If you’re thinking about New Year's resolutions, why not resolve to cook more often? Preparing your own meals is a great way to take charge of what you are eating and reduce your dependence on processed and packaged foods.
Start small, with one home-cooked meal a week.
If you are just learning to cook, adding one home cooked meal at a time to your repertoire each week will allow you to add skills gradually, and soon you’ll have a set of meals you can reliably shop for and prepare effortlessly. If you are already an accomplished cook, stretch a bit further and look for new skills and cuisines.
Leftovers are time savers.
If you cook generous portions, you’ll have leftovers for lunch or dinner another night which is a gift of time to your future self.
No recipes needed, only a baking sheet.
One easy idea for quick dinners is the popular “no recipe needed” sheet-pan meal. You simply chop a set of vegetables, toss with oil and seasoning and bake with a protein such as chicken, fish or tofu on top. For example: quarter 2 sweet potatoes and 2 yellow onions. Add a bag of cauliflower florets (or ½ cauliflower broken up) Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, cumin and garlic powder. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, season 6 chicken thighs or 6 5 oz salmon filets with the same seasoning. When the 15 minutes is up, add the protein and cook for another 10- 15 minutes until the protein is cooked through.
Fancy and easy meals are *chef's kiss*.
Another great idea is a simply prepared seared fish filet with a one pot side dish, like the Crispy Skinned Salmon with Lemon Risotto in this Fēst class. The techniques in this class are good foundations- once you learn the method for risotto, you can change the flavors with the season, and substitute other fish or meats as well.
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Don’t forget to create a plan- a meal without a plan is just a wish! Spend a few minutes each week deciding what you’d like to cook and when. There are helpful apps that can help you collect recipe ideas and create lists, such as Plan To Eat and Yummly. Plan in a few meals out if that’s your habit, and at least one “catch up” day for leftovers. Make a grocery list, but be flexible when you get to the store, especially when it comes to produce. Use produce in season for the best flavor and value.
Ditch your cookbooks.
Do yourself a favor, and don’t become a slave to recipes. Read recipes from reliable sources (Ina Garten for basics, seriouseats.com for more complex ideas), and then use them as a stepping stone to your own creations. Take online cooking and baking classes frequently. Cooking is a lifelong skill that improves with practice. Resolve to cook more, and you’ll be creating a future with better, healthier food for yourself and your family! Here are my highly recommended online classes to get you started: