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.


  • 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?


  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

    thanks for sharing morgan, purplum & sam

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!!!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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 …

  • 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…).

  • 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’

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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


  • 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….

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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!

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

    Finding recipes within my diet needs. I cannot use any artificial sweeteners as I’m allergic to them. I don’t eat bleached sugar or flour. I have some pretty specific criteria for foods I’m willing to make and its often a lot of research trying to find substitutes that still taste good in the recipe.

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

    Artistry. As a former assistant chef, I have always marveled at the little things the chef did to add unique and interesting touches to even the most mundane dishes. I think I’d love to learn quick little presentation tips. :)

  • 1. I need permission. I seem to think that I should be preparing and serving something diverse/complex/complete when I’d really like to serve something fast, nutritious and yummy.

    2. I really can’t imagine myself taking a class. Therefore, it would have to be a short class and specific. And it would have to be foods unknown to me or specific techniques. (As a recovering vegetarian (I’ve finally got a source of local, organic, ‘good’ meats), I need to know how to choose and cook the steak. Or whatever else is available.)

  • 1. I still tell myself it’s easier and faster to eat out than to cook. But there’s hope for me because I have managed bypass the restaurants a few times and come home to make good food for myself or eat delicious leftovers.

    2. I suspect I’ve never learned to properly use knives.

  • 1.
    Sometimes I just lack inspiration and I find I cook the same things over and over again + I am gluten free, so for that not to be the top of the list is pretty good – there are many that baulk at cooking gluten free, but I find it quite easy once you have a stocked pantry.

    oooo there are so many things! For me, it’s the techniques so pasta making and cake decorating are right up there. In terms of cuisines though, I’d love to learn and watch some more thai dishes being made as they are always so fresh!

    3. Enjoy your holiday, you have such a wonderful blog and I’m so glad I came across it 6months ago – it’s certainly given me inspiration that I needed!

  • For both questions the same answer:

    Cooking for one. I cook for myself and trying to come up with healthy, tasty meals that don’t blow the budget is very difficult.

  • 1. I lack confidence. I lack skills. I need practice! Some “no fail” recipes.

    2. I am afraid of meat. I don’t want to cook it because I don’t know how to choose it in the grocery store, I don’t know how to prepare it, I don’t know how to tell if it is cooked well enough or too well.

  • 1. Biggest challenge – coming home at 6.30pm with no food in the house and no plans for what we’re going to eat, despite knowing we should plan the week’s menus in advance, do the shopping otherwise than on the day, and share the cooking among all in the house who are available and able.

    2. Soups – I’ve always been put off making stock, can’t do it well when I try (esp veg stock), and end up persuading myself it’s just easier to buy the salt-reduced cartons from the supermarket.

  • 1. Cooking for one! And, lacking confidence (same as others above). I’d like to be able to “whip” up something quickly when a friend pops over without a lot of fuss. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  • HI there Jules – Merry Christmas – and thankyou for all of the inspiration, ebooks, recipes and gorgeous food photosgraphy!

    Firstly – remember a few blogs ago there was a discussion about leftovers and what to do with them?? Well I have GIVEN STUFF AWAY!!!! And people liked it!! And have even asked for more! Wow. Can’t believe that was such a big deal for me….

    I think I have answered the biggest cooking challenge for me – that would still be overcatering and getting a bit carried away (but now I know that guests like to take things home, I am safe!).

    For a cooking course I think I would want to learn more about technique, especially with things that should be simple because of the number of ingredients they contain (e.g. fudge or boiled sweets or not making crunchy marshmallow….or the pavlova weeping :-( )

    Books that I recommend for you are:
    What I think about when I think about running (Haruki Murakami): I am a runner and have loved his other novels and this was such a nice conversationaly toned book that I could not put it down
    The Great World: David Malouf : living overseas made me homesick for Oz and this novel has helped me reminisce!

    Preserves: River Cottage Handbook

    Local Breads: sourdough and wholegrain recipes from Europe’s Best Artisan Bakers; Daniel Leader. Not only is this book full of fantastic (and some surprisingly simple) breads to make, the photos are beautiful and the time and effort taken to explain techniques or what could have gone wrong or how to rescue the dough/loaf are not commonly found in many other baking books. Love this book. Love how he describes what drew him to a particular bread/town/flour.

    Have a lovely time in Ireland – and enjoy the well deserved break.

  • WOW!
    A massive THANKYOU to everyone for your input – really appreciate it. Will give me lots to think about on my holidays. Yay!

