a quick question

red christmas star Normally at this time of year, I’d be blogging about the Menu for Hope which has been raising funds for the UN World Food Program for longer than I’ve been blogging. So we’re talking over 5 years.

But the Menu for Hope is having a rest this year so I thought I’d take an opportunity to do something a little different.

I believe that the ability to cook simple, healthy, delicious food is a basic skill, like reading, that everyone should and can have. And I want Stonesoup to inspire and help you master this skill with 5 ingredients recipes that often only take 10 minutes to prepare.

To help me plan for next year I have 2 quick questions. Feel free to answer in the comments or if you’re a bit shy, just pop an email to jules@thestonesoup.com

question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
Is it finding the time? Healthy recipes that still taste good? Organisation? Inspiration? Budget? Your level of skills or confidence? General motivation? What else?

question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?

Thanks for taking the time to share your answers. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you guys have to say.

Merry Christmas!
Jules x

ps. After a big year, I’ve decided to have a nice long holiday. Stonesoup will be back to normal on Monday 17th January. Look forward to seeing you then!

___________________________

I’m feeling very impressed with myself. With 2 weeks to go for the year, I’m up to reading my 51st book so my goal to read 52 books this year is well on track. Especially since I’m flying all the way to Ireland on Sunday and will have lots of time to kill. Yay!

Head over to my Now Reading page If you’d like to see what I’ve been reading. And if you’ve got any recommendations I’d love to hear them.

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{ 128 comments }

aynsavoy December 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm

1) I would have to say cleaning. In addition to minimizing ingredients and time spent cooking a meal, reducing the numbers of bowls/pots/utensils etc that I use while cooking or baking is important to me, so that cleaning up after isn’t such a chore. With some projects you can wash as you go; other times it seems like you just can’t avoid a huge pile of dishes at the end.

2) How to cook a perfect steak (medium rare, that is). I pretty much always overcook it. Maybe because I don’t take it off the heat soon enough to account for continued internal cooking?

Cheers,
Anne

jules December 16, 2010 at 2:47 pm

thanks Anne
yes cleaning – a necessary evil. and I know where you’re coming from with steak – I used to really struggle with that too

Morgan December 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm

1. My biggest challenges in preparing a meal all boil down to my severe ADHD. I get flustered easily, I get distracted easily, and I get things out of order often. Having recipes with only 5-10 ingredients helps, as does a quick prep-time. My other issue is that I prefer to eat natural foods, so that eliminates a lot of common packaged items or food substitutes, so the ingredients in my recipes need to be commonly-found whole-food items, though I can get things like pasta, biscuits, and sauce. Wow, that was a long sentence. Basically, I don’t want my packaged goods having more than 5-10 ingredients in them either. And I guess I also need the motivation of knowing that preparing dinner won’t be hugely frustrating.

2. I usually like to learn cooking techniques and regional and ethnic recipes.

Purplume December 16, 2010 at 3:16 pm

1. Organization I guess you would call it. In the evening I am tired and to hungry to cook. I’ll have to think of an excuse why I don’t cook the rest of the time.
2. I would like to learn Japanese cooking. That is what I like to eat.

Sam December 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Thank you Jules and Seasons Greetings! Well, here are my answers:

1.) Time is my biggest demon. I’m a mother of a toddler so quick, easy, nutritious meals for my family can be a challenge.

2.) I would love to learn how to cook authentic chinese and mexican and also how to cook the perfect risotto!

Cat December 16, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I find two things the hardest:

1) I work a full time office job as well as another 20 hours most weekends waitressing – so finding the time to buy the groceries is difficult, let alone cooking every night. It’s so frustrating to buy a load of groceries, planning to cook each night, and not getting around to it – so I end up having to throw the fresh stuff out.

2) When planning a big dinner, timing is difficult. And not ending up spending the entire time in the kitchen rather than with my guests. But your entry on Thanksgiving dinners really helped there – I’ve got my Christmas lunch menu sorted so that I can pre-prepare a lot and spend minimal time in the kitchen – most of it will come down to assembly on the day!

Cat December 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm

p.s. I read a ‘dinner plan’ on Donna Hay (I think it was) – it was really helpful because it set out the menu, and then had a step-by-step list of when to do each thing. I never actually followed her menu, but it helped with realising the importance of thinking through when I’m going to do each step of each recipe, and the importance of pre-preparing where possible.

Simone December 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Hi Jules,

question 1. For me, whilst we are not poor by any stretch it would have to be budget – I am now pretty much banned from buying food daily and my husband does it as I tend to get carried away and it all just adds up so quickly. I still go mad on the weekends but he keeps me and the funds under control. Secondly, it would have to be time – I just wish that I had more time to instead of getting home late from work, eating late and doing it all over again! Your recipes are great for this but I like to take my time and potter about. Bring on the lotto win – it would fix both of my issues there :-).

question 2. Authentic cuisine from another country – no particular country but just something that I hadnt experienced before.

Happy and safe christmas and new year to you.
Kin-Kin-Sim

jules December 16, 2010 at 3:55 pm

simone
I know how easily food shopping budgets can blow out ;)

cat
so glad the thanksgiving post helped – planning makes a world of difference!

thanks for sharing morgan, purplum & sam

Jason Goroncy December 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm

1. Sourcing the ingredients I want?
2. It would probably be something that hasn’t occurred to me yet, though I can relate to Anne’s desire to be able to cook the perfect steak, and that without using a thermometer. And how do the Indians get the chicken so soft?

Ginger December 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Biggest challenge? Planning an entire meal, day after day, for a family of five (with teens), and not having to face boredom or waste. A recipe is great…but what else to serve to round out the meal? What works for one meal doesn’t always work over time. (We are tired of eating a loaf of bread with dinner every night.) And how can I buy just the right things so I have ingredients on hand to make healthy meals and not have things go to waste because I didn’t use the rest of the package.

What would I want to learn if I took a class? I definitely need help rounding out the meal. So meal planning. What tastes in a salad go with what entree, etc. Especially when cooking foreign cuisines.

Eric December 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm

1) Motivation, definitely. If I’m honest with myself, I’d actually call it laziness. There’s so much pre-prepared food out there that’s “good enough”. I know making it myself makes for better tasting food and is better for me; but the pre-prepared stuff is easy to buy, it’s easy to store, unlike produce it generally doesn’t go bad before I get to it (telling on its own), making it takes mere seconds of my attention, failing to prepare it properly is nearly impossible and no pots and pans to clean. It’s evil in it’s simplicity. And that’s to say nothing of restaurants…

2) Keeping in context of my answer to the first question, I think I’d like to learn to make my own pre-prepared food. Take some time on the weekend and front-load my week’s cooking with well suited recipes, store the result (refrigerate, freeze, etc.) and pull it out over the week when I don’t have the time/motivation to cook on a particular night.

Nicole December 16, 2010 at 4:51 pm

question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?

Time and how much the ingredients costs +++ meat must be involved.

I’m a reader from Singapore (south east asia) and some of the “western” ingredients are a little bit pricey. So when searching for inspiration on your blog, I tend to pick those with ingredients that are locally available to me.

On another note, your blog has been a life-saver to me! From soups to dips, to pastries, I used to think that western food took a lot time and effort, but your blog has shown me the possibilities of express, yet healthy cooking! And I’d like to thank you for that. Now lots of my friends are reading your blog, even the guys as well :) Thank you and keep up the awesome work!

question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?

I’d most want to learn how to cook a feast from scratch that won’t take me an entire day – from crowd pleasing starters, to filling mains and of course, delectable desserts. Something like Nigella express….. but preferably less fattening. Because being able to pull together a feast for 5-8 is no mean task, especially when you’re a working adult.

JenneferJ December 16, 2010 at 5:45 pm

1. Finding food my kids will eat. Even the ‘unhealthy’ food sometimes goes uneaten at our house. I have a child that just doesn’t want to eat.

2. How to put together spices to make a tasty combination

dawn December 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm

1) challenges:
- motivation
- finding healthy & flavorful recipes

2) ideal cooking classes:
- easy entertaining dishes
- authentic-tasting asian & indian
- a good steak marinade and how to cook it properly (and perhaps other BBQ foods?)
- satisfying greens (like your prosciutto, brussel sprouts & lentil dish)

3) suggested books:
- Same Kind of Different As Me
- Glass Castle & Half Broke Horses
- 5 Love Languages

Kristen December 16, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Hi Jules, have a great Christmas break. The weather here in Sydney is looking up, so fingers crossed.

1/ For me it’s managing my own expectations. I want everything to taste, look and feel perfect. I love cooking but wish I could be more relaxed about it, especially with friends. Experience, simplicity and great produce certainly helps build confidence. And knowing nothing can go wrong if you wack it in a Le Crueset with wine and garlic! Oh, and I am a shocking pudding-cook. I don’t have a sweet tooth (I have a fat tooth – stinky cheese!) so don’t have the sensitivity to bake well. I will try the lemon icecream this weekend, however. Never give up!

