We’ve all been there – standing in the kitchen, staring at the fridge, and wondering what the heck to cook for our next meal. It can be frustrating coming up blank, and realizing you don’t know what to put together in your fridge to make a meal that feeds your belly and soul! Well, fret no more!
I’m sharing some of my tips to help make cooking easier – so that you can develop your own style of cooking and even be excited to pull out the pots and pans!
Use a cookbook
For people who have trouble coming up with what to cook, are bored with their normal recipes, or even don’t know what flavors to put together to make something that is deliciously harmonious – having a recipe on hand can help you to understand what flavors pair well together and give you ideas so you don’t get in the same cooking rut.
I would definitely say that you should have a few ACTUAL books on hand. I am an avid Pinterest fan too, but sometimes it’s overwhelming to search through the recipes and find one that I might actually want just to realize that I just spent 45 minutes of my time and I am too hungry to spend another hour and a half on making the recipe!
Recipe books that I recommend are books for “everyday” cooking. Usually, they will put that in the title, like my go-to book “Vegan Richa’s Everyday Kitchen” Some of my favorite sauces have come from this book! Everyday cookbooks like this usually have recipes that are attainable, easy recipes for everyday life, not just special occasions.
Make sure that the book has an index. It is so much easier for you to say, “Well, I have chickpeas in my kitchen, what recipes can I make with this tonight?” And be able to flip right to the index of your cookbook to find recipes that relate to the ingredients you have, instead of trying to flip through every page and looking at the ingredient list.
Don’t feel like you have to stick to the recipe
My next tip – don’t feel like you have to stick to the recipe! I know that sounds completely controversial to what I just told you, but hear me out! I think you should use the recipe as an outline. Guess what? You don’t have to have all of the ingredients listed! Nobody is standing over your shoulder watching you make the recipe word for word. Feel free to mix it up. For instance, if you see a recipe and you’re missing a few of the items, it’s not a reason to throw it out and keep looking. Try to think, “What else you can substitute for those ingredients that would have the same effect?”
Recipe asking for sour cream? Maybe you can use coconut milk. Calling for flour? Maybe you have arrowroot on hand and can use that. Making a recipe that only calls for zucchini? (Like the one I’m making in the video above!) Feel free to add carrots, potatoes, carrots, onions – whatever veggies you’ve got in the kitchen and think might pair well.
Switching up the recipe will help you to figure out what works, and what might not. This will also help you to develop your own flavors and cooking style as well. This isn’t about robotically following instructions and not actually learning! After a while, you may not even need a cookbook!
Get all of your ingredients prepped first
To make things easier for you as you’re going from pot to skillet to blender, make sure you have all of your ingredients prepped (chopped, mixed, etc.) beforehand. Read ahead on the recipe and see what all they want you to do so that you are prepared. This leaves a little more room for dancing around the kitchen and enjoying that glass of wine (you deserve it!) because you can just pop the ingredients in and stir. It also helps to make sure that you don’t burn anything, as you’re focus will be on what’s cooking and not what’s still on the chopping board.
I put onion and garlic in almost every meal I make since they are a good base for flavor. Here’s the quickest, easiest way to chop an onion! I promise it will improve your time in the kitchen!
And if you’re able to, use fresh ingredients! It completely changes the flavors in the meal.
Have the right tools
Having the right tools in the kitchen is probably more important than you think! I used to cook without the proper kitchen tools thinking I was getting the job done, but I was absolutely missing out. Creating good food isn’t just about flavor, it is about texture too. No, you don’t need an Instapot, garlic crusher, air fryer, or whatever the newest trend is. You just need a few key items – a good blender, sharp knives, and a true non-stick pan.
Being able to sharply chop your food means that you can more accurately get the right size and shape you’re wanting, reducing time spent as well. We were shocked when we got good, sharp knives and realized that was the way a knife should be functioning!
The second is having a blender. Using a blender means that you can get the smooth and creamy textures that you need – which will make all of the difference for your sauces and soups! I use a blender at least 4 times a week, if not more.
And finally having a non-toxic, non-stick pan will make A WORLD of difference. Trust me on this. We have the Always Pan from Our Place, and I cannot speak highly enough of it. It’s an 8 in one pan, meaning you can cook anything in it. You can steam, saute, fry, boil, all of the things, and it does not stick – truly. I use it for every meal and literally, nothing sticks, which is huge when you’re wanting to cook more. We all know dishes with stuck-on food are the worst, and make us not want to cook – because we don’t want to clean!
My final tip is to be open-minded! If something comes out not that great, don’t throw it out. Challenge yourself to figure out what it’s missing or what would make the dish better. In my experience, it’s a lack of spices, a lack of texture, or a lack of variety.
If you have a really creamy coconut pasta, maybe add some toasted cashews on top for a crunch! If you went for a sandwich recipe and feel like it was just OK at first bite – check to see, did you have something crunchy? Something creamy? Did you toast the bread? Try to make little tweaks as you perfect your recipes and learn as you go along! Branch out and try new recipes, and new flavors – you never know what you’re going to like until you try!