When I went to college, I honestly had no idea how to cook. My parents did all of the cooking in the house and were generally pretty good cooks, so there was never a need for me to learn how to cook, and I was never that interested in cooking. My first two and a half years in college I lived off of cafeteria for, mac n cheese, rice with chicken and cheese vegetables, crackers with cheese sticks and salami, and granola bars. CooKing tacos was honest a big accomplishment and it really doesn’t get much easier than that.
Then in my junior year I was introduced to the wonderful world of Pinterest which had so many recipes and delicious looking food at the tip of my fingers. I started to branch out and make things such as Dorito crusted chicken tenders, quinoa mac n cheese and crock pot buffalo chicken sliders.
For the next several year I stayed in this style of cooking, nothing healthy, nothing complicated, nothing that pushed my boundaries, was sophisticated, or that I would want to feed my family. I also always followed the recipe exactly as it was.
One day, I decided to go gluten free, dairy free, and refined surge free. This forced me to branch out and explore new ways of cooking. No long after this I also decided to go vegan for a time. Now, you want to talk about jumping into the deep end, cut all of these things out of your diet and try learning how to cook. Luckily, there are so many different resources out there these days that you don’t have to try and figure it out all by yourself.
The first thing that I think is essential when learning to cook is to DISCOVER A SPICE PALATE you like. For me, I love cumin, paprika, chili, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, salt and pepper. These spices are very diverse and easy to mix and match. You can use these spices on anything and make it exciting! I love to use cumin, paprika, chill, garlic, salt, and pepper on chicken, cumin, paprika, chili, cinnamon, and salt on sweet potatoes, and garlic, chili, salt, and pepper on salmon.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF SPICES. For a long time I was scared of over seasoning to the point that I barely seasoned anything. I’m telling you it’s okay to add more spice, you want to be able to taste it!
Every person has a different palate, but fusing a few spices that you love is so important when you’re learning to cook. Once you get down the basics and understand spices it makes branching out much easier.
FIND YOUR KITCHEN STAPLES. Food is so versatile, you can by the same things and make a million different meals. My must buys every week include lemons, avocados, bananas, eggs, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, zucchini, lettuce, chicken, and fish. Once I have my basics I think about what I want to eat for the week and grab the extra ingredients that I need. With your staple ingredients you can make so many different things. Chicken and veggies, omelets, fajitas, chicken salad, smoothie, avocado toast, and so on.
It’s also important to have your pantry staples. I always have chickpeas, black beans, tuna, rice, quinoa, chickpea pasta, oats, and coconut. These pantry staples also aid in mixing things up and make for quick easy meals.
Some weeks I eat mostly fresh produce and other weeks I rely heavily on my pantry staples to whip up a quick pasta, make left overs with some rice, or hummus with veggies. Finding things that are your go too’s is so important because you know that you enjoy them and you are way more likely to try cooking and eat at home.
TAILOR RECIPES TO YOUR PREFERENCES. You do not need to follow the recipe to a tee. I so often used to avoid recipes because it had ingredients in it that I did not like or did not have. Recipes are not set in stone. They are merely guidelines. For instance, I don’t like tomatoes, I love mushrooms, I don’t eat a lot of beed, I don’t eat a lot of grains, and I try to avoid dairy. The I look at a recipe I often add and subtract based on what my presences are as well as what I have on hand. If it called for grand beef I’ll add ground turkey or chicken. I often will add whatever vegetables I have, substitute almond milk for real milk, and honey, coconut sugar, or rice malt syrup for real sugar and so on.
Ultimately, you know what you like to ear and you are your own best taste tester. Find your favorite spices and staples and then start experimenting. Cooking can be so much fun when you let go of your restraint and just have fun with it!