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Easy & Quick Pasta Sidedishes ..and some general cooking tips

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I am going to teach you how to prepare easy and quick pasta side dishes and some tips on learning how to cook.I am not a professional chef, but I do like to cook and eat. A lot of my cooking knowledge was learned not from recipes, but by attempting to copy brand name products. Not every recipe turns out delicious, while others are fantastic. It's all part of learning how to cook.So one popular product on the market is called Lipton's Sidekicks. You might have had them or seen their commercials on TV. http://forums.xisto.com/no_longer_exists/ make a wide range of pasta sidedishes. I always thought they were pretty good for a quick side dish. You might be surprised how simple and cheap they are to make from scratch.I'll give two popular examples. These will not be exact recipes, but basics to get you started. It's not baking bread, there is room for experimentation.One popular pasta dish is Chicken flavour. They use skinny pasta. I decide that hey, it's basically Fetucinne (the pasta shape) cut up which is a common pasta. If you can find a bag of pasta shaped better, go for it. It's up to you. So I take some Fetucinne and break it into one inch pieces. It doesn't have to be perfect length, it's just a personal dish you're not cooking for the Queen of England.If you're wondering how much Pasta to use, there's really no way to know. Due to the different shapes the measurements are always different. I usually go for about a cup to a cup and a half of pasta though. Experiment and keep notes mentally or written for your next attempt. Anyway, you've got your dry pasta. Just keep it in a bowl or measuring cup. Take note of how long it takes to cook on the bag, should be about 6-10 minutes. Next step. If you've ever prepared a lipton's sidekick, you will know that almost all of them use two cups of liquid. In the case of Chicken flavour, it's two cups of water. Take a (recommended: a glass 2 cup/500ml at least) measuring cup. Put two cups (500ml) of water in it. Now, the magic ingredient. CORN STARCH. This is the thickening ingredient, obviously important unless you're making soup. Simply take about a tablespoon to two tablespoons (be careful, stay on the lower end at first!) of the corn starch and dump it in your measuring cup of COLD liquid. Stir with a fork or whisk until dissolved.**NOTE** When using corn starch, ALWAYS mix with a COLD liquid. It will not dissolve in warm liquid.So now you've got your water with corn starch in it. Pour it into a pot on the stove. Congratulations, you've got a pot of not so clean looking water. It's going to need some flavour. Here's where the experimentation comes in. We're going for chicken flavour, so what do we do? We add some chicken boullion, either the powder or liquid. ****TIP** Chicken and Beef boullion are excellent ways to make a cheap, quick broth for any recipe. If you have _REAL_ broth, feel free to use it. I'm going for affordable dishes here. Your boullion most likely has some instructions. Common instructions are (1 PACKAGE = 1 CUP BROTH) or (2 TSP OF LIQUID BOULLION = 1 CUP BROTH). We have two cups of liquid (water) so to turn that into chicken flavoured water, follow your instructions. Two packages of boullion or 4 tsp of the liquid stuff.It's turning into something now. Let me give you a tip. Most chicken flavoured, yellow coloured products on the market are bright yellow. Your pasta might not be as yellow as you expect, To give your food an appealing yellow colour, add TURMERIC, but only a very little. Too much and your pasta will be glowing like it's radioactive. TURMERIC is commonly used in Indian cuisine for the same reason. If you don't have TURMERIC, just accept your pasta might not have the same yellow colour as you'd expect from brand name packages.Now you need some spices. Here's where the experimentation comes in again. What flavours do you think would go good on chicken? Maybe some Parsley? Garlic powder? Onion powder? You can rarely go wrong with garlic. So put some in, whether it's garlic powder of a couple chopped up cloves. Unless you really hate Sodium, you're going to need some salt. Almost every packaged food you buy from the store is LOADED with salt. Even the less salt flavours. You can either not add much salt to your pasta and accept your pasta won't be up to the average salt standards of food today and be glad you're eating healthy, or shake the salt shaker to your heart's content and make it taste as salty as everything else out there.You can continue adding herbs and spices if you want. If your finished pasta tastes bland, you just need to add more spices. You have to remember that packaged food has an extreme amount of salt and spice to make it taste good. Home made food is rarely so potent. Now that that's done, we just have to cook it. Easy enough. Bring your broth/liquid to a boil on the stove. Dump your cup of pasta into the water and reduce the heat to LOW. You want it to boil slightly, if it's sitting there dead you need more heat.Simmer UNCOVERED for about 6-10 minutes. The water should boil away and your pasta should thicken up. STIR OFTEN. You should expect your pasta to start sticking so keep stirring every minute or two to prevent it from sticking too bad. If you're lucky enough to have a stove with a low power "Simmer" option, use it.In a few minutes, your pasta will be pretty well done. You can taste test your pasta to see if it's just done (Al Dente). When it is, remove from heat. If you don't mind getting fat, you can add up to a Tablespoon of margarine/butter and stir it in now. (Lipton's Recipe says to). However, if you're trying to be healthy, you can skip that.Cover the pot with the lid and let it sit for a few minutes. Almost ALL food tastes better when you let it cool for a few minutes. Your simple pasta is no different. It's now ready to eat. If it tastes bland, add more spices either now or on the next attempt. If it's too thick, remember to add less corn starch next time. If it's too runny, remember to add more. If there's not enough pasta and it's too saucy, remember to add more next time. If there's too much pasta and it soaked everything up, remember to use less next time. Learn from your experience!Now that you've made one, you can make them all. Pick a flavour and make it. Another favourite of mine is Tri-Colour Fetucinne. I use that tri-colour vegetable pasta available from the store, and instead of two cups of water, I use one cup water, one cup milk. I then add some spices, and Parmesan cheese. If you happen to have a bnuch of fancy cheese, make a cheesey pasta side dish. The point is, it's a simple way to make a pasta side dish using ingredients you happen to have. If you have bacon bits, throw some of them in. If you have brocolli, chop up some brocolli and cheddar cheese. Almost every one of these side dishes are very quick and affordable to make. Have fun eating and experimenting.

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