Why learn to cook (or get better at it)?

So you don’t know how to cook (well). That’s fine. I didn’t either once and don’t consider myself anything more than a guy who can follow recipes and get them right more than wrong. Earlier on the Twitters, I asked what holds people back. Most of the answers didn’t surprise me and I hope to address them all in future posts but, in this one, I’d like to put out some of my reasons people should cook.  Sure, I could read a bunch of articles and give you backing and data and science for cooking for yourself but that’s not what we’re about here.  This is solid opinion and why I think this site is a great idea; disagree at your leisure.

1. Cooking is easy.

Everyone, say that aloud: Cooking. Is. Easy.  Skill at cooking is something that comes with practice. The basic art of cooking is dirt simple. Here’s a list of the skills needed to follow most recipes (off the top of my head): chop, peel, pour, measure, mix/stir and (most importantly) read.  That’s pretty much it. Sure, specialized directions like crush or mince or whisk come into play but, generally, you can get around those and make approximately the same thing. And as long as it tastes the same, it won’t matter if you can jullienne your carrots (they have devices for that anyway). There’s no need to fear any recipe; just go for it. Mistakes are made and can often yield knowledge or a better recipe.

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Chia Seeds: Not Scary

I’m trying to eat healthier these days. 

I’ve looked into a lot of weird diets – paleo, keto, blahblah, eat less carbs, stop eating bread. In all my reading, I’ve come across some awesome recipes, some less than awesome recipes (avocados in breakfast shakes? HUGE no. Dat grease though. ugh) and a few new foods that I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise. In combination with exercise, I definitely FEEL better than I did a year ago, which is pretty important.

Regarding the new foods front. Maybe you, too, are trying to get healthier but you, like me, have the terrible affliction: a monster sweet tooth. My sweet tooth, particularly my affinity for chocolate, could probably fell a lesser human. It’s not good.

Enter the Chia seed.

These little bitty seedies look like this. You buy them in a bag at Whole Foods that looks like this. (You can probably buy them elsewhere, but Whole Foods is convenient for me, so…) They’re a bit on the pricey side – usually like $8 a bag or so – but that bag will last you for weeks, so it’s worth it. 

You can do stuff like toss them in smoothies or bake them into bread – they have a TON of fiber and healthy fat and don’t taste like much, but I feel like that doesn’t quite use them to their full potential. The cool thing about chia seeds is that they can absorb 12 TIMES THEIR WEIGHT IN LIQUID. They turn from these little black pellets into a cool gelly substance that’s reminiscent of pudding.

Hmmm….pudding?? We can work with this.

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Making the Best of What’s On Hand and Getting Creative

Hey all! I figured I would post one of my longest held tenets of cooking that has served me well and will help you save time, money and use your innate creativity: using what you have on hand and being inventive.

Here’s a perfect example of what I mean. At my house, the kitchen is all torn apart because of renovations. Shopping isn’t really getting done and there is very little on hand other than pantry staples and a few fridge things. One night, having eaten wieners and beans for about a week, I couldn’t take it anymore. So I went on a journey through my pantry and fridge.

Going through spices, tins of various meats and old pumpkin pie mix, I hit a few key things: microwaveable rice (Uncle Ben’s Bistro Express Basmati to be specific), oil and curry powder. That gave me the idea to make a very rough estimate of fried rice a la me. I went through the fridge, found some celery and bacon, and knew I was in business. I microwaved the rice and sauteed the celery in oil with a bit of curry powder until the celery was a warm but still crunchy. I took the celery out of the pan, added the bacon (which I had cut up) and fried it up until it was slightly crisp. I added the celery back, added the rice and kept frying it up.

Trying to think back to how I’ve seen fried rice made around Japanese teppanyaki tables, I made a hole in the rice and fried up an egg, blending it into the mixture once cooked. I added soy sauce and a bit of sriracha. Plated. Ate it. And it was good. So so so good.

It took me no more than 10 minutes, cost me about $2 and had enough for lunch the next day.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and it is a key part of being comfortable while cooking. You can mix together any few things you may have and probably turn it into something great! Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’ve only got a few things, think of flavours you like and things you may have seen before and try it out.

