I cook dinner 4 to 6 days a week, and I love it! I find that putting together meals and creating new dishes is a rewarding experience. However, I know that many people don’t feel that way and they see meal preparation and cooking as a chore or they are simply SCARED of it!
I’ve noticed that there is a generation of people that really don’t know how to cook. In this age of fast food – grab and go – take out – eating out in restaurants – all on a regular basis many people haven’t bothered to take the time to learn cooking as a skill. On the opposite end of the fast-take out movement is the fancy cuisine culinary movement that we see on television and the internet. This makes it seem like you have to be this fantastic chef in order to put together a basic meal – again people are scared of cooking and I’m telling you it’s not Scary and it’s not hard.
The first rule of learning to cook is Don’t Worry if you mess up, just DO IT. The good news is is that cooking is very forgiving compared to baking where you really have to be precise with your ingredients and measurements or the product won’t actually turn out right.
Studies have shown that most people won’t make a recipe if it has more than 5 ingredients and I think that that is absolutely true! So, if you have decided that you want to try to cook,
Step #1 is: look for recipes that have five ingredients or less. I don’t necessarily include herbs and spices in the list of ingredients simply because sometimes you need a few spices and salt & pepper to get the flavor that you want and it’s pretty easy to add those to a dish.
Step #2: Once you’ve selected your recipe is to make a grocery list to ensure you have the things on hand to prepare your recipe. This is an area where many people will get frustrated because they find a recipe on Pinterest that looks yummy, set off to the kitchen to prepare it and realize that they don’t have all of the ingredients, get frustrated and then give up.
Once you have selected your recipe and you’ve shopped for groceries…
Step #3: Read the recipe before you start doing anything. You probably glanced through it when you found and selected it; then you made your grocery list based on the ingredients but you need to read through the entire recipe before you start taking out pots and pans and cutting things up. Make sure that you understand approximately how long it’s going to take to prep everything and how long it’s going to take to cook. You also may find that there are steps in the recipe that you can eliminate because you already have something available.
Step #4: As you are reading the recipe, consider what side dishes you’re going to serve. For example, perhaps the recipe is Pork Tenderloin with Braised Brussels Sprouts – but it doesn’t include a starch (if you want to serve one.) Factor in what starch you’re going to serve; how long it takes to cook; is it prepared on the stove or in the oven. It’s not that hard of a decision, but if you don’t think about it in advance you’ll be halfway through cooking your meal and realize, “oh gosh I forgot about the potatoes!”
Step #5: Act like a chef on a cooking show and clean, chop, or dice everything before you start cooking anything. Put the ingredients in separate bowls, just like on TV. That way you can simply read through recipe and you have your 1/2 of an onion chopped and ready to go; you will have already trimmed the chicken breast; you will have cut up your tomatoes — whatever it is, you get the point. When you have the ingredients ready to go all you’re having to do is assemble the meal and cook it. This step is going to make your experience of trying that recipe so much better.
BONUS TIP: The area that you need to pay the most attention to when you’re cooking is the cooking time – nobody wants to eat something that’s undercooked and nobody wants to eat something that’s overcooked. Yuk. That’s why having everything prepped in advance can really be a lifesaver because then you don’t have something on the stove – realize that you need to chop up something else – hurry to chop it and the food on the stove starts to overcook or burn! It is better to be prepared.
ANOTHER BONUS TIP: Not only is it important to watch the cooking times but you also want to consider that the people that are eating the meal are actually ready to eat at the time the food is done. I have had the experience of making a new recipe and it’s ready before my husband is home from work, so it sits for a little bit and then it just doesn’t taste as good reheated as it would wood it’s fresh. This is especially important when you’re trying a new recipe because if you spend all the time to make a new item and put your foot in the door to start cooking and then the meal sits for 45 minutes and you have to reheat it you’ve completely lost the original flavor potential of that dish and you may feel like you didn’t prepare it properly.
Step #6: Keep track of which recipes you try. Note which ones tasted good and those that didn’t taste good. If you find your recipes online be sure to bookmark them. If you find them in a recipe book put a bookmark tab or sticky note in the book. If you print them out or find in a magazine start a folder of recipes so that you can go back and find the recipe easily!
FINAL BONUS TIP If you are cooking beginner but have a friend or relative that is a GOOD COOK – ask if you can prepare a meal with them! Watch how they do things. You will learn amazing tips and tricks very easily and it will make it more simple to do it on your own when you are ready to give it a try.
Health & Bliss to You,