Cooking Basics that apply to all of us
One generally ends up having to do a lot more cooking than what was actually planned to. Be it a small party at home or a larger get together or even a wanting to set up a catering business, it starts somewhere.
You can use simple tips and tricks to cook healthy meals, bake yummy desserts, throw a fabulous party, and save time in the kitchen. Did we say time?! Yes. That ingredient, we just cant have enough of. With a bit of planning, some expert advice, and proper ingredients, you’ll be cooking delicious meals in no time — even if you consider yourself a kitchen novice and haven’t we all been there?
Tips for Reading Recipes before Cooking
Preparing, understanding, and completing a recipe require looking ahead and thoroughly reading the recipe before you start cooking or baking. The last thing you want is to start off on your tenderloin steak and realize you’ve run out of pepper. Make sure that you’re prepared.
You often see professional chefs at Food Network doing a dish almost effortlessly always keep in mind that they have an extensive experience in cooking—blood, sweat and tears were shed before they got to where they are. So if you want to follow their footsteps, save yourself from a cooking catastrophe or at least lessen the time that you spend in your kitchen here are some valuable tips on how to read a recipe.
- Read through the recipe at least twice to make sure that you understand the directions.
- Make sure that you can perform all the techniques. Intent is a lot different from the follow through.
- Look at the recipe yield and decide if the number of servings is what you need. If not, consider whether you should cut the ingredient amounts in half or double them.
- Check that you have all the necessary equipment and ingredients.
- Make sure that you have enough time before serving to prepare and cook the recipe.
- Check whether you can (or need to) make any part of the recipe ahead of time.
- Read through the ingredients to see whether you like them all, as well as whether the recipe has too much fat, sugar, or salt for your dietary needs. Getting these basics right is essential.
- Check whether you need to use an ingredient, such as butter or oil, at different stages in the recipe so that you don’t make the mistake of using that ingredient all at once. There are very few short cuts that come to this exercise and you figure them out with experience over time.
- Find out whether you need to preheat the oven. Ok, do you even have an oven? That would be a good start?!
Cut the fat and carbs – lose the calories!
To reduce fat, calories, and carbs, try these alternatives when cooking your favorite dishes. You can create healthier meals without sacrificing flavor just by trying these simple substitutions.
- Substitute low-fat or nonfat dairy products for full-fat dairy products. For example, use skimmed milk rather than whole milk or cream, low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese and yogurt rather than the full-fat versions made with whole milk, or low-fat or nonfat cheese for regular cheese. These products often give soups and sauces a thinner, less creamy consistency and may influence the texture in other dishes, but the health benefits are definitely worth it. Besides, setting these as standards helps you focus on the health aspect of the meal.
- Substitute low-fat or non-fat mayonnaise for regular mayonnaise and low-fat or non-fat salad dressing for regular salad dressing. Find brands you like so you don’t feel deprived. Good food isn’t meant to be a compromise. It can be a small adjustment; a bit like a relationship.
- Looking for lower-fat meat options? Try ground turkey rather than ground beef, or choose ground beef that is at least 95 percent lean. (Just be aware that hamburgers made from very lean beef will be dryer and less juicy than those made with a higher fat ground beef.) Choose white meat over dark meat poultry, and find cuts of beef with the words loinor round in them. These are little buzz words that can make quite a difference.
- We all know about the benefits of olive oil. It is a great alternative so choose olive oil and canola oil over butter when sautéing. These ingredients contain monounsaturated fats, a healthier option than saturated fats for heart health.
- To cut carbs, use lettuce leaves rather than bread for sandwiches or wraps. Just roll up lean meat and low-fat cheese with a dash of mustard inside a Romaine lettuce leaf.
- Decorate your salads with hard-cooked egg whites and walnuts rather than croutons and full-fat cheese.
- Avoid processed foods, especially those made with white flour, sugar, and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, which are found mostly in prepared meals that come from a box or package.
Time is everything.
Don’t we find our time so precious? Save time when cooking with these few tips. Serving up a meal is a snap with these timesaving hints. You’ll cook more efficiently and enjoy more time with family and friends at the table! Of course keep the iPads away too.
- Have all ingredients prepared, measured, and set out within reach before you start cooking.
- Precooking of chicken or meat in your microwave before finishing them on the grill helps it get more succulent.
- If you’re using the oven, turn it on at least 15 minutes before you’re ready to roast or bake your dish. Don’t waste time waiting for the oven to heat after you’ve prepared the recipe.
- Buy vegetables that are already washed and cut, if doing so will get you to eat more vegetables or cook more often. Prepared ingredients such as bagged salad mix, stir-fry vegetables already cut to size, and boneless cuts of meat cost a bit more, but saving some time may be worth it.
- Remove steaks and other meats from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before cooking so that they warm to room temperature. They’ll cook faster and more evenly. When you said ‘medium rear’, you meant the entire sliver, not just a corner.
- Line the broiler pan with aluminum foil to ease cleanup when broiling hamburgers, fish, steaks, and chops.
- Don’t bother chopping onion, garlic, fresh herbs, and the like for a salad dressing. Instead, use a food processor or blender to save chopping time, add your liquids, and then blend for a quick dressing and you will find a quality blender for about US$ 200 in a supermarket here in Dubai.
- Placing a garlic clove on a cutting board and whacking it with the flat side of a heavy knife or a cleaver to make removing the skin easier. The skin should split right off.
- Rolling a lemon or orange under the palm of your hand on the countertop to make extracting the juice easier.
- And this one is a biggie. Clean up as you go. You’ll be glad you did when the meal is over! The last thing you need or want is to have to clean up a large mess for an hour after you’re done going through a 30 minute meal.
Basics for Your Pantry, Refrigerator, and Freezer
So you come home late from work and your family is hungry and there’s nothing to cook? Haven’t we all seen that happen? Make sure that never happens again. If you always keep these basics in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, you’ll never again be stuck with no option but takeout. You can certainly add to these lists, but these essentials can always help you make a good meal. For items you use regularly (such as bread, eggs, and milk), plan to restock about once a week.
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Brown sugar
- Canned beans
- Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
- Cider or white vinegar
- Cocoa powder
- Coffee and/or tea
- Condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, pickles, and pickle relish
- Dried herbs: Basil, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, and parsley
- Granulated sugar
- Ground spices: Black pepper, cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes), chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, ginger, dry mustard, nutmeg, and paprika
- Jam, jelly, or preserves
- Pancake syrup
- Peanut butter
- Powdered sugar
- Tomato sauce, paste, and canned tomatoes
- Vanilla extract
- Vegetable oil
- Fresh fruit
- Fresh vegetables, including leafy greens
- Meat, fish, poultry, or tofu to last three to five days
- Yogurt and/or sour cream
- Frozen fruit, for smoothies and sauces
- Frozen vegetables you will actually eat
- Ice cream or frozen yogurt
- Meat, poultry, and/or fish to last about a week
The basics of any session of cooking could actually start with a good mood behind the actual art of preparing the meal. There’s nothing like a good dose of your favorite music to add a bit of zing to your meal. It works.