Start with a cookbook, then add a pinch of common sense

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

My husband, Walter, is a do-it-yourself person. If the screen door is broken, he'll repair it in a few minutes. Whenever I express any amazement at his accomplishments, he says, ''It's easy. All it takes is common sense.''

But in the kitchen, what I consider common sense completely confused Walter. When faced with a recipe, he would answer, ''I don't know what this means.''

After three years, with a little prodding from me and a growing curiosity on his part, Walter has become a competent cook.

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The first breakthrough came when he wanted something sweet and there were no cookies or cake in the house. Flipping through one of my cookbooks, he found a recipe for bread pudding.

After calling me to find out what ''scalded'' means, he was on his way. The bread pudding was delicious.

Since then he has made more complicated recipes. If he doesn't understand something, I explain it.

It's nice knowing my husband can cook. I know he isn't eating hotdogs for lunch every day. Also, if I'm late from work, he can start dinner.

There's only one problem now. Walter checks up on me. He checks that I've remembered all the ingredients, or that what I'm making is done to his liking.

This isn't really a problem. It helps keep me on my toes, and I do enjoy the time we spend in the kitchen.

Here are a few recipes that my husband discovered on his own and has made for lunch or dinner when I get home from work.

The first two recipes are from Betty Crocker cookbooks, and the others are from the Good Cook series by Time Life, and The New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook.

Bread Pudding 4 slices bread 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 3 eggs slightly beaten 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla Dash salt 2 1/2 cups milk, scalded Butter 1 1/2-quart casserole. Toast bread lightly, spread with butter; sprinkle with brown sugar and then cinnamon.

Put 2 toast slices together, making 2 sandwiches. Remove crusts; cut each sandwich into 4 rectangles. Arrange rectangles in single layer in casserole.

Blend eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt. Gradually stir in milk; pour over toast rectangles. Place casserole in pan of very hot water, 1 inch deep.

Bake 65 to 70 minutes, or until done, in 350 degrees F. oven. Remove pudding from pan of water. Serve warm or cool. Serves 6 to 8.

Five Spice Chicken 2 1/2 to 3 pound broiler chicken, cut up 1/3 cup soy sauce 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 small onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon crushed anise seed 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves Place chicken in shallow dish. Mix remaining ingredients; pour over chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

Remove chicken from marinade; reserve marinade. Place chicken in ungreased oblong pan. Brush marinande on chicken.

Cook uncovered in 350 degree F. oven, brushing occasionally with marinade, until thickest pieces are done. About 1 hour.

Corn Chowder 4 cups corn kernels 2 cups chicken broth 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes 1 small onion, finely chopped 2 cups chicken broth 4 tablespoons butter 2 cups heavy cream In 4-quart pan combine corn, chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Bring to boil on low heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, boil potatoes in 1 1/2 cups water until tender. Drain. Gently cook onion in butter, until soft.

Add onion, potatoes, and hot milk to corn. Puree in a blender, a cup or 2 at a time.

Place puree in top of a double boiler. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When mixture is hot, stir in heavy cream. Serves 6.

Anadama Bread 7 cups flour 1 1/2 cups cornmeal 2 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/3 cup butter, softened 2 packages dry yeast 2 1/4 cups very warm water 2/3 cup molasses, room temperature

Mix 2 1/2 cups flour, cornmeal, salt, butter, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add water and molasses to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed.

Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough. On a lightly floured surface knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat top. Cover loosely with a towel and place in a warm spot. Let rise to double in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down and divide in half on lightly floured surface.

Shape and place in 2 greased 9-inch baking pans. Cover and allow to rise until almost double, about 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until done.

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