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Cooking Basics

I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t cook. It’s simply part of my life. I watched my mom and helped when I got old enough. Unless I’m baking, I rarely follow recipes, and when I do look at a cookbook it is generally more for ideas.

I view cooking as part of who I am. I’m definitely not a gourmet, but I am comfortable in the kitchen. I see cooking as a necessity and sometimes even therapeutic.

I began posting recipes on this blog because I like to tinker and make traditional favorites healthier. It’s challenging and fun. I cook from scratch because I’m a bulk eater, and I’ve found I can eat more if I tweak things to make them lighter.

The recipe for the ranch dressing came to me this way. Years ago I made a similar dressing, but couldn’t duplicate and decided to try again. I let my sense of smell and taste guide me, which is how I thought everyone cooked, but I’m finding that to be a faulty assumption.

What if cooking doesn’t come naturally? I want to share some practical information to those who feel totally overwhelmed with a wooden spoon.

First, relax. I have created some pretty interesting dishes, but not without some experimentation. As I thought about how I came to this place, I realized I began slowly; that’s especially important to remember if you feel intimidated.

There are a few spices I think every kitchen should have – garlic and onion powder, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, dill, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and chili powder. Let’s start there for now. I use all of these spices on a regular basis. I love to use fresh herbs, but if that is too daunting begin with the dry versions. Purchase the best that your wallet will allow.

What goes with meat, poultry or fish? First I put onion and garlic on everything I can sneak past my husband. Rosemary and/or thyme go beautifully with beef and pork. Throw a roast in the oven with salt, pepper, onion, garlic and either thyme or rosemary, and you will think you spent hours cooking something sumptuous. I add dill to eggs, fish and shellfish. You can make your own taco seasoning with cumin, chili powder, basil, garlic and onion. It saves money and eliminates additives and preservatives.

My best tip is to try one herb/spice at a time so you can become accustomed to what it tastes like in different dishes. This is how I really began to experiment. I knew about the traditional Italian herbs – garlic, basil and oregano. However, I decided one day to take on rosemary. For a couple weeks I put rosemary, nothing else, on most of the things I cooked. I tried it on chicken, beef, pork, you name it. I was amazed at how much depth one herb could add to a meat. It is not that I’m a connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but I am willing to experiment.

Sure there are times when the experiments fail miserably, but I don’t give up. I find the best time to play is when I have a little extra time, and I can’t let myself get too hungry, which makes me rush too much.

Give it a shot. Just pick up one new herb or spice the next time you go to the store and see what doors open. You might just be surprised, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’ll share what I know!

Cheers!

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