Kick Your Cooking Up a Notch!

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One of the most essential life skills you can possible have is that of cooking. A lot of younger people seem to be less enthused about learning how to cook than the generations that came before them. We could probably blame a few things here; the ubiquity of snacks and ready meals probably don’t help things, certainly. But learning how to cook a healthy and filling meal (as well as a tasty one!) is one of the best things you can do as you begin to grow your independence. After all, if you’re planning on having a family at some point, then you want them to eat well, right?

 

When you know how to cook for yourself, you no longer have to rely on whatever nutritional values reign supreme in commercial food items. You have completely control over what goes into your body. If you’re not that confident about your cooking skills, then take these tips into account in order to boost your abilities!

 

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Take classes

 

This may seem like the most obvious suggestion on the planet, but they can really help you out when it comes to developing your cooking skills. Unfortunately, the kind of cooking classes kids often get at schools these days are actually a lot more theoretical than they should be; that is, they’re not very practical. Consider taking classes that are hands-on. If you don’t want to take things that far, or you simply don’t want to spend the money, then consider checking out some of the best cooking channels on YouTube. You can learn a surprising amount from them!

 

Get scientific

 

When you understand the science and methods behind cooking, it can really help you add that extra kick to your dishes, as well as help you better understand what ingredients to add and what ones to avoid! Understanding how heat opens up the flavors of certain ingredients is essential information. Knowing why certain spices complement certain foods helps you know when to avoid that dusting of paprika or pepper you’re always so keen on. Even understanding the science behind sour wine can help you appreciate its key role in many dishes! Understanding some of the theory is essential, as long as it doesn’t completely distract from the practical.

 

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The recipe

 

The reason that so many people don’t get the results that they want from their cooking is because they don’t follow the recipe. They’ll cut a corner here, or skip an ingredient there. If the above section didn’t make this clear enough, then I’ll reiterate: cooking is a science of sorts. It conforms to the laws of chemistry. Ingredients react to one another in very specific ways, and an understanding of this is what’s behind the creation of recipes. So if you don’t follow recipes to a T, then you’re probably going to end up with a bit of a culinary mess. There are, of course, successful ways to take slight detours, but you need to understand what alterations you’re making (see above section again!). If you get stuck, then look up the recipe on YouTube to see how it’s done.

Put The Excitement Back Into Date Nights At Home

When a relationship is only just starting, you’re crazy about each other, and there’s no shortage of ideas for memorable and exciting dates. However, a few years down the line, once you’ve been living together for a fair amount of time, all that fire can begin to fade, and time and money can get in the way of the constant excitement you both remember. If Friday nights in with your partner usually mean sweatpants and screens, here are a few pointers for spicing up the next one…

 

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Plan in Advance

With modern life being so fast-paced and hectic, a lot of couples end up winging their at-home date nights, which usually ends in sitting around, not doing much of anything! Get around this by planning out your date nights well in advance. Pick a theme every month or week, and aim to plan everything from the food and drinks to your activities around that theme.

Try to Work Around your Kids

If your kids are little, they obviously need looking after pretty much around the clock, which leaves very little room for quality time with your better half. You can work around your parental responsibilities by setting a date on the calendar (write it down so you don’t forget!) when you’ll put the kids to bed early. Make the dinner something easy, and a sure-fire family favourite, so that there’s no fuss when bedtime rolls around.

Keep the Cooking (and Cleaning) Simple

Unless you’ve picked a theme that calls for a large and extravagant meal, try to create a nice relaxed mood for your date by keeping cooking and cleaning to a bare minimum. Alternatively, you can prepare everything from scratch in advance, buy sides and dessert ahead of time, and shave several minutes off the time it takes to whip up a delicious, romantic, home-cooked meal. If it’s in the budget, you may even want to hire a home catering service. This isn’t exactly a negligible expense, but when you stack up the points of catering vs restaurant dining, the experience can be well worth it. Start looking for ways to make cooking quicker and easier now, and you’ll be in the perfect mood when your at-home date night comes around.

Dress to Impress

The best at-home date nights should feel as exciting and magical as any night on the town, so give it a finishing touch by spending a long time on your hair, makeup and clothes. Though it may be a little hard to convince your guy to play ball, get him to change too! This way, you’ll both look, feel and smell your best on your romantic night in.

Have Fun

Most importantly of all, throw all these tips out the window if they’re going to make you feel a little awkward or over-the top. The whole point of nights at home is to reconnect with your partner, enjoy each other’s company, and wash away the stress of day-to-day working life. Regardless of what you read on this blog and others, make sure you’re having fun!

 

Lettuce Turnip The Beet In Your Kitchen

 

Image thanks to Congerdesign/pixabay

Ok, maybe we have gone one pun too far here, but stick with it.

Getting creative in the kitchen is definitely in fashion.  Whether you cook from the heart or get all scientific with your style, the world is enjoying more and more time in their kitchens and less time in restaurants.

