So you’ve improved your gym habits. Now it’s time to clean up your act in the kitchen.
22 of my 23 years I’ve regarded the kitchen as no more than a fridge, a pantry, and a microwave (a way to store my food and a way to heat it). So you can imagine I’ve learned a lot the past year about what this new part of the house is all about. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, learned from *most* of them, and have come to realize there’s a few important factors that help make the cooking experience a success . Which is why I decided to create this 2nd part of my “mistakes” series…
Mistakes we’re making…in the kitchen:
1. We don’t use substitutions.
How many times have you thrown out the idea of trying a recipe simply because you didn’t have, or didn’t like, one of the ingredients? Let me reassure you there is almost always a replacement for an ingredient. It’s as simple as googling “__ substitute”, investing in a substitute book, or even just using your brain! In baking, applesauce, yogurt, and bananas are all common methods of replacing staple ingredients like butter, oil, and sugar. Spices are also often interchangeable (or completely removable) and are never worth giving up on a recipe. Once you start to cook more often, you will begin to understand what certain ingredients bring to the table and replacing them will become second-nature. If you’re stuck because you don’t like a certain ingredient, consider swapping it for something you DO like. For example, don’t like chocolate chips? Use chopped nuts, raisins, or m&ms instead. Not a mushroom fan? Swap it out for another veggie. Don’t eat meat? Omit the meat! Be creative!
2. We don’t experiment.
This can be piggy-backed onto the previous point. Throw around ingredients, adapt recipes, brainstorm new ideas…create your own masterpiece! Cookies turn out like bricks? That’s ok! Keep experimenting and trying new things. Don’t limit yourself to other people’s taste buds. We’re all different so make it fun and try combos that accommodate your specific wants and needs. People almost always order different items on a menu when you eat out, so doesn’t it make sense that we may need to adapt someone else’s recipe?
3. We don’t use spices.
Something I’ve made a goal for the next year is to use more spices. I’ve become pretty plain jane but it’s amazing what just a little spice can do to your food, and for your health! Cinnamon, chili/cayenne peppers/spices, cumin, turmeric, oregano, ginger, thyme, rosemary, and garlic are just a few of the powerhouse spices that do wonders for your body as well as give your food a yummy kick.
4. We don’t embrace our mistakes.
We all have our moments. Growing up I read 1 tsp baking soda as 1 tablespoon and enjoyed a nasty homemade pizza. My mom is a saint for even pretending it “wasn’t that bad”. I’ve also had (continue to have) my fair share of pancake-cookies, overcooked eggs, burnt meat, and just overall ugly dishes. No one becomes a chef overnight…so enjoy these moments, learn from them, and laugh it off. It may take me a few days to “laugh off” cayenne pepper being sprayed in my eyes last weekend, however. Opening a new bottle or bag of anything at this altitude is never a quiet affair, so I should have known better. But SHOOT that peel just wouldn’t come off the lid so I really got my head into it and before I knew it I was running around the kitchen screaming for cold water…which conveniently would NOT come out of the faucet at that moment. It was really quite comedic had you not been the person with burning eyes.
Last thing on embracing mistakes…don’t forget to taste it before you throw it out. It may look like a mess but it doesn’t always taste as bad as it looks! These “nailed it” pictures always kill me – because we’ve all been in these shoes before.
5. We’re not storing our food properly.
How many times have you made what you thought was a successful produce run to the grocery store, only to have it all spoil in 2 days?! So frustrating! But before you throw in the towel, do some research on the items you’re buying. Chances are, you’re just making some simple mistakes that can easily be changed to prolong your produce life and save you frequent trips to the store. In my own digging I found some interesting tips – did you know…
- Tomatoes are best kept at room temperature? Refrigerated tomatoes lose their flavor quickly.
- Carrots keep for 2 weeks when uncut, but once peeled and cut they need to be eaten within 3-4 days?
- Apples give off ethylene gas that ripens fruits and some vegetables. Need an avocado or banana to ripen quickly? Stick your apples nearby!
- Strawberries are not to be washed or cut until ready to eat? They’re good for 3 days in the fridge.
- Fresh cranberries only keep for a few days in the fridge but keep for months when cooked?
- Blueberries aren’t to be washed until they’re ready to use? Moisture hastens the deterioration of these already fragile berries.
- Bananas, once ripe (yellow w/ brown spots), should be moved to the fridge? The cool air will slow the ripening process.
- Apples may be stored either in the fridge or at room-temp, but they will stay fresher longer in the cool air. Store in a paper bag loosely closed.
6. We think we don’t need a cutting board.
Maybe it’s just me. But when you’re only cutting a few things and especially when you’re only cooking for one, sometimes it’s easier to cut things in your hand…or on the countertop. Not only is this unsanitary and dangerous, those few times will add up and create a nice looking design on your surface. I seem to cut myself even when I DO cut on a board, so you can imagine the band-aids I’ve gone through when I try to get fancy in my hands. People with kids need be especially careful with this because you never know when your little booger is watching you…and habits are quickly picked up! You don’t want them thinking it’s okay to hack away on your countertop NOR do you want them cutting things in their hands! Yikes!
7. We’re not using oven mitts.
Again, this may just be my own terrible habit (in which case just listen up and be warned against forming the same one), but sometimes your food is done and that towel is so much more convenient than digging anything out (I can’t even listen to myself…I’m terrible). I have learned the hard way this is a terrible idea – towels are not meant to withhold heat for longer than a few seconds, and any haste with a burning hot plate never ends up well (see below)…
And while we’re on ovens, also be aware that not just the inside of the oven gets hot while cooking. I placed one of my favorite pampered chef bowls on a back burner (on TOP of my oven) and before I knew it I had a piece of art:
8. We’re not reading the entire recipe before we cook.
This is a crucial error for several reasons. Everyone is subject to human error. It’s common that the author will forget an ingredient in the list, but include it in the directions – leaving you s*** outta luck! In addition to this, there often times will be preparation that needs to be done before you start cooking. It could be as little as preheating your oven or as tedious as marinating overnight. Nothing is worse than being in the middle of your cooking (guests waiting), and realizing you needed to have refrigerated something for 2 hours. Do yourself a favor and read everything first.
9. We’re not tasting as we go.
BIG no-no! Lots of things wrong with this. First off, different people have different tastes – so whatever portions the recipe calls for, especially with spices and seasonings, it will likely need to be adjusted to what you like. Secondly, getting the right consistency will vary with the types/brands of foods you’re using. For example, certain brands of dairy are going to be much creamier than others. When using substitutions this step is especially important. Perhaps the most important factor here is the many variances of cooking times. Different appliances, ingredients and a million things in-between will make your cooking time different than everyone else’s. Keep an eye on your food and taste.as.you.go!!
10. You’re throwing away “bad” bananas.
Dooooon’t do it!! Mushy bananas are a bakers dream – they provide the perfect sweetness and consistency to add to recipes like muffins, cookies, breakfast dishes, and of course that yummy banana bread. Not only do bananas add great flavor, though, they also can be used as a healthy substitute to things like eggs, oil, butter, and even flour. Not a baker? Un-peel your ‘naners and freeze em for the perfect smoothie! Saying this, you can imagine my excitement when City Market puts these puppies on sale for .35 a pound!! I bought about half of these (honestly).
These are just a few of many mistakes all of us make on a daily basis. I love this list from Cooking Light (stole a few from here)- it’s a longer, more comprehensive list and focuses more on specific cooking mistakes. Be sure to check it out and start impressing your guests…because if you’re anything like me, you’re guilty of about half of these.
In other non-kitchen related news, Tyler and I have had some awesome ski weekends the last two weeks. Two weeks ago in Vail, with a few high school friends of mine – and this last weekend in Keystone, where we got to take a breather at the lodge we got married at! So neat to be back – this time with coffee and snow boots:)
ANYWAYS, I’ll leave you with some new recipes/workouts and pictures to tempt you into trying them! 🙂 But first, lets take a quick look into A) my best friend’s THIRD trimester belly and B) my water-loaded end-of-the-day tummy. Can you even guess which one is which? I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous…how much water I drink or how little her belly is!
HAPPY VALENTINES WEEK!! I can’t wait to give valentines, bake and decorate goodies, cook in heart shapes, and wear oodles of red, pink, and purple. Don’t be a grinch this week…we all need a little love:)