Correct me if I'm wrong here. If you wanted to learn to play piano, you'd take lessons, right? We shuffle our little ones to all sorts of different classes....ballet, gymnastics, tennis, karate! We leave it to the experts to educate us on things that interest us and sometimes just don't come naturally! So why are so many of us struggling in our own homes in order to put together meals that are nutritionally balanced, as well as palatable, as well as easy to create? Because we don't know how! We watch a cooking show. Who can remember all those steps? We read a recipe. Better plan on at least 3 trips to the grocery store to remember everything you need! We watch a youtube video (I should be making those....) and we try and follow along. It's not easy. I can whip up a 3 course meal for you in no time at all but I need help with my daughters third grade math homework (sad but true)! We all have strengths and weaknesses. Some of you may be a whiz in the kitchen while others use their oven to store shoes (I've seen it. Really.) If you're not a natural born chef, this is where the beauty of the cooking lesson comes in. Having someone face to face, teaching you and guiding you every step of the way is the best possible way to learn a new skill! Cooking, to me is relaxing and calming. However, I understand that not everyone feels this way and I hope the few tips I can share with you in this blog will make your next cooking experience pleasant if not downright enjoyable!
Tip number one: try and plan out a few days worth of dinners. Whether you're cooking for one or one hundred, planning is the best possible tool for success in the kitchen. Think about likes and dislikes of who you are cooking for, think about budget, ingredients, what you have in the house versus what you will need to purchase. This is the best possible tool for kitchen success. Do not let your child try to convince you that Oreos make an awesome dinner. You are the boss and you are in charge! Show confidence. And save the Oreos for after they go to bed.
Tip number two: Prep your ingredients. Don't wave me off and say, "yeah yeah I like to prep as I go." Allrighty then! I don't want to hear it when your chicken francese becomes plain chicken cutlets because you forgot to buy/chop lemons and have no chicken stock in the house! If your dish requires veggies (which I hope it does!) wash them, chop them, store them in the fridge. I realize that time is a factor in all of this and many of us work days, nights, or sometimes both. But many recipes are simple and easy, you just need to find the ones that work for you and your family. They can be pared down if you need one or two servings, or doubled and tripled if you're feeding a crowd. Figure out what works then stick to your plan!
Tip number three: Put a time limit on your recipes. Most of us cannot spend all day stirring bubbling pots on the stove. We need recipes that are quick, fairly simple and delicious. Save the classics you would like to master for when you have time and energy to devote to an all day kitchen fest. I highly recommend many of Rachael Ray's 30 minute meal recipes. They can be adapted to fit different dietary restrictions and as long as you have your ingredients on hand (please refer to Tip number two!) you should have a dinner on the table in about a half hour. Not bad!
Tip number four: Last but not least! If you are truly struggling and need some kitchen guidance, call in a professional. Many chefs and/or foodies (my self included, shameless plug) give cooking lessons. You pick the menu, I come in (with the necessary ingredients!) and show you the best possible way to execute a plan and create meals of your choice in the easiest way possible. Like I described in the beginning of this blog, think of it as a lesson like any other. Cooking does not always come naturally for everyone! I highly recommend getting a group together for a "cooking party" where a lesson taught by a professional can be combined with a night of socializing and tasting. Not only is it a lot of fun, but you'd be surprised at how much you can learn when you are watching the dishes being created right in front of you. It may even inspire you to stop using your oven for storage!