Pepperplate Part II

Hi Everyone! I received some really great feedback on the blog I posted about the cooking app, Pepperplate (Pepperplate Part I), so I thought I would dedicate this blog to my new chefs out there looking to cook easy weeknight meals for their families and not get overwhelmed with the idea.  Cooking is like anything else, it takes practice to become good and efficient.  While I love to cook crazy 4 course meals and host big parties, when it comes to the weeknight, my goal is to get a quick, easy and healthy meal on the table for me and my hubby.  Here are a few helpful hints for new cooks to get more comfortable in the kitchen and 4 very easy weeknight dinners to get you started:

1) Watch the Food Network (if you have time).  I watch obsessively and DVR most cooking shows so I can watch them after Luke goes to sleep.  I can likely tell you what meal Giada is cooking based upon the shirt she is wearing.  No, don’t watch like me, but if you have a moment in your day, watch a few episodes.  The chefs teach you small things that can save you a lot of time, like how to peel garlic or chop an onion.

2) Practice chopping and get good at it.  This takes times.  I remember in veterinary school, when I started cooking and hosting, that it would take me longer to get the food prepared than it did to actually cook it.  Trust me, once you have mastered chopping, it cuts your cooking time in half and helps to make the process of cooking dinner less of a chore.  Remember, practice makes perfect! (Hint- there are also great YouTube videos on chopping and preparing foods.)

3) Read the entire recipe and get your ingredients prepared ahead of time.  When I first started cooking, I would start step 1, but when step 2 was required immediately, I was scrambling trying to chop and usually burning what I started in step 1.  You can be more efficient by reading the entire recipe and preparing your ingredients before you begin cooking.

4) In the beginning, pick “one pot” meals.  This means that you can cook everything together in one pot, pan, or casserole dish.

5) Pick 3 to 4 meals for the week and make one trip to the grocery store at the beginning of the week to get your ingredients.  This one step alone has changed weeknight cooking for me.

6) Clean as you go.  This makes cooking less overwhelming.  We also have a strict rule in our home- if you cook, the other person cleans.

7) (OPTIONAL) Have a glass of wine while you cook! Cooking is so much more relaxing and fun with a glass of wine!

Be patient, and don’t give up.  Again, not feeling overwhelmed in the kitchen and preparing meals quickly takes practice.  Stick to it!  Before you know it, you will be chopping an onion in under 30 seconds and preparing an entire meal in 25 minutes while your baby is grabbing your leg and your dog is escaping from the backyard and chasing the neighborhood kids!

Here are 4 easy starter meals I picked for Katie to get her journey as a cook started:

1) Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

2) Stir Fry Green Beans with Shrimp

3) Baked Chicken with Dijon and Lime

4) Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Peas (Rob loves this one!)

Hope this helps and happy cooking!



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