My best friend is a chef. Chef Jenn went to culinary school. Chef Jenn knows all the technical terms for stuff (and she’s a hottie).
I didn’t go to culinary school.
Inside of a minute, you could convince me “schmegma” was the word for a French braising technique as long as you sounded reasonably confident.
But I have to be honest, I did make the BOMBEST Indian food the other night.
It makes for amazing lunch leftovers, too, because everyone knows Indian food is always better the next day.
I’m still not an Iron Chef, but I’ve come a long way since my college days of eating tuna and peas straight from the can. I can now throw together some deliciousness with whatever is in our fridge.
And I’ve discovered a few secrets I want to share.
You can be healthier even if you don’t know how to or love to cook (I promise!).
Here are 5 ways to demystify the kitchen:
Buy a rice cooker.
It is essential if you are just beginning to cook grains, because it impossibly simple to use. Using a 2 to 1 ratio of water to grain, it makes anything without you having to bat an eye. Add water, the grain, some spices or flavorings, and voila!
One way to make your 5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily is by roasting a bunch in bulk, and tossing them in whatever you are eating. Roasted veggies are good with anything- in grain bowls, as a side, mixed into salads- and almost any vegetable is fair game.
Cook with foods that are simple and healthy.
Canned beans, whole grain pasta, whole grains (yay rice cooker!) such as farro, millet, quinoa, and amarnth, nuts (I love a good spiced pecan), fresh veggies, and fruits. Take this Lemony Quinoa recipe, for example. If you cook the quinoa in a rice cooker, all you have left to do is rinse the canned beans and chop the veggies. You don’t need a lot of cooking skills for that! Or try this raw salad. Salads are a great way to reach your nutrient needs, trim your waistline, and avoid having to really dirty any pots.
Eat fresh more often.
Some of the healthiest snacks are completely raw. Even if you get hives every time you turn the oven on, you can still eat healthy if you choose to snack well. Fruit and trail mix, hummus and veggies, almond or peanut butter and rye crackers, or a smoothie with frozen cherries and chia seeds- all raw. Check out a few other raw snack ideas and try some energy balls as a way to get added nutrition without too much fuss.
Face your fears and pick one new recipe each week.
Last night’s was the first time I tried to make saag. I was afraid of it before! Something about blanching spinach intimidated me. But it was so easy, guys! Like soooo. What had I been thinking? The recipe I made was inspired by Vegan Goodness, a cookbook I got from the library.
I say “inspired” because, the more I’ve cooked over the years, the more I can tailor recipes to my taste and available spices/foods. For example, I used kale and spinach instead of just spinach, I added sweet potato, I mixed up the spices because I was missing a couple and had a couple others, and it turned out fabulous. Because practice makes perfect. And I learned a new technique- blanching greens. Every recipe will teach you something!
I wish I could share the exact recipe I used, but I didn’t measure the spices! I was cooking while trying to feed the baby, and it was a bit chaotic. Here is a very similar saag recipe to give a whirl if you can’t get your hands on Vegan Goodness.
I hope this has helped you feel more ready to tackle the kitchen even without culinary wizardry on your side. We all have to start somewhere!
I still have some recipes in my Yotam Ottolenghi cookbooks that I’m terrified of attempting, but soon! I promise.