It’s kind of strange to me that I’m starting to be somewhat known for being a good cook… most of my life my sister Hannah has been The Cook and I lived under her shadow and chopped veggies for her. 😉 Much of what I’ve learned is from watching Hannah cook and listening to her talk about it (I still ask her questions sometimes), and the fact that my mama had us in the kitchen from a very young age. I remember being super proud of a brilliant sandwich I made for my dad at the age of 5, and also of the fact that I knew how to cook oatmeal! If you have little ones, let them help!! Yes, it takes much longer and is messy, but it’s SO worthwhile. Noah already loves to help when he can!
If anyone saw me cooking several years back they’d be like “you can cook??” and if I made something that the family brought to a social event, everyone would assume Hannah made it. I just thought it was kind of funny and mostly left the main cooking up to her, with occasional bursts of “I need to learn to cook!”
And then I started dating Peter, and, well, I made him food because that’s what you’re supposed to do to win a guy’s heart, right? Haha. And he was impressed and so I grew more confident and started branching out and cooking more. Since we’ve been married, I’ve branched out quite a lot, between being pregnant and starving all the time and just generally being the main cook (he does normally make breakfast though, and we cook together when we can) and searching for easy/interesting/tasty/healthy/pretty food.
I am still a mess when I cook, though. I’ve often thought if I were on a cooking show it would be some kind of mix between comedy and suspense (Is it really going to turn out??). I’m already bit of a crazy cook, but add in a tiny kitchen and a toddler and it’s a whole different level!
Anyway. So, several people have said I should write a cookbook or start a food blog, which is very flattering… I just don’t think it’s practical for me right now (especially since literally most of my time is spent cooking, eating, feeding Noah, and cleaning up. lol) . I can, however, offer a few tips/principles that I go off of!
Try new things! Look on pinterest or dust off a recipe book and find something that looks tasty, preferably something simple, and go for it! The above is one of my recent ventures out of my cooking comfort zone. So worth it!! And actually quite simple.
Don’t be afraid to substitute! Learn some basic subs and make it work. For instance, last night I made muffins that called for 2 cups of rolled oats and a 1/2 cup of greek yogurt. I only had 1 cup of oats and no yogurt, so I subbed 3/4 cup almond flour (less than a cup because the oats would be blended and end up being less than a cup of flour) and 1/2 cup sour cream. You’d never guess! Half and half can be thinned to make “milk”. Butter can (and usually should) be subbed for shortening. Vegetable oil should be subbed for coconut. 1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar makes buttermilk. Applesauce can be subbed for eggs sometimes, or you can make a “flax egg”. There are lots of other good substitutions you can make in a pinch, or to make something healthier!
I don’t really go by the recipes when I cook. Sometimes, if it’s way out of my cooking comfort zone, I will use a recipe–but most of the time I just use recipes for an idea and then go from there. The more you cook, the more you’ll learn what tastes good and what amounts will be right, just based on look (and sometimes smell or taste) Always start with less than you think you need!
Big batches for the win! Almost no extra time with lots of extra food. Reheated food is a mom’s best friend! Similarly, making two meals with similar ingredients at once helps save time as well. Yesterday my curry and breakfast casserole both had kale, potatoes, and onions. Since I already had them out it was easy to prep for both meals at once. Curries, soups, and casseroles are all great for this sort of meal prep. I try to tell myself that working harder today makes tomorrow a lot easier, and that helps me get going. I’m actually rather lazy at heart so that’s partly why I like to make a lot at once. 😛
Enjoy it! I do my best (It’s hard if Noah’s awake and pulling on me most of the time!) to relish the process of cooking. That’s partly why I like to try new things. I love seeing all the colors come together, and I enjoy the different textures and scents and the way the oil and vinegar interact and so on. Food can be so beautiful. Chopping veggies is strangely soothing to me. Cooking is something I *have* to do, so I might as well have fun eh?
Make life simpler for yourself by buying some pre-prepped veggies, and by cutting steps when possible. For instance, lately I’ve been buying chopped frozen cauliflower and broccoli. So easy to throw into dishes and make blended soups with! I’ve also been buying big bags of washed green beans, chopped and washed kale, baby carrots sometimes, washed baby greens, etc. Things that are already prepped or need minimal prep. If it was just me at home all day I wouldn’t mind doing all that, but with a toddler it’s tricky to find the time to do all of those things plus cook. I found after I had Noah that I was barely eating any veggies because of the prep time, so I decided it was worth it to pay a bit extra and actually get my veggies in! I also don’t peel veggies unless it’s really necessary, just scrub them well. When I buy things that are unwashed or not prepped I try to wash/prep a bunch at once.
Have some quick, easy go-to meals for when you’re really hungry and need food fast. For me lately blended soups have been my go-to. I do a black bean/corn/salsa one and a creamy broccoli one.
I’m all about that presentation! Maybe it’s not your thing, but I encourage you to at least try to make the food pretty sometimes. It doesn’t take much–the main thing I do is include lots of color. Sometimes a little garnish (maybe half a lime, a sprig of fresh herb, etc, nothing crazy) helps. I believe food is a blessing to us, in all ways. And art is important, but some of us don’t have much time for other kinds of more traditional art during our busy days… so this really helps to get a chance to express ourselves in an artistic way while doing something we NEED to do.
And, finally, familiarize yourself with herbs and spices. Learn which combos make which flavors, and which ones are strong and need to be used sparingly. There’s lots of info on pinterest about this!