5 COOKING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS - YOUR START TO FRESH, DELICIOUS & HEALTHY MEALS
If you've ever peeked at my Insta-stories, you've seen it's mostly food in there. I don't want to constantly flood my feed with food pictures and cooking tips, but since I do cook A LOT, I still like sharing some of it with you guys, which is where the stories come in.
And I've received SO MANY messages about cooking, I couldn't believe it at first! Some of you were saying they can't cook and asking for cooking tips. Others were asking details about a specific recipe. Some were simply touching base to say I've inspired them to cook... Which is INSANE to me and makes me really, really happy.
Because that's the only reason I started this blog in the first place: To share the thing I know that can help other people live their best life. Sometimes it's about hair products, sometimes it's about cooking tips!
And believe me when I say, cooking is one of these things, especially if you're trying to stay physically healthy.
And it's not only the people I interact with on Instagram. The #homemadefood hashtag on Instagram has more than 2.5M posts and counting. Cooking books, shows and magazines are EVERYWHERE. Boxes that ship fresh ingredients to your doorstep and let you become a full-on chef for the night are booming in popularity.
Cooking homemade meals has become a full blown thing that is now seen as a trendy, healthy and budget-friendly alternative to going out for dinner or ordering in. And honestly, I fully believe in this.
Maybe it’s my stone-age Eastern-European upbringing speaking, but I’ve been raised on the principle that it’s just normal for a woman to cook dinner for her family every night.
Even though I will admit that on some nights, I would rather watch a 16-hour long black and white Romanian documentary on amputation than make dinner, I usually do take pleasure in knowing that I’m making something delicious, from fresh and clean ingredients, with no disgusting chemicals and preservatives, knowing exactly what I’m eating and making sure it’s as healthy and sustainable as possible.
I once read somewhere that if you love eating, you automatically love cooking. And boy, do I LOVE eating. Hell, I’m known for planning trips to other cities - and fricking countries! - for the sole purpose of getting ice cream and donuts. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I also enjoy the hell out of cooking.
That being said, I am by no means a chef (nor do I pretend to be) and I understand that cooking can be very intimidating for some. Especially if it’s not something you’ve grown-up with, or if you have a really busy schedule.
But, as I always say to annoy the shit out of my friends who don’t cook, cooking is actually much easier than it looks and also much more fun and satisfying.
So while I’m nowhere near changing my last name to Ramsay, cooking on the reg for years still gave me a bit of insight. Here are my 5 cooking tips if you have no experience but want to start having fun in the kitchen:
1- Start Realistically
Are you gonna flawlessly whip-up a 6-course meal for 10 people the first time you cook? Absolutely not. Neither are you gonna climb Everest the first time you hike, and that’s perfectly fine. But you for sure can make an amazing meal right off the bat, if you approach it realistically.
I find the biggest mistake people make when they want to start cooking, is trying to cook when hosting people. Just don’t.
Even after years of cooking almost every day, I try as much as possible not to host dinner with a recipe I’ve never tried before.
Hosting can be enough of a hectic experience, especially if you’re cooking, that you will want to serve something you really know how to make and you feel comfortable preparing even with people around, while you’re sipping on wine, making conversation and refilling glasses.
The first few times you cook, you should do it for yourself and/or your significant other (if they’ve been nice - HA!) and try a recipe with only a few ingredients, that doesn’t require too many steps or time.
Personally I think a good recipe to start would be something like my favourite banana-nut bread, or a "throw it and leave it" recipe like my go-to bone broth. Both recipes are extremely simple but really satisfying once you get to eat something you've cooked yourself. AND they're both healthy and good for you.
After a few times cooking simple but delicious recipes, you will probably have the confidence necessary in the kitchen to start tackling more elaborate and complicated recipes.
2- Plan Ahead
The same way you should be realistic about the difficulty level of the first few recipes you try, you should be about the planning. Not only making sure you have all the ingredients on hand before actually starting a recipe (trust me, shit happens), but also time wise.
If you buy all the ingredients to make a specific recipe, the last thing you want is to realize at the last minute that the recipe you chose requires 6 hours of refrigerating, when it’s 8pm and you still haven’t had dinner.
When you’re learning the ropes, you don’t want to be rushed in your prep time, so make sure to plan a little more time than what is indicated in the recipe.
