In a recent fit of domesticity, I started cooking up a storm and realized that I’ve accumulated some pretty solid tips, theories and lessons as it relates to cooking and kitchen-dom. I’ve learned a ton through a good dose of trial-and-error in the years since I struck out on my own after college, and at the risk of sounding a little 50s housewife, I’ve also really enjoy it and love the satisfaction of making some delicious stuff. Obstacles like a limited budget, fresh ingredients that spoil quickly, and minimal storage and work space have lead to some useful insights.
Granted these would probably make professional chefs or super serious home cooks say either “duh” or “bullshit,” but here are some that I live by. In the spirit of learning from my mistakes and successes…
Foodgawker.com is a one-stop shop for cooking inspiration. When I feel like I’m stuck in a taco/pasta/pizza rut, a quick browse through this highly visual food porn site always sparks some new, tasty ideas. Crispy Curry Quinoa Cakes, anyone?
Wrap leafy vegetables in a paper towel before throwing it in the fridge. To make fresh veggies like kale, spinach and green onions last a ton longer, rip them out of the cellophane bag, wrap them in paper towels, and store them in a freezer bag. (Learned that one after throwing away money in the form of nasty, moisture-logged bags of Spring Mix.)
Recipes that require multiple obscure ingredients aren’t worth it. I’m making a tuna casserole this week that calls for celery seeds. Three stores did not have celery seeds, which was a red flag. This means it’s not common, which means the likelihood of needing celery seeds again in the next three years is slim to none. So my casserole will be celery seed-less. Avoid ingredients that you know will be hard to use up.
Chop chop! Do all cutting ahead of time. It makes the actual cooking feel exponentially easier. Since I’m no Iron Chef and can’t julienne 20 carrots a minute, chopping usually takes the most actual prep time for me. If I can manage to pre-cut veggies, I’m more likely to cook when I get home from work.
This recipe binder is cute, free and satisfies the organizational urges of Type As. Everyone has their own system; Robin’s sole source is AllRecipes.com. But this now houses all of the floating recipe print-outs that were scattered around my cupboards.
Knife steels aren’t as scary as they look and the best bet for sharp knives. After dropping $30 for an ineffective knife sharpening contraption from Bed Bath & Beyond and an unsuccessful search for a cheap, while-you-wait sharpening service in Chicago, I decided to bite the bullet and buy one of these. I watched about five different instructional YouTube videos at least four times each for a tutorial and now have the sharpest knife on Surf Street!