Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learn to Love Cooking

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Life Could be a Dream.

I never really learned to cook growing up. In fact, I left the house thinking that I hated cooking. My cooking in college consisted of frozen chicken nuggets, boxed rice, and flash frozen chicken breasts cooked until completely dry. Sometimes it was even opening a can of Spaghettios.

 After I got married and had my own home (and kitchen) I started to dabble a bit more in the kitchen. I started to really enjoy finding recipes and "cooking." Most of my recipes contained cream of __ soup and cream cheese or sour cream. No wonder I started to love the kitchen.

Now, we eat far more wholesome meals just about every night. I'm gaining increased confidence in the kitchen and I can now honestly say that I love cooking.



I went from hating almost all vegetables to finding new ways to enjoy many of them. I went from being completely oblivious about spices, herbs, oils, and other ways to add flavor to foods to buying fresh herbs and pinning ideas for infusing oils. I went from shopping in all of the aisles in the grocery store to sticking to the outside.  Today I'm going to share some tips to help you love the kitchen and cooking.

1. Start Small
Try cooking from scratch one meal per week to start. You'll be amazed at how comfortable you become with techniques and ingredients. Start with a few foods that you already like and seasonings you already know you like. For example, if you love tacos--make tacos without meat or without ready-made seasoning (make your own) and combine them with homemade beans or rice.

2. Meal Plan
Once I felt like I had some good staple items down, it was easy to pick three or four nights a week to cook some of those staples (spaghetti, tacos, meatloaf, etc...) and choose one or two new recipes to cook per week. Right now I manage two new recipes most weeks. Not only does it introduce me to new ways to enjoy foods, but it helps keep cooking exciting. I look forward to some tried and true favorites, but I also look forward to trying something new. 

3. Try a Special Diet
I tried a dairy free diet for a few weeks in hopes of clearing up my skin. I also eliminated sugar from my diet for 2 months. More recently I attempted the Whole 30 diet. I never intended to permanently change my diet (unless, of course, I got rid of my skin issues) but rather I wanted to introduce myself to new ways of preparing foods.

It gets so easy to stick to the same ingredients and preparation techniques. When you eliminate food groups, you often find a whole world of different approaches and some are pretty amazing! I have discovered so many great ingredients that I never would have even thought of (hadn't even heard of) until I got rid of something and was forced to search for alternative cooking methods. You'll likely find some things that you really love--and they might even be better for you!

4. Participate in a Bountiful Basket or  Co-Op Program
Just like eliminating foods from your diet, forcing foods into your diet can have the same effect. With these programs, you often pay a small fee every week in exchange for locally grown produce. The kinds of produce and amounts vary from week to week and you never know ahead of time--nor do you get a say in it. You may get foods you've never worked with before, or maybe you have, but now you have a TON of it. You'll likely find yourself researching recipes to accommodate your new produce in delicious and creative ways.  

5. Create a Kitchen Routine
Before I had my daughter I used to fill a fancy glass (that's what I call a wine glass used for drinks other than wine. I don't drink alcohol, but I keep fancy glasses in my home in abundance) with a favorite drink--lemonade, sparkling cider, sometimes even chocolate milk. I would then turn on Pandora and get to work in the kitchen. I still like to turn on music and have a drink but it's usually water and I'm finding ways to make my new little helper part of my new routine. If at first you're really dreading it, that promise of chocolate milk in a fancy glass might be all you need to get you cooking! 

Do you enjoy cooking, why or why not? 

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