Join me as a share 5 simple tips to learn to cook that I used. What do you mean the family doesn’t want mac and cheese again?
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You get to a point in your life where you have to learn to cook. It can be daunting. There are so many recipe books, websites, and cooking shows telling you how to cook, and there are so many restaurants that can lure you in.
But to help you save money, eat better, feel good about your culinary accomplishments and be able to impress your partner, you need to learn to cook.
Now I should state right at the beginning that I am not an expert cook. I never went to cooking school.
But before you click away think about this: there is no school to become the president either.
What I have learned over the last few years though is how to make a recipe from a book.
Woopty-doo right. But honestly being able to do that means my kids eat my cooking without complaints, and my girlfriend can actually stomach my food.
Reading an instruction manual (aka a recipe) is not something that comes easy to guys…kinda of like asking for directions. Its just not something we do. So I’ve had to learn.
And the simple steps I’ve learned can help you too.
Table of Contents
1. Pick a recipe.
Straight forward right. You need to know where you are headed in order to get there.
What are you craving? Do you feel like a certain type of ethnic food tonight?
I have listed some of my favorite recipe books at the bottom, and also my tips on what to do when I don’t know what to make for dinner.
2. Make sure you have all the ingredients.
Yes this requires planning. So pick your recipe ahead of time and buy any ingredients you don’t have.
I like to read all the written instructions first so I get a general sense of the flow. A few times I’ve been caught where it says, “Let the cashews soak for four hours ahead of time,” and here I am with 20 minutes to dinnertime.
3. Be your own prep cook.
Look at the ingredients list again. See how it says the onions need to be diced or celery needs to be sliced, etc… Well I like to cut up all my veggies, measure the spices and liquids and have everything ready to go before I even turn on the burner. (This has been so important for me to learn!)
I used to start at the top of the recipe and then start cooking those first ingredients. I’d have 4 minutes to sauté the onions but I’d see the next step requires 2 peeled and shredded carrots and 4 peeled and diced potatoes. Good luck getting that done in 4 minutes (with your knuckle skin intact at least). My onions would be burnt to a crisp by the time I finished step 2.
So get everything ready.
I like to set it out in bowls like this so everything is easy to grab and add to the pan or pot when necessary.
If two ingredients will be added to the heat at the same time – example onions and garlic – then I’ll put those in the same bowl.
If there are a variety of spices that go into the dish I look to see which ones are added at the same time. Then I’ll measure those spices out, put them on the same plate and mix them around so they are evenly distributed.
4. Cooking the Food
After I have everything prepped and ready to go…well, then I start cooking.
I follow the written steps one by one.
Just remember to keep your focus. Stay on task. (Easier said than done for me sometimes.)
Tip: use a timer
I have a timer on both the microwave, the stove and on my phone. I have no excuse for burning something. Cook your veggies for how long the recipe says.
Tip: use the temperatures the recipe suggests
Over time you will learn if your stove is a little hotter or cooler than the recipe book calls for, but at the start do as it says.
5. When you get more experience…
I have discovered that once I learn a spice combination from one recipe I can use that combo on other foods. For example, there is a 3 spice combination for a Mexican casserole that I love, and I’ll use that same combo if I’m making tacos or burritos.
You can create you own pre-made spice blends and have them ready to use.
These come in handy on nights where you haven’t planned well. You can sauté a variety of veggies, cook some meat if you want, add your spice combo and BAM you got yourself a tasty meal.
With some experience you be able to make some healthy basic dinners without a recipe.
Tip: When you’re out of Ideas
I keep a list of “Dinners I can Make” taped to the inside of our pantry. If I don’t know what I want for dinner I’ll look at this list as a reminder of what I can make. (And have it taste good.)
I write down the recipe book it is from and sometimes the page number too for easy reference.
Some of my favorite recipe books
“Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon.
My girlfriend bought this book on a recommendation from a friend. I know it says “She Glows” in the title but the recipes I’ve tried from the book are all tasty.
My 11 year old daughter and I made some recipes from here a number of times last year, and people would want the recipe. That was quite the accomplishment for both of us having someone want the recipe for a dish we prepared. “Yaah we didn’t screw it up!”
Below is a link to the book on Amazon if you want more details. The version we have at home has a different cover than this though. So check your recipe collection at home before buying this…you may already have it with a different cover. (Maybe its a Canada cover vs. a US cover?)
Meatless -> from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living
My favourites from this book include the stir fry and the stewed lentils.
I’m not sure how we got this book – if it was recommended to us or a gift – but I have found some “go to” recipes in it.
What is your favorite recipe book? What am I missing out on?
I hope these simple steps will provide you with confidence to tackle making some REAL dinners with REAL food.
They won’t make you into a Master Chef because I certainly am not one, but its a start.
And yes its a satisfying feeling when your girlfriend asks you to cook dinner, not just because she doesn’t want to cook, but because its tasty and she is craving your food.
So find out what her favourite meal is. Search out a recipe for it. And on a night she isn’t expecting it cook up her favourite dish with your new skills!
Thank you. If you’ve enjoyed this post please share it with your friends (or with someone you want to learn to cook 🙂
Do you have a cooking disaster story? I’d love to hear it.
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