It's the start of a new year, which means you probably have a few resolutions on your radar. If one of them has anything to do with going out to eat less and cooking more at home, we are here to help. Let's face it...dining out gets super expensive, and the options are rarely as healthy as a home-cooked meal. We asked Chef Justine Kelly, the Co-Founder and Executive Chef at Sun Basket, to share her best tips for people looking to improve their cooking skills. You'll be surprised how easy it can be, even if you don't possess Top Chef tendencies.
What are some easiest meals you can whip up at home?
Simple pastas of almost any kind. My rule for weeknight pasta sauces is in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta, your sauce should be done.
(Need some ideas for easy pasta sauces? Check out this creamy lemon ricotta recipe from Delish)
How can you replicate your favorite meals from restaurants at home?
I have a library of cookbooks from my favorite restaurants as well as a wealth of "restaurant classics" online. But if they don't fall into those categories, I will always ask at a restaurant if I am truly interested, at least to get an idea of the ingredients and a bit of the technique and try to replicate it at home.
What are the most important things to remember when shopping for food to make at home?
Make a list. Shop seasonally when buying produce. Try to spend as much time on the "edges" of the store. I also have my favorite meat and fish markets. It's a little more effort to shop at a few stores but the rewards in quality and supporting small business is great.
How can people prevent food waste?
How you store your produce is very important. For me, it's about not shopping for too much at a time. I go to the store a few times a week. I always freeze my fruit and veggies (prepped) if they are getting “close” and use them in smoothies. Keep an eye on your veggie crisper to make sure you know what state they are in and can utilize them before they go bad. I also make a lot of soups, stocks to freeze and salads when I am getting too overloaded.
What are some tips to make cooking easier?
Well of course I would recommend subscribing to a meal kit service, like Sun Basket, which gives you step by step instructions, and saves on time and food waste! Plus, you know you're eating healthy.
Besides that, I like to cook in batches (like a pot of chicken noodle soup that will last a few nights). I also make sauces (pestos, tomato sauces) and freeze them in ice cube trays to portion them and use them in soups and pastas. If you follow recipes, always read through a recipe a couple times first. Keep a clean, organized space and collect/prep all of your ingredients before you start And, always have sharp knives!
Is cooking at home healthier than going out to restaurants?
It definitely can be, especially when you are cooking from scratch. Most restaurant food is much higher in sodium and sugar. In addition, you can really control portion size and choose healthy oils to cook with. Besides, it's a time to slow down from your day, make something tasty (and hopefully healthy!) for yourself or loved ones. For me, it sometimes feels like a chore but it's mostly a meditative way to close out my day.
What are some tools in the kitchen that will make cooking at home a breeze?
Rice cooker, hand citrus juicer, zester, slow cooker, meat thermometer, sharp knives. I don't own a microwave, but I know it is a great tool for many things.
How can people get inspired to cook more at home?
Reading cookbooks is always a motivator for me. Roaming your local farmers markets to shop and be inspired by the season. But I think the most important thing is getting the family (or friends or roommates) involved. Cooking with/for people in my life is the most motivating factor for me.
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