Some days it seems like I’ve pretty much got this cooking thing down. Things run like clock work and a dish totally comes together and maybe even the whole family eats it without sniffing it suspiciously and announcing, “I don’t like [insert perfectly innocuous food item here]”.
But the truth is most of the time I’m just making it up as I go along – trial and error and a lot of googling things like “how do you bake a potato?” or “why do people sift flour?” Basically just totally winging it, for better or worse. Either way – everyone gets fed.
But over the course of my 31 years on this planet and my almost eight years of motherhood (i.e. being placed in charge of the basic human needs of another) I’ve managed to learn a thing or two about cooking and how not to go crazy doing it. I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop to share with you…
Seven things I’ve learned about cooking – the hard way.
- When you are baking something – like anything with flour, baking soda, etc. – use a food scale instead of measuring cups if you really want it to come out consistently good. When trying my hand at pizza dough, homemade bread, even pancakes from scratch – I often wondered, “How can this recipe come out so differently each time?” And the simple truth is that measuring by weight is much more accurate than scooping with a measuring cup and in baking – the ingredients are not very forgiving. Bonus points: Less dishes to clean afterwards!
- The solution to chopping onions without sobbing uncontrollably – is frozen, chopped onions which you can find in pretty much any grocery store. Yes, yes – sometimes prepackaged cheats are lacking in quality or super unhealthy or way too expensive, et cetera… But in this one instance – god send. Pure and simple. Plus your odds of cutting your fingers off decreases exponentially. But what to make? Try this amazing vegetarian French Onion Soup sometime. It’s shockingly simple (and frugal!) to pull together and so delicious. My husband loves this one.
- Make a menu plan each week, month, couple of days, etc. Find a time frame that works for you and stick with it (as long as it continues to work for you). Having to figure out “What’s for dinner,” every night for several years weighs on a person. And then you think of something great but don’t have the three ingredients needed to pull it together. Make a plan of attack before you hit the grocery store and you’ll save time, money and stress. Side note: Sometimes the monotony of a meal plan eats at my soul and I take little hiatuses where I just sort of cook what sounds good, minute by minute and make it work until I am ready to run kicking and screaming back to my plan.
Use a timer. Even when you are like, “I’m just gonna stand here and watch it,” use a timer anyway. If you are like me – you are very easily distracted and have very distracting tiny mammals vying for your attention or like a really good book or something. Use a timer, save the english muffin.
- Mise en place is not just a fun french saying. It’s your saving grace. Before you start cooking anything, make sure you actually have everything you need – if you have the time, go ahead and premeasure everything, dice and chop and get yourself organized and then enjoy feeling like a totally bad assed chef as you whip together the family meal in no time.
- Find a method to save all your favorite recipes in a way that makes sense to you. I have tried a few methods and failed a few methods and at the moment I’m calling pinterest my recipe box, but whatever method you use, it’s better than having no method and finding yourself saying, “Where the heck is that recipe???” every damn night. When you make a meal you love – save the recipe somewhere that you’ll be able to find quickly next time.
- Keep an assortment of easy cheats on hand for the nights where you accidentally dump the whole casserole on the floor or you have the flu and apparently your four year old doesn’t know how to cook. This can be frozen meals you’ve made ahead of time or cans of spaghettio’s – no judging. And on those hard days, remember that PB&J or ramen noodles or an emergency trip to Dairy Queen is not the end of your parenting world. You can be Super Mom tomorrow.