A lot of folks have the idea that cooking can be overly complicated. There are so many recipes to remember, and so many rules about what goes with what, and how long things should cook before starting other things. What’s more, the list of gadgets and cooking implements gets longer and more complex as the variety increases. And all of this complexity, while certainly not beyond you, just makes you want to throw your hands up and stick with a McDonalds diet.
This is rarely more apparent than in summer. It’s the one time of year when busy families want to spend as much time as possible doing anything other than cooking!
Fortunately, this isn’t necessary (or desirable). The idea that variety is essential in home cooking is a relatively new concept historically, and the notion that this variety has to happen with vastly different cooking styles and a stunning array of creativity is even newer. We’re not suggesting cooking should be dull, but you can simplify your cooking — and streamline your cleanup — by focusing on the essentials.
Try this instead:
- One frying pan.
- One spatula.
- One cutting board.
- One sharp knife.
For each member of the family you only need:
- One bowl.
- One spoon.
- One plate.
- One fork.
- One knife.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But factor in just how many additional tools you think you need, and see if there’s a tool or device here that can’t do that job.
Making a square meal doesn’t have to be complicated at all. For example, you can sautee a piece of meat (say, a chicken breast) in a frying pan. When it’s almost cooked, throw in two cups of frozen vegetables. And a little splash of water, and just keep it moving. The chicken will continue to cook, and the vegetables will cook through just fine in the frying pan. Serve the lot on a plate, and eat it with a fork. How complicated is that?
Total cooking time: about half an hour (depending on the size and frozenness of the meat).
Total implements used: One frying pan, one spatula, one plate, one fork, one knife.
Try this for a week: Cook only meals that can be cooked using the Cooking Tools listed above. If you have to, put your other seven serving sets, the other twenty five forks, knives and spoons, and the other two frying pans in the garage so you can’t get to them. If you do an audit of your cooking for a week, you’ll quickly learn that the majority of your meals consist of a piece of meat and some vegetables. Worried about “variety?” Don’t be…if it bothers you that much, change the cut of meat, or use different spices to change the ethnicity of your dishes. You can go out to eat for a meal, or offer to cook for some friends. But if you’ve ever felt guilty for not breaking out your steamer on a regular basis, don’t. The method described above works just as well, is just as healthy, and takes no counter space.
Still not convinced? Try these recipes and see how complicated they are:
Spicy Thai Chicken
- Knife/Cutting Board: Cube a 6 oz. chicken breast.
- Frying Pan: Sautee over medium-high heat in approx. 1 tbsp. of coconut oil.
- Knife/Cutting Board: Add about 1 tbsp. of minced ginger and two minced cloves of garlic.
- Knife/Cutting Board: Add 1/2 a medium onion, chopped.
- Season with curry powder, cayenne pepper and lemon pepper (to taste).
- Once the chicken is browned, add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of frozen Asian vegetables. Reduce heat. Add a splash of water. Cook until vegetables are tender (but not mushy)
- Plate/Fork: Serve and eat.
Mexican Quick Chili
- Frying Pan: Over medium heat, brown 1/2 lb. of ground beef in 2 tbsp. of olive oil
- Knife/Cutting Board: Add two minced cloves of garlic.
- Knife/Cutting Board: Add 1/2 a medium onion, chopped. You can add some kidney beans if you like.
- Season with a pinch of salt, oregano, coriander, and cayenne pepper or chili powder (to taste).
- Once the beef is browned, add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of frozen green beans and a handful of raw baby spinach. Stir in about a quarter cup of salsa. Reduce heat. Add a splash of water. Cook until vegetables are tender (but not mushy)
- Bowl/Spoon: Serve and eat.