Cooking School: Where Do I Start?

Photo Credit: beingoxymoronish. via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: beingoxymoronish. via Compfight cc

Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment!

I don’t know who said “Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle,” but it definitely applies to the journey of learning to cook healthy meals.  I think it’s a lifelong process and we all have room for improvement.  That being said, if you’re just getting started, please don’t get discouraged by people who have been on the journey longer!

Normally my Cooking School posts are more instructional, but today I just wanted to write a note of encouragement to all of those people out there who want to learn to cook, or change the way they cook, but aren’t sure where to start.  You can do this!  You are not behind.  Jump in where you are and don’t feel guilty about how you’ve done things in the past.

Over the holidays, I was having a conversation with a family member who is really wanting to get away from convenience foods and fast food, and help her kids start eating healthier foods, but doesn’t know where to start.  My husband excitedly showed her the menu planning website we’ve been using lately, filled with things like curry, roasted salmon, and lamb kebabs.  It was a bit overwhelming for someone trying to break out of a mac-n-cheese and chicken nugget rut!  I know my husband was trying to help, but it’s not realistic to go from the freezer section to 5 homemade meals a week.  We didn’t get there overnight and it’s unreasonable to expect anyone else could, either.

I grew up in a family where we ate out a lot (my mom ran a business and worked a ton) but we ate pretty healthy when we ate at home.  My mom has always been interested in the latest health trends (she’s all about her chia and flax seed these days) so that balanced out all the Pizza Hut and Golden Corral we ate.  My own real food journey started several years ago, when I watched Fast Food Nation.  I’ve never been a big fast food eater, but that movie convinced me of the importance of eating foods that were as close to their natural state as possible, and trying to avoid unpronounceable ingredients.  Not long after that, I read Animal Vegetable Miracle, and started shopping at farmer’s markets and even joined a CSA for a while.  Michael Pollan and the blog Kitchen Stewardship were big influences for me as well.

These days, between a full time job and little kids keeping me busy, don’t have time to volunteer on the CSA farm or even visit the farmer’s market on a regular basis.  I focus on cooking and eating a wide variety of foods (including lots of veggies) that are as unprocessed as possible.  No, my kids don’t always eat everything I serve them — but at least they’re being exposed to them and seeing them being eaten.  (Keep trying, and eventually it will pay off.  My 4.5 year old asked for seconds of brussels sprouts the other day.)

Each person has their own reasons for starting to cook and eat healthier.  Figure out what your why is — if you base the changes in your eating/cooking off of your values, you will be much more likely to be successful.  And I’m here cheering you on!
For everyone I recommend to try out vacuum sealers to preserve your food if you have not already. You are going to love it. Read reviews and best rated vacuum sealers by visiting http://vacuumsealerresearch.com/.

What or who has influenced the way you cook or eat?

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20 thoughts on “Cooking School: Where Do I Start?

  1. i’ve always been a (somewhat) healthy eater….i say somewhat because when i moved out, it was FREEDOM! I CAN EAT ALL THE THINGS! so for a few years, i sort of went overboard. hello, fappy weight (fat+happy = fappy).

    years back when i was still in grade school, my dad was diagnosed with a heart condition so my mom revamped her entire way of cooking and cooked everything via steaming or boiling. red meats were no longer part of our diet (goodbye saturday steaks, wah!) and we started eating a ton of fresh veggies/fruits. she never believed in any food that came out of a box, bag or can which basically translated to: we never had junk in the house – EVER. if we wanted to eat junk food, we’d have to go to our cousins house to binge.

    so not being near all that junky food shaped my eating habits. like my mom, i don’t keep junk in the house. great for us but kayla sort of hates it LOL.
    kathy recently posted…humpday confessions [1-28]My Profile

  2. I have a co-worker who is trying to eat healthier. He said his challenge was between his work schedule and his wife’s, it was hard to find time. Plus. her parents are living with them and keep bringing all sorts of temptations into the house. I told him that what he needed to do was start with a goal of two meals a week. It’s a small goal, it’s fairly easy to accomplish, and it’s not as hard as trying to jump right in to the whole thing. He came back to me later to report that they’d managed to accomplish that goal. You have to look at it as a mountain – yes, ultimately, you might want to be eating a healthy, real food diet, but you can’t start out there. You have to take the steps to get there slowly.
    Kate recently posted…Changes around here…My Profile

  3. My mom made Kraft mac and cheese and served frozen entrees. She baked from scratch and I took that over at age 10. She was a good Italian food cook. Good sauce, braciole, meatballs, lasagna.
    I make homemade mac and cheese, my own gravy, bake from scratch.
    I have veggies like brussel sprouts and asparagus that were never served while I was growing up! I really do not like to make low fat versions. I want the real deal!
    So many recipes available with helpful hints from the internet! I love it.
    Love, SMD’s Momma

  4. My dad worked nights and we kids were so picky, my mom gave up and for the most part we had Chef Boyardee for dinner. I don’t blame her for not wanting to fight about every single meal. Funnily enough, her home cooked meals are my favorites now!
    Kate recently posted…Juno what?My Profile

  5. I didn’t start really cooking a lot until I was about 26 or 27. I never knew how or cared. I had about three dishes I’ve been able to make since I was 11 – both of my parents worked and in summer and some days during the school year I’d be in charge of dinner.

