My fellow home cook, epicurean, foodie, blog reader…
I am a home chef. I did not go to a culinary arts school (I have a bachelor’s degree in Humanities from San Jose State). Everything I learned, I learned from watching, researching, and trial and error. As much knowledge as I have picked up through the years, I am far from a world renown trained chef, and undeniably have much more to learn. You may agree or disagree with my techniques, seasoning choices, shoot, you may not like the dish all together! That’s ok! As a home cook, we do what’s best for us or what we believe will make our food taste delectable.
I have a certain mindset when I cook and I would like to share some of those thoughts with you, as it will help you better understand the choices I make and where my brain is venturing during a cooking session…
Barbie’s Cooking Mantras
- Do not be afraid to break the rules. If you read a recipe and find 95% of it amazing, but there’s a couple ingredients or techniques you don’t agree with or like, don’t follow it! Not every recipe you come across is perfect. Not every cook is cooking with the same tools. Not every herb or spice is meant for every palette. If you want to venture out of your comfort zone, then follow that recipe to a T. But if you know that almond extract (ugh, so aggressive), is too much for you, cut it down, substitute something you do like (vanilla – yes, please!), or toss it out all together. Do what you want!
- Follow your head, your heart, and your gut. The more you cook, the more you become confident in what you are doing. Don’t second guess yourself. If your head is telling you that’s too much oregano, start small, and add more later. If your heart is telling you cilantro will be amazing in this dish even if it doesn’t call for it, toss it in anyway. And if your gut is telling you that chicken has been roasting long enough, it probably has. Trust your cooking self.
- Don’t compare yourself to professional chefs. Just because you are not a professional, doesn’t mean you can’t make exceptional food. I have watched a fair share of cooking shows. I admire and dream of the ingredients they work with, the high class tools at their disposal, and the sheer effortlessness they seem to cook with. My budget is completely different. I am lucky to have the occasional steak or crustacean. I do not have a mixer. Yes, I hand whisk everything. I don’t have a blender. Yes, I hand chop everything. My knives aren’t always sharp. The fanciest gadgets I own are a spiralizer (bought with a gift card) and an immersion blender (a birthday gift). It may take me a little longer to make something, but if I want to make it, there is a way. Don’t hold yourself back because you don’t have the latest cooking tool or the best grade piece of meat. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
- Use herbs and spices. There is so much flavor you can cook into a meal by exploring with hundreds of herbs and spices. Food does not to be high in calorie to be tasty. You can go vegetarian for a meal and still get robust flavors. Herbs and spices are low in calorie, if any, and some have tremendous health benefits. Opening your mind to herbs and spices will change the way you cook, I promise.
- Have fun. Creating a dish for yourself or your loved ones should be a treat! I have so much fun and feel lucky to share it with people I adore. However, I am still just an average gal who can get tired, lazy, or just not feel like cooking. I have my staple frozen foods to help cut corners. I also live above several restaurants where I can order pick-up and skip cooking all together! It’s fun to eat out and be served upon. When you do decide to cook, have fun and be imaginative. And if you’re anything like me, pour that glass of wine first, then get to the nitty-gritty!