Simple Meals to Make for the Cooking Challenged

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Simple Meals to Make for the Cooking ChallengedCooking often seems like a mystery to the uninitiated, but once you learn how your tools and ingredients behave, it’s easy to put together a delicious meal.

Creating a recipe for a complex dish (like a casserole) requires knowing how long each ingredient takes to cook all the way through without overcooking. Also, choosing ingredients that will maintain the proper level of moisture. You don’t want too many ingredients that give off liquid while cooking, such as meats or leafy vegetables, without the right amount of starchy ingredients to soak up the liquid and keep it from becoming a stew. However, before you start looking for chef jackets and begin to cook, you need to know a few things:

  • Learn the right temperatures for your meats, fish, poultry and eggs.

    Not only will this help prevent food-borne illness, it will help you work out appropriate cooking times. Get a meat thermometer with a large digital display. Check the Foodsafety.gov  or the Better Health Channel website for the proper temperature zone for meats, fish, poultry and eggs.

  • Try dry cooking methods to bring out the best flavors in many foods.

    Roasting or grilling brings out complex caramel notes in root vegetables, Brussels sprouts and fruits. And it’s the simplest way to cook meats, fish and poultry. As grilling uses high heat, save it for smaller pieces of meat as large ones will char on the outside long before it’s cooked on the inside.

  • Use herbs and spices sparingly.

    Yes, some global cuisines make excellent use of a half dozen spices per dish, but until you get to know your spice rack well, just sprinkling on whatever strikes your fancy can lead to disaster. A light sprinkling of salt and pepper is perfect for meat, fish, poultry, eggs and vegetables. Experiment with herbs and spices one at a time, in small quantities.

  • Some ingredients are challenging due to water absorption.

    Ingredients like beans and brown rice can be a hassel to cook. This is because they absorb a high amount of water, which means they take a long time to cook. Though devices like slow cookers and rice cookers were invented to take the guess work and stress of cooking these ingredients.

    With a rice cooker, you can let the machine do the work while you chop vegetables for a brown rice salad or prepare your ingredients for a Chinese-style saute for your entire family. The same can be said with slow cookers and beans. Just set it up and you can do other prep work while it does its magic.

Some Easy Dishes to Try Out.

A simple meal that will serve most occasions consists of roast chicken with potatoes and sauteed spinach. Roast the chicken and potatoes at the same time, and while the chicken rests outside the oven after roasting, cook the spinach in a spritz of olive oil. With a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, you have a six-ingredient meal that tastes like it could be served at a five-star hotel. Vegetarians can substitute portabella mushrooms for the chicken.

A frittata is an incredibly versatile dish that makes use of leftovers and serves equally well for any meal. A half dozen eggs plus one cup of cooked and chopped meat and/or vegetables with some of your favorite cheese combine for a flat omelet that cooks in the oven. If you have a bit of rice left over from Chinese takeout, some bacon from breakfast and a little of that sauteed spinach, you can have a great meal in minutes. Vegans can use one and a half cups of pureed soft tofu instead of the eggs and their favorite dairy-free cheese substitute.

As you get to learn how ingredients react to heat, cold, and time, you’ll become more confident and skilled. Visit farmer’s markets to learn what’s in season and get recipes for the latest produce. Some of the best food is created when good ingredients are allowed to shine.

Editorial Team
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