2/ I’d love to improve my technical skills (and therefore confidence, see above). So a technical class to improve basic cooking skills (making complex sauces, poaching eggs). Simplicity is great but you need a very good grasp of what you are doing before you can simplify it. I love Damien’s French book for this, it’s like taking a cooking class (making that Cafe De Paris butter is hilarious. Two lines of instructions, but takes half a day of measuring ingredients! We do it at the start of every winter and freeze for steaks).

I have a quick question for you – do you use fan forced or convection temperatures in your instructions? We have a very hot Smeg fan forced oven and I often wonder if I need to adjust 10 degrees lower? K

roux December 16, 2010 at 7:33 pm

1) I think in my case is lack of skills/basic techniques. I always have to focus when cooking, check, follow recipes, etc, so that’s a bit of a joykiller. I did notice once i’ve learnt a few basic skills (e.g poaching eggs, roasting, preparing a dressing) to the point that I can throw a meal together without too much checking and planning i have no trouble cooking.
2) How to cook meat- I’m mostly vegetarian (and i love spices) and have trouble entertaining as most of my friends are a bit more mainstream in their food choices. And also maybe 2-3 full 3-course menus, so i can be a bit more confident in having people over.

Erin December 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm

1) Letting someone else cook
2) Baking a sponge cake

martina December 16, 2010 at 8:23 pm

1: to have good healthy ingredients, full of flavors and vitamins, minerals, fibers…
2: to learn something useful, you can use everyday, actually changing my way of cooking, planning meal but even some skillful technique to impress will be appreciated.

Have a joyful Christmas in Ireland with your Irish man… it’s cold over here,really cold, be prepared!!!
Martina

LimeCake December 16, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I love to cook but am sometimes limited because of my tiny studio apartment kitchen and the fact that I cook for one. I like cooking classes that are the hands on, like learning how to make real sourdough bread, or perfecting that perfect pasta texture.

Lee December 16, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Hi Jules – biggest cooking challenge – inspiration and time – both to shop and to cook! I often get home late from work, and its a challenge to shop, cook and eat with enough time to relax before bed!

Ideal cooking class – learning how to cook meat, and learning how to time all elements of the meal so that they are ready together!

Flora December 16, 2010 at 9:22 pm

1. My biggest cooking challenge is to keep things fresh (as in, keep bringing in new things). I tend to stick to the same tried-and-true repertoire of dishes I can make with a minimal number of the ingredients I keep on hand or the vegetables I tend to buy. Often the challenge with cooking something different is to buy unfamiliar ingredients. A simple recipe that only requires buying one or two new things is much more likely to be added to the heavy rotation list. That’s why I love Stonesoup, and Mark Bittman’s Minimalist empire.

2. I’d like to take a class that would teach me more simple ways to prepare my favorite ingredients: cauliflower, soba, celery root, mushrooms (yes, it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, why do you ask?). I’d really like to come up with a go-to recipe for a brothy Japanese soup. I’ve done some experimenting this year with quick pickles and raw grated vegetable salads, and I’d like to do more.

Lee Currie December 16, 2010 at 10:35 pm

1. My biggest challenge is what to do with the leftovers. Other than reheat the exact same meal the next day, I have no idea what to do with a cooked roast (chicken, beef, pork) or leftover vegetables without making a big mucky mess.
2. I’d love to learn how to cook tasty meals without cheese. I have a recent intolerance and am finding it hard to create meals that satisfy that savoury craving!

joana December 16, 2010 at 10:47 pm

In biggest challenges, I agree that healthy recipes that still taste good are hard… specially when I arrive tired at night wanting to eat anything/everything that´s easy. You already help on this, but it´s always good to have new ideas.

In cooking class, I wanted to learn to make bread. Healthy ones too. This is something I still can´t make at home.

Crystal Davis December 16, 2010 at 11:01 pm

1. time to cook, I commute to and from work so we end up eating at 8pm alot of the time goal for next year is better organisation and simpler food so we can eat at 6:30pm

2. I love cooking classes, I would like to do bread and pasta.

Mary P December 16, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Two constraints: budget and planning. I’m disabled and on a fixed income. I have to have my groceries delivered once a month. Which means I have to be able to plan out meals for the month, including making big batches of some recipes in my slow cooker so I can freeze them for use later on when my fresh items run out.

