Admit it, you’ve made some New Years’ resolutions. And I bet at least one of them has something to do with food. In my case, it’s actually cooking from the mountain of cookbooks and recipes I’ve collected over the year, making over my pantry, and to become a cleaner and greener cook. What about you?
Over the next few weeks, I am going to take you along this road of change by sharing my knowledge and and experience…no matter how embarrassing! If all goes well, by this time next year, Martha Stewart will be asking us for tips.
Week one: Cooking 101.
If you wish to experience the sweet smell of success (literally!) in the kitchen this year, start by adopting my top ten tips. They are simple, straightforward things that have made my time in the kitchen quicker, cheaper, and WAY more delicious.
- When sautéing or panfrying fresh garlic cooks very quickly, going from fragrant and flavorful to burnt and bitter in seconds. Most recipes call for adding garlic as one of the first steps but instead, make it one of the last.
- Never EVER put tomatoes in the fridge. It totally kills the taste. Forever. Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself. Buy two tomatoes, put one in the fridge overnight, and then have yourself a taste-test.
- When it comes to chicken, (almost) always buy bone-in. Not only is it way more flavorful and juicy, it is way less expensive. Bone-in chicken thighs are one of my favorite purchases; they are so delicious in chicken cacciatore and on the barbecue, and the perfect serving size for little tummies.
- Skip the cheap, processed cheese and buy the good stuff. It may cost a bit more but it is so much more flavorful that you’ll use less of it. Every 6 weeks or so, those big bricks of sharp cheddar go on sale; load up, they last for months.
- Similarly, switch from iodized table salt to sea salt. Not only does it taste way better, and does a much better job of bringing out the flavour in foods, instead of just making it taste salty. I like to have two kinds of sea salt in my pantry: fine grain for cooking and coarser grain for sprinkling on everything from bruschetta to brownies.
- Frozen is not the “F” word. At this time of the year, frozen fruits and veggies and not only cheaper and better for you, they are also better for the planet. Read labels and choose produce that was grown in Canada.
- Rethink how you use olive oil. It is happiest at room temperature (or close to it). It has a low smoking point and loses its flavour and nutrients when heated too much. Stick to using it at room temperature, such as in salad dressings, or in recipes that are heated gently, such as tomato sauce. For high-temperature frying, such as chicken fingers, use vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil. As a side note, olive oil is also a great chemical-and-petrolium-free substitute for mineral (baby) oil and to smooth frizzy flyaways.
- Find a balance between pre made and made from scratch. Chefs ranging from Jamie Oliver to the Looneyspoons sisters often use store-bought ingredients in their recipes. Unless you have tons of time on your hands, products like pie crusts, pizza shells, and chicken stock are way faster, cheaper, and taste as good (if not better) than homemade. On the other hand…
- Make your own jam, applesauce, tomato sauce, and whipped cream. It is healthier, tastes better, and will make you feel like the kitchen goddess that you are!
- Become an urban(moms) farmer and grow it yourself. No matter how small your place is or how green your thumb isn’t. Last year in my postage-stamp yard, I produced enough tomatoes, kale, lettuce, and cauliflower to last through the fall. That’s on top of the pots of herbs I grow year-round; in the summer on my tiny porch and in the winter, underneath a sunny window. Fresh herbs make dishes look great and add flavor and nutrients. Did you know that the oregano you add to pasta sauce has as much antioxidants as the tomatoes?
So that’s that, my favorite cooking tips that have helped me become the fabulous home-cook that I am today. But since there is always room for improvement (as evident by my utter failure when making homemade fish sticks), I’m always on the lookout for new tips and techniques. What cooking tricks do you swear by?