    Very impressed that we’ve got you giving away stuff – that’s awesome. thx for the book recommendations – I’m a runner too.

  • Kristen
    Will have to check out Damien’s book – always love bistro moncur!
    I actually use both fan forced (in the snowy mountains) and conventional oven (in Sydney). So up until now I’ve generally gone for a broader recommended cooking time rather than trying to confuse people with the different temps. But thinking I should make it clearer – will do that from now on – thx for the motivation!

    Sorry to hear about your wife. My mum died a few years ago and my Dad has really struggled with food (but mostly because he didn’t cook at all before).
    I’ve heard about the ‘What do you eat when you eat alone’ would love to read it. I actuall wrote a blog post about getting motivated when cooking for 1 ages ago – you might find it helpful: https://stonesoup.mystagingwebsite.com/2009/11/secret-single-behaviour-how-to-get-excited-about-cooking-for-one/

  • 1.Healthy cooking: e.g. recipes that don’t combine starch and meat. Cooking with less fat.

    2. How to make food look good and tasty.

  • Thank you Jules for your great inspiration, I am very happy to have found you.
    We live in a regional area & have access to abundant fresh organic produce. We eat really well and waste very little. Almost everything is made from scratch and we are not within any delivery area. When we go out to eat in the city we bring ideas back home with us. For example we would love to make simple Hianan Chicken Rice but haven’t quite got it right yet.
    My challenge used to be that things would become too complicated at 5:30 in the evening when I wanted the family dinner on the table at 6pm. Now I take on your minimalist approach and limit the ingredients and it happens much more easily! We love Sth Indian food so I limit the ingredients but not the spices.
    When you talk about lessons are you talking about ones you would do online?

  • My biggest challenge is how to feed everyone I’d like to be able to feed! I am a personal chef with a small , specialized catering business; I cook a week’s worth of high quality meals and deliver them to wealthy clients. I want to be able to feed more people who are actually in the “food poverty” zone without having to charge them the way I charge my regular clients. ( Oh, and I’d like to grow my business somewhat so I am n ot always in the red…)
    If I were to take a cooking class, I believe I would take one that taught you how to teach kids basic kitchen skills and safety, as well as how to prepare tasty meals, a la Stone Soup. You are an insp!iration to me, Jules, and I look forward to every new post! I “gave” several friends your baking ebook for Christmas; thank you so much for that

  • 1. Definitely inspiration. We menu plan for the week before grocery shopping and it’s hard to get inspired. Also the kids are at a picky eating stage right now and sometimes it’s just easier to do the same thing, over and over. What I need (and what I turn to stone soup for) is a simple, quick selection of meals that I can rotate to ensure balanced nutrition.

    2. How to make a varied and nutritious meal plan based on seasonality. We’re in Canada and try to eat locally but we have two small children and want to be sure they’re getting all the appropriate balance. I imagine there are trade-offs per season…like berries=acorn squash (or something like that) but I would love to learn more about it.

  • 1. Lately my biggest issue has been money, what with my wallet being stolen and not being paid on time. Normally it would be finding tasty whole foods that my daughter AND I will eat. I like mac & cheese as much as the next person but it gets boring day after day.

    2. I would like to learn technique more than anything else. I’ve got the budgeting, shopping, and recipe reading down to an art now. Substitutions are easy for me. I’d actually like to learn more traditional techniques along with ethnic cooking, not americanized versions.

  • 1. Time. I love to cook and experiment with recipes; in fact I would say it is one of my main creative outlets. But to be completely honest, with our busy lives (I have so many evening activities for work that take me back at night) that I end up with may be one hour in which to do everything including making dinner.

    2. It would probably be something very specific – specific regional cooking from around the world, not broad categories.

  • question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
    I cook in a dorm kitchen, and only a few times a week. This means I have really limited access to cooking equipment, and any fresh ingredients I have to buy in large quantities go bad before I can use them all. For example, I love salads, but I waste half a head of lettuce every time I make one. (That’s part of the reason I love the 5-ingredients theme on your blog!) I also have to cream my butter by hand when baking and have to carry all of the various pots and pans required with me to the kitchen.

    question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
    I shop at a small, local grocery store, with seasonal produce. When I see what’s in season, I want to be able to figure out everything else I need to buy to make a great dish without having to take another trip to the store. I don’t have a spice rack, so I buy in small quantities from bulk; I also don’t have staples like rice, or pasta usually, so I need to be able to buy those things one meal at a time. I’d like to learn how to create recipes on my own, based around a theme main ingredient (like squash, or tomatoes).

