Doing my best to cook every day has been one of the most beneficial habits in my life because it gives me control over my health, saves me money, and allows me to be creative. Daily cooking appears to be nearly impossible to many people, and so they don’t do it. I want everyone to know that cooking is possible, worth the effort, and makes life better.
Cooking is a skill that requires some thinking and practice, but not as much as people think. I’ve been living on my own and trying to prepare my own meals since I left the college dining hall plan about 10 years ago. I’ve made a lot of mistakes with cooking over the years, but I’m finally at a place where I feel comfortable in the kitchen, know how to prepare healthy meals, and understand how to cook efficiently. Here is what I’ve learned:
1) A few basic cooking techniques are more important than recipes. I used to obsess over finding the easiest healthy recipe that took the least amount of time, but not anymore. Now I know how to cook grains, roast vegetables, make a salad, and sauté greens. I make a healthy meal using these four techniques every day, with no recipes needed.
2) I still use some recipes, but instead of constantly searching for a new one, I’ve learned to cook a few of my favorite recipes really well and I make them often. I like to cook lasagna, vegetable fried rice, meatloaf, vegetable soup, spaghetti and meatballs, and dal [add links]. When I am trying a new recipe, I try to read it from beginning to end at least twice before I start.
3) I try to get out all of my ingredients and tools before I begin to cook.
4) Quality ingredients make homemade meals better. The debate in the media over whether or not to buy organic produce because of pesticide concerns misses one important point: foods grown in more nutritious soil (typically organic foods) are going to have more nutrients in them and taste better, regardless of what pesticide residue is on the outside of the produce. When I buy food, the bar isn’t so low that all I want to make sure of is that the food does not poison me. I want my ingredients to taste good and give my body what it needs to thrive. Buying local and/or organic ingredients will make your food taste better without any extra effort from you.
5) Cooking for other people is a great way to spend time with them. Sharing homemade meals builds relationships. When I cook a meal and share it with a friend, they really appreciate the gesture. I love talking with people over meals that I have cooked for us. I do not cook complicated recipes for when I invite my friends over for dinner. A salad, meatloaf, and bread is perfect (make a bigger salad and extra loafs of meat and bread if more people are coming over). They are perfectly ok with repeat recipes.
Cooking is beneficial and healthy. Yes it takes time, but you get to use your brain and your hands and create something, and you get better over time. Cooking is cathartic, feels good, and anyone can do it. Practice a few techniques and recipes for the next month and see how you feel.