1. Read the WHOLE recipe twice. This might seem like overkill to some, but I assure you it’s the safest way to go. You might pick up on things you didn’t see the first time. It’s like that saying from construction: “Measure twice, cut once.” Except in this case we’re most likely measuring a whole bunch of butter and cutting it into a whole mess of flour. No hardhats required. Still, it’s a good rule.

2. Make a checklist of all your ingredients. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started a recipe and then had to run to the store halfway through. Make a checklist, go into your pantry and your fridge to double check you have everything and cross off items as you have them. This step is very satisfying to me — I really like crossing things off lists. This also prevents that weird batch of chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips in them.

3. Note the time the recipe is going to take. Do you have time to make what you want to make? More often than not, your recipe is going to be straight with you and tell you exactly how long you’re going to need to complete it.This might be broken into “prep time,” “cooking time” and “inactive time.” As someone who once tried to make an icebox cake with 16 hours of “inactive time” for a party I was supposed to attend in 30 minutes, I can’t stress this point enough.

4. Respect the order of things. It might seem obnoxious that you have to separate your wet and your dry ingredients before mixing everything together.Ugh…I have to whip those egg whites before folding them in? It can all seem like a bunch of pomp and circumstance. However, I assure you that the person who created this recipe has created these steps to aid in your success. Follow along for the best results.

5. Get familiar before getting fancy. You might be a substitution queen like me, and love to sub in things like coconut oil for butter or applesauce for oil. I always suggest making the recipe as it is written first to get familiar with it. Once you see how it cooks up, you will have a better idea of what you can swap out. Also, I always like to point out that substitutions are risky, so sub in at your own risk. Only go off book when you have the time for the recipe to potentially flop.

From The Kitchn. I thought these were truly great tips for scanning through a recipe to prepare to cook. I like to keep my Out of Milk app open with me in the kitchen when I go through the ingredients list and cross-reference it with an actual ingredient so that I can add whatever I’m missing as I go. Then, all I have to take with me to the store is my phone! I am also now a substitution Queen, but when I first started cooking, I definitely always made recipes as-is first and then experimented after!

What about you? Do you follow any of these tips? Do you have tips of your own?

Knife Skills

Do you have all the sharp tools but don’t really know how to use ’em?  Have you been cooking for a long time, but still end up cutting yourself when you’re chopping (Me? Never!)? I came across this short video from Jamie Oliver last night that explains a couple proper ways to slice and dice. I’m a fan of the hand method when mincing. I figured that this video, along with the onion video that I referenced to here, would get every cook well on their way to being confident with sharp objects in the kitchen!

In a cooking rut?  Need inspiration to start cooking?  Not sure how to actually implement home cooking on a day-to-day basis?

Even the most well-intentioned of us hit a cooking wall every once in a while.  I know I do.  Lately, I’ve been eating out more because I’ve had a harder than usual time committing to cooking all the time.  After all, it takes time and planning and…time.  So, when TheKitchn, a blog I read on a daily basis, advertised a Cooking Cure program, I decided to sign up and share my experiences and adventures here with you all!  From their website:

This 4-week Cooking Cure is designed to get you cooking at home every day, starting with 5-minute baby steps and culminating in a week of 21 home-cooked meals. There will be plenty of flexibility for you to set your own goals and figure out what your breakfast, lunch, and dinner should be. Think of it as a guided Choose Your Own Adventure in cooking every day, your way, your style. We’ll provide 20 assignments, designed to break you out of your cooking rut and guide you into new meals and happier cooking every day.

Interested?  Sign up here and share your experiences with me!  Per this week’s “homework,” here is what I ate for breakfast this week:

Monday & Tuesday: Green smoothie consisting of pear, banana, fresh ginger, Greek yogurt, and romaine lettuce
Wednesday: Same as above but with 2 cups of spinach instead of romaine
Thursday: Vegan overnight oats  with chia seeds, rolled oats, banana, coconut milk, vanilla extract and topped with natural peanut butter and a few chocolate chips (this was delicious!)
Friday: homemade energy bar and a smoothie made with banana, uncooked rolled oats, cinnamon, vanilla, and coconut milk

Are you gonna do the Cure?  What did you have for breakfast this week?

Confession: I can never pick a good avocado. As much as I like making guacamole, I am often deterred because, no matter how much time I spent manhandling them at the grocery store, I tend to end up with the brown streaky mess. (For some inexplicable reason, Mr. Little Fish has no such problems. I told him once that I was gonna force him to go to the store with me so we can pick good avocados, but he was less than thrilled.) If by some chance I end up getting a decent avocado and making some guacamole, it’s always disappointing when it starts to turn brown.  So when I stumbled across these avocado-saving tips, I thought they were worth sharing!