    Look forward to seeing what you come up with!!!

  • 1. my biggest challenge is probably trying to incorporate as many fruits and veggies into my diet as possible without spending a lot of money (im a poor person) and im also very un-creative so i end up taking a bunch of vegetables and fruits and putting them into a blender sometimes and drinking it so i’ll at least say i ate some vegetables

    2. i’d probably take the class “an uncreative poor person’s guide to delicious vegetarian meals”

    PS – your website IS AWESOME. i hate cooking and its great to know i can spend less than 10 minutes in a kitchen and still have awesome meals (tofu with hummus and cilantro, delicious AND fast :] )

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

    My biggest challenges are working withing a budget and time. I am a single parent, an almost graduated college student, a part-time director of an after school program (not enough pay to live on), also a board director for a neighborhood non-profit org. I finish work at 6pm. then run to meetings every couple of weeks, and have a couple of night classes a week.

    Last year I followed a great 2 week menu and lost 20lbs when I was between semesters and prior to having a job, but I spent a lot of time in the kitchen; I simply haven’t seen my kitchen lately.

    2. What would I like to learn in a cooking class?

    I would want to learn how to make simple ingredients taste interesting, spectacular, but mostly I want the food to be appealing to my 10 and 15 yr old. I can cut veggies for a stir fry, but I want to mix in some spices that enhance a dish without buying super sodium packets or bottled sauces from the store. I can make my own spaghetti sauce, but that’s it, and I’d like to know more.

  • question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
    I am intolerent to gluten and cows milk, so usually the biggest challenge for me is finding recipes that suit my diet, but are also really yummy. Your blog has opened my eyes already to the many possibilities in gluten free eating, and has helped me realise that gluten free food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard, and that being intolerent to gluten doesn’t mean I can’t eat yummy cakes and sweet goodies! Thank you so much!

    question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
    How to make gorgeous gluten and dairy free cakes and tarts! I also would love to learn how to make perfect little macarons!

  • 1. Time. Especially shopping in a coordinated way.
    2. How To for the whole thing: healthy, calorie conscious, local aware, cooking; recipe comes with a shopping list and a software that can join together recipes and make it a one shopping list.

  • 1. One of my problems is the fact that it can be hard to make healthy food that also tastes delicious.
    2. I would want to learn artistry as well! The ability to make simple, healthy food beautiful. :)

  • Biggest challenges –
    1. I am not that confident in the kitchen. Did not grow up learning to cook at my grandmother’s elbow or some other similar sweet story. And, if given the choice, I’d rather be reading/writing/shooting pictures/playing outside than taking the time to cook.

    Thing I’d most like to learn –
    2. I would like a class emphasizing frequent trips to the grocery (garden) for fresh food. What to grow/how to shop. Including some of the basics: how to tell if something is bad or about to go bad; how to tell when things are ripe; general seasoning/marinating guidelines; different temperatures/settings to cook things at for different ways of cooking.

    Happy holidays!!

  • Question 1: Biggest challenge at present is easy nutritious vegetarian food.
    Question 2: I’d do a gluten free vegan course! Also, specific techniques.

    Thanks for your beautiful recipes. Every one I’ve tried has been a great success. I’ve put lots of people onto your blog and am hearing that people are rapt with it. If you had a print book, I’d buy it – and more for presents.

    Good luck in 2011.


  • question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
    I think I’m overambitious. I love eating good food, and eat out a lot. So often I’ll taste something really good in a restaurant, then go home and try replicating it. Sometimes this turns out really well (like my red curry mussels), but sometimes the dishes I try are too complicated and need the skills of a more experienced cook. Then I end up disappointed with the result. Also, as a new cook, I don’t have a lot of the kitchen requirements. And my oven is really crappy, with the temperature never being reliable.

    question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
    I’d want to learn the basics, knife skills, baking skills etc, but learn them really really well. I went to an Asian cooking class once, and the best thing I got out of it is that I was taught how to hold and use a cleaver properly. Just that one little technique has sooo much with any dishes involving chopping or slicing.

  • 1 – biggest cooking challenges:

    Planning & having faith that the results are worth the planning. Having things on hand that work well together but that don’t go bad too quickly, and that will work within our dietary constraints (vegetarian, gluten-free, mushroom, soy & corn allergies) is hard. Then within those constraints, finding something that’s worth doing rather than boring but reliable pasta + sauce.

