Hi again. So I just left you hanging on my last post about this incredible new way of cooking. (I know you were all dying to know what happens next – who needs Breaking Bad when you have Stacey’s health blog?)
A couple of years ago when my best friend and I were in the mood to bake, we started perusing the Internet for cookie recipes. We found that with every cooking blog or website, we inevitably found dozens of comments under the recipe that stated how people “loved it!!” but…
Instead of pecans, they used walnuts
Instead of pudding, they used pumpkin
Instead of chocolate chips, they used beef and peas (okay, maybe that’s from an episode of Friends)
Basically, when most people follow a recipe, they really recreate an entirely new recipe so it works to their taste and convenience.
This made me think: Why doesn’t somebody just provide guideline recipes to cooking and baking? We all like convenience. If we can avoid shopping for ingredients we would never normally buy, that would be GREAT. We all just want to make something that tastes good and is good for us without being a master chef. Well, the luxury of having my own blog is that I can be that “somebody.”
In my world, recipes should always be:
- Easy to understand
- Not take hours to prepare
- Include substitutions
- Or open the table to reader’s ideas for substitutions
- And above all, HEALTHY! (can’t forget, this is a health blog)
With the 8-ish years of cooking I have under my belt, here are some basic rules I have learned about cooking – with or without a recipe:
- Survey what I have in my kitchen before I assume I need new ingredients
- Base the meal off of a few key ingredients (i.e. kale and chicken)
- Use less at first and then add (i.e. olive oil, seasoning, sugar, butter)
- Taste as I go
- Almost always default to Extra Virgin Olive Oil vs. butter, canola or vegetable
- Always default to the lowest cooking time – I would rather undercook and check 5 more times than overcook
- Onions and garlic go first because they take longer to cook
- Opt for seasoning and herbs over salt to add flavor (if I can, I try to avoid salt all together)
- Keep the basics on hand. To me that means extra virgin olive oil, vegetable stock, fresh lemons, onion, garlic, a growing collection of seasonings (I can’t live without cinnamon, cumin, lemon pepper and cayenne pepper) and fresh herbs like cilantro or rosemary if at all possible (they always make the meal fresher)
- Know what herbs pair well with what food – here is a great chart on meat and herb pairings; here is one on vegetable pairings.
Now that we’ve got that covered, time for a fill in the blank “recipe”! Let’s kick it off with a meal that doesn’t get much simpler: Breakfast! Now, I’ve always been an oatmeal girl. It is full vitamins, protein, calcium and fiber and its warm and gooey texture feels so good in my stomach first thing in the morning. Over the years, my oatmeal has matured because I realize that oatmeal is only as healthy as its parts. I am a HUGE fan of steel cut oatmeal for its taste, texture and additional health benefits (the oats are less processed; which means more nutritional value and a longer digestion process). I used to be hesitant to buy it because the package says that it takes 30 minutes to make. However, if you’re just making it for one person, it only takes 10. Plus, there are also Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats that only take 5 minutes. (Trader Joe’s and Bob’s Steel Cut Oats are two of my favorites).
- Steel Cut oatmeal
- ________ Milk (Almond, Soy, Rice, Flax, Coconut)
- ________ Seeds (Chia Seed, Flax Seeds)
- ________ Topping (banana, apple, pear, dried apricots, dried cranberries, cocoa nibs)
- ________ Seasoning (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cocoa powder)
- Pour ¾ cup of ____ Milk into a stovetop pan
- Bring to a boil
- Pour ¼ cup of steel cut oats into pan and stir a bit
- Turn heat down to medium-low
- Cook for about 10 minutes, checking in a few times in between to stir the pot
- Add ______ topping when there’s only a couple minutes left (it should be softer texture that doesn’t feel gritty when you test it)
- Add _______ seeds at the very end and turn off the stovetop.
- Pour into a bowl and sprinkle with _________ seasoning for a photo finish.
What do you put in your oatmeal? Does anybody else have any ideas for the fill-in-the-blanks?