Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cooking tips

Here are five random cooking ideas I've learnt in my brief cooking obsession thus far.

1. The internet. It's totally underrated as a cooking tool (or simply not considered) by way too many people. Google is already answering all your other pressing queries, so why not try asking it what to cook? Try putting ingredients you have in your fridge in as your search terms, e.g. "carrot and tomato recipes" and see what comes up (I did this once, and ended up making tomato-carrot soup), or if you have an idea for something but aren't sure how to go about it or if it's a good idea, put that in, e.g. me and the pear bread pudding.

2. Rice. If you're in doubt about a good side dish, try rice; it goes with pretty much everything. Making rice intimidated me for the longest time, but it's pretty simple. After yelling at the mr. once for doing it wrong, I found boiling water first, then adding the uncooked rice and proceeding works best. Also, keep the lid on so it can steam properly. Experiment with different kinds too, basmati is great. If you want to funk it up a bit or more advice, I once watched a video on the Rachael Ray website with a how-to. (Note: Rachael Ray isn't in it, if you're worried about that). If you still have crunchy rice, add more water and let it cook more. It'll turn into normal rice eventually.

3. New ingredients. Branch out in your cooking repertoire by acquiring something new at the supermarket. Splurge a little if you can afford it, sometimes something simple like a new kind of vinegar or oil will really add a different (good different!) taste to your food. Especially with pantry supplies, you could end up useing them a lot and having them last for a long time (like spices).

4. Fruit with ice-cream. This is a good way to eat more fruit and make a fast dessert. I don't remember where I read it, but it created happy times in summer.

5. Roast. Make friends with your oven, the rewards are great. This is the most important thing I learnt from Veganomicon. You can throw most any vegetable in your (pre-heated) oven at 400 degrees F (205 C) on a baking sheet with a little olive oil and salt, and keep them in there til you can pierce them with a fork (generally 30 minutes for smaller things, 45 minutes to an hour for big things, like half of a giant pumpkin). Especially good for those pumpkins, sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkins. Make sure to either oil your baking sheet or line it with some parchment paper.

Anyone have others to share?


Bethany said...

right on! I couldn't agree more.

I'd add:

Taking a cooking class is fun and you learn something new.

Expand internet to include blogs. You get great recipe reviews on cookbooks you already own, but don't use enough. Or new cookbooks. Plus you can get unique recipes.

I learned this one from you, Yasmin: go to the library and take out some cookbooks. That way you can do a test run before you buy. I can't believe how much I neglect the library. bad bethany!

pay attention to your neglected cookbooks, you saw something you liked when you bought them :)

yasmin said...

i'm with you on the blogs, bethany. they are a veritable treasure trove of info.

and the neglected cookbooks. it's definitely worth it to make more of an effort to expand the number of cookbooks you actually use.

good tips :)

Rosiecat said...

Hello again!

I agree that it's worth the investment in new ingredients to really make your food sparkle with flavor. A few of my new favorites, discovered in 2008:

* Fresh sage. My, my, I love this stuff. I think it tastes wonderfully fresh and clean.
* Red wine vinegar. It's milder than balsamic vinegar and goes so well with olive oil to make a salad dressing. I also found that it's great stirred into soups at the very end to add some acidic oomph.
* Demerara sugar. I'm not convinced that demerara tastes all that different from other sugars, but it is a less refined sugar and it's so sparkly! I like it in coffee or tea or sprinkled on top of my oatmeal dishes.

Happy New Year!

yasmin said...

thanks for the tips, rose-anne. i tried fresh thyme this year & was pretty impressed, so i should check out sage too. actually, i really want to find out how to grow some herbs at home!

i've been hearing a lot about demerara, so i'll have to check it out!

Rosiecat said...

Mmm, fresh thyme! That sounds delightful. A few years ago, a friend of mine bought me a cute pot for growing herbs indoors. I tried it out and didn't have much success, but maybe it's time to dig it out and try again with thyme...

Fresh herbs are so expensive at the grocery store! It would be great to have a little supply of home-grown herbs to spruce up my cooking.

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