browned on both sides, place the fried goat cheese on a plate lined with a paper towel so that the excess oil can drain off.

Now top your beautiful salad with the fried goat cheese.


If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.