    I’m big on knowing what’s in my food, and the best way to do that is to make it and make as much of it from scratch as I can.

    I do eat out and I do eat processed food, but I’m trying for the 80% healthy and 20% not.
    SMD @ Life According to Steph recently posted…January RecommendationsMy Profile

  6. I’m hooked on Barefoot Contessa – love her books, just purchased her most recent one. It’s so elegant, simple, and delicious! Today is my birthday and I am making a lobster cobb salad and fresh bread. It will be heavenly! 😉 Have fun cooking! I love it and the outcome is always delicious 🙂 Take Care Sarah -Iva
    AwesomelyOZ recently posted…28 on the 28th: Today is My BirthdayMy Profile

  7. You are right – this is such a personal evolution and can be overwhelming when you see someone further along. We have certainly seen Fast Food Nation as well as ALL the others and they have influenced our style of eating and cooking. Now, for me, it is about optimal performance and energy as I struggling through the Chronic Fatigue diagnosis. For John, it’s about optimizing his physical performance. We have really swung the pendulum and went from heavily prepared meals to keeping it as simple as we can. Trying to maximize time and health, you know? I have never hear of Kitchen Stewardship – I will have to check it out.
    Tara Newman recently posted…From Stuck to Inspired + On Fire: A Personal Case StudyMy Profile

  8. Absolutely! I feel pretty darn confident in the kitchen, and yet many weeks we only manage to make two homecooked meals. I mean I do aim for those homecooked meals to provide leftovers so we get 4-5 dinners out of them, but sometimes that doesn’t happen (or worse, it does, but we don’t manage to eat said leftovers).

    I was telling a friend the other day – don’t be afraid of the kitchen – you don’t have to be in love with the process, but it is a learn-able skill. Everyone screws up cooking sometimes (even those who have lots of experience) so don’t let that part stop you.
    Michelle recently posted…Monday Soup: Lemony Red Lentil with cilantroMy Profile

  9. I learned how to cook at home mostly out of financial necessity and I relied on random cookbooks, allrecipes.com, my mom, and later, Erin Chase (The $5 Dinner Mom). I try to cook as healthy as possible but I also don’t want to make junk so taboo that Erica binges on it in an unhealthy way when she gets around it. We have a decent balance going, although it could be better.
    Jana @ Jana Says recently posted…Despite what you think, you’re a good momMy Profile

  10. I think for a lot of us, home cooking influences our cooking style or aspirations. At least that’s what all those cooking show contestants all tell us! it’s true for me though. 🙂

  11. I did not grow up eating horribly, I also did not eat the best, but now that I have kids they influence me. I want to feed the babies the best food I can. Sure, there are days I’m lazy, but for the most part I’m watching what goes in their bodies, I call it my insurance policy. I want to feed them good now, so I don’t have to worry too much later, because I know they were eating the good stuff.
    Sometimes people judge me for what I serve my kids and think I judge them for they do or do not serve their kids. I don’t have time to judge them, I have THREE kids and my own life. Plus we are human there are days that we pick fast food.
    I think it is wonderful that you are healthily eating and passing that on to your babies.
    I did not know how much I loved veggies until I started making them.
    We’re foodies, so there’s a lot of cooking shows watched, recipes books purchased, and food competitions to be had here.
    XOXO
    Mrs. AOK recently posted…Currently {January}My Profile

  12. I loved the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. So inspiring!! If only I were wealthy enough to just pick up and move to a farm and make is sustainable. Not sure I’m cut out for all of that physical labor though!

    I really do want to eat whole foods but I’m lazy, especially in the kitchen, and that is a really bad combo.
    jan recently posted…Pre-Run vs. Run FeelingsMy Profile

  13. This is exactly something my husband and I are working on! I am somewhat overwhelmed by all the recipes out there (I’m trying to focus mostly on paleo recipes.) We realized we need to start out maybe doing 2 dinners a week and work our way up. It’s definitely trickier with two working parents. So funny you mention Golden Corral! I saw a commercial for their yeast rolls and wished there was one by us.
    Ashley recently posted…one little word 2015: simplifyMy Profile

  14. I’d say my husband has motivated me to have a healthier relationship with food. He doesn’t label anything good or bad. Eats (lots) when hungry, and nothing if he’s not. Doesn’t regret an ice cream cone and snacks on berries. It’s extremely helpful for me, as someone recovering from an eating disorder, to see that food can be fun, social, functional, and life-giving – but it’s never the enemy.
    Jessica @ Absurd, She Wrote recently posted…All The Things My Parents Did Right        My Profile

  15. Totally right, you can’t go from 0 to 100 in one step! Gosh, if my parents hadn’t cooked homemade meals every day, I’m not sure I’d be doing it now! Nevertheless, after getting married, my husband was my big motivator to really start caring about what I ate and making it ourselves. My techniques have definitely improved in the last 6 years. I hope they just continue to do so and my son keeps saying things like, “I like your food, Mommy!”
    lisacng @ expandng.com recently posted…5 random thingsMy Profile

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