Some chef’s are natural in the kitchen and good at improvisation. My husband is one of those people – he can open the fridge and cupboards, look at the ingredients and whip up a fantastic meal in thirty minutes. When it is my turn for dinner, however, I research the recipe days in advance, torment myself over picking the right one, plan when to go the store, and then stress all day about cooking it. No matter how good it turned out, I still won’t enjoy it as much because of all the stress!
- Does it require special equipment? Cheesecakes often require an off-set spatula, and the first time I saw that I had no idea what it was, but I knew I didn’t have it! Other types of special equipment could be an immersion blender, sifter, or specific food processor attachment. Pay special attention to these types of requests before you commit to the recipe! If all you have is a small mini food processor, then you probably don’t have a french fry disc.
- Does it require ingredients that either a) you’ve never heard of or b) have never cooked with before? Of course, it is always fun to venture out and try new things, but if you are cooking for a large group of friends or your in-laws, it probably isn’t the right time to use mustard greens if you never have before. Another reason to be wary before buying new ingredients is that you might not ever use them again! Maybe the recipe calls for a specific type of seasoning. Well, you have to buy a whole canister of that, and then it may just sit in your cabinets unused for years to come.
- How much special preparation does the recipe call for? My favorite recipes are casseroles, and in a perfect world they only involve a spoon and a bowl. Does the recipe involve a lot of cutting or chopping? Do you need to coordinate multiple burners at one (saute the onions in one pan while you brown the meat in the other)? It always helps me when I can prepare portions of the recipe in advance. Maybe at lunchtime I will measure out some of the spices and have them sitting ready to go so it is one less thing to handle at actual meal prep time. This is great – but if something has to be done in advance (for example, a dough recipe where the dough needs to have time to either refrigerate or rise before baking) it is important to know that in advance so you are not caught off guard at the last minute.
Cooking can be fun and relaxing, but you should know your limitations. Don’t try to cook a fancy four course meal under a pressure situation if you are more of a hot dog and macaroni and cheese type of chef. Lastly, here is my favorite recipe that I’ve been making for years – it is easy, tasty, and requires no special preparation.
- 1 box of ziti
- 1 can of pasta sauce
- 1 tube of sausage
Brown sausage and cook pasta. Combine with sauce in a casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese and top and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.