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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Best Eats Series: Cooking by Feel

I've always loved watching cooking shows. In college, when I was in between classes, I'd often flip the tv over to the food network so I could slump on the couch and dream of all the delicious dishes they were making.

One thing always impressed me - most of the chefs I watched never measured anything. Paula would say, "Now pour in a third of a cup of broth", and then just dump some in out of a big container. How did she do it?

I have always been a cook who measures.

... But not anymore.

I have discovered, after cooking dish after dish, that I can suddenly cook by feel and sight. I don't need to measure anymore.

I love it. I'm so much faster, so much more confident, and, perhaps best of all, I don't dirty up nearly as many dishes.

Here are a few tips that have helped me in my cooking.

- Don't be afraid to adapt recipes. Some of my favorite dishes were born this way - I started with someone else's recipe as a base, then I changed it to my preferences. If something sounds good, it probably is! Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Trust your gut. (Literally. Ha!)

- Plan your meals weekly. Before the week starts, I think up of a menu for each day and make a grocery list for the whole week. I save money, and I'm not stressing at 4 each evening because I have no idea what to make for dinner :)

- Have a small arsenal of great, simple recipes memorized. These are your go-tos. Don't feel pressured to cook something new every night. During a typical week, I'll do 3 new dinners and 4 tried-and-true.

-Try to prepare things can be eaten for more than one meal. For example, tonight I'm fixing a barbecue roast, mac and cheese, and a big pot of green beans. There will be plenty of meat leftover, so tomorrow lunch will be barbecue stuffed potato skins. For dinner, I can reheat the mac and cheese and green beans and fix a new meat, like some chicken or pork chops. Some cuts will stretch further than you would think. I love a shoulder roast, or a rump. Cheap, tough cuts are wonderful for several meals, because you can buy a larger weight for the same price as a few chicken breasts. As long as you cook them low and slow, they'll still be tender and delicious!

- You can never go wrong with a pan sauce. Or a gravy. These are quick to prepare, use the same pan so you don't have to wash a ton of dishes, and really add flavor to a meal. I love sauces poured over meats, greens, potatoes, pasta, rice - pretty much anything. Yum!

- If you have time, make extra. It's always great to make a meal to freeze for an emergency. You never know when you will be out of an ingredient you swore you bought! One of my favorite things to keep in the freezer is chili. Soups freeze especially well, and are a cinch to heat up and serve. Easy!

In the next few posts, I'll share some of my "go-to" meals. They're easy to memorize, easy to make, and are all totally delicious.

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