My mama was born and raised in the South, and even though she doesn’t cook with the heavy lard and bacon flavors of the South, she is a wonderful cook. Unfortunately, despite being in a family where our parents expected us to help out, do chores, and ‘earn our keep’ so to speak, her cooking skills didn’t pass on to me.
Consequently I grew up with a disdain for kitchen work and cookery. I could boil pasta and that’s about it, so I always considered myself especially blessed that my soul mate loves to cook and be in the kitchen. But, over the last six years of marriage and nearly four years of motherhood, God has changed some of the ‘desires of my heart’. (Psalm 37:4)
I might go into more detail with what those who have known me all my life consider a huge, drastic change from the Shirley they once knew, someday. But for now I’m sharing some tips and tricks that I’ve learned in one of my newest homemaking pursuits, cooking from scratch. I’m loving this homemaking journey of the heart that the Father has me on so much that I smiled just typing that! Keep in mind, I’ve always been known as the girl who can’t cook, so this might be entertaining for some of you who mastered this skill long ago! (If so, ENJOY!)
I still have a long way to go when it comes to cooking from scratch with wholesome ingredients, but I’m definitely on track! Below are my tips and some lessons learned when it comes to cookery!
10 Tips to Learn to Cook From Scratch
Pinch bowls are usually very inexpensive and you can get them in many different sizes and shapes. Have fun choosing a set you like and then use them to pre-measure your ingredients. In the beginning, cooking from scratch can be easier if you have all your ingredients laid out and measured in front of you. You can also choose a random assortment of small glass dishes from yard sales or dollar stores! (This may make a bit more clean up for you, but for me, it’s worth it!)
This one sounds a bit obvious, but it’s a tough lesson learned. Read the recipe the night before you want to prepare the recipe. You just never know when it’s going to require a night in the fridge. You also want to double check that you have all your ingredients before you start measuring the ingredients at the top of the list. Sounds simple, but my advice is read the entire recipe, all the way through, and then read it again.
This one applies mostly to baking, but before you start trying several recipes, stock up on wax paper and parchment paper. When you are working with dough, meat cutting, and many other sticky (or gross!) ingredients you can save yourself a ton of clean up by putting wax paper down on your counter top before starting. This also prevents scratches and scuffs from cookie cutters when you are making biscuits!
One of my favorite bloggers Merissa, from Little House Living, talked recently about making “meal pieces” rather than entire frozen meals. I loved reading this because it’s something I’ve been trying to do a bit as well. It’s pretty simple: if you are making tacos, with ground beef simply use a large skillet to brown up double, triple, or more of the amount you need. Then cool it and freeze it in freezer safe bags to use at a later date. When you are making biscuits, double your dough and set aside half the biscuits to be frozen (on a wax paper lined sheet pan, freeze them individually, and then put them in a bag.)
Here is the article where Merissa talks about meal parts. I ‘double it’ often as I cook, especially if I know my family likes it, and then on crazy days, I know I have most of the dinner time work done for me!
This step is very similar to meal planning but for those of us who can’t quite get it together enough to successfully meal plan. One simple step I’ve committed to is finding recipes that make the most of my ingredients. For instance, if I buy a large package of chicken I will use what I need for a recipe then boil and shred the rest for a casserole, chicken salad, tacos, or some other tasty concoction. Even if it’s one left over chicken breast, I’d rather stretch it to another meal than add an extra meat portion to a recipe when we don’t need it.
Tip six goes along with number five. When you are first starting out, think about the type of ingredients you would like to use and get good with. Then purchase your basic ingredients. Cook from them often for two purposes. One, so that you can get comfortable with an ingredient you are not used to. And secondly, so that you aren’t spending a fortune on ingredients that you and your family end up not enjoying. For me, I’ve been aiming to master homemade biscuits, breads, baked goods, pizza crusts, and other dough type recipes. So I’ve been choosy about my basic ingredient, flour!
Thank goodness for Google when it comes to my ‘cooking from scratch learning curve’! Some ingredients that I’ve run across are pretty expensive (at least for my budget!) and yet the recipes call for only a tiny amount. Some of the ingredients I stretch to other recipes and make it worth my while (like tip five!) but more often than not, I Google for a substitute. Recently I had to use a substitute for buttermilk because I forgot to to do tip two before my grocery trip! (One healthy switch you can make is chucking the soy sauce and using one of dozens of substitutes found online!)
Watching folks cook from scratch on YouTube has been a huge help to me and a learning resource that is easy and simple, second only to some favorite homemaking blogs! It doesn’t matter if you are trying to learn how to kneed dough or make your own condiments, you can find it on YouTube and watching it really does help you succeed when you try it on your own! (Here is one of my favorite YouTube channels for this.)
Big tip! When you are thinking about the next meal you plan to make, try making only one new recipe or one ‘from scratch’ recipe and relying on your other methods for the remainder of the meal. For instance, I might make a new casserole or crockpot meat dish for a meal. Instead of also making sides and breads from scratch, I will rely on packaged or frozen meal pieces for the rest. When you are first learning to cook from scratch, one recipe at a time is best. It will mean more success and less frustration.
This one is pretty self explanatory. When you try a new recipe, jot down whether or not your family liked it, and how you felt about preparing it and cooking it. If it took a whole day of stress, it’s probably not worth it, if it cost $60 in ingredients, it’s probably not worth it! Additionally, write down what utensils you used, any methods you used, or any variations you tried. Over time this will build up your ‘smart cook’ skills and save you time and frustration, possibly even clean up. (One of my favorite cooks to watch is Alton Brown, and not just because he is from Georgia, but because he has a lot of brilliant uses for kitchen tools that make cooking so much easier!)
So, do you have anything to add to the list? Or any favorite from scratch recipes, we’d love to hear from you!
Psst! If you are in the mood to try your hand at cooking or baking from scratch, our own Michelle has some delicious recipes like this one for Saturday Morning Cinnamon Rolls! Yum!
Here are just a few of the recipes I hope to try next in my mission to cook and bake from scratch!
Sweet Potato and Spinach Bake (PS: She’s also got some great kitchen tips on her site!)
Sharing at Christian Mommy Blogger!
Sharing at EssentialThingsDevotions!
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