After a year of trying new recipes, exploring our cookbooks and blogging about it, we have had many new discoveries and learned a lot about cooking. We wanted to take the break around the holidays to explore some new things and share some of what we have learned.
Mis en place (prep work): this is the most important thing we’ve learned. We have said it before, and will again, but it makes all the difference in the world. When you prep everything, the actual cooking goes so much faster and easier, and is much less stressful. Chop all your meat and vegetables, measure out your oil, broth, flour, sugar, spices, etc… Then group the items together that are added at the same time. Then you go right down the line when you begin cooking. It takes so much of the pressure off. Also it gives you a chance to get everything put away before you start cooking, so there is less chance for cross-contamination, and less to clean up (big bonus).
Read twice, cook once: Always read a recipe at least twice before you attempt to cook it. You want to be familiar with the basic idea and flow of the recipe so you can plan your prep work, and don’t miss any ingredients or steps. Also, this lets you check for typos in the recipe (there is a HUGE difference between 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp of Salt!!!) and adjust accordingly.
Annotate your recipes: Don’t be afraid to write in your cookbooks. If you make a tweak in the Joy of Cooking, or clarify Aunt Linda’s recipe, don’t be afraid to make notes so you can repeat your successes. There is nothing worse than making something really well, and then not being able to reproduce it.
Fresh ingredients matter (sometimes): Don’t ever let the lack of an ingredient scare you off from trying a recipe. There is nothing wrong with substituting garlic powder for fresh minced garlic, etc. Having said that, one of the best thing about this blog is that it has pushed us to use more fresh ingredients, and quit cooking with cans and boxes. Fresh lemon, garlic, and ginger are so wonderful. They make dishes really pop without adding a lot of extra expense or trouble. A lot of times we have been intimidated by things but good cookbooks and online videos, etc. can guide you through tackling new things.
We think that one of the best lessons we have learned in this year of trying new recipes, is not to be afraid to try something. We didn’t like everything we cooked, but that is part of cooking and learning what kinds of things that we do and don’t like. Katie has found that she likes things she always thought she hated, and has decided never to shy away from trying new things just because of preconceived notions. There are many different preparations of the same food, so it is worth it to try things in a new manner to see if they taste different than you remember. Overall we have had a great year and want to continue our trend of cooking and eating new and better food! Thank you for taking this journey with us and we hope you will continue to be inspired, be amused, or be encouraged by our blog.