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The Best Ways to Simplify Your Cooking

Cooking at home is both cheaper and healthier than eating out, and recently more people have started trying to cook their meals themselves. Bravo everyone! But cooking at home is also a lot of work. It’s hard to choose recipes – with thousands of options from cookbooks, recipe blogs, and recipe websites, and it’s hard to keep all the ingredients you need in stock. Having been a home cook for many years, here are some of the things I’ve learned to keep cooking a simple and enjoyable daily activity!

Choose a Cuisine

This is not advice that I’ve read anywhere else. Cooking resources nowadays almost always feature dishes from many different cuisines. Which is great. I love food from all over the world, and as a novice cook, I’d make a Thai dish one night, a Greek dish the next, then something French the next. This meant that I had to stock lots and lots of specialty ingredients, including expensive sauces that I would very rarely use. I used to read gourmet budget cooking blogs that would price all of the ingredients, which would include things like “a dash of truffle oil – 10 cents.” But the bottle doesn’t cost 10 cents, and I wouldn’t know what to do with the rest of it! So I eventually decided to choose a cuisine and stick with it. I chose Italian food, because my husband is Italian and that is what he likes. We also make typical American foods, because I like them and the ingredients are mostly the same. To my surprise, this helped me become a better cook. By focusing on one cuisine, I am able to perfect techniques, and try dishes more than once to get them right. I’m also able to use more specialty ingredients, because I know that I will keep coming back to them. I’m able to buy expensive items like real Parmesan cheese and dried Porcini mushrooms because I know that I’ll keep using them, and our grocery bill has actually decreased!

Plan a Menu

If you want to keep it really simple, write down a menu for two weeks on a calendar, and repeat it every two weeks. Make a grocery list based on your menu. Don’t forget breakfasts and lunches! Choose dishes that your family likes. Choose some that are harder to prepare, some that are quick. You can generally switch nights around if you find yourself pressed for time on a given night. If any of your meals have very perishable ingredients, plan to make them right after you go grocery shopping. If you need to do something overnight, like soaking beans, note that on the previous calendar day so you don’t forget. This is the best way to keep both cooking simple and your grocery budget small. When you are feeling more confident, look through your cooking resources and choose different recipes that you’d like to try, but not more than 2-3 per week so you don’t get overwhelmed. Remember to plan for dessert sometimes! Enjoy! Italian recipes are generally quick to prepare, and I can usually make a three-course meal in about 30 minutes, if I plan ahead. If your chosen cuisine involves different cooking techniques, be sure to invest in whatever tools you need – a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a pressure cooked. And remember, enjoy!

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A Guide to Basic Cooking (You Gotta Start Somewhere)

I heard it on the Today Show. Beyonce¬†admitted that she can’t cook. She said she would learn to in the future. If you are like Beyonce, have no fear, cooking is not quite as hard as you think.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

Boiling Water

This is so incredibly easy. Find a pot to boil the water that is big enough to hold the water, and the food that you’ll be adding to it. If you don’t have a big enough pot, what you are cooking-say pasta will boil over. Next, place the pot on the stove burner and use a measuring cup to pour in the water. You can also just fill up the pot with cold water at the tap. Place the pot on the burner. Turn the heat up to the hottest position, and cover the pot with the lid. After a couple of minutes, you can check the water to see how it is doing. Keep checking to see if there are large bubbles that rise from the bottom of the pot to the top of the pot. At this point, the water is boiling. Keep the water at the same heat point the entire time. Do not let the water boil until there is no water left in the pot. It could ruin the pot.

Cooking Rice

If you soak your rice, it will take less time to cook, and it expands the grains of the rice. Usually the time for soaking is 30 minutes, but their are often other times.If you are going to cook it as is, you’ll need 1 1/2 cups of water or less. If you use more water, then you will get softer rice. You can add a little salt, and olive oil, so the rice will not stick. Once you have all the ingredients in the pot, set it to boil,cover it, then it must simmer. Cook for about 12 minutes. If you find that your rice is hard, just put about 1/4 cup water in the pot with the lid on, and cook on low for about five minutes. If you burn your rice just let cold water hit the bottom so the burnt taste on the bottom won’t get to the rest of the rice. Don’t put water in pot, just over the bottom of it. Any problems cooking rice can be avoided if you just don’t open the lid.

Boiling Eggs

When you boil eggs, you don’t want to use the ones that have cracks. Set them out on the counter so they will be at room temperature.This makes the eggs not crack when you boil them. Put the eggs in the pot in about a little less than two inches of water. Boil the eggs, remove from the heat, and put a lid on it. Let them sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. When boiling, watch for cracks, and overcooking them. After they are done cooking, run them under cold water. Medium eggs that are hard cooked should boil for 10 to 12 minutes. Large eggs that are hard-cooked should be boiled for 12 to 15 minutes. Extra large hard-cooked eggs should boil for about 18 minutes.

 

Get a big enough pot to hold the corn that you will cook, fill with water and turn On the heat. Shuck the corn, and use water to remove the silk if needed. Let the water boil. Then add the corn on the cob. Cover the pot and let it boil for about 10 minutes. Remove from your pot with tongs, then season it however you like. When you know how to do these cooking basics, then you are pretty much well on your way to becoming a good cook. Practice makes perfect if you don’t get kudos, the first few times around.

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