21st Century Dad
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10 Ways To Enjoy Cooking At Home More

July 7th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Red Green and Yellow Peppers. Copyright Elliott Kim. All Rights Reserved.

A quick and easy meal doesn’t have to mean, “pierce film to vent. rotate once during heating.” If you make Hamburger Helper often enough to skip reading the instructions, we have a problem.

Step 1 is to take the advice of personal finance bloggers. Cooking at home saves money. Further, it saves time and is an enjoyable activity if you pick up the tips below. You’ll discover some of your own too.

If you make Hamburger Helper often enough to skip reading the instructions, we have a problem.

Cooking is part science, but mostly art. You don’t have to be a creative person to employ these tips. Your taste buds will guide you here. No matter what your comfort level in the kitchen is, you know what tastes good.

I’m one of those “recipe? I don’t need no stinkin’ recipe” type of cooks. Instead, I will share some bits of wisdom I learned over the last 22 years in the kitchen.

10 Ways To Enjoy Cooking At Home More

  1. Mince several cloves of garlic at once. Keep it in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. Use it instead of garlic powder. Use it liberally.
  2. Not every part of the meal needs to be a “home run.” If you’re doing something elaborate for the meat, go simple on the side dishes. If you’re making a process-intensive vegetable side dish, just add some simple seasonings to the meat and broil it.
  3. Keep frozen vegetable puree on hand. I prepare some vegetable puree about once a month and make “ice cubes.” These cubes are easy to add to spaghetti sauce, shells and cheese, gravies, and other sauces. In a fit of inspiration, I defrosted some of these “veggiecicles” in a skillet, added curry powder, parboiled potatoes, and chopped onions – instant vegetable curry! Just add basmati rice and you have some Indian fast food that’s actually good for you.
  4. Invest in a good chef knife. It really makes a difference. I’ve used the same Henckels chef knife for over 10 years. Food preparation (or any task) becomes a joy when you use high quality tools. A good German-made Henckels will outperform and outlast any late-night infomercial knife. Get it sharpened professionally on a regular basis. Take care of it and it will last a lifetime.
  5. Use fresh ingredients whenever you can. Fresh vegetables taste better than their frozen or canned counterparts. Spices grown in your garden have more kick.
  6. Avoid using prepackaged “seasoning blends” if you have an adverse reaction to MSG. Make your own seasoning blends, or add seasonings individually. Learn about the different spices in your spice rack by tasting them.
  7. Use natural sea salt instead. Do a side-by-side comparison and you’ll really taste the difference. Regular table salt tastes metallic and bitter compared to sea salt.
  8. When you are shopping, choose versatile staples. Spaghetti noodles can be made into spaghetti. You can also add sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger to turn it into delicious Asian-inspired stir fry noodles.
  9. You don’t have to follow the instructions to the letter when making pre-packaged “instant” meals. Be wild. Be adventurous. Use chicken or tofu instead of tuna when you make the box of Tuna Helper. Add some fresh vegetables. Add plenty of garlic. If the instructions call for milk, substitute a small portion of that with whipping cream. It makes it taste better. Add more butter than the instructions call for. It won’t hurt you.
  10. Don’t be afraid to experiment and deviate from the recipe you found online. You won’t ruin a dish because you added more basil or rosemary than the recipe called for. Your taste buds (and your family’s) will guide you. Successful experiments (they happen more than you think) will bolster your confidence in the kitchen.

Since #9 and #10 are actually very similar, here’s a bonus tip – Food handling safety. NEVER use a wooden cutting board to prepare raw meat. The porous surface will harbor bacteria. Designate one cutting board for raw meat. Sterilize it in the dishwasher after every use.

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10 Responses to “10 Ways To Enjoy Cooking At Home More”

  1. comment number 1 by: Jojo

    Cooking at home really does save tons of money! We do a lot, so I really like some of your advice here. I’ll definitely have to try the vegetable puree idea…we’ve just started freezing rice since we eat a lot of rice around here (it reheats surprisingly well!)…and I love my Rachael Ray knife, chopping and cutting is fun when you have good knives! Great tips ~

  2. comment number 2 by: Tim Appleton

    Good ideas. good post.

  3. comment number 3 by: 21st Century Dad

    @JoJo: In Korean kitchens, we have the “one big knife” we use for everything. Is that true in Mongolian kitchens too?

  4. comment number 4 by: DCUrbanDad

    My New Year’s resolution this year was to try 2 new recipes a month. That has helped spur me on.

  5. comment number 5 by: boogiemum

    Great list! My hubby has been wanting one of those knifes. I think you just sold me on the idea – he will be so happy 🙂

  6. comment number 6 by: Jojo

    Yes, we have the one big knife for everything! It makes life simple right??? It’s surprising how Asians are so similar in some ways. A friend of mine said he’s going to make Galbi for us….korean food! YUMMY!

  7. comment number 7 by: Autumn

    Found your blog by way of Down To Earth Mama.. 🙂

    I’m an experimenter when it comes to cooking, and I’m with you on never following box instructions to the letter. I make everything my own, even if it’s a quick box of mac and cheese. Makes it more fun that way- and makes the kiddos better eaters!

  8. comment number 8 by: Ron@TheWisdomJournal

    Great ideas here, especially the one about salt. We use sea salt as well as kosher salt. I’m not sure about the sea salt, but kosher salt has only 20% to 30% of the sodium as table salt.

    I also like the idea to experiment. Call me nuts, but sometimes I pick something complicated to fix on a weekend…just because it IS complicated! I love a challenge!

  9. comment number 9 by: Tyler @ Building Camelot

    Nice list – especially since we’ll be cooking more meals at home in the upcoming weeks.

    Have you ever seen those ceramic knives from Kyocera? Saw those on the Science channel one night and now I’m sold <– I know…I’m a total geek.

  10. comment number 10 by: 21st Century Dad

    Tip #11: Use bottled or filtered water when making rice, pasta, beans, or anything that requires water. Your food will taste better.

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