Learning to Cook

2014-09-18 Learning to Cook

When I found out that my project was ending in Louisiana a few months ago, one of the first things that I would say if they asked where I was going next or if I was excited was, “well, I guess I’m going to have to learn to cook”.

Yes, I’m 25-years-old, I have some concept of how to cook.  Find recipe, buy ingredients, prepare ingredients in the way the recipe tells you to.  And yes, I’m actually a pretty good baker, but somewhere along the line I convinced myself that baking and cooking were so incredibly different that I had to learn to cook now that I was going to be stuck home.

The basis of this new mantra is the fact that when I bake something I put it in an oven at 350 degrees for at least 10 minutes, therefore causing anything that might have given somebody food poisoning to die.  I don’t have that luxury with cooking.  Sometimes you just throw things in a pan on the stove.  Sometimes you don’t need to cook them at all.  With baking it’s easy, you usually just stick a toothpick in to see if it’s done or check to make sure that the bottom of the cookie is the right shade of golden brown, but with cooking, if there’s meat, I have to keep cutting into the meat until it’s many tiny pieces – and then it gets dry.  I’ve been trying to get around this problem by cooking with tofu and beans for protein instead of meat.

Also, I don’t really like chicken.  Unless it’s covered in buffalo sauce.

So where does this leave me?  On a recipe search.  I’ve been looking for recipes that are easy to make that will last a few days.  I’ve invited people over for dinner, I’ve been trading off cooking dinners with people, and my roommate and I have been trading off cooking a little bit.  Here are some of the recipes that have proven to be both delicious and simple to make.

One Pan Beef Stroganoff 

Oatmeal Banana Nut Bread

Beaker’s Vegetable Barley Soup

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Baked Ziti, Ricotta, & Mozzarella

I’ve also been eating cereal, making bagel sandwiches, chopping up a lot of tomatoes and basil to put in pasta, and finding up ways to use zucchini.  I’ve been making a Pinterest board for things that I really want to try to cook that seem pretty easy.  But really, I think there are two things that are going to save me when it comes to this cooking thing.

  1. Fresh produce.  For some reason it’s so much easier to be innovative when there’s fresh produce in front of you.  Maybe because it’s easier to imagine the flavors you’re dealing with?  I find myself so much more inspired when there’s a tomato or zucchini or banana sitting on the counter than when I need to start from scratch.
  2. The Crock pot.  I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be a beautiful thing for me to just chop things up and throw it in a crock pot.  I also find that I don’t worry as much about whether or not the meat is cooked.  (Cooking something for longer than 6 hours will do that to you.)

Cooking has been a success thus far.  I’ve even started to get a little bit more innovative and just throw things together that I think will go well.  This week I fried up some onions and peppers, cooked it in a red curry sauce from Whole Foods and threw in some tofu.  I was pretty proud.  I’m still a little bit weary of anything putting in the freezer tasting like freezer, but I guess I’m going to have to get over that sooner than later.

Do you have an simple recipes that you can pass along?  There’s a few more I’m going to share on the site – an easy crustless zuchini quiche, a crock pot recipe for tacos, and I still need to try out a recipe for sweet potato black bean roll ups before I share that, but they were delicious.  Be excited.

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  • Well if you need any help you can always email me! I have a million ideas at any given time. You should try fried rice and parchment baked foods, they are both super easy, and delicious.

    http://sweetloveandginger.blogspot.com/2014/04/d4one-shrimp-fried-rice.html

    http://sweetloveandginger.blogspot.com/2014/01/easy-clean-to-fight-carb-cravings.html

    • Alright, bookmarked both of those. I’m excited. Any advice on buying shrimp? Just in the frozen section? Or fresh? Or…

      • Just start with the frozen kind. It’s usually precooked, so you just have to heat it up. Besides peeling and de-veining the shrimp is always such a pain. I pretty much keep the frozen stuff in the fridge at all times.

  • I am collecting all kinds of recipes for you, but we tried this one last night and it was great! Super easy, 25 minutes to make, and plenty of leftovers. You could leave the chicken out (since you don’t like it) and add whatever you’d like. We added baby spinach for some green. 🙂

    http://www.number-2-pencil.com/2013/06/06/one-pan-chicken-alfredo/

    • Oh this looks delicious. Definitely pinning this. Thank you!

  • Sounds like you are off to a good start. I can cook pretty well. For me baking is more challenging. I feel like with cooking I can put whatever in a pan and eyeball it and taste it to see what is missing or if it is done. Baking feels like a chemistry experiment with measuring and getting the time and temperature right. It does not help that my oven is not accurate. I still manage to do ok baking though from time t time. It is more stressful though. 🙂

    • Haha, I think that’s why I like baking more, because I am much more of a logical follow the directions kind of person. Having the liberty to do whatever I want stresses me out.