Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cultivating a Love for Cooking

If you're like me, you weren't born with the inclination, talent or desire to cook.

It's not something that I necessarily hated , but it just didn't float my gravy boat. True fact: my brother cooked more than me growing up. Shameful, I know.

You and me, we could have a long chat about all the ways I've been "thwarted" in the kitchen, but I'd prefer to share with you the ways I've been learning to (dare I say it) love cooking. Here are some tips to help transform any cooking experience from a drudgery to an enjoyment.

1. Plan Ahead
For me that means menu planning. I make menu planning into something I look forward to each week because I make it fun. Once a week, I'll head out to a local coffee shop to clear my head, plan for the coming week and prepare our menu. During this time, I plan meals around the staples I already have in my kitchen (i.e. beans, grains, stocks, meat, root veggies). Then I peruse favorite food blogs for inspiration with those ingredients. After I find some recipes that incorporate my ingredients, I'll make a list of the items I'm missing (i.e. fresh herbs, produce, dairy items, etc). When my energy isn't constantly going toward figuring out what to cook each day, I am free to enjoy the process of cooking.

2. Keep a well stocked pantry, spice rack, and freezer.
Always having staples on hand makes the occasional spontaneous meal a reality. There's always a meal on hand when beans and rice are around!

3. Make Things You're Excited to Eat
A simple but important point. If you're not excited to eat it, you won't be excited to make it. Enough said.

4. Cook with New Ingredients
There's nothing like getting caught in an ingredient rut to kill the joy in cooking. Instead of passing over a recipe because you've never used one of the ingredients on the list, be daring and give it a try. You might just find a new favorite!

5. Watch a Short Cooking Video
We don't have a TV, so I don't watch much, but I am a sucker for cooking shows! Just seeing someone make something gives me more courage and excitement to do it myself. If you've never made a particular dish, watching a short clip can give you the confidence you need to tackle it with gusto.

6. Take Pride in Your Work
Don't treat food as strictly practical...treat it like art and take some extra time to make it look pretty. Add a garnish, set your table, light some candles...anything that makes the food look pretty and ups the "WOW" factor. Beautiful food tastes better.

7. Put Together Your Own Cooking Journal
This is something I've been wanting to do for a while. Start bringing a camera into the kitchen and take pictures of all your meals during the different stages. Write down any changes you made to the recipe and the end results. Compile your favorites into a book. Use it as a reference for yourself or give it away as gifts!

As I've been naturally implementing some of these steps, cooking is becoming an exciting avenue of my life where I can express creativity and do something meaningful with my hands. As I gain confidence and skill in cooking, I also gain the desire and joy for it too.

How about you? Were you born loving to cook or is it something you've learned to enjoy with time?

Happy Cooking (and eating!)

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