Face it, most of us (especially those in my generation) have very limited cooking skills. We all know that homemade food is healthier that prepackaged food or restaurant food, but most do not know where to start. Taking a frozen meal out of a box and popping it in the microwave is the extent of most people’s culinary knowledge. I will admit that I used to be that way; when I was asked to sauté an onion during my first college cooking class I had no idea how to do it. My friend Katie had to show me (and let me tell you, it is a lot easier than I had expected). Thank goodness my college education involved food science and culinary education! For those who did not gain the experience of food preparation through either formal training or from their family, here are the three most important cooking methods to get you started on your way to cooking healthy, practical meals:
- The basic principle of roasting involves placing food in your oven at various temperatures in order to not only cook the food, but to enhance its flavor and texture. I was not much of a vegetable eater until I learned how to roast vegetables. Below is the basic roasting method for vegetables. Note that the method will change slightly from vegetable to vegetable based on how dense it is.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Wash and cut the vegetables
3. Mix about half a pound of vegetables with about 1 tablespoon of oil (olive or canola for example) and any spices of your choosing (such as salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc.)
4. Place the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet (hint: line the baking sheet with foil for easier clean-up)
5. Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the vegetables are tender but still crisp
- Sautéing is a form of cooking that uses a hot pan and small amount of oil to cook the food quickly. When sautéing, be sure to use an oil, such as canola or sunflower, that has a high smoke point; otherwise your oil will start to smoke. Again, I will focus on sautéing vegetables but meat can easily be sautéed as well. Sautéing is great for summer cooking when you do not want to heat up your kitchen with the use of your oven, and for making a meal that is quick. Here are the basic sautéing steps for vegetables:
1. Wash and cut the vegetables
2. Heat a pan to medium-high heat, wait a minute and add about 1 tablespoon oil
3. When the oil is hot, add the vegetables to the pan (Note: the time it takes the vegetables to sauté depends on how dense they are. For example, an onion will take longer to sauté than a mushroom).
4. Stir the vegetables as they start to brown in the pan
5. Add flavoring of choice, such as salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Mrs. Dash seasoning, etc.
6. Your vegetables should take about 5 to 7 minutes to cook; if the vegetables can be cut easily with a spatula, they are ready
- This is probably the most underutilized cooking method in your kitchen. Your broiler is basically an upside-down grill that is located inside your oven. To use it, you’ll need to move your oven rack to the highest possible position and turn on the “broiler” knob or digital keypad. Broiling is a great way to add texture to the top of a casserole but today I am going to explain how to broil fish. Fish is a very healthy protein source and is easy to cook; the problem is that most people do not know how to cook it! Here are the basic steps to broil fish in a jiffy:
1. Preheat the broiler 5 minutes prior to using
2. Rub oil (such as olive or canola) on both sides of the fish (such as tilapia) fillet
3. Season both sides with your choice of flavor such as lemon pepper
5. Place the fish under the broiler – about 4 inches from the heat
6. Broil for about 6-8 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork