Cooking Tips

March 10th, 2020

Cooking Tips for Beginners

In a world where, at any time, we can have essentially any food we want delivered to our front door, it can be hard to maintain the motivation to cook at home instead of ordering in. But this is not a great habit to get into. Not only is it more expensive but foods at restaurants are almost always higher in sodium, sugar, unhealthy fats, and overall, calories than food we make at home. How do you think they keep us coming back for more?? Because of this, there is loads of research showing that families that cook and eat at home not only consume higher quality, more nutrient dense foods, but they eat less in general, which over time will makes people healthier and significantly lowers the risk for chronic disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Getting started cooking at home can be intimidating though. Here are some tips to help make cooking easier, healthier, and just as (if not more!) delicious than the restaurant option.

  • It’s okay to take the easy route sometimes- pre-spiralized vegetables, precooked brown rice, canned beans without added sodium, pre-riced cauliflower, etc are all great things to keep on hand for when you need to throw together a meal quickly
  • Sauteing is a fantastic way to create a crisp vegetable with robust flavor. All you need is a little bit of olive oil, a skillet, and chopped veggies. If you want to add even more flavor, start by sauteing chopped onions or garlic and then add your vegetable to the skillet.
  • Looking for a way to cook that you can set and go do something else while it cooks? Roasting vegetables is also a great option. There are two tricks to roasting the best veggies: first, preheat your oven to 425 F with the baking sheet inside. This will help crispen up your veggies on all sides while they’re roasting. Second, instead of drizzling olive oil on your vegetables after they’re on the sheet, try placing all of your veggies in a large bag with a little bit of olive oil and the spices you are planning to use. Mix them all up to make sure each piece is touched by the oil and the spices and then place onto your preheated baking sheet.
  • Keep your knives sharp! Nothing will make chopping fruits and vegetables more difficult and frustrating than a knife that is dull and therefore inefficient.
  • Experiment with different spices. By mixing up the spices you use, you can make the same meal five times and never get bored of it.
  • Keep it simple- as Voltaire said, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. Cooking doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. Create a simple template that you can mix and match so you have to do minimal thinking while creating your meals. This creates variety and keeps cooking fun.
    • For example: base + protein + toppings + flavor
      • Bases: greens, whole wheat grain, cauliflower rice, spaghetti squash
      • Protein: chicken, shrimp, tuna, beans, tofu
      • Toppings: additional veggies, nuts, cheese
      • Flavor: low sodium sauces, spices, etc
    • Save spices for the end, especially if you’re making something in the crock pot. Many spices will lose their flavor if over cooked so adding them at the end gives you the most bang for your buck.
    • Read the whole recipe before getting started! It’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into before you get started so that you have the right ingredients, kitchen tools, and most importantly, enough time.
    • Customize recipes. Unlike baking, cooking tends to be very forgiving. Meaning you can adjust amounts of seasonings and ingredients to your liking. Have a recipe that calls for tuna but you prefer shrimp? Change it! Also, you can almost always cut the amount of salt asked for in a recipe by half. If you decide it needs more later, then add it. But don’t let salt be your main flavor- experiment with garlic, spicy, black pepper, anything! This will instantly make all of your dishes healthier.

The key to great cooking is experimenting and finding what you like. Try different ingredients, invest in a couple quality cooking utensils that will make your life easier (i.e. food processor, spiralizer, or crock pot), and remember that not every meal is going to be perfect. Just like anything in life- the more you cook, the better you’ll get and the easier it will be!