Even after cooking hundreds (if not thousands) of meals (holy shit) I still love to plan what I'm gonna cook during the week and make sure I get everything I need. Nothing is more frustrating than making something really delicious and realizing halfway that you're out of a key ingredient.
3- Clean As You Go
This might seem a little dumb, but trust me. When I first started cooking, I remember thinking that the worst thing about preparing food is sitting down to eat dinner and then realizing that your kitchen looks like it’s witnessed 6 wars and a nuclear apocalypse.
That’s just discouraging and takes the fun out of sitting down with a delicious homemade meal.
Since I hate going to bed with a dirty kitchen, I’ve developed a technique that’s not rocket science, but works wonders when cleaning is not your forte: I just maximize the hell out of every second spent in the kitchen.
That means if I need to let a sauce simmer for 8 minutes, you can be sure I'm not spending these 8 minutes checking Instagram. I multi-task like an octopus on crack!
I’ll wash the dishes I no longer need, wipe the counters, you get it.
I love this tip because it’s super efficient and breaks down the cleaning process in little segments, so it doesn’t even feel like you’re actually cleaning. Plus, it really cuts down on the total time spent in the kitchen, so you don't feel like cooking dinner takes the whole damn evening.
4- Don't Make it a Chore
Make it fun! Like everything in life, cooking is just as fun as you make it. Cook with your boyfriend, wife, best friend, neighbour, dog, whatever!
Put on some music, dance, pretend you’re a British chef filming a cooking show (just don’t get caught, it’s fucking embarrassing. Trust me, been there, done that). Whatever makes you happy, do it.
I personally think cooking is much more enjoyable when I'm sipping on a glass of wine and listening to jazz. That makes me sound like I'm a hundred years old, which is not that far off from reality.
Keep it fresh and interesting, and cooking dinner won’t feel like a boring obligation. You might actually start looking forward to it.
That also means giving yourself a break when you really don’t feel like cooking. I really don't mind cooking for Sasha every night, because I know very well that if/when I really don't feel like it, I can just ask him to pick up poké from our favourite place and it won't be a big deal. You had a super long, miserable day at work, you car broke down and you stained your favourite dress? Treat yourself, order in sushi and call it a night!
5- Don't "Invest" in a Bunch of Useless Shit
I mean, sure, if your favourite thing to eat is pasta, go right ahead and get yourself a great strainer. You’ll need it. But you for sure can skip the banana slicer and the asparagus peeler (yes, these do unfortunately exist).
In fact, I’d say a few pots and pans, great cooking knives (there’s nothing more frustrating than cooking with dull knives), a cutting board, cheese grater and vegetable peeler will take you a long way.
Don’t be the clown who spends thousands of dollars to fully equip his kitchen before even learning how to boil water. I guarantee you won't use half of the shit you got. If you have so much money to burn, please get in touch and I will be more than happy to provide you with a wish list (JK).
I could keep blabbering about cooking tips for hours (God knows!), but I think the most important thing if you want to start cooking is to find your motivator.
If you’re a foodie, well, it’s obvious that cooking will allow you to explore new foods and experiment with tastes.
If you’re a health nut, cooking your own meals allows you to watch what you eat and make it as healthy as possible.
If you’re a big traveler, cooking exotic ethnic meals can be a good way to get a taste of another country while you’re home or preparing yourself for an upcoming trip by getting familiar with the culture.
If you’re the creative type, you might enjoy dressing beautiful plates or even decorating cakes or cookies.
Personally, I cook for all these reasons, but also because of the nostalgia factor. It’s the easiest way for me to eat Hungarian food that reminds me of my childhood and my grandparents.
And remember, cooking is much easier than it looks and has a ton of positive aspects. You don’t like an ingredient? Fantastic, just don’t use it! You’re looking to pinch a few bucks? Chances are you can cook at home for a fraction of the price you would pay at a restaurant, for the exact same thing.
And even though I cook because I love it, I’ll admit it’s super satisfying to go out to a fancy restaurant with Sasha and hear him complain the whole night that I make better food at home, HA!
Enjoy cooking and hit me up if you want more cooking tips, specific pointers, recipe ideas, or basically anything else, I love chatting with you guys. You can email me, leave a comment below, or hit me up on Instagram.
Love you guys!