 

Soul food is a real passionate and loving cuisine which comes from Africa.  Although the western world has now adopted the phrase and created their own versions. For us it evokes a feeling of warmth and love.  Regardless of what country you are from, it is almost certain your culture will have it’s own version of food made from the heart, for the heart.  Neo soul food is the latest to the party.  With diabetics, the health-conscious and traditional all being catered for.  

 

You don’t need a kitchen full of technology and gadgets to produce a meal to warm the soul.  Simplistic cooking is the order of the day and as a result the utensils required are fairly basic in nature.  A good quality set of knives are every budding chef’s best friend.  Weight and size will depend on you and everyone’s idea of the best tool for the job is different.  Check out this fantastic read for advice on purchasing the most important object in your kitchen.  Then grab yourself a chopping board and you are already on the way to becoming a culinary king.  Check out our earlier post on how to eat amazing food too.

 

Image from Pixabay

 

Deep, rich flavours are key.  Imagine the cooking of your grandparents or your mum.  It should be as much about smell as it is about taste.  It is the kind of meal that you eat propped up in the kitchen whilst talking to friends, or that you make yourself on a cold winter’s night as you sit watching an old film under a blanket.  For the original soul don’t think health kick here.  Starch, fat, cholesterol and calories are the unfortunate additions to most of these dishes but don’t let that put you off.  A little bit of bad can be good, right?  If you don’t agree then the Neo soul food recipes see coconut oil and turkey used over the more traditional butter, steak and pork.  Also you can tweak the cooking methods of most recipes.  Trying to cut portion size will also help but sometimes you just have to let yourself have a blow out and when food is this delicious? It’s hard not to keep going.

 

For some exciting recipes check out this link then get cooking.  Most importantly remember that this is a textual experience too.  Soul food isn’t for plates.  It needs to sit in a bowl which you can cup in your hands and treasure the warmth.

 

Soul is something with a beat, with a passion and with a purpose.  So turn up the beat in your kitchen and serve a little love in up to the people you treasure.

 

The Clean Eating Phenomenon: Make It Work For YOU

Healthy eating has recently been given a new zest of life. As the clean eating revolution takes over and gym bunnies are multiplying by the second, it’s easy to get lost in the hype! Plus, what works for your friend might not work for you, so everyone’s healthy lifestyle plans are going to be different. If you’re feeling motivated, but don’t want to completely give up your treats (who does?!) then stick around to find out how some small diet changes can have a big effect on your body.

 

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Re-invent convenience food


If you have a large family or a demanding job, chances are you’ve relied on convenience meals more than a couple of times. Although not harmful to you if eaten occasionally, microwave meals and processed foods can have a detrimental effect on your health if consumed regularly. This is because of the large amounts of salt, preservatives and fat they contain in comparison to normal food. In fact, the excessive amount of sodium in these meals can actually be addictive. This is why so many people to reach for the convenience food time and time again. If you want to cut down on these kinds of food but still need food that’s quick and easy, why not try simple batch cooking? Spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon making a huge portion of food for the week. Pasta and homemade sauce is a good bet for this as it’s easy to plate up and is filling too. Split the final mixture into multiple portions and set aside to have throughout the week. Plus, the homemade version of a pasta sauce will typically contain much less salt than a shop bought one.

 

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Discover new kinds of food


The clean eating phenomenon has brought certain foods into the mainstream which we wouldn’t have looked twice at before. Kale is a leafy green vegetable with plenty of health benefits and can even be made into chips by roasting them with a little salt. Wholegrains such as quinoa are being used instead of white rice to keep you fuller for longer. Adding flax seeds to your morning porridge can provide you with vital nutrients for the day. The list goes on, as there’s plenty of healthy alternatives you can use to overhaul your diet. If you’re completely new to cooking, a healthy cooking course could be perfect to help hone your skills.

 

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Trick yourself


Many of us don’t actually have a bad diet – we just eat far too much. If this sounds like you, consider purchasing smaller plates and bowls. With a large plate, we are more likely to pile the food on to make the plate appear ‘full’. However, unless we are doing huge amounts of exercise every day, a lot of us are actually taking in more than we are burning off. This is the entire principle behind weight gain. If you still need that slice of chocolate cake (and we all do from time to time), serve it on a side plate or a saucer rather than a dinner plate. You won’t serve yourself as much and because of how your brain registers the piece of cake, you will feel full too.   

Smoothie Time


Head to the store then get out those Ninja Blenders

Now, as you may know by now, I don’t get to crazy with my smoothies. I’m usually whipping these up quick, and like to keep things simple. 

I threw this one together this week and was delighted with how it turned out. 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped, frozen Strawberries

1/2 cup chopped, frozen Mangos 

1 6oz can Pineapple Juice

1/2 tbls Chia Seeds* 

Place all ingredients, in that order, in your Ninja Blender, single serve cup (if you have one). 

Blend until smooth. I did stop to shake my ingredients around a little, otherwise, it should blend smoothly.

Pour into glass, and enjoy!

*This is optional, you can add more, or use less.

Tropical Smoothie

  
Finally! I am back at it again with a new smoothie. 

I feel like I have been “off my game” over the past week, and it feels good to have created a great, new smoothie to post.

