A Simple Guide to Enjoy Cooking

enjoy-cooking-guide

“…No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” ― Julia Child

Since discovering minimalism, my life has changed significantly. The process of promoting values and removing distractions has forced new intentionality in life. As a result, many of my habits have changed. I spend money differently. I spend time more efficiently. I exercise more. I wake earlier.

Additionally, interestingly enough, I have learned to enjoy cooking. I am not formally trained. I am not a chef. In fact, I’m not even sure I’m the best cook in my own family. But I have recently learned to fully enjoy the process of preparing a meal for my family. I find great joy in it—far more than ever before. And as I look back at this specific life change, I can directly attribute this change to a number of specific steps I have taken. Perhaps you may find them helpful as well.

A Simple Guide to Enjoy Cooking

1. Clear your kitchen counters. A clean, uncluttered kitchen counter is refreshing. It communicates calm and order. It saves time and promotes cleanliness. It encourages opportunity and possibility. And a clear counter provides the necessary space in your kitchen and your mind to begin cooking. Clear your canvas.

2. Cook healthy foods. There is a pleasant satisfaction that comes from preparing healthy food for you and your family. Its importance in the process cannot be overstated. It provides valuable motivation and incentive for cooking your own meals. And the positive benefits of cooking a healthy meal stretch far beyond the dinner table.

3. Use fresh ingredients. Among the changes I made in my life to spur my love of cooking, none may be more significant than the decision to start using fresh ingredients whenever possible. Once I began replacing dried spices with fresh ingredients (onion, garlic, parsley, basil, limes, lemons), the flavor of my meals improved dramatically. And so did my confidence and enjoyment.

4. Own a sharp knife. Learn how to use it. I don’t own expensive cookware—never have. In fact, I still use the pots and pans we received as a wedding gift 14 years ago. But when I began cooking regularly, I bought a nice Santoku knife and have never regretted the purchase. We use it nearly every day for slicing, dicing, and mincing. And once you learn how to use it properly, preparing meals becomes significantly easier and more enjoyable.

5. Start with foods/recipes you enjoy. The first cookbook I ever used was Top Secret Restaurant Recipes. I was already familiar with many of the dishes and knew which ones I liked. I began by preparing meals I looked forward to eating. And I incorporated the same philosophy into cooking all my new dishes at home. I like Mexican food, so I search for Mexican food recipes to follow. Lately, I have been exploring Thai food (another favorite) and trying new recipes. The Internet is full of simple, easy-to-follow recipes. Search for the foods you know you like, find a trusted recipe source, and read the comment section for additional thoughts and ideas.

6. Be confident. You can do this. Step up to the cutting board, the oven, or the stovetop with full confidence in your abilities. An anxious spirit does not enjoy creating. And unfortunately, an anxious spirit rarely succeeds. To enjoy cooking, you’ll need to convince yourself that you are able to do it. Eventually, a delicious meal and corresponding smile from your table guests will do the trick. But even before they do, believe in yourself. Start walking around your kitchen (and grocery store) like you know what you’re doing… and before long, you actually will. You will still make mistakes, but that’s okay. Just remember, the biggest mistake you can make is not believing in yourself.

7. Value presentation. There is an old saying among chefs that goes like this, “We eat with our eyes first.” Research and experience validates their claims. Food that looks good is more likely to taste good. And some studies seem to indicate we even absorb more nutrients from food that is visually appealing. Take some extra time to serve your food in a visually appealing presentation—even if you are eating alone. You’ll always enjoy it more.

8. Appreciate the eating. Be mindful of the cleaning. If you have a family, create the space and culture in your home that values eating together. For many families, this is not possible at every meal, but that does not mean space can’t still be created for some family meals together. You may need to establish some margin or get creative, but the more time spent together around the dinner table, the better. Appreciate the importance of sitting down long enough to enjoy your food. And likewise, learn to appreciate the act of cleaning up afterwards. It does not have to be seen as a chore if approached with the right mindset.

9. Record your favorite recipes. I store a small, black, index card box above the stove in our kitchen. Inside, I keep all the successful recipes I have discovered over the years. It is a simple system that works for me. And it has been an important step in increasing my enjoyment of cooking because the true value of the black box is that I have  a wide selection of family-favorite recipes right at my fingertips…

…and if my family finds joy in the meal on the table, I find joy in preparing it.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    I love to cook myself. It is the best feeling in the world to cook a great meal for someone you love and sitting down to a good meal with friends and family. Thanks for the post!

    • says

      I also loved the comment about keeping an uncluttered kitchen – I am not really good at that – I leave all my utensils and ingredients all over the place. But when I do have to clean up for guests and such, I find such clarity in my thinking while cooking. The decluttering helps the cooking process be smoother and more balanced.

  2. says

    I usually cook by myself. And even though I usually cook for just me and my spouse, I still cook what we like – like a smaller pot of chili or just two small entrees with small sides. That saying about it being a lot of work to cook only for two people is so not true. I also cook in larger quantities for pot luck events or when I know we will enjoy the “leftovers” for a few days afterwards. I do keep a few things like honey, coconut oil, olive oil, and coffee on my counter but all my appliances are in the closet- brought out only when needed. I love preparing, slicing, chopping raw vegetables. I have a few appliances for that task but I prefer to do them by hand. i have some organic frozen mixed veggies on standby for quick fixes but veggies are really fun and easy as a DIY. Soaking in a hot bubble bath can be soothing and so can making a big pot of homemade soup :)

  3. says

    I needed this one! I’ve never felt confident in the kitchen. I appreciate your encouragement and the way you’ve highlighted these simple elements for more enjoyment.

