If your culinary repertoire consists of pouring a bowl of cereal, a recipe
looks like hieroglyphics to you, or everything you make tends to be on
the crisp (OK, burnt) side, then June 13 is your special day--Kitchen
Klutzes of America Day. And while it's nice to have your own national
observance, a lack of kitchen skills isn't the best for your health.
"Cooking from scratch generally involves the use of whole foods, which
should be the basis for your daily diet," says
Megan Wroe, MS, RD, CLE, a pediatric dietitian at the St. Joseph Health
Center for Health Promotion. "But if you don't have the proper cooking skills, you can tend
to rely more on processed foods, fast food or restaurant meals. The problem
is those types of meals can be loaded with calories, saturated fats and
too much sugar or salt, and come in extra-large portions that encourage
overeating, which can lead to obesity and higher disease risk. Plus, it
can be more expensive to eat out compared to cooking at home."
Why not turn things around this year, and choose this day as the time to
learn a new skill? "Mastering a basic, simple cooking concept can
help you build confidence, and encourage you to keep striving to learn
more about creating healthier meals from scratch," Wroe says.
Here are a few things to try:
Chop an onion. "Cutting vegetables is a valuable skill to have, as they are the
cornerstone to a well-balanced diet and can be incorporated into a variety
of dishes," Wroe says. "Learning how to chop an onion is a good
place to start, as they can be used in soups, casseroles, pasta sauces
and more." A cooking class is a good place to get hands-on instruction
in knife skills, or you can find how-to videos like
these on the internet.
RD Tip! For those who hate the tears that come along with chopping onions,
try putting the onion in the refrigerator for a day before slicing it!
Make a vinaigrette. "This is a great skill to have in your culinary toolbox," Wroe
says. "A good vinaigrette can be used as a salad dressing, as a way
to flavor fish or poultry or as a finishing touch for grilled or roasted
vegetables. Plus, it's very simple to make, and once you get the hang
of it, you can start adding other flavor embellishments such as herbs
or garlic." The basic recipe is one part acid or vinegar to three
parts oil--think balsamic vinegar and olive oil to start. The mixture
can be whisked or put in a sealed jar and shaken to emulsify. To see how
to make a balsamic vinaigrette, click
RD Tip! The great thing about vinaigrettes is that you can modify them
to your liking. Megan likes hers with more of a tangy flavor so she uses
more vinegar than oil and adds lemon juice and Dijon mustard!
Boil an egg. "A hard-boiled egg can make a good on-the-go-snack, or it can be
sliced and put on top of salads or avocado toast," Wroe says. There
are several different variations--the temperature of the water before
boiling, whether the water or the eggs go in first, how long they should
this method got the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
RD Tip! Drizzle pesto, hot sauce or your new favorite vinaigrette over
sliced hard-boiled egg for a mouth-watering appetizer!
Use your broiler. If you haven't used this part of the oven for a while (if ever), then
it's time to give it a whirl. "Broiling uses direct, high heat
so it's similar to grilling--you can quickly cook thin cuts of food
such as fish, chicken or vegetables. A broiler can also be used to melt
or crisp foods, such as tuna melts or nachos," Wroe says. It's
pretty easy to use: determine whether your broiler unit is at the top
of your stove or in the drawer at the bottom; position a rack as close
as possible to the broiler, click the on button (or high, if that's
an option), wait five minutes to preheat and start cooking, which should
only take about five to 10 minutes (less if you're just melting or
crisping--pull the food out once it reaches the desired consistency or
color). Depending on your oven, you may find it helps to leave the door
slightly ajar during cooking in case the broiler shuts off once a certain
temperature is reached. And don't broil food in glass pans--they can
shatter under the heat.
RD Tip! Try broiling stone fruits (like peaches, nectarines and apricots)
with a drizzle of coconut oil for a fast, delicious and healthy dessert!
Know how to use measuring cups. This may seem simple--just put the flour or water in the cup and pour--but
there's a bit of science to it. "A recipe can be thrown off if
ingredients aren't properly measured, and that's especially true
in baking, which depends on the proper chemical reactions between ingredients,"
Wroe said. General tips: Measure liquids in glass containers and dry ingredients
in graded cups--the latter allows you to level off the top by sliding
the back of a knife across the measuring cup. Lightly spoon dry ingredients
into the cup, unless it calls for them to be firmly packed. When pouring
liquid, keep the measuring cup on a flat surface to make sure you're
not tilting the cup, which could lead to inaccurate measuring.
RD Tip! Learning to use measuring cups and spoons is a super fun activity
for little kids too! Get your family involved in learning kitchen skills
and try out a new recipe together!
Get to know your food processor/blender. This handy tool can help you to make anything from smoothies to marinades
to batters. RD Tip! Once you’ve mastered your machine you can even
experiment with crushing nuts and seeds to use as breading or for more
whole baked goods, like this
Now that you have some basic kitchen skills in your culinary toolbox, your
possibilities are endless! Almond-crusted halibut, Mediterranean chickpea-burgers,
chocolate coconut tart…or just a good old tomato-basil omelet!
These are all within reach, so go get cooking!