Some of us easily transition into cooking connoisseurs, channeling our inner Julia Child. This wasn’t the case for me. Growing up with weekly servings of Hamburger Helper’s left much to be desired. Cooking hadn’t been a gift that came naturally, nor was I exposed to an elaborate variety of flavors. But not all hope is lost! Take it from me: Anyone can segue into a self-proclaimed foodie. Read ahead if you intend to embrace the art of cooking.
Start with the Basics
No matter what hobby you try, anything unfamiliar can feel intimidating initially. Starting with the basics like purchasing versatile ingredients and replenishing your refrigerator. No need to blow bukus of money, but first determine exactly what’s missing.
After moving out at 18 and buying the first full load of groceries, the spice aisle loomed ahead with numerous options. It’s okay to stick with fundamental items. I would recommend choosing about 5 spices initially and grabbing flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, pepper and sugar. These staples are a must-have for many popular American cuisines.
This post doesn’t advocate for vegetarian solutions (although it is a much healthier lifestyle), so other items such as eggs, milk, cream cheese and butter tend aid in the cooking process for beginners. Since chicken goes well with just about anything, we always have poultry on hand. Stocking up on your favorite breads, beans and root vegetables (such as carrots, garlic, potatoes and onions ) doesn’t hurt either. As formerly mentioned, this is just a very small list of items to get you started.
Hone in on what truly interests you. Can you draw on a few ideas from other people’s cooking? If your mother whips up the best Sheppard’s Pie, ask her for the recipe. Or what about your favorite cookies? Have you tried your hand at basic pasta recipes? Whatever the case may be, determine a few entrees you have yet to defeat.
Lastly, if you’re new to cooking, follow the recipe! When I stumbled across a $5 cookbook years ago, every dish with 5 ingredients or less provided relief. Spaghetti, fried chicken, homemade pancakes, omelettes, bbq stuffed potatoes, burgers, stir fry, and mac n cheese casserole were some of the endeavors from my first year of cooking. None of these sound healthy, but you’re missing the point. I needed to get my feet wet, so I started with recipes I always wanted to try. Click here for 101 cooking tips, courtesy of Kroger’s Simple Truth Community.
Try New Things
The most basic, straight-forward advice would to be branch out. After you’ve perfected the basics and learned how to read recipes with very few ingredients, expand upon your knowledge and sharpen your culinary skills. In 2011, my resolution was to try something new every single week. Be it a new food item, such as rutabagas, or a new cooking technique, like assembling eggs benedict, every week offered the chance to try something different. Although my tenacity tapered off in mid-August, I had mastered (or at least attempted) nearly 30 new recipes that year.
Pick up an unusual ingredient the next time you grocery shop! This tip from The Food Network led me to try wontons in 2011, crafting them into Crab Rangoon and stuffing others with a creamy cinnamon sweet potato filling. Filo shells almost work the same way; you can stuff them with just about anything. I wouldn’t have ever tried these had I not thought to grab something unfamiliar. The International Food Aisle invites me to embrace odd-sounding products such as Goya Gorbanzo Beans, Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste and Manischewitz Cappuccino Chip Macaroons.
Focus on a Culture
Most people seem to love Mexican food, but not me. I dove into Italian Food instead. My friends and I used to host monthly pot-lucks with varying themes, and Italian became my favorite. From Manicotti to Chicken Marsala and Tiramisu, it usually feels like a safe bet.
In recent years, I’ve familiarized myself with Indian cuisine and spices. Red Lentil Dhal turned out well along with the coveted Kitcheri and Cheese Masala Dosas.
Take Note of Your Kitchen
Aside from cooking techniques and the plethora of grocery products to select from, reevaluate your kitchen space. Eliminate any clutter. Clearing space in the pantry allows for those hidden items in the back to come forward.
Next time you feel like “there’s nothing to eat” move some things around, so you can see what’s available with fresh eyes. Same goes for the fridge. Rearranging produce encourages mindfulness and helps reduce waste. We have a tendency to rotate refrigerated items based on their expiration dates, so we know to eat the top shelf foods before they begin to sour.
Take pride in your kitchen and cultivate a cozy atmosphere you look forward to cooking in. The shelves near our window add a nice touch, so we can burn candles as the dishes are being washed. Plus it’s nice to see the herbs and cactus growing in the kitchen, which reminds me to tend to the garden. Adding live plants creates a comforting space, while a record player convinces me to dance and cook simultaneously.
If you have advice for newbies in the kitchen, please share! Or, if you hate to cook, we can investigate ways to create more pleasant experiences.