    2. what would I most want to learn in a cooking class?

    reliable techniques for preparing things ahead of time, and how to shop ahead (without a ‘menu’) for things that will recombine easily.

  • 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?

    – Healthy recipes that still taste good and inspiration

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

    – How to come up with ideas to cook just by looking to the ingredients available on my pantry :)

  • My challenges are:
    1. Planning ahead. I enjoy being spontaneous but then I put off deciding what I’m going to cook and dinner can end up late. I’d like to add a few more regular, memorized recipes to my repertoire.
    2. Eating enough greens. I do pretty well in the summer with salad but in winter I struggle to serve enough veggies.

    My tip: my absolute best kitchen tool is my pressure cooker. I use it at least once per day. It works really well for speeding up soup and stew cooking in particular.

  • question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
    Especially during busy workweeks, taking time to make something new. It is always tempting to make one of my standards. As in jazz, they are standards because I think they are good, but it is always good to challenge oneself to make something new.

    question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
    Make more ‘persistent pasta’s’: they always turn out a little different, especially my ravioli: would love learn to make ravioli that do not burst open when being cooked. Now I am afraid to make them.

  • Hi Jules

    After all the goodness you have dispensed this year, how can I not answer your questions!

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

    The biggest challenge is the daily grind of cooking. Not the big celebrations – those are a breeze. The challenge is coming up with a weekly plan every week that feeds two adventurous, but time challenged adults, and two plucky twin toddlers.

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

    This is a hard one for me because I’ve been spoilt. I worked in a French restaurant for a while, and I have been a devotee of the BBC Food channel for years. Like many of the people that have commented, one of the reasons that I would consider a class is to learn a particular skill. The one that springs to mind right now is learning sushi, which strikes me as quite challenging.

    Hope this comment helps in some way. Merry Christmas, and I hope that you get some much deserved rest.

  • Hi Jules,
    Thanks for a great year of Stone Soup! I’ve used your recipes a lot, especially the ridiculously simple yet delicious ones which have been fantastic in my first year as a mum, finding myself time and spare-arm challenged most nights of the week.

    question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
    Deciding what to cook and remembering what’s worked before. Also my one year old daughter who’s often either in my arms or hanging onto my legs when I cook which requires fast simple cooking.

    question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
    General principles that can be applied to different dishes and situations – I’d like to get better at cooking without having to follow every detail of a recipe, be able to improvise more and have basics up my sleeve to improvise from.

  • My biggest two problems with cooking are:

    Finding the energy/time to cook.
    Actually using fresh ingredients before they go bad. (Because I so often put off cooking until after fresh veggies have gone limp and spotty, for instance.)

    I’m not sure if I would ever take a cooking course, but most likely to interest me would be a course on making Indian food in a standard US kitchen.

  • I would love to see a couple ‘series’ of 3-5 recipes that fall within a pool of 10 or so ingredients (obviously in 5 ingredient increments). I really like it when I know I can re-use or use-up an ingredient in the kitchen and I can use it with one of your recipes. For example- When I make your Chili Oil, I’ll make the Chili Oil Pasta with Rocket and a day or two later I’ll make the Tuna, Butter Bean, Chili Oil, ‘greens’ salad. I probably have some extra Chili Oil at this point, what else can I make? Maybe I’m out of Chili oil, but I have some leftover tuna and Rocket, what would be good with those two (probably a bad example, but you get the idea).

    I like the idea of how this creates such a simple shopping list and streamlines some pre-requisites (e.g. making chili oil and having it on hand).

  • Weeknights are the worst. Starving, tired…I don’t want to have to think about what to have. I don’t want to have to do any prep work. The best thing about pre prepared food was that lI could look in the freezer and instantly see dinner, no thought or prep needed. Now that we are moving away from that, we often fall back on the same very simple meals over and over.

    What I would most like to learn in a cooking class is how to use seasonings and spices.

  • Happy Holidays, Jules. Enjoy your much needed break.

    1. Lately the hardest part is finding the time to make it to the market to buy fresh food. When I do have the time to get to the market, the hardest part is the timing, or planning what to do when so the dishes all come out when they’re supposed to.