Jude December 16, 2010 at 11:59 pm

I live in Costa Rica and I’m always looking for quick recipes using the ingredients I have on hand. There’s not a lot of “gringo” food that’s available (or it’s very expensive), but there is adequate food that is nutricious and can be delicious; mainly the standard beans and rice. I literally live in the rainforest and getting and keeping provisions is a challenge, but sort of fun in way too. We have lots of vegetables and ALL kinds of fruit. Fresh fish on occasion. I enjoy your blog. I realize you can’t accomodate everyone’s specific quirks, but hey! nothing ventured, nothing gained!!! Enjoy your holiday. Jude

meffer December 17, 2010 at 12:05 am

I like Roux and Lee Curie’s points: learning what to do with leftovers other than just reheating them, and learning basic cooking skills that I can apply elsewhere would be very helpful for me too.

Some of my favorite posts of yours are when you focus on a particular ingredient, or a technique, and we learn all about it, plus get a recipe to try. In the same vein, I like your posts covering general food topics, like your post how to store different kinds of vegetables that I go back to all the time, or your post about cooking with win, which encouraged me to try it. And it was great!

Bill December 17, 2010 at 12:10 am

Time.

I am up at 6AM and I don’t get home until 8PM. I cook for my wife and 5 year old daughter. My wife home schools her but she is no cook. I try to make things on the weekends.

I work as a CPA and have an hour commute in the car. I like to eat simple healthy easy meals.

Cooking class, what do I need to prepare simple meals. I have a gas stove an expensive pans.

Thanks
Bill

Sally Rymer December 17, 2010 at 12:31 am

Hi,

1. Finding simple recipes that are doable in a minimalist kitchen with minimal supplies and ingredients (and on a minimal budget). Stonesoup has helped a ton with that challenge!

2. I’d like to see a course on basic cooking techniques.

Sally Rymer December 17, 2010 at 12:34 am

P.S.

A book recommendation: Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis

It’s a wonderful book that’s part recipes and part stories. The recipes are generally simple and SO delicious, and the stories are just beautiful. Here is a link: goo.gl/geGDH

Sandy December 17, 2010 at 1:02 am

1. I cook until my fridge is full and eat until it’s empty. I also live alone and still cook for an army. That means I only eat really fresh once and then nuke the leftovers several times so I can spend my other days doing other things. I would like to eat more crunchy veggies, but my cook/nuke-eat system doesn’t work that well. Ideas?
2. Adapting healthier ingredients to traditional recipes. I recently made an old chocolate chip cookie recipe with butter, all-purpose flour (gag me, but it was for grandkids), and Succanat (minimally processed) brown and white sugar. They were spreading all over the oven and I rescued them before they dumped into the bottom of my oven. The kids were watching and I didn’t have overnight to let a whole wheat recipe cure with orange juice (last-minute arrival for a snow day without school). Am I out of luck adapting?

Jessica December 17, 2010 at 1:03 am

1) My biggest challenges are Inspiration and Healthy Cheap Recipes. I really don’t want to buy 1,000 different cookbooks to find new recipes all the time, and I have a hard time finding inspiration for something that I really want to cook that looks delicious. It’s why I love your blog, but that’s only about once a week or so. I also have a hard time finding a consistent source of healthy CHEAP recipes, chock full of protein and NOT chock full of carbs.

2) In a cooking class I’m with Sally Rymer, just basic cooking techniques, like how to chop correctly, seasoning, thawing meat, an overview of pans (sometimes I STILL am not sure which one is a sauce pan!), what can be substituted where, how to be innovative on your own without recipes, stuff like that.

Thanks for your blog! Still my favorite food blog out of all of the ones I’ve found. Have a great holiday!

Lydia December 17, 2010 at 1:49 am

I agree with Anne about cleaning up.

My other big challenge is food allergies. So many recipes call for milk or milk products (butter/margarine, cheese, cream, yogurt, powdered milk, condensed milk, etc.). Sometimes it’s easy to find substitutions. At other times the substitutions either don’t work or are much more expensive than cow or goat milk.

bernie December 17, 2010 at 1:50 am

For me:
1) Finding fresh ingredients that are specific to the recipe – (especially during the winter months.)

2) I would like to take specific courses on seasoning. I would like to gain a better understanding and palate of when something is over-salted, under-salted or just right.