This is full of fruit, and tastes so good. I have been enjoying it when I get back from the gym. 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Crushed Ice

1/3-1/2 cup Frozen Mango 

3 large chunks Fresh Pineapple, chopped

1/2 tbls Chia Seeds

1 cup Orange Juice 

Put all ingredients, in order shown, in your Ninja Single Serve Cup, or another blender, and blend until smooth. 

With the ice and frozen mango, it may be a thick slush, add more orange juice until it is all blending evenly.

Pour into glass and enjoy!

Brownies – One Box, Two Ways

  
I have such a sweet tooth, so baking is very enjoyable for me. It not only gives my family and I some sweet treats, but it also offers me the chance to be creative.

This idea popped into my head recently, while I was thinking of the next steps to take with the website. (Yes, new stuff is coming!)

It is easy, and delicious. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

You’ll need a mixer, a separate bowl, two spatulas, a soup ladle, and two 9″ baking pans that have been sprayed or coated, so the brownies don’t stick.

Ingredients:

1 Box Betty Crocker Brownie Mix (FAMILY size, this is important. You need the 13×9 pan box.)

1/2 Cup Hershey’s Syrup

10 Double Stuf Oreos, crumbled 

1/2 Brick Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened 

1/2 Cup Nestles Chocolate Chips

(Note: my ingredient list did not include those on the back of the box.)

Directions:

Mix brownies according to box, I did this in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Be sure to scrape the sides with a spatula, and mix thoroughly.

Once fully mixed, separate half of the batter into a separate bowl. Using the soup ladle made this easier.

In the mixer, add the 1/2 brick of cream cheese, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. (I cut the cream cheese into squares to help it mix evenly.) Mix this thoroughly, and pour into one of the prepped 9″ baking pans. 

In the bowl, with the other part of the batter, add the 1/2 cup chocolate syrup, and the crumbled Oreos. Mix this well with your spatula, and pour into the other prepped 9″ baking pan.

Be sure to use one spatula for each to scrap the sides to get all the batter into the pans.

Bake both pans, at the same time, at 350 degrees, for 35 minutes. Check them at 25 minutes, as ovens do vary. You know they are done when you can poke them with a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Let sit for 5 minutes, and enjoy!

  
Cream Cheese and Chocolate Chip Brownie on the left. Hershey’s Syrup and Oreo Brownie on the right.

Recipe Doubling:

Have a big event? Buy two boxes of brownie mix and doubled the added ingredients. Use a 13×9 pan for both, and possibly bake one at a time.

Questions? Please feel free to ask!

Dark Side Smoothie

  
We all love a good smoothie, and we all love a good smoothie with chocolate. 

I created and whipped this bad boy up after spin class a couple weeks ago, and will definitely be doing it again.

The peanut butter is protein packed, and the powder is super low in calories, is made with half all natural chocolate, and only has .5 grams of fat. 

It’s good to feel bad, huh? Thankful we aren’t being bad, we are giving our body what it needs post workout. 💪 

Ingredients

Jif All Natural Peanut Butter, Creamy

Hershey’s Special Dark Powder

Milk

Crushed Ice

I use a Ninja Blender that has the singke serve blending cup, as well as the regular blender.

Using a single serve cup, fill it about half way with crushed ice.

Place two large spoonfuls of peanut butter and 1tbls of Special Dark in over the ice.

Top off with your choice of milk, I start off with filling just over half full. 

Screw blade onto cup and begin blending. If the smoothie is too think, add more milk to get it to a smoother consistency. 

One fully blended (I blend until I have a smooth, complete “vortex” in the cup), pour into glass, or drink right from the single serve cup, and enjoy!

Now remember, we are using DARK chocolate, don’t expect it to be sweet like a shake, but it isn’t bitter either. The peanut butter adds a little sweetness, but I just wanted to to know ahead of time, we are on the Dark Side after all. 

If you try this out, please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Or hit me up on social media! (Click here to go to my contact page.)

Leopard Print Lindsay’s Easy Snack Mix

   

This is the easiest mix to ever come into my brain. It is also delicious and healthy! 

While I am currently toying with adding other stuff to it, I’ll share the base with you. 

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Raw Cashews

Pineapple Pieces (dried)

Almond Slices (you can use regular almonds, I just like the texture of slices.

Craisins (Original and Cherry both taste good in this mix. Heck, use both if you want.) 
  

In an air tight bowl, place 1/2 cup of each ingredient. Put lid on bowl and shake/turn until mixed.

Then eat it.

That’s all, see? Easy! 

  

 

Snack Time!

   
I think most of us reach a point in our day when we just need a snack. Before you reach for something sweet and full of sugar, give this a try! 

It’s natural, healthy, and only around 80 calories! Also, it’s quick!

One Laughing Cow “wedge” will spread evenly over two Corn Thins.

I unpeel the wedge and cut it in half, lengthwise, and then gently spread, and enjoy! 

I choose the Mozzarella Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil, but The Laughing Cow has many other varieties! Give them a try, and as they say, “Have you laughed today?”