Bologna Girl Learns to Cook

My bloggy friend, Madge, more commonly known as author Margaret Reyes Dempsey over at her blog, couldn’t believe that a girl who solved her problems with bologna sandwiches came from a family who owned a restaurant!  So, I’m here today to state the facts.

Fact #1.  Yes, I had a moment of weakness where I ate a bologna sandwich and drank Chardonnay after a bad day.  My only fault was blogging about it (with picture evidence, no less) because now I’ll never live it down.

Fact #2.  My family owned a Steak House for 16 years.  I thought the place was my free-for-all and walked around like I owned the joint, grabbing grape soda from the bar fridge and hoarding plates of my dad’s AMAZING homemade cheese spread.  I was in a sense, raised by a group of cooks and waitresses who let me help make cole slaw.  In fact, the waitresses at our restaurant were actually the ones that named me!  I’m not sure if that’s a charming trait, or a reality check that my mother was about to have kid #4 and just didn’t care anymore.  (Just kidding, mom, I know you love me!)

Fact #3.  My parents have two cooking styles.  My mom (apart from salads and desserts) basically made the same meals for dinner on some kind of rotation.  Baked chicken, meatloaf, chow mein, CHILI MAC (my fav.), and my least favorite, goulash.  Who would like something named goulash?  It tastes like it sounds.  😛  My dad, on the other hand, will make a variety of dishes, but he’ll also make them for 50+ people.  After graduation, my dad enlisted in the Navy, and was the cook on ship during his service.  Add that to years of restaurant managing, and you have a man who inevitably will buy one chicken and make you chicken, yes, but also chicken soup and chicken salad and chicken and rice and chicken tiramisu!  Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.  How was I, the youngest, supposed to learn to cook in a house with a mother whose idea of taco salad was crumbling doritos on lettuce or a father who never measured a thing and made quantities for storage in a bomb shelter?

Fact #4.  In college, I survived on pasta and frozen vegetables.  My initial attempts at cooking were described as “palatable” and “finger food” by parties subjected to taste testing.  I think back on my attempts to make my own coconut milk as creative!  And so what if I was terrible at following directions and charred many a batch of cookies!  It was the effort that counts, right?

Fact #5.  I eventually learned to cook.  I chalk it up to the wonderful gift of Simple and Delicious Magazine my mother gave me after graduation.  Simple and delicious, you say?  That’s my kind of meal!  So get ready folks, I’m sharing with you two amazing recipes that will make dinner feel like summer’s finally here!  These dishes were so scrumptious, even as leftovers!  My honey and I really enjoyed them.  Both were so flavorful, the burgers had a great little kick to them, and this potato salad was the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten!

Chipotle Sliders from Shawn Singleton in Vidor, Texas

Prep time: 30 min. Yield 10 sliders

1 pkg. (12 oz.) Hawaiian sweet rolls

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

8 tsp minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, divided

1-1/2 lbs ground beef

10 slices pepper Jack cheese

1/2 cup mayo

Place 2 rolls in a food processor; process until crumbly.  Transfer to a large bowl; add the salt, pepper, and 6 tsp chipotle peppers.  Crumble beef over mixture and mix well.  Shape into 10 patties.

Grill burgers, covered, over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160° and juices run clear.  Top with cheese.  Grill 1 minute longer or until cheese is melted.

Split remaining rolls and grill, cut side down, over medium heat for 30-60 seconds or until toasted.  Combine mayonnaise and remaining chipotle peppers; spread over roll bottoms.  Top each with a burger.  Replace roll tops.

Golden Potato Salad by Linda Behrman in North Merrick, New York

Prep:  25 minutes  Cook:  15 min + cooling  Yield:  10 servings

2-1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped

1 small red onion

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1 cup mayo

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp spicy brown mustard

1 Tbsp mustard seed

3 tsp snipped, fresh dill (I used dried)

1-1/2 tsp sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until tender.  Drain; cool for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the red pepper, onion, carrot and potatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, oil, vinegar, mustard, mustard seed, 2 tsp dill, sugar, salt and pepper.  Pour over potato mixture; gently toss to coat.  Sprinkle with remaining dill.  Refrigerate until serving.

Are your taste buds watering?  What yummy dishes have you made to kick off summer?  Who taught you to cook?  Have you ever tried to make your own coconut milk?  It’s hard, isn’t it?

22 responses

  1. I use to cook a lot and I really miss it- I would make bread at least once a week and cook huge batches of egg rolls, and regular meals too. Then between work and finding out I’m allergic to gluten I stopped. I’m inspired to try again.

    1. Oooh, homemade egg rolls sound amazing! I’m fortunate to have a friend from Laos who occasionally surprises me with egg rolls, spring rolls and curry! Mmm. I’ve made curry before but never egg rolls. She gave me a great asian cookbook last year, I’ll have to try out some recipes and see how I do.

  2. Your post was TOO funny! I learned to cook from both my parents. My mom was the typical mom of the 1950’s who laid out a nourishing hot supper every evening at the same time and we had to finish everything on our plates! My dad cooked for the guys in his firehouse for 35 years and he knew a thing or two. I helped out with the cooking later on when I was ten years old and they decided to have a second family – boom, boom, boom – three kids within 5 years, making us a family of 6 girls! I was an instant babysitter and meal maker!

