Let’s face it, everyone is not meant to be a kitchen connoisseur. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t master the basics to make a great meal when it’s time to chow down. So if you suffer from a ” kitchen handicap”, this article is just for you.
In this guide, we’ll go over how to become a master of meats (chicken, beef, fish), soups, gravies, beans. Will also give you some guidelines on how to prepare your fridge and pantry for making quick meals and just a few minutes. And don’t forget to check out Part 2 of this guide afterward!
How To Make Tasty Soups EVERY Time
Making an awesome soup is easier than you think. With the right base and flavoring ingredients, you’re sure to make that’ll quickly become a regular feature in your kitchen.
Create your stock from scratch
The best way to guarantee the best taste when it comes to making soup is to go with a homemade stock. If you can, try to pick a quality store-bought broth. The flavor of the meat is what is going to make your soup taste phenomenal.
You can also consider adding pureed vegetables are beans to your soup, if you prefer not to go with clear broth. The good news is that making a homemade sauce is relatively easy. All you need to do is cook a rotisserie chicken or purchase one from the store and a dad and a combination of spices, bite-sized vegetables, or seasonings that you like, and let them simmer for 1-3 hours.
And BOOM, you’ve got the basis for a good soup. It’s always a good idea to saute your vegetables, to help bring out their flavors especially vegetables like leeks, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic.
And remember to calculate the cooking time for each one– you don’t want to cook the garlic too long and burn it accidentally. When it comes to soup, the meat flavoring is what’s going to make or break it–this, in addition to the spices of course.
Tips for Making Tasty Gravy
Gravy may seem like one of those things that can be tough to master– especially since it’s easy for so many things to go wrong. And it may be a bit intimidating initially come up with one or two tries, you’ll be a gravy pro in no time. When making gravy from scratch, remember these few tips:
1. Blend it right
Blending your gravy too much can cause it to be too thin, and if you don’t blend it enough it may be lumpy. Always Blended as you add in thickener, seasonings, or other flavorings, then let it simmer. If it’s too lumpy, throw your gravy in a blender and whirl it for no more than about thirty seconds to mix it up perfectly.
If your gravy is too thin, consider adding a thickener such as cornstarch, flour, or some other vegetable-based starch to thicken it up a bit. Remember, always add it in small portions to avoid overdoing it. You don’t want your gravy to have the texture of school paste.
2. Adding too much salt
It’s easy to over-salt your gravy, thinking that it will turn out bland. However, the best way to salt it is in small portions. Don’t “Salt Bae” the gravy, instead add just a small pinch (1/2 teaspoon) at a time. And if you find that the gravy is too salty, you can always add half a teaspoon of brown sugar to balance the flavor.
3 The gravy is bland
If your gravy doesn’t have a lot of flavors, try to get it from some drippings. If you have any leftover beef or chicken, use the fat from the meat and added to your gravy. You can also use instant bouillon cubes or deglaze the pan of your main meat if you haven’t already
Tip for Cooking Beans
Beans are perfect for adding a healthy mix of antioxidants, vitamins, and other minerals to your diet. However, it can be easy to overcook or undertook them—it’s also easy to struggle with seasoning them correctly. If you’re cooking beans out of the can, you can simply heat them with your chosen seasonings for about 30 to 45 minutes.
But if you’re cooking beans from scratch it’s best to soak them overnight first. When it comes to seasoning beans, a good rule of thumb is to add 1/2 teaspoon of every seasoning that you’re using for every 16 oz (one can). Worried about under-salting your beans? If so, be sure to add a tbsp of kosher salt when soaking them.
Let’s look at the most common seasoning combination for beans:
- Garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander, white sugar, garam masala, ginger, cloves (Curry beans)
- Cumin, oregano, bay leaf, fennel, sage, parsley, summer savory
- Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cilantro, onion, salted meat, diced tomatoes, green chili peppers (Mexican beans)
- Parsley, oregano, cilantro, summer savory, chili peppers, cumin
- Cumin, coriander, cilantro, ginger
- Parsley, cilantro, mint, sage
- Basil, summer savory, parsley, thyme, garlic, bay leaf
- Thyme, parsley, summer savory
Secret to Making Quick Meals (as in under 10 minutes)
If you’re someone who doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, or you simply don’t care for large elaborate meals, there is a place in the world for you. With all of the extravagant recipes online, it can be hard to wade through all the noise and find simple quick recipes that you can make and a matter of minutes.
