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Published: Tuesday, 8/3/2004

Don't be afraid to step into your kitchen

My ears perk up when I hear people say they don't cook or they cook as little as possible. Is it limited time that keeps them from the kitchen? Or is it lack of confidence in how to prepare foods and recipes that makes them avoid cooking?

The home kitchen can be a source of delicious, healthy, and economical meals. It can also yield trendy flavors, gourmet dishes, and family recipes that you can't buy anywhere.

Last spring, when Betty Crocker Kitchens released the results of a quiz on cooking skills given to 1,500 adults and 1,000 kids, it revealed that children and adults are interested in learning more about cooking and improving their cooking skills. It also showed that those with the strongest cooking skills have the highest level of cooking enjoyment.

Sample questions called for simple answers, but a wrong answer can really change the finished product. For example:

1. The abbreviation tsp. stands for: Anwser: teaspoon

2. How many cups are in a quart? Answer: 4

3. How many ounces are in one cup? Answer: 8

4. One stick of butter is equal to: Answer: 1/2 cup

5. How much uncooked rice is needed to yield 1 cup cooked rice? Answer: 1/3 cup

Betty Crocker Kitchens also reported the list of foods that men and women are most confident about preparing: scrambled eggs, frozen pizza, spaghetti dinner with jarred sauce, baked potatoes, and tossed green salad. I want to think the average cook is far more versatile.

To learn more about cooking, start by cooking the basics and build your repertoire of cooking skills at the same time. Start with recipes that incorporate one or two new cooking skills, such as meatloaf or macaroni and cheese rather than a dish that requires five or six preparation steps such as a complicated dessert or ravioli made with homemade pasta. Look for recipes that have familiar ingredients rather than new ingredients that you have never used before.

Other tips suggested by the Betty Crocker kitchens:

Every kitchen should have a basic cookbook on hand that explains cooking techniques and talks about ingredients.

Read the entire recipe before you start to cook to make sure you understand the steps and techniques.

Have all the ingredients on hand before you start a recipe and the proper cooking equipment and utensils. Make a list of ingredients needed for a recipe before you head off to the supermarket.

Stock your pantry with the basic staple ingredients for fast meal preparation. Keep meat and poultry in your freezer; pasta, noodles, rice, potatoes, canned and frozen veggies, and canned fruit in the pantry.

Don't try to make an entire meal from scratch if you are a beginning cook. Rely on some convenience items to allow enough time to make the one from scratch.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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