More Cooking Basics to Know – Rice & Potatoes

Just learning to cook can cause a frenzy when you don’t know what you are doing. Learning how to cook the basic starches without a recipe is an easy start to have success when planning everyday meals. We are taking you through the easy-to-do steps for these basic additions to any meal, so you can be comfortable enough to expand your skills to more difficult recipes on your time table. A few simple everyday recipes for rice and potatoes is what we are covering on this chapter.


Potatoes are not a difficult under-taking but I have known individuals that have never mastered how to make a pot of rice. Different cultures have their own methods which I am not going to get into. We will start with white and brown rice.

There are many types of white rice. Long grain, medium grain short grain, arborio, basmati, jasmine, wild, brown, sticky rice… get the picture. Here we are going to cover white rice and brown rice to keep it basic knowledge. These two recipes will teach you how to make fluffy white rice and a nutty brown rice.

White Rice – The ratio of rice for every 1 cup of rice is 2 cups of water to net 3 cups of rice. I recommend washing your rice to eliminate the powdery starch and any impurities that may be present. To do this is very simple. Put the rice into a colander and pour cold water on it in the sink draining the overflow until the water runs out clear. A medium pot is the ideal pot to cook this amount of rice in. Too small or too large a pot won’t be as successful. Bring the water to a boil and add the rice and salt and stir with a fork. (Add oil or butter as well if you prefer). Cover the pot. Lower the heat to a simmer and let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes check to see if all the water has evaporated. If so, your rice is ready. If not replace the lid and simmer for 5 more minutes.


  • 1 cup of uncooked white rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • Alt: 1 teaspoon of butter or olive oil (not always preferred)

BROWN RICEBrown rice is prepared in almost the same exact way with a few exceptions. This recipe will net enough to serve four. Start with 1 cup of uncooked brown rice and 2 ½ cups of water or broth. Rinse your rice in a colander and insert into a medium pot. Add water, salt and oil or butter if desired. Bring the water to a rapid boil and reduce heat immediately to a slow simmer and cover for 40 to 50 minutes. At 40 minutes check and see if the water has all been absorbed. If it has, let stand for an additional 5 minutes covered. If not cover and let stand for an additional 15 minutes. When done, fluff with a fork and serve.


  • 1 cup of uncooked white rice
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • Alt: 1 teaspoon of butter or olive oil (not always preferred)


To change up the flavor of any basic rice you can start out with any type of flavored stock in place of water. Chicken, beef and vegetable stock add a nice flavor to the rice. Other simple tricks to change out your basic rice are to add chopped scallions, other vegetables like corn or peas as you like will make a nice well-rounded side dish for your meat or fish recipe. Enjoy.


There are over 200 types of potatoes to explore and they are all very tasty with some variation. You will find characteristics like starchy, waxy, creamy, sweet and all-purpose. The varieties you will find commonly in the grocery stores are:

  • Idaho Potatoes also known as Russet – a starchy potato, great for baking, frying and mashing
  • Sweet Potatoes – starchy potatoes, excellent for casseroles, baking and frying
  • Red Potatoes – waxy potatoes that cook up creamy. Great for roasting, boiling and mashing
  • Yukon Gold commonly known as the White Potato – all-purpose potato used for any application
  • Purple Potatoes – also an all-purpose potato fun to use for any application for the color and chock full of antioxidants as an added benefit

When selecting your choice of potato at the grocery keep these few things in mind. Not excessively dirty skins, just a few eyes (the indentations are eyes) heavy, firm. They should have no cuts or cracks or sprouts. Don’t expose them to light when you store them. Keep in a cool dark area of the house. 50- 65°F is the best temperature. Refrigerating potatoes is not ever recommended. Temperatures under 40°F will convert the starch to sugar resulting in a sweeter taste and potential burning when cooked.

Cooking potatoes is not difficult. In my house a great baked potato often makes an entire meal for me. Potatoes can be mashed, smashed, roasted, fried, boiled, made into wonderful soups, included in stews and casseroles. I am going to give you just two basic recipes here. Baked and mashed. You can check out our recipes for more ideas.

BAKED POTATOES – Idaho potatoes are my choice for baked potatoes and that is what I am going to give you information on how to cook. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry your potatoes. Make sure you don’t skip the drying. Stick your potatoes with a fork 2-4 times so they don’t blow up in the oven. Place the potatoes in the hot preheated oven on the middle rack of the oven. (you can use cookie sheet if you like). Bake for minimum of 45 minutes. (If you like your skins crispy, you can leave in for an additional 15 minutes.) Take out with hot mitts or tongs. Split down the center and push in from the edges to fluff. Serve with butter, cheese, scallions, bacon bits, sour cream or any of your favorite toppings.

Smaller potatoes can be baked also with a shorter bake time. If you choose a smaller version, you will have to test the potato cooking at 35 minutes by sticking a fork or knife into the potato to see if it goes in easily. That would indicate it is cooked through.

MASHED POTATOES – Mashed potatoes can be prepared with your choice of potatoes. You can leave the skins on or take them off if you prefer. To start you should wash and cut your potatoes into pieces of no bigger than 2.5 inches. Smaller potatoes can be boiled whole. Put the clean, washed and cut potatoes into a pot to fill not more than half of the pot. Fill with water to at least two inches over the potatoes and add ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil on medium high or high until tender. Between 15 to 20 minutes after the boil starts. Before draining fork test a bigger piece to test if tender. Shut off burner. Drain pot of all liquid or drain potatoes in colander and put potatoes back in pot. Add desired amount of butter. Cover and let butter melt. SOME like to add ¼ cup of milk or half and half. That depends on your taste and how you like your mashed potatoes. If so, add before covering. In 10 minutes uncover pot and mash with potato masher to your desired consistency. If you like your potatoes really blended, an electric beater can be used after you mash them up to a manageable texture that the blender won’t get stuck. After you reach your desired density – Serve them up!

!!! CAULIFLOWER TAKES OVER MASHED POTATOES!!!  – With no carbs, in restaurants and homes across the nation, mashed cauliflower has become widely popular. Some people don’t even notice the difference. Boil the cut-up cauliflower about 20 minutes until soft, drain, add butter & salt and mash.