    2. I’m going to steal Jedidiah’s suggestion. Menus of sorts for the next few days with just a few ingredients.

  • 1. the hardest part is having a simple arsenal of recipes that I can make from the cupboard at a moment’s notice. this is also difficult because I live in a household of 2 and I can’t keep too much food on hand or it will go bad before we can eat it.
    2. presentation is also an issue for me. meal planning is something i’ve been working on as well, but sometimes my schedule changes at the last minute and it’s hard to stay on top of things.

  • 1. biggest challenge is dealing with the mess of multiple component dishes. anticipation of the mess, many times, makes me not want to cook things that i would otherwise

    2. i’d most want to learn about tempering chocolate. i’m a vegetarian, so there aren’t many cooking classes that i find I can actually participate the full way through. this is totally wishful, but if there was a class on eggless pastry, i’d sign up in a heartbeat.

  • wow
    I’m so impressed with all the suggestions and insights here.
    big THANKYOU everyone for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it!
    Merry Christmas
    Jules x

  • Maybe this is a bit off-beat (although I noticed that Guanny mentioned the “knife” word) and my immediate response to the questions was almost not written because I thought, “Uh-oh, this is a man’s thing”… but having watched many cookery series on French TV over the years I’m constantly amazed at how little confidence most people – not professionals – have with their knives. To learn through practice the correct way of keeping just two or three knives sharp, caring for them, and how to use those simple but precision tools safely and confidently to prepare the ingredients of a menu, is a necessary skill like learning to walk before you can attempt to run. How one describes these basics on a blog is a different challenge… but an awareness of the importance of kitchen knife skills should be emphatic as once mastered, cooking and kitchen work increases in pleasure.

  • My biggest challenge is timing–I have to go get kids at school (1 hr roundtrip) right b4 dinner, so I end up prepping food, leaving for an hour, and returning to finish it up. It’s tricky to balance so they’re not ravenous and yet dinner still gets going. I guess I need recipes that can bake upon return. And one-pot meals so I don’t spend all night cleaning up. Kinda kills the urge to cook at home, love it though I do.

    I would love to learn to make sauces really well. Lots of em. They make the difference, I think. Love flavor!

    Thanks for asking, Jules. I love your site and have derived much inspiration and pleasure from reading it! Introduced my mom to it, too. So you have two Texan fans!


  • Organization. I’m not a bad cook but I find the planning and shopping and having a well-stocked but not overstocked pantry a challenge. And rather than shop I’ll cobble together some odd pairings — sometimes these are keepers but sometimes?

  • My biggest challenge is to cook something that’s easy to digest. I react sensitive to onions, beans, cabbage, chickpeas etc. and therefore avoid to put them in the food… And the lack of time – sometimes in the evening I am just not motivated to cook something if I have worked all day…

    I would love to learn how to combine things. I just mead the couscousspinachchicken soup from your cookbook and I would have never even thought about using lemon juice – but it was delicious. If I cook without a recipe I tend to use the same ingredients over and over and everything tastes the same ;-)

  • question #1: finding spicy ethnic (vegetarian and meat-based) recipes that the whole family will like and that aren’t way out of my skillset

    question#2: breadmaking – would love to find a simple, no fail white bread recipe (everything I’ve tried so far has failed miserably – manhole cover anyone?!?)

  • Hi Jules,

    1. My greatest challenge is inspiration. I am well inspired by all the stuff I read in cookbooks, magazines, or food blogs. But the problem is coming up with ideas of something new or special myself.

    2. In a cooking class I’d like to learn everything about making your own sauces. I do own recipe books on the subject, but it all seems so tedious and so much work to start at least a day ahead on a sauce. So a class on easy but fabulous sauces would be just my thing.

  • question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
    If I had to choose one, it would be cooking healthy, balanced meals on a budget.

    question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
    I would like to learn more about seasonal cooking, especially in cold-weather climates.

    I came across your site recently and I’m hooked! Keep up the great work.

  • question 1.
    i’m too lazy, it is easier to eat some bread and i don’t have to clean up the kitchen
    question 2.
    i would like to learn to prepare vegetables basic recipes for every vegetable yes and seasonal cooking
    the free ebook is very very great
    thank you so much
    have a nice time
    can’t wait when you are back
    lg birgit

  • 1. Meatless recipes that don’t take a ton of prep time. I’m anticipating household income taking a major dip next year, and I’m going to need good, easy, meatless recipes that I can fall back on when organic and less cruel meat is out of reach.

  • 1. Time and budget. I work two jobs and go to school, so I’m often too tired to really cook any longer than, say, about 30 minutes.