Stephanie December 17, 2010 at 2:05 am

question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?

my biggest challenges are definitely finding the time + motivation, especially after a long day at work. after those two things, having more recipes on hand that inspire me and nourish my body would be a plus!

question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?

i recently took a class called “clean cooking” which taught me some basic knife skills and tips for preparing beans and whole grains. classes expanding on that theme would be VERY interesting to me!

happy almost new year stone soup! love your blog. can’t wait to see what 2011 will bring us!

PaulO December 17, 2010 at 2:22 am

Q1: biggest challenge is getting all the ingredients fresh and ready in the kitchen for the mis-en-place. Here (Bergen op Zoom, the netherlands) you have to start early to look (and hopefully) find all things necesary. Some stuff you have to find in other egions of the country.
Q2: I trust that what I make is good to eat, but my biggest problem is “plating” (Is that the correct word?). Dressing the plate with food-items in a way it’s almost art. I hate those little towers of food in the middle of a plate. Difficult to transport from kitchen to table, and the first thing my quest does is deconstruct that tower. I want to see a “painting of food” on the large part of the plate …

Rachel December 17, 2010 at 2:44 am

The two things I find the hardest about cooking healthy and delicious meals are, a) managing to make them both healthy and decently priced (as a college student, I don’t have a whole lot of extra disposable income) and b) finding variation in my meals. It’s great when I find a recipe I can use fairly often, but when I end up with only 3-4 meals I make regularly, they start to wear me down after awhile.

If I was taking a cooking class, I’d really like to get inspiration and ideas for how to adapt recipes to fit what I have in the fridge or want to eat. So often when I look up recipes they seem very strict, and while some things really need a particular ingredient to work, it seems like there are a lot of dishes that can bend and stretch (my problem is figuring out which category something falls into…).

Deanna December 17, 2010 at 3:04 am

question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
Any suggestions on how to take a food item and make it into several dishes/variations with the ’5 ingredients’ ease? trying to buy to cook for 1 is challenging. I like fresh food, I don’t like canned or frozen that much, so it’s difficult to buy small amounts sometimes for a recipe and not have ‘left overs’ that I don’t know what to do with.

question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
I’d have to go with Rachel on this one, ‘ideas for how to adapt recipes to fit what I have in the fridge or want to eat’

E December 17, 2010 at 3:23 am

question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
I’m lazy and time-challenged! I eat/cook healthy meals but it’s so easy to get in a rut.
I wish someone would invent a new vegetable :) – not really – there are enough franken-foods out there ….

question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
I’d like to be able to block-out all the conflicting messages about what foods are good/bad and just feel confident about choosing/cooking healthy food/meals. So much conflicting info out there – can you teach cooking-confidence? Also – vegetarian cooking without death by cheese.

Chelsea December 17, 2010 at 3:36 am

1) Finding time and organization (having all the right ingredients at the same time = organizing my grocery shopping).
2) I would most like to learn how to make artisan bread. I also like the seasoning course idea.

Miriam December 17, 2010 at 4:19 am

1. Buying food according to ecological and ethical concerns. Transport, chemicals, fairtrade etc…
1b. My inability to eat fresh fruit and raw vegetables.
2. I would like to learn more about canning and making yoghurt, cheese and even sausages …how to stock our fridge and freezer with homemade convenience food :)

Thanks for your blog!
Have a safe trip – lots of snow up here! ( in Switzerland)

Baffled December 17, 2010 at 4:32 am

1) I’ve been cooking for 41 years so I’ve kind of got that down pat. The new challenge that I’m facing is that I’ve become ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so I have limited energy. I’ve had to severly modify the way I cook. It HAS to be easy, fast and very minimalist prep wise. The less I have to do the better. I’m on the hunt for any tips, tricks and recipies that reduce food prep, reduce steps, reduce energy that I have to expend. My slow cooker has become my best friend. I’m looking for throw everything in a pot/dish and walk away while it cooks. BTW, I have the added challenge that it has to be GF and organic.
2) Gluten free baking.

I adore your blog and I’ve downloaded most of your books. I’m also going to write a blog article so that others in the chronic community can find your wonderful material.