  4. says

    Another great post! Thanks! Have you read the book “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan? I think you’d like it. I’m using some of his principals to inspire a simpler way of cooking/eating.

  5. Mark says

    Another simple way to bring some pleasure to the cooking experience is to grow your own fresh herbs. It is so easy to do. I have been a chef for over 20 years and it was only 4 years ago that I have decided to grow my own herbs and it has Mande cooking at home much more enjoyable.

  6. says

    That’s a good piece of encouraging advice for novice cooks – confidence!
    I think it’s easy to be intimidated by a recipe with a ton of ingredients, that looks very fancy. But I guess if you know how to read basic recipes, you can just break down a more complicated recipe into more manageable pieces.

    I’ve found it interesting on my minimalism journey, that I have more enthusiasm for preparing my own food now. I like to switch off the main kitchen light and cook by lamp light and listen to jazz/french chill music. It makes it that much more relaxing, and absorbing as an activity!

  7. Annie says

    I learned to cook with my mom and her 1961 Betty Crocker Cookbook. The book is so good she wouldn’t part with hers, so I found a copy on eBay. Every recipe in that book works and can easily be modified to lower the fat, salt, sugar if necessary. Mom taught me to try anything in the kitchen. You never know how good it may turn out, and if it’s not so good it may become better with some tweaking.
    I also think Youtube and other online cooking tutorials are wonderful. My husband, who was never taught at home, learned to make a fabulous roast chicken, yellow rice with gandules, omelets, and poached eggs after watching videos online. It took some practice but his are better than many restaurants we’ve been to, and I know exactly what he’s putting into his food. Many restaurants add extra fat, salt, and sugar to increase flavor, but you can do the same at home with herbs and spices.

  8. Candace says

    I’ve recently given up eating out. The prices, portions & calories were out of control. Just disgusted at dropping $30-40 on one meal out (with no leftovers). With that money, I now prepare two fresh dishes per week (lasagna, chili, chow mein, enchiladas, fried rice, chicken wild rice soup). Leftovers last several days & provide approx 20 fresh, home-cooked meals for the price of one meal out.

  9. Dana says

    You can get lots and lots of flavor from dried herbs and spices if you are discerning about where you buy them and what they are supposed to look and smell like when you do purchase them.

    Years ago I owned a bay tree. Seriously, the real thing. It was a stick and three leaves when I bought it at an herb festival. By the time it and I parted company (circumstances beyond my control) it was a small potted bush. My favorite part of taking care of it, as you might imagine, was pruning it.

    I was startled how different the leaves looked from the ones in the grocery store even when dried. They kept their dark green color and shininess for quite some time. I thought it was a fluke but several years later, I ran across a pouch of some of the leaves I’d saved and they were faded and dull–just like the bay leaves you find in the spice aisle at the grocery store.

    I’ve had similar experiences with other herbs. Recently dried, they taste strong and awesome. If they’re more than six months to a year old, you have to use more to get the same level of flavor. They can stand up to more storage if in glass or metal but the trouble is, a lot of what’s in the spice aisle is packaged in plastic–and that’s porous and lets all the good stuff out. On top of that it’s sitting out in clear containers under harsh lights which further degrade the quality.

    So don’t dismiss herbs in particular just yet. A lot of these plants stay small enough to grow in pots–just grow your own.

  10. Lisa says

    What a great post. I really struggle to enjoy cooking. I make nearly all of our food from scratch (two adults and two kids in our house) while also working full-time, and in the daily rush to just get something on the table before bedtime, I feel like I’m missing the part where I get to be creative, take my time, or fail as often as I would like to. I love putting a nutritious meal on the table every night and the benefits we see from it (in terms of health and family time), but…ugh, it’s tiring.

    To go along with your #4, I have found that since I got rid of many of my kitchen utensils and appliances, it has been easier to find “the right tool” for the job. Also, I’ve felt a bit guilty at times because I’ve discovered that what I have is not the right tool at all, so I’ve gone out and bought the right tool and gotten rid of the wrong one(s). I feel a little less guilty after reading this. Having the right tools makes all the difference!

  11. Artshack says

    I keep my recipes in notebooks with those plastic sleeves. It holds hand written ones on notebook paper, pages from magazines or printed 8 1/2×11 sheets. The plastic sleeves keep the recipes neat and clean. As you gather more, you can separate multiple notebooks into different categories.
    I love this website. It has been life changing for me.

  12. Jill Carlier says

    if you find yourself throwing away vegetables because they go bad too quickly, buy frozen. Heat your oven to $375. Spray nonstick spray onto foil, place your veggies on the foil, sprinkle lime juice and olive oil over the top. fold the foil up into a tent and heat for 30 minutes. Your frozen veggies will be yummy! Veggies are usually frozen at their freshest…so you are still eating healthy and this is so easy and clean up is easy, too!

  13. Lori says

    I think an important part of cooking is time. As we minimize our time commitments, there is more time to enjoy cooking and eating together!

  14. Stephanie says

    “Keeping cooking simple” works best for me. My favorite foods to this day are the home-cooked simple meals of my mother and grandmothers. And I suppose the meals they prepared were fairly healthy as one grandmother lived healthily until just a year before she died at 89, my other grandmother is still living at 96 and healthier than many her age, and my mother is 76 and healthy thus far. When I try to get too much variety going on in my meals and trying out too many new recipes with too many ingredients I get bogged down thinking about shopping and expense and trouble. That’s when I turn to eating out too often or resorting to less nutritious food. My husband and I have different needs in our meals, which makes it another challenge; all the more reason I need to keep it simple.

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