People always ask me: Do you cook? Do you like to cook?
My answer? Yes. Even being in my 20s, I find food completely and totally fascinating and fun to experiment with. I moved out into my own apartment at the ripe age of 18 and have since cooked the majority of my meals. When people ask if my parents played a hand in teaching me, I always respond with a “no”. I never bothered watching or helping my mom in the kitchen – as embarrassing as that may be – and my dad (despite being an excellent cook) only graced us with his thoughtful meals every now and again.
It was really just out of necessity that I began learning how to cook and prepare my own food. While it took some time, I slowly began to love cooking – especially healthy cooking – and found it to be the foundation of my healthy lifestyle. It definitely did not start that way. Most of what I made consisted of boiling pasta and sautéing chicken “strips”. With time however, I have come to love macrobiotic bowls and easy roasted veggies.
Of course, I am not 100% perfect. Living in New York after all, I am exposed to all kinds of delectable cuisines, treats, and night spots that often grab my attention or harness a carving. That being said, I always make sure to regroup and prepare myself home cooked meals the majority of the time. This is beneficial not only as a skill, but also as a way of knowing exactly what I am putting into my food and therefore my body.
My greatest advice to anyone on a journey to become healthier is to fall in love with cooking! It may take practice but I truly believe that this advice will help set any one up on their very own culinary adventures. Here are 7 easy tips to help you get comfy in the kitchen.
1. Gather Inspiration
Perhaps it’s the Generation Y in me, but I found that the Internet was a huge source of inspiration to me when it came to cooking after leaving my parent’s home. Being in a multi-ethnic home, there is no doubt that I was exposed to an endless variety of foods, but social media such as Pinterest, tumblr, and other popular culinary blogs paid a huge role in broadening my horizons from what I was used to. Whether there were innovative and healthier substitutes that I learned about or different ways of eating, I found that research and exposure played an essential role in shaping the way I eat today! Make sure you bookmark (or pin) recipes that you like and try to recreate a few every week by printing them out and keeping them visible. This also takes the “chore” out of cooking – giving it a sense of wonder. Even if at first you can only muster up the energy for cooking something up on the weekends for fun (like these peanut butter recipes) it’s still a start!
When it comes to the kitchen, less really is more. Make sure you are covered with your basic kitchen essentials. It seems like common sense, but you would be surprised… Pots, pans, measuring cups, a good knife, a lemon squeezer, blender, and stove/oven should do the trick. Try to master the basics before you start hoarding things in your cupboards that you might not see ever again. In design, there is basically a rule stating that if something is out of sight, it will be out of mind and never to be used. Notice how that fancy toaster has been tucked away for eternity? Yeah, we thought so. Streamline your kitchen so you can see all your gadgets and ingredients easily. The better you can see these things, the more likely it will be that you will use them.
3. Stay Organized
Organization comes in handy in two scenarios: 1) Making sure your kitchen gadgets and ingredients are visible and ready to be used (similar to what I mentioned above) but also when it comes to grocery shopping. Making lists is my favorite thing in the whole wide world (sad but true). Whether it’s at work or chores in the home, jotting things down ensures that you will not forget necessary ingredients, spices or staples. Post a list on your fridge to remind you not only of what you need, but that you need to head to the grocery store sooner rather than later. Being fully stocked will prompt you to cook. Wouldn’t want to waste all that food, would you?
4. Get Some Fun Kitchen Gadgets
I know I said it was important to streamline earlier on, but once you feel comfortable with the basics, feel free to get a little inventive. Try purchasing a spiralizer for a new way to prepare zucchini [noodles]. You might even be interested in purchasing muffin dishes to prepare a batch of egg muffins for breakfast or a pizza stone for that cauliflower crust pizza you’ve been dying to whip up. These small investments will take you back to our first tip and have you feeling more inspired.
5. Keep It Simple
A big turn off that is oftentimes associated with cooking is the “complexity” of it all, but I promise that cooking is hardly ever complex. Following a holiday recipe involves many more steps than cooking a simple but tasty dinner has to. Instead of thinking “gourmet” all the time, go simpler for your weekly dinner or breakfast menu. Whip up a batch of rice that only involves three ingredients (rice, water, a dash of salt), steam some greens, and bake or prepare your protein of choice. All these “recipes” require 3 ingredients or less making them simple and super healthy. Forget fancy technique. Dice sloppily, season with spices sporadically and put your ingredient of choice over a flame. That’s really all it takes. Just because your garlic is not perfectly minced or your kale perfectly chopped doesn’t mean your meal won’t be equally delicious.
6. Find A Schedule That Works For You
When I first started cooking I had this idea that I had to cook every single day. Perhaps it had to do with seeing my mom cook a meal for our family everyday as I got back from school, but it was an image that was ingrained in my mind from a very young age. I tried to keep up with this, but soon found myself ordering Delivery.com for dinner more often than not. With my busy college and interning schedule (and now full-time 9-6 position) I came to realize that the idea of cooking daily would not work for me. Instead, I started batch cooking on the weekends, where I would make large portions of carbs, veggies, proteins, and sides that would last me throughout the week and could be easily heated up. Along with my simple dishes I would whip up something more complicated for a fun twist or treat to last throughout the week. That being said, if you find that you can get in some time in the kitchen daily, then go ahead and do that to. Find what’s realistic for your schedule.
7. Clean As You Cook
Ok, ladies and gentlemen, this might be the handiest piece of advice we ever give you. One of my biggest mistakes early on had to be not cleaning right after I cooked. I would cook up a meal, eat the meal, and then proceed to feel too lazy to clean up. The key is to cook, then clean. Otherwise, the mess just keeps piling up bigger and bigger and… bigger, until you feel like you can’t even go in to your kitchen, much less alone cook in there. Practice good kitchen hygiene and you will be be way more motivated to venture in there. Plus, it’s a whole lot healthier.
For more advice on Eating Well, check out our features here.
What cooking tips would you give someone to make them fall in love with the kitchen?