Did you ever cook something that was a complete failure? Well, I did! And don’t deny it….you did too. We all cant be perfect all the time. I recall making these hockey puck corn muffins and realizing after I had finished cleaning up that I left out a key ingredient. Lesson learned….prepare your kitchen and follow the recipe. Winging it just doesn’t work if you are an amateur cook and you want to make something yummy.
I really enjoy cooking, but it’s not fun if you are frazzled in the kitchen. I recall some really good meals coming out of my mother’s very small kitchen. Mom’s BEST strategy was that she prepared properly. Let me share some lessons on preparation that I have learned and perfected over the many years I have been cooking. I don’t care if you have a large or small kitchen, just make sure you own some of the basic “‘stuff” that will make your life easier and make the cooking process more fun!
I suggest the following appliances:
- Food processor. If space is an issue, I have seen mini food processors that are great.
- Blender. If space is an issue, a hand held blender works great too
- Coffee maker. Your choice: pods or beans!
- Tea pot. I just love my old fashioned whistle kettle. Please do not microwave your water for tea.
- Spiralizer. You are going to save a ton of money by spiraling your own zucchini noodles.
- Toaster oven and or toaster depending on your space.
- Mixer. This is usually a big investment, but I have owned mine for 25 years and I use it for everything….baking, mixing chopped meat for meatloaf and or meatballs and mine even has attachments for spirilizing and making pasta.
As for tools and gadgets, I suggest the following
- Treat yourself to some good quality knives. You don’t need a lot just make sure to get a variety. Make sure you have knives to cut things varying from tomatoes to a loaf of bread.
- Cutting boards. I personally like the kind that are dish washable.
- Garlic press
- Apple corer
- Pizza cutter
- Ice cream scooper
- Kitchen scissors. Please do not use these scissors for anything else but food.
- Masher for potatoes and avocados…got to love guacamole!
- A good set of cookware. You don’t need a lot of pots of pans, just get a good quality set that fits your budget and offers you variety.
- Measuring devices. This includes measuring cups and spoons.
- Mixing bowls and bowls of varying sizes to organize your ingredients.
- Kitchen timer
- Digital temperature gauge
Make sure to invest in a couple of great cook books.My personal favorites are:
- How to cook everything by Mark Bittman
- The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
- Americas test kitchen cookbooks
Make sure to have your recipe handy. If using your computer, iPad or even your cell phone, keep it away from any of the mess but accessible for you to see the recipe. If you are using an actual print book or magazine, I recommend using a cook book holder.
Have you picked your recipe yet? Did you read it THOROUGHLY? Did you go shopping for ALL the ingredients in the the recipe? NOW WHAT??
Look at the ingredient list and start by placing all the items on your kitchen counter.
Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, etc. before you start cooking. Pans are prepared. Mixing bowls, tools and equipment set out. This is where you really need your measuring devices and those small bowls. After I measure the ingredient and place it in a prep bowl, I like to put it away so as not to forget that I used it. Sometimes you might have to reserve a portion of an ingredient to use it later in the recipe. READ THE RECIPE THOROUGHLY.
Follow your recipe line by line by line. Since you prepared your mise en place this is going to be a whole lot easier to accomplish. At this point in time I like to pour myself a nice glass of wine. Heck, its 5 o’clock somewhere!
With respect to cooking temperature, get to know your oven and or range. I follow the suggested temperature setting, but I do check my temperature often to make sure not to over heat. This is where I suggest you use your digital temperature gauge to check the doneness of your food.
Keep track of time. I use the timer on my cell phone. You probably have a microwave in your kitchen and this is also a good alternative. There is always the good old fashioned kitchen timer your mama used to have.
Taste your food…but don’t double dip. This is a great time to perfect any seasoning that you might need. Less is best…you can always add more salt, but you cant take it away!
When your recipe is done, sometimes you need to let things cool down. Don’t be in a rush….let this happen. I know it is so tempting to cut those hot brownies right out of the oven but trust me they cut so much nicer once they have cooled down a bit.
Presentation is key….thats a whole other blog post. But for now, set your table, make it pretty and pour yourself that second glass of wine. Voila, sit down and take the time to enjoy your lovely home cooked meal that tastes truly scrumptious!