Things won’t always turn out, but that’s all part of the learning process of cooking. Start off with flavours you know, ingredients you trust and it is incredibly hard to not end up with a tasty product at the end. The important thing is to keep a few staples around that you are comfortable with, so you will always have something in your back pocket to whip up.

Also, as your comfort grows, you can begin to save a lot more money by purchasing discounted fruit, vegetables and meats that need to be used ASAP. Often, discounted food is only one or two days older than the “new” items out on the shelves for sale. So check out the reduced rack at your local supermarket and see if anything inspires you!

Don’t ever be afraid to put a few things in a pot and get creative. Most of the time, it’ll be delicious.

Happy eating!

- Andrew

Spinach Pesto! A healthy remix.

This is a delicious and healthy remix on traditional pesto. Spinach is one of the world’s healthiest foods because of its high concentration of nutrients for the calories it contains. Vegetarians and vegans in particular benefit from the high iron content in spinach.


This recipe yields a large amount of spinach pesto. I like to cook a big batch of brown rice pasta and freeze it. Feel free to modify the amounts as you see fit.

INGREDIENTS:

1  Bag of cut spinach (washed and ready to eat) OR 2-4 fresh bunches of spinach

¼ Cup Chopped Walnuts

¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1-2 Cloves of fresh garlic (depending on what plans you have for later)

1/3 Cup fresh basil

The best way to prepare this recipe is in a food processor, but a blender will do just fine. Combine all of the ingredients and blend together. I find if you are using a blender, it’s easiest to make this slowly by blending together small amounts of spinach and olive oil and then adding the other components. Blend together until a smooth consistency is reached. Once blended, it can be mixed with pasta and does not need to be heated. Excess pesto can be frozen and defrosted to use in the future. If you are adding this to pasta, I always like to freestyle and chop up whatever veggies I have available to add (e.g. diced red peppers, celery, carrots, greens like kale or swiss chard) to up the healthy factor.

A NOTE ON SPINACH – While eating organic CAN be expensive I do want to note that spinach is among the Dirty Dozen due to its high contamination of pesticides. If possible, try to purchase organic spinach from a local produce store or farmer’s market in season. To learn more about the Dirty Dozen please visit this link http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/what-are-the-dirty-dozen-and-the-clean-fifteen/

What to Cook When You Don’t Know What to Cook: Colcannon

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Colcannon is wonderful. It’s cheap, it’s filling, it’s quick, and best of all everything in it keeps well so you can just have the stuff on hand.

 

Here’s what you need:

- 3 large mashing potatoes (most grocery stores have potatoes sorted into “mashing”, “boiling”, and “roasting”. Any potato will work, really, but mashers are best for this)

- 1/2 an onion, sliced pretty thin

- 1/4 to 1/3 of a green cabbage, sliced into ~1/2″ strips (1-2 cm)

- 1/2 cup milk, cream, or milk substitute (almond milk or cashew cream are my recommendations)

- butter or oil

- salt

- pepper

- a big pot

- a pan

- a wooden spoon

- a potato masher

 

Here’s what you do:

Cut up your potatoes into cubes, like 6-8 chunks per potato, put them in a big pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, then add ~1 teaspoon of salt. Put them on medium-high heat (7-8 usually) until they boil.

This is a good time to slice your onion and cabbage, if you didn’t do it beforehand. Put a pan on medium-high and melt a tablespoon of butter or oil in it, then add your onions and cabbage, and put a whole bunch of pepper on them. Move them around with a wooden spoon until everything is floppy and a little brown, then turn the burner off and move the pan.

Check your potatoes. They’re done when you stick a fork in one and it breaks apart super easily. Once they’re done, drain the water from the pot, add the dairy/substitute (and a couple tablespoons of butter if you’re not vegan), then mash. Once mashed, add your onions and cabbage and mix with the wooden spoon.

It is food, eat it.

 

Here are other things you can do:

- add chopped bacon, sausage, ground beef, or leftover meat to the onion and cabbage business

- swap the cabbage for kale

- leave out the onion, and instead boil sliced leeks with the potatoes

 

I eat this on the reg, largely because it’s easy and tasty. I always have potatoes, onions, almond milk, and butter around, so I just have to pop down to the store to grab a cabbage to make it. Then I’ll usually make coleslaw with the rest of the cabbage.

Happy cooking.

♡ Kit