    2. Knowing what and when to prep ahead. This goes with the time thing. I’m an avid baker and can prepare ahead for baking, but for some reason this doesn’t translate into cooking? Ha ha, don’t judge, don’t judge.

  • Biggest Challenge – travelling for work; I’ve had to eat a lot of indifferent meals around the state (and some memorably yummy ones too, but that’s not the question). I’ve started carrying my own kitchenette chef cooking pack to keep my skills honed.

    Cooking Class – I’d love to learn to cook Chinese Food as it’s described in “The Last Chinese Chef” by Nicole Mones; the food described in that book sounded like a journey for your mind and a joy for your taste buds.

  • Biggest Challenge: cooking for one or two in a way that is simple and interesting. I have a great repertoire of recipes for 6-8, but when it is just me and the companion, it can be hard to get out of the rut of the 5 or so recipes that we do all the time. The flip side that is also difficult, is recipes that translate well into lunches later in the week so that we aren’t eating lunch out too much.

    Cooking class–how to make the best possible combinations from the CSA box. Living in Northern IL, there are lots of great CSAs/farmers markets, but like I mentioned above, I am frequently doing the same old thing and that is annoying and boring.

  • question 1. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to cooking?
    Budget and my TEENY kitchen! I have so many ideas I want to try, but I don’t always have the resources to drop on tons of ingredients (one reason I love stonesoup!). Also … everything in my kitchen is half sized: oven, fridge, range etc, and I have NO storage or pantry space (I don’t even have any drawers). But only for three more months =)

    question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
    I’d love to learn from an expert some really basic knife and other cooking skills. I can make some amazing food – no bragging of course – but my chopping and slicing “abilities” are abominable. Or a baking class would be great too =)

  • 1. I’d have to say my greatest challenges would be a budget and creativity. I would love to try all the healthy recipes in the world but working in order to save up money for school doesn’t permit it. I also find that without a cook book or someone elses recipes I would be lost!

    2. My ideal cooking class would be a class that was unpretentious and where I wouldn’t feel like an outsider for not knowing certain ingredients or cooking methods. I would love to learn what ingredients go perfectly together and how to improve general cooking abilities.

  • First up, I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading stone soup for a while and it’s a fantastic blog :D However, I didn’t know you are a fellow Sydney-sider! SOmehow knowing you’re cooking all this in the same city as me is more inspirational, it’s not as distant as other cooking blogs I read that use different ingredients etc. So, thanks for representing! Keep up the awesome work in 2011!

    Onto the questions…

    1. Food intolerances. Frustratingly these restrict a lot of the food I’d like to have!! Hm, food intolerances and budget I’d say.

    2. I’d love to learn how to cook great curries from scratch. Also want to get into baking more!

  • Biggest Challenge is that I am a vegetarian and my husband is diabetic. Although I love to cook, I find that my energy does not always last until dinner. So quick meals are sometimes a must but many quick meals are boring.

    Cooking Class …. well I love bread and I love soup. Those two items often make a meal here. So new ideas for making soup and a little improvement on making the perfect loaf.

  • 1. Planning. Without question that is my most difficult challenge. And perhaps it’s in part due to lack of inspiration about what to prepare, but when I get asked at 11am (or, worse, 3pm) “What’s for dinner”, I often literally have no idea, and winging it at the last minute is not my forte.

    2. How to take my cooking to the next level–how to challenge myself without it being overwhelming. I’m a little better than a beginner, and like recipes that push me a little farther. Oh. And perhaps a class about how to plan–and make–a week’s menu of relatively quick and healthy meals.

  • 1. My biggest challenge in cooking would be using seasonings/spices to make things tasty and new without being fattening. I also lack some special cooking techniques that would help me to cook better.

    2. If I was going to take a cooking class it would be to learn how to use seasonings and spices from other countries. I love Thai food for instance and would like to use fresh lime juice and spicy sauces to jumpstart my cooking a bit.

  • biggest challenge is trying to source consistent quality produce

    Cooking school – love to learn traditional and regional methods and recipes

  • Jules, goodquestions! My challenge: early mornings. I work at seven-thirty am and lunch and then dinner are a long time away! Organizing that day for myself and kids who pack lunches is monster.

    Cooking class? Eggs, bread, soup. Gotta love the basics.

  • My cooking quandaries are as follows Jules;

    Biggest challenge; Cooking something quick, easy, nutritious and tasty for one at around 9.30pm after nightly high intensity training every weekday, yet be light enough to feel like having breakfast in the morning before starting work around 8.

