Making Cooking An Enjoyable Experience

As a self-taught chef, it took me years to build confidence in the kitchen and to view cooking as something other than stressful.  I had to do a lot of experimenting, read cookbooks, watched Youtube videos, and learned from friends, but with time I found ways to make cooking a pleasurable experience.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but I’ve mastered various cooking techniques and cleaning methods, and finally figured out a way to successfully cut a goddamn onion without crying. Huzzah!

Kitchen preparation is equally as important as the cooking process.  When you eat, you absorb not only the nutrients but also the energy of the food. Macrobiotics, a dietary philosophy centered around health status, location, age, gender, etc., follows the premise that every action on the food affects the quality and nutritional value of the meal.  Every single slice or chop, the speed of the stirring, the quality of the food, the mood the cook is in, as well as the cleanliness and order of the kitchen, is consumed with the food.  Ever heard the expression “Cook with love?”  Aim for that.  Cook with love, and you’ll taste the love.

Keep a Clean Workspace

I want you to imagine two different scenarios.  In the first one, you walk into your kitchen about to cook and everything is a mess.  Crumbs and wrappers litter your counter and dirty dishes pile high in the sink.  In the second scenario, you walk into your clean, clutter-free kitchen about to prepare a meal.  In which situation do you imagine you’d be more excited or inclined to cook?

More than likely, you chose scenario two. Having a tidy workspace always makes the task at hand more inviting.  According to the Japanese, both cleaning and cooking should be a meditation.  Messy spaces can affect your happiness and heighten stress levels, while clean ones have the opposite impact.  I’ve found that I am so much more in the mood to cook when I have the space to work.  Of course, for some, cleaning can be a drag to do after a meal, so this brings me to my next tip.

                                    Clean As You Go

Julia Child says, “In professional kitchens most chefs enforce the ‘clean as you go’ rule, which prevents unsightly messes from building to unmanageable levels and removes clutter, which can distract even the most efficient cooks as they chop, grill, and plate through the evening.” (source: PBS.org)

Cleaning as you go may sound like a lot of effort, but it’s not. I swear, adopting this kitchen habit has totally improved the entire cooking experience.  Not only does it keep counters clutter-free throughout food prep, but there’s much less mess to clean up after the meal is over. For each meal I cook, I now put a paper garbage bag, compost bag or bowl on the counter as my designated scraps bin (I highly recommend composting to reduce your carbon footprint).  I work on a cutting board and prep each item one at a time, pouring scraps into the compost bag as I go. Each prepped food goes into a bowl to keep things separate.  It takes hardly any effort at all. Look how tidy everything looks in this photo below:

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Have Fun With It

If you aren’t having fun yet, then pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some music, and get your family or friends to help out.  If I find a recipe online, I like to print it out and read through all the directions before I start so that I know exactly what to expect.  I’ve neglected to read through the whole recipe only to find that I wasn’t prepared for some of the later steps.  This would completely halt the cooking process or throw the timing off. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices and seasoning and always choose fresh, quality products.  The fresher and more seasonal your ingredients, the more delicious and nutritious your food will be.

Good luck and happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Stay warm this Fall with my new favorite soup!

butternut-squash

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

-1 butternut squash

-1 yellow onion, chopped

-1 small Granny Smith apple, chopped

-1 small Gala apple, chopped

-5 thyme sprigs

-2 tablespoons butter, melted

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

-1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

-salt and pepper

-4 cups chicken broth

Instructions:

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  

2.  Place squash in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes so that it’s softened and easier/safer to cut.  Remove both ends of the squash, then cut in half lengthwise.  Peel the tough, outer skin and remove the “guts” from the inside of the squash.  Continue to cut the squash into smaller, bite-size pieces.

3.  Place the squash in a bowl with the melted butter and thyme leaves, then generously salt and pepper.  Place on the lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  The squash should be tender enough to pierce with a fork at the end of cooking.

4.  When the squash has cooked for 20 minutes, heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and optional sugar (generally I wouldn’t recommend sugar, but since this is a lot of soup, it’s hardly any sugar per serving).  Add the apples, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. 

5.  In batches, add the cooked squash and onion/apple mixture to the blender along with a cup of chicken broth with each batch.  Blend until smooth.  Continue to add the squash, onions, apples and broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with thyme.  Enjoy!

Mmm, Easy Applesauce!

Applesauce

Last night I made the best applesauce and it only involved four ingredients and a slow cooker!  Ya’ll need to try this recipe this Fall.

Ingredients:

-6 Apples(I chose organic Fuji apples)

-3/4 tsp cinnamon

-1/2 cup sugar

-1/3 cup water

1. Cut apples into bite size pieces.

2. Toss all ingredients in slow cooker/crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours.  When it’s done you made need to mash the apples a bit.

Applesauce1

Enjoy!