    1. Well of course you had to learn to cook, how else would you have survived? Clearly your parents were too busy to make meals, and eating one of your siblings is just out of the question! (Not always the case in my house, I’m sure someone’s tried.) With so many years of great meals under your belt, you’ll have to share some of your favorites!

  3. Lol! I love this post! Here’s my funny cooking story: I come from a single-mother home. My mother was a Marine so you can imagine she didn’t have much time for gourmet cooking when she came home from work. But we always tried to be healthy and my brother and I always enjoyed the things we ate. We did things like chicken nuggets with rice and steamed green beans, grilled spam and cheese sandwiches, and spaghetti. I saw quickly that cooking, alone and for two children, was often frustrating, time consuming, and sometimes thankless. And I declared at the age of 12 that I was NEVER EVER EVER going to learn how to cook.

    And now: I do 80% of the cooking in our house, I own 15 cook books, I have a subscription to Food Network Magazine, and I am always trying to find new things to experiment with. Yeah, go figure.

    1. ha! Guess you really showed the world! Nah, I bet you’re a fabulous cook and cooking magazines are awesome. I like to look at them and daydream my food will look as delicious as theirs does and pretend I can afford fancy wine glasses and dishware and have time on my hands to make cupcakes shaped like turkeys. *sigh* Too fun!

  4. LOL Jess, you are too fun 🙂

    I’m going to pass your recipes on (as I am only qualified to cook pork chops, which I lived on for years). You know bologna is okay right, just saying.

    1. Madge informed me it was liquid meat at one time. She’s made enough cracks about peeling the bologna skin off my face in my overwhelmed and dazed stupor of eating poorly to know I’m not allowed to eat bologna anymore…or at least blog about it.

  5. You crack me, Jess! Back in the 50’s when I was growing up, my Mom cooked much the same as yours. Mon-spaghetti, tues-creamed tuna, wed-hamburger ‘steaks’, thurs-chicken fricassee, fri-fish from the fish fry store, sat-soup and sandwich, Sun-roast beef/pork/chicken. Since it was the same every week, we knew which night to be to eat at a friend’s house! then I grew up and married a chef with his own upscale Italian restaurant. so I not only learned how to cook by osmosis, I enjoyed great restaurant leftovers, too. Loved your story! No, there’s nothing wrong with a bologna sandwich now and then. 🙂

    1. Oooh an Italian chef! Do you lend him out to cater to starving writers who succumb to processed lunch meat in the face of adversity?

  6. […] Ever wonder how to feed an army with a single chicken? Jess Witkins has the answer and a couple of fantastic summer recipes at Bologna Girl Learns to Cook. […]

  7. I have never had goulash, and have never wanted to because of the way it sounds! I want to learn to cook someday, but I always seem to find something else to do instead : ).

    1. There’s always something else to do, but I had to prove to Madge that I don’t always eat cheetos for dinner, and of course, bologna.

  8. You nut!!! What’s wrong with goulash??? I’m passing your recipes on to hubby, who does the cooking around here. He just loves his potato salad, Irishman that he is. (He used to live on bologna, too. We have a pre-nup that states he can’t do that anymore. 😉 )

    1. Ew to goulash!

      I hope he likes the recipes though, I thought they were awesome! Thanks for stopping by, I’ll be expecting a new line in our lease agreement about my bologna eating in the house too. 😉

  9. I’m “liking” this post so I can try these recipes when I get back home. I love to cook, too – I’m a total “foodie” – and I think it would be awesome to have a restaurant in the family. I’d be doing the same things you did, too (although my preference would be for orange soda instead).

    1. Oh, I drank my share of that too. Orange Crush and Grape Soda and homemade cheese spread. I should go beg my dad for the recipe. It was the best thing!

  10. The recipe seems tasty. I do know how to cook. However, I’m not good at it (I got my cooking ability from my mother but with more questionable combinations). My mom forbid me to cook in the kitchen because of the mess I’m gonna make. My dad tried to encourage me but his style was much different from what I was used to growing up. He’s a great cook and the only reason why my family’s not starving. He wants me to learn how to cook like he does (he said so himself) but that’s not happening at the moment.

    1. Well, your ice cream seemed to bode well. 🙂

  11. These sound a lot better than bologna sandwiches, Jess! I’ve probably said this to you before, but “The Joy of Cooking” is the best basic guide to cooking I own…I used it a lot when I first moved out on my own! I even learned how to make bread from it!

    The coconut milk story brought back a memory from childhood. One day, my mom brought home a coconut from the grocery store (my brother and I may or may not have had something to do with it). I’m sure it took the four of us more than an hour trying to crack it (we tried using a hammer/screwdriver combo). When we finally did, the results were underwhelming…I’ve never been tempted to buy a fresh coconut again…I’m perfectly happy with the stuff that comes in a bag!


    1. These were much tastier than the bologna sandwich I had!

      I’m never making coconut milk again either.

    2. These were much tastier than the bologna sandwich I had!

      I’m never making coconut milk again either.

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