I truly began cooking when I started living on my own. My mom cooked dinner for us and made sure we were fed growing up. Before college, I knew how to make grilled cheese, PBJ, and french toast. Those are the things I remember the most. When I lived alone for the first time I knew I could buy frozen meals, order take out, or cook my own food. Buying fresh produce and cooking your own food is one of the cheapest options.
Learning to cook started with choosing recipes from blogs, cookbooks, and newspaper clippings. This was when cooking blogs were becoming really popular. It also meant learning what I did and didn’t like to eat. How often have you made a dish because it was healthy and hated the way it tasted? Food is meant to be enjoyed and when you eat something you don’t like it can make you eat more food, maybe even junk food, until you feel satisfied.
The important thing to remember about cooking is it’s a lot of trial and error. Mike and I love cooking together and a lot of the food we make tastes great but sometimes we make something we don’t like. It happens! It’s how you learn and it’s ok. If you love what you cook you’ll be excited about leftovers!
One of the first cooking shows Mike and I watched together was Chopped on Food Network. I’m not saying bring out sweetbreads to cook (google it and you’ll understand) but we learned more about flavor and seasoning. The chefs would ask did you taste your dish? Tasting your food while cooking is so important! And don’t be afraid of salt! Salt adds flavor and brings out the sweetness in desserts.
The chefs judging would discuss the level of heat and acidity for the dish. This started to make sense for me when we would make a dish that felt heavy and dense. If you add acid (citrus or vinegar) to the dish it becomes more balanced. Again, this is a trial and error situation. You learn to use what you like. Mike loves spicy food and spice can make the food balanced if it’s too sweet. For example, we love roasted sweet potatoes with chili powder and paprika!
Curtis Stone’s cookbook “What’s for Dinner?” was pivotal in developing my skills in cooking. The sections of the cookbook fit our lifestyle at the time: Time Saving Tuesdays, Motivational Mondays, 5 ingredient Fridays. Plus the ingredients were simple and easy to find at the grocery store! We still use this cookbook often and we’ve had it for 7 years!
Another cookbook and the more recent one to us is Michael Symon’s “Fix it with Food”. It includes a ten-day reset that has one serving recipes. His recipes focus on using fresh produce along with spices, oils, and nuts to enhance the flavor of the dish. Just like Curtis Stone’s book, these are ingredients you can find at the store. Once I bought a cookbook that had things I had never heard of or would buy, use once, and the rest would go to waste. Waste of food, money, and time!
When I started cooking I did it so I wouldn’t have to buy freezer food. I knew there were better options out there, nutrition-wise and taste-wise. If someone told me they were learning how to cook on their own I would give them both cookbooks as a gift.
Would you like to know more about the recipes I love to eat and cook? Sign up for the 12 days of Pilates and you’ll receive a recipe every day!
P.S. Cooking is very hygge. What the heck is hygge? Read more about it in this blog post.