How to pick a perfect avocado
How to keep a cut avocado from going brown
How to keep your guacamole from turning brown

What do you think? Have you tried any of these or have any you rely on?

Roasted Veggies

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“What’s for dinner?” seems like an innocuous-enough question. In reality, though, the conversation is rarely so simple.

Mr. Little Fish: “What’s for dinner?”
Me: “I don’t know. What do you feel like eating?”
Mr. LF: “How about that __?”
Me: “Or what about __?”
*Debate about the pros and cons of each protein, usually ending with my choice because I care more about variety*
Me: “Ok, so ……but what do we eat *with* that?”

And so begins the somehow-harder conversation about sides. I’m a huge fan of one-pot meals and soups and stews because it means that you don’t have to think about sides. It all goes in one thing. But sometimes you get all souped out and you want a pretty standard protein+veggie+fat plate.

Roasted sweet potatoes--always good to have on hand!

Roasted sweet potatoes–always good to have on hand!

That is where roasted veggies save the day. Trust me, you throw any veggie in some olive oil, sprinkle some salt, and stick it in a hot oven for a little while, and the resulting caramelized goodness that comes out will make a veggie-lover out of anyone. I’ve roasted everything from broccoli to cauliflower to green beans to asparagus to tomatoes, and each and every time I proclaim that I need to roast more veggies. Hell, I could even eat roasted garlic just like that (but I won’t).

The key to good roasted veggies is making sure they are as dry as possible.  That’s because any water on the veggies will steam in the high heat, which, in turn, steams the veggies rather than roasting.  As with roasting a chicken, you’re looking for dry heat here, so make sure to pat down your veggies as much as possible before putting them in.

The recipe below is for roasted broccoli, but you could easily adapt whatever you have on hand (like those green beans at the top or the sweet potatoes).  I like to put a few sweet potatoes, which take about 45 minutes to an hour to cook through, in while I’m roasting another veggie so that I have them for future meals, or just to eat by themselves (sweet potato+coconut butter almost feels like dessert!).  This particular batch of broccoli was meant to go on the side of an Asian-flavored dish, so I drizzled a tiny bit toasted sesame oil on it after I took it out of the oven, giving it a, well, toasted sesame flavor.  However, other flavor variants include squeezing some lemon juice over the top or sprinkling it with grated parmesan cheese!  You can do so many things with this!

Roasted Broccoli
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 head broccoli, washed and then dried as much as possible
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Directions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit.  Cut the broccoli into smaller florets, all about the same size.  I actually really enjoy the stem when it’s roasted, so I trim some of the ugly parts, but cut the rest of it into similar sized chunks.
2.  Put the cut florets into a bowl, add the garlic, and the olive oil and mix well so that the broccoli is evenly coated.
3.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the broccoli evenly across the pan, making sure that it isn’t too crowded (or this again encourages steaming!).  I try to make sure each little piece has its little space.  If the pan looks crowded, get another one and evenly distribute the broccoli between the two.  Sprinkle some kosher salt and ground pepper to taste.
4.  Put the broccoli in the oven for 10 minutes.  At the 10 minute mark, take the broccoli out and stir it around a bit.  You should see some browning on the undersides of the broccoli that were touching the pan.  Put the broccoli back in for about 10 minutes.
5.  Take broccoli out of the oven, and drizzle the sesame oil over it.  Serve immediately!

What’s your favorite roasted veggie?

 

Roasted Broccoli
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 head broccoli, washed and then dried as much as possible
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit.  Cut the broccoli into smaller florets, all about the same size.  I actually really enjoy the stem when it's roasted, so I trim some of the ugly parts, but cut the rest of it into similar sized chunks.
  2. Put the cut florets into a bowl, add the garlic, and the olive oil and mix well so that the broccoli is evenly coated.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the broccoli evenly across the pan, making sure that it isn't too crowded (or this again encourages steaming!).  I try to make sure each little piece has its little space.  If the pan looks crowded, get another one and evenly distribute the broccoli between the two.  Sprinkle some kosher salt and ground pepper to taste.
  4. Put the broccoli in the oven for 10 minutes.  At the 10 minute mark, take the broccoli out and stir it around a bit.  You should see some browning on the undersides of the broccoli that were touching the pan.  Put the broccoli back in for about 10 minutes.
  5. Take broccoli out of the oven, and drizzle the sesame oil over it.  Serve immediately!
Notes
Remember to pat your veggies as dry as possible before you put them in the oven. Also, this recipe works for most other veggies!