Peter Jensen December 17, 2010 at 4:58 am

On “challenges:” Loneliness. Having recently lost my wife at age 60, I find that my once avid cooking yen has been extinguished. The thought of eating alone has me in a kind of anti-Zen funk…I know it should be wonderful to worship food with a sweet, reflective meal and perhaps the company of a good book or a little music on the stereo, but I equate eating so much with sharing and conversation that I haven’t recovered my equilibrium when it comes to all the nice rituals of cooking and eating. A few blogs from Jules regarding “eating alone” might be helpful! Your site is already a huge help in terms of simplicity and time. Over here in the States, cookbook author has a nice new book “What Do You Eat When You Eat Alone?” that reflects on this challenge. I’m even quoted in it–but that was when I saw eating alone as a real treat because it happened so rarely. Now that it happens [potentially] everyday (unless I’m invited to friends’ houses, which has been often), I’m not so keen on it.
On “most want to learn from cooking class:” Cooking teachers often share a tip that works specifically for the recipe they are preparing. I want to know why it works (which they usually share) BUT ALSO how to apply that tip to other ingredients/recipes. Expand my horizons. For example: heating a spice in a dry pan. What other spices/recipes can I try this out on?

Eva December 17, 2010 at 5:32 am

question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
Finding the time and energy after working all day. Typically I’ll make something like a stew that I can have for a few days so I can continue to eat healthy but not cook every evening. Also finding the right ingredients. I have a two person household and don’t always want to purchase a bunch of carrots when I only need two.

question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
I would really love to know the proper way to cut vegetables.

lindaschiffer December 17, 2010 at 6:04 am

I’d say time is my biggest challenge but that isn’t very specific. I am not very good at planning ahead – I own a retail business and have very little free time. My husband does all the grocery shopping now (except for the occasional event when I can come with him) and he likes this big, big box place that deals in bulk purchases. :P Making a shopping list and executing it is a problem for me, even if I have the brain power to plan a menu. :P

I’m actually a pretty good cook but I don’t cook any more. When I am hungry, I am hungry NOW, not in ten or twenty minutes. We mostly eat packaged pre-made foods (chiefly frozen) – we go for a low fat, reasonably low sodium intake, which we can manage ok where my DH shops. :P

Linda

Kaitlin December 17, 2010 at 6:05 am

Your blog is a recent find for me, but as a fellow blogger, I’m always about helping another blogger out with a survey they have : )

question 1. Generally the hardest for me is to find the time, and have the energy after work to cook up a good meal. I always strive to cook healthy for my family and that means cooking from scratch not out of boxes for us when at all possible. I use plantoeat.com to keep my recipes and shopping list straight, and that has been a major breakthrough for me.

question 2. If I was to take a cooking class, I’d like to know how to do a few little “fancy insider tips” as far as easy ways to spruce up something simple and give it a little elegant flair. The other thing I’d like to learn is how to use/cook with a pressure cooker. I have a hand me down one but no experience leaves me scared to start….

Julie (Bananas for Bourbon) December 17, 2010 at 6:45 am

1. Definitely inspiration, especially since I’m unemployed and on a tight budget. I’m at the mercy of whatever is on sale that week. I can only eat so much zucchini!

2. I’d say classes dealing with technique would be cool. More than just knife skills, but nothing with fancy equipment I’ll never buy myself. Oh, or something with ethnic food! Foods that I shy away from because I’m not familiar with them, ya know?

Jennifer December 17, 2010 at 8:52 am

1. When it comes to cooking, I have a hard time incorporating new dishes into the boring old rotation. I’ve gotten quite good at a handful of meals, and I’m slowly getting comfortable with taking a few risks. It’s the new dishes that throw me. I’ll see a recipe, and I’ll get all excited. I’ll buy all the ingredients… and then I’ll put off making it! When I’m tired at the end of the day, I don’t want to go through the hassle of a new recipe – all those ingredients, utensils, etc. Also, I’m afraid I won’t like how it tastes when I’m done.

2. There are so many cooking classes I’d like to take! I’m particularly interested in learning to make vegetarian and vegan meals that I will actually eat. (I’m a tad fussy.) I’d like to learn to make Thai dishes. I’m also interested in learning to work with beans. I like beans, but oddly enough, I have no idea what to do with them!

Kirsten December 17, 2010 at 10:58 am

Hmm… budget’s an issue, since I’m a student. But as I’m currently eating ice cream in an attempt to cool my mouth down after a tasty but twice as hot as intended curry, I have to say that I’d really like to know more about how to rescue a dish when I add too much of something, or when it just doesn’t have much flavor or character. In this particular case I used more veggies than called for, followed the spice additions to the letter and ate it over rice, and my mouth was still on fire.

No clue how you’d teach that, but if you can figure it out, sign me up!

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