The Cooking Routine

Location: Strong

Hands-On: Healthy Nachos


  1. Intro: There is no magic answer for what to make and what to have in your kitchen, but we can talk about different techniques and recipes and concepts to try, and you will find out what works for you. I DEFINITELY have nights where I have Nutella for dinner, but I’m happiest when I start the week with a plan and some meals in the fridge.
  2. Prep
    • Make a schedule at the beginning of the week for when you need meals. Chart out when you have plans to eat out and when you don’t have plans for food but have something that may prevent you from cooking, or when you might need to grab takeout quickly. Make boxes where you would like to have a self-cooked meal fresh or leftovers (and figure out if you actually have time to do so on those nights). [will post sample schedule]
  3. Skills + Tips
    • How to read a recipe
      • READ THROUGH the whole thing first. {It takes like one minute.}
      • Ingredients – anything weird needed? Ingredient are usually listed in the order you use them.
      • Make/prep ahead – it really helps (at least the first time you make it) to prep everything first and have it ready to go when you start cooking.
        • Also check to see if the recipe neglected to mention something important, like you have to roast eggplant before adding it to the recipe, or cool ganache for 2 hours before using it to frost cupcakes. {Note: both of these things happened to me.}
      • Look for clear errors
        • I once picked up a recipe at a farmer’s market and it called for “1/2 honey.” Not going to risk a batch of brownies on guessing what that means!
      • Weird technique or appliances you don’t have – maybe not worth it until you are ready for a challenge.
    • Go-to recipes make it easier to shop and to have/invest in the right tools
    • Making certain recipes on certain days of the week helps you to get into a routine
    • Clean-up
      • Cook with (or for) someone else – “I cook, you clean.”
      • Find some one-pot meals, that are actually one-pot meals. One pot, one knife, one cutting board.
      • If all else fails, save some dishes for the next morning.
    • Eat the same thing a few times during the week. This helps with planning, and also helps to curb calories because the food is less novel. You will eat what you are hungry for.
    • Versatile ingredients are helpful! We will talk more about this in the third session, but here are some examples:
      • Buy spinach or kale instead of lettuce. They can be used as sides for breakfast and dinner, as well as for salads (lettuce can only be used for salad).
      • Red peppers. You can dice them into anything, eat slices raw, roast them and add to hummus or pasta, etc.
      • Eggs. Breakfast: done – scrambled, or casseroles or quiches. Breakfast for dinner. Chicken Fried Quinoa for any meal.
      • Protein. Boneless skinless chicken breasts. Lean ground beef, turkey, and chicken.
    • You don’t have to cook dinner every night to be able to say that you cook. Try to make one meal a week at first! It will come naturally in time.
    • Catalogue your recipes well. Have them electronically searchable on your computer. Make a private blog for yourself and tag them.
    • The more you make something, the better you will get and the less time it will take.
  4.  Pitfalls
    • Going to the grocery store unprepared (or hungry).
    • Not being realistic about your week and when you will cook.
    • Not having a good breakfast, or a good snack to take you through to dinner.
    • Not packing your lunch before bed.
    • Letting recipes intimidate you (BUT, when you are successful, it will be more inspiring to cook more – it’s a balance!).
    • Not acknowledging what probably tastes better at restaurants (for example, I usually save steak and fish to eat out, and cook chicken and shrimp (and meatless) at home).
    • Being hungry when you are cooking before dinner
      • Solutions: healthy snacks like celery while cooking; quick assembly meals on nights you know you will be hungry; having lots of frozen leftovers.
  5.  Tools
    • Casserole dish – for casseroles – great for prepping on Sunday and putting in the oven on Monday, eating throughout the week and/or freezing some portions.
    • Tupperware – for storing and bringing to work. The right size and shape.
    • Plastic pitcher with a top that opens – for storing and pouring soup/chili.
    • Sharp knife – you can probably get by with one good chef’s or santuko knife – not too difficult to find on sale on occasion. This is what I use. Chef’s Knife (8″) and Santoku Knife (7″).
    • Good cutting board – I like this brand.
  6.  Meal ideas
  7. Things we talked about while cooking:
    • Kale – I prefer lacinato (dinosaur/tuscan) to curly, all the time. $3/bunch, always have it at Whole Foods. Store in a shallow bowl of water and it can last for up to two weeks!
    • Onions – I prefer sweet onions, they are much milder! Yellow onions are “regular” onions, but I use sweet for everything. Red onions are a different taste and are strong – recipes will call for them in particular. Wear contact lenses while chopping to avoid crying!
    • Cilantro – you can (and should) chop and eat the stems along with the leaves.
    • Ground beef – the percentage relates to how lean the meat is. “80%” is the least lean – it will be 20% fat. I like to use anything in the 90%s – percentage depends where you buy it – under 10% fat.

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