    Cooking class; Learn the basic ingredients/techniques of regional cuisine for about 12 different countries so I can dramatically improve my repertoire.

    Happy New Year too!

  • Biggest challenge: unboring, uncomplicated yet challenging, must-be-delicious food for a family of four with one shellfish allergy!

    Cooking class: Recipes from around the world! Even if we don’t visit there, I still want to feel like I went to the market there and prepared a fabulous meal!
    Happy New Year to you!

  • Biggest challenge: not get paralyzed in front of my (insert disturbingly high number here) of cookbooks, printouts, blog bookmarks of recipes, unable to decide what to cook. Information overload? Addiction? Mixture of both? I guess so.

    Cooking class: I am not fond of cooking classes and doubt I’ll ever take one. But, if I absolutely had to go for a cooking class, it would be on bread baking, sourdough type.

  • Biggest Challenge: Too many steps! If a recipe involves using both the oven and the stove top I will generally skip it in favor of something I can make using just one pan.

    Cooking Class: I’d love to improve my knife skills :)

  • my biggest challenge are my kids. they are so picky, no matter what food i expose them to. it is discouraging and very limiting when it comes to planning meals.

  • My biggest challange: Cooking for myself – cooking meals that are interesting and tasty but don’t have massive amounts of left overs

    Cooking Class: Tasty meals in under 30 minutes (including preparation!)

  • I’m pretty late to this post, and there are so many comments I might just be repeating things… But I had to leave my two cents.

    1. The most difficult for me is dealing with picky eaters. I love your concept of fresh, simple dishes that are healthy (and cheap!), but many times you feature ingredients that I know WILL NOT be eaten here, so I have to skip that recipe. And that one. Aaaand that one. :P So, I need help finding fresh, simple, and healthy dishes that a typical five year old would be willing to eat (though my picky eaters are much older than five!). I’m tired of the typical (and unhealthy) children’s menu items, like chicken fingers, mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, Campbell’s soup, etc.

    2. What I’d like to learn the most besides basic kitchen skills (how to use and sharpen knives, how to season a cast-iron pan, etc.) is about food itself. How to store it? How to freeze it? What goes well with it? What really doesn’t? Where does it come from? Any interesting food science behind it? I’m talking about produce, spices, fully cooked meals—the works.

  • 1. Both my wife and I are full-time students with part-time jobs. So we’re busy and not always free at the same times. Our ideal is to have quick, healthy, cheap meals that we can fix and eat together. Of course (since we’re talking ideally), these meals would also brown-bag well.

    2. I’d like to learn solid fundamental meals that can be easily altered/tweaked/played with. With this knowledge, I feel that I could learn how to always be able to make a meal with whatever I happened to see in the fridge/pantry.

  • 1. Time and prep. I start too late and don’t have a plan. I’m hungry and want a quick solution/instant gratification. I think ‘pizza’ or ‘burger’ and feel guilty. I just don’t know what else to do. I don’t want to follow a recipe.

    2.More veggies and lunch/snack food. The mid-afternoon snack is a danger zone for me.

  • My biggest challenge is a weekly food plan for two people for dinners. I always make too much, we are bad at eating leftovers and I end up throwing a lot of food out. I am actually going to be taking an artisenal baking class in February. But really I am just bored with my regular recipes. I work a corporate job and am doing school so my time is so limited and I find I just can’t seem to sit down and figure a weekly menu.

  • Preparing meals for one. Day in and day out. People really struggle with this.
    There’s the solitude, as much as shopping for ingredients in itty bitty quantities – if you want variety -or buying in bulk for economy, and then having to store, prepare and eat it all before it spoils or becomes boring and repetitive.
    It becomes even more of a challenge for people who haven’t been able to learn good basic cooking skills, or the language of cooking.
    Projects like 5 Ingredient Recipes are a great way to inspire and show people how to eat yummy, nourishing, easy-to-prepare meals.
    Cooking classes – someone already suggested it- how to plan a week of meals, including snacks.

  • 1. Time and planning. I need to create healthier meals, but I find myself driving home trying to figure out what I am going to cook that night. So I often wind up with either fast food or something that is quick and definitely not healthy.

    2. I would like to know how to create a menu. How do I determine what goes well with a main course? I find a main course that I want to try but I am often stumped as to what will go well with it.