So what’s the secret, well, it’s pretty easy, keep your kitchen and pantry stocked with your favorite items. The key to making quick meals is having all of your favorite foods on standby so that you can quickly cut, heat, or unthaw them and make a meal before your favorite show comes on TV.
But which do you keep on standby? We’ve broken this down for you and we’ll start with fruit and work our way down to meats and pantry items.
Fruits to Keep on Deck
The number of nutrients and minerals that fruit pack compared to their size is absolutely phenomenal. It’s no wonder why nutritionists, doctors, and other health experts swear by fruits and vegetables as one of the best ways to stay healthy and ward off diseases and illnesses.
If you’re looking for a quick snack, easy breakfast, or something to munch on when you have a sweet tooth, try a little fruit. Mix them together to make a salad (or toss them in a salad) or eat them with other ingredients such as peanut (or almond) butter or Nutella, or yogurt.
You can also add fruits to a smoothie for a quick breakfast on the go. If you’re adding berries, be sure to add a bit of orange juice, sherbert, or other sweeteners (such as a protein mix) to offset any sourness. And if you’re eating mixed berries with nuts, you can also drizzle one or two tablespoons of all-natural honey to help with this as well.
- Dried fruit (watch out for the increased sugar content if you’re diabetic)
Baking Ingredients to Keep in Pantry
If you’re trying to delve into the fancy world of baking, there are a few core ingredients that you’ll need to keep on deck. These ingredients will be in the majority of the recipes that you encounter, and becoming familiar with them will help you avoid constant trips to the grocery store.
You also want to be mindful of how you’re storing your ingredients. It’s best to keep them stored in a dark and cool place and in airtight containers. You will find that most living agents will lose their potency after about 8 to 12 months. Extracts, however, can stay good for about 1 and 2 years.
Here are a few staples you should keep in stock:
- Unsweetened and semisweet dark chocolate
- Baking soda
- Dry yeast
- Baking powder
- Light corn syrup
- Dried fruits
- Unflavored gelatin
- Pure maple syrup
- Cornstarch and any other thickeners
- Pure vanilla extract
- All-purpose baking flour (or non-gluten flour)
- Dutch-process cocoa powder
- Coconut milk in
- Sugars (white and brown)
Vinegar to Keep in Pantry
Vinegar is perfect for making marinades, salads, meat dishes, and pasta. Not only can they add a robust flavor to your dishes, but they can help bring out other flavors and your spices and meats. Note: Most vinegar can be stored in a cool and dark pantry for up to 12 months.
Here are the most common vinegar is used in Western and European cuisines:
- Red wine
- Apple Cider
- Rice wine
- White wine
Canned Goods To Keep in Pantry
Canned goods will always be one of the best go-to options when it comes to making quick meals. Anything from beans, tomatoes, fish, and super can help you save anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes of cooking time.
It’s helpful to make a list of your favorite can good and keep them in stock in your pantry.
This way if you don’t feel like cooking, you can simply without the can opener and make a meal in a flash. The most important thing to remember when buying canned goods (especially in bulk) is to pay attention to the expiration date.
This is especially true for canned goods that are acidic such as canned fruit, pickles, tomatoes, and any type of mustard or vinegar sauce. The acidity of the contents can cause decanter us, leaving you with a bit of a mess to clean up in your pantry. Here are a few options to keep on deck:
- Canned chicken or fish (sardines, salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies)
- Sun-dried or plum tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Beans (Pinto, Black, Red, Navy)
- Dried Fruit and Fruit Jam
- Chicken or Beef Broth
Grains to Keep In Pantry
You always want to keep a few different grains on hand. Not only can you quickly pair them with a meat dish or vegetable medley for a quick meal, but they are extremely satiating and easy to prepare.
Grains can be used to make a number of different kinds of pasta, rice dishes, side dishes (such as beans and rice), and they can hold their own with just a few spices and broth.
They’ll typically stay fresh for about a year, but it’s best to keep them in a cool place and in a tight container. Let’s look at a few grains you should keep on Deck.
- Rice (Long-grain, basmati, brown)
- Pasta (spaghetti, lasagna, mostaccioli, fusilli, fettuccini, lo mein)
- Black-eyed and split peas
- Quinoa (perfect for quick meals)
- Natural Oats
Bread (white/wheat sandwich bread, bagels, Hawaiian rolls, pita, focaccia, sourdough, rye, ciabatta)
Fresh Nuts and Seeds To Keep In Pantry
Nuts are a common protein-packed snack that goes perfectly with fresh or dried fruit, sandwiches, or blended for a tasty spread. Whenever you simply don’t feel like touching the refrigerator or a microwave, simply grab a small bag or a handful of nuts to hold you over until your next meal.
Nuts are pretty satiating, due to their fat content and they can help suppress your appetite for a while. Here are the most popular nuts eaten today:
- Pine nuts
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Brazilian nuts
- Pecan and walnut halves
Best Oils To Keep on Deck
You also need to keep a few oils in your pantry as well. Not only do these add to a well-functioning kitchen but they are commonly needed for everyday cooking tasks including frying, bread dips, sauteing, grilling, and even salad-making.
Most oils last best in a dark cool place, such as a pantry, and will typically keep anywhere from 6 to 8 months.
Here are some popular cooking oils to keep in your kitchen:
- Extra-virgin olive
- Coconut oil (good for baked goods and has body/hair benefits)
Peanut (common in Asian cuisine)
- Fancy oils including white truffle (perfect for popcorn and fries) and sesame seed oil (commonly used in Asian cuisine) such as toasted sesame and white truffle
Fresh or Frozen Veggies to Keep on Deck
Last but not least, you have fresh and frozen vegetables. If you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle keeping these items on deck is an absolute must. And if you’re transitioning into vegetarianism or veganism (and don’t plan to eat a salad every day), starting with a few basics can help make your journey much easier.
Most people don’t eat enough veggies
The truth is that most Americans to still don’t eat enough vegetables, as diets today consist mostly of meat, carbs, and fat. However, oftentimes the biggest struggle with consuming vegetables is struggling with how to cook them so that they actually taste good. The secret to that…seasoning, broth, and a little bit of fat (like this creamed spinach dish).
Use flavor enhancers
If you’re struggling with cooking vegetables, look for recipes that include flavor enhancers such as onions, garlic, shallots, mushrooms as well as a few good seasonings. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for meals that include fats such as butter, coconut milk, almond milk, broth, and meat drippings.
Adding meat drippings and fat may sound counterproductive to dieting, but just a small amount can go a long way in making vegetables palatable.
Find ways to sneak veggies into your day
Another key to eating more vegetables is to look for ways to sneak them into your meal. For example, chop up leafy greens and add them to your guacamole, soup, sandwich, or rice dish.
Make sure that you let your vegetables breathe while they are stored in your pantry, as keeping them in tight containers, and cause mold to develop. Also, be sure to store each vegetable separately to avoid flavor blending.
Slowly incorporate them into your diet
Don’t try to introduce tons of different veggies at once–you’ll quickly get overwhelmed if you do. If you’re a vegetable “struggler”, try making a list of 3-5 vegetables that you like, and find about 2-5 recipes for each of them. Check out the list below. It’ll give you a good start at including them more in your daily regimen.
Here are some veggies to consider:
- Potatoes or Yuca
- Cauliflower (a good bread and rice substitute)
- Onions (white, yellow, red)
- Bean Sprouts
- Leafy greens (Kale, spinach, collard greens, microgreens, swiss chard, cabbage)
- Peppers (Bell, chili, ancho, jalapeno)
- Ginger (great for smoothies and Asian cuisine)
And there you have it, a ton of foods and ideas to get the ball rolling in your kitchen in no time. But don’t stop here.
Wanna learn how to cook steak, chick, and fish to perfection?
Check out Part 2. of this cooking guide here!