Monday, March 17, 2008

Cooking, task or love?

Well, anyone who is cooking for a family can probably tell you that it is a task most days. However, if you use a few basic tools, it can also be a love do to thing in your life.

1. Menu planning. If you take some time to plan ahead life goes a lot smoother. Menu planning is difficult for some, who wants to admit they have a set dining schedule? And, easier for others. Real Simple had this article on paid menu planning services. Well, you can pay for a variety of menus or just look around the net for ideas. Check out the sidebar of the article at Real Simple. There a variety of recipes. There are so many food bloggers out there though, that menu planning could turn into a PhD. seeking event if you're not careful.

Remember to choose items that you enjoy, or think you might enjoy cooking for meals. Don't fall into the trap of "we'll eat this because it's healthy" routine. Menu planning is like food storage, if you don't eat it now, don't store it, you won't eat it then either. Most people would rather starve to death than eat something they don't like. When menu planning, make sure the food is going to be enjoyed by most of the people at the table.

2. Cooking from scratch doesn't take any more time than using processed foods. When you have done your menu planning correctly, most meals can be pulled together in thirty minutes or less. Of course, if you're having homemade chili, or bread, or a roast, there has to be a bit of pre-preparation done. When you've done the prep work, the meal can actually be on the table in 30 minutes at the end of a long day.

I have been removing all prepped foods from our diet lately. I don't like the ingredients being used today so I have opted to cook only from fresh foods, or from scratch. No processed foods means I have to plan ahead and cannot wait until the last minute most of the time. However, if I keep a well stocked pantry, I can get somethin gon the table with little or no pre-planning when needed.

3. Have a well stocked pantry. There are basic foods that shoul dbe on hand to grab when needed. I will post a pantry list for you tomorrow. You will need to change it to suit your needs. You will find that if your pantry is kept stocked with basic items you can put together a meal in a snap. And, unexpected guests will no longer get the evil eye in your home!

Pre-planning, menu preparation and a well stocked pantry also will give you the opportunity to enlist others into the kitchen. Everyone will be willing to help out and learn about cooking when the opportunity arises.

4. Treat yourself to a few cooking classes. What better way to improve your skills? I live in the burbs. Cooking classes are at least an hour away. Ugh. However, when the closest Williams-Sonoma emails me and lets me know there are cooking demonstrations for free close by, I sign up! I know they are designed to sell me things I probably don't need, but the benefit of sitting through the class is the tips and techniques they share! If I have the will power, I may not buy anything, but then again maybe I do need that asparagus cooker!

There are also cooking classes on the web, on video and dvd! Netflix has them. YouTube has a few. And, your favorite food bloggers are always willing to share a few techniques along the way. And don't forget the food blog search on the right sidebar, it's got thousands of recipes right there!