  • I’m new so I’m still loving everything I’m finding at the moment, but thought it might be time to answer this post.
    I can relate to raina and many above. Still, here are my answers:

    I work a job, and with travel that means I am up at 6am (or before) and home at just after 5pm (at best) or as late as 6pm. I have been slack on the exercise lately, and want to build that back into my life. I am also about to start studying again, so there’s another hour to two hours a night. So….you know where I’m comin’ from, right?! :) An hour or two to make and have dinner, and do any relaxing thing I want to do for the evening. i.e. I’d like to spend as little time making dinner as posible, yet still have a focus on healthy food, not the exact same stir fry every tuesday night, lol

    – So challenge 1a is a combined challenge of time, organisation etc. I need to plan a weekly menu (who wants to be a slave, right? So lets at least make it a planned Mon – Thurs night menu), shop for that menu (to minimise leftovers and waste), and for the dishes to be simple, quick and at least yummy enough to not say, “not that again”

    – With that, goes another concern. On the nights we are literally too exhausted to do anything (takeaway anyone?), we need an instant solution. This is where I’d be willing to spend a BIT of time on a weekend (Sunday late arvo perhaps) doing “something” to help for the week. I’ve made the odd pot of soup, or the odd double measure of bolognaise sauce – but nothing organised. I’d be willing to spend some time, making some things that are going to be there to rescue me from ruining my weight loss plan by turning to the takeaway solution. I guess in that department, we are fortunate to have a freezer given to us in the garage (I think it currently holds some ice, and some frozen raspberrys at the bottom, lol)

    Another challenge for me, apart from the, “I’m too busy during the week” thing, is cooking for others. I was a bachelor until late last year (off the market now, sorry ladies), and am really only used to cooking for 1 or 2 people. I love cooking for one – it can be weird and even vegetarian and no one will care! 2 or 3 people (family members) for a meal, no real issues. But the idea of groups scare me! I’ve done a BBQ for 11 people, and was proud that everything turned out well. But, in point forn:

    – what about cooking dinner for 4 people (could even just be family – no big deal), but you want to make it ‘special’? I have no idea, apart from go look for some recipes on the net that are from different cultures for example. Plus, thinking in terms of 3 courses, and not just 1 that you might have during the week.
    – what about if you end up with a group of 6 – 10? I’d like to be comfortable handling that amount of people myself (or with some kitchen hand help from wife). She would handle this size group, but I think it’d be great if I could be the chef too! I guess this is where you need to know how to roast etc…..

    In summary, it’d be nice to have the confidence to know that friends or family could come around, and I could feed them – whether a basic meal, or invite them around for something a little bit special*
    (*special, not necessarily ‘fancy’ or ‘complicated’).

    2. So, those are the two challenges that I can think of. Schools that would interest me would pretty much be aimed at meeting the goals above! Do I have the necessary kitchen skills to accomplish the above (mechanical skills)? How to actually accomplish the above (knowledge)? Learn by watching (see someone ‘do’ the above) etc. Basically, I’d be interested in anything that could take me from where I am now, to where I want to be….confident that weeknights dont need to always become a choice between takeaway or stir-through pasta. And confident that I can have a few people around, and be in charge of cooking for them.

  • 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?

    my biggest challenge is the complete inability to start making a meal in a kitchen that has dishes hanging around from the previous meal. crumbs and buttered knives on benches sap my energy.

    question 2. If you were going to take a cooking class, what would be the thing you’d most want to learn?
    i’d love to learn how to make cheese.
    i love knowing how to make things from scratch and i’ve learnt how to make tempeh and soymilk and tofu and bread and kefir and yoghurt and so on…..but cheesemaking seems like such an art.
    i worked as a chef for years, but i was never a crash hot baker.
    i’d love to attend a baking class! sweet things…..

  • Biggest challenge: Time! I usually get home from work at 8pm, so there’s no time for lots of prep work.

    Cooking class: Bread! Good, crusty, chewy, artisan bread. Time consuming, so probably not practical to fit into my schedule, but I’d love to know how to do it, and do it successfully, at least once.

  • 1. Finding recipes that are not too difficult or time consuming, and that the whole family likes is sooo hard. My husband was recently diagnosed with diabetes, so we’re cutting WAY back on the carbs–no rice or pasta dishes; my son is allergic to eggs, nuts, soy, and shellfish; and neither of my kids likes anything that’s the least bit spicy.

    2. I’d like to learn basic recipes for different types of meat, with some ideas for variations. For example, what are some different things I could do with boneless skinless chicken breasts?

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